Archive for March, 2015

Response to “LKY’s legacy”

March 30, 2015

I refer to the 28 Mar 2015 TR Emeritus article “LKY’s legacy” from Lu Jiaquan’s Facebook page.

Mr Lu wrote:

The moment you wake up, you are in your HDB flat. His housing legacy.

The first flats weren’t built by LKY, not even the first high rise flats. They were built during colonial times and when LKY took power in 1959, he also inherited the SIT along with many uncompleted Queenstown units. So the housing legacy was a legacy that originated in British colonial times. LKY merely continued with that legacy.

Mr Lu wrote:

Once you step into your toilet/bathroom, you have the tap with potable water. His water legacy.

That would be an insult to Mr Tan Kim Seng whose memorial still stands at the Esplanade but whose legacy has been all but forgotten, stolen if one might say. It was Tan Kim Seng’s generous donation that made public running water possible.

Even Malaysian households have running water today despite not having LKY. Or is Mr Lu of the opinion that without LKY, the rest of Singapore including Mr Lu’s own father and grandfather would be so hopeless that we would still be without running water even till this day?

Mr Lu wrote:

Once you use the bus and MRT to travel, you are better than your parents in earlier days, travelling to Shenton Way from Toa Payoh for 2 hours or even worse. His public transport legacy.

Hong Kong had subways long before we did. If we continued to be under the British and not under LKY, we would have gotten our MRT earlier.

Subways are standard fare in most modern cities including many Third World ones. Yet we don’t hear citizens in those cities thanking any particular individual for their subways.

Mr Lu wrote:

You have shades of trees along the roads and streets to keep yourself cool. His greenery legacy.

It is not as though roads elsewhere, especially First World Cities have no trees.

Mr Lu wrote:

You do not have to worry going out late at night with your parents, without much fear of being mugged. His law and order legacy.

Once in a while, you read about Singaporean women getting raped in broad daylight, some murdered as well with the perpetrator still at large.

Hong Kong too like us has low crime rates. Our law and order is a legacy passed down from the British.

Mr Lu wrote:

Our country is safely secured from external armed threats. His citizen armed forces legacy.

The only occasion when Singapore fell to external armed threats was when the Japanese invaded Singapore. Today, the threat from Japan is no more. Not because we have armed ourselves sufficiently to repel another Japanese attack but because Japan today is no longer a security threat to Singapore.

Mr Lu wrote:

You have good quality, bilingual education because he believed investing in the youths. His education legacy.

That is an insult to Mr Lee Kong Chian. It was LKC, not LKY who first proposed bilingual education for schools and who first implemented it in the Chinese High School. There is no doubt that if Singapore had continued to be under the British, Lee Kong Chian would have continued with bilingual education for Singapore.

Even Malaysia, without LKY, has not only bilingual but trilingual education. Our bilingualism, like that of Malaysia’s is the natural consequence of us being former British colonies.

Mr Lu wrote:

So what has he done for you, your parents, and the future generations to come?

So what has LKY done that wasn’t actually done by others, inherited from others or would have been done by others as had been done too in Malaysia, Hong Kong and many other cities?

Blind gratitude is not gratitude

March 22, 2015

I refer to the 21 Mar 2015 Straits Times letter “Gratitude an important virtue” by Madam Chang Choon Kheng.

Madam Chang wrote:

THE creation of the hoax website falsely announcing former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s death, at a time when he is critically ill, shows that some of us have forgotten the virtue of gratitude (“Concern mounts amid outrage at rumours”; yesterday).

Contrary to Madam Chang’s assertion, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death hoax may not necessarily show that some of us have forgotten gratitude but may instead show that some of us have become more discerning about whom to be grateful to and for what.

Madam Chang wrote:

Given the situation Singapore was in soon after independence in the 1960s, Mr Lee had no choice but to rule with an iron fist, to ensure law and order in Singapore.

Mr Lee had already locked up all so called ‘communists’ during Operation Coldstore in 1963 which according to our ambassador to Australia Mr Burhan Gafoor, had completely shattered the CPM underground network. Konfrontasi with Indonesia also ended prematurely with the toppling of Sukarno by Singapore friendly Suharto just one month after our independence. Separation from Malaysia also severed the tension between the leaders of the two countries that was at the root of communal violence then. What else was there that gave Mr Lee no choice but to rule with an iron fist?

Our situation after World War II was much worse than after independence. Yet our former British colonial rulers never ruled Singapore with Lee’s iron fist.

Did Mr Lee have no choice but to detain Mr Chia Thye Poh till 1998? Did he have no choice but to detain Dr Lim Siew Hock till 1982? What difficult situation persisted from 1966 to 1998 or from 1963 to 1982?

Madam Chang wrote:

He did what he knew he had to do at that time.

Before winning power, Mr Lee fought for press freedom, after winning power Mr Lee suppressed press freedom. Whatever that Mr Lee knew he had to do had nothing to do with consistent moral values that transcended situations but had everything to do with Machiavelli self interest and self preservation.

Madam Chang wrote:

Looking at where we are now, we have to acknowledge that Mr Lee and his team have done much to make Singapore what it is today.

We can’t just look at where we are now and assume it was all due to Mr Lee and his team. We must also look at where we were before, the conditions that we were bestowed with, the citizenry that we were blessed with and the actual details of our journey before we can give the right acknowledgement to the right persons.

According to Dr Goh Keng Swee, there were four conditions that helped Singapore prosper:
(1) Excellent geographical location
(2) Excellent Victorian principles of free trade and enterprise
(3) Excellent British colonial adaptability honed over more than a hundred years since 1819
(4) Prosperity of our neighbors

So according to Dr Goh, where we are now was largely due to the continuation of excellent British ways of doing things which Dr Goh described as priceless. Thus, if Madam Chang acknowledges Mr Lee’s team mate Dr Goh, she should also acknowledge Dr Goh’s words of wisdom and acknowledge that much of why we are where we are today has more to do with our priceless colonial inheritances than Mr Lee or his team.

Madam Chang wrote:

I am a pre-school teacher and I am tasked with teaching our children virtues. Being grateful is a very important one.

