Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Watz Buzzing - 8 Aug 2012

More than gold or silver

Someone said the 5th of August was Malaysia's National Heart Attack Day. I think it was so for Singapore too.

I was a nervous wreck just watching the final. The mental strength of both players must have been tremendous.

Datuk Lee Chong Wei, you won our hearts with your tenacious and skillful play. Thumbs way up, Malaysia!

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OPINION: Wei vs Wei

CNA Forum, 6 Aug 2012

"Lee Chong Wei will inspire many Malaysians to believe that they have the talent to become an Olympic champion.

Feng Tianwei will inspire many China nationals to believe that they can come to Singapore to become an Olympic champion." Link

Malaysians feel real proud winning bronze in women’s diving event

Malaysia's Pamg Pandelela Rinong poses with the bronze medal on the podium of the women's 10m platform final during the diving event at the London 2012 Olympic Games. (AFP Photo)

KUCHING (11 Aug) – Reactions of Sarawakians to Pandelela Rinong Pamg’s bronze medal win in the women’s 10m platform early yesterday were of absolute delirium.

The 19-year-old Bidayuh diver’s achievement at the London Olympics was celebrated by Malaysians all over the globe, more so by Sarawakians.

“I woke up to receive the live Twitter updates on her progress because Australian national television only showed bits and pieces of the event. When I knew she had won, I jumped up and turned on the television just in time to witness her receiving the medal,” said student Melody Bedindang, who is currently studying in Australia.

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Duck Cries Foul – Another Government Tender to be Scrutinised?

Ducktours announced on 26th July 2012 in TODAY newspaper that they would be exiting the Singapore River in December 2012, as they have not been awarded one of the 2 water taxi operating licences in the Marina Bay (which includes Singapore River) in a recent tender exercise called by URA. The 2 licensees from 1st January 2013 would be (i) Singapore River Cruise (the other incumbent operator) and (ii) a new joint venture between Global Yellow Pages Ltd and Leisure Empire Pte Ltd.

According to their blog (, Ducktours felt that they have lost out in the tender exercise because URA has imposed new mandatory requirements on the operators, some of which would result in an unsustainable business case. After an unsuccessful appeal to MND, the ministry that oversees URA, to review the tender specifications, they submitted a tender bid which they thought was prudent and projected losses for first 3 years of operations. Given the revenue-centric nature of the tender, where the bid price (licence fee payable by the operator) was given 60% emphasis, and the quality of the proposal including concept, business plan and track record accorded only 40%, Ducktours was not awarded a licence as a result of their low bid.

Ducktours has since written an open letter in their blog to the Prime Minister, citing lapses in the URA tender process including a lack of feasibility and market study done by URA prior to crafting the tender specifications, in their bid to get the authorities to review the tender exercise. However, Ducktours could be missing the over the point here. The fact that there were 5 other tenderers have vindicated URA and shown that there was still a business case, unlike the pessimistic scenario painted by Ducktours. However, it is Global Yellow Pages, one of the 2 licence awardees that attention should be focused on, and questions should also be asked on whether there were any lapses in the tendering process.

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Lee Wei Ling, it's miserliness, not frugality

Poor little rich girl, Lee Wei Ling, insists that her family was frugal. In reality, it is more like a miserly family.

Perhaps Ms Lee is embarrassed that she has lived off the riches of her family. And currently, many of her family members and extended family members live off the sweat of Singaporeans. So she has to make it look that she is not the girl born with the silver spoon in her mouth. Hence, she tries to portray she "didn't have the good life".

But in doing so, she has actually insulted many Singaporeans who have truly gone through thick and thin. She's also insulting the current bottom 10% Singaporeans who find it a struggle to feed their families.

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Lee Wei Ling and the elastic band on her father’s shorts

I grew up in a middle-class family. Though they were well-off, my parents trained my brothers and me to be frugal from young. We had to turn off water taps completely. If my parents found a dripping tap, we would get a ticking off. And when we left a room, we had to switch off lights and air-conditioners.

My father’s frugality extends beyond lights and air-conditioners. When he travelled abroad, he would wash his own underwear, or my mother did so when she was alive. He would complain that the cost of laundry at five-star hotels was so high he could buy new underwear for the price of the laundry service.

One day in 2003, the elastic band on my father’s old running shorts gave way. My mother had mended that pair of shorts many times before, so my father asked her to change the band. But my mother had just had a stroke and her vision was impaired. So she told my father: “If you want me to prove my love for you, I will try.” I quickly intervened to say: “My secretary’s mother can sew very well. I will ask her to do it.”  

