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redbean



Joined: 07 Mar 2006
Posts: 11437
Location: singapore

PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A frightening discovery
Maybe it is not, just a confirmation that it is real. After a few days of discussion on the housing issues, it comes out very clearly that the average Singaporeans either refuse to think, or simply cannot think, or too frighten to think.
When faced with problems, they said, look at the third world countries, we are so much better. Or, it could be worst. They would not compare with the best or would not think that it can be better. The status quo is the best and the only way. Even after May 6, with a trickle of change coming up, they are still not convinced that they could make the change for the better in a bigger way.
They simply accept the raison d’tre of the authority. If people don’t sign up to buy flats, the govt will not build. The govt will only build when there is solid demand with applicants putting their money out front and signing on the dotted line. So what if it takes 3 to 4 years to build a flat? Even if it is 10 years, that’s the way it should be. They should be grateful that they got such a good flat. Other countries, many do not have such good housing.
May 6 did change a little on this great thinking and policy. Without May 6, the housing programme still will be as before, build only when there is demand and be grateful to get a flat in 3 or 4 years. That was the normal and the best thing can be.
The other great logic, the higher income Singaporeans are competing with the lower income Singaporeans for public flats. And if they are allowed to buy public flats, they will deprive the chances of lower income applicants. What a great logic. So it is ok for the slightly higher income citizens to compete with the richer foreigners in buying private flats and emptying their savings plus a big big mortgage.
No, the average Singaporeans could not see the flaw in this logic. They could not see anything further than their noses. I am too tired to repeat the explanation on how nonsensical is this reasoning. For those who can understand, good, for those who can’t, good.
And many Singaporeans are barred from buying a public flat for all kinds of reasons while foreigners/new citizens who did not contribute anything to the country, not even defending the country, are allowed to buy public flats. I just saw this quote in the Today paper and I just modify the last word from bonus to housing. ‘Consider that we trust military and homeland security personnel with our lives, yet we don’t’ give them lavish ‘homes’. The author Nassim Nicholas Taleb was referring to the lavish bonuses of the bankers in America.
There are many weird logics and reasonings that the average Singaporeans will just accept blindly. Cheng Hu kong so must believe, must follow, must accept, cannot argue. Would they ever believe that an alternative govt of better people can be better than the present govt? No, it could be worst. This is the best. There are no better people than those already in the govt.
It is quite frightening really, to think of a people raised in the best education system and failed badly in trying to use their brains to think deeper and not accepting superficial explanations. It would not hurt the brain to make it work a little bit more. Keeping it in pristine condition is a bad thing. The more one works the brain, the shinier it will be.
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southernglory1



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:40 pm    Post subject: I can neverf like Lee Kuan Yew By Lau Guan Kim China Daily Reply with quote

at he did to the opposition in Singapore

jinseng (Lau Guan Kim)
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I can never like Lee Kuan Yew for what he did to the opposition in Singapore
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I can never like Lee Kuan Yew for what he did to the opposition in Singapore
Lau Guan Kim
31 October 2011

©2011. All rights reserved.




It is not easy for me to like Lee Kuan Yew in view of the many sufferings caused to people he had scant regards for their freedom of expression.

China’s Zhou Enlai detested him for his pro-Western and earlier anti-China stance.

He called Lee Kuan Yew a banana – yellow on the outside but white inside.

Lee Kuan Yew never hid his poor opinion of China in China’s poor days.

Among my associates and people I know, such as Dr. Lee Siew Choh (Queen’s Scholar), Dr. Gwee Ah Leng and Dr. Lim Hock Siew, I know for a fact how their lives have been changed. Lee Siew Choh was sued until he was financially affected. Gwee Ah Leng, the eminent physician, was somewhat gagged or his movement watched.

Lim Chin Siong was a personal and family friend. Lee Kuan Yew rode on his back to power. Chin Siong would have been the first Prime Minister of Singapore had he not been jailed under the Internal Security Act.

Chin Siong and I had quite a long chat when I was warded for cardiac surgery (CABG). He was one of the most sincere persons I know.

Two days before we were to have lunch together, Chin Siong had a myocardiac infarct and never recovered. That was a very sad moment for me; I could not help crying unashamedly during his funeral.

These are good people and I sympathise they had been so cruelly treated by Lee Kuan Yew.

Chin Siong spent 9 years and Hock Siew 18 years in jail.

Hock Siew, together with Chia Thye Poh, never recanted and denounced their beliefs.

Among the charges were that they were Communist activists.

At that time in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Britain was fighting the communists in Malaya.

Both Hock Siew and Chia Thye Poh were eventually released unconditionally, with Chia Thye Poh the longest-imprisoned political prisoner in the world.

Nothing can make me like Lee Kuan Yew!
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southernglory1



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2011 5:52 pm    Post subject: Income inequality in Singapore. Reply with quote

Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2011
Subject: INCOME INEQUALITY IN SINGAPORE

INCOME INEQUALITY IN SINGAPORE

Watch the video presentation on the link below:

http://youtu.be/cZ7LzE3u7Bw

We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong.

Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets

worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such

basic values as trust.



Income inequality in Singapore – and what we can do about it

3 November 2011

By Joseph Teo/

I was watching a presentation by Emeritus Professor Richard Wilkinsoni at the University of Nottingham today. He was talking about how economic inequality harms societies. I was struck by how unequal income was in Singapore. It turns out that the top 20% of Singaporeans make 9.7 times, almost 10 times, the bottom 20% of Singaporeans (video time mark 3:00m). This is highest on the chart, more than the USA. Professor Wilkinson then goes on to detail the costs of such high income gaps: a decrease in trust, increasing homicides and imprisonments, increasing mental illness, lower social mobility and so on (video time mark 9:15m).

