Friday, February 27, 2015

There Goes The Quiet Weekend

Now that M Ravi has been suspended from practice, he's worried about some of his clients who "have no prospects of obtaining other legal representation". He could have been thinking of the lady who filed an application to the High Court on matters relating to the ruckus at the February 3 Thaipusam incident. The application listed the Attorney-General, the Hindu Endowments Board and Law Minister K Shanmugam among the plaintiffs.

Others in the Indian community must be wondering why the Hindu Endowments Board is strangely silent about speaking up for their religious rites and practices. Some clues are found in Timothy Auger's book, "SR Nathan in Conversation". The subject said that in 1982, he was appointed chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board, main job being to look after four important temples held in trust by the government.
"I got hold of some good friends, including Gopinath Pillai, Chandra Das, Sat Pal Khattar, Birgadier-General (Rtd) Kirpa Ram Vij, and Justice Rajendran, to form a core - we were all of us locals without much of a clue about religion."

The lack of domain knowledge among members of the select coterie is italicised for good reason. He adds, "We were not concerned with theology - that's the priest's job".

The emphasis was never about religious sensitivities. Instead they were more concerned that "these temples were not rich - quite the contrary, despite their popularity with crowds on festivals". So they put the priest on a salary, and took over the management. The worship was about money, not a spiritual entity. Nathan's smug conclusion:
"I think we put things in order and today the four temples are doing very well, with a good level of reserves. So much so that they're now attracting a new bunch of aspirants for leadership. Many of them are keen to find ways of spending funds raised through hard work on cases other than those of religious significance." (page 170)

All that protestations about noise makers and traffic disruption will soon be forgotten. If you still have doubts, tune in this weekend for the mother of all frenetic processions -the two day blowout for the spare-no-expense Chingay parade.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

We Wuz Robbed

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told the television audience: "We have got to be careful that we don't think we are Robin Hood, where you can simply take money from the rich and give it to someone else." He was probably referring to the higher personal income tax rates for top earners introduced in Budget 2015. To put things in perspective, the effective increase in tax rate amounts only to pinpricks of 0.2 percent for those with $250,000 annual income, and 1.6 percent for those with $1.5 million pay packets.

That would hardly qualify as daylight robbery. Now consider the 2.8 percent fare hike effective from April 5, which will hit anybody who can't afford a Certificate Of Entitlement (COE). It's more insidious when you realize this is part of the original 6.6 percent increase recommended by the government appointed Public Transport Council (PTC). The two public transport operators - SBS Transit and SMRT - stand to rip off an additional $48.5m in revenue from the hapless commuters with the fare increase. Money which will no doubt find its way into funding lavish investments like the Changi "jewel", projects designed to make life more enjoyable for the jet setters who can afford to fly around.

That can't be what Robin of Loxley had in mind. Over the course of 700 years, the fable was about the outlaw from Nottinghamshire who supposedly helped the poor by returning some of the ill-acquired wealth stashed away by the obscenely opulent. Monetary issues aside, Robin Hood also represents the notion of a brave rebel who lives on the outskirts of society, fighting injustice and oppression with his band of companions, constantly harassed by the politicised instruments of law enforcers.

If you were confused by the motives of Khaw Boon Wan's Zhu Ying Tai, you will be puzzled by Tharman's remake on Robin's cause of helping the poor.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The New Standards For Poor

Temasek Holdings Pte, which managed $223 billion (US$166 billion) of assets as of last March 2015 2014, was riled when Standard & Poor (S&P)'s new criteria lumped Singapore with riskier nations such as Greece and Jamaica. At risk was Temasek’s lack of direct ownership of assets, the challenges they face when selling in illiquid markets, and the volatility of assets held by them.

The new criteria for assessing asset liquidity of investment holding companies (IHCs) by splitting their main countries of operation into four baskets, based on a 30-year history of those nations’ share market swings, put Singapore squarely into the third. Sven Behrendt, a managing director at Geneva-based GeoEconomica, which researches sovereign wealth funds explained Temasek's ire: “It’s understandable to me that Temasek doesn’t want the country to be put in the same category as Greece, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago".