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Lee Kuan Yew washes his own underwear…

Lee Wei Ling regurgitated again in The Sunday Times on Aug. 5, 2012. Her thoughts this time are on frugality. And they are… erm… strange. Here is a list, in order of what she wrote and the emotions she elicits: 

1. Lee Wei Ling started off by saying that she and her brothers are frugal because: “We had to turn off water taps completely.” 

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Value The Frugal Life

In the Sunday feature article ("At Oxley Road, we value the frugal life"), the author wrote that "the house we have lived all my life is more than 100 years old." It was odd therefore to recall that the same person was named in the purchase of two condominium units which caused much public disquiet in 1996.

It all started when the Stock Exchange of Singapore (SES) censured a publicly listed property development company called Hotel Property Ltd (HPL) for not seeking shareholders' approval for the sale of some of its condominium developments at discounted price.

Dr Lee Suan Yew, Lee Kuan Yew's younger brother, was then on the board and had purchased a unit in Nassim Jade which was developed by Ong Beng Seng, Singapore property tycoon and Managing Director of HPL.

OPINION: Everybody Has An Opinion About Singapore - Bruce Spencer

USA Today, 4 Aug 2012
It seems like everybody has an opinion about Singapore, from my cat’s veterinarian, to friends and acquaintances, to people sitting next to me on the plane, and rarely is it a positive one. (Nevermind that most people couldn’t locate it on a map.)

Chalk it up to the infamous caning of American Michael P. Fay in 1994 for his conviction on vandalism and theft charges — four swift lashes to his bare white butt — or to the abhorrable breach of personal freedom that is being unable to walk into a convenience store to buy a pack of gum.

Whatever it is, Singapore’s reputation, at least amongst many Americans, is one of a totalitarian police state where its straight-laced citizens go about their days in humorless silence, fearful of incurring Big Brother’s ever-watchful wrath, unable to express themselves, spending around $40 for a bottle of shitty wine. (The latter, at least, is unfortunately true.) Full story 

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OPINION: Why Chinese Officials Are In Love With The Singapore Model - Kyle Spencer
Seeking Alpha, 7 Aug 2012
To Chinese officials, the Singapore Model is a political and economic panacea; a growing economy kept in relative social harmony without dissenting parties or the shackles of corruption.

The populace is content and obedient to the ruling party. Democracy does not exist because it is not required for the harmonious operation of society. The only thing required is law and a clean, corrupt-free government to keep everyone happy and prosperous. Full story 

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A Matter Of Cost

It's no longer funny. Nanyang Siang Pau reported that an accountant in her 30s did not show up after being informed of her mother's death at a nursing home. She refused to be associated because of the S$2,000 in funeral expenses. A saddened undertaker who learnt about the travesty donated a casket and paid for the last rites.

Last month we learnt via word of mouth an ex-colleague's father had passed on. The simple wake and the cheap coffin in the void deck said it all, our old friend was trying to make ends meet. Since he did even post the obituary notice in the morning paper, we called up those we know. Many declined to attend, citing various excuses - the customary donation of money to help offset funeral expenses (Chinese call it “pak kum”, literally “white gold”) was obviously too much of a tax in these hard times.

The cheapest niche in a government columbaria costs $500 for standard, $900 for a family. The website clearly states that there will be an extra $250 selection fee should one wish to choose a different location from that allocated by the state. Even in death, freedom of choice comes with a price 

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Dr Goh Keng Swee Should Pay Mr Khaw Boon Wan A Visit

Dr Goh Keng Swee famously chose to walk rather than take a cab to save money. Today, that ethos of thrift and prudent expenditure is but only a distant memory it seems. More details of NParks spendthrift ways came to light in today's report of their purchase of bicycles costing S$2200 apiece for their staff.

Apparently NParks approved the purchase because only one tender submission was received. And Mr Khaw was satisfied with that reason! Has neither Mr Khaw or NParks heard of the concept of a failed tender? Bicycles are not such an exotic product that there is only one supplier available. The correct procedure would have been to call for a re-tender and making sure that at least several potential suppliers are directly informed of the tender.

NParks had given the excuse that a foldable bike would eliminate the need for a van to transport the bikes and staff on their rounds. Are we to understand that with a foldable bike, staff would transport themselves and the bike? How so? 

