Archive for September, 2011

No voting process is perfect

September 12, 2011

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to Mr Chen Junyi’s 2 Sept 2011 letter.

Mr Chen is of the opinion that Mr Tan Kin Lian would have been a strong second choice for the 95% who did not vote for him and on that basis, he claims that Mr Tan Kin Lian would be the most acceptable compromise candidate. He therefore rejects instant run-off voting since it would have eliminated his supposedly most acceptable compromise candidate in the first round. Mr Chen further claims that to use this election to project how it would turn out under another is mere speculation.

It is Mr Chen who is speculating when he claims that Mr Tan Kin Lian would have been a strong second choice for the 95% who did not vote for him. There is every likelihood that 95% of voters would disagree with him. The proposal for instant run-off is in response to how this election turned out, not some other outcome speculated by Mr Chen.

Even if we grant Mr Chen his claim that Mr Tan Kin Lian would sweep away 95% of the 2nd choice votes, that doesn’t automatically make Mr Tan the most acceptable compromise candidate. It is also possible that within the same scenario, either Dr Tan Cheng Bock or Dr Tony Tan wins 5% of the 2nd choice votes and 60% of the 3rd choice votes in addition to the 35% first choice votes either candidate has gathered. That would have made either of them equally acceptable compromise candidates with 100% support from the electorate too.

The issue of who the most acceptable compromise candidate is can be answered using the Condorcet’s method of translating ranking to a voting score where each candidate is pitted against all others in turn to determine a candidate who would beat all others on a one-on-one. Had we used the Condorcet’s method, Mr Tan Kin Lian would indeed have won given Mr Chen’s scenario. If Mr Chen truly feels that Mr Tan Kin Lian should have won, he should support the ranking format since the Condorcet’s method depends on it.

However, the Condorcet’s method is not ideal as it may result in circular ambiguities with no clear cut winners. It is also difficult for the common folk to appreciate and is rarely used in real life to elect governments. Instant run-off voting is still the better alternative as it is much easier to understand and is actually being used in Australia, the US and the UK. No voting system is perfect doesn’t mean we remain status quo and avoid seeking improvements. Instant run-off voting is superior to the current first-past-the-post even if it is not perfect. A speculative scenario painted by Mr Chen cannot be the reason for not addressing the reality of the lack of a clear majority in this election.

English gave S’pore a head start: Mr Lee

September 10, 2011

Dear MM Lee,

I refer to the 7 Sept 2011 Straits Times report “English gave S’pore a head start: Mr Lee”.

There is a mistaken notion that English gave us a head start and was vital to our survival and ability to attract multinationals. The Philipines is a good example of a country where English didn’t provide a good head start and didn’t attract multinationals. Conversely, China is a good example where English wasn’t required to kick start industrialisation or to attract multinationals. Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea also succeeded in attracting multinationals despite speaking Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean respectively. The 10 Sept 2011 Straits Times report “Penang’s economy buzzing again” shows that a city can prosper without overly emphasising English. The role of English is thus overstated and other factors appear more important. It is therefore far from true that Singapore would have been left behind had we not chosen English.

English is our gift from the British, not you. But the British didn’t impose English on everyone like you did. The examples of Hong Kong and Penang show that we need not have gone to the extent you did to achieve the same levels of prosperity.

Helping some in society ‘comes at cost to others’

September 10, 2011

Dear MM Lee,

I refer to the 6 Sept 2011 report “Helping some in society ‘comes at cost to others'”.

If solving the lower end problem means upsetting people in the middle and solving the problem in the middle means upsetting the people at the upper end, it means there isn’t enough to go around for everyone. But how can this be when we have budget surpluses and the economy has grown by so much? Could budget surpluses have come at the people’s expense? What is the point of economic growth if it doesn’t benefit all?

The stagnation in Europe, the UK and the US is mainly due to the maturation of their economies, not the use of their reserves. Once an economy matures, it can only grow through productivity gains which can only be slow. Singapore cheated this natural outcome by mass importing labour. But we cannot continue to grow and grow our population by leaps and bounds indefinitely. No sensible nation would do that.

You claim that social security means that people won’t work hard since they only get the same benefits as the other chap who doesn’t work hard. If that were the case, then the whole of Europe and the United States would be on social security already. Clearly if given a choice, Europeans and Americans prefer work than receive social security. It is only when they can’t find decent jobs that they turn to social security. Europe and America continue to dominate the world in innovation and enterprise. How can that be seen as a deterioration of personal motivation and drive to better oneself and one’s family?

You avoided answering Mr Farouq’s question on a Straits Times report describing Singapore’s wage structure as being Third World. That is the invisible cost to our society which you chose not to see.

Mr Lee: Beware rifts that hinder progress

September 10, 2011

Dear MM Lee,

I refer to the 6 Sept 2011 Straits Times report “Mr Lee: Beware rifts that hinder progress”.

There is little basis to your notion that Singapore’s per capita income growth since 1965 compared to our neighbours’ was due to an undivided society solidly behind a meritocratic society when you consider how much more homogenous and undivided the Thais, the Filipinos and the Indonesians have been throughout much of our post-independence history.

