Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mah Bow Tan "Caught off guard"?

I am again bemused and frustrated at the same time when I read the article on Today newspaper.

First of all, how do we end up with the most highly paid minister/politician in the world that could not anticipate problems at all? Mah Bow Tan says he was "Caught off guard" but the government has all the data of increases in PR numbers and such!!! Besides, granting PRs is under the prerogative of the government and there is absolutely no reasons for them to claim "I don't know"!

PAP has made many Singaporeans to believe that they are the brightest and the best, elites of the elites, cream of the crops, but now, he is saying that he couldn't possible to know the sudden surge in demand that cause the spike in HDB prices? It begs the question that if he is not so extraordinary and no different from others, why the hell are we asked to pay millions for his annual salary?

Secondly, the crux of the matter is not about being caught off guard by the sudden surge in demand. The surge is not sudden anyway because for the last two three years, we have been opening up our flood gates for PRs and FTs! Even so, the problem lies in the pricing mechanism. Even if he knew that there is going to be a surge in the resale market prices, what could he possibly do with the present pricing mechanism set up by him?

Last but not least, the worse thing for him to say is that Singaporeans could only have two options, one is the present one while the other is have a fixed price for new HDB flats while citizens have to return the flats to HDB instead of selling in resale market! Why? Why can't HDB sell new flats at fixed price to citizens while allowing citizens to keep whatever profits they earn from resale market? HDB flats are built on land that mostly acquired from citizens at CHEAP dirt prices.

It is a social contract between the citizens and the government that such land acquisitions are made possible for the government to redistribute the land to many other citizens for the common good like housing. If citizens wanted to profit from such sale of their HDB flats, so be it! It is after all the sacrifices made by other citizens whose land are being acquired at cheap dirt price by the government that makes such profits by other citizens possible. Why would HDB be the beneficiary of such sacrifices?

Moreover, this will add value to our citizenship. It is a privilege of being the citizens of this nation that we enjoy the fruits and profits of the influx of PRs!

Even at this moment, HDB does require sellers of HDB flats to pay a portion of their "profits" to HDB if they are to buy their second flat. So, does this sound as if we are just renting the flats from HDB as well?

It seems that such complacency of the highest paid politicians in the world is totally unacceptable. The Minister in charge of water works could well give excuses for the flooding in Bukit Timah as "one freak event in 50 years" but ironically, there are still many floods in the past as well as recently!

No apology but just plenty of excuses from Mah Bow Tan!

This is a problem when Singaporeans agree "grudgingly" to give PAP the monopoly of power as well as the highest pay in the world. There are no incentive for them to "work hard" and "strive harder" anymore. Just like Mr. Lee Kuan Yew says, "spurs are not on their hides" because there is no competition, no extraction of accountability but the only difference is that it has become our problems instead of the ministers!

As MM Lee believes, human beings are just like animals, we just need to discipline them. Should we, as citizens, "discipline" our ministers now? To stick spurs under their hides so that they could work harder for their top pay?

We should prove MM Lee wrong that Singaporeans are not just "Champion grumblers". We should prove to him that we are people who could really put the spurs into the hides of the ministers and PAP's rule if they under perform, less hardworking, less driving, less striving... whatever...

Vote Mah Bow Tan out!

Goh Meng Seng

From Today newspaper.

Asset that keeps growing
by Esther Ng
05:55 AM Dec 30, 2009
SINGAPORE - For those would-be flat buyers who hope property prices do not rise, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan paints an alternative scenario.

Would they prefer a fixed-price system, whereby home-owners, when they want to sell their Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat, must return it to the authorities for the price they paid for it?

In this scenario, no one is allowed to profit from the sale of the flat. As a result, prices are kept low.

"It's almost like renting the flat to somebody," Mr Mah said as he spoke to MediaCorp about housing issues in a year when even he was "caught off guard" by how the HDB resale market trended north in a recession year.

"Nobody, no matter how prescient, no matter how clever, would have been able to predict that this was what was going to happen," he said.

Nonetheless, Mr Mah believes the current system is far superior to one that keeps housing cheap through a non-market-based system.

"Because it gives greater benefits to the home-owner. It gives them a stake in Singapore ... it also allows them to profit from the growth that Singapore enjoys because as we grow, the flat value goes up," he said.

"Once they own the flat, it's an asset. And this asset can be cashed out in old age, be used to finance their retirement. It's a store of value for them."

