Saturday, December 16, 2006
However, when I read about what PAP government intended to do, my first reaction is "Again?"! PAP government is world first in policy packaging as well as calculative. A Casino Resort that comes with great potential social ills is packaged as an Integrated Resort full of economic benefits and jobs. Well, I will revisit the Casino issue in my next post.
PAP government says that in order to make Singaporeans feel more privileged, PAP government will INCREASE fees paid (cutting subsidies and incentives) by Permanent Residents and Foreigners, instead of lowering fees for Singaporeans! Well, this is actually a "good policy", one stone kill two birds! It will save money for the PAP government and at the same time make Singaporeans "feel good" that the PRs and foreigners are paying more than them!
My question is this, if it is really Singaporeans First, then it must be a policy that BENEFITS Singaporeans in terms of lower ABSOLUTE payment but no, to the PAP government, it is only about saving money for the government coffers! If it is really Singaporeans First policy, all the savings from such cut of subsidies and incentives to PRs and foreigners should be transferred as benefits to Singaporeans!
Thus, in my view, these cuts in subsidies and incentives to PRs and foreigners, are PAP Government First policy, not Singaporeans First policies as the only beneficiary of these policies is the PAP government, not Singaporeans.
Goh Meng Seng
A new initiative is being taken up by some political concerned citizens in Singapore to start a new website accompanied by a forum. This website, The Online Citizen, has been planned with the idea of putting up an alternative credible information/ discussion website for Singaporeans who are politically concerned and aware. The discussion forum is moderated to weed out those flamers (like those you see in my blog's comment section on every posting) and irresponsible posters. However, I was told that rational, sensible and critical comments will still be allowed. There is a fine thin but distinctive line between flaming and critical comments.
Yes, most of us do not like to be moderated but when you read those comments by my detractors in my blog, you will have a good idea why it is a necessity to exercise moderation in order to prevent these agents from trying to discredit these internet forums or websites by putting up flames and graffiti. This seems to be the new strategy of "managing" the internet nowadays!
Personally, I don't really mind these agents from such malicious act as I want the whole world to know that's how politics are being carried out in Singapore. Besides, they could only put up such nonsensical comments in the comment section which did not do much harm to my blog. Besides, we must learn the most important thing about freedom of speech or anything.... it will always come with a little "price" that there will be a minority who will try to put dirt on such freedom.
But for a forum like The Online Citizen, these agents/ detractors/ "internet sub-managers" could just hijack the whole forum and try very hard to discredit the forum altogether. Their aim is, of course, to deprive Singaporean netters a good place to have healthy discussions and discourses.
All the best to The Online Citizen and I hope there will more of such initiatives to come from citizens of Singapore. We could only wear these "internet managers" down by having more and more independent discussion forums.
Goh Meng Seng
Friday, December 15, 2006
Shin Corp TV unit loses appeal ITV, a Thai television network indirectly controlled by Temasek Holdings, was ordered yesterday to pay unspecified fines and fees to the Thai government.
The company will negotiate the exact amount of the payment with the government after the Supreme Administrative Court yesterday upheld a ruling that revoked ITV’s right to reduced concession fees, Judge Chanchai Sawangsagdi said.
The Thai government is seeking as much as 94 billion baht ($4.2 billion) in fees and fines. The government raised its proposed fine and retroactive fees from 76 billion baht calculated in June by adding interest, Judge Chanchai said.
The ruling brings the focus back to Temasek whose stake in Thailand, where its purchase of a stake in ITV’s parent Shin Corp, is under investigation. In May, the administrative Court nullified the 2004 arbitration ruling that had reduced ITV’s annual licence fees to 230 million baht from at least 1 billion baht, or 44 per cent of its revenue as stipulated in its original contract with the government.
The arbitration ruling also had allowed ITV to increase entertainment programmes to 50 per cent of air time from 30 per cent and to air such programmes during prime time. ITV, which has about 1.2 billion baht of cash, may be forced into bankruptcy should the company be required to pay the full amount of the claim. ITV officials weren’t available for comment, its spokesperson said.
ITV shares plunged 25 per cent to 2.1 baht in Bangkok yesterday, their biggest drop since May 9 and the lowest since they started trading on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in March 2002. The shares have slumped 78 per cent since May 9, when
a court revoked ITV’s right to discounts on its concession fees. “We have no comment on this matter,” Temasek spokeswoman Serena Khoo said yesterday. Bangkok-based ITV has a 30-year concession to operate the only network out of the six in Thailand that is not owned by the government or the military.
The broadcaster became profitable for the first time in 2004 after four years of losses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. ITV posted record profit of 679.1 million baht in 2005. The company had cash and cash equivalents of 1.2 billion
baht as of Sept 30, according to its most recent financial statement.
Temasek led a group of investors that bought more than 96 per cent of Shin Corp, ITV’s parent, between January and March from investors including the family of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The following from Chinese Zaobao news 15 Dec 2006:
But something strange happens this morning. I was told that on the 10am news on the Chinese radio, the fine imposed on iTV was reported but this piece of news was withdrawn from the subsequent 11am and 12pm radio news!
It is understandable for the Chinese news media to be slightly slow in reporting on international news as reported in English international wired news services as translation needs time. However to withdraw news within an hour from the radio media is just too obvious that either self censorship is in place or that there are interference from "up there"!
Furthermore, if we compare the news written in Today and Zaobao, we will find that Zaobao has actually tried very hard to "soften" the news by giving a possible "hope" that the Thai military will intervene and "save" iTV from bankruptcy! It seems that Zaoboa has a subtle message that it is "political" reason that iTV landed itself in such situation by reporting the military strongman's comment that iTV should not be used as a political tool for anybody. In fact, if we look at the way Zaobao reported the news, it is obvious that it is trying to relate the problem of iTV with Thaksin. Right from the title itself and throughout the news report, it is always the fault of being related to Thaksin!
But what intrigues me was that the court case against iTV was actually started during Thaksin's administration! The first ruling was given in May where the court action was taken way before that, by the Prime Minister Office (while Thaksin was still in power) back then! This is one puzzle that was never touched on in local news report.
There is of course, no mention of "accountability" here. Compare these local news report to Asia Times commentary, I think local news media really has a long way to go!
Goh Meng Seng
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I was talking to someone and he mentioned that I am just like a "shooting star". I gave him a big smile and say that he will be very disappointed if he is going to spend time watching the sky for this little shooting star!
On second thought, I think his view is very common among many Singaporeans who are more aware of Singapore's politics. There are quite a number of "shooting stars" in opposition politics. Even PAP has quite a number of "shooting stars", especially those "one term MP". However, there are some misconceptions here. Some veteran politicians might have chosen to work on the background after their first appearance as a candidate for a particular political party. In fact I have known quite a number of past WP candidates who are still with WP after they retire from frontline politics. Some of the them are still active in one way or another.
Personally, I have unfinished business in the political process. I may or may not participate in the next GE as a candidate but rest assure that I would definitely be working on the background to support and help out anyone who needed help in the political process.
Many options are opened now for me and I am keeping them open for the moment. I was contemplating of writting a book on Election Campaigning in Singapore so that I could share whatever experience I have garnered in GE 2006 with other potential contenders in future or even present alternative parties' members. Election Campaigning needs to be planned quite a few years in advance, right from the strategic considerations to how to conduct systematic political activism on the ground, designing the stage, preparing the venue for press conferences/rallies, conducting various seminars and training for potential candidates, logistics and manpower planning, roles of election and counting agents etc etc. It would be a good book for anyone who wants to contest in an election, especially those who plans to stand as an independent candidate.
The only problem is that I do not have the necessary skills and experience in writing a book! Besides, such technical book on political participation may not sell well in Singapore! ;)
The next best thing I could do is to help other political parties in their preparation for the next GE.
Whatever my plans will be for the coming years, I am very sure that I will still be politically active in one way or another. Who knows, I may start my very own NGO/ think tank or political party one day! ;)
Goh Meng Seng
Monday, December 11, 2006
After much long wait, finally we have a list of book stores that carries the book:
• Books Actually at Telok Ayer Street
• Borders Books at Wheelock Place
• Kinokuniya at Liang Court and Ngee Ann City
• Page One at Vivo City
• Select Books at Tanglin Shopping Centre
online purchase & enquiries:
The price of the book is S$22 before GST.
Goh Meng Seng
Monday, December 04, 2006
The author, Dana Lam, is a fantastic writer. Once I got hold of this book, I could not put it down as the writer has managed to write in a way that will make you want to finish it in one go. There are as much information about Singapore elections in the past as well as how WP conducted its GE 2006.