The importance of being grateful means that one must exercise due care and diligence to pinpoint exactly who to be grateful to and for what. By attributing all that we should be grateful for to one person, Madam Chang risks being ungrateful to everyone else by failing to recognize their fair share of contributions. If we strip Mr Lee of the contributions by others, what little is left for us to be grateful about?

The key events that are closely identified with Mr Lee were our failed merger with Malaya, Graduate Mothers Scheme, Stop at Two and suppression of press freedom, hardly anything that we should be grateful about.

Madam Chang wrote:

When I teach the children in my class what gratitude is, I will tell them about the history of Singapore, to show them that we must be grateful to our leaders who worked day and night so that we could live comfortably today.

The Singapore history that Madam Chang tells must go beyond Mr Lee Kuan Yew as there were others before him like Tan Kah Kee, Tan Kim Seng and Tan Tock Seng who helped cement Singapore’s status as the leading centre of business and entrepreneurship in the region and helped lay the strong foundation upon which independent Singapore could further prosper. If Madam Chang only tells the tall tales of Mr Lee but not the true tales of other Singapore patriots and pioneers, she risks being ungrateful to so many others that all Singaporeans are indebted to.

Does Madam Chang think Singapore could have prospered if everyone lazed around while Mr Lee alone worked day and night? Even Mr Lee himself admitted in 1965 that it was ultimately the citizenry’s mettle that mattered. How does Madam Chang know Mr Lee worked day and night? Did she have special privilege to enter the Istana Palace to witness Mr Lee working day and night?

Madam Chang wrote:

Before we complain about anything, we must remember that the peaceful and clean city we enjoy today came at a high price – the sweat, tears and blood of the older generations. They persevered and had the “never say die” spirit which we should learn.

Before Madam Chang compliments anything, she must remember that Singapore was already peaceful and prosperous during British colonial times and that the high price of older generations included that of those who came before Lee. The sweat, tears and blood of Lee’s generation cannot compare with that of those who came after our founding in 1819. It was our earliest pioneers who literally carved a city out of the jungle and turned Singapore into the prosperous port city that Lee and his team inherited.

Madam Chang wrote:

Now that Mr Lee is critically ill, I feel sad that we may soon lose a good man. But I am also heartened that there are many who appreciate him, as shown by the many good wishes sent.

Madam Chang will not feel so sad if she can better understand the truth behind what Mr Lee did or did not do.

Madam Chang wrote:

I thank Mr Lee for all he has done in the past. He has indeed left a legacy for us. May we pass this legacy to our children, and be grateful for it.

Much of what Madam Chang thanks Mr Lee for is attributable to others. When stripped of these legacies due to others, there is nothing much left about Mr Lee to pass on to our children or to be grateful about.

Rebutting Mr Moh Hon Meng

March 15, 2015

I refer to the 7 Jan 2015 TREmeritus article on Mr Moh Hon Meng’s facebook post “In Defence of PAP” written three days before General Election 2011.

Mr Moh wrote:

… It used to be that if you spoke up against the PAP, you feared for your life. But now online sentiment for the PAP has turned so overwhelmingly negative that I’m afraid to post this!
But what’s of note in this election is that my friends have the courage to stand up and say what they believe in, so I must do the same.

If the boss of Diamond Industries continues to take out an entire Straits Times page to worship Lee Kuan Yew every 9 August, what fear is there of speaking for the PAP? If Mr Moh was truly fearful, surely he would’ve used a pseudonym, wouldn’t he? Mr Moh was less fearful of what he was doing compared to so many others who speak against the PAP anonymously.

Foreign Workers

Mr Moh wrote:

Forget the “Swiss standard of living”, we are fighting for our survival.

How can we be fighting for survival when we can afford a $1 billion artificial garden that incurs millions of dollars of losses every year? How can we be fighting for survival when we continue to splurge millions on fireworks, celebrations and F1 every year?

Mr Moh wrote:

We are surrounded by third world countries with cheap, hungry and hard-working labour.

Being cheaper and hungrier doesn’t necessarily mean that the Third World countries we are surrounded by are necessarily more competitive. The annual Global Competitiveness Report constantly ranks Singapore much higher than our Third World neighbors.

Mr Moh wrote:

In the 1990s, businesses were leaving Singapore in drove to set up in Malaysia, Vietnam and China. The business owners complained that Singapore was too expensive to do business in.

Businesses that left in the 1990s to Third World countries were low end businesses, businesses that Singapore could afford to lose. This helped Singapore refocus on higher end businesses which translated to a better economy today. Singapore in the 1990s was nowhere as expensive as it is today. Yet, higher end businesses aren’t leaving in droves today. Being competitive isn’t primarily about being cheaper.

Singapore business cost is primarily rental cost and since the government is the Number 1 landlord in Singapore, shouldn’t Mr Moh direct the problem of high business cost to our government rather than to Singaporeans?

Mr Moh wrote:

Singaporeans wanted “lifestyle”, and eschew late hours, low pay and hard work. We want to be paid a high salary, and yet leave at 6pm to have work-life balance. We want to sit in air-con offices and not sweat in the sun.

Singaporeans continue to work some of the longest hours in the world today. What “lifestyle” is that? If Germans, Swiss, Swedes, Dutch and so on can work regular hours, have work life balance and receive high pay, why can’t Singaporeans? Expatriates in Singapore generally sit in air-con offices and don’t sweat in the sun except when they go jogging or cycling so why can’t Singaporeans?

Mr Moh wrote:

We want benefits for mothers, fathers and older workers. We want companies to provide child care, medical care and long (paid) compassionate, maternity and paternity leave. We want a lot of things. It is not wrong to want these things.

Benefits for parents and the old, child care, medical care are standard fare in First World nations. Isn’t Singapore supposedly First World? Then why should Mr Moh begrudge these supposedly First World standard fare items?

Many in the First World do not need compassionate or paternity leave because they can easily take time off for personal or family matters. Outstanding companies like Google don’t even require employees to clock in. First World maternity leave can be much longer than ours. So no Mr Moh, we don’t want a lot of things. We just want what most First World nations enjoy. Don’t be a hypocrite by saying it is not wrong to want these things and yet begrudge Singaporeans wanting such things.

