Friday, 23 November 2012

Watz Buzzing - 23 Nov 2012

ABC Radio Australia - Singapore's Chee Soon Juan hopes for 'united' opposition

The leader of Singapore Democratic Party had owed more than 400,000 which barred him from leaving the country or running in elections.

But in an unprecedented move, two former prime ministers have agreed to accept a significantly reduced amount for the debt, effectively discharging Dr Chee from bankruptcy.

Some observers say the concession is a political manoeuvre, aimed at further splitting the oppositions' votes in the next elections.

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Prosecution grills Ng Boon Gay on contracts
Yahoo! News Singapore, 21 Nov 2012
Prosecution in the sex-for-favours case against Ng Boon Gay spent a large part of Wednesday pressing the former Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) chief on the point of conflict of interest in his approval for the awarding of two IT contracts.
Throughout, Ng maintained that there was no actual conflict of interest in the first contract as he was not fully aware that Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), which then employed his alleged lover Cecilia Sue, was involved. Full story

Former CNB chief questioned on ‘Hitachi’ and ‘HDS’ -
Ex-CNB chief Ng Boon Gay reveals intimate details of his affair with Cecilia Sue Siew Nang
Ng Boon Gay: Cecilia Sue had given me oral sex 20 to 30 times
CPIB officer threatened to drag my family ‘through the mud’: Ng Boon Gay

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Under Singapore Law..

The case against former Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) chief Ng Boon Gay has now went from the ridiculous to the incomprehensible. Ng has admitted at his corruption trial that he had sexual relations with one of his agency's contractors, Cecilia Sue, but denied any wrongdoing. He denied ever revealing any confidential information about CNB's budget to Sue and the prosecution...well, they sort of agree with that.

Now I always have a problem with the case especially when the prosecution said in their opening statement that Ng had at no time influenced or was directly involved in the process of awarding two separate IT contracts worth S$320,000 to a project Sue was working on. I had wondered why they said that and in the two months since the trial started, Singapore had discovered why.

Basically the prosecution has no evidence that Ng was guilty!

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singapore vs hk
What comes to mind when you think of Hong Kong’s housing? Dark, cramped, dingy and tiny spaces tucked away in decrepit buildings, or less dreary but equally tiny and exorbitantly-priced shoebox apartments in chopstick-like skyscrapers (pictures)? Either way, the gut feeling or general impression of most people, including yours truly, is that housing conditions in Hong Kong leave much to be desired. By comparison, housing conditions in Singapore are superior by a long shot. If we talk specifically about public housing, it is even more untenable to suggest that Hong Kong’s public housing is better than Singapore’s in any way. 
So unsurprisingly, Hong Kong’s Mingpao draws similar conclusions after comparing housing in the two cities: public housing (HDB flats/ 政府組屋) in Singapore is not just more spacious but also more affordable.  The annual supply of HDB flats matches the number of newly registered married couples; those with children can upgrade to bigger flats while the aged may monetize existing flats by selling them back to the government and downgrading to smaller ones.
I can already imagine Hongkongers green with envy. But let’s take a deeper look into the two public housing systems before we draw further conclusions.
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IRs’ jobs: Minister relies on newspapers for statistics?

I refer to the TR Emeritus editorial “How many jobs did the 2 IRs really create for S’poreans?” (Nov 17).
This is what the Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin replied on behalf of the Govt:
“Based on reports by TODAY and Lianhe Zaobao on 10th Nov 2012, the two Integrated Resorts (IRs) directly employ more than 22,000 staff, of which about 70% are locals. MBS hires over 9,400 full time employees, of which 60% are Singaporeans. RWS employs over 13,000 staff, and around 75% are Singaporeans. Singaporeans also take up 80% of total PME positions in RWS.”
A lot of people have since been asking as to why the Minister had to rely on newspaper reports to answer a question on statistics in Parliament? This I believe is unprecedented in Singapore’s Parliamentary history. Why didn’t the Minister obtain the statistics directly?

If newspapers never report, reply would be … ?