Some of this must sound familiar to my fellow Singaporeans. Of course, the government has recognized some of the problems and is now pushing for “inclusive growth”. However, many of our policies continue to be regressive – taxing the poor more than the rich, exacerbating the income gap. I cite four areas where government policies can be improved to address the rich-poor divide.

GST

Even Mr Thaman Shanmugaratnam, then the Second Finance Minister, said that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) “on its own is a regressive tax as it takes up a bigger portion of a lower-income person’s wages compared to that of a high income earner ”.ii He goes on to claim that “GST plus other schemes will not be regressive”. The only problem with this claim is that the GST is permanent, while the “other schemes” are temporary and have a finite lifespan.

While there is always a need to raise revenue in order to meet the needs of citizens, there are other mechanism and taxes which are not regressive – corporate taxes, stamp duties on high-value private property transactions, a luxury goods tax perhaps. While taxes are needed to raise revenue for public works, there are ways to do this without exacerbating the income divide.

Taxes on Public Goods

Because of the government policy of making public services profit-oriented and a mistaken application of market efficiencies, public goods and services such as public transport have resulted in what is effectively a tax on the population.

SMRT has just announced its second quarter results, showing that it has made S$53.1m in the first half of its financial year through its train operations alone. This is before the price rise of 2 cents per trip took effect on 8 October 2011. The price rise was sanctioned by the Public Transport Council (PTC) without an increase (and some would argue with a decrease) in service levels. With an efficient government agency, the trains could be run at a breakeven without the excess S$100m or so a year in profits. The 2 cent per trip increase is effectively a tax on all train commuters since all of it ends up as additional profits, and SMRT is 54.28% held by Temasek Holdings, which is in turn wholly owned by the Ministry of Finance. This would also be a regressive tax, since the lower-income groups are more likely to travel by train.

A much better way of achieving the goal of good and affordable public transport may be to specify service levels : such as 150,000 passengers per hour during peak periods, train intervals of 1.5 minutes, seats for 50% of the passengers; and then have operators bid to fulfill these requirements at the lowest cost per passenger-kilometre. This will then ensure that costs are truly competitive, and that the needs of the commuting public are met.

Sometimes this “tax” is invisible, since it appears as revenue from the government in a public tender for a license – the license to operate a hawker centre or wet market for instance. One of the largest costs in the provision of cooked food or raw food in wet markets is rentals. By awarding the license to operate a hawker centre to the highest bidder, the government obtains maximum revenue. However, this revenue must be paid for – by the stall holders in the form of higher rentals, and eventually by the ordinary Singaporean in the form of higher food prices. The same applies to awarding power generation contracts to the highest bidder, or radio spectrum to the highest-bidding mobile phone companies.

This mistaken use of “market forces” to maximize revenue rather than maximize service delivery to citizens results in a regressive tax, since the largest consumers of public goods would come from the lower-income groups.

The one good thing that the government has done is to relook at the policies surrounding hawker centres. By finally taking the profit orientation out of the hawker centre management, it may now be possible to keep rentals low, and provide affordable cooked food to our citizens. This is a marked shift in policy from that expressed by former PAP MP for Aljunied GRC, and CASE president, Mr. Yeo Guat Kwang. It is laudable and should be applauded.

CPF Life

Even in our annuity schemes for retirement, inequity seems to be built in.

In the National Longevity Insurance Committee (NLIC) Reportiii, Professor Lim Pin noted that there were public concerns that “The scheme benefits those who are wealthier as they will live longer”. However, the NLIC noted that “there is as yet no robust local data to support the use of any other factor (apart from age and gender) to price the premiums”. The NLIC Report is silent as to whether such robust data exists in other countries, and did not propose that we try to obtain such robust data before making a key policy decision. Apparently robust data does exist – at least for the UK (video time mark 1:30) which clearly shows that the rich live longer than the poor. If the same applies in Singapore, it means that poorer people subscribing to the CPF Life Scheme are subsidizing the richer ones, since even though everyone pays the same premium, the richer people will collect the annuity over a longer period and so enjoy bigger payouts.

It has been three years since the NLIC report. Has more data on Singapore been obtained? Will the premiums be adjusted to reflect reality?

Ministerial Salaries

One possible cause of the income divide is the way our politicians are incentivized. Because they are rewarded on increasing GDP, less care has been given towards inclusive growth. Since their salaries are pegged to the private sector, the higher the bonuses paid to private sector CEOs, the higher their own salaries. It would not be in their fiscal interest to ensure income equality.

Of course, the current committee reviewing Ministerial salaries, headed by Mr Gerard Ee, is hard at work. There were some signs that the situation might change, since the Prime Minister said that “Politics is not a job or a career promotion. It is a calling to serve the larger good of Singapore.”iv However, equal signs emerged that suggested that the underlying principles which cause wrong incentives would not be examined. These included questions raised by Mr. Gerard Ee in framing his review: “What fair compensation would accord political office holders due recognition for their contributions; and what discount on the compensation would reflect the value and ethos of political service?”; and Mr. Inderjit Singh’s insistence that comparing Singapore Minister’s salaries with those of their counterparts elsewhere was not useful.v

In particular, Mr Ee’s second question seems to assume that there would be some benchmarking to the private sector, and then some “discount” applied. Pegging ministerial salaries to the private sector is precisely what is wrong with the current system, and I am deeply concerned that the review will only tweak the edges of the formula, and not seriously consider the basis upon which ministerial pay is computed.