A day after the Budget was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, S&P issued a top AAA unsolicited rating on Singapore. S&P noted that investments in the $68.2 billion budget - including efforts to boost innovation, skills training, as well as funding to meet the needs of Singapore's ageing population - "significantly outsized" the $705 million transferred to households. Investments such as the $26 billion for trains that keep breaking down, while $9.3 billion is allocated for hospital grants and construction, and suspect "Medishield Life subsidies".

What is also impossible to miss is that the $10.5 billion to be harvested from Goods and Services Tax (GST) is second only to the $13.5 billion contribution from corporate income taxes. Even the poorest of the poor, who are spared the $8.9 billion to be collected from personal income taxes, will have to pay 7 percent extra for the bread and water to survive on. Lest we forget, our water bill is doubly taxed, the GST is applied on top of the 30 percent "Water Conservation Tax".

As long as there is sheep to be fleeced from, Singapore is in no danger of going broke.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How They Move Up And Do Well

When Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman gave his Budget 2015 speech yesterday, he boasted, “Everyone has moved up, including poorer Singaporeans.” The Oscars have been handed out, but that will not put a stop to this class act.

According to his version of a fairy tale, in the same honest vein as Khaw Boon Wan's Butterfly Lovers, Tharman reminded us that factory employees who made rubber slippers in 1965 were paid about $87 a month  (around $340 in today’s dollars). Today, a lower-income Singaporean worker (at the 20th percentile of the income range) would earn about $1,860. This is more than 5 times as much as it used to be, after adjusting for inflation over the years, he punched in for effect.

In "LKY: The Man And His Ideas" by Han Fook Kwang et al, it is recorded that in 1970, when the pay of other ministers was raised from $2,500 a month to $4,500, Lee Kuan Yew chose not to raise his pay of $3,500. But he knew the greed would come: " is unrealistic to expect the next prime minister, one qualified for the job, to discharge the functions of this office for the present salary." The White Paper on Ministerial salaries would come about on November 1, 1994.

The pay off would be more than 5 times as much as it used to be, after adjusting for inflation over the years. Meanwhile the median worker’s pay is only about 6 times what it used to be in 1965, even after adjusting for inflation.

The government had budgeted for an overall deficit of $1.2 billion (or 0.3% of GDP) for FY2014, ending 31 Mar 2015. Tharman said that they now expect a very small deficit of $0.1 billion. That's so many words for saying that money supposedly set aside for the welfare for Singaporeans have not been fully spent. Instead, more have been harvested from the financially strapped. Commuter fares were increased so that the train operators can see their net profits surge 54 percent. Group revenue increased 6.8 per cent to $313.2 million, outstripping total operating expenses which rose 4.2 per cent to $295.9 million. Clearly, there was no need for a fare hike.

Clearly, there's no need for inflated premiums for the compulsory Medishield Life either. You can expect that more will be creamed off from the sheep in this year of the goat.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reel Life Drama

Eddie Redmayne is a hot Oscars 2015 favorite for his role as Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything". In one crucial scene, a doctor asks his onscreen wife Jane (Felicity Jones) for permission to disconnect the life support system. A tracheotomy to bring him round from the anesthetic - a hole in the neck, bypassing the throat - could mean the brilliant scientist would never speak again. Fortunately for Stephen, and the rest of the world, Walter Woltosz's "Equalizer" speech synthesiser would allow him to communicate at a rate of 15 words per minute.

The hot news in town is that Lee Kuan Yew has been warded at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Intensive Care Unit since 5 February, and still dependent on mechanical ventilation in the ICU. A Dr Lee Yeow Hian (no relation), respiratory physicist and and internist in private practice, said that as long as the patient remains on life support, the condition is considered critical, as "things can change very fast".

In his book "One Man's View of the World", Lee had the prescience to write the following:
"Some time back, I had an Advanced Medical Directive (AMD) done which says that if I have to be fed by a tube, and it is unlikely that I would ever be able to recover and walk about, my doctors are to remove the tube and allow me to make a quick exit."

