Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Watz Buzzing - 29 Aug 2012

PM Lee highlights 'Hope, Heart, and Home' in National Day Rally

Yahoo! News Singapore, 26 Aug 2012 

Hope, heart, and home – the three Hs were the overarching themes in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally Speech on Sunday evening.

During his two-hour rally at the University Cultural Centre, PM Lee asked of Singaporeans at home and the 1,500-strong audience in front of him, "What is the next chapter of the Singapore story?".

Speaking first in Malay, Mandarin and then English, the 60-year-old unveiled a series of new measures to tackle education, popluation and healthcare challenges to ensure the city-state stays competitive and relevant over the next 20 years. Full story

Paternity leave, HDB for singles welcomed - Yahoo! News Singapore
PM Lee's NDR speech a break from the past: analysts - Yahoo! News Singapore

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All the ideas are there - it is a question of political will!

The full report of this year's National Day Rally is found here.
. "Think seriously about our future, contribute your ideas and work together to make it happen," 
PM Lee, National Day Rally 2012.
PM Lee invites us to contribute our ideas to the new committee headed by Heng Swee Kiat to engage Singaporeans on where the country should be in the future. Yes, another committee, another conversation and another round of ideas. There is no lack of ideas. That is not the problem. What is lacking is the political leadership and will to implement them. 
Lets start with 6 ideas from the PAP Womens Wingn[Six proposals to turn S'poreans into babymakers] to arrest falling birth rates: 

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Same old story: National Day Rally 2012

No one, except newly minted citizens and PRs, is surprised by the overall tone and thrust of quiet PM Lee’ s National Day Speech. In line with previous ND rallies, Singaporeans who succeeded in overcoming the odds were singled out for the spotlight to fall on them to generate the feel-good factor.

All the goodies to be dished out like help for the low and middle income groups, support for part-time degree students, changes to pre-school education, more buses, two more universities are laudable and will improve the quality of life and give more opportunities for Singaporeans (using my two eyes here).

PM Lee bemoaned the the lack of graciousness of Singaporeans and nasty anti-foreigner comments particularly online. The finger points at the regime for its ultra generous immigration policies to all and sundry, mainly from third world countries.

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PM Lee Hsien Loong warns taxes will rise if social spending increases. 9% GST coming

BusinessWeek, 26 Aug 2012 

Singapore will need to raise taxes in the next two decades as the government boosts social spending to support an aging population, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as he proposed measures to boost the country’s birth rate.

“With a shrinking working population, an inadequate birth rate and a higher dependency ratio, there is an inevitability that taxes will have to be raised,” said Vishnu Varathan, a Singapore-based economist at Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd. “I don’t think anything will change in our tax policy to make us less competitive in the next five to 10 years, but the prime minister is talking about something much further out.” Full story


PM Lee, cut excessive defence spending, Brompton bikes, Herman Miller chairs before talking about raising taxes

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Same man, Same Speech, No Solution and he is on every channels!

I tried to watch the PM rally yesterday; actually it was quite easy as every channels on TV are showing it. I really make me wonder the logic behind it?

As usual, the same old stuff.

I didn’t really paid 100% attention to him (not like those at the auditorium who spontaneously break into laughter at every punch lines PM said) so these are some points I caught. 

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All Sound And Fury, Signifying Nothing

The indelible image from the National Day Rally (NDR)speech was a poor girl squashing herself into her seat by the wall, hoping it will open up and swallow her whole to spare her the embarrassment of her life. The other cringe worthy moment was the yarn about an 87 year old auntie shooting 50 hoops every morning at Teck Ghee. Maybe Lance Armstrong should have adopted her porridge and Horlicks diet instead of performance enhancing potions.

The NDR delivery was supposed to be our equivalent of the American State of the Union address. Once upon a time Lee Kuan Yew used it as a powerful platform to launch his epochal plans for the nation, such as the stop at two(1960s - stop making babies) and graduate mother(1983 - start making babies) policies.

Sometimes he would use the occasion to remind Singaporeans who's in charge "‎..and even from my sickbed, even if you are going to lower me to the grave and I feel that something is going wrong, I'll get up!" (NDR 1988).

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PM Lee National Day Rally Speech

It's about 10:15 am now. I collected those comments on the PM's NDR speech with 11 or more likes. My proxy for resonance. I am particularly worried about Lois Lai "free this, free that" suggestion. Aichi Chong garnered 38 likes (I added myself later) which is way ahead of any other comment.

These days practically nobody view their children as their old age pension. This is good but we have forgotten a very important reason why people have so many kids in the past. Even biologists concluded that having many offspring is Nature's way of ensuring survival of the species. However we have interfered so successfully with Nature and gone to the other extreme. Poorer societies are closer to nature than us. They use less energy, control their environment less and they also have more children.