I would like to suggest two things. First, that ministerial pay should be computed on the basis of benchmarking the jobs to similar jobs in other countries. This would be a like-for-like comparison, and remove the fundamental inequity in making public office equivalent to a job in the private sector. The excuse given by Mr Inderjit Singh that “we don’t have any added perks as they do in other countries, such as housing, cars or holidays” is weak, since all of these perks can be monetized by assigning an equivalent cash value to them. I believe that any competent human resources professional will be able to assist in this. With this approach, no discount is necessary, since equivalent jobs are being compared.

The second suggestion is to peg salaries to some multiple of the lowest 20th percentile salaries. This provides a direct incentive for ministers to raise the income of the lowest earners. The multiple can again be obtained by deriving benchmarks from other countries. For example, by determining if the President of the United States earns 20, 30 or 40 times the lowest 20th percentile earner in the United States.

In this way, our Ministers can be properly incentivized to close the income gap.

Conclusion

There is evidence that a wide income inequality can harm society. Singapore has one of the widest income gaps amongst all the countries and this needs to be addressed. Some policies create regressive taxes that exacerbate income inequality and should be re-examined. Similarly, the leaders of our country, our Ministers must be correctly incentivized to address this issue.

————–

i Professor Wilkinson is also Honorary Professor at the University College London and Visiting Professor at University of York
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redbean



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When politicians were naïve
Those were the days, not too long ago, when politicians were naïve, just a figure of speech. They were young and highly charged, with bellies full of fire, to serve the people and the country. That was a time when the country was ruled by foreigners, the colonial masters. To these young intellects, the first question that bumped into their heads was why should the country be run by foreigners who were no better than them. Probably they also believed that they could do better for country and people when they were in charge.
That kind of idealistic thinking set a trend that changed the course of our history. Young and eager men and women fought to take back this country, to run it for the betterment of its own people. When they succeeded, the locals took charge of all the major ministries and institutions, to manage them for the good of the locals, not for the Queen of England. And with the locals thinking locals, and when the political leaders were thinking of bettering the lives of the people, things changed dramatically. It was local politicians and people serving local people, for the interest and good of the people.
Has anything changed? The politicians have all changed except for one. But everything else has changed. Oh, they are still saying that they are serving the people and the people’s interests. This has not changed. But the substance has. While the first generation of leaders replaced the foreigners with locals, we are seeing more foreigners replacing the locals. Don’t be conned by the term ‘new citizens’. And as for serving the people, this is relative depending on how one views it.
There used to be the govt providing facilities, building facilities, including housing and transportation, ahead of the people’s needs, and waiting for the people to benefit from them. The people needed housing, and houses were built. Schools, hospitals, transportation, jobs, industries, were waiting for the people. Today, the people have to queue up, to wait for these services and facilities. They don’t build public housing to wait for the people. The people wait for the housings to be built. The people wait for schools for their children, wait for hospital spaces and medical services, transportations etc etc.
Jobs then were localized, decolonized. Today we are seeing a new kind of colonization in jobs. Foreigners are taking over the juicy and plum jobs all over again. And this is good, progress of a different kind. Foreigners changed shirt and become instant citizens to take over jobs from Singaporeans. From displacing foreigners we are replacing locals with foreigners/new citizens.
It is scary when a politician stands out and proclaims that he is in politics to serve the people and country. Scary indeed. The naïve politicians of the past were admirable, respectable and sincere in what they said and did. There were some honesty in their ethics, ambitions and idealism for being politicians.
Today they are pragmatic and honest. No more young and idealistic. They may even say if I am not pay so much, don’t call me. And they will delay the opening of an MRT station because there is not enough load, not profitable, not justifiable. They will build public housings, but you wait for another few years for them to be built. They cannot afford to build and wait for the people. Hospitals, transportations, public services, must be justified in terms of profits before they are built. There are exceptions of course, like public parks which were built together with public housing.
With some exceptions here and there, the ethos for public service is never the same again.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2011 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Surrendering one’s right

Political activists are always a minority in all countries. But they are organised, just like gangsters. And as an organised force, they wield tremendous power over the people. They dictate how society should be structured, how people should live their lives, they control and run the country in the name of being the govt, elected, self appointed or by inheritance.

When a country is blessed, the political leaders are wise and will make decisions for the good of the majority. Some could really be idealistic and selfless. On the other extreme, political leaders could be selfish, self serving and ruthless. Most political leaders lie in between the good and the bad, some uglier than others.

We are blessed with good fortunes for 4 decades, with the winds blowing our way and with good men and women assuming political leadership. The blessing has made Singaporeans apathetic to what is going on around them. They surrendered their rights to decide what is best for them and allowed the political leaders to think and decide for them. Can’t blame them when good and talented leaders are thinking and working for them. When good men are in charge, an amicable populace that give the leaders a free hand will facilitate more efficiency in policy making. When not so good men are in charge, such a situation will hasten the making of bad policies.

Has Singapore reach a stage when bad policies are being made and claimed as good policies and shafted down the unthinking populace who have forgotten that they are the one to decide what is best for their own good? Or would they continue to let political leaders to rubbish them with flawed or half baked ideas and policies and tell them that they are good, the way forward?

There are many policies which I personally think are bad for the people. But the people think otherwise. Some still think that they are good. Some unsure and some just do not want to think.

