Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hard Of Hearing

You would have thought they heard the strident voices of a people by now, resonating with similar demands on the discredited Central Provident Fund (CPF) system:
  • We want our money back at age 55 (as contractually promised);
  • We want the returns due us, not the conjured pathetic rate;
  • We want transparency so that future generations will not be hoodwinked (like the present lot).

Instead, they are commissioning a new study to find out what the people want, for retirement, and for health needs. Latter must refer to the hated Medisave component of the CPF scam. The market research firm appointed, at taxpayers' expense of course, "The Nielsen Company" may not be a $2 company - unlike Action Information Management (AIM), they actually have qualified staff onboard - will be conducting face-to-face interviews. Anyone familiar with survey work will recognise that data gathering is only the icing for the final report and recommendations. A clever accountant, especially the hired gun type, when asked what is one plus one, will be quick to respond with "What do you want it to be?"

But they are not taking chances with this exercise. The respondents for the interview have been pre-selected, just like the first batch of compliant participants for the National Conversation. As incentive to give the "right" answers, this anointed lot will be receiving supermarket vouchers worth $50 cash (not Medisave top up or utility bill subsidy). To seal the deal, even their spouses can get vouchers worth $25. Was it George Yeo who said pork barrel politics was invented by the Americans?

When they have a working formula, you betcha they won't tweak it. Even though the public uproar is all about tweaking the CPF ponzi scheme.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tit For Tat

So who fired the first salvo? While it's not exactly raining missiles like in the Middle East, the trade of tit for tat has to cease. If the paper generals are trying to justify the purchase of the flawed F-35, they had better come up with a better excuse.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) slapped a hefty increase in Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) fees for foreign-registered cars, from $20 to $35 with effect from August ("Higher entry permit fees for foreign vehicles"; ST, July 2). True to character, the money grabbing behemoth tried to downplay the revenue generation exercise by claiming that 9 in 10 of the 13,000 foreign-registered cars will not be affected by the fee increase as they enter and stay in Singapore during VEP-free periods. VEP period runs Mondays – Fridays, 5pm – 2am. Simultaneously, the Goods Vehicle Permit fee for foreign-registered goods vehicles will be raised from S$10 to S$40 per calendar month. Singaporeans will just have to brace themselves for a price hike in vegetables and other foodstuff trucked across.

Naturally, our neighbor in the north did not take things lying down. As expected, Prime Minister Najib Razak soon announced that his government would go ahead with the introduction of a levy on non-Malaysian vehicles entering the country via Johor, selfie or no selfie. The Malaysian Highway Authority made it clear it will start collecting tolls from cars entering and exiting at the Sultan Iskandar checkpoint from next month (this Friday). Cars will be taxed S$6.50 (RM16.50) for a return day trip to Singapore, compared to the current one-way charge of about S$1.10 (RM 2.90). Buses will pay S$5.20 (RM13.30), while taxis will be charged S$3.20 (RM8.20) per two-way trip. Malaysian politicians from both sides of the bench lament that the hike will impose a heavy blow to their countrymen who commute daily to Singapore for work.

Determined to have the last word on the subject, LTA countered that if there is a new, or an increase, in toll charges by Malaysia at the Causeway, Singapore will match them in due course. It has always been Singapore's practice to peg its tolls to match those set by Malaysia at the Causeway and the Second Link, so they say. Notice that when the politicians settle scores, it is the ordinary citizen, Malaysian or Singaporean, who suffer the consequences. The Swahili saying goes like this: “When two elephants fight, the grass suffers; and, when the same two elephants make love, the grass also suffers.”
Lesson in voting with your feet

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Mother Of All Distraction

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on Singaporeans to keep victims of the ongoing conflict in Gaza in their "thoughts and prayers" and to continue supporting fund-raising initiatives for humanitarian assistance. Before you could shoot up your hand ("keechiu!) to point out that according to Human Rights Watch's World Report 2014, despite controlling an overwhelming majority in Parliament, the Singapore government continues to impose wide-ranging restrictions on core civil and political rights. Singapore is also among the only 10 countries in the United Nations like South Sudan, Tonga, Myanmar and Brunei, which received a “red card” for ratifying 4 or less out of the 18 International Human Rights Treaties. Even countries like Afghanistan, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea and many African countries ratified and signed more International Human Rights Treaties than Singapore did. Still, the sheeple gathered at Hong Lim Green to protest on cue.