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What Do You Think Reprised

It was Hri (MP, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) Kumar's version of "what do you think?" The questions he listed, for which he deigned to provide a single answer, covered two key failures in the present state of governance:

Housing (the shortage of at affordable prices):
- Should public housing be available to every Singaporean, regardless of financial circumstances? If not, what should the threshold for eligibility be?
- How should affordability be defined? MND uses the international benchmark of not spending more than 30% of salary to service your mortgage. If not that, then what? Currently, over 80% of HDB owners service their mortgages entirely from their CPF – in other words, no monthly cash outlay. Is that a good measure of affordability?
- Or is Government's role to ensure that everyone has a roof over their heads, whether owned or rented? If that is the KPI, it must follow that it is Government's responsibility to provide housing even for those who cannot live in their current homes because of conflicts with family members, or who cash out by selling their flats. These are two most common reasons given by my constituents who ask for rental flats. Should subsidised housing be provided to them on demand? If the answer is no, some will end up sleeping in public places. Do we accept that?
Transport (the government’s role to provide an efficient, affordable and extensive public transport and road network):

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Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training deaths: Views from a father of one of the fallen

After last week's debate in Parliament on training safety in the Singapore Armed Forces, Lawrence Loh wrote to The Straits Times newspaper's Forum Page to share his opinion that the safety review in the Singaporean military should go beyond just being an academic exercise.

The Straits Times declined to publish his letter.

Mr Loh looks at the SAF training safety issue from the eyes of a parent who lost his son to a safety lapse 11 years ago.

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Seah Hock Thiam is not Woffles Wu
Hardwarezone Forum, 20 Nov 2012
The president of a recycling company was sentenced to six weeks' jail on Tuesday for instigating his driver to get two people to take the rap for traffic offences committed by two friends.
Seah Hock Thiam, 46, boss of Esun International, is appealing against his conviction and sentence.
He was found guilty earlier of two charges of abetting Mr Mohamad Azmi Abdul Wahab, 40, to intentionally pervert the course of justice on a day in August 2009.
In meting out the sentence, the district judge noted features of Seah's case that distinguished itself from the case involving prominent plastic surgeon Woffles Wu Tze Liang. 
The judge noted that in Wu's case, there was no indication that any monetary rewards had been given by him, whereas in Seah's case, he had paid money to the 'scapegoats'. Full story

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When is a housing market not really a market?

Interesting article in the Straits Times the other day about the number of housing projects that are about to reach the maximum time period they can remain unsold.

There are government regulations which limit the time developers have to sell their projects.  After completion (TOP), developers have two years to sell their project or face considerable levies.  They are not allowed to retain units for rental which would be one holding strategy.  see Ministry of Law

In a chart accompanying the ST article, 8 projects were highlighted that have substantial numbers of unsold units two (2) years after completion.  Considering that most projects are pre-sold before construction starts, this is quite something.

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Ostrich School in Problem Solving

The latest acquisition to the Animal Farm is the ostrich, famous for problem solving skill that the kangaroos, doggies, cows and horses were found to be wanting. This ostrich problem skill is world renowned. It can make all problems vanished instantly…by burying its head in the ground. Unable to see the problems means the problems are no longer there. Problem solved.

Let me try to apply this method to the current PSLE angst of the parents and children and maybe help them to solve all their stress problems. Indirectly it will also help to relieve the problems of those in the MOE and in the govt, without the parents bugging them everyday.

Like all problem solving methodology, the first thing to do is to identify the problems. In this case, the problems are caused by the following.

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Chee Soon Juan freed from bankruptacy, eyes 2016 election

The Washington Post, 21 Nov 2012
Prominent Singapore opposition leader Chee Soon Juan has been discharged from bankruptcy, the government said Wednesday, after an unprecedented concession by two former prime ministers to whom he owed about $408,000.
 Ex-prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong agreed to accept a reduced amount of 30,000 Singapore dollars ($24,500) from Chee, which will free him from bankruptcy proceedings formally on Friday, said a statement by the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office. Full story

  1. Singapore dissident to run for office in 2016 - FMT News
  2. S'pore opposition leader freed from bankruptcy - 
  3. Singapore opposition leader freed from bankruptcy - Asian Correspondent
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Dr Chee Soon Juan’s bankruptcy finally annulled

The SDP is the fastest growing opposition party in Singapore The party has published a number of position papers on topics that affect Singaporeans deeply, including holistic policies for affordable public housing, a national healthcare plan that ensures everyone has access to healthcare without becoming financially ruined as a result, and ethical salaries for a public service centred government.

The party also has been the most socially active since the conclusion of the 2011 general elections, with activities such as Futsal competitions and Kampung Cook-offs

The SDP has also been the most vocal party in raising issues of national importance from healthcare, to the cost of living, to public transport.

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SDP’s housing plan ‘excellent’, says ex-GIC chief economist

Mr Yeoh Lam Keong

Former GIC chief economist Mr Yeoh Lam Keong has praised the SDP’s alternative housing plan for Singapore as being “of remarkably high quality and an in-depth piece of research.”

Mr Yeoh made the remarks at the launch of Housing A Nation: Holistic Policies For Affordable Homes at Quality Hotel recently. (Download the entire paper in PDF format here.)

Mr Yeoh, who is also a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies and an adviser at both the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University, described the paper as “excellent”.

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