Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Power Wheel

Last Wednesday Singapore banned US-based “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc from entering the country to conduct seminars. For a guy reputed to be the "rock-star" of the dating game, he's should have been more discreet. What he should have done was to hit on a little old lady quietly as a bogus tour guide, and the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) would grant him entry permit faster than you can say "Pikachu!" And throw him residential papers for good measure, duly endorsed by a gullible female member of parliament.

There's nothing original about Blanc. The stuff he "teaches" are all old hat, trashy lines from juvenile tabloids. Samples of his "course material":
  • How To Pick Up Girls From Open To Close;
  • How To Convey The Supercharged Self;
  • How To Make Yourself 1000% More Interesting;
  • How To Never Get Paralysed & Get Better With Girls Faster, etc 

Even his Power and Control Wheel is a rip off from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project. This chart shows you the kinds of behavior abusers use to get and keep control over their partners. If you change the last word to "citizens", you can appreciate the allusion is too close for comfort. It is no coincidence that Chan Chun Sing, who is Minister of Social and Family Development, chimed in in defence: "Violence against innocent people is unlawful and totally unacceptable. We cannot allow people to perpetuate such unlawful activities in our country."

How about these types of violence we have grown accustomed to?
  • Using Intimidation - letters of demand when Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) are in arrears
  • Using Emotional Abuse - remarks like "daft", "ignorant" and "the spurs are not stuck on your hinds"
  • Using Isolation - denial of access to lawyer when "helping in police investigations"
  • Minimizing, Denying And Blaming - shifting responsibility, as in "not my fishball stick" syndrome
  • Using Children - exploiting Special Needs Children as human shields from heckling;
  • Using Male Privilege - Singapore not ready for a Indian female prime minister;
  • Using Economic Abuse - withholding our CPF to invest in bum deals;
  • Using Coercion and Threats - send in the army in event of a "freak" election

Speaking to host Chris Cuomo on CNN about a photo that looks like he is choking a woman, Blanc said it was a "horrible horrible attempt at humour". And that it was taken out of context. The last excuse has been used once too often. And not just by Blanc.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

In Good Company

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was honoured at a dinner held by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) on Tuesday night. Among the 105 attendees present at its Senior Police Officers' Mess, it must be inevitable some of those jostling to have a picture taken with him captured in the frame will have ulterior motives mind. Yang Yin was not the only one who knows how to capitalise on a close photographic association.

Former sergeant with the SPF, Ananthan Thillagan, is alleged to have conned another ex-police officer and his wife out of $50,000 via an investment option involving gold mines in Papua New Guinea. Recovery company JMS Rogers said Ananthan had claimed to be a special aide to former President S R Nathan, and a former bodyguard to ex-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Hey, if the three multi-millionaires trusted him with their lives, surely you can trust him with your life savings. His accuser said when he was swindled in January this year, Ananthan was employed by the Ministry of Home Affairs as the special aide to  S R Nathan. Which raises an interesting question: Why are public funds still expended on the ex-president, and does he require to be propped up too?

"Because he was working for people in power, he often threw names of powerful people to reinforce his influence and connections," read the police report. Ananthan had apparently used his high level connections in the civil service and his wife’s position as an Assistant Director in the Attorney General’s Chambers as part of his confidence-building scheme to win trust. Ananthan also claimed the Minister of Trade and Industry had signed up for the deal. Needless to say, no comment was registered from the referenced Minister.

The SPF said Ananthan resigned from the Police Force in July 2011, and that's that. Implying present company are all spicky clean and above reproach. It's like the tour guide from China being nailed for false invoices - over invoicing is less heinous a crime, if that's the lesson to be learned from the Law Society - while the web of deceit to cheat a little old lady is deemed too much dirty linen to be aired. What clout Intan Azura bte Moktar had in endorsing his residence application may never be revealed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paper Qualifications

The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Ranking® is reputed to be the most widely read university comparison of their kind. In addition to exploring the world's top 800 universities overall, you can also compare the ranking of universities in a specific region, by subject area, or based on factors such as reputation or research citations. National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have moved up 2 places in the 2014 World University Rankings – NUS is now ranked 22nd and remains the top Asian university, while NTU is ranked 39th.