We will not solve our problem of low birth rate. Let's hope we are lucky since we aren't willing to pay the price to overcome a declining population.

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One or two?

The PM announced last evening that men will also be entitled to paternity leave, similar to women's maternity leave, to look after their just borned child. Everyone in the University Cultural Centre auditorium that I could see through the TV broadcast clapped in approval, particularly the women amongst them. The rationale? PM related an example of a women who voiced her fears that she would be forgotten by her employer if she took as long as 6 months maternity leave.

So fathers should step in to shoulder this burden by being allowed to take similar leave to share the burden of nursing the baby. All of which is dandy, until you think about it further.

Would men not also be forgotten at the workplace when they take paternity leave? The couple can now share equally the 4 months of maternity leave that women are entitled to, that is 2 months each. And even supposing it is 1 month out of the 4 for the men, it is probably 1 month too long for the men to be absent from the office. In this dog-eat-dog world, if you are not around, you need not be around, period. So sharing this load might lead to both of the couple, the mother and the father, to become expendable employees. Which is better - to have one expendable person or two?

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Singapore National Day Rally: Home Hope Heart HDB!

OK not necessarily in that order and beating down our cynicism down like beat the mole for once, that was a pretty good theme for the Rally speech. The speech inspired more or less depending on how cynical one was at different parts of the speech, especially near the end I was super frustrated. I wanted to watch Super 8 as it started at 10pm and wanted PM to rush through his speech. In the end, this year's message to me was simple with the touch of nostalgia, plus Mediacorp's programme on old school shops and Labour bar soap from yesteryear inserted into the interval before PM started his rhetoric was great spin!

Ever since the GE where PAP lost a GRC, there have been many symbolic changes on power sharing. Last year, for the first time ever since 1965, opposition MPs attended the Rally. That is a a good precedent and this year was no different signalling that the Rally should be party-neutral as much as possible.

Just like this year's NDP where the MPs discarded their whites and light blues, and wore hues of red when they took the grandstand seats and graced the parade party-neutral. Bravo, and I'm not sniggering, serious!

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PM Lee, cut excessive defence spending before talking about raising taxes

During PM's speech last night, a topic of raising taxes was brought up. It was made to make you believe that we have no alternative but to raise taxes in the near future. But we don't have to take that route. All we need to do is to cut down the mad, mad, over expenditure on defence.

As social spending rises, taxes will eventually go up

As spending on social services increases, so too must taxes - albeit not immediately but "certainly within" the next two decades, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Singapore is already relying on its reserves - by spending part of the returns from investing them - to pay for benefits, and the S$8 billion cut of Net Investment Returns Contributions last year helped to foot 14 per cent of Government expenditures including special transfers.

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Of Hope, Heart and Home

Hsien Loong’s main themes were the heart, hope and home. When the heart was not there, hope was dashed, and home became a big burden and a troublesome factor in their lives. Many pains were inflicted on the people because of the missing heart. Policies were shafted down the people’s throat in a very arrogant way, dismissing the people as non entities.

This is how I am going to do it. Like it or not, the people just have to live with it.

What is really needed, instead of reactionary piece meal solutions, is to flush the slimy little heart, if it is still there, with sulphuric acid to get rid of the black stains of the past, to start with a new heart. Instal a new set of heartware into the system and hope and home will fall into place.

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We will engage all Singaporeans in a national conversation: Heng Swee Kiat
Yahoo! News
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said government will engage all Singaporeans in a national conversation about how to take the country forward by "putting Singaporeans at the heart of our concerns".

He highlighted three goals that the national conversation will seek to achieve: reaffirm what is good and still relevant, see what has changed and recalibrate accordingly and, refresh and innovate by chartin new directions.

"It will be an opportunity for Singaporeans to come together, and ask: What matters most? Where do we want to go as a country, as a people?" Full story

Before PM had the idea of a national conversation - Singapore Democrats

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Law Society applies for order to determine M Ravi’s mental health

Yahoo! News Singapore, 24 Aug 2012

The Law Society of Singapore (LSS) has applied for a court order to have lawyer M Ravi checked by a registered medical practitioner to determine if he is fit to practise law in the city-state.

Based on the originating summons filed and served on Ravi on 14 August, the Society wants him to be given 14 days to comply, or else have his practising certificate suspended.

The Society also requests for Ravi’s certificate to be suspended if the medical report declares him unfit to practise law. Full story

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Law Society members want it to explain recent clash with lawyer M Ravi

A group of about 50 lawyers have filed a motion on Friday for the Law Society of Singapore (LAWSOC) to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to explain the recent debacle between one of its officials, Mr Wong Siew Hong and Mr M Ravi.

The group, who are all members of the LAWSOC, is led by Mr Noor Marican of Messer Marican & Associates.

