Archive for May, 2009

Singapore needs to raise its game

May 31, 2009

I refer to the report “Singapore needs to raise its game” by Ms Clarissa Oon (Straits Times, 30 May 2009). In the report, Mr Lim Swee Say urged Singapore engineers to be the best engineers in the world.

What can the best engineer amount to without the best company? Nothing much really. The best companies attract the best engineers and the best engineers go to the best companies. So it is not about becoming the best engineers, it is about nurturing the best companies, something that the PAP government has neglected all this while.

The over-reliance on foreign multinationals has meant that Singapore never really outgrew its manufacturing role. The foreign multinational tells us what to make and how to make them and we make them. We never learnt to make things for ourselves. That’s why we have always been stuck at first gear. Our so-called moving up the value chain is nothing more than doing more of the same thing. Who to blame but the PAP?

Mr Lim says that China is politically stable despite not having any elections. What about North Korea? No elections, politically unchanging yet a time bomb nonetheless to all its neighbours. So political monopoly does not imply stability. Political monopoly means that the country can be easily dragged down by a selfish despot.

Mr Lim says that India is politically less stable despite elections. Changes in political leadership does not imply that the country is politically less stable. The fact that the country and its economy can continue unaffected shows that there is political stability despite political changes, much like that in America, Japan and elsewhere.

While it appears that Singapore may have the best of both worlds, the truth may be otherwise. Myanmmar has elections too. But after elections, Aung Sang Su Ki is still locked away and the military junta is still running the country. What is the point of such elections? As good as no elections.

Opposition is best check against graft? MPs rebut Low’s claim

May 31, 2009

I refer to the Straits Times report (27 May 2009) by Mr Zakir Hussain “Opposition is best check against graft? MPs rebut Low’s claim.”

In it, Ms Indranee Rajah asked why so many countries with multi-party systems still see deep seated and endemic corruption. If she is truly objective and unbiased, she should also ask the question why, with the exception of Singapore, all the least corrupt countries in this world have multi-party systems.

So while she is right in saying that it doesn’t mean that every country which has an opposition will be squeaky clean, it is true that nearly all the countries that are respectably clean have an effective opposition. The fact that Singapore doesn’t follow the norm doesn’t detract from the fact that an effective opposition is a key feature in nearly all clean nations today.

When she says that the PAP expects the highest standards of integrity, she must not forget to add that the PAP cabinet ministers and its MPs are paid the highest salaries in this world. Seems like when you pay the highest salaries, you get the highest standards of integrity. We should ask ourselves, if we are paid such high salaries, why do we even need to risk corruption? If the money is already served to us on a silver platter over the dining table, why is there a need to take money from under the table?

The value system from the time of internal self government is no longer the value system now. Now, the value system is about million dollar salaries and constantly asking for more millions each and every year. I really don’t know what has that got to do with integrity and honesty.

She says that the people has the liberty to vote out the PAP. But when you allow each minister to contest for five or six seats that leads to massive walkovers, what chance is there? Furthermore, isn’t the PAP policy of tying lift upgrading to voting a form of vote buying too? Is that her so-called example of honesty and integrity?

She says that the possibility of future PAP corruption is mere speculation and that people shouldn’t vote on the basis of speculation. But the PAP just withdrew a large sum of money from our reserves on the possibility that this recession could get worse. Is that speculation? So we shouldn’t draw from our reserves based on speculation? Surely, speculation is a mere word that she and I use for our own purposes that does not necessarily mean anything.

The fact that the CPIB reports to the PM means it cannot be above any possible corruption by the PM can it, Ms Rajah?

She says that the opposition should earn their constituencies. Does she mean that all those vitrually unknown PAP candidates that have since become MPs have earned their contituencies? Surely she must be joking? Did she earn her constituency? Or did she merely ride on someone else’s coat tail?

Is it too much to ask to be fair Ms Rajah? In the first place, why would one need to ask for fairness if one is dealing with a gentleman? Only when one is dealing with a ruffian or a bully does one seek fairness.

Mrs Josephine Teo says that very often an opposition wins against corruption and becomes corrupt itself. Has she seen Mr Obama becoming corrupt? He just won back the USA from the Republicans, has he become corrupt?

Mrs Teo champions the need to make the PAP the strongest team so that it does not fail Singaporeans. What has that PAP strength brought to Singaporeans? ERP, COE, the world’s most expensive public housing. Sadam Hussein was the strongest man in Iraq, a fact that helped him extract the most from his fellow countrymen.

Govt help is not first port of call

May 30, 2009

I refer to Mr Sam Tan’s speech in parliament that was reported by Ms Lee Siew Hua on 26 May 2009. In that speech, he likened the current recession cushioning by the Government to a father lining the streets with cushions so that a falling child will not hurt himself.

The analogy is inappropriate as it does not adequately describe the full relationship between father and son. The situation we have here is akin to a son working for his father for little or no pay much like what is happening in rural India where child labour is rampant. So the father enriches himself tremendously with all the child labour that he has been getting but the child remains impoverished. Worse still, the enriched father doesn’t take care that the streets are well paved and that pot holes are filled up. Now we have roads that are but dirt roads filled with rocks and stones that are out to trip a child and make him fall.

That is why the father is now paving the road properly so that the son can ride safely. The father is doing what he is supposed to have done right from the beginning, something he failed to do all along.

To bring the analogy back to reality. The roads are the cost of living that we the citizens of Singapore have to negotiate and overcome everyday. With the influx of immigrants, housing prices have skyrockected. HDB prices have gone up by a at least a hundred thousand dollars overnight. This time round, it does not seem that the price will ever come down again. This permanent increase in housing cost is a real burden to the people of Singapore that weighs heaviliy on them.

So you see, our roads are not that cushiony after all. The increase in housing prices all over Singapore goes ultimately to state coffers. All that we worked for all our lives goes ultimately to state coffers. We the citizens are threading on a very bare line. There is very little cushion we can afford for ourselves. What the government is doing is to give back a little bit of what the child labour deserves in the first place.

Ask yourself, can you even find a handful of nations in this world with more expensive public housing than Singapore? We have the most expensive public housing in this world but we don’t have the world’s highest salaries. Are we being treated fairly?

They say that in times of famine, humans turn cannibals. When the citizens are threading on such a thin line, with barely sufficient resources to support themselves, where to find extra resources to fund others?

Remember everything here is calculated to extract the maximum from each citizen. We have very little left to share and to give.

Teaching core values is good. That means teaching the government too. That the citizens deserve a decent cost of living and not squeezed till they have absolutely nothing to spare.

So don’t blame us for having little to spare. Ask the government why we have little to spare please.