In his case, there's no Jane to consult, and it is unlikely any of the doctors at SGH would have the cojones to pull the plug. Maybe the Law Society will be sticking their noses in here. Of late, they seem to be so fond of playing doctor.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Getting His Goat

The excuse given by the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) for removing lawyer M Ravi as a speaker at a conference scheduled for Feb 27 is pathetic at best:
“Given the proximity of the conference, coupled with these concerns, which include his current medical condition, the effectiveness of his medical regime, and the workability of his monitoring system, the Council is of the view that it cannot responsibly continue to include him as a panellist in our Conference”.

Ravi was supposed to appear on two panels at the Administrative and Constitutional Law Conference 2015, an invite extended way back in July 2014. The lawyer thinks he has been "disinvited" because of LawSoc's unilateral and peremptory withdrawal of his practising certificate on shaky medical grounds. Chinese New Year reunion dinner talk has it that the real reason is his announced testosterone charged challenge to the incumbents of the six-member Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency. Especially when one prominent member has publicly announced the surgical removal of his key manhood components. Just because this is the year of the goat doesn't mean it should be a free-for-all for everyone to get his goat.

The quaint expression comes from a tradition in horse racing. Thought to have a calming effect on high-strung thoroughbreds, a goat was placed in the horse's stall on the night before the race. Unscrupulous opponents would then steal the goat in an effort to upset the horse and cause it to lose the race. With or without the inevitable horse trading, it looks like dirty politicking for the coming election is set to hit an all time high.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Picture Says It All

Photos released from North Korea are often examined by Western media with the closest of scrutiny. The Washington Post's Max Fisher commented on why ST circulated a 12 December story originating from the Chinese government-controlled paper Wen Wei Po about Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, and five aides being fed to 120 attack dogs:
"The Straits Times is a respectable and widely read publication, but it's often been accused of being the mouthpiece of Singapore's ruling party and is staunchly anti-communist - so political bias is possible."

It would make things easier, wrote Slate's Joshua Keating, if the North Korean government commented publicly on weird stories like this - but it's called the hermit kingdom for a reason. "The North Korean government does so many bizarre things we can confirm that a few of these dubious rumors must surely be true, right?"

Rumours are now abuzz why some cabinet members are included in the picture, and who, if any, have been photoshopped out. When it was announced that the top toothpick pincher had to surrender his union stronghold, we were told a cabinet reshuffle was in the works. Which provides much speculation fodder for this year's Chinese New Year reunion dinner. Just remember to do your shopping for alcoholic beverages before the curfew kicks in.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

No Rest For The Wicked

Not one for the squeamish
Only a guy with balls of steel will dare say he will be back to work after a radical prostatectomy. Then again, some people's workload is different from what the rest of us mere mortals have to put up with in the office, factory or construction site.

The surgical procedure in question involves wholesale removal of the prostate gland, the surrounding tissue and seminal vesicles. Depending on circumstances, the lymph nodes around the prostate gland may also be removed. There's quite a lot of missing plumbing parts after closing the hood. The robot-assisted prostatectomy operation is performed with laparoscopic instruments, puncturing through five to six keyhole-sized incisions in the abdomen. Needless to say, keyholes come in various diameters.

Ng Eng Hen is probably a better doctor than a defence minister - Singapore did pledge to
contribute about US$50 million to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter development effort - and he was more cautious with medical advice than the wantonness with taxpayer monies:
“I used to give patients a month to six weeks of MC to recuperate. I would tell them that it may be keyhole on the outside, but full surgery has been done inside. Even after minimally invasive surgery, the body needs time to heal, regain its energy and usual rhythm.”

But budget day is round the corner, and the surpluses will need to be sliced up like your order from Pizza Hut. And the pesky opposition still needs to be fixed. As they say, there's no rest for the wicked.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Sham Going On In Parliament

When you bring a knife to a fight, you have to make sure it is sharp. When you bring a gun, make sure there's a round in the chamber. And if you pass a chart around for ammunition - this has to be most embarrassing for trained lawyer - the data had better be checked and double checked.

The lady was trying to be helpful, and provide an opportunity to correct the boo-boo. “From what I know, MA rates are usually different from residential units and commercial units,” Ms Sylvia Lim volunteered. “But in your chart, they are all the same."