According to Mr Marican who spoke to the local media on Thursdy (23rd August), some members have expressed concern over the incident and have not received a full explaination as to what had transpired.

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Law Society acting like headless chicken

The behavior of the Law Society of Singapore (LSS) leaves very much to be desired indeed. After a series of bungles, which give the impression of a society seemingly acting like a headless chicken, it now wants lawyer M Ravi committed to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).

This comes after a lawsuit has been lodged against the society and one Mr Wong Siew Hong, its chairman of its Member Care committee; and a motion filed with the society and backed up by “more than 50 members” for the society “to hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to explain what led to the recent debate between one of its officials, Mr Wong Siew Hong, and Mr Ravi.”

It all started on 15 July when Mr Wong received a letter from psychiatrist, Dr Calvin Fones, who had seen and assessed Mr Ravi’s state of mind on 14 July. In his letter, which was addressed to the “Law Society”, Dr Fones said Mr Ravi was “having a manic relapse of his bipolar disorder” and added that Mr Ravi “is currently unfit to practice law and his illness is likely to affect his professional capacity.”

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Exco of Lawless Society, not M Ravi, should see psychiatrist

The high-handed Lawless Society wants M Ravi to see a psychiatrist or else his practising cert would be suspended. I think the EXCO members of the Lawless Society need to see the psychiatrist or else the Registrar of Societies revokes their licence to operate as a society. Just who do these high handed guys think they are?

I have no love for M Ravi and neither do I support the causes he fights for. However, every person has a right to say his piece, as well as a right to a living. Lawless Society is trying to break M Ravi's spirit and rice bowl by giving all sorts of excuses to have his licence suspended. I feel the Lawless Society's licence to operate is the one that needs to be suspended.

This is not the first time the Lawless Society tried to stop M Ravi. Supporters of M Ravi, as well as his non-supporters (like myself), remember only too well the comical attempt Lawless Society made when they barged into a court hearing where M Ravi was representing a client. Here's that comical incident which the judge bundled off the Lawless Society's reps - Lawless Society gatecrashes M Ravi's party, gets buttkicked by Judge

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Pastor uses Woffles Wu case to argue against jail term for providing false information

The Woffles Wu case has opened a Pandora’s box for the judicial system in Singapore with subsequent offenders of similar offences now using it as a precedent to appeal against a jail sentence.

Woffles Wu (pic left) was sentenced to only a $1,000 fine instead of a usual jail term for providing false information to the traffic police by getting his elderly employee to take the rap for his speeding offences.

The verdict sparked a massive outcry among Singaporeans forcing the Attorney-General Chambers and the Law Minister to issue a public statement to explain the reasoning behind the uncharacteristic light sentence for Woffles.

Now, pastor Steven Yang from Eternal Life Baptist Church is using the Woffles case to appeal against his jail sentence of two weeks for giving false information under the Customs Act.

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Parliamentarians must set aside partisan interests

Mr Chiang thought that Dr Ong didn’t know what happened during the parliament discussions on Dr Wu. From Mr Chiang’s reply, it seems like the other way round – it was Mr Chiang who didn’t know what happened.

Law minister Shanmugam merely showed six cases, a tiny fraction of the thousands of cases relevant to Dr Wu’s case. These six cases were far from adequate to show that Dr Wu’s case was in line with all such cases. It was therefore meaningless to ask Ms Lim to clarify her position since any position based on six out of thousands of cases was bound to be inadequate and meaningless.

It was wrong of Mr Chiang to say that accepting Mr Shanmugam’s argument meant confirming the integrity of the system as there was no way of confirming the integrity of the system just by looking at six cases. To confirm the integrity of the system, all cases must be shown to be in line with Dr Wu’s case. If just one case is not in line with Dr Wu’s case, the integrity of the system is compromised.

Oral answer by Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, to Parliamentary Questions on the Woffles Wu case, 13 Aug 2012,

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Plastic Surgeon Woffle Wu's abeting case VS Singapore Pastor's Lie to Custom Officer 

Singapore Pastor Steven Yang Suan Piau was jailed for 2 weeks for lying to Custom officer about the 3/4 tank filled in his car even though he had installed a fuel tank switch. Plastic Surgeon Dr Woffle Wu had asked his elderly staff to take the rap for speeding offense to evade a fine and demerit points. Dr Woffle Wu was given a STERN warning and was fined $1500.

Law Minister Shanmugan said in Parliament that Dr Woffle's case was not a case of bias because there were many cases where offenders were let off with a light sentence.

Pastor Yang with a mandate from God had lied to custom officer about his less than 3/4 fuel tank to save on fuel and to evade GST of about $107.00 (assume he pump an equilvant of S$100 worth of petrol in JB) was given 2 weeks jail.

