Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oscar Worthy Material

Ben Affleck's "Argo" is definitely more dramatic and entertaining than CIA operative Tony Mendez's true account in his book "The Master of Disguise", one good reason why it beat "Lincoln" as Best Picture in the Oscar Awards.

The movie "Lincoln" centers on President Abraham Lincoln's efforts to obtain passage for the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which would formally abolish slavery in the country.

When Confederate envoys sailed to meet with Lincoln to negotiate a peace that leaves slavery intact, he instructs them to be kept out of Washington as the amendment approaches a vote on the House floor. At the critical moment, a rumor circulates that there are Confederate representatives in Washington ready to discuss peace, prompting both Democrats and conservative Republicans to advocate postponing the vote on the amendment.

Lincoln explicitly denied that such envoys are in or will be in the city. His note as read out to the House: "So far as I know, there are no peace commissioners in the city." Technically it was a truthful statement, since he had ordered them to be kept away, and the vote proceeds, narrowly passing by a margin of two votes. What Lincoln did was an impeachable offence.

Maybe it was just typical Hollywood to juice up the truth, but it reminds one of the wayang at play in Chan Sek Keong's infamous ruling of 1997. Specifically, about Goh Chok Tong and his lawless lot not breaching any election law by being inside the Cheng San polling station but not within 200 meters of it. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

The latest blockbuster in town is about AIM not bidding for the PAP town council IT tender. Chairman Chandra Das says his $2 company is not participating because "AIM had helped prepared the tender documents." Why would an on-going commercial entity intentionally write a document that will exclude it from a bona fide business opportunity? If Ben Affleck makes a movie out of this escapade, you bet he will win that Best Director award. No artistic licence required, the intrigue is all for real.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lessons From Dubai

To further curb hiring of unskilled foreigners, the $650 levy for every worker beyond the approved number for a building project has been upped to $950. Has Armageddon been averted? Or are the pruning measures too late in the implementation?

In "Dubai, The Story of the World's Fastest City" author Jim Krane writes that 95% of Dubaians are foreigners, and there were only about 100,000 citizens among the city's 2 million inhabitants in 2009. But swarming immigration extends beyond Dubai, and has left Emrati citizens a minority in every one of the United Arab Emirates' seven emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman,Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al-Khaimah). The million or so UAE citizens make up about 15% of the country's total population of around 6 million. In the UAE, citizenship is guarded "like a vault of nuclear fuel rods". Residents who never took nationality after 1971 have no citizenship at all. That's one way to maintain the nationality core.

When the Sharjah Radio host Mohammed Khalaf dedicated a week of his daily talk show on the touchy subject in May 2008, the responses echo the sentiments of our own citizenry.  Khalaf started by asking his guest, UAE university professor Ebtisam al-Kitbi, whether she thought Emratis might disappear:
"It is reality. Today we face an invasion of millions of people coming to us from abroad to stay. They have no intention of leaving this country. As  result, our existence is threatened."

Al-Kitbi dismissed callers who suggested she was exaggerating:
"Today the locals can't find plots of land to build their houses, while you are selling entire areas to foreigners. The person responsible for this should be punished. No matter how high-ranking they are, these people should be punished."

Another guest, president of the Arab Family Organisation Jamal al-Bah, "totally agreed":
"We have too many foreigners competing with us for work, education, even marriage. Our girls are finding it difficult to get married because of the expatriate girls. We are like a ship lost at sea. ...We need to do something before it's too late."

Khalaf took a call from an agitated Emrati man. "You are pouring salt into our wounds.  You're making us cry. I am telling you that if this situation does not change, I will leave the country in the next three years and I vow never to return." The caller starts weeping and hangs up. (page 260)

Powerful stuff.  If our mainstream media were not so thoroughly emasculated, that would be the true tone of the national conversation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Appeasement Budget

It's no fun being Finance Minister when the Budget is being presented. Rich or poor, everybody has a gripe to justify taking pot shots at Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

The folks who gathered at Hong Lim Park made their views felt about the foreign hordes, but the businessmen will be casting the first stones. Overall, foreign workers now account for nearly 34 per cent of Singapore's total workforce. The cold turkey treatment will be rolled out to trim this presence.

In the construction and process sector, levies will be raised by $150 between July 2013 and July 2015. A higher levy of $300 will be imposed on workers hired outside a firm's Man-Year Entitlement (MYE). For the services sector, the overall Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC - maximum permitted ratio of foreign workers to the total workforce that a company is allowed to hire) will be cut from 45 per cent to 40 per cent.

For the lot whose salaries were depressed by them, the government will co-fund 40 per cent of wage increases for Singaporean workers earning up to a gross monthly wage of $4,000. To soothe the companies' ire, cash bonuses of up to $15,000 are available for investment in productivity. But the rich bosses will have more to moan about the higher property taxes and ARF hikes for their super duper cars.