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Come Clean

I remember Khaw Boon Wan  appearing on TV asking WP to "come clean" on Yaw Shin Leong's personal life.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. 

I now ask Khaw to "come clean" on the Hippo-Duck-Mah-Bow-Tan water taxi tender. Compared to the Hippo-Ducky affair, Bromptongate flipflop may be just the tip of a gigantic titanic iceberg in MND!

Minister Khaw: I am ‘convinced’ the foldable bikes are ‘warranted’

After receiving widespread criticisms from Singaporeans for spending too much on the Brompton bikes, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan now flip-flops and say he is ‘convinced’ that they are warranted.

Speaking on the sidelines of a community event, Mr Khaw revealed he recently accompanied the NParks officers while they did their inspection rounds and is convinced that for the type of work the officers do, foldable bikes are warranted.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan touched on the issue of the Brompton bikes bought by NParks. 

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Hello Tuck Yew, are SIngaporeans being 'tucked' again?

Tharman takes $1.1 billion Singaporean taxpayer's money [$1.1 billion Bus Services Enhancement Fund] to help your ministry to help ComfortDelgro to buy buses because you and your PAP colleagues have screwed Singapore by importing too many foreigners too soon.

Hence, overcrowding everything especially buses!

Now ComfortDelGro Cabcharge, a joint venture between Singapore multinational ComfortDelGro and locally-listed Cabcharge Australia, said yesterday they would acquire Deane's Transit Group, including Transborder Express, for $53 million. [Link] 

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Different codes for different folks

Once again, the government is calling for an online code of conduct. Apparently, the state has yet to learn that many bloggers, activists and Internet users are opposed to such an idea. Or that having a code is impractical.

Different people have different values. Different people have different priorities. I favour reason, evidence and deep thought. I can point to other, more famous, bloggers who prefer emotional discourse. I’m in the business of understanding how things work. Others prefer to promote personal causes and criticise all others. I blog about writing and politics, which is much different from bloggers who write about food, movies, or their personal lives. Having a code of conduct assumes there is some commonality of values and interests across the Internet.

Yaacob Ibrahim may say that the Code of Conduct is for everyone on the Internet, but the CoC is aimed largely at political bloggers. The government uses words like ‘honest, constructive, rational discussion’ to signal how it would like people to talk about politics. ‘When something goes wrong’ in the Singaporean Internet space, it is almost always about the grim triad of politics, race, or religion — matters political bloggers talk about. The example Yaacob uses is plainly lifted from online discussions that allege corruption in the government. The people who will be most affected by the CoC are the political bloggers, because they would have to watch themselves and each other much more closely, and in some cases outright change the way they write to meet the needs of the CoC. 

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How Policy-Makers Can Expand Their Spheres Of Influence Through Quality Dialogue Sessions

Actions by the Government impact on people in a number of ways, and we need to understand exactly how is it impacting across a cross-section … The reason I meet them is because it gives me a raw, unedited, unexpurgated viewpoint on issues” (Understanding Their Concerns, One On One, Miss Alicia Wong).

The one on one discussion sessions Law Minister K. Shanmugam has had with an assortment of Singaporeans – reported in the news commentary Understanding Their Concerns, One On One (August 4, 2012) by Miss Alicia Wong – are definitely praiseworthy. Mr. Shanmugam would have developed a greater appreciation for on-the-ground circumstances and perspectives; the participants could be more cognisant of policy considerations and trade-offs; in the bigger picture, the exchanges contribute to a constructive culture of feedback and discourse which could galvanise future initiatives targeted at different audiences.

The value of these personal, face-to-face conversations is notable, especially if one takes into account the ubiquity-accessibility of online platforms, and the convenience of virtual correspondence. 

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Be prudent and spend within your means

Khaw Boon Wan has again repeated the call to the people to spend within their means when buying a home, He even pointed out to the 50 year housing loan offered by the banks as a gimmick and discouraged people from taking it up. He also reiterated that he would continue to build more flats to cater for those who have been badly affected by the cock policies of his predecessor.

Many have been caught without a flat caused by the curtailing of the building programmes and ended seeing their salaries exceeding the HDB ceilings and thus no longer qualify for public housing. This is the group that are being forced into the private market with income that appeared to be high but would be precariously stuck with a huge housing loans should they buy private. Was his predecessor concerned about being prudent and not spending beyond their means?

Now, would Boon Wan go all the way to undo the damages and harm that his predecessor had caused to the young home buyers and undo the wrongdoings by allowing those affected a chance to buy public housing? 

