Rebutting Mr Moh Hon Meng

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.

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