Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Watz Buzzing - 3 Oct 2012

This does not look like any MRT train I have taken to work

CNA: "S'pore's train operator SMRT's new President/CEO, Desmond Kuek, rides the train in his first day of office today."

What time does he go to work sial? I mean, the photographer could actually raise his hands to take the photo.

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HDB selling new 3-room flats in Kallang/Whampoa for $795,000??


  1. HDB flat prices rose to record high in Q3
  2. Khaw Boon Wan: Singaporeans should not be upset over HDB flat sold for S$1 million - Property Guru
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Affordable Housing

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has a two-fold problem, built more flats and make them more affordable. First one is easy, and suits the appetite of the GDP growth junkies to a T. More flats for sale mean more money in the state coffers – just think of the contribution from the mysterious “reserves” portion of the pricing policy.

The good news is that $75,000 will now actually buy you a brand new flat (cheaper than those affordable $100K units), if you can contend with 35 sq metres in a non-mature estate. That’s HDB nomenclature for an ulu part of the island which may lack certain amenities like schools, supermarkets, clinics, hawker centres, as well as sports and recreational facilities. On the plus side, the relatively remote locations may suit those planning a discreet afternoon tryst with a female IT sales executive. Just imagine, if they deliver on the $60,000 housing grant, a studio flat will cost only $15,000.

Before you rush out to nominate the HDB for a humanitarian award in finally reducing the entry level for basic accommodation, read on. The new flats will not be fitted with sanitary essentials like wash basins and taps. Those are optional items which HDB will happily supply at a mere $4,300. Recall the gold plated tap that caused NKF’s TT Durai a lot of bother was priced at $990, including discount and GST.  Sure that was in 2004, and them HDB executives have had their paychecks revised upwards umpteen times since. For those on a tight budget, say earning $1,000 a month, please make do with a plastic pail and stand pipe. It will add a touch of nostalgia, and bring back fond memories of kampong days in the 50’s, before ministers award themselves million dollar salaries. At Teck Ghee Parkview, HDB will even offer you a partition to separate the kitchen from the living room, at $2,000 extra.  Do you really need to prepare curry and risk a police report from the PRC neighbour?

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Khaw's cooling measures fail as Q3 home prices rose to record high

(RTTNews) - Singapore home prices increased to a record in the third quarter, flash estimates published by the Urban Redevelopment Authority showed Monday.

House prices grew 0.5 percent from a quarter ago, following a 0.4 percent rise in the second quarter. The pace of change in prices varied across the different market segments.

Elsewhere, the Housing and Development Board said the resale price index climbed 2 percent sequentially in the third quarter. Full story


  1. Singapore Private Home Prices Climbed to Record in Third Quarter - BusinessWeek
  2. Singapore 3Q Private-Home Prices +0.5% on Quarter Vs +0.4% in 2Q - 4-traders
  3. Singapore Q3 private home prices rise 0.5 pct q/q - Reuters UK
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SMRT Drivers: We are frustrated over NTUC’s incompetency

It is the job of the unions to help the poor employees. But, in Singapore, our unions are turned on their head and they are remarkably unique – they side the employers and in this case, they have caved in to the demands of the corporation, leaving the local Singaporean drivers in despair. The drivers are left with only one option – seeking legal redress over the National Trade Union Congress’s (NTUC) inability to negotiate a favourable deal, loss of income and for the “lack of consideration made to a crucial aspect to the new terms of employment.”

On Friday 28th September, responding to a query from The Online Citizen, the NTUC announced that they have negotiated for the reinstatement of the five day workweek (without the pay adjustment) which will only come into effect in January 2013. Drivers can opt to revert back to the old scheme starting this month. One SMRT driver, however, has reacted negatively to this:

SMRT also denied the driver's annual increment, so a win situation for SMRT, all the things that the drivers did like writing to newspaper and labour minister [have been in vain]. ~ SMRT Driver

NTUC plays SMRT bus drivers out by accepting unfavourable proposal from transport company

The Online Citizen ,1 Oct 2012
On 8th August 2012, a group of SMRT drivers petitioned the Union Chief Lim Swee Say demanding reinstatement of their previous five day workweek and salary package. Their negotiations have reached a stalemate.

I spoke to three drivers from SMRT on the 25th of September and they tell the same story that they have taken a forced pay cut since May 2012. According to the drivers, the Secretary General and Executive Committee of NTUC agreed with SMRT Management to accept the unfavourable proposal. Under the new scheme, the drivers said that they have been taking home about $400 – $500 less each month. It is estimated that each driver will lose in excess of $3500 in earnings from May to December 2012.

All their attempts to negotiate a fair wage have come to a naught. The drivers have also petitioned the Prime Minister, who then referred the drivers to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The MOM in turn referred them to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), only for LTA to bounce this matter back to MOM. After six weeks, they are back to where they started – MOM has referred this back to NTUC.