The poor guys, as usual, are offered crumbs to soothe their pains. Another one time GST voucher to offset the on going regressive tax. The Government is planning to rake in $9.3 billion in 2013, more than the $8.8 billion collected in GST last year. Lower than corporate taxes ($12.9 bn), but more then personal income taxes ($7.6 bn). Retired, no fixed income? You die, your problem. The Government line, "a greater sense of security in their retirement years", is just another cruel joke.

Oh, Tharman said he personally topped up the Medifund capital sum by $1 billion. Thanks to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong's candour, we now know only the interest earned from this will be available for disbursement. The rest is reserved for god knows what.

But you can bet the $12.3 bn earmarked for Defence will be fully expended. We are not talking about free netbooks or iPads for NSmen during BMT, those folks are eyeing top of the range military toys like the controversial F-35 fighter jet (currently grounded after an engine crack was found). For all the talk about strengthening the Singapore core, Education is allotted only $11.6 bn, second largest slice of the $53.4 bn Budget 2013 pie. The three school-level initiatives (Early Childhood Development Agency, Opportunity Fund, Edusave Endowment Fund top up) will cost an additional S$120 million a year. The price tag of one F-35 is estimated at US$160 million.

Vaunted as "A Budget for Quality Growth", one suspects only the unhappiness index will be growing. Watch out for a reprise of Goh Chok Tong's "net happiness" argument.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Peace Of Mind

Vowing that no Singaporeans will be denied health care because they cannot afford it, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong claims the Government will ensure there is enough money to help the needy, especially the elderly. The devil, as usual, is in the details.

Gan revealed that the Medifund's capital sum now stands at a humongous $3 billion. The actual money paid out for health care, he explained, is the income from the interest earned on this capital sum. Since we are not told how the interest is generated, it is quite safe to assume some "investment experts" are using the capital sum for monopoly money.

Medifund received $82.4 million in the last financial year, in all likelihood earned largely from taxes contributed by you and me. We are told $90.8 million was given out to patients in health care institutions, due to the 519,380 applications approved by the health authorities. We are not told how many applicants were rejected, and told to get out of their elite, uncaring faces. The really big question is why $3 billion less $90.8 million is kept aside from people who need it most. That's not all. For past two decades, Medifund has always has kept aside more money than the amount it has disbursed to health bodies - collect more, give less. Before a general election, all surplus creamed off is added to the accumulating capital sum, locked away and well beyond touch of the needy folk.

Medifund was supposed to be a financial safety net to help Singaporeans in genuine need. In theory, those who still face difficulties with hospital expenses, even after Government subsidies, Medisave and MediShield, can approach a medical social worker to help them apply for Medifund. In practice, the procedure can be quite daunting. Take Medisave for an example.

An elderly relative recently asked for assistance to apply for use of his Medisave for his monthly check up and medication at an IMH clinic. Thanks to the language barrier, the dialect speaking senior had postponed the hassle of the request for several years. The retiree had been paying for the medicals out of cash, which was swiftly depleted thanks to rising cost of living and the regressive GST. Surprised it wasn't done earlier, the doctor we presented the case to gave her approval without hesitation, as it was well within guidelines.

The next surprise was at the payment counter, when he was asked which "package" to opt for. For instance, to use Medisave for payments totalling up to $400 a year, he has to first pay out-of-pocket $101 (so-called "Package Value" $501). No ready cash, no access to Medisave. We dipped into our wallets and helped him out. After all, he was there because his cash reserve was low in the first place.

Meanwhile somebody is sitting pretty on $3 billion of cash reserves. Gan said, "We will continue to do more to provide the elderly with added peace of mind when it comes to health-care services". We weren't feeling too peaceful when leaving the clinic, our brains racked with all the permutations that the needy and elderly have been, and continue to be, short changed.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Quickie Solutions

It has to be the answer to the AIMgate nightmare.

The government tender which closes on March 4, inviting applicants to install a "fully operational integrated town council management system with operation support and maintenance", will effectively replace the shady Action Information Management (AIM) deal. All questions about Chandra Das' $2 company and how much money was actually spent on the software development will be swept under the carpet, now the subject will be deemed water under the bridge. The Ministry of National Development (MND) team probably won't have to complete the full review ordered by Lee Hsien Loong. How can one review something that no longer exists?

More important, co-ordinating chairman of the 14 PAP-run town councils Teo Ho Pin will be off the hook. The danger of another by-election has been obviated. Brilliant!

To make sure the package is water-tight, as confirmed by Teo, AIM prepared the actual tender specifications.  They must have learned from the NParks exercise that the correctly worded  documentation will ensure the desired product will be delivered. Teo would not reveal how many interested parties picked up the tender documents, and whether AIM will be audacious enough to repeat another dubious undertaking.

The other quickie solution to another nightmare was Li Ye Ming's resignation of his vice chairman post at the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations. Federation chairman Tan Thian Poh should be relieved, but strangely, he said the research and publications committee is "looking into Li's resignation". Don't look too hard, or you might stumble across his online promise to "raise an army to flatten Singapore".