For the sake of a unbiased perspective - not easily available from the lowly ranked local paper - this is gleaned from the Economist's summary of the development at the Gaza strip:
The current violence was triggered by the murder of 3 Israeli teenagers, snatched on their way back from study at a yeshiva in an Israeli settlement in the West bank. That led to the the arrest of hundreds of Palestinians, including some prisoners recently released under an American sponsored scheme to boost peace talks with Abbas. In retaliation, and outraged at the murder of a young Palestinian, militants fired rockets into the heart of Israel. The Israel Defence Force responded with lethal force. A military spokeswoman told AFP that since the July 8 start of the military operation, over 2,000 rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza hit Israel, with another 492 intercepted. A scenario that could have played out at the Little India enclave if the disgruntled foreign workers there had more effective projectiles at hand than trash cans and beer bottles.

In his facebook post, Lee said that while the Middle East is far away, Singaporeans still empathise with the pain and suffering of the Palestinian people, because of our common humanity. As if it's inhuman to empathise with the long suffering of our very own local born and bred.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Entitlement Notification

After Raymond's kids moved out to set up their own homes, he decided to downgrade from his landed property and move into a small condominium unit with his wife.  Maintaining his own house was getting to be quite a chore for his creaking bones. The extra money would make retirement a bit more pleasant, as it was tiresome being asset-rich and cash poor. Although he had no fixed income, the Annual Value (AV) of his property probably resulted in his receipt of $100 per annum for the 5-year Medisave Top-Up a.k.a. "Benefits from Budget 2014". That's less than $10 per month.

Lim was retrenched at age 58, and never managed to secure steady employment since. He decided to sell his 3-room flat and move in with his daughter as she has only one child, and there was an extra room. The proceeds from the sale should take care of the evening years for him and his homemaker wife. The son-in-law was never excited about Lim's retirement plans, and would express his unhappiness every so often. Since he is now asset-less, Lim was entitled to $200 for his 5-year Medisave Top-Up, plus his $250 (GST Voucher-Cash) and $250 (GST Voucher-Cash: Seniors' Bonus).

The irony is that Raymond had been a life-long supporter of the current regime, and had always been voting for the "correct" political party. A civil servant from first job to retirement, he felt short-changed. Lim was one of those embittered uncles who would rant to anyone within hearing range of his "kopi-tiam kakis". You would too, if your private sector career was ruined by a cheaper foreign talent import. Besides going on about the evils of GST, he is equally vocal about CPF Life and the Minimum Sum.

The Permanent Secretary (Finance)(Performance) who signed off the GST Voucher letter wrote:
"We hope that this letter has been written in a way that is clear to you. If not, please let us have suggestions on how to improve this letter at"

What is clear is that GST is still regressive, with or without the "permanent" GST rebates. One suggestion is to bring the letter to the smallest room in the house. First it is in front of you, then it is behind you, then flushed away with a copious amount of water.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Define Spending

The sophistry of words can get you only so far. Clinton got himself into a real mess trying to explain what he was doing with a cigar and an intern called Lewinsky.

One definition of "spend" is to give (money) to pay for goods, services, or so as to benefit someone or something. The only way not to spend money is to hide it in a biscuit tin like grandma used to do. Even asking a bank to keep it for you (a service) can be a risky business, if one of their employees happen to be Nick Leeson.

Tharman has made it crystal clear that in the early days, before they amended the constitution in 1992, CPF monies were expended on Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS), then used by the Government to finance infrastructure, which probably included the assets that were transferred by the Government to Temasek at time of inception.

We also know now that GIC knows is managing Government assets, a hodgepodge of commingled sources of funds which includes CPF monies. The same GIC which, over the last 5 years, it earned a pathetic 0.5 per cent in Singapore dollar terms. Your friendly neighborhood bank probably gives you a better deal in fixed deposits.

Do we still need to dwell further into the semantics of spending like Clinton did for the definition of sex?

Ma always says she keeps our angpows to save for our future needs, like university education or the big wedding expense. Maybe that's what we should do with the CPF - lock it away untouched in a special vault, where even the Colonel Sanders look-alike has no access to. The Government has plenty of other sources of funds - taxes, tariffs, fines, etcetera, etcetera - to generate the pathetic 2.5% interest rate paid out to CPF account holders, and still have lots of leftover monopoly money for the fund managers in GIC to play with. We trust our mother, can we say similar for the Government?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Malleable Rules

Shanghai TV's expose of another China food scare is about a supplier of McDonald's and Yum Group's KFC using expired meat and unhygienic practices. "The rules are dead, and people are alive, that's simple," a worker told the undercover reporter. "Dead rules and alive people" is commonly used in China to indicate corners have been cut. The variant in Singapore is that rules are malleable, and the people continue to be fooled.