This morning I will just touch on small is good. This is the new idea that is being spread in the media. Small is good, in fact can be better. So Singaporeans are being prepared mentally to expect to live in smaller spaces and pay more for them, as they are told that it is a good thing. One issue is whether this is really good or another Singaporean myth that daft Singaporeans will have to live with. The second point is whether daft Singaporeans are willing to accept this new myth and allow their lives to be structured around small is good. The third issue, which Singaporeans would not want to think about, is whether this is inevitable, that there is no way out. That we must keep increasing out population to eat up all the space that is needed for a decent and healthy living environment?

If they continue to surrender their rights to decide what is good for them and their children, it will be soon that they find themselves living like the Hongkies and the Japanese in Tokyo and trying to compete to see who is more ingenious in living like dogs in kennels.

I think it is okay for dogs to live in kennels as they are not supposed to think and will accept whatever the master provides. But some masters are more generous and even petition the govt for more space for their dogs to run around, to swim in public pools or the seas.

One day, Sinkies could really be competing with dogs for more space and the ending will be that the dogs will win and the Sinkies will have to be content to live in dog’s kennels. Have Singaporeans awaken to their rights to think for themselves, to think what is good for themselves? Or would they allow some foreigners or jokers to tell them that living in dog’s kennels is good?

I must say that some political leaders are wise, some think they are wise, and some strongly believe that they are wise, and all their policies are also wise. And when they proclaim something is good for the people, it must be good for the people. Would Sinkies be bothered at all, I mean the average Sinkies that are at the wrong end of the stick?
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redbean



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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don’t come back

The recent measures to curb property prices may offer some relief to Singaporeans that are still homeless because of the screwed up policies of recent years. It may be helpful to some but many are still left in the lurch, particularly the young professionals who were booted out of public housing by silly regulations that decreed they are rich enough to be skinned by the private property developers.

There are many such young professionals, highly qualified and living abroad and may want to return home. My advice to them is don’t come back. The opportunity cost is too high and so is the ransom to start life in their home country.

For a start, being highly skilled professionals, they would not be allowed to buy a public flat which would still cost them at least half a million bucks. They are expected to cough out at least a million to get a shitty little mickey mouse flat from the private developers. By the time they ended paying up in 30 years, it would have cost them $2m, just for a miserable little space to live in.

And the cost of a car, a cheap one, would be a hundred k. Being professionals, don’t expect them to live a life of the average Singaporeans and travel in MRT or buses. They are high earners and wanted a better life. Otherwise what is the point of their training, skills and qualifications?

The options for not returning, with three or four hundred k, they could get a very decent landed homes in any of the developed countries, like US, UK or Australia. A big car will not even cost half the COE they have to pay here, and can use for as long as they want. Funny, the cost of living in these countries are now cheaper than this paradise they would want to call home. And they could even command a higher or better income than returning to compete with foreigners with better comparative advantages.

They have all the advantages to remain PRs or even take up foreign citizenship and live a better life elsewhere, with lower cost of living than paying a huge ransom for a poorer quality of life here. It just does not make sense anymore for highly qualified young professionals to come home.

Don’t come back unless you don’t mind being robbed of all your savings and incomes.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Singapore. The FSSTI closed barely unchanged at 0.26%, paring earlier gains of about 1%. We expect the markets to continue to trade in this volatile manner, based on news from Europe, going forward. Due to the change in sentiment about the European leaders’ ability to find a long term fix to the eurozone debt crisis, we expect the market to be weighed down by such negativity.

Corporate News...