Mr Moh wrote:

But from the point of view of employers and investors, their response was basically this: “No thanks, Singapore. I’will rather set up in some other country and maybe hire a few high value Singaporeans to move and work there. Maybe.”

If employer and investor mindset is to pay dirt cheap and work Singaporeans’ socks off like machines, then our response will be the same. Thanks but no thanks. Feel free to go to many of our friendly neighboring countries. Singapore is a First World country that aspires to First World investments, not Third World investments.

Mr Moh wrote:

So the PAP government said “Please still come to Singapore. We’ll let you hire the low cost, hard-working foreign workers that you need, and give you land subsidy, tax incentives etc .” And the businesses came back.

The fact that businesses came back wasn’t necessarily due to PAP allowing low cost foreign workers to come in. It was the successful and decisive handling of the Global Financial Crisis by Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner that things began to return to normalcy. No amount of PAP cheap foreign labor would have made any difference if the Global Financial crisis persisted, the global financial markets continued to meltdown and global consumer sentiments remained dead. After the financial markets were tamed, businesses naturally came back whether or not we had low cost workers or not.

Mr Moh contradicted himself when he said:

But a good number of higher value jobs, those in the air-con offices, like marketing, accounting and finance, legal, design, operations etc., went to Singaporeans.
This is at the low end. At the high end …

A good number of higher value jobs are at the low end? That must be one of the most oxymoronic sentences by a PAP sympathizer. Has Mr Moh not heard of the many complaints about a particular nationality hiring only its own kind so much so that Minister Tan Chuan Jin had to come up with the Fair Consideration Framework? If a good number of higher value jobs went to Singaporeans, why did Minister Tan come out and say such things:

SINGAPORE — Describing the new Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) as a “sensible approach”, Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin today (Sept 23) said it sends a “strong signal to all employers that they should consider Singaporeans fairly in filling available jobs”.

“Our objective is simple – to let Singaporeans benefit fairly from economic growth, by helping them get better jobs now and in the future,” said Mr Tan in a blog post …

Mr Tan noted that the majority of participants in the Ministry of Manpower’s Our Singapore Conversation felt that “the playing field is somewhat unlevel between Singaporeans and foreigners for job opportunities”.

They asked for ways to ensure that Singaporean fresh graduates were not disadvantaged with competing with foreign employees …

“I hear you,” said Mr Tan. “Not just the OSC participants, but the many Singaporeans I have met and who have written to me about the discrimination they have perceived at the workplace.” …

In dealing with firms that require “additional scrutiny” — such as those with a low proportion of Singaporeans at the PME level — the MOM will adopt a more “targetted approach”, said Mr Tan. “We will start to identify and engage such firms probably by early next year, and shine a light on their hiring and staff development practices, even as we work towards the setting up of the new jobs bank next year,” he said.

[Today, Fair Consideration Framework a ‘sensible approach’: Tan Chuan Jin, 23 Sept 2013]

Mr Moh wrote:

At the high end, the foreign businesses said “Look, Singapore has got some good people, but not those at the very high end. Not the mold-breaking engineers, not the Nobel Prize winners, not the think-outside-the-box industrial designers. We need these people.” So the PAP said “OK, let’s bring in these foreign talents (FT) as PRs. They will impart skills to our people. We will also change our education system, add more universities and research facilities, to try and achieve this. In time, we hope to produce our own Nobel scientists.” And so the high end MNCs came also.

Singapore education is supposed to be world famous. We always boast about our high PISA rankings, our high university rankings and our textbooks being used all over the world. So how could Mr Moh end up saying Singapore hasn’t got talented, mould breaking, think-out-of-the-box people at the very high end? Was he implying that our education, for all its hype doesn’t train mould breaking, think-out-of-the-box people who would become very high end? Shouldn’t Mr Moh be very concerned with our education system instead of just giving a one liner about it? He gave the impression that he wasn’t truly concerned with drilling down problems to their roots but was merely explaining things away conveniently.

Mr Moh wrote:

It is not the PAP who has suppressed wages for Singaporeans. It is global competition. The third world, hungry low cost worker, is suppressing wages and causing jobs to be lost in the U.S., Europe and Japan, not just here.

Mr Moh was employing one of PAP’s favorite silly fallacies here. Global competition from low cost Third World workers cannot lower the wages of workers providing face to face service to the customer or cause them to lose their jobs. The jobs lost in the US were mainly manufacturing jobs, not service sector jobs. Kopitiam or Koufu cannot shift their restaurants to Third World countries without also closing their businesses here. The only way low cost Third World workers can make their way to Kopitiam or Koufu is that PAP allowed it.

Our median wages have also been suppressed. How did the low cost Third World worker end up suppressing our median wages too? Thus, it seems that even not so low wage Third World workers have also made their way here in sizeable numbers which cannot be conveniently explained away by PAP’s simplistic theory repeated by Mr Moh.

Mr Moh wrote:

If we do not offer some low cost workers, and do all we can to woo these multinationals or even simply to persuade our OWN local companies NOT to set up their operations overseas, we will lose a lot of Singaporean jobs.
Who are these foreign workers? They are construction workers, ship-builders, domestic workers, nurses, cleaners, garbage collectors, chambermaids etc.

You can easily spot the garbage in Mr Moh’s arguments here. On the one hand, he spoke about the need for foreign workers to woo multinationals. On the other hand he said these foreign workers are ship builders, domestic workers, nurses, cleaners, garbage collectors, chamber maids and so on.

• Which multinational wooed employ lots of ship builders when most of our ship yards are locally owned?
• Which multinational wooed employ lots of domestic workers?
• Which multinational wooed employ lots of nurses when most of our hospitals are locally owned?
• Which multinational wooed employ lots of garbage collectors when most of our garbage companies are locally owned?
• Which multinational wooed employ lots of chamber maids when many of our hotels are locally owned?