When news broke last night that the Government is reviewing the CPF interest rates, the initial reaction was that voices from people like NMP Laurence Lien were finally being heard. Lien thinks that the Singapore Government should share more with Singaporeans if it is able to make more in its investments using CPF members’ monies. ("Joint responsibility for old age income security", ST 21 July).

Instead, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is thinking of providing options for CPF members to undertake higher risks to earn higher returns than that afforded by the CPF Investment Scheme system. Maybe a free pass to the casinos is in the works. He said, "The Government is not a commercial entity that needs to be profitable and obtain compensation in return for taking risks," without referencing the double digit returns claimed by its investment arms and where those juicy commercial returns are parked.

One blogger pointed out that the GIC website FAQ clearly states that they (before June) do not know if they invest our CPF because it is not made explicit to them. Now (after June) Tharman is saying GIC knows it is managing Government assets, including sources from the Singapore Government Securities (SGS) mechanism which is the official conduit to the CPF cookie jar. The similarity to SIA's honesty about flying over Donetsk, before and after 17 July, is unmistakable.

"We can't let McDonald's or Yum China know that we add (chicken skin)," the same China worker said about their unsavoury practices. "They won't let us do that. Otherwise, we would lose the contracts. Who wants to do business with you if you break your promise?" It remains to be seen if the people will continue to do business with the ruling clique after all the broken promises.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stingy On Health

One year ago we helped a relative with the paperwork to pay for his monthly consultation bills via Medisave. There were "packages" to choose from, which determined how much could be drawn down within one year; the bigger the sum, the higher the cash co-payment attached to each application. First frustration encountered was the administration fee - he had to pay to access his own money. Obviously enough brickbats were received to make them cancel that charge months later. Recently, the scheme has been cancelled altogether. Now it's a cash co-payment upfront if Medisave is to be used for payment at each visit. No cash, no medical attention, even if money is sitting pretty at the Medisave account.

World Bank President Jim-Yong Kim would be less effusive in singing the praises of the Singapore’s healthcare system if he had a better grasp of the chicanery in the system that makes sure Singaporeans pay for their own bills. There's nothing to be proud about when he crowed, “I don’t think there’s a single system in the world that spends as little as Singapore does in terms of percentage of GDP (in healthcare) and gets the outcomes that it gets." Especially when the outcome is that an elderly woman would rather take her own life rather than burden her family with huge medical bills.

According to World Health Organisation statistics, the total health expenditure (the sum of public and private health expenditure) for Singapore as a percentage of Gross domestic product (GDP) is only 4.7 percent, compared to Australia's 9.1. Singapore's GDP (nominal) per capita is US$78,744 (2013), Australia's is US$43,550. Either Singaporeans are super healthy, or the Singapore government is super stingy.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On Better Communications

Even if you were not caught in the total chaos on the North-South Line of December 2011, you cannot escape being riled by the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT)'s crude commercial capitalisation on the commuters' misery.

The same penchant for profit over empathy reared its ugly head again with the Singapore Airlines (SIA) social media broadcast posted shortly after MH17 was shot down over Ukraine.

The outrage is not just about their heartless attitude towards the loss of 298 innocent lives. It has also to do with their crass attempt to lie about using the same flight path over a war zone.

Even the state sponsored mouth piece confirmed that, in the last 7 days before the tragedy of 17 July, SIA flew over Donetsky 75 times, more than Malaysia Airlines (48 times), topped only by Aeroflot (86 times). records show that SQ 351 was 25km away from MH17 at the time of the incident. The Buk-M1 surface-to-air missile that brought down MH17 is guided by its TELAR vehicle's monopulse type radar which can track aircraft flying between 15 m and 22 km (50 to 72,000 ft) altitudes.

The real tragedy is that the same breed of government appointed elites are installed at upper echelons of SMRT and SIA. The same get-out-of-my-elite-uncaring-face types behind the Population White Paper and Medishield Life. Don't be surprised that these cads will be first to pop the champagne bottle if a SIA plane was hit instead, and provide useful distraction from the many instances of misgovernance. The SIA spokesman said, "We recognise that the information could have been better communicated," a line that has been used once too often.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Clear As Mud

Following Yaacob Ibrahim’s once-in-50-years' rescinding of a decision to pulp 3 children books, National Library Board (NLB) CEO Elaine Ng held a media briefing (18 Jul) to further “clarify” NLB’s position on the sacrilegious issue of destroying literature.

