Saturday, September 5, 2015

Minimum Wage

In his attempt to explain why the People’s Action Party (PAP) opted for the Workfare scheme rather than a minimum wage, it is clear why the Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin actually thought collecting cardboard boxes under the heat of the tropical sun is a healthy exercise for our senior citizens. They must be having a blast now that the haze is on, with the 24-hr Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hovering at the 82-94 range.

The Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme, like all pseudo help government contrived programmes, makes one jump through many hoops, before you get to see the real cash. Some requirements posted on their website:
  • - must be 35 years old or above on 31 December of the work year;
  • - must work at least two months in a three-month period;
  • - must earn an average gross monthly income of not more than $1,900 for the period worked;
  • - must live in a property with annual value of not more than $13,000 assessed as at 31 December of the preceding year.

So the student who tries to pay his way through school will continue to be exploited by working at a fast food joint for $500. Even if he's desperate enough to collect the WIS handout, he has to first labour for 2 months at slave wages. And if he happens to be staying with his retiree parents in a nice house, he is disincentivized from taking on a part time job to help with the bills. Minimum wage has no such artificial constraints.

So what happens to the employer who refuse to pay the minimum wage? These are the same folks who typically ask their $500 employee whether they want a paycheck with or without CPF deduction to avoid the compulsory contribution. They march to the friendly neighbourhood PAP MP and threaten to close shop and wreck the economy. And dummies like Tan will fall for it hook, line and sinker.

“These companies may not be prepared to pay that wage level. We've seen that happening in other countries,” Tan claimed. Please name those countries at your next rally, first world types preferred.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Behold Thy Alternate Voices

Associate Professor Daniel Goh's opening remarks:
"Good evening voters.
In 2011, many of you supported our call to move Singapore towards a First World Parliament and sent seven elected Workers' Party Members to Parliament. WE have seen the result. Today, we have a more responsive goovernment that is more sensitive to the struggle struggles of the people. We have seen policy changes responding to the needs of Singaporeans. But the journey towards a First World Parliament has only just begun. We cannot let our guard down now."

And here's the rest of his message:
We must continue our journey to protect our future and the future of our children. To protect our future, you have to further entrench your power and your rights in Parliament.
You need to take charge of your future, but this is not possible if we have an imbalanced Parliament with an overwhelming majority of ruling party MPs.
This election is a landmark election in the new era in Singapore.
Our formula for success in the last 50 years was to allow the ruling party to monopolise power, to exercise control over every aspect of our society, and set the direction for us. This was largely based on the mentality  that we only have a small talent pool that could lead Singapore. But times have changed. Our talent pool has vastly expanded through education and exposure. Many talented Singaporeans today excel in their own fields. However, our enterprises struggle to take off in the global arena and our workers struggle with productivity.
This is not for lack of talent, but because Singapoeans are not empowered to seize our future for ourselves.
For Singapore to become an outstanding smart nation in the next 50 years, we must build and nutrure confident professional, business and people sectors unfettered by unhealthy political monopoly. To do this, people must be able to think out of the box; people should be able to express themselves freely and debate issues within known limits as a multi-racial and multi-religious society. People must also feel secure and be assured of their rights against unreasonable and disproportionate actions from the Government and political leaders.
We have the opportunity now with the General Election to take that step to become such an outstanding nation. We can empower ourselves through a Parliament that truly represents the diversity of Singapore society for our future as a nation.
We are the masters of Singapore.
Our political leaders should serve us and facilitate empowerment of the people, not encourage subservience and groupthink. You have to decide whether having more ruling party MPS resulting in an imbalanced Parliament is in the best interest of the future of Singapore and your children.
Your vote is a signal to the ruling party that it cannot do what it wants without taking you seriously. It will signal to what extent the ruling party can deprive you of your power to participate in the policy-making process in the name of acting in your best interest.
Before 2011, the ruling party cruised along with policies that led to escalating cost of living, employment and retirement insecurity, and strained infrastructure due to runaway immigration. Your vote changed the course, but change for a better future is only just beginning.
Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world, but Singaporeans still feel stressed and disempowered at every stage of our lives. This is not right. The Government is planning for a 6.9 million population to solve the problems at hand. This is heading towards the wrong course. We have to change this.
Your vote is your power.
Use it to empower yourself.
We understand that to exercise the power of your vote, you need to have an alternative party deserving of your support. The Workers' Party is your credible choice. We are a rational, responsible and respectable party. We do not oppose for the sake of opposing and take a balanced approach in politics. We have worked hard to offer a a slate of capable candidates, balanced between seniority and youth, experience and idealism, but all united in seeking the empowerment of Singaporeans.
You can empower yourself to make decisions for your own future. Vote Workers' Party. Empower your future. Good night.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hail victory! Hail victory!