Do we need to woo multinationals for ship building, medical, garbage collection and hotel industries? Is Mr Moh saying Singapore is so gone case we can’t even set up such low tech industries ourselves but have to rely on multinationals? Mr Moh should not use the false pretext of wooing multinationals to justify the mass import of workers that don’t support these multinationals.

Mr Moh wrote:

How many Singaporeans can we find for these jobs? Singaporeans are getting more and more educated and all of us want to be supervisors and managers, and this is good. But who would we manage and supervise? Yes, the FTs have taken away some jobs that otherwise could have been done by Singaporeans, it’s hard to finely calibrate these things; but on balance, their presence ensures that businesses, and cushy, well-paying jobs, remain here and create plenty of opportunities for local SMEs.

Some time ago, a famous restaurateur advertised for a high paying job in one of his outlets and quickly closed applications soon after because applications were overwhelming. This shows that if pay is good, there will be takers for these jobs too. Singaporeans may be getting better educated but not all of us want to be supervisors and managers but all of us want to make a decent living at whatever level that we operate from. Mr Moh shouldn’t pluck sentences from thin air, if there are many well paying cushy jobs for Singaporeans surely the disgruntlement cannot be so wide spread?

Housing policy and overcrowding in MRTs

Mr Moh wrote:

Many economists will tell you that in the short term, there are often imbalances between demand and supply which will lead to distortions in prices. I believe that the price distortions will swing in the other direction in 3 years time, when there would be too many houses to meet demand (particularly if demand is being curbed, following the elections, if foreigner inflows are curtailed). Over the long term however, the government’s policy should be geared towards managing these swings, match supply and demand, and ensure a slow, and affordable increase over time.
Could the increase in foreigner inflows and the number of flats be better coordinated? Perhaps. But it is very fast to approve foreign worker permits, particularly when key MNCs are pressurizing the government for them, and especially when the financial crisis was upon us, whereas it takes a few years to build flats. This mismatch has caused prices to skyrocket.

By attributing the problem to the ease of approving work permit and difficulty of building flats, Mr Moh was essentially trivializing the matter and letting the PAP off the hook. The fact of the matter was that PAP wasn’t even starting to build those flats even if it would have taken them years to do so. Back then, PAP was busy justifying why they shouldn’t build more. They resisted calls by the people to build more. It was only after they lost Aljunied that they started to build more. Mr Moh shouldn’t change the facts to whitewash PAP’s arrogant ways.

Investment losses by the GIC and Temasek

Mr Moh wrote:

It is not right to pinpoint a specific year when it comes to investment performance. The long term performance needs to be considered.

There is nothing wrong with pinpointing, not a specific year, but a specific period of a few years of investment performance. The danger of considering too long a performance term is that the good performance of past managers will be lumped together with the bad performance of current managers which will then mask the bad performance of current managers.

Even Warren Buffet, the world’s greatest investor, lost billions in 2008, like GIC and Temasek did. But he continued to invest, just as GIC and Temasek did, and they recovered their losses when the recovery came in 2009 and 2010. The long term performance of GIC and Temasek has been commendable (based on the data that they released).

We don’t really know about that. A number of distinguished academics have come forward to point out obvious anomalies in Temasek’s accounting such as the wrongful booking of the receipt of government linked companies as profit. Without proper accounting, we will never know if GIC and Temasek truly recovered their losses as well as Warren Buffet did if at all.

Flooding and escape of Mas Selamat

Mr Moh wrote:

I believe these to be civil service lapses, not political ones. As it is with the Nicoll Highway collapse, electrical outages, and the likes. Heads have rolled at the civil service, as we’ve read, but I’m not clear what some opposition parties want. Is it that we must have ministerial resignations for these mistakes? The international community and most Singaporeans would feel very unnerved if a minister resigned every time some mistakes like these occur.

In typical PAP style, Mr Moh credited all success to PAP politics while assigning lapses further down the civil service hierarchy. It’s always those lower down the pecking order that get the blame while those higher up take the credit.

No one is saying that the minister should resign for everyday small mistakes. What Singaporeans want is for ministers to resign for gargantuan, mega mistakes. Or is Mr Moh of the opinion that our ministers are so prone to making mega mistakes that resignations would happen all too often? Ministers in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have resigned over critical mistakes but the international community has never been shaken. Why should Singapore be different?

Cost-of-living increases

Mr Moh wrote:

A lot of the increase comes from the increase in prices of food, oil and other commodities in the global marketplace, which we import.

Mr Moh was practising the usual PAP tai chi of blaming everyone else but themselves. Most well known global indices already acknowledge rental as the main culprit for Singapore’s rapid increase in cost of living.

Mr Moh wrote:

A part of the reason is the tremendous liquidity that has been created by world governments to combat the financial crisis. Some of this liquidity found its way into the prices of some commodities.

The tremendous injection of liquidity to combat financial crisis cannot tremendously increase food or commodity prices because the markets for these products are closer to perfectly competitive, where neither supply nor demand are significantly controlled by any one player.

Mr Moh wrote:

… Perhaps the issue is how we help the lower income cope, rather than say that the PAP has caused the increase.

The issue isn’t merely to help the lower income cope because the middle income is also feeling the squeeze. Furthermore, by asking Singaporeans to only focus on solving the problem and not bring the PAP to task, Mr Moh was essentially encouraging PAP’s irresponsible behavior.

YOG

Mr Moh wrote:

The question that has been asked is “where is the accountability?” I’m wondering, “what kind of accountability should there be?” The ministry has already offered all the facts. In my view, it was the first time this thing called a YOG was organized anywhere in the world, our most important priority was to pull it off properly.

It is not true that all facts about the YOG are already there. Does Mr Moh know where every single dollar went to in detail? Does Mr Moh know every single detail to the original budget? Does he know exactly why additional expenditure was required, how necessary were they and why weren’t they foreseen? Yet Mr Moh so readily claimed that all facts are already there. Just because there was a need to pull it off properly doesn’t mean there was no need to pull it off on or close to budget.

Mr Moh wrote:

But compare this to the F1. It was also the first time a night race was held anywhere in the world, and there, the results were better than we projected.