“Many objected to the idea that books will be pulped. As book lovers ourselves, we understand the reaction. We do not want to be viewed as destroying books.” However, NLB will still be remembered in history for doing so - one of the books, "Who’s In My Family?", has been eradicated.  Last we heard, a replacement copy has not been purchased to be shelved in the adult section.

The minister wrote that "Who’s in My Family" had already been disposed of as the title had been reviewed earlier. Guess what, the MDA has also reviewed the Archie comic and deemed it definitely non pro-family material, whatever that means. Ng explained, "We bought it before the MDA guideline came into place. But that rule only applies to booksellers." One government, two sets of rules, sounds remarkably like a plagiarisation of the comic's tagline, "Two worlds, two loves, two destinies". Sweet.

The only clear message that seems to transcend the tangled mess is that two individuals, one minister and one chief executive officer, are trembling at the very thought of their high paying jobs being pulped.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lying Through The Nose

It is starting to look like the Brompton bikes saga was just the tip of the iceberg.

The Auditor-General's Office (AGO) has reported that certain documents relating to  the National Parks Board's development of the Gardens by the Bay may have been created and backdated to give the impression that they existed when the transactions took place, and deemed a "serious irregularity".

An internal inquiry by the Ministry of National Development (MND) confirmed that an NParks officer had indeed created and backdated 16 letters, purportedly issued by NParks to its suppliers, to satisfy AGO queries. The same officer also arranged for the suppliers to issue a further 11 backdated letters - 5 of which were created by the officer on their behalf. In plain English, someone also fibbed to another civil service officer.

And, as in the early stage of the Brompton bike fiasco, MND is quick to claim that the integrity of the system of contract variations and payments has not been compromised. An eery similitude of Khaw Boon Wan's premature judgment that the purchase of the $2,600 foldable bikes was above board.

However, the AGO is skeptical about MND's trite explanation that their officer had fooled the system "so to regularise gaps in the documentation of communications with the suppliers for completeness of record". Apparently in the MND scheme of things, lying to an investigating officer is part of the company culture. Or it's just how the minister in charge downplays any evidence of shenanigans.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's All About Censorship

Even Archie is not spared
They disallowed the satellite dish for private installations because ownership will mean access to unfettered broadcasts from the skies. The advent of the internet made nonsense of their control of the air waves.  Still they are doing their darnedest best make sure we read, hear and see the right stuff.

Theatre educator T Sasitharan, former journalist Romen Bose and Yale-NUS College Professor Robin Hemley are upset with the the National Library Board (NLB) and said that they “cannot in good conscience” continue to be judges for the non-fiction category of the Singapore Literature Prize. Other prominent literary figures are boycotting NLB-related events such as the Singapore Writers’ Festival and talks organised by the NLB.

In a letter, the trio lamented that NLB’s move is “censorship that has no place in any free and democratic society”. The mainstream media preferred to pitch a battle between fundamental conservatives and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) crowd. It's the old Brit tactic of divide and rule, so that attention is diverted from the important abuses of our life savings. Gay or straight, all are affected by the mismanagement in housing, transportation, health care and employment issues. Add the continuing influx of foreign elements, and you can see the cauldron boiling over with a toxic mix.  Even Isetan now has a religious card in play.

Don't be seduced by Hri Kumar's contrarian position of poo-pooing NLB's pulping exercise. He is simply being realistic about the 26,000 votes that could come in handy during the next election. Censorship was always top priority for a political party hell bent on perpetuating their rule ad infinitum.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Elusive Truth

Dark clouds gathering over the Vatican
Italy's La Repubblica daily quoted Pope Francis as saying 1 in 50 clerics is a pedophile. The figure represents about 8,000 priests out of more than 400,000 worldwide, according to the latest statistics from the Vatican. A figure which includes priests "and even bishops and cardinals." A figure which includes priests in Singapore who are supposedly strongly pro-family. And we are worried about penguins?

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the quotations in the newspaper on the existence of pedophile cardinals did not correspond to what the pope actually said. According to the BBC, off-the-cuff statements made by the pope often lend themselves to ambiguity.

