Archive for August, 2010

Counting the IR chips

August 26, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to your article dated 26 Aug 2010.

On the basis of your intuition, you said the opening of the two integrated resorts is related to the spectacular rebound in economic growth. We need reports based on facts and evidence, not intuition.

You said the resorts have added jobs and helped propel tourist arrivals to record highs. But how many of those jobs went to Singaporeans? How do we know that our tourist numbers have not rebounded from the recession year last year just like it did going from the SARS year of 2003 to 2004?

You said tourist numbers went up to a ‘whopping’ one million visitors last month after the IRs have opened. That’s a mere increase of 118,000 visitors over the same month last year which is so much less than the 262,000 increase going from the SARS year of 2003 to 2004. There is nothing ‘whopping’ about the increase in visitor numbers judging from past experiences of recovery from economic crises.

While the integrated resorts have made spectacular revenues and profits, it is important to know how much of those revenues and profits have come from Singaporeans because gambling money that came from Singaporeans is merely money transferred from one hand to another that does not in any way contribute to any real output from the country.

Singapore most desired by migrants: Gallup poll

August 23, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to your 22 Aug 2010 report on Gallup’s global survey on migration preferences. The headline of the report is wrong and misleading. The survey results do not show Singapore to be the most desired by migrants. The survey shows the US to be the most desired instead since most would-be migrants still preferred the US as the choice destination to migrate to.

Singapore’s topping of the Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI) doesn’t show Singapore to be the most preferred destination but merely that Singapore’s population is the smallest compared to the number of people who wished to migrate here. So to equate PNMI ranking to destination popularity is wrong. For example, there are 45 million people who wished to migrate to third-placed Saudi Arabia, far more than the 10 million who wished to migrate to first-placed Singapore. So in terms of popularity, third-placed Saudi Arabia is actually four and a half times more popular than first-placed Singapore.

In the report, it is also mentioned that 800,000 of the country’s six million wished to leave the country permanently. That’s a grossly large number for a first world city.

How S’pore turned improbable into reality

August 16, 2010

Dear MM Lee,

I refer to your speech at the Tanjong Pagar National Day celebrations last night as reported by Straits Times on 16 Aug 2010.

You said, as you often say, that a strong government underpinned Singapore’s survival and progress over 45 years. Many third world nations like Myanmar, North Korea and Zimbabwe are helmed by strong men, strong government. Yet, their strong governments didn’t translate into progress over 45 years like that of Singapore’s. The prevalence of strong governments helming poor countries suggests that a strong government is not what underpins a country’s success.

Using examples closer to home, both Malaysia and Indonesia have had similarly strong governments like ours over decades, yet both countries did not achieve the level of progress that we did. Strong government is not what distinguished us from Malaysia and Indonesia.

You said moving forward, we continue to need exceptionally strong government with the ablest and toughest leaders to keep the economy growing and to create jobs. But Hong Kong has shown that it is not necessary to have a strong government to grow the economy or to create jobs. Taiwan and South Korea, the other two East Asian economic miracles, have also shown that even when a strong government is replaced by one that is not as strong, the country doesn’t simply collapse but continues to grow from strength to strength.

You spoke of Singapore as the most improbable story over the last 45 years. It is a story you have been telling for the last 45 years but which you have never once proven. Singapore may not have had resources but it is strategically located at the shipping crossroads between the East and the West. That strategic location is as valuable as any resource.

The ‘hostility’ of our neighbour lasted a mere two years until Suharto’s rise to power in 1967. So it wasn’t a ‘hostility’ that continued to plague us for 45 years.

Finally, you said that our casinos helped the tourist industry grow by 30%. But the 30% growth is over the recession year last year. If we were to similarly compare our tourist arrivals in 2004 against those of the SARS year of 2003, we would similarly find a spectacular rebound in tourist numbers.

Singapore living the dream at 45

August 16, 2010

Dear Nanyang Siang Pau editor,

I refer to the commentary by Mr Li Liang Shi which appeared in your good paper on 12 Aug 2010 and was later published by Straits Times on 14 Aug 2010.

Mr Li referred to MM Lee as having once said that Singapore could not survive on its own without hinterland or natural resources. MM Lee’s words should not be taken as the only truth for Singapore had been prospering as a British Crown Colony for more than a hundred years before MM Lee took power. “Mission impossible” is a myth so well perpetuated that we often assume it without much thought to it.