Mr Mah sees no conflict in the twin objectives of providing affordable housing and creating assets for Singaporeans that will grow over time.

"We have to do both for the simple reason that a flat buyer today will be a flat owner tomorrow ... For that to happen, we must make sure that flats are affordable," he said.

"Otherwise, how can the flat buyer be an owner?"

Prices are still affordable, said Mr Mah, as evidenced by how 80 per cent of Singaporeans who buy new flats can pay for their mortgages using only 21 per cent or less of their income - in other words, using only their CPF contributions.

'At least one BTO launch a month'

Looking to next year, Mr Mah said the opening of the two integrated resorts will lead to higher demand for housing. "But we'll increase the supply as

"We hope demand will go up because that means the two IRs are successful, and if the two IRs are successful, tourism numbers will go up and employment will go up and the economy will benefit."

Pundits are predicting that property prices, public housing included, will continue to increase next year.

The beneficiaries of this, and of any property upturn in general, will be those who own more than one property, according to Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak, as they can "keep one for themselves, sell one off or rent the other one out".

For flat buyers waiting for prices to dip first, Mr Mak added: "No one knows when the next cycle will take place, or where the bottom is, so they have to get on the bandwagon."

According to Mr Mah, people who bought homes because they were "afraid prices are going to go up even further" contributed to rising prices this year, with pent-up demand and the "usual demand" from first-time buyers and permanent residents being the other factors.

Flat buyers, he said, can look forward to at least one Build-To-Order launch a month next year, which translates to some 12,000 new flats on offer.

"They will be in good locations, not necessarily in mature estates, but in newer towns near MRT stations, facilities in exciting neighbourhoods, so don't rush," said Mr Mah.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


作者:冀居·谢 3:03pm 29/12/2009













人民行动党长久以来要新加坡社会避开任何形式的 " 福利 " ,并将之称为“拐杖思维”,认为将削弱我们的竞争能力。







































Sunday, December 20, 2009

Singaporeans have lowest priority in HDB's rental flat policy?

It is really frustrating to read the following news in bold below.

We keep reading about families, along with their kids sleeping off the streets just because of financial difficulties that forced them to give up their HDB flats. We have a government that told them to go and live with their relatives or friends or wait for at least 6 months before they could get a rental flat from HDB. Eventually some of them are living off the streets or even camp along beaches.

But here, we have another "FIRST CLASS TREATMENT" by our government to foreign workers working for the Casino resorts! After vacating Singaporeans from their flats in Toa Payoh for the excuse of redevelopment, HDB ended up renting the whole two blocks of flats to these foreign workers at cheap prices with full furnishing which include air-conditioners! Have we become second or even third class citizens in our very own land?

Why should the government through HDB, rented out flats which utilizes CHEAP lands acquired from Singaporeans via the Land Acquisition Act to Foreign Workers? Is the government more responsible towards Foreign Workers and their Foreign Employers than Singaporeans?

During this period, there is an acute shortage of new HDB flats which is caused by HDB ill-planning. And yet, this land which supposedly to be used for redevelopment into new flats for Singaporeans have been used to house foreigners?

I really wonder why the Casino Resorts are employing so many FOREIGNERS when PAP has asserted that the Casino Resorts will create more jobs for Singaporeans! If the Casino Resort operators are determined to employ so many foreigners (about 1500 to be housed in these two flats) to run their operation, isn't it their responsibility to find appropriate accommodation for their employees instead of encroaching into Singaporeans' HDB flats? The Casino Resort operators should build their own Hostels for their foreign employees instead!

The question is that even if their foreign employees want to rent any flats, they should do so from Singaporeans instead of direct from HDB! HDB's job is to take care of Singaporeans' housing interests and needs FIRST! This is why HDB are not selling any flats directly to any Foreigners. The irony is that if HDB is so STINGY and STRICT about renting any flats to Singaporeans, why should it be renting any flats to FOREIGNERS?

There are really a lot of questions the Minister in charge of National Development need to answer!

Goh Meng Seng

Dec 18, 2009
HDB flats for IR workers
By Tessa Wong

Two blocks of Housing Board flats in Toa Payoh have been converted into worker dorms for foreign employees of integrated resort Resorts World at Sentosa.

TWO blocks of Housing Board flats in Toa Payoh have been converted into worker dorms for foreign employees of integrated resort Resorts World at Sentosa.