NUS came in 39th place in a new ranking by international publishing company Nature Publishing Group this month (Nov 2014), making it the highest-ranked Singapore institution on the index. Highest in that NTU was ranked 42nd, while the Agency for Science, Technology and Research was ranked 133rd. Worldwide, China's Chinese Academy of Sciences was ranked as the top institution. The Nature Index takes into account articles chosen from 68 nature science journals.

Differing from the Nature Index, the Nature Publishing Index (NPI) is calculated from research articles published in 18 journals by Nature Publishing Group. The NPI places NUS at the 46th position among its Global Top 100 list of research institutions, up 28 places from 74th in 2012.

NTU president Bertil Andersson has an explanation for all these placings, "By continuing to attract the best professors and students from Singapore and around the world, I expect NTU will break into Times Higher's top 50 universities in a few year's time." Times Higher Education World University Rankings is yet another index, which places NUS 25th and NTU 61st.

Unfortunately the Singaporean post-graduate scholar who was impregnated by Associate Professor Yu Wanli of the prestigious Peking University is a sad reminder that not all in possession of paper qualifications have their heads screwed on right. Apparently she was fully aware Prof Yu was into bondage, swingers' parties and one-night stands. Our very own sex-for-grades law professor from the NUS pales by comparison. No wonder the ministers have been dissing the importance of chasing a university degree. Especially when university dons - who supposedly have to publish or perish - still have time to chase skirts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Going To War

When Cassius Clay a.k.a. Muhammad Ali showed up at the induction at the Old Post Office building in Houston, one pace forward would have meant acceptance of the call-up to serve in Vietnam.
"Why should me and other so-called negroes go 10,000 miles, away from home here in America to drop bombs and bullets on other innocent, brown people who's never bothered us?"

Muhammad Ali refused the draft to go into Vietnam in 1967 and it cost him his World Heavyweight Champion  title, 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He said that if the Vietnamese came over and attacked this country, he would be the first one to defend it.

So why is the journalist going on about sending National Servicemen to fight the war in the Middle East ("Get national servicemen to volunteer for overseas missions", TODAY, Tuesday 25 Nov)? Just because Tony Blair was a willing poodle for George Bush Jr, should our young men risk their lives for some politician's ego trip? The irony is that the United States had fought to introduce democracy to countries like Iraq - and some say they have failed miserably - when our own elected officials are adamant that "Western democracy" is not meant for us. Why then go to war?

Sure the generals would like some war stories to tell their grand children, and grassroots leaders - is that why the ex-general is now in Acheh? Patton loved to be called "old blood and guts", but the grunt slogging in the mud was right to point out: "Oh yeah, our blood, his guts". The writer must have missed his medication when he penned that "Singapore can be confident that national servicemen will step forward and volunteer to serve on the SAF's fourth journey to the Middle East."

The real battle worth fighting for is within our homeland. It's not just defending our jobs and livelihood from the foreigners brought onshore by the pro-alien party. It's also about taking back what rightfully belongs to us in the first place, starting with the balance in our Central Provident Fund.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Running Out Of Smart Ideas

The Prime Minister's Office has appointed Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan to oversee the "Smart Nation Programme Office". Not exactly the smartest of moves, given the propensity of the gutter politician to throw good money after bad, and yet to account for the overblown budget of the Youth Olympic Games. In particular, what exactly was buried under the miscellaneous charge ("Other Costs") of $78.9 million.

The haze was not as horrific as last year, no thanks to any contribution of his. Someone must have figured out he should stop sitting in the corner and twiddling his thumbs and do something useful to justify the million dollar paycheck. Something nebulous as a 3D project that defies imagination. Who needs a new 3D map for animal sightings, potential hazards for cyclists, or even the best mee pok, nasi lemak or mee siam mai hum? Google maps aside, there are apps plentiful to hunt down the discreet carpark for a surreptitious rendezvous between a senior civil servant and a compliant IT vendor. BTW, anyone with half a brain would think IT is under the auspices of the Ministry for Communications and Information. Has Yaacob gone off to fight for the ISIS?