F1 accountability is even worse. They made a report to study its costs and benefits and ended up congratulating themselves without ever releasing the report for public verification. Mr Chiam See Tong asked for the report but was not given. What accountability is there? The fact that they don’t even dare to release the report shows that the results are likely to be much worse, not better.

Mr Moh wrote:

I appreciate the risk-taking nature of our government in these events.

It is people like Mr Moh who provide the government with the blank cheque to do anything they like and who indulge in the government getting from bad to worse.

Mr Moh wrote:

We want our government and our children to be adventurous and entrepreneurial, we must accept that mistakes will be made. Under-budgeting, as any entrepreneur will tell you, is very real in any new, untested venture.

The YOG is a bad example for our children to be adventurous and entrepreneurial. Would an adventurer mountain climber be so careless as to miss a foothold by a mile? We are not talking about mere under-budgeting but severe under-budgeting. In the real world, the entrepreneur who severely over spends becomes bankrupt. But here our minister was given free money to chalk up the balances. What entrepreneurship is that?

Mr Moh wrote:

Are we telling our government to only do things when they have 100% confidence, and not risk making any mistake? That’s what kiasu is, and we don’t want that.

We are not telling the government to do things with 100% confidence. But should 80% confidence translate to 400% overspending? This kind of overspending inspires absolutely no confidence let alone 80% confidence.

Not wanting kiasu doesn’t mean we therefore want suku.

Main criticism of PAP

Mr Moh wrote:

For a lot of my friends, it’s the arrogance. They may believe that the PAP is the best party to run the country, but they are voting opposition anyway because they have had enough of the arrogant PAP style. That’s heart over head, but that’s what we are like as human beings. Our minds will be closed to the best logic if our hearts are not there. We will accept the most perverse logic, even to our deaths, if our hearts are won. And politics is about winning hearts, not minds. So for my friends whose hearts are lost to the PAP, even if Pullitzer prize winning arguments are presented here (or estate upgrading), it is of no use.

Mr Moh seemed to be insulting a lot of his friends by saying they are all heart and no head and will accept perverse logic to their deaths because their hearts are lost despite his Pulitzer Prize winning arguments. No Mr Moh, yours is a bullshiter prize argument. Your friends are not as headless as you said they are. They can think for themselves and they know that when so many things have gone wrong and are continuing to go wrong, perhaps it is time for a change.

Mr Moh wrote:

That arrogant style was actually appreciated by an earlier generation of Singaporeans, who were less educated. It wasn’t called arrogance then. It was called strength of conviction, it was called leadership. It was called decisiveness and resolve. In the 60s to the 80s, we needed those qualities in a leader, in our leaders.

It is not true that PAP in an earlier generation was also arrogant but which was then appreciated as strength of conviction, leadership, decisiveness and resolve. The best proof is in Lee Kuan Yew’s words.

Back in 1965, Lee emphasized that it was the quality of the people that mattered:

Singapore’s Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew … stressed that it was the quality of the people – “the mettle in them” that counted … Singapore … did not believe in shaking knuckle dusters at others because the people here were polite … But, he stressed, the island was determined to survive in South-east Asia for the next 1,000 years … Nothing will hold us back. We have thick skins and necks. Even our chickens have thick necks.

[Straits Times, We will survive for the next 1,000 years – Lee, 19 Sept 1965]

By 2007, Lee was saying it was his extraordinary government that brought about Singapore’s transformation:

Lee Kuan Yew: … The Member has compared Singapore against Switzerland, Denmark and Finland … have they brought the standard of living of their people up, multi-fold times, from third-world to first-world in one generation? To maintain that quality of government both in the political leadership that sets the tone for the whole civil service and for the whole country … To make the transformation from what we were in 1959 or 1965, whichever the starting point, to what we are requires an extraordinary government with extraordinary government officers to support it, to bring to where it is.

[2007 parliament debate on ministerial salary]

Thus, contrary to what Mr Moh wrote, PAP in the earlier generation wasn’t as arrogant as they are now so don’t believe in Mr Moh’s rubbish of equating arrogance to strength of conviction, leadership, decisiveness or resolve. One can show strength of conviction, leadership, decisiveness and resolve without ever being arrogant.

Mr Moh wrote:

But the electorate is a lot more educated now, and there are a lot of well qualified people who can run the country very well. Their response is “look, if you cram another hard truth down my throat, I am going to stand up and take away the ruling mandate away from you.” And that is precisely what a few very qualified candidates are trying to do now, representing all the other Singaporeans who have had it up to here with the “I-know-it-all, you-just-listen-to-me” style. For the previous generation, the PAP may have been the only answer. It is not so with this generation.

Many of the so-called “hard truths” have been repeated by Mr Moh here. We can clearly see that these aren’t “hard truths” but are hardly truths. Many in the previous generation will pass on without ever realizing that PAP was never ever their answer. The answer was from a UN advisor which the PAP took lock stock and barrel and called it its own.

Mr Moh wrote:

Can the PAP be less arrogant? I think PM Lee is trying, as we can see from his apology yesterday. Is it too little too late? Will the PAP really change in the future? I believe in PM Lee’s resolve, but that’s just me.

PM Lee’s apology achieved nothing other than garner tremendous sympathy votes for the PAP. But PAP remains as arrogant as ever.

Mr Moh wrote:

What are my views about the opposition? On an overall basis, I don’t think that a multi-party parliament is necessarily a better one. In fact, when we look at parliaments around the world, the multi-party ones are more often than not mired in disagreement, unable to move forward. The evidence just isn’t there.

All First World countries have multi-party parliaments and they continue to be the most prosperous, progressive segments of humanity on earth. All our latest gadgets and applications continue to be churned out by them. So how could Mr Moh say multi-party parliaments are unable to move forward? So contrary to Mr Moh, the evidence is there as has always been.

Mr Moh wrote:

So what am I saying? What is my conclusion? I am not persuading anyone to vote PAP. That would be arrogant of me. I want to defend some of PAP’s past policies, especially if they were, in my mind, done right and with the interests of Singapore at heart but which have been misperceived. A few of my friends, who know me to be pro-PAP, have actually asked me to defend the PAP. Perhaps they are sitting on the fence and struggling with the decision and want to hear a different side from what is mainly circulating online now. I hope this helps.