That kind of vitriolic borders on the seditious, a thousand times worse than inciting xenophobia. Li is now free to disappear into the anonymous swell of the fifth column, only to surface at strategic moments of the National Conversation. 
PM Lee pointed him out as an "old migrant"

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Mole From Within

Just another friendly neighbourhood PRC national ranting online
By now Li Ye Ming (李叶明) has joined the ranks of the infamous, think Sun Xu et al. A PRC national who moved to Singapore 17 years ago, and signed up for citizenship only recently - shades of the colorectal surgeon who picked up his membership card 3 weeks before contesting the Punggol-East by-election - abused the platform of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations to attack a true blue born and bred Singaporean.

In response to Mr Low Thia Khiang's rebuttal of alleged xenophobia, Li has just added fuel to fire:

[I respect Mr Low’s logic. The reason why he has such fear obviously could not be due to me, who is just one new citizen. In fact, he recalled in his article his past where he had indelible fear, a fear which he called the "White Terror". I am not ignorant of the period of history Mr. Low mentioned.]

[But the world has since progressed, and new history is being written. Singapore has undergone one "watershed" after another. Having won a series of election campaign, and becoming the largest opposition in the Parliament, the Workers’ Party is now the darling of the day. Many concerned friends have even asked me, “Would you get into any trouble?” for me to write something criticising the Workers' Party and Low TK’s article at this point in time.]

[ I originally wondered if my friends were unnecessarily "frightened". But now I realised their concern is not without basis. For Mr. Low to characterise me as "wanting to cause the Workers Party to die/death", I suspect he is trying to incite discontentment among his supporters on me. Does he need to resort to inciting tragic, on this discussion between us?]

Interesting inflammatory language, for one who has threatened to "flatten" Singapore.

And broadcasts to the whole wide world how lazy Singaporeans are:

He has deleted his Facebook account, but his anti-Singapore government remarks on Chinese social network Weibo (微博) are still available on the Internet. Writing as a "Singapore journalist" then, he questioned the immigration policies of the Singapore government and makes disparaging remarks about the government's self-contradicting policies. In another online posting, Li Ye Ming also mis-represented Singaporeans on the issue of Taiwan independence, claiming that all Singaporeans are against the independence of Taiwan.

We are thoroughly confused. Which side is this guy really on?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

He Did Hear Us

It has to be the answer to the 6.9 million nightmare.

The proposed highspeed rail-link to Kuala Lumpur, a 90 minutes ride, is touted by PM Lee as a plan to transform two cities into "one virtual urban community". Just as Hong Kong has the hinterland of Kowloon to run away to for some breathing space, Singaporeans can soon take a train into KL for a respite of unspoiled nature and its surrounds.

His words are telling: " this retreat, we decided that we should make a statement that 'Yes we want this, we are working towards this', and I think we can make it work." The protesters at Hong Lim Park had held up placards saying that the prime minister doesn't listen too good, and the squeeze is getting unbearable.  With this spillover to KL, the projection figure can now revert to a population target again.

IT geeks experiencing parking problems at Sim Lim Square can now have an alternative in Sungei Wang Plaza. Getting crowded out at Takashimaya? The mega malls of KL beckon you. The price tags are all in Malaysian ringgit.

Observers who say the fastest door-to-door commute has obvious economic and social benefit also highlighted that such a project will be costly to build and operate (Malaysian conglomerate YTL submitted a RM 8 billion proposal in 2006) . Which explains why Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew was grinning from ear to ear at the photo opportunity. Just the timely thing to justify another fare hike.

The other happy Minister has to be Khaw Boon Wan since the Najib-Lee talks covered a $3.2 billion township in Johor which includes two "wellness centers". Latter have to be euphemisms for homes for the aged Khaw had envisioned earlier, and roundly roasted for same. With the rail-link, shipping grandpa and grandma across the Causeway to live out their last days on earth will be more palatable when the weekly visits include convenient shopping at Johor Baru City Square.

What the promoters don't highlight is the horrendous traffic in KL. And Lee Kuan Yew did state in his affidavit submitted as part of proceedings against opposition politician Tang Liang Hong that the Malaysian state of Johor is “notorious for shootings, muggings and carjackings.” Lee was referring to Tang running there to escape from his persecutors, when he said “it does not make sense for a person who claims to be fearful for his life to go to a place like Johor.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another Whopping Surplus

OCBC Treasury is saying Singapore’s FY2012 budget surplus may possibly be four times higher than initial estimate, a whopping $5 billion:
 "Based on our estimates, the FY12 budget surplus could come in as high as $5b, which if it materializes would be about fourfold of the initial estimated FY12 budget position of $1.27b. This is potential testament to the fact that while headline GDP growth was very modest at 1.2% year-on-year last year, receipts have been buoyant for the year-to-date FY2012."