The Executive Deputy Chairman of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and Co-Chair of National Infocomm Awards (NIA) 2014 trumpeted, "Singapore is committed to become the world's first Smart, and using technology and data in new ways that can improve the lives of people of all ages is the foundation of what it means to be a Smart Nation." Ouch, that must be a painful reminder that 60.1 percent of the electorate is still dumb enough to vote in the same political party.

It was the older Lee who once told the Future China Global Forum audience, "The Taiwanese are ruthless, Hong Kongers are shameless and Singaporeans are ignorant." Maybe that's why the younger Lee thinks it's about time for Singaporeans to appear intelligent.

But not too smart. As in demanding the return of their life savings at age 55 as originally promised. Or go online to highlight how one Singaporean can be outnumbered 7 to 1 by foreigners, here at home, not in downtown Manila. Tan Chuan-Jin thinks that "Unfortunately, these actions backfire as potential employers will be reluctant to take on these individuals." So the smart thing to do when threatened by an overwhelming force is to back down and keep quiet? Not exactly the advice you would expect from an ex-general. It appears that Singaporeans will need permission first to get smart.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Difference Of Art

Like Ford's Model T, available only in black

Definitely a more colourful alternative
The first piece of "art" won her $32,500 in the UOB Painting of the Year 2014 Competition. Ms Om explained that the 100 cm by 100 cm oil on canvas is supposed to be a reflection of a starry night sky, probably marred by the haze from Indonesia. You could never guess that by the "N-PIN56L" title given to the piece, obviously bearing no clue to the 57 layers of colour applied. Don't bother to ask what camel brushes were instrumental for the creative labour of love: ""I used 6 mm tape to create the grid. Each layer is a compilation of a grid, the paint layer and the tape removed and applied again, and then add on another layer."

The second creative effort is more recognizable, spray paint being the medium of choice preferred by graffiti artists world wide. But two German nationals, Andreas Von Knorre and Elton Hinz, both 21, are likely of be rewarded with $2,000 fines, 3 years’ jail and 8 strokes of the cane each for their exuberant expressions of colour and shape.

The main difference being a sticky issue of trespassing on SMRT territory.

When a northbound train was found vandalised with graffiti and the fencing at Bishan Depot tampered with in 2011, SMRT swore that "We want to have a system that is truly comprehensive and will hold up to tests." And was willing to back it up with  security enhancements that SMRT said cost them $6 million, with maintenance alone amounting to $300,000 annually. Manpower costs for its current security team then (in 2011) were already eating up $5 million a year. Money is no object when commuters end up paying for their incompetence.

Not that it did SMRT any good. And Andreas and Elton did made them look pretty silly. Just for that, there will be hell to pay. Don't worry about the chief executive being sacked, after all, it's only the fourth instance of security breach recorded. Unless the stars fall from the sky, his handsome salary takings will never be docked.

Friday, November 21, 2014

We're Number 16

The big news is that the World Talent Report 2014 from the Institute for Management Development (IMD)  has ranked Malaysia 5th position, while Singapore trails a distant 16. The IMD World Competitiveness Center which produces the annual ranking exercise says the objective serves to assess the ability of countries to develop, attract and retain talent to sustain the talent pool available for enterprises operating in the economies.

While the ranking is structured according to 1) investment and development, 2) appeal and 3) readiness, it goes without saying those foreign talents tempted by the glossy brochures will, sooner or later, discover the truth from the myth. Like Singapore is the safest place on earth, bar none. Except for the occasional stabbing in broad daylight at Raffles Place. You can trust the lawyers here too, just remember to do a back of the envelope check when it comes to invoicing.

We don't know why Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins, the husband and wife team of cancer experts who left the National Cancer Institute in the United States after 20 years there to join Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) because of "generous funding", packed their bags again after a short 5 year stint to head back to Houston, Texas. Maybe they had a nasty experience at Sim Lim Square. Or were fleeced for seafood at Newton Circus. Not everybody has the deep pockets of a Brunei princess.

And then there are the untold legions of local talents who have left for greener pastures abroad. Lee Kuan Yew used to insist on a report of the number of emigrants, maybe someone else is still keeping score.