Mr Li also attributed Singapore’s miracles to the efforts of three generations of leaders, but those leaders would have amounted to nothing had it not been for the hard work and enterprise of the Singapore people. It is often assumed without proof that Singapore made it only with our leaders. So ingrained is this assumption that people don’t even begin to realise that Singapore might have prospered just as well without those leaders. Singapore without its leaders may well have been another Hong Kong, different but just as prosperous.

While Singapore topped others in South-east Asia in economic achievement, it is merely on par with other East Asian economies. Is it mere coincidence that all four original economic miracles are found in East Asia? What is the probability that out of hundreds of developing nations around the world in the 1960s, the four that would eventually achieve economic miracles first are all East Asian? Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea are just as successful as Singapore, yet there is no leadership over three generations that explains their successes. Why should Singapore be any different?

While lamenting on Malaysia’s lack of progress compared to Singapore, it is important to acknowledge the realities on the ground. A country’s destiny and future rest fundamentally on its people, not leadership. Of the myriad factors used to explain differences between nations, culture is the one that most consistently correlates with a nation’s prosperity.

Hello, Chiam… …goodbye walkover?

August 16, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to your article dated 13 Aug 2010.

The story of Ms Helen Seetoh was given as an example of home owners who are pleased with rising asset values. While it is understandable why Ms Seetoh should feel relieved now that prices have gone back up for her, let us not forget the initial mistake of allowing prices to go so high up back in 1997 to begin with. So even though rising asset prices brings relief to Ms Seetoh now, it doesn’t justify the pain she had to go through then. At the same time, buyers now have to pay inflated prices so the pain of Ms Seetoh is simply transferred to a new generation of home owners. We are merely transferring the problem from one generation to the next just as we are paying for our earlier mistake with yet another mistake.

Visionary values and virtual vuvuzelas

August 12, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to your Review article dated 12 Aug 2010.

It was said in the article that the government cannot dream for us but can only create conducive conditions that underscore certain cherished values. But the government has created conditions for property prices to suddenly shoot up by $100,000 over night. This hyper-inflation is hardly the conducive condition that allows the people to quietly work hard to achieve their dreams. How do you expect the people not to worry about something as fundamental as home prices when they climb so much faster than anyone but the richest can chase after? The incessant increase in prices leads to the never ending chase after price increases leaving little time or energy for all else.

It was also said that ‘complains drone’ mainly online. That is because all paid, printed newspapers have been collectively grouped into one company, the shares of which are largely owned by government affiliated organisations and whose chairman has always been important, heavy weight ex-ministers. The online ‘complains’ are real voices by real Singaporeans while the brushing off of real issues by printed newspapers reflect the government’s blissed ignorance of real issues.

It was added that ‘complaints’ are ‘cynical’ and ‘contemptuous’ rather than being constructive and considerate. How do you expect the people not to be cynical if real issues are being brushed aside and never acknowledged nor properly addressed? Considering some of the remarks by MM Lee about Singaporeans, the contempt is probably the other way round. How can we move on to being constructive when we can’t even get the government to see and acknowledge real issues? If the government keeps denying all problems, what else is left to do but to continue to emphasise that there are problems?

Last but not least, if the government doesn’t show consideration for the people, why should it deserve let alone demand consideration?

Hangman author’s comment an insult to Singaporeans

August 11, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the forum letter by Mrs Ivy Singh-Lim dated 9 Aug 2010.

Mrs Singh-Lim found Mr Alan Shadrake’s assertion that Singaporeans mostly have to grovel to the government to lead a normal life inaccurate and insulting. She used her own example as a proud, first generation Singaporean who has never grovelled to the government or to the judiciary as proof otherwise.

Mr Shadrake used the word ‘mostly’ to mean most Singaporeans, not all Singaporeans. Thus, Mrs Singh-Lim’s single example to the contrary does not disprove Mr Shadrake’s assertion that Singaporeans mostly grovel to the government. Mr Shadrake’s assertion may well be inaccurate but unless we conduct a survey on the population, we will never know how accurate or inaccurate it is.

As far as insult is concerned, while it is understandable that Mrs Singh-Lim should feel insulted, she should also realise that it is not Mr Shadrake’s intention to insult if he truly believes in what he purports.