OCBC said top revenue generators remain corporate and personal income taxes and GST which accounted for nearly 55% of total operating revenue. But Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums have also risen significantly due to the quota cuts, and stamp duty receipts benefited from the strong rebound in the property market prices. Which explains why the Government continues to ignore calls to revamp the COE system, and take half-hearted measures to cool the over heated property market. Who cares if the people suffers, what matters most to them is that the Government coffers keeps swelling and busting its seams.

The surplus could also be attributed to the fact that monies budgeted for "social welfare" may not be fully disbursed.  Take for instance, the part of the Enhanced Baby Bonus scheme whereby savings to a child’s Child Development Account (CDA) are matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government for up to $6,000 each for the 1st and 2nd child, up to $12,000 each for the 3rd and 4th child, and up to $18,000 each from the 5th child onwards. For the lower income groups who struggle to maintain at least $1,000 in their bank account, they may never get to benefit from the largesse of the dollar-to-dollar offer. Recall one colorectal surgeon who once purportedly had only $10.50 in the joint account.

One again, while the rich gets richer, the poor is left lying in the dust. According to one man, this has been and will always be the case for Singapore.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Squaring Off At Hong Lim Park

"People support CPF cuts because there are no protest (sic) outside the Parliament." - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 

There was a protest on Saturday, 16th Feb 2013. While it was no Tahrir Square (Hong Lim Park is only 0.94 hectare, a full size football pitch measures 1.08 hectares), the gathering of like minded Singaporeans was numbered at 1,000 (AsiaOne Online), 2,000 (ChannelNewsAsia) and 4,000 (Yahoo!News). An on site call for a referendum on the population issue collected about 1,000 signatures, confirming more must have congregated on the rain soaked field that momentous weekend.

"Arab Spring" (Arabic: الربيع العربي ‎, al-Rabeeʻa al-ʻArabi) was coined for the series of protests and demonstrations which fanned across the Middle East and North Africa. As of September 2012, four governments have been overthrown in countries of that region, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who Goh Chok Tong claimed to have "a good conversation" with in August 2009. "I would say he is an introspective person, reflective, thinking about the problems of his country. Certainly an astute person," said Goh, the "he" being Gaddafi, but could easily be inferred to as Lee, given the adulation he gushed of the prime minister's "courage" at the Population White Paper debate.

The Arab spring is widely believed to be incubated by dissatisfaction with the rule of local governments, with some speculating that wide gaps in income levels may have fueled the rising tide. Our local equivalent will be the abysmal Gini coefficient. Other factors attributing to the protests bear a familiar resonance too, such as issues of dictatorial tendencies, human rights violations, political corruption in high places, economic hardships, lost employment opportunities, extreme poverty for the destitute, and a number of demographic structural factors, key of which, in our context, is the dilution of the Singapore identity.

William Pesek of Bloomberg refers to the insidious addiction for more foreign imports as “Ponzi demography.” He describes the mechanism of the destructive process:
"The human-pyramid scheme works like this: Population growth, either through births or immigration, boosts demand for goods and services, increases borrowing, boosts tax revenue and adds to corporate profits. Everything seems grand and leaders take a bow. It’s a bubble, though, and it eventually bursts when population growth stalls. Incomes top out, high debt crushes consumption and investment, the need for public assistance rises, environmental degradation increases and angry people take to the streets."

Thanks to naïveté and misplaced trust in a Government over decades of surreptitious betrayal, the bubble is already here. The ridiculous extremities of affordability are evidenced by the $100,000 public housing units for the poor and $100,000 certificates of entitlement for the filthy rich. When the bubble bursts, as it surely must, it won't be a pretty sight. Those high worth individuals will be the first to take flight with their ill-gotten cash, leaving the lesser mortals with the deleterious aftermath of bad governance. Perhaps then, the people will step off the Hong Lim green and march onto the streets.

Meanwhile they continue to hide behind words. When Lee Kuan Yew missed his Chinese New Year dinner, they said "Mr Lee was not feeling well and had extended his apologies for not being at the event." That was euphemism for a stroke, attributed to a prolonged episode of atrial fibrillation, and a dash to the hospital. They even used a high falutin term, transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which basically means his brain was deprived of blood flow and oxygen. Not that we care, we are sick of it all.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Investigators Should Be Investigated

The wife deserves the Valentine's Day gift more than Ng Boon Gay.  After all, he was the wayward husband who fell into the clutches of the IT sales person. That the former Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) chief was innocent of corrupt intent was clear to anyone familiar with the case, anyone except the public prosecutor and Deputy Director of Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) Teng Khee Fatt. Latter must be pretty pleased with himself. He did have Ng's name dragged through the mud of the mainstream media for nearly one whole year as he threatened, notwithstanding the not guilty verdict handed down by District Judge Siva Shanmugam.