AIMS AMP Capital has entered into a strategic business alliance with Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corp (MUFJ) to gain access to MUFJ’s extensive Japanese network in exchange for a 15% minority stake and a board seat.
City Developments has entered a JV to acquire and develop a piece of land at Alexandra Road, Singapore for residential purposes at a tender price of S$396m, with Sunmaster Holdings. Maintain underperform; Target price S$8.22.
China XLX Fertiliser has climbed 15% since our since our upgrade three months ago. We do not think the party is over, given a sustained recovery anchored in CY12-13. The entry of a new strategic institutional investor should add to financial flexibility. While earnings are unchanged, our TP has been lifted as we roll over to a lower 5.5x CY13 P/E (from 7x, still at 50% disc. to larger peers and reflecting the compression in peers' valuations). We upgrade it from TRADING BUY to OUTPERFORM, TP S$0.43.
CWT has acquired stakes in Guatemala and Costa Rica amounting to US$100k and a stake in Morocco for 180k euros as part of its ongoing global freight forwarding network expansion. Maintain underperform; Target price S$0.93.
Global Investments has sold 2 Boeing 757-200 aircrafts to FedEx and will result in a net accounting gain of approximately US$2.65m in FY13.
Otto Marine has sold 1 40m Anchor Handling Tug (AHT) to its JV company, which it will deploy in India in its first foray into the market. Maintain underperform; Target Price S$0.12.
SingXpress Land sells 80% of Charlton Residences cluster homes at a mean price of S$2.9m per unit. Sales will contribute to FY12 earnings upon completion.
Yangzijiang Shipbuilding has entered into a JV with Qatar Investment Corporation that will help strengthen Yangzijiang's efforts to build offshore platforms and related vessels. Maintain underperform; Target price S$0.72.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Justice – redbean hates America
I am just using this comment from blogger justice to start a discussion. Lately I have posted several articles that pointed out the faults and flaws of American involvements in Asian and African affairs. Some will find my views rather unconventional as they are completely against the norm, against what was reported in the main media and the western media. These media only have good things to say about the Americans and nothing else. Everything the Americans said and did must be right and good, and ethical, morally righteous.
Now what I am saying or writing are contrary to this belief or version of the truth. Unfortunately what I have written are factual and no one can dispute the facts as untruths or distorted truths. So the only position that they can take me out is that I am anti Americans. Is that so? It is like some doggies who would come here and failing to argue against my points, would attempt to attack me personally. They could not disagree with me as the doggie’s heads are empty of ideas, or they are here simply tasked to discredit me.
The comment by justice is slightly different. The adaptation of the nick justice is an indication that justice is important to him, right and wrong matters. But be careful, what is right to A is not necessarily right to B. I welcome all bloggers to disagree with my views and my facts, tell me my facts are wrong, that what I said did not happen. I will be proud of them. Put up strong and sensible arguments against my position, and this will make the discussion more interesting and enlightening, and educational.
Why are my views so difficult to accept to the WOGs? When one is fed with eggs and bacon every morning and hamburgers every meal, eating porridge and chicken rice is strange and difficult to accept. Probably they may think eating porridge is for poor peasants or eating chicken rice is just not the right thing to do.
For two centuries, the western media have ruled the world and fed the readers, western and eastern readers, with their sets of world views and western oriented ideas of righteousness. The world is seen from Europe and America, and what is good for Europe and America is good and vice versa. Their dominance over the rest of the world cannot be challenged and must stay that way. They even have the audacity to want to manage the rise of China or any country outside Europe and America. It is fair that the westerners accept that kind of world view and positioning.
Why should Afro Asians accept that kind of views? Are Afro Asians supposed to be ruled and led by the westerners, to be fed views and on how to think, to be made to think like westerners and in the interests of westerners? What is education all about? Would Asians and Africans start to think and see the world differently from the west and in their own interests? Would they dare to think differently from the west, from the western media, disagree with the distorted and one sided truths that are fed to them? Would they look at the west, what the Americans are doing and ask, are they doing the right thing, the good thing or the bad thing?
Would there be a revival of Afro Asian civilization, a renaissance of sort, when the Afro Asians could take positions in their own interest, or in the interest of justice and moral high grounds? Would they dare to challenge atrocious views that are obviously biased or distortion of truth? Or would they continue to be dominated by the west, even in their thinking, that everything west is good and right? It is not a matter of being anti west or anti Americans. It is a matter of being yourself, being confident of yourself and your world view. I used to tell some of the bloggers, when one is a student, one often quotes so and so say this and that. Those are learning phases, a time when our ideas are young and we need to learn from more mature and intellectual minds. As we grow older, and hopefully worldly wise, after seeing a life time of controversies and contradictions, it is time to form our own opinions about things and about what is right and wrong, what is good for us, what is not, and what is justice and what is treachery or high falutins.
My articles and views are not necessary right or agreeable to all. But one thing for sure, they are provocative and force one to think and disagree. That is what my blog is all about.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hints of hardship if look hard enough

There is a special report on Life In North Korea in the ST today. Several articles were written by a batch of journalism students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and information at NTU. They happened to be invited to North Korea a few weeks before the death of Kim Jong Il. There are generous pictures which they took of this hermit and closed country. Their reports gave a first hand version of what is on the ground, even if staged and the best front the North Koreans could put forward. It is still revealing if one cares to look closer for the truth of how the North Korean live their life, though only a little peep in a keyhole.

‘Hints of hardship if you look hard enough’ is the title of a Foo Jie Ying’s article. In Singapore, the richest country in the region and one of the richest in the world, you don’t have to look hard enough to find hardship unless one lives in a life of plenty and never walk the streets. I know, some Singaporeans were shockingly surprised to see hardship here when all one needs to do is to walk the streets.

Another of the students, Jennifer Dhanaraj, wrote about visiting this notorious country while the rest were all ready to scrutinise all the evidence of hardship, poverty, regimentation and an oppressive regime. Their expectations were fully met especially on the amount of propaganda that the North Koreans were brought up with.

‘The indoctrination starts in schools. Kindergarten children learn about Mr Kim Il Sung’s humble beginnings.’ Is this new? I am not sure if there were any indoctrination in Singapore, but these students have already formed their impression of this notorious nation even before stepping foot in the country and knew about the famines where reportedly 2m people died and 6m people are in need of food aid.

I am just wondering how much land and people would be needed to bury 2m people over a short period of time. If it is spreaded over a few decades like the tens of millions of Red Indians killed during the genocide in early America, it is easy to bury them and removed all traces of the killings and conveniently forgotten by not talking about them. Everyone seems to remember vividly the 2m famine deaths in North Korea and no one could recall the tens of millions Red Indians killed. Maybe they never call it genocide or something sinister to be remembered.

I am also wondering what were our kindergarten children being taught in Singapore, about its leaders humble beginning and their great achievements. Here we don’t call it indoctrination, just history, so that makes it different.

North Korea is a poor country. There is no need to look hard or look further. But life is far from a poverty stricken country like those in the third world or the developing world. They lived comfortably but without the modern gadgets that are part and parcel of the consumer societies of the developed world. They do not need to dress up everything, advertising and competition to sell and sell and for people to buy and buy.

Their lifestyle is far from what we would expect. As the students pointed out in style, we kept ourselves very busy with our mobile phones, tweeting, emails and got not much time left for socialising. The North Koreans need not spend time playing computer games and sending emails or sms, but lead their lives quite differently.

They did not have Orchard Road and Ion Shopping Malls or our two family entertainment resorts to keep them awake 24 hours. They are supposed to go to bed at 10pm.

