Friday, 29 June 2012

"Homes, Inflation, Jobs & Transport"

Repackage low wage jobs into 'jobs of the future' : Labour chief

The labour movement's plan to implement a progressive wage system for low-wage workers is aimed at encouraging tripartite partners and Singaporeans to look at low-wage jobs in a different light.

Labour chief Lim Swee Say told the media yesterday at a grassroots event that he wants to make today's low-wage jobs into tomorrow's jobs of the future.

He is confident this can be achieved in today's environment, compared with five years ago.

The NTUC will set wage targets for low-wage workers under its progressive wage approach.

Workers who are currently getting less than S$1,000 a month would strive to earn at least S$1,000. For those already earning S$1,000, NTUC wants to lift their wages to S$1,200. 

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Say What, Swee Say

ST Photo: Desmond Lui for Straits Times

According to Labour Chief Lim Swee Say, by 2015, 10,000 cleaners will earn at least $1,000 a month.

So why has the pay of cleaners been so miserable for so long. In fact, some are earning less that they did in previous years. My gut feel is there are just too much outsourcing, too much sub-contracting and too many middlemen getting a cut of the pay that is actually due to the cleaners.

We celebrate Labour Day but physical labour and dignity of cleaners and security guards is not worth respecting, unlike the labour of plastic surgeons and ministers. Of course, surgeons and ministers deserve higher pay but cleaners need a decent minmum wage to survive too.

Allowing cheaper foreign workers who are willing to accept lower pay also cause cleaners' pay to stagnate and even decrease. 

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Bills pile up for 88-year old patient

The SDP reported on this website about the plight of 88-year old Mr Dawart Abdul who was suffering from prostate problems and, as a result, was incontinent. The urine odour in his house caused much unhappiness among his neighbours.

Members of the SDP's Community Services Unit visited the octogenarian and brought him to consult our healthcare panel member Dr Leong Yan Hoi.

We paid Mr Dawart a follow-up visit last week and found out that the Care Corner Family Service Centre at Woodlands and Community Development Council had provided Mr Dawart a wheelchair, some taxi vouchers for transport, and a one-time supply of food rations.

But that's just one side of the story. What the Government gives with one hand, it takes back with the other. 

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Comparing apples, oranges and Singapore
'This is why Singapore will never breed true creativity/a Steve Jobs/an artist like Banksy/ an affinity for nature. Our nation will never be a centre for excellence in high tech/the arts/making babies,' says the Angry Bunch.

And inevitably one or both sides use a uniquely Singaporean rhetorical tool: Comparing Singapore with another country.

Whether the issue is the culling of wild boars, or the falling birth rate, or whether Sticker Lady is an artist or a vandal, or if the capping of mobile data usage is fair to users, there is a type of statement that is becoming much too familiar.

Whenever I read that, I weep manly tears. 

Inflation slows in May, concerns linger

Price rises of property and oil-related items eased but COEs surged

Consumer prices rose more slowly than expected last month as pressures from accommodation and oil-related items eased, but concerns about longer-term inflation lingered amid tight markets for housing rentals, car ownership quotas and low-skilled labour.

Inflation slowed to 5 per cent last month from a year ago, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said yesterday, slightly below the median economists' forecast of 5.1 per cent. It was also a sharp improvement from April's 5.4 per cent, which was the highest rate this year.

Measured month-on-month in seasonally adjusted terms, the consumer price index (CPI) climbed 0.1 per cent after a 0.3-per-cent rise in April, matching expectations.

Accommodation cost inflation fell to 9 per cent last month from 12.7 per cent in April, largely due to the timing of the disbursements of rebates for services and conservancy charges for HDB households. 

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Singapore's May Inflation slowed to 5%

Singapore's inflation slowed to 5% in May from a year earlier and authorities cited moderating price pressures from wages and other business costs, indicating the central bank might have room to ease monetary policy slightly in October.

The May inflation was slightly below the median estimate of 5.1% of 11 economists polled by Reuters and a sharp improvement over April's 5.4%, the highest rate in 2012.