No wonder Dr Sushilan Vasoo was so effective in eliciting apologies from two websites with his lawyer's letters of demand pertaining to words “published maliciously and recklessly”. Not everyone can spare a year to be shoved around in court. As for the "fabricated evidence", this is the relevant text from Chee Soon Juan’s book, "Democratically Speaking" (page 199):
"The use of research funds had to be approved by the head of department which was S Vasoo at that time. The courier fee used for the delivery of my wife's dissertation was approved by Vasoo. How can one be accused of misusing funds when the expenditure was submitted for approval and paid by the Bursar only upon approval (researchers don't handle the money).

"As for the taxi claims, Vasoo had accused me of inflating my claims by a few dollars each time I made a trip from my office at NUS to the schools where I was conducting my research. He sought to prove that I had cheated on my claims by taking a taxi himself and tracing the route that I had taken.  He produced the receipt and said that the fare was lower than what I had claimed. There were two problems with his allegation.  First, he did not book the taxis through the telephone as I did (I had equipment to carry and couldn't have gone to the road to hail a cab).  The booking fee added to the fare.  Second, he took the trip on a Sunday whereas I took mine on a regular working day when the traffic is heavier and, hence, a more expensive trip."

Even if CPIB may not be involved should Vasoo have taken on his detractors to demand satisfaction, the thought of being tarred and feathered by the mainstream media in Singapore must be a potent deterrent. As for the CPIB itself, one of its officers is currently reported to be undergoing investigation for suspected financial impropriety. CPIB has confirmed the case in a statement and said that it has referred the matter to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD). It remains to be seen if similar mud packs will be applied for this case.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Movie About Turncoats

The movie "Coriolanus" is about a banished hero of Rome who allies with the enemy to take revenge on the city which kicked him out. The funny way the actors speak makes you realise quickly it is a updated version of the Shakespearean play based on the life of the legendary Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus.

Caius Martius is a brilliant Roman general who is honoured with the cognomen (nickname given as a form of distinguishing people who accomplished important feats) of "Coriolanus" after a successful military service. Coriolanus' mother encourages him to run for the office of consul. He effortlessly wins the support of the Roman Senate, and seems to have won over the endorsement of the commoners as well. The Singapore version would have a brigadier general parachuted into parliament, and quickly made full minister. In the Roman version, the people get upset with him for railing about the concept of popular rule. Coriolanus is banished, and he changes camp to the enemy's side, and vows to lead an assault on the city which voted him out.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli assured the House recently that there is no conflict of interest in the appointment of former Cabinet Minister George Yeo to the Hong Kong Economic Development Commission.

In response to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Lina Chiam's query whether Yeo's appointment jeopardised Singapore's strategic interests, Masagos explained: "Mr Yeo has been appointed by Hong Kong Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying as non-official member of the newly established Hong Kong Economic Development Commission. The purpose of the Commission as I understand is to provide advice to the Hong Kong government on the overall strategy and policy to broaden Hong Kong's economic base, and to enhance Hong Kong's economic growth and development."

Masagos may not have heard of the the Chinese expression about two tigers being on the same mountain, but he must be aware of the two cities' rivalry to be Asia's top financial center. It is also interesting that Hong Kong's plans to enhance economic growth and development has taken a turn to include mass import of migrants as an option. An option which the Population White Paper was all about. Hmm, wonder where Hong Kong got the idea from? We wish they have the same success as the incumbent party within our own shores is experiencing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Family Secrets

This was what Inderjit Singh posted in his Facebook account:
Nothing really spectacular, just an honest man speaking his honest mind. So why is he so squeamish about his critical vote on the Population White Paper? He also wrote that, "I also did not agree with the 6.9m, and especially the additional 500K to 800K new PRs and citizens." Will the real Inderjit Singh please stand up?

Hounded by the many who wanted to know if he should check in at the Institute of Mental Health, he remains opaque about revealing his schizophrenic tendencies on that voting day. He now admits he was in Parliament on Black Friday, but still did not want to say if he had intentionally left the chamber before the vote. In other words, he was absent and he was not absent, like Khaw Boon Wan saying the public housing prices are de-linked and not de-linked from the resale market. Maybe he soiled his pants when Low Thia Khiang made the surprise call for a division in the house, and provided a convenient alibi to be in the toilet cubicle at the crucial moment. Either that, or he would have been called to the woodshed later on for his earlier "hard-hitting speech". He even declined to comment on whether he had considered an abstention on the motion, which was the escape route taken by the Nominated Member of Parliament who is a well known publicity seeker for his prolific political commentaries. As the Bard puts it, these guys are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Unless Inderjit Singh follows the George Yeo escape to paradise to a foreign country, we may never know the truth. In his book, "Governance in Singapore", now available at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, Ross Worthington has a phrase for this type of behavior: "continuing to subscribe to the tenet of all secrets staying within the PAP family."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It Comes Down To This

Pritam Singh and Chen were victims of "technical difficulties"
It boils down to this, after incorporating Holland-Bukit Timah Member of Parliament Liang Eng Hwa's proposal to replace the word "policy" with "roadmap", the final vote on the controversial Population White Paper was:

77 approved (all PAP members of parliament);
13 said no, including all 9 Workers' Party Parliamentarians, 1 Non-Constituency MP (Lina Chiam) and 3 Nominated MPs (Laurence Lien, Faizah Jamal, and Janice Koh);
1 abstained (Nominated MP Eugene Tan);
8 were absent, one ostensibly being Lee Kuan Yew.