Who was Mr Moh kidding? Do you believe Mr Moh was defending PAP and helping fence sitters hear the PAP side without hoping they would be persuaded to vote for PAP? That would be like a salesman who defends a product with a bad reputation and lets undecided customers hear the good points about the product yet claims that he isn’t hoping that the customer will buy his product.

It’s quite common for politicians to claim to have the interests of the country at heart as did Hitler and Stalin.

Mr Moh wrote:

Overall, I hope Singaporeans will vote who they honestly believed to be the best candidates for them. If this is done, I think that we, as a country, should be ok. I fear the Singaporean who says “I think the opposition candidate in my constituency is crap, but I will vote him anyway because I think the PAP is arrogant.” I cannot agree with that.

If Mr Moh sincerely believes that Singapore would be okay if Singaporeans vote for whom they honestly believe are the best candidates, then Mr Moh should sincerely wish that those who honestly believe that the opposition is the best should vote for the opposition.

Mr Moh should understand that voters may honestly believe that crap opposition is better than arrogant PAP because a crap worker is still better than a worker who gives crap reasons for not doing his work. So if Mr Moh is true to his words and honest with himself, he must agree, not disagree with that.

Correcting falsehoods by sgoreng

March 10, 2015

I refer to the 24 Feb 2015 TR Emeritus commentary “SG success not due to ‘Vision of One Man’” by sgoreng.

Lee Kuan Yew and others who credited Dr Winsemius are Westerner dog’s shit?

Sgoreng wrote:

But when the editor of TRE gives the whole credit of Sg’s economic achievements to an angmoh like Winsemius, no such protest is heard. The editor of TRE and many of its posters are “angmoh kao sai” i.e., westerner dog’s shit.

If crediting Singapore’s economic achievement to Dr Albert Winsemius means becoming a Westerner dog’s shit, then many authors and luminaries including Lee Kuan Yew himself are Westerner dog’s shit because all of them credited Dr Winsemius with Singapore’s economic achievement:

Most of all, he (Dr Winsemius) was wise and canny. I (Lee Kuan Yew) learnt much about Western business and businessmen from him. He gave me practical lessons on how … Singapore could plug into the global economic system of trade and investments by using their desire for profits … It was Singapore’s good fortune that he took a deep and personal interest in Singapore’s development. Singapore and I personally, are indebted to him for the time, energy and devotion he gave to Singapore.

[Straits Times, Singapore is indebted to Winsemius: SM, 10 Dec 1996]

Is sgoreng saying Lee Kuan Yew is Westerner dog’s shit?

He was Singapore’s trusted guide through economically uncharted waters for 25 years from 1960. Through him, Singapore borrowed ideas and strategies that worked for Netherlands and other developed nations. Singapore’s economy is flying high today, thanks in large measure to his sound advice and patient counsel. He is the Father of Jurong, the Dutchman behind Singapore Incorporated. Dr Winsemius was a special person for he had changed Singapore to what it is today. For Singaporeans today, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the Dutch economist.

[Straits Times, Dr Albert Winsemius Singapore’s trusted guide, 7 Dec 1996]

He was behind the 10-year development plan that saw the island state transform into today’s high technology, high value added industrial hub.

[Straits Times, He Believed in Singapore’s Future, 7 Dec 1996]

Is sgoreng saying Straits Times is Westerner dog’s shit?

Albert Winsemius presented a ten-year development plan to turn Singapore from a port dependent on entrepot trade to a manufacturing and industrial centre. Following the Winsemius Report, the Legislative Assembly passed an Act in 1961 to create a statutory board to promote industrialisation and economic development. The EDB came into being …

[Lim Kim San: A Builder of Singapore, Asad Latif, page 106]

Is sgoreng saying Lim Kim San is Westerner dog’s shit?

Dr Winsemius of the Netherlands and Mr I.F. Tang of China were two foreign friends of Singapore who made extraordinary contributions to the economic development of Singapore as leader and secretary of the first UN Industrialisation Survey Team in 1961.

[A Mandarin and the Making of Public Policy: Reflections, Ngiam Tong Dow, page 66]

Is sgoreng saying Ngiam Tong Dow is Westerner dog’s shit?

The Winsemius Report, as it is commonly known, eventually formed the blueprint for Singapore’s development efforts.

[No Miracle: What Asia Can Teach All Countries about Growth, Mitchell Wigdor, Chapter 6]

Is sgoreng saying Westerner Mitchell Wigdor is Westerner dog’s shit?

Singapore’s economic miracle owes something to Dutch economist Dr Albert Winsemius. Dr Albert Winsemius was not merely a consultant, he was someone who revolutionalised and set Singapore’s economy in the right direction.

[Tactical Globalization: Learning from the Singapore Experiment, Aaron Kon, page 170]

Is sgoreng saying author Aaron Kon is Westerner dog’s shit?

Goh Keng Swee and Dr Albert Winsemius are generally regarded as the brains behind the coherent export/foreign investment oriented policies that Singapore has followed.

[Multinationals and the Growth of the Singapore Economy, Hafiz Mirza, page 77]

Is sgoreng saying author Hafiz Mirza is Westerner dog’s shit?

In line with the recommendation of the Winsemius Mission, Singapore implemented policies contrary to the spirit of the 1960s by allowing foreign companies full ownership of their investments and control of operations. This gave Singapore an immediate advantage over other countries that had adopted a more nationalistic or socialist philosophy that prevented complete foreign ownership and control of large manufacturing investments.

[Singapore, the Energy Economy: From the first refinery to the end of cheap oil, Ng Weng Hoong, page 12]

Is sgoreng saying author Ng Weng Hoong is Westerner dog’s shit?

With Singapore’s secession in 1965, the United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore became the basis for Singapore’s industrialisation strategy.