The only disappointment, to me personally, is that it has too few photographs printed in it. I have submitted significant number of photographs to the publisher but I think it is due to huge cost of printing full colour photos that limited the inclusion of these photographs in the final print.
The major problem now is that you could not really get the book from any major bookstores at this moment. I don't really know the reason but I think for "politically sensitive" book like this one (well, LKY memoirs do not have such problems!), it may or may not appear on the shelves of the major bookstores in Singapore at the end of the day!
I hope WP will start selling this great book at their weekly open house (every Monday except public holidays) or by any other means if the major bookstores refuse to put this book on their shelves.
This book will add an important chapter in our historical records where history is told from the layman's perspective. It would be a great shame to Singapore if this book is "technically banned" in Singapore due to reservations from bookstores in Singapore. This is definitely not a good sign of "Open Singapore".
Goh Meng Seng
Saturday, December 02, 2006
However, one fundamental question still remains: was Shin Corp really a "good buy" in the very first place? Readers may want to understand Shin Corp better by visiting its website on the subsidiaries that it holds.
According to the press release issued by Temasek Holdings on 23 Jan 2006, Temasek Holdings has paid THB 49.25 for each share of Shin Corp. If we take a look at the historical data of Shin Corp's price, right from 11 Jan 2002 till now, this price tag of THB 49.25 is the highest price ever paid for one Shin Corp's share.
Purely from the commercial point of view, Shin Corp is a good company to buy in to, though the price is just too steep.
Shin Corp is a profitable company which owns strategic assets that matters to a Nation. It is similar to Singtel which holds strategic communication assets. As it weilds control on strategic assets and thus, monopoly power over the Thai market, the potential revenue and profit for this company would have been great.
However, isn't this deal "too good to be true"?
In Singapore's context, when we first "privatised" Singtel, Singapore Government only offered 25% of Singtel shares to the public. There are certain restrictions on foreign ownership on Singtel shares as well. Thus, it is intriguing to me why would Temasek Holdings consider that it is "politically safe" to buy out Shin Corp?
Well, of course there is a certain assurance in the deal when the seller was related to the country's Prime Minister himself. However, with the development in Thai politics at that moment, it would make anyone "nervous" about getting involved with Thaksin family.
Thaksin was heavily bombarded by his opponents prior to the April elections on corruptions charges and abuse of power to benefit his family related businesses. But this is not the most important root of trouble for Thaksin.
In Thailand's history, the Thai King is a well respected political figure, though constituitionally, he holds no "parliamentary power". But it is not difficult to understand from the past political history of Thailand, military coups are common and most of them needed the blessings of the Thai King before it could be considered as "successful".
The trouble of Thaksin is not about his political opponents' attacks on him but rather his rough edges with the Thai King. As early as at the end of 2001, there was visible unhappiness of the Thai King of the way Thaksin handled the Thai economics and politics. Subsequently, the Thai King has specifically lectured Thaksin over his intolerance of criticisms from his political opponents as well as the free press in Thailand.
These are the significant signs of the instability of Thaksin adminsteration. When the Prime Minister of Thailand no longer has the endorsement from the Thai King, it will be a matter of time he would be forced to resign. Thaksin is not the first one to face such fate and he will not be the last one also. This is the unique political culture of Thailand which Temasek Holdings may lack the understanding.
Thus, for any politically savvy investors, when Thaksin family put Shin Corp up for sale, it was an obvious move of "cashing out". It is just a deal "too good to be true".
What is disturbing to me is that if one realises that Thaksin family was cashing out, in a hurry, why would one agree to pay the highest price ever for Shin Corp's share? Especially so when the total amount of the deal is so enormous that it would not be easy for Thaksin family to find any buyer with so much cash in such a short notice. Thus, from the commercial perspective, this should be the buyers' market and obviously, it makes no sense for the buyer to pay too high a price for such a deal which involves great political risks.
No doubt that if Thaksin managed to overcome his political barriers, Shin Corp may prove to be a very good buy. His adminstration would not question the legitimacy of Temasek Holding's total control of Shin Corp. Shin Corp would continue to enjoy concessions from the Thaksin adminstration.... etc. But in view of his political standing at that point in time, developed right from 2002 to end of 2005, one would realise that his adminstration was standing on thin ice.
In short, this is a "risky buy" instead of a "good buy". If Temasek Holdings has done its homework, it would come to the same conclusion as well. Not that it is going to be really a "bad buy" (well, basically nobody has 100% hindsight) from the commercial perspective, but for a government investment arm, is it wise to take such high risks at all?
Singapore PAP government has always put emphasis on "political stability" so to attract foreign investment. It is so obsesses with the term "political stability" so much so that it would always "warn" voters that if voters voted in more opposition memebrs into parliament, it will send "the wrong signals" to foreign investors and they would not invest in us. But it makes us wonder why its investment arms like Temasek Holdings would do exactly the opposite of what it preaches, investing in a country that is a potential political hotspot like Thailand? Well, for private companies, they are accountable for their risky choices but in government investment arms, who will be accountable for such risky decisions?
Goh Meng Seng
Friday, November 24, 2006
From Salim's blog:
PRESS STATEMENT: Clarification to The Sunday Times Report
Hi all, I've already issued a press statement to the local media, specifically to the Sunday Times. Here's the statement:
I refer to your newspaper report, "What's the story?", dated 12 November 2006.
The article stated that," But Mr Abdul Salim, a WP candidate in Ang Mo kio GRC during the May General Election, did more than just look. Along with some other young WP members, he bought some cold cheng tng for Dr Chee and comrades..." I wish to clarify that there is one factual error in this paragraph. I did not buy the cold cheng tng for Dr Chee and his comrades.
Although i was present at Hong Lim Park as an observer and a concerned citizen to bear witness to the protest carried out by Dr Chee and his comrades, but at no time did I buy any cheng tng for them. Your inaccurate report has caused tremendous confusion and unnecessary distress to my supporters, party colleagues and family members.
I am dissappointed that your reporters did not check the facts with me, no matter how minor it is, before publishing them. Small inaccurate details like this could create false impression and mislead your readers. It may also discredit your newspaper as a reliable source of information to Singaporeans at large. I hope that your reporters could be more factually responsible in their writing in future so as to avoid such harm to both your newspaper as well as the people concerned in your articles.
Abdul Salim Harun
My press statement will also be put up at the WP Youth Wing Website shortly.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Of course, it is may be on hindsight that many analysts will start saying that Shin Corp has become a lemon but the truth is, there are enough information about the nature of the deal prior to transactions that will create considerable doubt over the whole saga. I will try to examine why the deal turn sour and what possibly went wrong in the decision making process.
Goh Meng Seng
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I double checked on Ministry of Finance website and I have found some interesting fact: the difference in tax base between Income/Corporate tax and GST is only 26%. And the fact that the effectiveness of GST is only half of what it should be, it may mean that the tax itself will be more regressive than initially thought. This is due to the fact that only the rich corporates and individuals could avoid spending in Singapore or save more. Although we have forced savings as in CPF, but most people spent part or even all of their CPF on housing and healthcare.
The following is my reply to the forummer:
I have searched for the budget 2006 figures and I got the figures from the following link:
Ministry of Finance 2006 Budget Highlights
It seems strange to me that by simple calcuation, the tax base for both GST and Income Tax only differ by 26%. i.e. Income & Corporate Tax: for each 1% generate $556 million, 1% GST generate $702 million.
This could mean that GST is only half "efficiency" than it is supposed to be. i.e. the value add tax only manage to tax on half of the GDP instead of the whole.
This may be due to a few facts mainly: forced saving in terms of CPF (some part of CPF may be spent in terms of healthcare or housing) and also huge savings by corporates and rich families which may be transferred overseas. i.e. as long as they don't consume in Singapore, they are not taxed by GST.
What does this mean? GST is more regressive than we first thought! For most of the families earning less, they would spend most of their income with little savings. Even for their CPF, they may have to spend on housing and healthcare. Thus, the 50% of GDP that manage to "escape" GST taxation would come mostly from wealthy corporates and families.
Goh Meng Seng
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Updates: Please note that the figures on GST collection is theoretical value. The actual value (from Ministry of Finance Budget 2006 figures) for GST collection per 1% is $702 million while for Income/Corporate Tax per 1% is $556 million. The tax base for GST is not as wide as I first thought. I have written another article on this little "mystery" posted in this blog.
During the May General Elections, I have asked the ruling party, PAP, to come clean with their plans for Singapore. The two main questions I have asked are:
1) Is the PAP government going to allow public transport fare increase?