Assuming the rest of the 5 NMPs absented themselves (Tan Su Shan, Dhinakaran, Mary Liew, Teo Siong Seng, Nicholas Fang), 2 PAP MPs are unaccounted for. Maybe they are planning ahead to join George Yeo in Hong Kong. Inderjit Singh must be glad his wayang role in the good cop/bad cop episode is over, and he can safely vote according to party instructions, and not what's truly in his heart of hearts. Or did he? Singh will only admit, "All I want to say is I was not present for the vote." The exercise clearly demonstrates why the number of alternate party voices in parliament must increase.

The TV commentator claimed Lee Hsien Loong was teary eyed at one stage, as he made a final plea to a sceptical Singapore, talking about the importance of retaining a "Singapore core" of people who have families and homes here and who were willing to defend the nation. Without elaborating on his definition of "nation". Sure, his father promised to build a metropolis 10 years after being turfed out of Malaysia, but even the old man must have been thinking of a Singapore for Singaporeans. Not mainland Chinese, Filipinos, Burmese, Vietnamese or Hindi speaking Indians. Remarkably, Lee junior still referred to the foreigners as "transients", completely ignorant of the many permanent jobs lost by the PMETs. He asked a curious question, "if the non-residents outnumber the core, are we being diluted?" Liddat can also become Prime Minister.

Lee senior must have good reason to miss the watershed vote. After all, this was the guy who promised in a 1988 National Day rally: "Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up."

Last to speak, Teo Chee Hean was obviously confident of the final tally, his mind already tuned out elsewhere when he addressed Halimah Yacob as "Madam Speaker, sir". So what if the policy was cut down to roadmap status, rightside up or upside down, with more than two thirds of the seats in parliament, these characters can even change the constitution at the snap of a finger. That's how much power the 60.1 percent has given them at GE 2011.

Friday, February 8, 2013

An Upside Down World

Citing the Workers' Party (WP) role of "co-driver" of Government, Low Thia Khiang said that "It is our duty to tell the driver that he's reading the road map upside down." That brings to mind a movie called "Upside Down".

Two souls are separated by a political system bent on keeping them apart. They live on twinned worlds with gravities that pull in opposite directions. He lives in "Down Below", the poverty-stricken planet underneath, she lives in "Up Top", the wealthy, exploitative world positioned above. The only physical link for the topsy-turvy planetary alignment is the corporation "Transworld" who takes the cheap oil from Down Below and sells it back to them as overpriced electricity they can barely afford. Transworld is manned by insufferable elites. The underdogs have a solution.

Tan Chuan-Jin pressed Low for concrete initiatives, to which he was rewarded with: "If he thinks the ministry can't do very much and wants the WP to do more, perhaps he ought to consider putting his ministry's resources under the WP." Better still, resign and join George Yeo in working for the Hong Kong government. The turncoat general who used to helm the Singapore trade and industry ministries accepted an appointment to Hong Kong's new Economic Development Commission to "help strengthen Hong Kong's growth and development." He actually switched bosses from Lee Hsien Loong to Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying.

The WP has stated their positions vis-a-vis the upside down road map:
Low Birth Rates: 
The Government allocated only $400 million extra for the "comprehensive enhancements" for marriage and parenthood. Vivian Balakrishnan blew just as much ($387 million) on one sporting event. WP wants to remove the obstacles to really set birth rates on the path to recovery.
Shrinking Citizen Core:
The Government wants to "supplement" the Singapore core by "calibrated immigration". Please read Syliva Lim's speech for the definition of "core". Interesting aside: Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) heard that citizens from Philippines will be categorised as Malays because historically they are considered to have the same roots as Malays. If true, the proportion of our true blue Malay brothers and sisters is doomed to fall.
Immigration Integration:
The Government's "Multi-prong" approach in schools, workplace and community means places in school, workplace and community will continue to be taken up by the diluting alien elements. WP emphasised on family ties. When Lee Kuan Yew made one comment too many on the Taiwan-China situation, Deng Xiaoping reminded him: "This is between family. You are not family."
Ageing Population:
The Government wants our elderly to work to their death. One exception, he didn't even utter one word on the population debate - did he even attend parliament to justify his pension and pay?
The Government promised to address current strains, and yet continue to add pile on the foreign intake. WP suggest build for the quality of life for current population.

In the movie, the underdogs used their secret solution (spoiler alert: pink pollen) to unite the two worlds, instead of surrendering the special ingredient for the commercial greed of the elite. Let the buggers work harder for a change.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Khaw Doublespeak

About a week ago on 31 Jan, Khaw "made clear" that he has de-linked the prices of new flats sold by HDB from the resale flat market. He claimed to have done this ever since he took over the housing portfolio in 20011 from Mah Bow Tan, the public enemy one who aligned public housing pricing to market value.