Blocks 32 and 33 on Toa Payoh Lorong 6 were pending redevelopment until a few months ago, when Resorts World croupiers, hotel service staff and casino pit supervisors started moving in. It is estimated there are more than 300 units in the two blocks. Each flat houses four to six workers, who pay monthly rents ranging from $140 to $260 each.

On the lease tenure, the Housing Board would only say it is a private short-term arrangement between Resorts World and managing agent EM Services. Resorts World said it is providing accommodation for foreign employees 'to help reduce their stress and anxiety of relocating overseas' and to ensure they enjoy a similar lifestyle to their Singaporean staff.

When the Straits Times visited the blocks on Friday, the Toa Payoh flats looked clean with fresh coats of paint. Tenants said the flats come with basic furniture such as dining tables and beds, as well as appliances like washing machines and fridges. The bedrooms are also air-conditioned.

Many found the accommodation comfortable, and the central location convenient. They each pay about $100 per month for a daily return bus service that ferries them between home and Sentosa.

Most of the local residents interviewed said they did not mind the workers.

Friday, December 18, 2009

香港政局 - 五区总辞行公投的争执























Thursday, December 17, 2009






重讀Mark Kurlansky寫1968年世界社運浪潮,不無感慨。他指出1968年為何振奮人心,不在社運有多「激」、抗爭行動有多創意、或社會有多一呼百應,而是在於不同社會像同時進行「交談」,把一切關於社會前途的意見「攤出來」,而當世界有若干人口對現況不滿,而同時拒絕沈默,站在街頭大聲疾呼,這才是讓全人類感到真切的希望,而不需被動地等什麼什麼「希望批發商」販賣承諾及激情。

當然,激進政治有其激昂面,卻也有務實一面。「務實處事,追求不可能發生的事」(be realistic, ask for the impossible),是Kurlansky對68年社運浪潮的歸納。激進政治往往有兩大險處,套在香港亦適用。一是行動「儀式化」(ritualized)之險,而忘了保持思潮的前衛進步性,比起行為激進重要百倍。欠缺足夠理論基礎及說服公眾的能力,激進行為變成形式,那頂多是「政治保守」套上新裝而已。而當主流傳媒傾向「娛樂大眾」,播幾句soundbites或幾秒對抗場面,滿足大眾對欣賞「大事件」的感性渴求,一切討論被瑣碎化,運動內藏的改革動力被隱沒在「做場騷」的形象上,這可能才是激進政治落得最可悲的下傷。

其次,是如何梳理好與群眾的關係。激進主義者必先要具自信作為時代先鋒,但這樣也容易陷入盲點,認為「真理在手」,否定群眾生活、想法亦可能有其智慧,也排拒達到相同目的其他途徑。激進政治的核心,就是堅信人類共存有其他可能性,也因此需要更大的包容性,接受自己的路線思想亦有可能出錯、過時及不合社情的可能。左派歷史學家Eric Hobsbawm說得好:「我們要發問,亦需要解釋;最終我們要不斷向自己提問。我們要有心理準備犯錯,我們不可再裝作知曉一切答案,顯然我們不是。」



Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sports & Politics

Sports has always been mixed up with Politics throughout modern history. The most famous incident is the "Ping Pong (Table Tennis) Diplomacy" carried out between China and United States in the last century.

However in Singapore's context, Sports has been politicized by the ruling party PAP so much so that it is not uncommon to see PAP MPs rushing in to get whatever political brownie points whenever there are chances of making an issue out of any "victory" out of any sports. But there exceptional blunders lately that sports have become a political liability rather than assets.

First of all, the bounced cheque of "Football World Cup 2010". Every PAP ministers and MPs want to forget all about that big bold "vision" that crashed miserably. In spite of filling up our National Football team with so many "Foreign Talents", we are no where nearer to be qualified for World Cup 2010.

Secondly, the big hoo haa over the Table Tennis team. It is really eye opening how a PAP MP could just take over the position to chair the Table Tennis association just a couple of months before their winning of a medal in Olympics 2008 to claim whatever little credits there is. It would have ended there nicely but it is really mind-boggling that she subsequently ended up in a quarrel with the trainer who are rightfully the most important man in bringing the team to victory. Eventually, the trainer has to leave the team. I have played a lot of games in my schooling years and I have never heard my teacher in charge questioning the professionalism of our trainers especially if the teacher in charge is new to taking the team!