Central banks in the Philippines, New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia, India and South Korea held rates this month, while China and Australia chose to cut benchmark interest rates as growth concern increased and inflationary pressures eased.

Singapore's inflation has, however, remained high compared with other Asian countries due to a shortage of homes and measures to cap the number of motor vehicles on the roads, which sent car prices spiralling higher. 

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The cost of the right to own a car in Singapore

In an attempt to control traffic congestion and pollution Singapore residents are expected to buy the right to have a car.

The permit comes on top of their driving license and road taxes.

And the price of the permit goes up, as more people ask for one.

But with costs now reaching record levels, many Singaporeans are giving up on their driving dreams. 

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27-year-old PMET landed in A & E due to work stress and later resigned

Still remember me? Anyway, I have some bad news that I would like to share with you. Remember when I first emailed you, I was with a media company doing marketing

Actually, things had been well after then, and I have people telling me that marketing is the career path that I should be going. Well, when I thought that things will be better when I decided to move to a new company doing a wider scope. Unfortunately, dreams and reality are somehow very different.

In the new company, my boss is career-driven lady (I would not call her a slave-driver though), having calls and messages as late as 10pm, and even have to clear my work until 10pm almost everyday.

Along the way, I thought to myself that since I am still young and I don’t want to be labelled as a “strawberry”, I pushed myself and worked all my way till even midnight at times and to skip my part-time classes.

In the end, my health got affected. I even landed in A & E once due to chest pains. In the end, I tendered my resignation. 

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Homeless in Singapore?

Where do the homeless go?

There seems to be a perception that people in homeless shelters normally don’t
get evicted, I have come across many cases of eviction and notice of
eviction from homeless shelters.

Perpetual queue of homeless?

As I understand it, homeless shelters are almost invariably always
full, with new homeless people all the time. So, unless one is evicted
or threatened with eviction, they wouldn’t know actually whether they
can fend for themselves, as most people will not volunteer to leave a
homeless shelter.

Interim Housing Scheme

Those in the Interim Housing Scheme also get evicted because they
cannot pay their rental.

How many homeless in shelters?

By the way, how many homeless shelters are there in Singapore, how
many people are housed in total, and who runs them? 

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The Real Economic Trade-offs for Singapore

In his speech he outlines the main economic challenges that Singapore faces and goes on to describe his govt's approach towards these issues. Most of what he said is familiar to us - need to keep taxes and govt expenditure low, maintain growth to grow the pie and need to import foreign labor so on.

Essentially, he propose to keep going along the same path of the last 15-20 years with adjustments  to address the challenges. His speech was titled "Remaking the Singapore Economy" contains little remaking but excuses on why we cannot make fundamental changes to economic model.

"Globalisation and technology will widen income distributions all over the world. You can see this trend in all developed economies, from capitalist USA to socialist France, over the last 30 years. Talented and enterprising individuals will continue to earn a high premium, while pressure will grow on jobs in the middle, because competition is intensifying globally. So inequality will grow worldwide, and angst and social pressures will go up." - PM Lee 

PM’s Veiled Threat and False Argument

PM said nothing new in his speech to the Economic Society of Singapore on 8 June 2012. Instead he hardened his position on economic strategy with fallacious arguments, contrary to public expectation of a change in government attitude and policy following his well-publicized apology just before the last general election in 2011.

The "alarming implications" of his speech were highlighted by Kenneth Jeyaretnam ( Other writers have also made similar criticisms. In this posting, I will zero in on just one key aspect of his subsequent Q&A session when "Mr Lee said there is no country in the world where the population gets smaller and incomes rise at the same time." (here)

Did I read it correctly, that "there is no country in the world where the population gets smaller and incomes rise at the same time"? Prime Minister, you are wrong. On the same day that PM's speech was published (9 June), there was a feature article in the Straits Times showing Estonia's population declining -0.65% while its GDP rose by 7.9% in 2011.

But it is by no means the only country to achieve it. There are at least 3 other countries whose national income/GDP rose in 2011 while population declined. In addition, 4 countries (Austria, Finland, Taiwan and S Korea) whose populations effectively stagnated as they grew only marginally, registered respectable real GDP growth rates of 2.7 to 5.2%; and these are developed, high-income economies like Singapore. (All statistics are taken from CIA Factbook.)