But our ministers were not speaking off-the-cuff, either in or out of parliament, when they continue their spiel on the unholy mess of the Central Provident Fund (CPF). Even the local rag put out an ad to reassure the doubting Thomases that "With CPF, working Singaporeans do not have to pay for the retirement benefits of those who have retired. Every dollar saved in CPF will benefit you and your loved ones". That last sentence can't be correct. If you don't have to pay for others who have retired, the number should not include "your loved ones" - latter will have to bear their own burdens. If the pope has a credibility problem, what more the propagators of a flawed retirement system?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Myths Busted

Real generals like Patton are famed for their tank busting exploits. Lesser warriors like Tan Chuan Jin have to settle for myth busting. Not that he is doing too well on the battle front of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) wars.

One of the "myths" he set his sights on: the minimum sum is a shifting goal post. In his warped mentality, the number changes only with the cohort affected, therefore no change is involved. The kind of perverse logic that broke the original promise of releasing the retirement funds at age 55. Nothing has changed, so he says, only the rules have changed. Poor Dr Toh Chin Chye must be rolling in his grave.

There is one myth that is really propagated: the CPF is our retirement package. Firstly, it cannot be ours by any definition in the English language since we are hapless to the twisting of the access rules without our consent. Then, there are the millions siphoned to the secretive "reserves" portion of the public housing pricing, which has resulted in the anomaly of the Singapore asset-rich cash-poor social phenomenal. Don't even get started on the returns from the CPF - the only guys guaranteed a cushy retirement at the Bahamas are the fund managers. The sickness has now spread to the Medishield Life sham. Opposition members have asked on our behalf why Medishield needs such a large reserves account, a similar question once levied at the National Kidney Foundation board. As in the case of the NKF fiction, there was no credible answer.

Oh, there is one other myth being perpetuated. Paying millions to the ministers is necessary for sustainable government. I see they are now encouraging Singaporeans to start walking, just the nudge we need to start voting with our feet.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Non Pro-Family Images Under Threat

Male and male together - mana boleh

Two women - also tak boleh

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Burning The Next Step

On August 25, 1914, the German army ravaged the city of Leuven, deliberately burning the university's library of 300,000 medieval books and manuscripts with gasoline. The first exhibits one sees on entering the KU Leuven library is the burnt out remains of priceless literature salvaged from the attempt to wipe out a cultural heritage. We didn't photograph the charred fragments, preserved painstakingly in plastic cases, because book burning has to be thing of the evil past, has no place in the modern day and age.

One parent in Singapore did organise a bonfire of assessment books after his kids cleared their final examinations. That was a pretty dumb thing to do, fire hazard and all, but nothing serious to be riled up about.

The National Library taking off books from the shelves because of one bigot's input is a different matter. It's a slippery slope from there to the conflagration of literary archives. In a literal sense, it's the next logical step from the minister's directorate to "read the right stuff".  The kind of move that makes a laughing stock out of Singapore, the equivalent of the ban of chewing gum. The joke that comes right after Singapore being a fine city. Makes you wonder why the millions are splurged on the F-1 night race or the youth olympics to put the little red dot on the world map. What we don't need is for neo-Nazis to create more adverse publicity, and throw more mud on our faces.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gimme The Old Model Anytime

The most popular minister in the cabinet just said that fare hikes are needed to keep bus contracting model sustainable. Makes you wonder if he ever asked himself whether the people needed a more expensive bus contracting model in the first place.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew also said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is working on a framework to assess the passenger threshold a new route ought to meet before it can be operated. What he should work on is the threshold of pain the average passenger will tolerate before this peaceful island will really turn red with seething anger.

Then follows the standard con job with the subsidy spiel: “The eventual amount of subsidy will crucially depend on whether fares and bus service standards are set realistically." We know by now the cost of the new bus system will be paid for either directly by commuters in the form of fare hikes or indirectly by taxpayers (in the form of Government "subsidies"). Notice the huge budget surplus this year is not factored into the equation.

Instead of stressing that new routes and higher service standards have to be “assessed judiciously”, what should be assessed is the performance of the ministers in respect of taking the commuters to the cleaners year after year. A new route could be tested for a few months and, if it does not cross the passenger threshold, the authorities may have to “sometimes make the painful decision to cut that route and eliminate it”. If pain alleviation is the objective, it would a more painless decision to cut some ministerial jobs.

Lui declined to reveal the Government’s budget to operate the system and how much it was prepared to subsidise the routes at this juncture. That's how paper generals and rear admirals work, spend the money first, let others worry about the cost. We only know one thing for sure: getting to work is going to me more expensive.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hot Money

Indonesia's Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK) Deputy Chairman Agus Santoso told Jakarta Post that while the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) move to stop issuing the S$10,000 note from October 1 onwards would "meaningfully" help Indonesia curb rampant corruption and money-laundering, withdrawing or imposing a new expiration date on the notes would be more effective.