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How the Feck Did Singaporeans Get Fooked? It Is Human Nature?

Sunday Times provided an interesting read on 5 August 2012, "System in place to reduce corruption" by Goh Chin Lian.

I also read "Corruption is kept in check in S'pore: Shanmugam" by asiaone here

Letter writer to ST Forum page Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh was accused of showing "absurdity" in his argument that meritocracy "may inflate the egos of those who succeed such that their sense of entitlement and privilege can supersede their better judgement". The rebuke came from Law Minister, K Shanmugum. 

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South China Morning Post Questions Temasek Returns

Yesterday I received an email from a loyal reader that Jake van der Kamp, the well known columnist from the South China Morning Post wrote a column questioning the returns of Temasek. Though I can’t find an ungated copy of the column and can’t repost the entire column, he makes a couple of great points about what Temasek is claiming.

“If you were a private investment fund manager with this sort of record, you would have every investor in the world getting down on his knees to you and bowing every time you showed your face in public. You would be venerated as a deity. The world would be at your doorstep asking you to manage its money.”

Investors today are lauded for much smaller returns much less keeping up 17% for 38 years. I have been unable to find any other investor that claims to have earned a similar return over a similar time frame. Furthermore, I cannot even find Temasek companies that earn the rates of return claimed by Temasek!! 

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Light In The Tunnel 

Note the sentence construction: "On Friday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said its expenses for the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearing came up to $4 million - less than the $5.9 million that rail operator SMRT earlier said it had incurred." A superficial read gives the impression that that the COI cost only $4 million, less than $5.9 million reported earlier. The hard truth is that LTA blew $4 million and SMRT blew $5.9 million. A total of $10 million for a frigging puppet show that leaves the train system no better than it was on 15 Dec 2011.

After the embarrassing YOG budget report the authorities seemed to have shied off from a detailed breakdown of the expenses. Most likely the bulk of it went to the lawyers - Allen & Gledhill (LTA) and Drew & Napier (SMRT). The fact that litigators took center stage over technical experts on train systems speaks volumes about the nature and tenor of the inquiry. The technical causes "may never be known with absolute certainty."(Greer, Ove Arup & Partners)

Do we need to spend $10 million to acknowledge that SMRT has failed 

Singapore Law Minister vows to keep check on corruption,6 Aug 2012
In a candid speech Mr. Shanmugam admitted that despite having the best civil service and great record on corruption, the city-state cannot eliminate the vices that have afflicted humans for centuries.

"Like in all societies, and in Singapore as well, there have always been people who have been corrupt. There will always be people who will be corrupt," Mr Shanmugam said. "There will be people who, whatever rules you put in, they will look to find a way around the rules and they will fall for temptation. There is no society in the world, in the past or the present, where every person is totally clean." Full story

Question: The policy of paying sky-high salaries to senior government officials to deter corruption has failed?

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Show the cost benefit analysis of sponsoring FT Olympians

The government and the constructive, nation-building media, and the inhabitants of “cowboy towns” are engaged in a dialogue of the deaf.

The government and the media are shouting at S’poreans to be proud of our PRC FT gladiators who win Olympic medals. “It’s for S’pore” the govmin and media shout. I’m waiting for one Goh Chok Tong to come out to say that those of us who are not proud of our FT Olympians are unpatriotic, and are not real S’poreans, unlike the PRC gladiators who are the true blue S’poreans.

(BTW PM, BG Tan: OK to spit, stone and despise those like our PRC men gladiators or Tao Li who don’t win medals?) 

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What the hell is wrong?

Not too ago, our “beloved” Vivian splashed out $300 million extra at the Inaugural YOG! Recently, the National Parks went ahead to buy foldable bikes for $2200 each all in the name of increasing productivity. And now of course, we are in the news yet again for having the highest reward payout to the person who wins an Olympic Gold Medal!

I for one am totally against giving such a huge reward to the winner. I mean come on $1 million is very tempting for people to cheat. We all know the Chinese government pay their athletes peanuts and don’t take care of them after they retire. (Not too long ago, it was reported a gold medalist had to steal to make ends meet after he retired from the sports).

When the reward is so huge, who is there to stop anyone from negotiating a GOLD medal win by splitting the prize money equally? That is $5 million RMB!!! Will a poor Chinese athlete reject this offer? Very hard to say, right?! Or is the answer an overwhelming NO?! 

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