2) Is the PAP government going to increase GST to 7%?
The local press did not publish my direct questions to PAP and PAP have chosen to keep silent on these questions but instead, they are more interested to continue harping on the James Gomez saga during the elections.
It is only 6 months after the May GE that I finally got my answers. The answers are Yes and Yes. I am very puzzled that if PAP is so confident that Singaporeans will support its intention to allow public transport fare hikes and GST to be increased to 7%, why didn't they say so during the May GE?
Unfortunately for Singaporeans, they have to make voting decisions with incomplete information. But I guess this is not the end yet. I believe that GST will be raised further to 10%. Why? PAP government wants to lower income tax from 20% to 16%. In thier calculations, this could only be achieved by increasing GST further by at least 3 percentage point.
I believe by now, most people will know that GST in itself, is a regressive tax. In essence, it is "robbing the poor to help the rich". It taxes on the poor so that the (income) tax on the rich could be reduced. From the news report, it is interesting to derive one simple fact: the tax base for GST is twice as big as Income tax. It means that for Income Tax, only the top 50% of income earners will be taxed. Let see how this could be derived:
It is said that for every 1% of Income tax, it equates to $700million tax revenue. Singapore's GDP is about $150 to $160 Billions. Government spending is about $20 to $30 Billions. Thus, for 1% income tax to derive $700million, its tax base must be about $70 billions.
As for GST, it is supposed to be value added tax, thus its tax base is the whole of GDP. This will mean that 1% of GST does not equate to 1% Income Tax. That means, in the simplest case when 1% of income tax is reduced, only roughly half a percentage increase in GST would be needed to cover the lost in tax revenue.
It will also mean that a 2% increase in GST will increase government revenue roughly by $3 billion. My question is this, is PAP going to spend $3 billion in welfare schemes since it claims that the increase in GST is to help finance social safety net?
Besides, PAP government has openly said that they do not believe in a "permanent" comprehensive welfare scheme but an increase in GST will definitely increase their tax revenue permanently! I am really puzzled by PAP's latest "selling point". PAP has never worked on the basis of direct financing; eg. road tax, ERP and COE revenues are not directly used in development of road networks and such. There is never a direct link in revenue to spending. All revenues collected will be pooled and redistribute accordingly. Thus it is a bit strange to me that PAP has in fact claimed that they will increase GST to finance the social safety network which is not a "permanent" system in their governing concept. In fact, if I could remember correctly, the highest government spending lies in Defence. Spending on welfare schemes hardly reach the billion mark! So what are they going to do with the potential increase of $3 billion of GST revenue? How many percentage of this increase will go to welfare scheme?
The reasoning that offset package will be in place to offset the increase of GST. But my question is, offset for how long? One year? Two year? GST will apply EACH AND EVERY YEAR, forever if it continued to be applied, not just one year! I really don't know how many Singaporeans will buy their reasoning of "offsetting" but don't they get tired of their stale marketing technique for so many years?
The most disturbing thing is that, since income gap has been widen throughout the years, is it right to further widen the income gap by taxing more (GST) on the poor and perhaps, reduce the income tax on the rich?
The most comical thing is for PAP to make comparisons with other welfare states' GST tax rate! Yes, they pay high tax but their welfare schemes are intensive and comprehensive. It seems to me that PAP government wants the best of both worlds... high GST tax rate but low welfare schemes!
Even for a capitalist city like Hong Kong, has its own side of welfarism which is more comprehensive and "permanent" than PAP's. The Hong Kong government has just announced that it will sponsor each child that goes to kindergarten HK$13000 (about $2600) every year. Out of this amount, HK$3000 is for the kindergarten to spend on their teachers' development while HK$10000 will offset the child's school fees. It would practically mean that each child will only need to pay a very neglible amount of a couple of hundred HK dollars each month for their kindergarten education. This scheme is set to solve the unequal opportunity available for those poorer families that could not afford to send their children to kindergarten and at the same time, encourage Hong Kongers to have more babies by reducing the cost of upbringing a child. Beside this scheme, Hong Kong's most impressive systems are their healthcare subsidies and unemployment benefits.
Granted that HK manages to save on defence spending but the fact still remains that it has one of the lowest rate of tax in Asia: 16%. Of course the welfare spending will create burden on its government's financial health but I think people would not mind to pay a little bit more tax when they know most of their taxes are spent on the benefits and welfare of its people. Thus, even though many Hong Kongers resisted their government's plan to implement GST, personally I am not really against the idea basically because I know the Hong Kong government really takes care of its people. It is just a matter of how much GST should be implemented.
But in Singapore's context, I do not think the PAP government is that generous in helping our citizens. They are more interested in the amount of surplus they could accumulate and how to win elections by utilizing government funds in providing HDB upgrading. In fact, when PAP government keeps promising hundreds of millions of dollars of upgrading programmes (in total, at least $2billions) during the elections time, it has never mentioned about how these upgrading programmes could be financed.
Given that the PAP government has not come up with any concrete plans on a more comprehensive welfare scheme or mention any increase in healthcare subsidies, I do not think it is justifiable for PAP to increase GST to 7% by giving such vague link to social safety net. PAP, please show us the beef and we will decide whether to buy your argument or not!
Goh Meng Seng
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Updates: One of the reporter responded to my article here, "Thanks for the response. Regarding the cheng tng, we did say that Salim brought it, along with some young WP members." The impression of the article is that Salim bought the cheng tng with the help of other WP young members, I quote: " Along with some other young WP members, he bought some cold cheng tng for Dr Chee and comrades, a gesture that was highlighted, with thanks, on the SDP website" The word used is "bought".
I am amazed by the imagination that the reporters have when they write the "hot story" about Workers' Party with regards to Tilik's and my resignation. First of all, I must clarify again, two factual errors:
1) The report suggested that Salim bought the 'cheng tng' for the SDP protestors:
" Along with some other young WP members, he bought some cold cheng tng for Dr Chee and comrades, a gesture that was highlighted, with thanks, on the SDP website.
The cheng tng overture received an icy reception from the WP leaders."
As far as I know, it was Melvin Tan that bought the cheng tng, not Salim. I think ST reporters will have to keep up the 'high standards' that MM Lee has set for them, at least to be factually accurate in their reporting.
2) Secondly, the article seems to indicate that my resignation got to do with:
a) the internet guideline
b) the 'jockeying among young members' eyeing for the 'A' team.
One of the reporter that I spoke to even ask me whether my resignation got to do with my move from NEAC (where the Aljunied GRC is included) to CAC. I hereby reiterate that my resignation is a simple resignation for a simple but important reason, accountability. It is on my own initiative to request a shift from NEAC to CAC for strategic and tactical reason that I am not going to reveal.
Furthermore, I have resigned even before I know about the details of the internet guideline. Thus, it is impossible for me to make decision based on something that I was not even aware of in the first place!
As far as I know, there are no signs of "jockeying" among young members for a bigger role within the party. In fact, most younger (in age) senior party members have decided to step down from positions in the Youth Wing willingly so to let young and new members to take up more responsiblities within the party. Melvin, Tilik, Shin Leong and I have voluntarily stepped down from Youth Wing positions and did not take part in the Youth Wing Council re-election process! Most importantly, we come to the same decision without even the need to consult each other! We are all very happy that the party has grown in strength and that there are many more people willing to take up our positions in the Youth Wing. We are not 'power crazy' at all but in fact, altruistic in all sense. We understand our visions, missions and roles very well.
It is unfortunate that Tilik and I have decided to resign for two very different reasons. Some may think these are insignificant reasons or even "laughable", but to us, these are not small matters. It is a matter of principles and convictions. And to suggest that either Tilik or I resigned due to 'power struggle' would be grossly inappropriate and insulting to us. We have come a long way and decided to join Workers' Party when it was at its lowest point in recent history. It is definitely not power, fame nor any materialistic gains that motivated us to join Workers' Party at its weakest point. It is just pure passion, beliefs and convictions that bring us together in Workers' Party. If it is about power or better prospects of gaining power, fame or materialistic gains, we would not have chosen Workers' Party; Tilik would not have quitted PAP to join Workers' Party.
We have come together, work together, trying our very best to develop and build up the party, right from its lowest point. I feel that it is really insulting to us for people even suggest that we resigned due to 'power struggle'. Ironically, this would be the most 'laughable' reason in our persepective!
I would rather people see our reasons for resigning from Workers' Party mistakenly as 'trivial' or 'laughable' than being insulted in such crude way.