Teo Soh Lung once wrote that her mother would walk away from the television set whenever the ghastly image of the horrible person appeared onscreen. If you had gone into the kitchen for a drink of water when his successor took to the mike, you would have wondered who was raising a ruckus when the next speaker came on. Maybe someone had changed channels, and it was Hitler ranting away in the famous scene from "Der Untergang" (English title:"Downfall").

It was no less than the "keechiu" general, punching his clenched fist into the air, in an uncanny resemblance of the Bavarian corporal rousing his faithful with "Seig Heil! Seig Heil!" (English: "Hail victory! Hail victory!"). Screeching away for all his high octave's worth at the massive turnout - we have to resort to imagination here, state television cameras seldom pan to a shot of the actual size of the gathering - he lambasts the "quality" and "inexperience" of the opposition party candidates.

Maybe he's not aware that his master is leading a batch of anal neophytes at Ang Mo Kio (pun intended, they include the colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon). The most seasoned of the lot actually led his team into the wrong entrance at the nomination center, and had to double back. When a reporter asked why they took so long to finally emerge, the lame leader coughed up something goofy about "making sure of dotting the i's and t's".

It would have been useful if Chan had addressed, and perhaps taken pot shots at, some of the innovative proposals from the alternate voices. The Workers' Party's idea of a 10-year "through train" to do away with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is surely worth a few rounds of robust debate. But no, their preferred weapons of destruction seem to be the usual fifty shades of character assassination. The horrible person would have approved.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Painted Target On His Back

Wow, if looks could kill, Chee Soon Juan would be a dead man by now. It is not exactly clear what set off Lawrence Wong, but it was written all over his face and body language - pugnacity, rambunctiousness, belligerence - all in glorious full high definition (FHD). Justification enough to invest in a television set that supports the new DVB-T2 digital broadcast standard.

Apparently it had something to do with what the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief had said earlier in the day about "moving forward" and "constructive politics". Wong dug up history from 1996 ("when I was just stating work in the civil service") about how a select committee determined data submitted was false and Chee was charged for lying in public, and demanded an apology. Chee admitted that way back then his party was the only one who took the government to task over medical subsidy, and added even George Yeo, as health minister, "repeatedly" had apologized for some facts that the government gotten wrong there.

Chee tried to enlighten the rookie politician and instant noodle minister (add hot water and wait 2 minutes) about political discourse in pre-internet and pre-social media days. Unfortunately, the moderator had to cut him off - opposition members on the panel are allotted half the speaking time given to the incumbents.

The key difference in information dissemination is referenced when Chee issued a challenge to George Yeo to an online debate in 2009:
"You will note that the active censorship of the mass media prevents the news and views of the SDP reaching the mainstream public. The little information that reaches Singaporeans about my party is often biased and inaccurate. Your party, on the other hand, is always positively portrayed.
The Internet offers no such refuge. It is a greater leveler of information flow. In this medium, the SDP's views are transmitted accurately, as are yours. We are judged by readers on the merits of our arguments - not by how the Singapore Press Holdings spins and adulterates the information."

Other opposition members on the panel suggested this election should be about the future, no more grandfather stories about the past 50 years, please. Even they must have had enough of grainy footage in sepia filmed during the time when the agitated minister was not yet born.
All not so quiet on the western front

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Today Is Nomination Day

It is Nomination Day today (Sept 1), the day when official campaigning is permitted by law to start: "Candidates can start campaigning after the notice of contested election is issued, up to the start of the day before Polling Day (which is the Cooling-Off Day)." Expect your television screens to be flooded by more archived images of the "founding father" a.k.a. the horrible person.

Institute of Policy Studies’ Gillian Koh expects the ruling party to campaign on the “foundational” pillar of good governance. Another academic from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Political Science said that while numbers can be trotted out to show there have been improvements since the 2011 GE — such as more flats constructed, reduced inflow of foreign workers — it is harder to convince people over “intangibles” such as one’s sense of job security, and the perception of being squeezed out by foreigners.

It is easier to spot the tangibles, such as when residents at Pasir Ris ONE discovered that the corridors were only 1.2m wide, the bare minimum required under the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) rules. No one has yet come forth to accuse the developers, SingHaiyi Group and Kay Lim Holdings, of grossly profiteering from the BCA loophole. Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who helms the BCA, is unlikely to order a probe into their books.

It is also difficult to prove that the mother of all issues, liberal immigration policies, is the root cause of lost jobs, transportation woes and unaffordable housing. Opposition members in parliament may question what accounts for the drastic fall in job growth from 28,300 jobs in Q1 2014 and 40,700 jobs in Q4 2014 to just 300 jobs in Q1 2015, but transparent answers may not be forthcoming. It is cold comfort that the union leader turned Manpower Minister, Lim Swee Say, declared aloud in parliament, "Our aim is to moderate the inflow of foreign manpower, at a pace that we can accommodate." In other words, the onerous strain in infrastructure which we have been putting up with, is here to stay. That's the stark future for the next generation, if the incumbents are allowed to have their pace of governance.