At least one member was not asleep when Khaw went into the standard spiel about "substantial price discount", "housing grants", and "affordability" during the Parliament session of Tuesday 4th February . MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah was like, excusez-moi, "If I heard correctly just now, minister mentioned that the resale price of the flats in the vicinity is taken into consideration. I thought recently minister mentioned the price of new BTO flat has just been de-linked from the resale price?" Khaw's response has to be classic text book doublespeak:

For those not familiar with George Orwell's novel "1984", Wikipedia explains doublespeak as language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words making the truth less unpleasant, without denying its nature. Examples include "downsizing" for layoffs, "ponding" for floods, "planning parameter" for targets - you get the idea. It may also be deployed as intentional ambiguity, or reversal of meaning. In such cases, "doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth, producing a communication bypass".

On Monday, Teo Chee Hean  said Singapore was heading for a crisis given its rapidly ageing population. Yesterday, Khaw said the Government has made a major shift in the way it provide housing and public infrastructure - it will now invest and build well ahead of demand - evidencing the lack of 20/20 vision admitted by the prime minister is endemic among their ranks. So did the chicken come first or the egg? Was it the building shortfall or the population surplus that contributed to the current overcrowding? To decrypt the duplicity of utterances, throw away your Oxford or Merriam-Webster, what you need is a Concise Dictionary of English Usage as Perverted by the Pro Alien Party.

The only people talking sense are opposition members like NCMP Mrs Lina Chiam who pointed out that  soiled White Paper is based on a very unique event in human history, namely, the Baby Boomer phenomenon. "Given that this is a unique event in history and is transient in nature, albeit for 10 years or longer, is it wise to plan for a country’s population and infrastructure based on this event?"
Baby boomers (circa 1966) marching at National Day Parade

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dynamic Population For A Sustainable Singapore

It was definitely a home run for Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim of the Workers’ Party (WP). Straight off the bat, she took the words right out of our mouths when she reminded the House, “It is not just about population. It is about nationhood, the meaning of being Singaporean, how we want to face the future as a country. It is about reclaiming back Singapore.” At machine-gun rate, the soundbytes kept coming, shaving inches off the growing nose of Pinnochio Teo:

“55% is too close to the all important threshold of 50% majority.”
“The roadmap proposed in the White Paper will further dilute our national identity.”
“Indigenous Singaporeans feel under siege.” 
“for the Singapore core to be strong, the core must be strongly Singaporean in values, worldview, culture, sense of place and history, and network of friends and family.”
“new citizens see Singapore through through a different lens, and can equally make a decision to leave if the circumstances change.”

If the cabinet had not been dominated by the traitorous turncoats, Lim would have received a standing ovation for the pièce de résistance: The government has gotten its priorities the wrong way round. Instead of having a sustainable population for a dynamic Singapore, it should be “A Dynamic Population for a Sustainable Singapore”.

Quoting population expert, Frederick Meyerson, she pointed out that immigration is “essentially a one-way policy tool with permanent or long-term social, economic and environmental consequences, and it cannot be reversed without human rights violations”. Her party opposes the Population White paper because its road map will dilute national identity and shrink the ranks of born-and-bred Singaporeans to a minority. As a Eurasian, Christopher de Souza must have felt this was a bit too close to home. His own race has been thinned over the years, a pale shadow of the glory days of the likes of David Marshall and E.W. Barker.

Another point Ms Lim brought up is that immigrants grow old and consume public services as well, adding to the burden of the national budget. She asked the obvious question, “Who will support them when they grow old?" By that time, it may be very difficult to try to solve our population needs through improving TFR, but instead another White Paper may be introduced to justify bringing in even larger numbers of immigrants. She only missed the bit that most immigrants also bring in aged parents, which makes mockery of the dubious claim that newcomers "refresh" the age profile.

Isn't it nice to have our heart felt thoughts articulated in parliament for a change?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Is Singapore City Or Country?

Once again, Teo Chee Hean is caught using selective data to suggest Singapore is not such a crowded place. After attempting Hong Kong, he is using Seoul as a comparison. The lie is obvious when you fire up your computer.
Seoul the crowded city

South Korea the spacious country

One of Aesop's Fables involves a city mouse and a country mouse. The story ends like this: "Goodbye," said the country mouse, "You do, indeed, live in a plentiful city, but I am going home where I can enjoy my dinner in peace."

In the country, neighbors may be distanced miles apart, while in the city, people are stacked like sardines in tiny, claustrophobic apartments. Some people like the feeling of never being alone in a city, while others take comfort in having plenty of room between themselves and the rest of the rat race.

As more people are concentrated in a city, the population diversity tend to be greater in terms of race, religion, creed, economic background and body odours than you would find in the country.

