Archive for November, 2010

Let’s be practical about the rules

November 30, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 30 Nov 2010 letter by Mr Chen Junyi.

Mr Chen deems fairness as possible only if all schools are the same. Since reality differs from he deems to be fair, he concludes that fairness is an impossible, unachievable and impractical goal.

Applying Mr Chen’s logic to all other aspects of life would render the pursuit of fairness futile. Take balloting of new flats for example. Unless everyone can be guaranteed a flat of the exact same location, floor, size or design, there can be no fairness in balloting. Does that mean we shouldn’t ballot? That would be most silly indeed.

Mr Chen fails to understand that our purpose is to be as close as possible to being fair even if we may never be entirely fair. We should strive to eliminate or reduce unfair allocation criteria that are based on home distance or based on the fact that the parent is an alumnus or an RC member. The effect of this would be to spread good students evenly to all schools in Singapore instead of them being congregated into several famous schools. This would in turn lead to the homogenisation of schools that would be the very criteria for fairness that Mr Chen seeks.


F1 helped fuel rise in Sept visitor arrivals

November 28, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 30 Sept 2010 report on the F1’s contribution towards raising September visitor arrivals.

The 18.4% increase in September tourist numbers over the same month last year has been attributed to the gaining popularity of the F1 and its supporting activities. However, referring to the table below, in the months of January, March, May and July where there were no special events taking place, increase in tourist numbers over corresponding months last year were either similar or better. There is thus no evidence of any extraordinary boost to September visitor numbers by the F1.

Comparison of tourist arrival numbers (000s) in 2009 and 2010

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept
2009 772 690 791 779 726 750 882 845 799
2010 909 857 929 939 946 950 1,095 997 947
% increase 17.7% 24.3% 17.4% 20.5% 30.3% 26.7% 24.1% 18.0% 18.4%
Special events Resort World Sentosa Marina Bay Sands partial opening Marina Bay Sands official opening Youth Olympics Singapore Grand Prix

Similarly, the increase in tourist arrival numbers in the month of August over the same month last year was also nothing out of the ordinary in the context of the entire year of 2010. There is thus no evidence of any extraordinary boost to tourist arrival numbers by the Youth Olympics as well.

Embrace all who make S’pore a better place

November 28, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 2 Nov 2010 letter by Mr Thng Tien Guan.

Mr Thng is worried about some Singaporeans’ supposed disconnect with Singapore. Mr Thng can be rest assured, the disconnect is not with Singapore, it is with the ruling party. The uncertainty with what one is defending need not necessarily spell doom for it is only by overcoming uncertainty can we have greater clarity.

Mr Thng gives a definite ‘no’ answer to the question of whether changes over the last five, ten years have made Singapore a worse place to live, work and to bring up a family. Perhaps Mr Thng belongs to the older generation who bought their houses at much cheaper prices. Mr Thng should ask the same question to his children, nephew and nieces when they grow up and have to pay a lot more for their houses. Mr Thng does not seem to be able to empathise with those whose problems he does not share.

If looking outside our borders will make us feel proud and thankful, then how we feel will depend very much on where we look. If we look at Norway, Sweden, Finland or Switzerland, we may not feel so proud and thankful. If we have to look at Africa or Papua New Guinea to feel proud and thankful, it would really be a sad day for Singapore. If no riots and no strikes is what we should feel proud and thankful for, we can all be proud North Koreans instead.

Mr Thng argues that the changes which made Mr Lim Zi Rui feel insecure are the same factors which have given Singapore progress. Mr Thng sounds like the silly driver who keeps squeezing more and more passengers into his van in order to make more money not realising that his van is overloaded to the point where it finally went kaput.

Mr Thng urges us not to focus on what to get out of the country and what the country owes us so as not to feel discontented and confused. Mr Thng should tell that to MM Lee and his ministers and get them to stop focusing on million dollar salaries.

Mr Thng urges us to not think of ourselves as Singaporeans or non-Singaporeans because Woodrow Wilson once said that he who thinks that he belongs to a particular national group is not yet an American. Mr Thng seems to imply that those who think of themselves as non-Singaporeans belong to a particular national group. What strange logic Mr Thng has.

Mr Thng welcomes all who strives to make Singapore a better place. There are six billion people in this world. If all are willing to strive for Singapore, would Mr Thng welcome all six billion even if it means having only standing space for himself? Mr Thng cannot idealistically think of welcoming only without also thinking about the real and practical space constrains that we have. That would be most irresponsible.

Mr Thng is sure that even non-Singaporeans would rise to defend and to die for Singapore when the day comes. But Mr Thng can’t even guarantee that people like Agu Casmir would take our money and run away.

Old lance corporal’s take on what we are fighting for

November 27, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the letter by Mr Benjamin Chiang dated 4 Nov 2010.

Mr Chiang spoke about the many precious things that are worth defending without realising that they can’t be defended without first defending the people’s rightful position as the masters of this land, masters over the servant that is the ruling party.