Somewhere in page 8 of the report, a chart shows that Singapore used to do a better job in attracting and retaining talent. We were number 2 in 2008. The explanatory note is worth reading:
The fluctuation in the overall ranking experienced by some of the countries throughout the period may be the result of cyclical economic and socio-political issues that impact, for example, immigration policies and/or investment in education. In some cases, such policies could result in the diminishing ability of countries to attract overseas talent despite strong commitment to local talent development.

We know some of those socio-political issues only too well. The list is long and nauseating, starting with a 30 year mortgage for a public housing flat. It's bad enough to have to stomach the likes of Anton Casey and Yin Yang, the politicians ramming the Population White Paper down our throats make mockery of a welcome home for real talent. It's not sustaining if talents are not retaining.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Onward With The Fare Hikes

What's wrong with collecting more money?
Last year in November the Public Transport Council (PTC) proposed fare increases by 6.6 per cent in 2 phases - 3.2 per cent from April this year, and 3.4 per cent from next year. In plain English, it is a done deal that the public transport operators will be fleecing the commuters again. The only outstanding question is by how much.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, acting to script in typical good-cop-bad-cop role play, "hopes the PTC will study whether it is possible to insulate vulnerable groups such as senior citizens from a fare increase." See, the word is increase, not decrease. The writing is already on the wall. This is the Lui that doled out $1.1 billion of taxpayers' money so the operators can buy 550 buses to collect more revenues. This is not the Lui who would contemplate subsidising the commuters by same humongous sum to spare them an extra four (bus) and six (train) cents per journey from the first installment of recommended fare hike.

A PTC spokesman reiterated that the fare review mechanism and fare adjustment formula is recommended by the Fare Review Mechanism Committee, and accepted by the Government. Lest we forget, the PTC and associated incestuous committees are staffed by government appointees who know which side of their bread is buttered.

Not a word is mentioned about how much profit has been generated by the public transport operators. In October this year, SMRT reported a $25.3 million profit for Q2 of FY2015, and a 66.5 per cent increase in operating profit from higher takings of its fare and non-fare businesses. Bus operations trimmed its operating loss of $7.4 million to a lower $1.4 million, which it said was due mainly to higher revenue collection and productivity gains. Train operations increased their operating profit by $6.6 million on the back of higher revenue and lower electricity costs. The SMRT board rewarded themselves by declaring an interim dividend of 1.5 cents per ordinary share. If the 3.2 per cent hike was so lucrative, it is unlikely their grubby little hands will let go of the 3.6 per cent hike impending. You were expecting the board to recommend a fare decrease?

Oil price, the mother of all justifications for fare hikes, has slumped by almost a third this year to below US$80 a barrel. There’s a 70 percent chance of a recession in the next 12 months, according to the median estimate of 27 economists in an October 30 survey . That’s the highest since Bloomberg started tracking the figure 2 years ago, up from 60 percent last month. That's for us mere mortals so fret about, the recession proof public transport operators never lose sleep over details like these.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hot Money, Greased Palms

So last Friday's lunch time stabbing in broad daylight at Raffles Place was a occupational hazard, we are told. Apparently the victim was just another money courier, en route to the Arcade where bags of currencies are freely interchanged. Suhardi, a 26 year old Indonesian, was killed in August 2012, presumably for carrying one load too many for the money changers.

Another frequent Indonesian traveller of the Batam-Singapore-Batam route we met some years ago was ferrying hot money for a different purpose. His employer tasked him to meet politicians and businessmen at posh hotels, where palms are routinely greased. It was Lee Kuan Yew who highlighted the weekend visits of Indonesians who fly in for the shopping on a Saturday, and depart promptly on Sunday night. Maybe he wasn't briefed about the bagmen who might have also indulged in a bit of money laundering.

The important bit is that anyone hand-carrying $20,000 in or out of Singapore is supposed to declare the amounts to the vigilant officers at the customs checkpoints. Failure to do so is an offence under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes Act, punishable by fine up to $50,000 or 3 years' jail. Obviously these money mules are not deterred; the proposed fine for mistreatment of a pet dog is much harsher. Makes you also wonder if the law enforcers are serious about the illicit cash flows.