It is also not right to say that political divide has led to national divide in America leading to it becoming an ordinary country. A decade ago, America demonstrated national solidarity in the wake of the Sept 11 crisis. It demonstrated solidarity again recently when Democrats and Republicans were able to put aside differences to approve the stimulus package that saved the US and the world from the Global Financial Crisis. It is also wrong to suggest that America is just another ordinary country. America is ranked the fifth most competitive economy in this year’s World Economic Forum survey. Despite years of budget imbalances, there can be no doubt that America continues to be the No. 1 nation in this world.

If you are so concerned about national solidarity, you should stop the PAP’s and associated agencies’ abuse of their powers for political advantage at the expense of national solidarity. For a start, the PA, the HDB and the losing PAP candidate should play fair by not taking over land residing in opposition wards.

Your so-called best people for the best jobs refer to those with the best academic results. But intelligence doesn’t always imply wisdom. These brilliant academic scholars aren’t necessarily the best people for the best jobs. They may be smart but at the same time fools.

You urge for our talents to be directed to where they can be most successful. But many of our people are simply being herded into engineering and manufacturing to fit into national economic directives. Does this necessarily make the most success out of them? Have we really found out what they are best at?

You advised us not to say we deserve more just because we are graduates. Similarly, you should advise ministers not to say they deserve more because they are ministers.

While no policy can satisfy all segments, it shouldn’t so unashamedly enrich a small elite group at the expense of all others. Everyone contributed to the growing of the cherry so everyone deserves a fair bite of it. It is not an issue of limitless reserves but an issue of striking a balance between keeping cost of living low versus over-taxing the people to feed our reserves which gets lost in silly investment decisions anyway.

You define being politically aware as being aware of divides between classes, the way the economy is going and the opportunities for different groups. By your definition, our prime minister and the PAP are the most politically unaware in this country. They are unaware of the class divide. That is why they constantly enrich themselves while keeping the salaries of the common people stagnated. They are unaware that our economy is going in a direction that increases costs more than it increases salaries for the people. That is why they continue to grow the economy at all costs. If the PAP was really so politically aware, it wouldn’t have been caught unawares in Aljunied and you wouldn’t have had to threaten us to repent.

PAP supporter reminds party to stand firm, rebuts PA critics

September 3, 2011

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 1 Sept 2011 letter by Mr Tan Hian Meng.

Mr Tan asserts that no governing party is obliged to help the opposition grow. Even so, no governing party is expected to use unfair and unscrupulous methods to stifle the opposition’s growth. The GRC, the constant redrawing of electoral boundaries, HDB upgrading and the stranglehold on print and television media are examples of such unfair and unscrupulous methods.

Mr Tan claims it is expected of the governing party to weaken and demolish its rivals. Even so, no governing party is expected to use unfair and unscrupulous methods to weaken and demolish its rivals. Defamation suits based on twisted accusations is an example of such unfair, unscrupulous methods.

Mr Tan insists that the PAP did not obtain power out of kindness of rival parties. Mr Tan forgot that PAP did obtain power through the support of former comrades who later formed the rival Barisan Socialis, support which it later repaid with ingratitude, betrayal and misdeed.

Mr Tan urges the opposition to learn from the ingenuity, resourcefulness and creativity of the four presidential candidates. None of the four presidential candidates would have survived if they had gone against the unfair, unscrupulous methods of the governing party.

Mr Tan says life isn’t fair and tells the opposition not to expect a level playing field in politics. If that is the case, why do we have the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) to ensure fairness in business competition? It is because life is unfair that we have set up the CCS to ensure that the underdogs are given a level playing field in which to compete. Similarly, life is unfair makes it all the more imperative that we do our utmost to ensure a level playing field in politics.

No voting process is perfect

September 2, 2011

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to Mr Chen Junyi’s 2 Sept 2011 reply to my letter.

Mr Chen claims that there are several ways by which ranking can be translated into a voting score. Actually there are just two main ways: (1) the instant run-off voting method which successively eliminates the weakest candidate until a clear majority emerges and (2) the Condorcet’s method which attempts to find the candidate who would beat all the other candidates on a one-on-one fight. Mr Chen disapproves of instant run-off voting, preferring instead, the Condorcet method. He is of the belief that Mr Tan Kin Lian was the second choice for 95% of Singaporeans. Given such a scenario, Mr Tan Kin Lian would have beaten all other candidates on a one-on-one and won the elections based on the Condorcet’s method.

Mr Chen should realise that be it the instant run-off voting method or the Condorcet’s method, the outcome would have invariably been better than the result we now have. If Mr Chen feels that Mr Tan Kin Lian is the most acceptable compromise candidate and ought to have won instead, he should all the more support a ranking system that can elect a president supported by most Singaporeans. A compromise candidate supported of most Singaporeans is a good choice for healing the political divide. It is far better to have him as our president than a candidate who might possibly command support from only 35% of Singaporeans.

No voting system is perfect doesn’t mean we remain status quo and avoid seeking improvements. Singaporeans should be allowed to decide whether or not to switch to a ranking system that is superior to what we currently have. The choices presented by the ranking system should not paralyse us but should spur us towards greater political awareness instead. Whether we choose the instant run-off voting method or the Condorcet’s method is something that we as a nation can collectively decide. In any case, the Condorcet’s method is rarely used in real life to elect governments whereas the instant run-off voting method has seen many successful implementations in Australia, the US and the UK and is also much easier for voters to understand.

There is every indication that any form of ranking system will turn out better than what we currently have. It is less prone to manipulation regardless of the voting spectrum and will churn out the candidate accepted and supported by most Singaporeans.