[State enterprise in Singapore: legal importation and development, Philip Nalliah Pillai, page 30]

Is sgoreng saying author Philip Nalliah Pillai is Westerner dog’s shit?

Singapore’s emergence as a pivotal manufacturing node in the emerging network of transnational capitalism was partly made possible by missionary zeal displayed in the adoption of the Winsemius Report, submitted on behalf of the United Nations Industrial Survey Mission of 1960.

[CyberAsia: The Internet And Society in Asia, Zaheer Baber, page 59]

Is sgoreng saying author Zaheer Baber is Westerner dog’s shit?

Sgoreng did not pass primary school science?

Sgoreng wrote:

Despite the article quoted, reason for yourself. There are UNDP advisors in many other countries. How many of them have done as well as SG? This should give you idiots an inkling of how important or unimportant those advisors are.

What Sgoreng was effectively saying is this:

Many other potted plants receive sunlight and carbon dioxide but only the SG potted plant survived. This shows how important or unimportant sunlight and carbon dioxide is to plant growth.

From his reasoning, it seems like Sgoreng failed his primary school science.

Sgoreng happily wrote the opposite of what is printed in books

Sgoreng wrote:

Winsemius Industrialisation Plan called for Singapore’s own product – products which are completely made in Singapore by local industries financed by local investments. Who in the rest of the whole would buy such Singapore’s products in the first few years after we became independent in 1965? The future looked so bleak that a trade delegation was sent to Africa on the off chance of picking up some business. Little trade followed. Even Africans were not convinced that we could make goods better than others. For an initial period, Jurong Industrial estate was mostly empty except for some HK and Taiwan investments in toys, textiles and garments.

What Sgoreng wrote is largely contradicted by the books below:

In 1960, a UN industrial survey mission headed by Albert Winsemius was sent to Singapore, at the PAP government’s request, to survey the possibility of industrialisation. The Winsemius Report recommended, among other things, that Singapore should make use of the skills and ability of the local labour force to develop certain selected industries including chemicals, building material, steel-rolling, ship-building, and electrical appliances and parts, by wooing well-known foreign firms to set up joint ventures with local firms. It also advised that the new local industries to be set up should aim at the overseas market, since the domestic market was tiny. In 1961, the government drew the State Development Plan based on the Winsemius Report, which later became a Five-Year Development Plan. That same year, in accordance with the advice given by Winsemius, it set up the Economic Development Board (EDB), which was then given the task of constructing industrial estates, providing loans to firms in the private sector, attracting FDI, setting up joint ventures with foreign MNCs, and putting into practice fiscal measures under the Pioneer Industries Ordinance.

[Japanese Firms in Contemporary Singapore, Hiroshi Shimizu, page 31]

The 1960-61 United Nations mission led by Albert Winsemius helped develop a blueprint for Singapore’s industrialisation and development plan and recommended the establishment of EDB. The Winsemius report provided the basis for Singapore’s first development plan. It made two particularly notable observations. The first was that Singapore did not lack entrepreneurs but they were mainly in commerce and not in manufacturing. This suggested the need for the government to participate directly to operate certain basic industries if neither foreign nor local enterprises were prepared to do so. However, said the report, long-run government participation might harm the investment climate unless it was true to commercial and market principles. The second point recommended the establishment of a nonpolitical EDB with divisions for financing, industrial facilities, projects, technical consulting, services, and promotion. The report recognised that the EDB’s core function should be the promotion of investment and that it should eventually hand over its financing activities to an industrial development bank. The Winsemous report was accepted and its recommendations implemented almost immediately. In its early years, the EDB had technical advisers from the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Initially, it concentrated on the four industries identified in the Winsemius report, namely, shipbuilding and repair, metal engineering, chemicals, and electrical equipment and appliances.

[Lessons from East Asia, Danny M Leipziger, pages 240, 241]

Thus, instead of calling for local industries by local investments as claimed by Sgoreng, Dr Winsemius instead called for wooing well known foreign firms and foreign investments. The industries recommended in Winsemius’ report indeed became the industries that our nation heavily pursued which continue to exist today or had been integral to our nation building. The successful establishment of Philips in Singapore proved Dr Winsemius right and naysayers wrong. What is strange is that after 50 years, there are still naysayers like Sgoreng around.

Sgoreng contradicts Dr Goh Keng Swee for reason behind electronics investments

Sgoreng wrote:

Our economic and unemployment problems were largely solved only when SG was able to attract US electronics investments. Winsemius role in this is obscure, if any. It was LKY working hard as SG’s super-salesman travelling across America to convince US electronics corporations to set up factories here. He was very successful. The Americans came. Singaporeans had the opportunity to show their good work ethos. After that, Euro and Japs investments followed. And there’s a good Singapore Story to tell.

Contrary to what Sgoreng said, the key to Singapore being able to attract US electronics investments was China’s Cultural Revolution in 1966 which scared off investors from nearby South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong to farther away Singapore.

It is a matter for speculation whether in the absence of the upheavals caused by the Cultural Revolution in the mid and late 1960s, the large American multinationals – among them, National Semiconductors and Texas Instruments – would have sited their offshore facilities in countries more familiar to them, such as South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. These resources had skills superior to Singapore’s. My own judgment remains that these three areas were too close to the scene of trouble, the nature of which could not but cause alarm to multinational investors.

[Wealth of East Asian Nations, Goh Keng Swee, page 256]

Evidences early in this article already showed that the policy of wooing foreign direct investments came directly from Dr Winsemius’ “United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore”. Dr Winsemius was also deeply involved in bringing Dutch multinationals like Philips and Shell.

A year after his first visit to Singapore, he presented a 10-year economic development plan. Winsemius also advised the government about large scale housing projects in Singapore and managed to get Philips, Shell and Exxon to Singapore.

[Managing Transaction Costs in the Era of Globalization, F. A. G. den Butter, page 38]

Our 153rd press freedom is reason why all credit due to others went to LKY

Sgoreng wrote:

TRE editor and its idiotic posters should ask themselves this. Besides SG, who else have accorded recognition to Winsemius for his work in SG? No other countries. Not even the UN itself.