All negotiations with SMRT’s HR have failed as well. In a closed door meeting with the SMRT drivers, the Senior Operations Manager of SMRT told the drivers, “You can resign and go to SBS. Full story

  1. Bus Service Drivers Blow the Whistle On SMRT
  2. Disappointed with Ong Ye Kung's inaction, SMRT bus drivers petition directly to Lim Swee Say to get back 5-day work week
  3. SMRT "pay rise" exposes Ong Ye Kung (SMRT Board Director cum NTUC Director) hypocrisy
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The PAP Reality: Political Commitment and Consensus

The reality of the PAP is that they prefer the old way of consensus in the past 50 years. However, they are short of the political will and commitment as before. Hence, they do not have the necessary fighting spirit to gain back the consensus that they have lost.

Political commitment and fighting spirit are required under the new political norm.  Unfortunately, the more they need it, the less they have it.  This is the reality of the PAP and the sad story of this powerful party of the past.

Despite these negative factors, PM Lee still maintains his optimistic of retiring at age 70 and is this the consensus of the people or the PAP or only himself? And the only political commitment that he can offer to Singaporeans is National Conversation.

Will new citizens always vote for the PAP?

Okay for today, I will be tackling a tricky question which I have seen featured in and here is the article which sparked off the debate. Now in that article, the writer makes an assumption that newly naturalized citizens will automatically vote for the PAP. This is an assumption I have heard a lot of people make - how true is it? Let's look at the issue and analyze it today.

To kick things off, let me quote some statistics from the article:

"The number of Singapore citizens grew by close to 28,000* to 3.29 million over the one-year period. If constant 28k new citizen every year, by 2016 will have extra 140k votes for pappies. That is 4% more votes."

People are not so poor. They think their government is not poor so they expect the government to do more for them
‎"Singaporeans, more affluent than ever before, also, perhaps paradoxically, expect more from their government, according to Lee: "People are not so poor. They think their government is not poor so they expect the government to do more for them.

"They're not poor but they feel less well off relatively than others they can see in society. There is that relative sense that 'I should get my entitlement'."

No wonder our ministers feel poor. Compared to the other rich people our island attract, a million dollar salary is peanuts.
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OPINION: Gloomy days ahead for Singaporean PMETs

Comments made in these two news articles indicate hard times ahead for Singaporean PMETs:

1. Manpower realities: Beyond the numbers: Tan Chuan-Jin - The Malaysian Insider

"Our Employment Pass (EP) stock contracted marginally (-700), the first half-yearly reduction since 2009 when the recession hit us. I think our adjustments are beginning to be felt at the Professional-Managerial-Executive (PME) level. However, S Passes registered strong growth of 14,200 in the first half of this year. Because of the tightened EP requirements from January, it is likely that companies are using S Passes to bring in the more junior level PMEs"
2. 10,000 PMEs to join labour movement by 2013 - Today

"In a statement, the NTUC said it is important that the labour movement adapts to meet the needs of PMEs as they are the rank-and-file workers of tomorrow.
In the first article, Tan Chuan-Jin has admitted that more S-passes are being issued as employers are switching from E-pass to S-pass hires. In the process, employers are replacing local PMETs with S-pass foreign workers.

The second article reveals that the Govt is fully aware of this problem, and NTUC is gearing up for a surge in PMETs losing their jobs and becoming rank-and-file workers. 

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Less government, more responsibility.

It is an open secret amongst Singaporeans and some international observers that we are not exactly a free society. We’ve called ourselves an Asian-style democracy, modelled on “soft authoritarianism”; there has traditionally been a reluctance to adopt “Western-style civil liberties” also. Last year, a considerable number of Singaporeans supported the Workers Party in their call for a “First World Parliament”, reflecting the understanding of our lack of political pluralism.

On the other hand, occurring simultaneously is another trend. Singaporeans also have shown a willingness to depend on the government for the good life. The government is expected to deliver on so many issues and fulfil so many requirements for the people, be it in education, transport, healthcare, housing, etc. Increasingly, there are also calls for a strong social safety net in Singapore and more welfare for the needy.
The problem here is that we cannot have the cake and eat it at the same time. 
Fear of associating with the SDP?

For the longest time, associating oneself with an opposition party in Singapore would instantaneously throw up that dreaded feeling - fear. Let alone stepping up and joining and being a member of one. It was the result of years - decades - of fear-mongering by the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), led for some 30 years by strongman, Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee's "hatchet" politics, no doubt, contributed a large part to this aversion towards all things opposition. But times have changed somewhat - and Lee himself is no longer worshipped by the masses, especially the younger set, as the demi-god which some still make him out to be.

His tactics of jailing his political opponents, suing them to bankruptcy, and - with the help of the media which he held a firm hand on - he decimated any remnants of dignity and integrity any of his opponents had in the eyes of the public. All these created a lasting climate of fear - even today.

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