If his face flushed red, it was difficult to tell. It has nothing to do with his skin pigmentation, he was plain black as coal with self righteous indignation that day in parliament. Without hesitation, Shanmugam growled his immediate response, “I can answer your answer straight away. You should look at annex 3 and you will see in the first page that the MA rates once they are done on a weighted average basis, these figures are accurate, [I’m] told by MND.” Notice that last tai-ji bit, when all else is lost, he can still blame it on another ministry. Same way Alvin Yeo threw his clerk under the bus for over-invoicing.

No wonder Pritam Singh prefers to talk to his residents. Residents which could produce the smoking gun to the lying lawyer's duplicity about accuracy. No matter what weightage is used in averaging, the two sets of rates for residential and commercial property can't possibly be identical. It would appear that only the numbers for Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council are non-bogus.

The infuriating part is that not a single one of the minister's colleagues bothered to whisper to his ears and save him from committing credibility suicide. Including the minister for education who took up a full page of the now 153rd ranked newspaper to wax lyrical about betraying residents' trust, and boasting "the real check in this instance came from the Government." If this is the kind of fact check Heng Swee Keat is proud about, we might as well dismiss the upcoming budget tables altogether, and skip straight to the comics section.

The real comic in the house has to be Khaw Boon Wan, who put on his best poker face to declare, "I am also a very religious man. So, where possible, I try to help. Whoever. Doesn't matter. ...If you are honest, you are clean, I would do my best to help you." By not helping Shanmugam in his moment of need - the flawed tabulation was attributed to his MND ministry -  the logical inference is that one of them is definitely dishonest.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Fury Unleashed

Maybe it was just his bad hair day, if you think he has any at all on his shiny pate. Shanmugam raved and ranted like he lost his favourite dog, raining all sorts of scurrilous accusations, short of blaming it on the smell of alcohol drifting in from Little India. He must have really blew his gaskets when Pritam Singh said he will be doing the explaining to his residents.

All the opposition party members did was to support the findings of the Auditor General's report. It was their version of "Well, we’re sorry we didn’t get it exactly right, but I hope you’ll understand and bear with us, because we’re trying our best to fix the problems." Problems which stemmed from a $2 company which creamed off an undisclosed fee to act as middlemen for a Town Council software transaction when it had neither technical expertise or staff to deliver the goods. Shanmugam may not have realized it when he was busy hyperventilating, all the brickbats he was hurling could have easily been aimed at another party.

And that bit about related parties involved in arms' length transactions could also bring in Chandra Das into the debate, but was not. It could also stir up fresh discussions about a father being chairman of a government investing corporation, daughter-in-law in charge of another asset management entity, and son signing off for the country's billions of reserves. Some things are best aired outside of parliament.

The ultimate threat came from National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan who said that he will be withholding about $7 million of S&CC grants for the financial year 2014 from Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), his version of Goh Chok Tong promising to turn a constituency into a slum. And he can do it too, since his party dominates parliament house. All sorts of laws can be inked and rubber stamped, like sending 75 year old Ah Kong to jail if he defaults on his $1000++ a year Medishield Life premiums. That's the extent to which these guys will go so that the old man can see through his electoral threat of making Aljunied repent.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Noise About Noise Makers

Only a few days ago, we saw how Minister for Law K Shanmugam drew the line in the sand by reminding Hindus that religious foot processions have been banned since 1964, with exemptions only for three festivals - Thaipusam, Thimithi and Panguni Uthiram. The ban on playing music during all three processions was imposed later in 1973.

Strangely, the bravado seems to have knocked out of him. In a forth coming episode of Tamil current affairs programme Ethiroli, Shanmugam will be seen and heard passing the buck to the Hindu Endowments Board:
"We should find out the wishes of the people. The Hindu Endowments Board will see how we can fulfil their wishes. They have to consult the people and see how to proceed."

Perhaps it has to do with the initiative of one courageous lady who is seeking a declaration with regard to Thaipusam in a case that lists the Attorney-General, the Hindu Endowments Board and Law Minister K Shanmugam as defendants. An application was filed last Thursday, challenging the constitutionality of guidelines prohibiting the used of musical instruments at Thaipusam processions. This may be too late to save our ear drums from the racket of the lion dance musical accompaniment which starts next Thursday, 19 February, start of the 2015 Chinese New Year celebrations. But future generations will have her to thank when they can go about without resorting to hearing aids in their evening years.