The Money Changers Association of Singapore is urging its members to hire Certis Cisco guards. Paying protection money to these guys, some of whom are ex-police officers, when the real police are turning a blind eye at the borders? Interestingly, the association's secretary thinks Cisco is asking too much at $200 an hour. Perhaps Ah Loong - the alternate security from "professionals" - offers a more competitive rate. The Yakuza is pretty good at this, we may have need of their foreign expertise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sight For Sore Eyes

This has to be sorriest picture to see print history.

For years President John Fitzgerald Kennedy suffered from severe back pain. He took pills and received shots regularly to numb the pain, according to a biography by Robert Dallek, who reviewed the president's medical records. The pain was so severe, Dallek notes, that Kennedy couldn't put a sock or shoe on his left foot without help.

If he had not been wearing it during the motorcade at Dallas on November 22, 1963, he might have lived. Dr Kenneth Salyer, then a 27-year-old resident and doctor on duty at Dallas' Parkland Hospital, said: "He's still upright as a target because he has the brace on, which makes it possible for Lee Harvey Oswald to hit him with a second shot."

The lifelong health problems of Kennedy constitute one of the best-kept secrets of recent U.S. history — no surprise, because if the extent of his health problems had been revealed while he was alive, his presidential ambitions would likely have been dashed.

There's no need to disguise the ill health of the nonagenarian. Kennedy sometimes used crutches or a stick – never in public though - but he did not stoop to depraving a human being as a inanimate walking stick. During his interview of the old man, Tom Plate noted that there were two attendants installed at the Istana just to ensure the supply of hot towels for his aching joints. All this just to prop up a system long past its expiry date?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Out Of Country

Japan has seen more changes in political leadership than most decent folk change their underwear. Yes, the yen has been trending down, giving tourists more bang for their buck, but that doesn't seem to stop the Apple Store at the Ginza from doing a roaring trade with the local crowd. Ichiban!

They don't have a "talented" family dominating the political scene. Yet, that has not done any harm to the country despite having natural calamities visited upon it like tsunamis, earthquakes, live volcanoes or nuclear meltdowns. Forget what the media paints, the country is doing very well going by the fashionably attired happy folk you run into - in the city and at the country side - and you can still set your watch by their train arrivals. Without having to pay the transport chief executive a million dollars  for 6 months of on-the-job training.

Do we need only one political leader who is hell bent on self perpetuity?  Can a country survive a "freak election"?  It's the luxury of thought that goes through one's mind whilst soaking in the mineral waters of an outdoor onsen, eyes taking in the myriad colours of autumn leaves, and sipping cold o-sake. It's so good to be away from the madhouse of Sin City.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Judgement Call

Would you buy a used car from this guy?
Lee Kuan Yew once admitted that being a politician made him wary of people, especially those who might use their relationship with him for their own gain (LKY, "The Man And His Ideas", Han Fook Kwang et al, page 237). He singled out Lim Kim San as one who is better than him at assessing "who's on the level and who's wanting to get something out of me." Goh Keng Swee, in his eyes, doesn't see through people. The person has got to work with him, then after he's thoroughly disappointed, he gets rid of the man.

How did he learn to judge people, Lim was asked,
"I think that comes from experience. To me, it is instinctive. You listen to the chap talk and you think, “This chap is quite alright, or " This chap, you can’t trust him.” I think all successful businessmen have that kind of instinct. You meet a chap, you make a deal. You feel you can rely on this man. He’s on the level. You can trust him. For me, it’s quite instinctive.

Sometimes I shake the guy by the hand and I feel revolted. I feel like throwing off the hand. And you look into his record, you find that, sure enough, this man has done something wrong. Have you heard of Slater Walker? I told the Cabinet to stop them from coming into Singapore. They said to me, “You have a suspicious mind!" Businessmen must have such an instinct."

Unfortunately Lim has long passed from the scene, he is unable to shake hands with the "Son of Punggol" and give us the benefit of his impression. Lee tells of how Lim shook hands with a Khaw Khai Boh, a former head of Special Branch who went on to become a minister in the Malaysian government, and felt an urgent need to wash hands.  You know, Lee wrote, the oiliness of the man and the viciousness of the man - he just sensed it. "It's a gift," Lee said admiringly.