Goh Meng Seng
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I did not expect to write this so soon as I wanted to wait until the present parliamentary sitting is over before I make any public statement on my resignation which I think is not news worthy at all, but may be a distraction to Sylvia Lim's maiden speech in parliament.
Anyway, for some reasons, the ST reporter got to know about it sooner than I desire. I granted the interview with the view that it is better to make it clear right from the start rather than allowing the reporter to write with all sorts of speculations in mind.
The following are just some facts that I need to clarify:
1) I resigned from Workers' Party on the day when the misinformation of I threatening to sue an internet forummer was reported in Today. This is due to my private assessment on the damage done to WP's public image despite the fact that I have clarified the facts on the matter to the Today's reporter. I guess Today will never make any reports on misinformation about any PAP MPs or ministers with their clarifications put side by side. Well, this is life in Singapore.
2) For some reasons, ST chose not to report the specific reason I gave them about the damage done by the Today's report on the misinformation (though with my clarifications by the side).
3) Nevertheless, damage has been done to WP's image. I have talked about the importance of accountability for all my adult life and I think in view of the situation then, I will have to practise what I preach. It is a matter of personal integrity to me. If I do not practise what I preach, on what moral grounds do I stand when I question the ruling party about accountability in their governance?
4) This is the reason that I resigned. The speculation proposed by the ST reporter that I quit because I am unhappy about the rules which are going to be implemented (over internet engagement) is totally unfounded. It is only healthy that people have diverse views about anything in a political party. The most important thing is that, at the end of the day, we will come to a consensus and move on from there. It would be a total disaster for a political party to have members agreeing 100% on everything everytime.
5) None of the CEC members has requested me to resign over this matter. In actual fact, some have tried in private to convince me to stay on. My heart felt thanks to them but I think it is an important political point to be made.
6) For those people who like to speculate all sorts of things and come up with all sorts of conspiracy theories, they will be very disappointed. This is a simple resignation over a simple but important reason.
The most common reaction from people is that I am quitting politics altogether. However some will be relieved and some will be disappointed to learn that this is definitely not the case. ;)
My political vision and dream is to work towards an alternative political system for Singapore, to initiate positive change or reform to Singapore's political system. Joining a political party to provide meaningful political competition to the ruling party is merely one of the many ways or possibilities in achieving this goal.
I have written in this blog about the dilemma between the choices of partisan politics and NGO's role of creating more political awareness among the populace. In order for the reform to the political system to be successful, it will need the backing and support of Singaporeans. This could only be achieved when the political consciousness and awareness of our citizens are raised to a certain level.
Beside exploring the idea of forming or joining NGO, I have even explored into the possibilities of forming an independent alternative private think tank for all alternative parties. Political parties need policy research capabilities in order to perform their duties effectively. PAP, as the ruling party, has the support of the government funded think tanks to provide them the policy research capabilities. Alternative parties are deprived of such much needed resources.
I could even help out any political parties in various areas so to help the system grows. There are so many other ways one could contribute to the ultimate aim of reforming the political system besides standing in the frontline as a candidate during GE.
Of course, I may not rule out the possibility of joining any political party again or even form my own political party in future, but I think there are so many options available for anybody who want to do their part in initiating changes to the political landscape here!
Goh Meng Seng
Saturday, October 14, 2006
For the benefits of English readers, I have written the following summary of this article:
If we want to solve the haze problem, we must first understand three important factors:
1) Who are those who create the haze?
2) Why did they do that?
3) How could ASEAN countries do more than talk and coming up with ineffective resolutions?
First of all, we must understand the Indonesia political reality. Although Indonesia is a huge country with numerous natural resources, it continues to be a very poor country due to corrupt management by the govt.
Even when the Suharto adminstration was dismantled, the inherent system of corrupt political struggle still largely remain intact at the ground level. The central govt may heed calls to political reform to curb corruptions but those at the local govt may not change for the better. Thus, putting pressure on the Indonesia central govt is not very useful because even if its central govt could legislate stringent laws against pollution, these laws may not be executed by the local govt basically because they may not want to antagonize the large corporates that are involved in the use of fire to clear land, as they are the main source of tax money to these local govts. This is primarily the reason of the Haze problem.
Burning the forest to clear land for agriculture is a traditional practice in Indonesia. It solves two primary important problems for those poor farmers:
1) Provide a cheap way of clearing forested areas for farming
2) After burning the forest, those ashes left behind provides as free fertilizer.
Thus to city dwellers like us, we see the haze as pollution but to the farmers, it may be the necessary process for them to get cheap fertile land. If we want them to stop doing this, we must help them to find alternative ways to get fertile land for farming. A land cleared by burning down the forest will provide the poor farmers a few years of fertile land. After this, they will start burning and clearing other forested area again. Thus, you can see that the haze problem will worsen every few years.
What I could not tolerate is those rich corporates who use the same practice to save cost. By doing so, they created huge cost of pollution to us. If we are determined to stop them from doing such thing, there must be a concerted effort from ASEAN countries to saunction these companies of pollution and their affiliated companies. They must be prevented from accessing to ASEAN economies
Yes, we may suffer economically by cutting ties with these big companies but ultimately, the question is, are we politically determined enough to protect our people from the pollutino created by these companies? If there is no strong moral courage and political will, all talks will end up useless. These talks and agreement only aims to build a ASEAN FIRE FIGHTING FORCE and I think this is a very passive moves.
Citizens of ASEAN countries should put pressures on their govt to go for such drastic moves, make it into law that it is illegal to have dealing with companies of pollution. Singapore could effectively carry out such sanctions as it controls huge GLCs, but will there be strong political will to do so? Else not, we and our future generation will be destined to suffer from such pollution forever.
To tackle the problem of the haze, there must be strong political will from ALL sides. Indonesia is a weak developing country and I do not think its weak central govt could carry out any effective measures against those powerful countries. Only a concerted effort from each and every ASEAN countries to saunction them would create enough clout to punish these companies of pollution.
And only couple with active measures to seek alternative agriculture methodologies for the poor farmers, we could solve the haze problem permanently.
This is the gist of my Chinese posting.
Goh Meng Seng
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
If I remember correctly, this is the very first time that a prominent leader of PAP has openly declared the need to construct and preserve a "good" system for Singapore, instead of going by the line that without PAP, Singapore will not survive.
However, I could not really reconcile the need to create and preserve good system with the image that PAP projects in each and every elections the critical "scare messages" that if voters voted for opposition, we will be doomed. The reason is simple; if the system is good enough, how would it end up as "doomed" if PAP loses power?
What is the "good" system we are talking about? A system that could be abused if it "falls into the wrong hands"? I find it strange that such message has been repeated again and again, suggesting that our system could just turn into a "monster" if opposition wins the election and become the government! And yet, we want to preserve such system that is so vulnerable to abuse?
This could only mean one thing, this supposedly "good" system has given too much power to whoever in power. It is only when a system gives too much power to those in the government, it could possibly become a monster that could be abused by "bad government". Is this the "good system" that we are talking about in "preserving"?
This high concentration of power in the system could be abused by anyone, opposition parties as well as PAP included. Nobody could predict or even foresee the future. Nobody could guarantee that PAP will always be filled by people of great integrity with high morals. High concentration of power will result in a very imbalance system.
I am not saying good people is not important for the government to run smoothly. However, any instituition that gives great power to a few must have a system of effective checks and balances. If a system could just be "abused" by the "wrong people" being elected into office, it means that the mechanism of checks and balances is ineffective or simply lacking.
Checks and balances could come from two or more dimensions. Within the system, it could come from the government's internal mechanism like Auditor General, CPIB, judiciary etc. It could also come from the political balance in terms of adequate representation of non-ruling parties' MPs in the parliament. If one believes that that the system will fail or even abused by some "rogue" government, it would mean that the internal governmental mechanism will fail due to some inherent weaknesses or reasons and that, the ruling party have the means to curb effective representation of opposition parties in parliament.
We need good people to be in politics, both in the ruling party as well as alternative parties. At the same time, we must create a balance system that could effect good checks on whoever in power. We should not take chance that we will always have "good government". The only way to minimize the adverse impact of having "bad government" is to have a system of good checks and balances.
It is ironic to see PAP constantly harping on how "vulnerable" Singapore's system is if the "wrong people" are voted in as government but at the same time, they wanted to "preserve" such system of great vulnerability! Personally, I agree that the present system is very vulnerable and it should be changed for better checks and balances. This could only be done when PAP is willing to curb some of the powers that it has held on now as the government. As long as PAP is unwilling to subject itself to a system that encourage effective checks and balances from non-ruling parties in parliament, the system we have now will forever remain vulnerable.