Mr Chiang looks at the economic benefit of foreigners without asking himself how many we can cope with. Would Mr Chiang recommend piling another 50 million foreigners onto our tiny island for even greater economic benefit? Mr Chiang thinks only of the construction workers and nurses that we need while neglecting to mention many other jobs like those in food courts and hotels that Singaporeans can and are willing to take up. Mr Chiang talks about the money foreigners add to our economy without realising that the money paid to them will be added just the same had it been paid to Singaporeans instead.

Mr Chiang claims that all major cities face the same problems of immigration, traffic jams and crowded trains without realising that the problems vary in degree in different cities. Why should we be contented with being one of the worst? Mr Chiang is thankful that we do not have the problems of poverty, lack of consumers and stagnating lifestyles. Many first world cities similarly do not have such problems and are also better off when it comes to the problems of immigration, traffic jams and crowded trains.

Mr Chiang claims that the ground is different, full of energy and pride for the Singapore system. Mr Chiang should learn to distinguish Singapore from the ruling party. Having pride and energy for Singapore doesn’t equate to having pride and energy for the ruling party. So you can have a ground that is proud and energetic for Singapore and at the same time discontented and sour with the ruling party. Mr Chiang states the obvious – feeding on sour plums will only leave us with a sour taste. But what choice do we have if the ruling party grows only plum trees?

Mr Chiang advises us not to read from dubious sources so as not to feel discontented. Would Mr Chiang advise us to read from ‘authentic’ sources in order to feel contented? If ‘authentic’ sources always bring us contentment, does that mean that the truth is all contentment and no discontentment? How true can that be? In fact, if a reader feels that an article is dubious, he wouldn’t even believe it and wouldn’t be affected by it for better or for worse.

Mr Chiang asks us to do something about the dilution of the Singapore spirit without realising that the ruling party is the root of this problem. What does Mr Chiang suggest? Stage a demonstration and get thrown into jail? Contest and lose in unfair elections? Singapore is not young but has been in existence for 191 years already since 1819. We have rich Chinese, Malay and Indian cultural inheritances. It is not those that we need to improve on. What we need to improve on is our political situation.

Any illusions being made up are from the ruling party, illusions that blind people like Mr Chiang. But Mr Chiang is right on one thing, we mustn’t feel disillusioned but should continue to hammer the ruling party into its rightful place – below us, the people who are the rightful masters of Singapore.

Casino study cost Dennis Foo $250k

November 27, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 31 Oct 2010 report of the interview with Mr Dennis Foo.

Mr Foo claims that every first world country in the west has casinos. Does that automatically mean that we should have casinos? Will Mr Foo apply the same logic to press freedom? Every first world country in the west has press freedom. Should we therefore have press freedom as well? Furthermore, the Westerners are hardly the big time gamblers that the Chinese are. Singapore, a predominantly Chinese society will be hurt much more by the casinos than Western countries.

Being in a six-hour flying radius from Singapore doesn’t mean that gamblers will simply fly in just to gamble. If gambling is all they want, they can always go to Macau which is nearer.

We can’t just look at the tourist arrivals this year and conclude that they were due to the casinos. The rebound in tourist arrivals after the SARs year of 2003 was even more impressive even though there were no integrated resorts opening then.

The fact that Mr Foo’s outlets suffered a 20% hit in business despite the increase in tourist arrivals as well as increase in foreigner population goes to show that the integrated resorts have cannibalised on local businesses. As such, their real contributions are actually much less than what they appear to be on paper.

IRs ‘to add $1.38b to govt coffers’

November 27, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 25 Nov 2010 report on our integrated resort revenues.

It was reported that the gaming revenue is expected to hit $6 billion this year and that conservatively, an estimated 50,000 visitors visit our casinos each day of which 28% are Singapore residents. That works out to be 5.1 million visits by Singapore residents this year including repeat visits.

Now suppose each visit by a Singapore resident results in a loss of $1,000 on average. The total losses by Singapore residents will work out to be $5.1 billion. That will mean that the bulk of the $6 billion gaming revenue is actually contributed by Singapore residents. We must understand that gambling losses by Singapore residents are simply money changing hands that contribute nothing to real output of products or services. Exactly how much of that $6 billion gaming revenue is simply money changing hands within Singapore nobody knows because we are not told how much Singaporeans have lost in the casinos.

The claim that the integrated resorts have boosted tourism related sectors like hotels and restaurants is also doubtful considering the 31 Oct 2010 Straits Times report “Casino study cost Dennis Foo $250K”. In that report, Mr Foo claimed that his outlets have suffered a 20% hit in business ever since the integrated resorts opened. In other words, the casinos have cannibalised on local businesses as predicted long ago.

A reservoir 23 years in the making

November 26, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 21 Nov 2010 report of the Marina Reservoir operation launch.