Use of artificial hearing is not without its advantages as a user, such as the prime minister, can easily switch it off and ignore what the people are clamouring for. You'll need to jump up and down at Hong Lim Park to get his attention about the CPF scam. Otherwise he will continue to tell foreign correspondents, "...they don’t jump around at Hong Lim Green, but they quietly know this is a good deal."

Shanmugam must have better hearing acumen - or more expensive hearing aids - as the chorus of support from non-Hindus is also resonating. Worse, tourist arrivals may drop further - Singapore visitorship figures last year dropped for the first time in 6 years - as touristy types may be turned off by the only silent movie version of a Thaipusam procession.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Going Bonkers

You have to be nuts to take him on
If there are questions about mental health and fitness to practise, they should be directed at the Law Society (LS) and its members. In 2012, one Wong Siew Hong, representative from Law Society of Singapore and Director of local law firm Infinitus Law Corporation, interrupted a court proceeding while the Attorney General was in the midst of presenting his submission to the judge. Justice Philip Pillai was not amused at the juvenile antics. He characterised the action of the party crasher as “unprecedented” and admonished him accordingly, "How is it you have the audacity to come and turn up in court when you don't even have an application?" The LS lawyer had wanted to present a letter alleging that M Ravi was unfit to practise law.

The LS is now threatening M Ravi's livelihood again for embarking on a more serious endeavor. In what the mainstream media described as eye-brow raising worthy, Ravi had declared he would contest the next General Election in the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC). So it comes down to this: anyone taking on the incumbent stands the hazard of being declared bonkers. Last time round, Lee Hsien Loong merely demeaned his opponents as members of a "suicide squad". The ante has been raised.

For the record, individuals with bipolar disorder can live full and satisfying lives. It is often suggested that genius (or, at least, creative talent) and mental disorder (specifically, the mania and hypomania of bipolar disorder) are linked, as in the example of Vincent van Gogh. The real problem here concerns social stigma, stereotypes, and prejudice against individuals with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Since Ravi subjects himself to monthly checks, LS should be curious about his mental health only if he is burning up his Medishield subsidies. In the worst case scenario, Ravi can always be a full time politician. Last we heard, standing politicians need not be certified mentally fit to practise.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lapses In Governance

It's a sad day when the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) is roped into the shenanigans of the political foray. The bureaucrats should remember that they are civil servants first and foremost, and they are accountable to the government of the day, and governments do change. In 1997, Law Minister S. Jayakumar directed then  Attorney General Chan Sek Keong to express a legal opinion on the Workers' Party complaint about Goh Chok Tong, Dr Tony Tan and Brigadier-General (NS) Lee Hsien Loong being caught inside a Cheng San GRC polling station on Polling Day. The conclusion,  "while it is illegal to be within 200 metres of a polling station unless you are voting, IT IS NOT ILLEGAL IF YOU ARE INSIDE" will continue to haunt the parties involved for a long long time.

In the AGO's highlights of the "lapses" in the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council’s (AHPETC) accounts for Financial Year 2012-13, most were qualified comments e.g. "as required by the Town Councils Financial Rules", "inadequate oversight", "no assurance that arrears are properly managed". These are accusations easily turned on a subject closer to the citizens' hearts, after all the original CPF rules did require that full withdrawal is available at age 55. And we are yet to be comforted that there is adequate oversight and proper assurance that our life savings are properly invested and managed. How did they put it? When you point a finger at someone, many more at pointing backwards at yourself.

AHPETC is wise to choose to give its response in Parliament, since a motion filed to debate the matter on Thursday 12 February 2015. That way the wild accusations will be recorded in the Hansard for posterity. Only kids resort to Facebook postings to trade barbs.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

When Push Comes To Shove

A cursory glance gives one the impression that it was just another scene from the Great Singapore Sale.
"Gimme that! I saw it first!"

"No way, sister, we saw it first!"

When push comes to shove...