"If the bill remained on the market, let's say until five to 10 years after its production stops, Indonesia would still be vulnerable to money-laundering and graft," Mr Agus said in the report.

It was bad enough when people like Samad (not his real name) used to hand carry sports bags chockful of US dollars across via the Batam-Singapore ferries. Remember what Lee Kuan Yew said about Indonesians flying in for weekend shopping and be back to Jakarta by Monday morning? Well, Samad's task was to meet some of these visitors at selected hotels to pass over the hot money, either as gratitude for favours extended by the politically connected or plain old palm greasing. Your boss trust you with all that cash, ever feel tempted to pocket few hundred dollar bills for yourself? Samad said even if he did, no one will notice, the system frowns on receipts which tend to leave a paper trail.

The $10,000 notes would have made his "day job" a lot lighter. Heck, he can probably dispense with the attention getting sports bag. Samad dresses casually, you'll never suspect he was loaded to the gills with cash. And if the immigration officers ever notice his frequent passport stamps, they never seem to want to know why. It's not known as Sin City for nothing.
Scene from "The Counterfeiters", movie about Nazis
printing money in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Monday, July 7, 2014

EZ Cash

Why do EZ-Link cardholders have to pay 20 cents every time they top up their card at all DBS, OCBC ATMs and AXS stations? The easy answer is "... if we can collect more money, why not..."

This new gotcha came into effect at the start of July. Top up is still free if effected at places like Transit Link sales offices, Add Value Machines and General Ticketing Machines (GTM) located at MRT stations and selected bus interchanges - they are not telling us where - as well as EZ-Link Top-up Machines at People's Association (PA) Community Centres.

An EZ-Link card user said: "I didn't even know that this new surcharge update was there. So I think it would have been much better if they put up some kind of notice to inform the general public."

In response, EZ-Link said the top up fee of 20 cents had already been waived for 5 years to allow sufficient time for consumers to try out the service. Apparently now is the time to collect. EZ-Link claims they have been bearing the cost, without explaining how and where the cost is incurred since DBS, OCBC ATMs and AXS stations are the interfaces affected. Maybe some $2 company is acting as middle men between these unmanned terminals and the faceless EZ-Link.

The Consumer Association of Singapore, not exactly one famed for championing the cause of consumers in Singapore - you actually have to pay them a fee to look into a complaint - said EZ-Link should "enhance transparency by communicating better to consumers by putting posters at permanent locations such as at the walls near ATMs." What, and ruin the golden opportunity to rip off customers who don't read the fine print? Posters are fine to boost poor attendance at PA hosted events like live broadcast of football matches, but broadcasting avenues for cutting costs and saving precious money is never top priority.
Great money saving housing alternative not available

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Electrifying Alternatives

Whenever you are out of town, never, never ask about local prices of cars. That's one sure way to shoot up your blood pressure. And you don't want to end up in a hospital, not with the rigged Medishield Life premiums awaiting.

Far from being amongst the lowest tax paying countries, we are ripped off in many ways, key of which is the cost of private vehicle ownership. You don't need a fancy sports job like Anton Casey's to get away from the olfactory infestation of public transport, just any mobile private space should suffice. Unfortunately, even if and when the compact electric cars are available, the taxes will make sure only the elites can afford the latest toy.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Definitely Out Of Country

You know you are not in Singapore when the population is 99 percent local born and bred. Even the sweeper at the train station platform is local, so are the workers emptying the trash bins.

The station master must have wished he had stayed in bed instead of having to deal with two alien cultures in one morning. A very dark African in a business suit was obviously having problems communicating with the paleface ang moh. Seeing the chicken-duck conversation was not getting any headway, we barged in with our own request for assistance. He looked at us quixotically and asked if we spoke English. Yes, we do, we announced with pride, and he proceeded to provide us with directions for the platforms. At this, the flustered African turned blacker than his natural complexion and protested, "But I am speaking English too!" The station master suddenly realised his gaffe, and turned to answer the African bro's travel questions, the fog of cultural bias having been lifted. We didn't mind, we have experienced our own headaches with the strange speech of the foreign elements in our midst at home.

The trains here are only 80 percent full at peak - that's seats occupied, nobody has to stand. The cabins have power points to charge your mobile phone during the ride, and a toilet onboard. Don't suggest these nifty features to the SMRT fellows, they'll just use them as excuses to hike the fare, again.