It was reported that the Marina Reservoir was MM Lee’s vision 23 years in the making. How can this be true when it was also reported that three years before MM Lee’s reported vision, it was world renowned architects Kenzo Tange and I.M. Pei who suggested that a Marina lake would form a unique focal point for the city? At best we can only speak of MM Lee’s borrowed vision much like all the other things supposedly credited to him.

Stability key to Singapore staying ahead: MM

November 26, 2010

Dear MM Lee,

I refer to the 20 Nov 2010 Straits Times report of your speech at the 40th anniversary celebration of Hewlett Packard Singapore.

Singapore too, like our neighbours, chose to grow our local industries instead of pursuing export industrialisation when we were merged with Malaysia. It was our separation from Malaysia which gave us no choice but to open our doors to the world. Our decision to open our doors is therefore not one which is based on foresight but based on necessity instead.

The ‘enormous’ advantage which English gave us is quite often over stated. Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong prospered just as well using Mandarin, Korean and Cantonese respectively. If using Chinese means we wouldn’t be where we are today, then why is Taiwan where it is today? Why is China rising so rapidly too? How do the Taiwanese and the Chinese make a living? How do they connect to the world? The Taiwanese and the Chinese have no problems making a living and have no problems connecting with the world even as they speak and write Chinese primarily.

Minimum skills, not minimum wage

November 21, 2010

Dear Professor Augustine Tan,

I refer to your 18 Nov 2010 Straits Times article.

You said immigration curtailment will lead to us having to pay burdensome taxes to support ageing relatives in the future. However, population ageing is only delayed and doesn’t go away even if we free up immigration. Because the additional people we let in now will eventually grow old too and will require the import of even more people to support. Thus, yours is a non-argument. We have to accept the fact that our population will age up to a certain point and not cheat ourselves with the fallacious argument that it can be arrested through the never ending import of even more people in a small, finite space that is Singapore.

The economy of Japan, like that of Europe’s, is matured rather than stagnated. Only a fledgling economy can grow by leaps and bounds through greater use of capital and better education of its people. But once matured, growth through productivity improvements can only be much slower. To cheat this outcome by the mass import of people would be to delay the inevitable.

The use of computers, robots, software and the rapid fall in communication costs will only lead to the outsourcing of manufacturing and IT jobs, not service jobs that require direct human interaction. Service jobs such as those in food courts and supermarkets are unaffected by such outsourcing pressures. No amount of computerisation or fall in communication costs can lead to the outsourcing of a waitering job. How is the waiter in China going to serve a cup of coffee to a customer in Singapore? Fax the coffee over? Email the coffee over?

The supposedly plenty of empirical studies that point to the increase in unemployment due to minimum wage mostly refer to teenage workers that can be excluded quite easily from any minimum wage law.

What evidence do you have to suggest that minimum wage will detract us from productivity improvements? Would you apply the same argument to workfare?

Productivity improvement should not be seen as the panache that will solve all our low wage woes, especially in the context of service jobs. The waiter is simply not an octopus who can do eight things at one time. Even if he succeeds in doing so, there is no guarantee that the quality of his service would be good.

It is sad that you have mostly regurgitated arguments expounded by the authorities, arguments that have already been soundly rebutted without contributing anything new or useful.

Young foreigners flocking to S’pore

November 21, 2010

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 18 Nov 2010 reports:

1. “Young foreigners flocking to Singapore”
2. “Everything is nearby, and pay is higher”
3. “It’s different but it feels like home”

Pilates instructor Morven Macleod reportedly said that the quality of life in Singapore is better than those in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Spain because she can walk about without feeling threatened or fear her home being broken into. This is strange because all the countries she listed have low crime rates as well. For countries with very close crime rates to Singapore, she can consider Japan and Hong Kong too.

Survey results from ECA International and ORC Worldwide suggest why expatriates like Ms Macleod find it better to work in Singapore. While ECA found that 79% of expatriates here are on premium expatriate packages, ORC Worldwide found two thirds of multinationals here offer perks such as housing or education allowances. No wonder those from big cities like London find housing here comparatively cheap. Most of them either have housing paid for or subsidised.

It may have been more accurate to say that Singapore is the 10th and 6th most popular migration destinations for youths and for the educated respectively rather than to say that Singapore is one of the top migration destinations.

It is interesting that Straits Times should feature someone like Ms Orazova from Kazakhstan. Straits Times should feature someone from Africa for even better contrast, someone like Agu Casmir who took the money and ran away when he had the chance. Ms Orazova is reportedly impressed with busy Orchard Road, modern buildings, bustling city, impressive Central Business District area, vibrancy, high financial and medical service standards and the fact that everything is near so that one doesn’t have to travel far to go for a drink. Ms Orazova would be similarly impressed by Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul and Japan and get to enjoy everything that she mentioned in these cities or country.

Similarly, Llaguno would find Hong Kong just as cosmopolitan where she can similarly shop, eat visit places of interest and more.

Apart from the widespread use of English, young foreigners would not find Singapore much different from many first world cities in Asia.