Oopsy daisy!

Exit, stage right.

"Security! Security! Don't let her get away!"

Alas, no, it happened to be another of those 47 riots that Iswaran told parliament house is fast becoming a recurring event in the Lion City. According to Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K Shanmugam, the police officers on the ground were trying to do their job, which apparently does not include rendering assistance to fallen womenfolk. If police officers misbehave, he said, they should be disciplined, but everybody else gets arrested and thrown into the lock-up.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Such Irreverence!

Be prepared this year for all manner of veneration of the founding father, mostly in new books, on top of the movie in the making. Two publications are obviously are not of the same genre.

The author of  "Roll Out the Champagne, Singapore!" (Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2014) once incurred the displeasure of some thin-skinned individuals who lashed out at the poor thing for being "bo tua bo say", an awful rebuke implying a lack of respect for anyone in authority. What surprised her was a friend who sent her to coventry ("How can you be so irreverent?") for penning the following rib-tickler:
The coffin was enormous
To match the god-like status,
For both in life and death,
He was a true colossus.

Someone who, with the opposition
Was clearly in cahoots,
Whispered, 'Ah, a new dawn!
No more defamation suits.'

At which the corpse sprang right up,
'Who said that?' it roared,
'He's defaming my good name,
So get our lawyers on board!'

The cartoonist with the dubious association with a sketch that supposedly led to closure of the Singapore Herald in 1971 has produced a coffee table book compilation ("LKY: Political Cartoons", Epigram Books, 2014) of his best satirical pieces. The foreward reads, "Lee's near mythical status became fodder for his creative imagination and incisive pen." Such irreverence!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

CPF Scheme Still Stinks

What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. That's the line from Romeo and Juliet. On the other hand, a stinker will still smell all the way to heaven, and renaming the Minimum Sum as Basic Retirement Sum is no relief from the odoriferous pong. In like manner, they had changed the National Conversation to Our Singapore Conversation, but the con remains.

Which part of "Return our CPF" did the 13-members of the CPF advisory panel not understand? The "basic" amount of $80,500 of the Basic Requirement Sum is still money withheld, money which should have been released at age 55. Way back in 1984, Toh Chin Chye had already named the beast:
"Mr Speaker, I think fundamental principles are being breached. The fundamental principle is this. The CPF is really a fixed deposit or a loan to Government, which can be redeemed at a fixed date when the contributor is 55 years old. If I were to put this sum of money in a commercial bank and, on the due date I go to the bank to withdraw the money, the manager says, “I am sorry, Dr Toh, you will have to come next year”, there will be a run on the bank! It is as simple as this, that the CPF has lost its credibility, the management of it."

Toh also identified where the thievery started from Medisave: “6% of your Special Account will be kept for Medisave and you cannot withdraw that, even if you were to die.” Some senior citizens have discovered, to their horror, that when their meagre Medisave funds are used for healthcare needs, funds from ordinary/retirement accounts were transferred over to make up the Medisave minimum, without their knowledge or expressed permission.

When Toh was speaking, CPF contribution was 50% of wages, more than enough to see anyone through in retirement comfort. But no, they had to tweak the system to raid the nest egg, to the extent that Medishield Life will now tax a 90 year old to the tune of a $1,500 a year. Not every nonagenarian still has a $16,000 allowance, on top of multiple counts of pensions, and not even required to show up for work. One way to escape the cradle-to-grave tax is to burn your passport, withdraw your CPF balances and buy a house in Batam, where some Indonesian maiden will pamper you to death in your evening years. Maybe that was their intended way of exporting the aging population problem.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Strong Leadership Needed

In the 2002 wuxia film directed by Zhang Yimou, Jet Li is the nameless protagonist "Hero" who aborted the assassination attempt on the King of Qin in 227 BC because of two words, "天下". Tiānxià (天下) translated literally means "all (everything and everyone) under heaven", implying that peace can only prevail if there is only one ruler.