I guess it is about time that Singaporeans should start thinking about what kind of political system we want to develop and preserve for our future generation as a Nation.
Goh Meng Seng
Saturday, September 30, 2006
红花雨 (Red Flower Rain)
紅花開 紅的心 紅的好美麗 為了你 等下去 我還在這裡
人不再 錯花季 雲濃月怎明 傷了心 不離棄 落成紅花雨
花若開 若有你 花才會美麗 盼望你 回頭看 我還在這裡
記得你 那一天 紅紅的眼睛 你的臉 你身影 笑容隨你去
在一起 流眼淚 一起看星星 能有幸 能相遇 永遠不忘記
漂著雨 迎著風 雨過盼風清 你牢記 我牢記 家就在這裡
Recently there are quite a few "home produced" political Music Video posted on the net. The above is one example, taken from Taiwan Anti-Chen Xiu Bian protest rally. This is very professionally done.
I believe the music is original and specially created for the Anti-Chen Xiu Bian protest. Quite a nice piece of song.
We do have a couple of local "political MV" created by individuals on Dr. Chee's Protest Rally held on 16 Sept 2006.
SG IMF - Democracy's "愛拼才會贏" / Strive In Order To Win...
SG IMF - 1Mil$ / "一百萬" / "Ji Pa Ban" Wishes...
I would say that these two video's editing is quite good for amateur standards but the only problem is that it does not use their own original music or strong. Instead, these two videos use two Hokkien songs which may lower its impact in the internet context.
I was taught that creativity flourish best during period of "dreaming" and "romance". It does not necessarily restrict to boy-girl relationship but rather a state of mind in which one yearns for something very much although it may be almost "impossible" to get or achieve at that point of time.
Taiwanese has been through decades of "political struggle" to achieve its state of democracy and this is almost done with people who dare to dream the impossible. Just 18 years ago, nobody could even imagine Taiwan could possibly be ruled by a politial party other than KMT but it happened just one decade later.
During that period of autocratic rule, political song writers were born. Famous singer cum writer like Luo Da Yu (罗大佑) has created many famous and good political songs during that period of time.
However, after six years of DPP rule, the old dream though fulfilled, has been totally demolished with the many corruptions charges brought against the ruling party members. A new dream is born with the old one demolished. A dream that peaceful non violence protest sit in will force out the elected President Ah Bian.
Singapore used to be a land of cultural blossom during the period of 1950s till mid 1960s. During that period of struggling against colonial rule, many fantastic poems, playright had been created, especially by the Chinese educated. Many of thsee plays are either banned and their writers jailed or bannished to foriegn land because they were deemed as "communist" in nature. The only eminent writer Guo Bao Kun (郭宝琨) has passed away. And we have never seen an archive of our past cultural heritage compiled. It seems that we have all lost that piece of collective cultural memories altogether.
Even up to this day, when we try to express our political dreams via the cultural form, we have practically lost that art of articulation but have to "borrow" pop culture to do it.
I have seen some ray of hope when I read Xeno Boy blog because I find that "cultural sense" in his writing. Very articulate way in his very own style and insight. Poetic sometimes and yes, poets are we lack in our political culture.
I do see some hope when there were some individual play groups starts to venture into social-political dimension. When I was stil in Junior College, I was quite delighted in some of the plays performed by some Chinese based performing groups. But somehow, it seems that "black humour" type of movies are more popular nowadays. I have nothing against "humour" but it seems that it lacks the refine approach to cultivate or present certain idealism of human minds.
Poetry, music and plays are powerful combination in moving souls and minds. It could be thought provoking and awaken the political consciousness that has been suppressed by one reason or another.
I always believe that a Nation or society should develop in a balanced way, not neglecting any of the four pillars of composition: social, culture, politics and economics. It seems that we as a nation under the leadership of PAP, has put all emphasis on economic development while neglected the other three aspects of this society.
Within 4 decades of "development", we have transformed Singapore from a cultural centre of Southeast Asian to the cultural desert of Southeast Asian. How does that happen?
Poetry, music and plays are powerful combination in moving souls and minds. It could be thought provoking and awaken the political consciousness that has been suppressed by one reason or another. But it is precisely that these expressions could be "potentiall dangerous" to cultivate "diversity" in political thinking that they have been deliberately suppressed or marginalized. Censorship is exercised thoroughly on any kind of expression that may involved "political sensitivity". A decade ago, such censorship is quite pervasive. I am told that at present days, they have somehow relaxed in certain aspects. However, PAP has used another law to suppressed political expression or rather, creativity... i.e. the political film act.
The lack of cultural depth is obvious by simple comparison of these MVs. Both are using pop culture medium but the depth of expression is vastly different. Could we do better or cultivate the "spiritual" dimension of our people if we continue to censor political expressions? This is something we need to ponder about as a Nation.
Goh Meng Seng
Afternote: Haha.. someone responded to my article here by emailing me this link to a "local favor" MV. Although the recording of the original song by the author is not perfect but I think it is good effort anyway. ;)
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
IMF Meeting - A Failed Branding Exercise
Many people have asked me whether it is "worth it" for Singapore government to spend over $100 million to play host to IMF - World Bank meeting while our citizens have to suffer another round of public transport fare hike?
I think we must look at the objective of hosting the IMF meeting before we could decide whether it is worth while for us to spend such money. In my view, hosting the IMF meeting is a branding exercise for Singapore. PAP government is trying to sell Singapore as the top choice MICE i.e. a place for Meetings, conferences and exhibitions to the whole world. If the IMF meeting is successfully organized here, it will argur well for us as a Nation. Singapore does have the necessary infrastructure and efficient system to position ourselves as a place suitable for international organizations and businesses to hold their conferences here. There are great benefits and opportunities for us in the long run if we have managed this IMF meeting well. This is a strategy in line with PAP's intention of building of the Casino resorts.
Unfortunately, PAP government has tripped itself numerous times in organizing the IMF meeting. The most fearful thing for a branding exercise is bad press and public relations disaster. This is something that PAP lacks good understanding. Maybe it is due to its long entrenched position in Singapore where the local media is in its absolute control. Local media will hardly give it bad press or create a public relations disaster for the PAP government. In such a "comfortable" environment, it would be very difficult for PAP to cultivate its Public Relations skills and thus it becomes very PR unsavvy.
First of all, PAP government should not have agreed to host the IMF meeting at all in the very first place. Branding needs consistency not only in its messages but in its structure as well. IMF meeting is well known for the accompanied street protests by social activists which may turn violent at times. This is totally incompatible to PAP's political culture or tolerance. I was furiously shocked when Mr. Goh Chok Tong said a couple of years ago that we may allow foreigners to hold street protests in Singapore during this IMF meeting. This practically means that Singaporeans would have become second class citizens in their own land because the PAP government has hardly issue any permits for its citizens to hold street protests in its rule, even though our constitution and law have provided such rights to us. I have taken the trouble to write a personal email to IMF, urging them not to hold thier meeting here for this particular reason. On hindsight, I should have been more persistent. True enough, SM Goh Chok Tong did a U turn and said just a few days ago that one of the primary reason why Singapore banned those NGOs and CSOs from conducting street protests during this IMF meeting is that they could not afford the political cost of discriminating against Singaporeans.
Secondly, the constant harping on the threat of terrorism to justify its refusal to allow some of the accredited activists to attend the IMF meeting does more harm than good to the branding exercise. If the main objective of this branding exercise is to attract more international businesses to hold their conferences in Singapore, the last thing you would do is to scare them away by saying we are constantly under terrorist threats! Those intimidating barb wires and steel walls built around the venue, Suntec, is not helping at all. It sent a mixed signals to the world that they will only be safe conducting their meetings in a cage like this!
The most critical blow come from the President of World Bank himself. His remark about Singapore Government renegades on the MOU signed three years ago has created tremendous damage to the standing and the reputation of this country! Although the PAP government tries very hard to justify its actions but the enormous damage has been done. Who wants to do business in a place where even the government could breach an important MOU with a big organization like the World Bank?
I guess no amount of huge posters with smiling faces will make us look good at the end of the day. The branding exercise is a total failure and I would say that those millions spent have been wasted. What we get in return is not a good brand name but bad press and bad reputation! What we are witnessing now is a self proclaim First World Government in a First World public relations disaster! Sigh.
Goh Meng Seng
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Well, I decided to pay a little bit more attention to what it says. According to Zao Bao, Comfort Delgro stated the following points:
1) It says that we should not make use of the profits of this "global company" to "mix up" with the talk of fare hike.
2) Half of the profits of Comfort Delgro are derived from overseas operations.