It looks like we'll be seeing more of the snake oil man, his stories of a sorry bank account and chopstick variant of a toothpick tale. He may even upgrade his car ownership spin, “Well, everybody has a car, we have two three – my wife drives one, I drive one, my maid drives the SUV. We are both all professionals, we need to travel.”

Don't look for him at Punggol to shake his hand, he has been parachuted into Ang Mo Kio GRC. Do look out for the rewrite: “Punggol AMK has always occupied a very special place in my heart and with special memories. Coming back to Punggol East AMK is a bit like coming home to me.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Expensive English Tuition

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's explanation for spending $25,900 on a language challenged People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officer makes you wonder if he was dropped on his head when he was a child. Or born stupid. Answering a question from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), he said the personalised, one-on-one, 360-hour course, was needed to get the officer to the level of proficiency conducted by a qualified English instructor.

The PLA is a big army, why did they have to select one that can't understand basic English? What's so special about this officer who can't find the way to the men's room without subtitles? Is he a PRC version of a White Horse, the type that makes general in 10 years, 7 years of which was spent in classrooms, scion of some powerful political family, destined to be the El Supremo of the whole damn country? That's $25,900 for English tuition, on top of free board and lodging, and probably several more thousands to acquire parade ground language proficiency in Malay. Oh, we forgot, this type won't be addressed in mono-syllabic expletives by some drill sergeant, or pass a basic marksmanship course. They'll probably assign a Pinoy domestic to carry his pencil box.

This waste of public funds reminds one of the hundreds of of "scholars" from PRC now learning English in Hwa Chung and the like preparatory courses before they proceed to 4 years of university and another 6 years of guaranteed employment. That's 11 years on taxpayers' money - another reason why they are holding on to our CPF? The outrage here is that our own teens can be denied a place in the same local universities if they fail to get a good grade for the General Paper. And those who do pass, will have to compete for jobs from these favoured foreigners.

With his pro-alien sentimentality, Ng should really be Foreign Minister. That way Singaporeans may not have to sent to harm's way in Syria or Iraq. When he expanded, “When our SAF officers go to other countries, they do the same in terms of spending some months to gain language proficiency,” he was alluding to the sweetener in language training courses. So that our men will understand what's happening to them when captured and interrogated by some foreign speaking jihadist.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Riot That Wasn't

The oft quoted racial riots cited as excuse for being booted out of Malaysia took place in 1969. In that sense, the Little India uprising of 2013 was a 1-in-50-year event. Close enough anyway, since 2019 is still a few years away. But stranger things have happened. Lee Siew Choh was arrested for being in a riot he didn't take part in, and didn't take place. In April 1963, he was detained for “attempting to overawe, by means of criminal force, the Prime Minister at City Hall.”
"He (Fong Sip Chee) said things which are untrue. He says that I was marching in front of the demonstration. I was never there! I was not there at all!

I tell you this so-called City Hall Riot was also a big humbug. Not only a misnomer. A terrible humbug. There was no such thing! You see, it all depends on who controls the radio and who controls the press.

What happened was this. Many of our party leaders and union leaders were arrested in February 1963 under Operation Cold Store, and they were put into prison and treated badly. They were put into solitary confinement. And in hot, suffocating cells. They were complaining! And the parents were not allowed to see them. The parents were complaining and asking that better treatment be given to the detainees. But the PAP government ignored our complaints.

And in order to let people know about it, some of our Assemblymen and the families of the detainees held a peaceful demonstration. It started from the party headquarters in Victoria Street, going around to North Bridge Road, to South Bridge Road, and then to City Hall.

Of course, they wanted to see Lee Kuan Yew. They wanted to ask him, why don’t you release them? Or give them better conditions of treatment? Don’t ill-treat them! So, holding their placards, they walked up the steps to his office in City Hall. The police said that he was not in his office. But everybody knew that he was in. So the families of the detainees refused to believe the policeman.

Thev continued up the steps. And when they went up the steps, the policemen who were under the charge of an inspector who I believe is the Police Chief today, pushed back the group of detainee's families, including old women and young girls. Some of them fell! And what do you expect when people push you? Of course you push back!