Population growth rate GDP real growth rate

1. Estonia – 0.65 % 7.9 %
2. Latvia -0.598 % 4.0 %
3. Lithuania -0.278 % 5.8 %
4. Ukraine -0.625 % 5.2 %
5. Austria 0.026 % 3.3 %
6. Finland 0.065 % 2.7 %
7. Taiwan 0.171 % 5.2 %
8. S Korea 0.204 % 3.6 % 

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Oil prices continue to drop despite output cuts. Will EMA cut electricity tariffs?
Yahoo! News, 25 Jun 2012
World oil prices dropped on Monday as eurozone debt concerns offset production stoppages in the Gulf of Mexico and Norway.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in August, slid $1.11 to $78.65 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for August dropped 63 cents to $90.35 in late London deals.

Katong property more valuable than Hawaiian island

So the the Katong home of the late Liem Sioe Liong, one of Indonesia’s richest men, is valued at approximately S$100 million, according to a report in Indonesia’s TEMPO Interactive. The property is 86,000 sq ft.

It was reported yesterday that the billionaire boss of technology giant Oracle is to buy 98% of the Hawaiian island of Lanai. Larry Ellison’s successful bid is unknown, but the asking price for the 141 sq mile (365 sq km) was said to be between US$500m and $600m

Reminded me that in the late 1980s, the grounds of the Imperial Palace in downtown Tokyo was said to be worth all the land in California. Australia sold part of the land its embassy was on and paid off half of its foreign debt. 

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Slow News Day at STOMP since STOMPgate

My friend Gwee spotted this shocking piece of citizen journalism at STOMP today. It was a photo of an animal swimming — NAKED — in MacRitchie Reservoir.

This is scandalous! Why are there actual animals wandering in the wild, in our very own reservoirs? Why are they swimming in the very waters that we drink?

If it wasn't for SPH's STOMP, I would not have known about the dark underbelly of our nature reserves.

Is there any government authority looking into this? Is this even a local monitor lizard?

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#STOMPgate – Singapore online community’s moment of sweet schadenfreude

Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) – the organisation which owns and runs newspapers, magazines and websites (among other things) – has had to apologise to public transport provider SMRT after a content producer on their citizen journalism portal STOMP (Straits Times Online Mobile Print) was found to have posted false information about the operation of a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train.

This photograph was posted on STOMP last week alleging that the train was travelling with its doors open.

Ms Samantha Francis, under the anonymous nickname of ‘wasabi’, had initially submitted an article containing a photograph of an MRT train with its doors open, alleging that there had been a fault and that the doors had not closed while the train was moving from one station to another. 

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More fights break out on buses and trains, 25 Jun 2012
The recent slate of heated arguments on public transport continues with two more incidents that occurred on an MRT train and a bus.

In the MRT incident, which occurred at around 8:15pm on 21 June in a westbound train, a 60 year-old man got into a fight with a 20 year-old man after the old man’s backpack bumped into the young man. An exchange of words escalated into a fight, and the old man is said to have suffered multiple facial injuries as a result. Both men were said to be passengers on the train.

In the separate bus incident, two ‘uncles’ were caught on video fighting for a seat on a SBS bus. The 1:45 minute video was uploaded on Youtube and has been watched by more than 83,000 people so far. 

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Two uncles fight on SBS bus 

After an old woman and a young lady quarreled fiercely on the MRT, this time it is two uncles fighting on a SBS bus.

This time round, as it involved men, there is some real action as you can see later on the video below.

I think the recent spate of public commuters being embraced in quarrels and fights may attest to the very high level of stress in our Singapore society which is getting more and more crowded everywhere. Also, the number of good jobs may seem to be getting more competitive  and more men and women, young and old are having more and more hair loss.

I think it is time for Mr Lui Tuck Yew to intervene using his Land Transport Authority (LTA). We should consider having commuters buying public travel insurance lest the MRT platform gap is too big for them or they become victims of some warly commuters! 

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