If as Mrs Singh-Lim says, Mr Shadrake is merely here to expose the alleged tyranny of our judicial system, then the best way to thwart his intentions is not to ban his books but to conduct a thorough, fair and non-politically motivated survey of Singaporeans to disprove his case. If we follow Mrs Singh-Lim’s advice, we would be merely muffling his mouth without establishing the truth.

PR moved to tears

August 11, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the forum letter by Dr Wilfred Chan dated 11 Aug 2010.

Dr Chan was reportedly moved to tears by the tremendous achievements of Singapore. He would be similarly moved to tears if he considers the similarly tremendous achievements of Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

Dr Chan is mind boggled when he thinks of how resource lacking Singapore can go from Third World to First World in just 45 years. Dr Chan should also think about how similarly resource lacking Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea have also moved from Third World to First World in a similar time frame and be similarly mind boggled.

Dr Chan particularly attributes to the old guard such as MM Lee, the making of Singapore into the world’s cleanest, greenest and safest. But many first world cities such as those in Europe, Japan, New Zealand and Canada are just as clean, green and safe. If so many first world cities are clean, green and safe without requiring the special services of any one particular individual or old guard, it begs the question of why should Singapore be any different?

Dr Chan highlights Singapore’s near topping of the list of first world countries in terms of per capita GDP. Dr Chan should understand that the multinationals and the government take the lion’s share of that chart topping per capita GDP so much so that much less goes to the people.

Dr Chan feels that Singaporeans should be proud of this achievement by the government and the PAP. Singapore’s achievements are the achievements of all Singaporeans and their forebears from the time it was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. To attribute these achievements to any one particular individual or group is to rob Singaporeans of their deserved recognition and contributions.

SM Goh urges S’poreans to re-think priorities for new S’pore Dream

August 9, 2010

Dear SM Goh,

I refer to your speech at Marine Parade’s National Day dinner as reported by Channel News Asia on 7 Aug 2010.

You asked Singaporeans to live the Singapore Dream rather than the ‘Singapore Gripe’. You used your own example of how you didn’t ‘gripe’ even though you couldn’t fulfil your dream of becoming a professor but chose instead to be happy with any job. But yours wasn’t just any ordinary job, you had a job with the prestigious Administrative Service. You had a smooth sailing career all your life and didn’t have to contemplate being retrenched and ending up as a graduate taxi driver. You didn’t work hard saving all your life only to find the price of your dream HDB flat suddenly shoot up by $100,000 overnight. $100,000 may be peanuts to you but it is easily 40 times our median salary. That overnight property price hike effectively robbed away three years of our (median) salary. Can you imagine working for free for three years? You in your cosy million dollar comfort zone will never understand let alone appreciate what the ‘Singapore Gripe’ is all about. It is not the ‘Singapore Gripe’ as you have trivialised it to be but the ‘Singapore Plight’.

Also, it is not that Singaporeans don’t want to be more charitable but prices are increasing much faster than we can cope, no thanks to the ‘Singapore Elite’.

Mao’s grandson: Family factor aided promotion

August 9, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 6 Aug 2010 report on the recent promotion of Mao Zedong’s grandson, Mao Xinyu. Mao Xinyu reportedly said that family background was definitely a factor and that this is an objective fact that you can’t avoid. Chinese leaders are upfront about the advantages that come with their family backgrounds and recognise them as objective facts. This is so unlike Singapore where even the mention of a father-son relationship can be construed as an allegation of nepotism liable for suing.

I refer too to the 4 Aug 2010 report ‘Attacks on judiciary undermine public trust’. Mr Wong Kan Seng reportedly said that Singapore’s tough laws against serious crime are possible with the support of the public. If we were to do a survey and find that most Singaporeans support the idea that being the son of an influential father confers advantages but the judiciary deems that as an allegation of nepotism, wouldn’t there be a mismatch between public support and judiciary opinion? In that case, do we refrain the public from questioning judiciary opinion by labelling them as ‘attacks’ on the judiciary? Do we brush them off as malicious, vicious and false without first examining their truth from the perspective of the public? If our judiciary, whose judgments have been rejected from time to time, cannot be questioned at all, they would become dangerously almighty. As impartial and professional as our law enforcement may be, it is not faultless for no human being is, not even judges.