That was the so-called City Hall Riot ! "

("Leaders of Singapore", Melanie Chew, page 126)

Lots of things untrue have been said about what happened at Hong Lim Park. Fortunately Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob has recognized that comments on the event will fall foul of sub judice laws and should not be allowed in the House. When Khaw Boon Wan refrained from Parliamentary discussion of the subject - specifically, addressing questions tabled by MPs Denise Phua and Zainal Sapari concerning Speakers Corner’s rules and the incident on 27 September 2014 - he simply said, "It is not appropriate". To admit that it is plain illegal was apparently too much a bitter pill for him to swallow.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gravity Defying Tariffs

First the good news. City Gas announced on Tuesday (Oct 28) that gas prices will be reduced from November 1 till the end of January next year. The gas tariff will be revised downwards, from 21.06 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to 20.83 cents per kWh for the three-month period – a difference of 0.23 cents per kWh. City Gas said the lower tariff was due to a drop in fuel costs compared with the August-October quarter, during which gas prices fell by 0.1 per cent or 0.02 cents.

Gas prices are reviewed by City Gas based on guidelines set by the Energy Market Authority, the gas industry regulator. However, the Energy Market Authority seems to be awfully quiet about the tariff for electricity.

In June of 2014 the Brent Crude Oil Price hit US$115 per barrel and many oil market insiders were predicting higher prices. Other analysts however, called a peak, and their predictions proved to be correct. The market closed at US$80.70 on October 31, 2015, 5:14pm, and Goldman Sachs forecasted that U.S. benchmark crude prices will fall further to US$70 per barrel next year.

Three significant factors clearly visible a year ago pointed to lower prices because of greater supply of oil. The end of the US-led embargo on Iran automatically presaged a glut in oil supply. Secondly, the damage to Libya's oil infrastructure during the overthrow of Gadaffi three years ago has been repaired and now the country is back in business. Fracking in the US is the third element that has increased oil supply.

When oil price was high, transport charges kept ratcheting up - bus fare, train fare, taxi fare, etc - and with it, prices of all manner of goods that need to be shipped in. The bad news is that affected prices, in particular the electricity tariff, won't be adjusted down anywhere near the 20 percent drop in oil price. Transport operator SMRT reported on Friday (Oct 31) its profit after tax and minority interests for the second quarter of the current financial year rose 75.5 per cent year-on-year to $25.3 million. Its operating profit from train operations increased by $6.6 million on the back of higher revenue and lower electricity costs. Dream on, if you expect them to pass the cost savings down to the suffering commuters.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Lose-Lose Situation

A real sweet heart deal
Just like that, we lost out on $1.47 billion.

The nasty quarrel over development charges on former Malayan Railway land parcels is traceable to Singapore and Malaysia maintaining differing interpretations of the Points of Agreement (POA) that was signed in 1990. Subject being the issue of freehold land titles for three vacated plots of land in Keppel, Kranji and Woodlands to a joint venture company, M+S, when the Tanjong Pagar station was relocated.

Anyone associated with the property business knows that Singapore's standard practice of imposing development charges, in line with municipal law stipulations, to obtain planning permission is a juicy source of income.

It was said that initially Malaysia agreed, or appeared to agree with, Singapore's view that the charges were payable. Whoever said that was dead wrong, at no time did Malaysia believe these charges were payable. So off to a third party hearing in London went the deal breaker. The three-member panel of the arbitral tribunal, comprising a former English judge, a German legal expert and a former Australian chief justice, threw out Singapore's claim on last Thursday.

Interestingly, the tribunal also noted that during the hearing in July this year, Malaysian witness Nor Mohamed Yakcop had conceded that even if the charge was payable, the agreement was "a sweet deal" for Malaysia. So the outcome can only be a double win for Malaysia. Not exactly the common interpretation of a "win-win" situation.

So why were the Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs and Law Minister so "happy to accept" the international tribunal's decision? Most likely, it must be because the money lost need not be deducted from their own paychecks. Moving on is no fun, if you have to do it with your tail between your legs. All the more reason to keep harping on why our CPF must be returned, before more gets frittered away.