Country life has an abundance of wilderness and unspoiled nature, along with fresh air and the opportunity to drink directly from a natural spring instead of recycled toilet water. City life, on the other hand, has more artificially constructed buildings than natural structures, and the air is more polluted because of vehicular density, factories and chemical plants. On 12th January this year, Beijing had a reading of 755 on the Air Quality Index (AQI).

Animals in the wild and and farm animals roam freely in the country, while animals in the city are likely to be locked up in isolated zoos, or living as pets caged in private dwellings.

Shopping for necessities of life, such as food, equipment and clothing, can be more convenient in the city. Country living affords fewer opportunities to buy things in stores, but people in the country often grow their own food, and less likely to be ransomed by unscrupulous merchants.

Cities have an intellectual and cultural stimulation advantage in terms of proximity of universities, museums, art galleries, bookstores and similar enterprises, while country living will have fewer of these amenities. However, life in the country can offer contemplative peace and quiet, which is conducive in its own right for becoming a more cultured person instead of ending up a duplicituous politician.

City life or country life, you can have a choice in a place like South Korea. Not so in Singapore, not when the city planners have their way. Don't let them sell you a different story.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Genocidal Thoughts

Adolf Hitler's "final solution" (German: Die Endlösung) was not the only method of eradicating an ethnic identity. The gas chamber is not the only recourse available to efficiency experts motivated by political agenda.

In the 1998 International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu, mayor of Taba Commune in Rwanda, established precedents that rape is an element of the crime of genocide.  It found that sexual assault was systematically perpetrated against Tutsi women, an integral process to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group, manifesting the nefarious Hutu intent to breed out the Tutsi race.

According to Amnesty International rape is now used as deliberate military strategy rather than opportunistic rape and pillage of previous centuries. Gita Sahgal, writer, documentary film maker and co-editor of "Refusing Holy Orders: Women and Fundamentalism in Britain", said in 2004 that it is a mistake to think such assaults are primarily about "spoils of war" or sexual gratification. She said rape is often used as a way for attackers to perpetuate social control and redraw ethnic boundaries, "Women are seen as the reproducers and carers of the community."

The statistic about 4-in-10 marriages involving foreigners is not new. In 2008, a journalist wrote about globalisation creating more chances for locals to meet, and tie the knot with non-citizens ("Four in 10 S’poreans marry foreigners", Mavis Toh, 14 oct 2008). One suspects the actual number must be higher in 2013, now that we know about the liberal immigration policies that were instituted on the quiet over the years.

The thinning of the Singaporean core started when dialect programs were taken off free-to-air broadcasts. Fewer senior citizens, during this coming Chinese New Year reunion gathering, will be able to comprehend the exchange greetings of their grandchildren, thanks to the language barrier. Come 2030, we may not have a Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa or Deepavali. With 50 percent of the population dominated by invasive foreign elements, they will be demanding their own cultural celebrations, like the Burmese Buddhist New Year ("Thingyan"). Ice kachang will be replaced by the Pinoy's halo-halo (already available at Lucky Plaza). The 6.9 million figure is not the only horror in the Population White Paper, the demise of the Singaporean identity is the worst scenario.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Shot-Gun Wedding Of The Century

Minister of National Development Khaw Boon Wan used an interesting analogy to justify the horrendous population figure of 6.9 million crammed into our tiny island. He likened it to planning a wedding dinner, presumably not the noisy void deck type.

"You're organising a wedding banquet and you invited 1,000 people but your guests did not RSVP, so you don't know how many are coming," he said. "Will it be 700, 800, 900 or a thousand? What do you think?" asked Khaw, adopting the infuriating query style of Teo Chee Hean. "And if 700 or 800 turn up, yes, it costs you some money, there's some wastage, but you avoid embarrassment and chaos. On the other hand, if you want to save money, you just provide for 700, cross your fingers, but if 800 turn up, then there will be under-catering."

There's only one problem in this scenario. He's talking about a shot-gun wedding. And the guests are people we don't know, don't care to know, utter strangers showing up at the door from China, North India, Philippines, Burma, Eastern Europe, and the odd Nigerian scamster. Aliens who received the invite not from true blue Singaporeans, but some URA planner turned Benedict Arnold, selling out our country for some pieces of silver.

He's at his $8 heart bypass trick again, conveniently forgetting to tell us how much he paid out in insurance premiums before he went under the knife. Or the large discount he enjoys courtesy of his Civil Service Card entitlement. Everybody else pays cash.

Urging Singaporeans to trust the Government, he said, "Please, don't worry". And then proceeded to paint a rosy future where there could be cars without drivers on Singapore roads by 2030 to ease traffic congestion. He obviously is ignorant of the simple fact that congestion is caused when too many cars are put on too few roads, with or without drivers. And oh, he hopes that people will no longer be attached to the idea of owning a car, and certificates of entitlement will thus not be "a headache to everybody." With such wackos as wedding planners, no wonder it's an uphill task to persuade Singaporeans to exchange marriage vows.

Worst case scenario