Thirdly, in an over-zealous chase after the "Glory" of holding the first Youth Olympics, our PAP government has made great promises during the bidding process which subsequently ended up with broken ones. The half a billion Olympic village in NUS isn't going to be ready in time for the game. Worse of all, many foreign teams are withdrawing from the game. The situation is so bad that PAP leaders need to hard sell the event, trying very hard to convince other countries to attend when they are attending some other political convention overseas!

Fourthly, for the first time in history, we are going to abandon the opportunity of hosting the Southeast Asian Game! Reasons aplenty but many are questioning why? Since we are prepared to hold the supposedly more prestigious Youth Olympics even without the originally planned Olympic village and the Sports Hub, why couldn't we host the Southeast Asian Game just a couple of years later?

Many people may feel that it would be good to save some money from hosting such sports events but the crux of the matter is, this will be another hit at our "Singapore Brand". It is going to affect our international standing as the Gem of Southeast Asia. Yes, in our over-zealous pursue for "great fame" and political mileage, the PAP government has totally mismanaged the projects. It has all backfired. We are now known to be a small city state that are too boastful of what we can do but couldn't deliver it according to what we promise. Is this "Singapore Brand" that PAP government is making out for us?

While the PAP wants to enjoy the limelight and glory of "Sporting Success" but somehow they have deliberately ignored the substance and essence of sports. It is just another sad story of form without substance.

The fundamental spirit of every sports is Fair Play. This is something that PAP would not want to have in Singapore politics. It is really an irony for a political party that is so obsessed with Sports to ignore such basic fundamental spirit of Sporting.

It has become a "norm" in public consciousness to view whatever policies or laws with regards to electoral rules that are changed by PAP as "unfair" or rather, always in favor to PAP. In fact, PAP is unapologetic in its behavior, openly stated that it is not PAP's responsibility to take care of opposition's interests. But it is not exactly opposition interests that is involved in the process. It is in the Nation's interests to see a fair level playing field to be set for all political players.

In fact, most Singaporeans view PAP's self-serving reasoning quite bizarre; eg. when PAP decided to incorporate the GRC system, it declared that it is about proper representation of minority races' interests.

But somehow, we do not see how increasing the size of the GRC from 3 to 5 or 6 could achieve that stated objective. In Singapore, about 25% to 30% of the population are either Malays, Indians or other races while the majority are Chinese. So when PAP started to increase increase GRC sizes to 5 or 6 with the requirement of one minority candidate in each GRC, it effectively reduces the minority representation!

So the reasons for implementing the GRC system is definitely not for the good for the country except for PAP's own self interests. Well, it is good to see that PAP is going to reduce the size of the GRC but it is yet to be seen how this is linked to PAP's own self interests again.

Of course, for anybody that values Fair Play as in sports, one would want to have an independent referee. But in spite of constant criticism of PAP putting the Election Department under the control of the Prime Minister office, PAP has refused to make it an independent statutory board. Singaporeans are used to the irrational and bizarre boundary changes that are being put forward by the Elections Department just before every General Elections. A central area in Serangoon could be grouped under the coastal Marine Parade GRC. It is no wonder for most Singaporeans to perceive that PAP does not value Fair Play at all. Each and every policy change with regards to Electoral rules are also viewed with contempt and skepticism.

Although all these are just old issues but they are forever relevant to us as a Nation. When the leaders and ruling party of the Nation do not practice Fair Play, it becomes a very bad role model for our young people. It would be highly hypocritical for politicians to stand in front of the camera to cheer upon any sports event while in essence, the ruling party doesn't practice Fair Play itself.

For a start, set up an independent Elections Department that would draw the electoral boundaries with more common sense rather than base on statistical calculations for the benefits of any political party.

Secondly, open up the traditional mass media to give fair and just coverage of each and every political parties. No matter what the government says, the holding of the controlling stake of all the media companies in Singapore are telling signs of unfair practices.

Thirdly, I would like to see a more consensus building among all political parties when it comes to changing of electoral rules. Although the ruling party has the required two third majority in parliament but it doesn't mean that it could just do whatever it wants to the Constitution of our nation. Each and every Singaporeans have a stake in this nation, not just PAP members. We should start to build up consensus in setting up a much fairer political system in our country.

Fourthly, PAP should stop playing Pork Barrel politicking. It is a shame that in this new century where our very own Prime Minister has commented on other people's practice of pork barrel politics, while his very own ruling party is practicing it in our very own backyard!