Their economy is not even 10% the size of South Korea. But their soldiers were issued with Adidas shoes while ours with Brooks. They need not pay for medical or even child birth while we have to pay by the thousands for the delivery of a child and hundreds of thousands if warded in the hospitals. Sure our hospitals are world class. Definitely their doctors need not be paid in the hundreds of thousands or in millions. They don’t need so much money as their landed properties probably cost a fraction of our COEs while we have to pay hundreds of thousands or millions for a little free airspace for 99 years without owning it. They have free education to university level.

When so many things are free, when the needs for everyday living is simple, no need to pay $350k for overseas telephone bills, when their elite are paid a pittance, how can their GDP be comparable to those consumer societies when everything is priced to the sky to be of value? I bet their Adidas are made in China and cost a few dollars while the same Adidas here would cost a hundred bucks or more here.

Is it logical to compare GDP when the costing is different? They have several million soldiers to feed but each will cost a fraction of what we paid to our soldiers or a pittance of what the Americans paid for their soldiers. For every dollar they got more, many times more of goods and services.

They are poor, but they are not desperate or begging in the streets for food, all looking hungry, lean and in drapes. They dressed well and are well fed. And their streets are absolutely cleaner than ours, cleaner than the cleanest streets in Southeast Asia. Maybe they have nothing to throw away.

The students were constantly being watched during their visits and photography was hardly permissible. They were told to delete things they were not supposed to take. I remembered taking some photos at the underground station in Seoul several years back, innocently of course, just like tourists did everywhere. Immediately I was swarmed by several security personnel that appeared from nowhere and I was whisked to a corner for questioning. Only after showing my passport and giving them a few sheepish and polite smiles before they released me.

I am not sure you can shoot photographs freely in our underground without being stopped. I know that you cannot shoot at any embassies along Tanglin before someone come knocking at your door. A friend of mine had that notorious experience before in our free country.

Looking at North Korea, understanding North Korea, one needs to look at it objectively, like an empty cup, as they are not the same as us, their values and political beliefs, economic and social systems etc are different. Going in with a mind indoctrinated and filled with Western biased ideas of a country and trying to look for things to prove them to be true defeats the impartiality and objectivity of the journalist profession.

Despite all the negative things that I have written, about Singapore and about the US, never did I say that they are all bad. There are many good things here and in the US. An objective mind needs to praise the good and criticise the bad, look at both without ignoring any. If one wants to have a balanced view of things, one needs to look at them as they are, without prejudice, with no agenda.

North Korea is a country, a nation of people living their own lives many thousand miles away. We live our own lives and many North Koreans do not know of our existence nor threaten us in anyway. They mind their own business, they don’t bother us nor condemn us, nor did they ridicule us.

There is no need to ridicule them, condemn them or prejudge them based on the agenda of people who want to make enemies of them.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Latest on Ministerial Salary cut

This is not confirmed but came out from the wire. The recommendations could see a 28% cut for Hsien Loong, 31% cut for junior ministers and 51% cut for the President. MPs will get a 3% cut.
And this will be back dated to 21 May 2011.
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southernglory1



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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:23 am    Post subject: LKY on ministerial salaries - profound or trite Reply with quote

FW: LKY on ministerial pay - profound or trite?



Subject: Re: LKY on ministerial pay - profound or trite?


(The comments below were made in response to what a friend sent me on the subject abv.)

The old boy must still show he can make the thunder clap. All the to-ings and fro-ings between Tan Chuan Jin & Hri Kumar vs Pritam Singh and Gerard Giam only show the fact that the PAP still can't accept that there can be true contributions from the Opposition or others in general. This is akin to what I always feel about the people in the upper echelons of SP that, "If I want yr opinion, I will give it to you!" Who gives them the sole right to determine that the people they pre-select to be ministers even b4 a GE are the creme de la creme? Many have fallen short as is empirically observed - Yeo Cheow Tong, WKS, MBT and even a few of those in are not the creme made out to be.
Sad but true; we can cry until blue in the face but they still think that SP leadership is their sole right and not a matter of universal suffrage. Who put them there in the first place? LKY? LHL? TCH?


Fwd: LKY--- Ministers pay--Profound or trite..?




1. So the great sage has just opened his salvo on Ministers Pay ( see att article below ) . Please read article carefully.. Singaporeans have already agreed to this point..so has the opposition. No quarrel about this..! .Is there anything new or profound..Or just another trite statement .? You decide..!


2. He has missed the point again, like all his ministers now fighting hard to justify their sky-high salaries..( once rammed thru in parliament when the opposition was very weak and the people cowed..! )

3 I like to ask the great sage this:

a. Don't the people / org in all other countries ( save for the dictatorships ) who worked out such salaries for their own political leaders take these criteria into account also..? Do they pull the figures from the air..?

b. Yet the pay of leaders of small countries like HK, Israel, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden ( countries with the same so-called " problem" in inducing their own pool of talented people into politics.. ) are very much lower than ours, and yet their govt are well-run, and their economies are as good as, if not better than, our little red dot..!!