3) It says that if we want to see whether it is justifiable to raise bus fare or not, we should look at the financial report of SBS Transit.
4) According to the Zao Bao report, Comfort Delgro holds 75% of SBS Transit shares.
5) It says that from the quarterly financial report of SBS Transit, its profit has dropped by 3.9%.
6) It also says that the cost of fuel has increased by 40% for the past 1 year. Fuel cost takes up about 20% of their total operating costs.
7) As for staff cost, which make up of 50% of operation cost, it has increased by 3%.
Ok, these are the "facts" raise by the newspaper report. My stand is quite clear: if Comfort Delgro owns 75% of SBS Transit, any fare increase will of course benefit Comfort Delgro most! Besides, SBS Transit could be view as a subsidiary of Comfort Delgro. Thus, to see the impact of the fare increase and the validity of allowing such increase, we must of course take a wider approach, a bigger view.
For example, we cannot say GIC is badly managed just because it makes some losses in some of its investment, right? We must look at GIC as a whole entity. Similarly, when it comes to justifying whether a fare hike is necessary, we cannot just look at one small subsidiary's financial status and then claim that oh, it suffers financial burden, so we must let them increase price; even though when its mother company is enjoying a healthy annual growth in profits. Furthermore, which business in the world has the "immunity" from making losses?
Anyway, since the newspaper report mentioned about looking at SBS Transit financial report, so curiously, I did a search on both Comfort Delgro and SBS Transit financial report:
Comfort Delgro financial report at SES website:
SBS Transit Financial report at SES website:
From point 4, it says SBS Transit quarterly profit has dropped by 3.9. Taking a closer look at the financial report, this figure refers to the quarter to quarter comparison. i.e. compare to 2nd quarter 2005, 2006 2nd quater profit has dropped by 3.9%.
Well, fine. But when we look at point 6, claiming that cost of fuel has increased by 40%, I look at the quarter to quarter comparison, it has stated clearly that cost of fuel has only increased by 27.2%! So, where does the 40% come from? Even for half yearly comparison, the increase in fuel cost is only 36%. They round it up to 40%? This puzzles me alot.
And if you read further into the report analysis, you will realise that part of the increase in fuel cost is due to the increase of bus lines during that period!
Looking further at point 7, it claims that staff cost has increased by 3%. But I look at the financial report, it is actually 3.9% from the quarter to quarter comparison.What it did not mention is that turnover has increased by 5%!
But wait, aren't we suppose to be consistent in making comparison? Quarter to Quarter comparison is not a good comparison due to seasonal factors. I prefer to take a look at the half yearly comparison. To my shock, operating profits has only decreased by 0.7% instead of 3.9%!
Let me put it simply here,
Turnover>>>>>> +5.1%>>>>>>>>>>> +5.0%
Staff cost>>>> +3.9%>>>>>>>>>>>> +1.9%
Fuel cost>>>>> +27.2%>>>>>>>>>>> +36%
Ops profit>>>>> -3.9%>>>>>>>>>> -0.7%
Profit less tax>>No change>>>>>> +6.3%
We must bear in mind that the increase in fuel cost is partly due to the increase of new bus services introduced.
So now we know that they have only highlight the "higher cost" figures, but did not report on the increase of Turnover and the increase of profit less tax of 6.3%! If we look at the half yearly result, the increase in both staff and fuel cost was largely offset by the 5% increase in Turnover, resulting only a slight drop of 0.7% of operating profits.
Overall, profit less tax still enjoys a healthy 6.3% for the first half of this year!
So what do you think, should PTC allow them to increase fare?
Goh Meng Seng
Saturday, August 05, 2006
(My daughter Tian Ci)
Hope for the Future
Our present is moulded by our past and we mould the future at the present. Thus, our hope for the future lies in our hands now.
I have mentioned many times that my first initial real unhappiness with PAP was "created" back in 1997 when PAP started to use HDB upgrading as a threat (stick) and a carrot to win votes. In the midst of the bubble created by PAP's "asset enhancement" policy, this was truly "effective" as it touched on the raw primitive "greed" of human beings. Everyone thought that the property prices could go up on and on. Many people want to have "free upgrading" for their flats so that they could see their property prices soar. The whole nation was drown in the property bubble fuel by unrealistic expectation derived from PAP's "asset enhancement" policy.
There are basically three issues right here:
1) PAP has started politics linked with material returns for the first time (back in 1997). This is a big pandora box as human greed has no boundary.
2) Our children will be cultivated under such a system of materialistic setting which is detrimental to the progress of our society in encouraging volunteerism, social consciousness, justice and responsibility.
3) Such tactic is morally and politically questionable. Everyone has the obligation to pay tax and the government has the obligation to take care of EVERY SINGLE SINGAPOREAN. This is the basis of a republic nation but yet, PAP has advocated that only those voters who voted for them will have privileges?
I do not wish to see my children and future generations to be brought up in a society that only teaches them materialistic pettiness with little sense of social consciousness, equality and justice. This is my hope for our future and I really hope many more Singaporeans could share the same vision so that we could send an ultra strong signal to PAP that what it is doing is terribly wrong.
I also hope that my children will not live in an environment that promote gambling in the guise of "entertainment" and that the society will not be crippled by broken families, suicides and all sorts of social problems arise from casino gambling.
My hope for our future is to have a government that takes care of its citizens well instead of counting each and every cents for whatever little things we need from them.
My hope for our future is to have a government to take care of the elderly needs regardless of their votes; upgrade their lifts to land on each floor according to the needs of the elederly instead of petty politicking.
My hope for our future is to have higher return to our CPF savings so that our retirees could enjoy their life peacefully after so many years of working, without the need to go around begging, selling tissue papers or become scavangers hunting for empty cans at night. And yes, the GIC and Temasek Holdings should help citizens to get higher returns for their CPF savings instead of just serving the government's financial needs.
My hope for our future is to have stronger parliamentary setting whereby sufficient checks and balances could be installed by having more MPs from alternative parties. Monopoly of power is unhealthy for the progress of our nation. And I hope Singaporeans should learn from the NKF saga fast and come to the consensus that the multipartisan system is the only way to ensure good governance.
My hope for our future is that every Singaporean should not be "afraid" of going to hospital when they need to, just because they fear that they could not afford to pay for the hospital bills. Despite the claim of PAP that our healthcare system is "affordable" but the truth is, healthcare cost has been rising for the past years and many people still consider the cost of healthcare is not affordable to them.
National Day is around the corner and I wish all my readers a Happy National Day. On the other hand, I also hope that all of you could spend a moment of silent reflections on what we, as a Nation and a people, hope for our future generations.
Goh Meng Seng
Thursday, July 06, 2006
This is what I wrote in Mr. Brown blog comment
I am really touched by the support that many of you have shown here for Mr. Brown. However, I feel very sad that there are so many Singaporeans here who are still having some fantasies about PAP government. Some even believe in PAP's constant calling for "Open Society" when we know very well in reality, this "Open Society" has deliberately "excluded" people (regardless partisan or not) who voiced against PAP.
How could people ever truly believe in the PAP's concept of "Open Society" when the GE has shown us that PAP is constantly thinking of ways to "fix" its opponents? And PAP has consistently labeled its opponents as "donkeys", "troublemakers", "people with doubtful characters" etc . Hey, what we merely did were to contest against PAP's monopoly of power!?
To some extend, Today's editors have somehow kept the fantasies of PAP's "Open Society" alive by inviting Mr. Brown as its columnist. This gives people just a little hope that PAP is serious in building an "Open Society" when they see the "bold moves" by local newspaper. I think unwittingly, PAP has thrown a big stone at its own toe. It has totally destroyed the only iconic resemblance of "Open Society", that have kept the illusion alive all this while.
Incidentally, I do not blame those editors or reporters at Today. Please don't blame them as I know most of them, who are young and idealistic, have been pushing the boundaries as far as they could. I think some of them might just quit from their jobs after this incident as their own illusion of hope for a change towards "Open Society" has been totally dispelled.
The only consolation we have here is the rapid awakening process of Singaporeans at large about the reality of PAP rule. But I guess, this is just too little, too late.
Please people! We should not have any more fantasies about PAP rule, least "Open Society" under its charge. It has happened to Catherine Lim, it now happens to Mr. Brown. Why? It is something for us to ponder about. It is basically because elections after elections, Singaporeans have voted PAP and given it total grip on power. Singaporeans have given PAP the mandate to rule as it wishes and ineviatble, those who are talking against it, would be considered as talking against those people who voted them in.