True to form, Teo Chee Hean was evasive about taking charge when speaking to 500 students at the Nanyang Technoloogical University (NTU) Ministerial Forum. Instead of providing guidance and a leadership beacon for the youngsters, he fell back to the whimper of consensus building. Instead of one strong voice, the preference seems to be to pander to a cacophony of opinions. Compared to 50 years ago, Teo claims, today's generation have more views, more questions, more ideas. Meaning the pioneer generation - which he urged the younger set to emulate - was a collation of bland, unenquiring minds with no initiatives of their own, and ever ready to fall in line behind one shepherd. Reality being such, no one guy lives forever, and someone needs to step into his shoes.

With no able captain at the helm, consensus building can be an uphill task. We already have a historical baggage of race and religion differences, and adding more foreign elements into the melting pot is no help. The good news is that more Singaporeans are throwing their hat into the coming elections. Despite all the talk of polarisation, Singapore is not ancient China during the Warring States period, "all under heaven" need not apply. Better to place faith in true democracy, and keep a look out for the saboteurs who undermine the time tested institution.

The King of Qin (Chinese: 秦王; pinyin: Qín Wáng) liked the ancient way of saying "I" (Chinese: 寡人; pinyin: guǎ rén). Unfortunately the two Chinese characters "寡" which means less, or lacking, and "人" which means man, or person, in ancient Chinese could potentially have the meaning of "a man who lacks morals" (Chinese: 寡德之人; pinyin: guǎ dé zhī rén). Self appointed king or not, no person lacking moral authority should be allowed to rule.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Selective Memory

Second Home Affairs Minister S Iswaran was there at the 2am press conference with Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean when latter said the Little India flare-up was the first case of street rioting in three or four decades. If it was too early in the morning to be fully conscious, Iswaran can count on two others flanking Teo to bear witness to what was said, namely Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee and Deputy Police Commissioner T Raja Kumar.

One year on, Iswaran is claiming that there were 47 cases of rioting last year, all linked to alcohol consumption. Since the knee-jerk clamp down on alcoholic beverages started right after 8 December 2013, the number of riots must be higher in the preceding years, when alcohol was in abundant free flow. As in at least more than once in three or four decades.

But we have seen how the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Housing and Development Board (HDB) can disagree with minister Khaw Boon Wan on whether the tender for a place-of-worship site can be awarded to a company that is not affiliated to a religious organisation. Note also the significant qualification of timing when Khaw said, "for a quarter of a century we never had a for-profit company taking part in such temple tenders". Who knows, when the final flip-flop is effected on the U-turn to the Eternal Pure Life undertaking, something that happened earlier before the aforementioned quarter of a century will be quoted to justify the inevitable - a commercial columbarium built at Fernvale Link.

Most of us have terminated our subscription to the local papers because of the crap printed. But we need a score card to keep tab on how the politicians twist and squirm to camouflage their incompetence, and outright lies. Maybe we should write more to Huffington Post and the like.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Curse Of CEP

The template presentation of Shell's employee evaluation system defines Current Estimated Potential (CEP) as: "The current realistic estimate of the highest job that an individual will be able to perform in his or her future career within Shell". It also spells out what Shell had in mind.

CEP is intended to:
Identify potential leaders;
Assess the status of the current talent pool;
Support career planning and talent development;
Ensure a common basis for measurement across the organisation

CEP is not intended to:
Guarantee or limit individual career advancement or success;
Be the sole factor in promotion or selection decisions;
Remain constant throughout an individual’s career. CEP ratings can move up or down in future assessments.

It was thus a gross abuse of the Shell system to warp it - our variant has to be Current Economic Potential, with the emphasis on "why not collect more money" - into a living demonstration of the Peter Principle, a management theory in which the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate's performance in their current role rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and "managers rise to the level of their incompetence." We were reminded of the anamolie when a naval officer was recently appointed to manage our life savings locked up in the Central Provident Fund (CPF). Shucks, does that mean all the funds invested are really underwater?

The system as it stands is that we have white horses guaranteed top paying jobs based on CEP solely, no other factors considered in the selection, and the evaluation rating remaining constant regardless of failings obvious in the public eye. One glaring example is that of a police commissioner ending up in a comfortable CEO chair. Worse to come, the world's higest paid political office is up for grabs. That could the hidden meaning when Goh Chok Tong said that Singapore is likely to become a 'garbage city'.