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Why The Double Standard? 

Singapore Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has explained why he made public the case involving a resident who made racial slurs against a neighbour. 

Many netizens had questioned Mr Shanmugam's motive, including what the incident said about Singapore and if Indians are being targeted. 

On August 21, Mr Shanmugam had written about a resident who was upset that he had to tolerate his Indian neighbours, their smell and unwashed bodies. Mr Shanmugam described the complaints as being quite disturbing as it appears the man sees his neighbour's race as being the problem. 

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State media: Singaporean man supports family of eight with monthly salary of $1800

Soon after Singapore’s Supreme Leader Lee Kuan Yew berates his subjects for not having babies, the state media has gone on a propaganda offensive to drive home the point.

The Chinese tabloids reported yesterday of a 36 year old Singapore man Liu Lin Wei who has five children and whose wife is currently pregnant with the sixth:

Mr Liu stayed with his wife and children in a 3-room HDB flat. After subtracting for CPF, he takes home only $1,500.

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Why people didn’t care to be the richest country in the world

It must have annoyed a lot of people to see on the front page of the Straits Times, Wednesday 15 August 2012, the boast that Singapore was the ‘richest country in the world’, validated by another hitherto unheard-of ranking study.

There might have been a time when people here would have taken pride in such an accolade. What better proof that all the sacrifices made in the decades post-independence had paid off, and that our city-state had arrived? But several people I spoke too pointed out that not only do we know it isn’t easy to be the richest country in the world, we look around us and we can clearly see so much that is wrong. “Richest country in the world” can’t possibly mean what it means in plain language.

It can only mean another empty boast.

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After A Watershed Election: Paradoxes, Perils, Promises

Someone once described the ideal audience as intelligent, highly educated and a little drunk. Well, you qualify except on the last point. But there’s somebody among you who’s probably now wishing for a stiff drink or two to calm her nerves. This is a nice, caring friend of mine who worries endlessly on my account, because of a what she calls my ‘ daring and dangerous’ political speeches.

When I told her that my talk this evening would be about Mr Lee Kuan Yew, she let out a little shriek of horror, threw up her hands, rolled her eyes, shook her head, and said in utmost exasperation, ‘You really are so mm-chai-see!’ And she genuinely believes that right here, hidden among you somewhere is this hall, is a PAP man in black with the handcuffs at the ready, to escort me out after the lecture!

I would like to say to my kind, nervous friend, ‘It’s okay. There’s no need to be afraid.’ Ten years ago, five years ago, maybe even as recently as one and half years ago, public speakers would need to be a little afraid if they dared to speak on politically sensitive topics, that is, those subjects forbidden by the famous out-of-bounds markers. But since the amazing General Election of last year, things have changed, and today it’s okay for Singaporeans to speak freely and openly (but civilly and respectfully, of course) on any issue of national interest and concern.

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Tackling the baby challenge

Why did we want to have kids? If we had we conducted a standard cost-benefit analysis (CBA), here’s how it would have looked like: High initial costs of prenatal and delivery fees, medical check-ups, infant care and childcare fees. There would be 25 years or more of continuous expenditure from diapers to degrees.

Since we don’t expect our kids to support us in our old age, the payback period is infinity. So using the CBA approach, the conclusion would have been that this child-raising project should not be undertaken.

This is a clear departure from previous generations, where the costs for raising kids were not so high, the period of upbringing was shorter (since children left school and went out to work earlier), and children were presumed to be the parents’ old age social security policy.

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Racism in Singapore

Recently the outcry against racism is getting louder. Many, even a minister, are raising issues of racism openly. Yes, there are incidents of racism in this island and there is nothing to hide, or better to sweep them under the carpet.

The case of this elderly man berating his Indian neighbour for unpleasant smell, unhygienic lifestyle, and turning his flat into a squalor, has been given special prominence by the minister in his Facebook posting.

What is the intent of the minister, to prove that there is racism, to use this as an issue in the national dialogue or to say that racism exists in little pockets in the society?

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Scholarships for foreigners, debts for Singaporeans

Finally, the foreign scholar issue has hit the papers.

I have struggled to comprehend this strange educational policy since I stepped into the National University of Singapore and realised that for my course’s cohort of around 60 pupils, 2 Singaporeans are on the NUS scholarship, 1 Malaysian is on the ASEAN scholarship and 17 Chinese Nationals are on the Undergraduate Scholarship for PRC students (website: National University of Singapore).

While foreigners enjoy the luxury of studying without worrying about monetary issues, my fellow Singaporeans step into society ridden with debt. Some of them work to finance their studies and others take bank loans which leave them with a debt of more than S$24,000 when they step out into society. They have to pay their tuition fees and accomodation, all out of their own pocket.

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