I have made "politically incorrect" comments to some of the reporters who called me when James Gomez was being detained at the Airport. I said, "Is this country worth fighting for?" Yes, I may be speaking at a time of great emotions, but this is a question that constantly rings in my mind. Are Singaporeans worth fighting for? Worth sacrificing for? Worth risking our jobs, families and life for?
Put it simply, what Mr. Brown received was just a slight slap on his wrist but this created a big hoo-haa. However, when some AP politicians got a blow by the sledgehammer, there is apparently silence among the masses, overwhelmed with fear. Yes, Singaporeans keep looking for excuses or anything that could prolong whatever little fantasies they have in PAP. They are quite forgiving towards PAP but the same could be said about AP politicians. Somehow, they believe or chose to believe in what the local media said about AP politicians.
I was told by many, Singaporeans have very short memories and we should not have any fantasies about Singaporeans being awaken and support for a more balanced political system five years later. I wish to prove them wrong but when I was standing right in front of the ballot boxes in the counting centre, looking at the votes given to PAP team, I knew, I have too many illusions and fantasies on Singaporeans for a start.
Voters have chosen to believe in the smear campaign and the carrots thrown at them instead of thinking of the bigger picture of political development.
I no longer have any illusions or fantasies on Singapore voters and I hope you should not have any on PAP.
Goh Meng Seng
Sunday, July 02, 2006
I will take an exceptional break from posting my views on GE 2006 for a while to report on Hong Kong’s 7.1 unique "celebration".
I have just returned from the annual 7.1 (1st July) Procession (in Hong Kong). This is the second time that I attended the annual gathering at Victoria Park at Causeway Bay but the first time I completed the whole procession. It is quite an experience.
First of all, here are some background information:
Hong Kong was “returned” to China on 1st July 1997 on the pretext of “One Country Two System” and has become a Special Administrative Region (SAR) thereafter The Hong Kong SAR government celebrates the anniversary every year with a flag-raising ceremony and a cocktail reception for senior officials, prominent business leaders and other select guests. Usually the Mainland Central Government would also send a high-ranking official to visit Hong Kong before or on the handover anniversary day. This year some pro-Mainland organisations even organised a parade to celebrate the special day.
For the first time, the People’s Liberation Army stationed in Hong Kong participated in this celebration parade, showing off their strength and martial art. The parade this year looks like our Chingay procession with lion dance and wayang performers. It also looks like US’ July 4 Independence Parade but with a “Chinese” flavour. The organisers claim to have 50,000 participants in this year’s parade but I really doubt so. Participants were mobilized and ferried to the venue. Sumptuous lunch was even provided. The parade started in the morning and ended by 1 pm.
In strong contrast with the “Pro-Mainland” parade, the Democratic Movement Alliance organised its annual protest and procession at 3 p.m.. Due to the lack of mobilisation mechanism and resources, such event depends very much on Hong Kongers’ own initiative and will to participate. The theme for this year’s march is “Universal Suffrage for Chief Executive”. This year is special in the sense that ex-Chief Secretary for the Hong Kong SAR government who headed the then more than 180,000 civil service, Anson Chan, announced her intention to participate in the protest march in advance. She is also seen as a potential candidate for the Chief Executive. Hong Kong will hold the election of its next Chief Executive in 2007.
The present political system only allows 800 delegates to choose the Hong Kong Chief Executive every 5 years. Most of these delegates are widely viewed as Pro-Mainland individuals. According to the Hong Kong Basic Law installed by both the British and Chinese governments back in 1997, the Chief Executive will have to be elected by ALL Hong Kongers (i.e. Universal Suffrage) 10 years after the return of rule to China. However, the Communist Party of China has interpreted the Basic Law that it does not state the exact year which Universal Suffrage should be implemented as it only states “10 years after return of rule”. Thus, the Chinese authority ruled that it is up to the Chinese
Government to decide on the date for Universal Suffrage.
The estimates of the size of participants for this march range from 28,000 (by police) to 58,000 (by organisers). My own estimate: 35,000 to 45,000.
Nevertheless for this year, we see an increase in participation, most probably due to the Anson Chan effect. However, it is a far cry from the historical record of half a million people back in 2003 when SARS broke out and the Hong Kong economy was hardest hit after its return to China.
Ok, that’s all for background information.
At Victoria Park, I saw Anson Chan being surrounded by reporters and cameras. A group provided marshalling for her during the procession. Along the way, quite a number of bystanders cheered her on.
I noticed many Hong Kongers brought their children along. Some of them even had babies in strollers going for the march! As any other mass protests in Hong Kong, participants were quite representative of the population. Infants, young children below 10, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged couples, people on wheel chairs/crutches to elderly with walking sticks were all there. The weather was quite hot and humid with temperature at 32 degree Celsius.
Organisers gave out printed slogans and stickers which, I believe, were sponsored by Apply Daily newspaper. However, Hong Kongers demonstrated their creativity with lots of home made placards, banners and slogans. There was even a group of netizens dragging a big banner and beating drums!
The organiser, Democratic Movement Alliance, consists of many different groups (NGOs) and political parties. All the different groups have set up stalls along the route to solicit for donations. The march was very peaceful in nature and I did not see any police in riot gear anywhere.
One little interesting encounter occurred along the march. I saw a guy wearing a polo t-shirt with a Singapore Police Force logo on it! I walked up to him and asked him politely (in English) whether he is from Singapore. He tried to answer me in an accented Cantonese “No”, with a stern look. Then I shifted my eyes on the logo on his chest and said, “that’s from Singapore!” He mumbled something and walked off quickly! Well I was thinking to myself, maybe our Singapore Police Force has sent someone to observe the march so as to learn about crowd control for the coming September IMF meeting! If so, then they must have sent a person not that tactically smart! ;)
Anyway, what impressed me was that many young people were involved in organising this march. Many of them also participated in the march as individuals as well. Most of them in their twenties, some of them from the universities. Such activism among the youngsters is indeed a very healthy development for Hong Kong’s political development. This phenomenon stands in great contrast to the apathy generally found in Singapore youngsters. At the Final Destination, the Central Government Offices, four young people were the MCs in charge of the make shift stage.
I believe that the youngsters in any society should be the avant-garde of social-political activism and change. Young people should have idealism, courage and altruism in them to participate actively in social or political movement.
I have realized long time ago that our whole social environment, including the education system, does not encourage such spiritual altruism. We have cultivated our young people with a social mindset based on materialism.
Young people are “discouraged” from expressing themselves politically.
There are a few classic examples. When some secondary school girls started selling the cute elephant T-shirts outside Buangkok MRT station, they were told to stop. When some young bloggers expressed their frank “politically incorrect” views on the net, they were “warned” by the school’s teachers.
PAP may openly say that such political expression is perfectly ok, but they do not realize that they have created an atmosphere of anxiety and even fear among the civil service (i.e. police, teachers etc) by the way they try to “fix” opposition politicians. The inevitable long-term effect is that people, especially the young ones, will just “play safe” and step out from the political arena. Thus apathy will arise.
In Hong Kong, young children are encouraged to express their political stand or views openly without fear. They are taught from young that rallies and protest march is their civil rights but as a mature Chinese society, they do it peacefully without any violence. They are taught in schools, among other things, about what constitutes democracy, corrupt practice, local and foreign political systems etc as part of their civic education. Such civic education is essential for a progressive political democratic development. I do not know what sort of political education we have in our schools now, other than the glorification of PAP’s past achievement, but during my time we were not taught about what Democracy is all about. This is ironic because students are made to recite the National pledge on Democratic Society but nothing was taught about that. We were not taught about our political setup, electoral system and how our votes can be kept secret even with serial numbers on them.
In fact, I would say that the PAP government has deliberately “de-politicize” the citizens throughout the decades. PAP has learnt from the early days that social-political activism is mostly carried out by students. Thus it is only logical to “de-politicize” the curriculum of the schools. Thus the direct result is general apathy in our young people.
After experiencing Hong Kong’s 7.1 protest march, I worry for Singapore’s political future. Politicians need to be nurtured from young, not through some “expressway” politics of GRCs. Political talents are more than being “smart” or “elite”. The Hong Kong Chief Executive has put it very well in his 7.1 message: Political leaders should not view themselves as elitists. They should lower themselves to the level of ordinary folks and cultivate the necessary empathy so as to serve the people better.
Such Empathy could only be cultivated through social-political activism at a young age. And WE DO NOT HAVE IT IN SINGAPORE as compared to Hong Kong where Universal Suffrage has not even been enjoyed!