The main reason is our World Number 153rd press freedom which distorts the truth so much that many Singaporeans and outsiders can no longer tell truth from falsehoods emanating from Singapore.

Useless evidence from Sgoreng

Sgoreng wrote:

Lastly, let’s hear from Mr. Winsemius himself. Dr Winsemius retired as Singapore’s economic advisor in December 1983, at the age of 74. He was then quoted saying, “I leave with a saddened heart. It (Singapore) has become part of my life, more or less. It can do without me. It could do without me years ago. But it became part of my life. So I will shed a few tears, imaginary tears.” Singapore was a country he regarded almost as home.

This statement conveys nothing apart from Dr Winsemius having satisfied himself that he has done his work in guiding Singapore well.

Employer contributed CPF rightfully belongs to employees

March 8, 2015

The notion that employer contributed CPF isn’t our money is essentially a false one.

Many jobs in the market today are open to foreigner competition including jobs in government linked companies. Suppose a foreigner and a local with similar qualifications, experiences and interview performances compete for the same job. If the foreigner asks for $4,800 in cash and nothing else while the local asks for $4,800 gross + employer contributed CPF of say $960 for a total sum of $5,760, the foreigner will end up getting the job because he is cheaper, the local will end up losing the job because he is more expensive when employer CPF is included. In this case, employer CPF is a bane, not a boon to locals.

In order for the local to not lose out, he will have to lower his gross to $4,000 so that his gross + employer CPF of $800 = $4,800 is exactly the same as that demanded by the foreigner. In which case, the $800 employer CPF isn’t some unmerited gift that the local receives on top of his gross but that part of his original asking that he has to forgo so that his final total salary including employer CPF stays competitive when compared to that of a foreigner.

Even for public sector jobs that foreigners are restricted from, pegging is usually done to the private sector. This means that all else being the same, a public sector hirer only needs to pay $4,000 gross to someone who would similarly have gotten $4,000 gross in the private sector. The public sector employee will end up being in the same situation of having to lower his asking from $4,800 to $4,000 because that is all the public sector hirer has to pay to match his or her private sector counterpart. So in the same token, the public sector employee’s $800 employer CPF isn’t some unmerited amount that he receives on top of his gross but that part of his asking that he has to forgo in order that his gross + employer CPF can match those in the private sector.

To conclude, all else being the same, employer CPF isn’t some unmerited, free money that employees receive on top of their gross salary. Employer CPF is the amount by which an employee’s gross salary has to be depressed in order that his gross + employer CPF can stay competitive compared to the amount asked by a foreigner or paid in the private sector.

The only situation where employer CPF becomes free money is when an employee who is not on CPF is suddenly given CPF without any reduction in his gross. But still in this case, the take home will be reduced and this has been known to turn off some employees.

Lee Kuan Yew unworthy of tribute

March 8, 2015

I refer to the 6 Mar 2014 Straits Times report “Pay tribute to Mr Lee and other pioneers.

I disagree with Ms Irene Ng’s exhortation for our nation to pay Mr Lee Kuan Yew a special tribute in this year’s NDP.

Mr Lee has personally insulted Singaporeans time and again, once referring to us as animals not having spurs stuck deep enough into our hide and on another occasion threatening Singaporeans in Aljunied with five years of repent if they didn’t vote for PAP. Why should the nation honor a person who insults and threatens its people?

Mr Lee was Senior Minister when he allowed the PAP to disadvantage opposition wards for HDB upgrading. Why should segments of this nation that have been disadvantaged by Lee Kuan Yew and his party honor him?

Mr Lee spoke for the freedom of the press at the beginning of his political career but did an about turn to his own words the moment he consolidated power. We can find many more flip flops in what he said throughout his life. Why should this nation honor a person who doesn’t honor his words?

Mr Lee locked many Singaporeans up, some for longer than Nelson Mandela had been, without ever giving them a chance at an open trial in court. No matter how some state apparatuses try to distort the stories of these innocent Singaporeans, the fact remains that these weren’t people who went around carrying guns and shooting people. They were not the equivalent of terrorists that today’s ISA is used for. Why should this nation honor a person who caused so much pain and anguish to many innocent Singaporeans?

I also disagree with Ms Ng saying:

Without his strong and visionary leadership, without his determination and gumption, Singapore would certainly not be where it is today.”

What Ms Ng said isn’t fact but mere speculation and perhaps even wishful thinking. It was none other than Mr Lee’s good comrade Dr Goh Keng Swee who said that Singapore had overcome one adversity after another during colonial times long before PAP came about and that PAP’s good work was merely the continuation of excellent British colonial policies and institutions honed and perfected over more than a century since our founding in 1819. So if we honor Dr Goh Keng Swee and believe in his words, we must also believe that without PAP, whichever other team had received these excellent British colonial inheritances in 1959 would have steered Singapore to where it is today just the same or even better.

Visionary leadership is the last thing you would associate Mr Lee with. All that Lee could envision soon after he took charge in 1959 was merger with Malaysia, not export industrialization that ultimately brought Singapore success. Mr Lee used his ‘strong leadership’ to plunge Singapore into a disastrous merger with Malaya. If Mr Lee had vision, why did he not envision the bad blood that would ensue almost immediately after the merger? In an interview some years back, Mr Lee boasted of having extra long antennae that could sense far into the future, and almost immediately after that, GIC which he was then the board chairman of, suffered tremendous losses over the Global Financial Crisis. If Mr Lee has vision, why did he not prevent those stupendous GIC losses? The only vision Lee has is borrowed vision. Export industrialization was Dr Winsemius’ vision executed by Dr Goh Keng Swee. Why should this nation honour Mr Lee for the vision and contributions of others? In a tribute to Dr Winsemius on his demise, Mr Lee actually thanked Dr Winsemius for showing him how Singapore could prosper through export industrialization. So if Ms Ng wants to honor Mr Lee, she should first honor Mr Lee’s words when he said that both Singapore and himself are indebted to Dr Winsemius for our prosperity. Should Ms Ng call for the honoring of Dr Winsemius this NDP instead in honor of Mr Lee’s words?