c. Dont they know there had been and are outstanding people in the opposition who are just as qualified ..and professional..as their much-touted "talented" people ( the best of the best..whiter than white..saviours of Singapore --people like Ms Tinga ling; Gen Kee chew, etc etc.) Would anyone believe that those ministers who recently got sacked are the best Singapore can produced..?? Put them side by side with Chen Show Mao, Sylvia Lim; Chee Soon Juan; Vincent Vija; Tan Jee Say; Low TK; Tony Tan and Hazel Pua ( the scholars husband and wife ); Pritam Singh. Yaw Shin Leng etc--even younger people like Gerald Giam and Nicole Seah..!! ) --and we see many of them outshine those much-hyped people..! Many dare to challenge the establishment and have sacrificed actual or possible well-paid careers-- eg Chen SM, SLim even Dr Chee SJ, Tan JS etc )

d. Real political leaders,,,those truly with the good and welfare of the people at heart ..will serve with little pay and privileges.. ( again think Mao , Gandhi, even powerful President Harry Truman --see below -- etc etc). Granted we do not have to go into this extreme..but enough is enough..!!

e. . Why does the MIW doing its utmost to prevent these very capable and talented people ( now in the opposition --who dare to ask difficult and awkward questions )-- from serving in position of authority and influence..? and tap their brain power and decisions for the good of the country..!

4. Also, as many have pointed out.. why not declare their assets now for the people to see how much they have actually " sacrificed " in their political career..?? NO WAY..??...!.. Can not, would not..or just embarrass..?

5. last but not least--for heaven sake--leave politics to real politicians if they find it so hard to make ends meet compared to what they can get out of their private career.. No one stopping them..!! ( Many Singaporeans would wish to see how well they stack up in the private sector..1)

6. And we have now to ask-- why do they arrogate themselves the sole right and capability in leading the country..!!???

7. I don't blame Singaporeans for getting blue in the face with all the farcical hullabaloos in parliament over this issue..!






---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------







Political Leadership, morality and Ethics-- REMEMBER AND COMPARE


Read about Harry of the USA..How does that compare with our own Harry..and the bunch of money-obsessed people around him...?

One was responsible for the affairs of hundreds of millions in the US..and indirectly the fate of the world..1 The other overseas a tiny nation state of 5 million..! You decide the sort of leadership style and ethics involved..!

Time to have more of our selfless.. highly qualified and talented people..existing now in the opposition parties --- as well as among yet-to-be-committed Singaporeans.-- .to take over the govt ..for a better future for ourselves and the country..one with the proper qualities of ethics and compassion..!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Political Leadership, morality and Ethics—

REMEMBER AND COMPARE


We will never ever see this... certainly not in Singapore

http://www.history.com/images/media/slideshow/harry-s-truman/harry-s-truman-retirement.jpg



Thought you'd enjoy this one!
This one you want your Children and Grandchildren to read.

They won’t believe this happened, but it DID.
Harry & Bess
This seems unreal.....



Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many, or more important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42 Presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri. His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don 't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale.."

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale. (sic. Illinois )

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!

I say dig him up and clone him!!
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redbean



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

How to survive in politics

Politics and politicians have received many bad names which is unfair. Politics is a very difficult art or skill to comprehend and to practise. It takes a lot of skill and talent to practise politics and to be successful. Many fell to disgrace at the end of their careers. Compare to engineering, medicine or even law, politics is perhaps the most difficult of the lot, or any discipline. Everything is right and everything is wrong in politics.

Don’t trust a salesman, an insurance agent and don’t trust a politician. That is how bad this profession has become, being compared with salesman and insurance agent. My apologies to the two professions mentioned. I am only quoting the wise cracks of the masses.

What is so difficult about politics is that one has to look honourable and morally right in everything one does. Personal conduct must be spotless, man of good character, honesty, incorruptible, no greed, always for the people, sacrifice etc etc when one is everything except these things. The contradiction and illusion are unmatched in any profession.

In a way, politics is an art of saying one thing and doing the opposite, being one thing but being another at the same time. Yes Jekyll and Hyde. It is about being principled but unprincipled, being dishonest but claiming to be honest, being corrupt but telling the masses otherwise. A religion will help. Some even hide behind gods and use gods to justify everything they do in politics. In the name of gods, in the name of people, in the name of country, but all for themselves. The list and examples of contradiction are inexhaustible to mention.

Politics is about hypocrisies and surviving it. It is about being dishonest and claiming to be morally righteous. It is about being corrupt and getting away with it, and standing on high pedestal lecturing people about the virtues of honesty.

How many good men can live, survive and be successful in politics and live to tell? Politics is an art of deception honed to perfection, to win/cheat the hearts and minds of the masses, ignorant or learned, for as long as one can. The masters of politics are those that can bluff some people some of the time, some people all the time and all the people all the time.

Don’t underestimate the skill and talent of politicians. They are superior to all the other disciplines and professions to be the master of all of them. They swear to everything that is a virtue to the daft masses but live by everything to the contrary. Politics is a master science according to Einstein. He could grasp all the complex theories of the universe, but could not comprehend politics.