Goh Meng Seng
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
GE Issue: Accountability --- PAP's Broken Promises
Workers’ Party has brought up three broad categories of issues in GE 2006. They are:
2) Hope for the Future
3) First World Government
I will be touching on the issues I have brought up in my election speeches that are related to the three categories in the following postings.
The question of accountability is a very important issue. We have to hold politicians and political parties to their promises, make them account for their actions. This is the fundamental pillar of a democracy as contrast to a monarchy. In order for such a democratic system to function well, transparency of the whole government is very critical. Sad to say, many of the decisions made by the PAP government is not transparent at all. For example, they have never explained about how they allocated government funds for HDB upgrading. Some PAP wards have more upgrading than many other PAP wards, not to mention about wards held by other political parties.
Without much information of the governance of the ruling party due to such opaque management, the only way I could think of is to use PAP’s broad promises made in past elections as the attack point. There are many PAP broken promises made in the past, like “Swiss Standards of Living”, “Asset Enhancement”, “More Good Years” etc, but these are just too general. Thus, I decided to concentrate on three more specific issues:
1) Restoring CPF contributions to 40%
2) Building of a Nothern Hospital in Yishun East
3) Providing “Affordable” Medical care
These are issues closer to Singaporeans’ hearts to start with.
Restoring CPF contributions to 40%
For a start, WP’s stand on CPF is to maintain it at 35% (higher than the present 33%). This stand has been recorded in our 1991’s manifesto. This to balance between the needs of retirement and business cost. This stand was made in the context of 1991 whereby HDB flats were cheaper (no asset inflation and asset enhancement), no payment of HDB upgrading using CPF and no payment of rapidly inflated medical cost using CPF.
Conditions have changed since 1991. We are facing insufficient retirement financing right now and in the next one or two decades, the problem of insufficient retirement financing will balloon with an increasing aging population. Since PAP made the promise in 2001 Elections that it will restore the CPF contributions to 40% once the economy is good, it is then only right to hold PAP accountable to this important promise.
As usual local media has a blackout on this attack against PAP’s broken promise. I have even suggested that the problem of insufficient retirement financing is due to low return rates on our CPF savings. Imagine that if you could invest your CPF funds in some very safe government bonds for 5%, why are we getting only 2.5% or at most 4% from CPF board? I have also suggested that if we want to increase the return of our CPF savings, then it is only wise to have a better investment mechanism. Let GIC and Temasek Holdings invest our CPF for us since they claim to have high return for the past decades! Why would GIC and Temasek serve the interest of the government only but not the citizens?
We do not want the government to be rich while the citizens suffer insufficient funds for retirement! If PAP government has the citizens’ interests at heart, we will not end up in a situation that government is rich while citizens are poor. Every profit made by GIC and Temasek Holdings, most of it are put into the reserves. They did not serve Singaporeans directly. Why not let citizens utilize the World Class investment arms of Singapore Government to make more money for their retirement?
Building of a Northern Hospital in Yishun East
This promise is made by PAP back in 2001 Elections. Some may wonder why this issue is so important that I need to put emphasis on it again and again.
The reason is that in Singapore, we are short of government hospitals! This is the primary reason why our public hospitals, despite increasing fees, could face bed shortages! This problem was raised when Mr. Low Thia Khiang was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital when he contracted dengue fever. Mr. Low lives in the North. For those of you who live in the North, you would realize that there isn’t any hospital in the North at all. This is really an abnormality as the population residing in the North is rising rapidly with the new estates of Sembawang, Sengkang and Punggol growing in size. Together with the matured estates Woodlands, Yishun and Ang Mo Kio, there are at least half a million people but there is no hospital in the North! If one depends on Tan Tock Seng Hospital alone, I do not think it could cope as it also serves residents in Toa Payoh, Bishan and Thomson. Imagine if you have an emergency in Woodlands or Yishun, how long will it take to reach Tan Tock Seng? Not to forget, CTE is always jammed during peak hours!
This is a matter of life or death to residents living in the North! Thus to me, it is a very important issue to bring up. Of course, PAP tries to respond in a positive way that it is taking “actions” to build one hospital in Yishun East. However, 5 years have passed, where is the hospital? They say it will be ready by 2010, earliest 2009. A first world government needs 9 years to build a hospital?
Affordable Medical Care
PAP has stressed that Medical Care will be kept “affordable” in 2001 Elections. But we know that right after 2001 elections, medical costs shot up, increasing at such a speed that only in 2005 PAP suddenly woke up and realize that something is wrong. Re-structuring of public hospitals and the liquidity provided by CPF Medisave are the key reasons why medical costs have shot up. After many complaints about certain medical costs in supposed “subsidized” restructured hospitals are higher than private hospitals, PAP government suddenly woke up and pulled the brakes. But this is just too late. We are facing high medical cost but no increase in quality in their services as they are overloaded.
Medical cost is not just about money. It is also about life and death. As I have mentioned in my speech that there are even people who would rather risk their lives instead of calling the ambulance! (I did not bring up comparison from Hong Kong basically because I have insufficient data but I will write more on Hong Kong’s medical service after these few GE related posting. )
PAP has said it wanted to debate about issues but it seems to me that they have chosen to avoid such debate. There were no direct responses from PAP towards my serious attacks during the elections. Only a token demonstration of the Yihsun hospital was made during the GE. But they did not say why it takes 9 years for a First World government to build a hospital that is in urgent need!
I will leave my readers to judge about these issues. PAP has not made any substantial promises this time round, save and except HDB upgrading. Maybe they are running out of ideas or that they are just not confident about fulfilling their own promises after breaking so many promises made in the past!
Goh Meng Seng
Afternote: During the GE, I have asked PAP to answer a few questions on fees increases. Are they going to increase public transportation fares? Are they going to increase public utilities fees? They would better list out all the good (HDB upgrading) and also the bad things (fee increase) and let Singaporeans decide whether to vote for them or not. Again, PAP chose to keep silent on these questions. Now, we know the answers: they are going to increase electricity tarriffs and most probably public transportation fare in the coming months. This is only a few months after elections! They should be more open and Singaporeans should take them accountable to their policies next time.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Recently, quite a number of people have written and spoken on the issue of lift upgrading. I would like to put up my view from another angle. This view is formulated after some discussion with some friends.
Many people would be surprised by the "generous promise" of lift upgrading made by PAP government. But one should ask, has the PAP government been so generous towards Singaporeans before?
Many people really think that PAP wanted lift upgrading just for its political gains but there is some more valid technical reasons for having lift landing at each and every floor for old HDB flats.
For a self proclaimed World Class government, it has made a grave mistake in the past by building HDB without lift landing on each and every floor. The reason given as "people at that time like privacy" is really crappy to start with and cannot hold any water. Even for the colonial ruled HK back in 70s, all buildings more than 7 storey high fitted with lifts will have at least one lift that could reach each and every floor. This is called "fireman lift". Yes. This is to adhere to world class fire safety standards but one may ask, why the self proclaimed world class government did not adhere to world class fire safety standards?
What PAP govt is doing right now is to correct past mistake; it is not really about political gain but it is about fixing up past mistakes.
I was told that the fire safety rules have been made in such a way to exempt HDB flats built before a certain year from adhering to the stringent fireman lift requirement. But new HDB flats and buildings will have to adhere to this fire safety standards strictly. One must ask, are HDB flats built before that arbitrary date so "special" that it makes fire fighting so easy that we do not need fireman lifts? Contrary to this, the design of these old HDB flats make fire fighting very difficult.
It is of course really absurd to ask residents to co-pay for such glaring world class mistake made by the world class government. Besides, those living in these old flats are mainly elderly Singaporeans who might have retired and have little or no income at all. Why would we want to force them to pay for the world class government's mistake of the past? And even more ridiculous for PAP to use it to gain political capital!
To be fair to PAP government, it has corrected its oversight of fire safety for HDB flats before, though quietly. Fire access roads to old HDB flats have been created. Fire rated doors have been installed for those flats near the staircase FREE OF CHARGE. But what about fireman lifts? Lift landing on each and every floor to facilitate fire fighting?
I would urge the PAP government to step out of their own political agenda and look at the issue on a more altruistic manner. This is about fire safety of ALL SINGAPOREANS living in old HDB flats we are talking about, regardless whether they vote for PAP or not! I would urge PAP government to make this an urgent need, top priority of all other cosmetic HDB upgrading, to make it a safer living environment for all. If we could save on all other less urgent upgrading, we could well finance all the necessary lift upgrading for ALL OLD HDB flats.
Lift upgrading for lift landing on each floor is an URGENT AND NECESSITY to comply to fire safety standards. It should not become a political party's tool to win votes.
Goh Meng Seng