Only the very best and craftiest of human beans can survive a political career.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Singapore needs a weather satellite
Several years ago when the heat was on haze coming from Indonesia, they recommended that they would need a satellite to keep track of all the fires in the huge archipelago. This sounded very reasonable given the size of the area to cover and the difficulty in locating the fire. It is normal for hundreds of fire to be burning without anyone knowing. With the satellite, they can pick them out on the computer screen easily, send a signal to Singapore or Malaysia and the two can parachute their fire fighters over the affected areas in no time.
We have an equally gigantic problem in flooding. Some ridiculed it by calling it ponding. But it is a very serious problem that necessitates ploughing millions or billions into it. A weather satellite seems to be useful to locate where the floodings are. If we have such a satellite, the flood prone areas or flood areas can be easily located. And when there is flooding, the affected people can be quickly informed and flood correcting measures be taken.
Such a satellite can also be used for many other purposes like tracking immigrants and population increases for the govt to build more supporting facilities for them. If we have such a satellite earlier, we would not have a housing shortage problem, we would not have hospital shortage problem, and we may not even have road congestion problem. It is still not too late to acquire a satellite to solve our problems. It is a good early warning indicator. It would tell us where the problem is going to come from.
We are a big country and we really need something in the sky, like the satellite to help us solve our big problems. Talking about the sky, maybe we should seriously consider acquiring an Air Force One for the Prime Minister to travel from the Istana to Parliament House, to Ang Mo Kio or Lim Chu Kang or whichever part of the island, by passing the traffic jams and ERPs. The PM could then be at any part of the island quickly and this will increase his productivity.
While we are talking about productivity, I remember the stylish and fanciful swimming suits wore by Olympic swimmers to shave a few mini seconds from their timing to beat the world records. The specialized suits are quite frictionless and will allow them to slice through the water at ease. I think the same principle can be applied to the flooding problem. The flood water is flowing too slowly through our drains and canals. If we can apply a frictionless material over them like the swimmer’s suits, the water will move faster and minimize flooding. They will get to the Marina Barrage at double quick time. But someone must open the flood gate to let the water out or it would make a flip turn and run back to where it came from just as fast.
If the walls of our canals can be smoothened, they can also be used by the skateboard enthusiasts to train and perfect their skateboarding skills when the water is low. No need to spend money on special skateboarding parks and equipments. Out smoothened canals will just be as good and saving on precious space too. Bukit Timah and Rochor Canal can be turned into tourist attractions like Shinjuku.
They say, win win solution man. So many wins. I am so excited this morning with my creative juices flowing unceasingly.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The road of no return

As a country we are doing very well, and extremely well in many areas. We have become rich and life has become very comfortable to many. There is no doubt that we are the envy of the world in being what we are today. And it is quite appropriate to call this the paradise on earth to many of the wealthy residents.

While the rich and able are happily living their lives, the lower income earners are getting to feel the pinch. And this pinch is going to get worst everyday. No one can deny that many goods and services are going to be out of reach to the average citizens.

There are several major causes that are leading to a frightening future and if nothing is done to restrain these forces and reverse the trend, the eventuality is not going to look pretty.

The high property price of residential and commercial properties is a very dangerous game to play. For those who have acquired the properties, they are just in for a good ride and everything is looking better everyday. Many are selling their properties bought for a few hundred thousands and selling for a few millions. They are so happy to live with their new wealth till kingdom comes.

The problem will be those coming after them. Residential property is going to be the biggest debt for the future generations to bear. They would have bought these properties costing hundreds of thousands or a few millions. Their only hope is that the value multiplies like their predecessors and at the end of the day they could sell off for an easy retirement. Could this be repeated?

The high prices of commercial properties too have a compound effect on the cost of living. Everything, goods and services, will cost more and more to cover the rental or property cost.

The real problem is that there is no winding back. Falling property prices will hurt a lot of property owners. This time around, with the debt becoming so much bigger, it is inconceivable how serious would the problems be if there is a crash. And the govt cannot afford this to happen and will have to keep boosting or supporting the high prices. There is no other way out. Price going down is not an option of the planners.

It is unlikely that the lower income groups can catch up with the high cost of housing and services, in particular the very deadly medical bills. A gap is going to open up very soon, when more and more of the lower income will be gasping for air. Their meagre income and the mini increment rate can never keep up with the rapid rise in cost of living. Once this gap opens up, social disorder is going to be a major issue.

The other major concern is foreigners and foreign workers. There is no way to get rid of them in the short term. And as they grow and melted into the whole social fabric and economic system, they will be embedded as a part of our society and tearing it out is out of question. It becomes an inter dependable arrangement, that the system needs them or will face another big empty hole. This is another policy of no return.

The competition by foreigners, and many would have been given the pink IC, will be felt adversely by the original Singaporeans. How this game will be played out in the longer term is still hazy. Couple with the marginalisation of the lower income groups, which will keep swelling, it is looking like a recipe for more unbearable consequences. A recipe of no return.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2012 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Child adoption could promote crimes against children
CNA recently screened several documentaries about child adoption and the crime of child snatching to feed the needs of childless couples. A child could fetch tens of thousands in places like Quangzhou. I was particularly touched by the documentary ‘I love mommy’, about a little orphan girl from Quangzhou, if I can recollect, being adopted by American parents. There was a little difficulty in the early period of adjusting into a new life. But love by the adopted parents conquered everything and the child grew up quickly into her new home and new parents. It was a very happy ending, with both adopted parents and child having a wonderful union living together as a family.
Many children, especially the girls, were abandoned in China, and in many poorer countries. It is a very good thing for couples with no children to want to bring them home to give them love and shelter. The problem is child snatching to feed the adoption industry. The fear and anguish of children and parents being forcibly separated is a very cruel act of crime. It is simply unimaginable and intolerable. The number of child snatching in China alone comes to a few hundred thousands annually. It is a very serious problem.
There must be very strict laws and punishment for child snatching. The criminals, child snatchers, are inflicting so much pain that lasted a lifetime on their victims.
While the adoption of orphaned children is a good thing, an act of compassion and love, it must not lead to a growing industry of crimes against innocent children and their parents. When the criminals see the demand, the more they will be tempted to snatch children. Parents must be extremely careful when looking after their children, particularly in red areas when child snatching is a common state of affair.
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