An Open Society isn't just slogan bitching. It needs substance and it needs to base on the universal understanding of Fair Play. We have a long way to go in terms of building up an Open Society and in fact, we are taking one step forward two steps back most of the time.

It is about time we trust our own people to make the right choices for our Nation. To attribute any loss of seats by the ruling PAP as "freak election result" is an unjustified insult on our people's choice. Democracy could only be developed with Fair Play in place. This should be the most important essence that links Sports and Politics, not just that flowery and shallow glory that comes with it.

Goh Meng Seng

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Anti-Mandatory Death Penalty

I have written about this topic a couple of years ago in some internet forums. I have just realized that I didn't record it down in my blog here.

The issue of Death Penalty arises every now and then whenever there are cases concern drug traffickers being tried and the convicted are due for hanging. I am no expert in law but somehow I find it quite funny that even murder could be lessen to a crime of manslaughter which doesn't necessary warrant a mandatory death penalty but drug traffickers are dealt with a direct mandatory death penalty regardless of age and other circumstances.

The present case involving Yong Vui Kong is worth noting because the judge preceding the case has specifically asked the prosecutor and defendant lawyer into his chamber to ask the prosecutor whether the charge could be lessen in any ways. But the prosecutor refused to lessen the charge and the judge, although apparently he felt that the accused deserve a second chance in life, has no choice but to read out the verdict of death penalty just because it is the MANDATORY sentence.

This is the case whereby a law that stipulated a MANDATORY GRAVE SENTENCE of DEATH PENALTY has robbed the preceding judges of the necessary discretion that he needs. Our legal system should not be diminished into just a de-humanized system of strict and rigid rules because justice is based on two main faculties, one is the cold logic of right and wrong, the other, the consideration of human emotions and circumstances whereby crimes are committed.

Furthermore, there may be circumstances that wrong findings may result in injustice being done. In our system, when you are charged and accused of a serious crime like drug trafficking, the onus of proof lies with you, the accused, rather than the prosecutor. For example, if someone made use of your friendship to carry illegal drugs into Singapore to pass it to someone as a "Christmas Gift" and you were caught at the custom, even if you are unaware that the "gift" is actually a decoy containing illegal drugs, you will be charged as drug trafficker.

There isn't a need for any further proof of any sorts, other than the drug appears in the bag that belongs to you. Even if someone mischievously sabotage you by stuffing it into your bag without you knowing.

There is almost zero chance for you to prove your innocence. The prosecutor does not need to prove that you are a "willing" partner in the trafficking and simply by the fact that these drugs are found in your bags, you will be charged, found guilty and hung. The police and prosecutor are least interested in finding out who gave you the drugs and if you are paid to do so, who are the masterminds behind it.

This is the absurdity of the law. There are also criticisms that while our government is over zealous in hanging every small drug mules but yet they have legitimate business dealings with the biggest drug lord in Burma. If that is true, then that is really the biggest irony.

I always wonder whether there are any FRUITFUL follow up on the capture of these small drug mules, beside sending them to the gallows. I mean, shouldn't the police follow the leads from these drug mules to crack down on the drug ring leaders? Or even cooperate with foreign agencies to crack down on these international drug trafficking organizations? If what these drug mules have provided help to crack down on the bigger ring leaders, shouldn't we show some mercy and clemency over them?

Maybe in Singapore, the mindset of the authorities is that showing mercy or clemency is a sign of "weakness". It is not. It is a sign of social maturity, progress and humility if appropriate clemency is shown to those who deserve it.

Drug Trafficking is a serious offense but so is Death Penalty as a grave sentence. A serious offense like Drug Trafficking would need serious findings of guilt other than physical evidence. Just like the case of killing a person. It could well be a MURDER which is planned intent, or manslaughter in a "freak" incident. Or just basically an accident. The intent of the accused is of paramount importance. Thus I could not understand why the proof for such a serious offense like Drug Trafficking is just so simple.

Death Penalty is a serious grave sentence that could not be rectified later if the judgment is found to wrong. It is an irreversible sentence. Strange enough, such a serious sentence could be belittled and trivialized by the law in making it "Mandatory" in cases like drug trafficking. Law is not at all black and white but has a big patch of gray. There are many instances where the judge could not be conclusive in the findings but just based on what he chose to believe to make his judgment. If this is the case, discretion should be given to the judge to make the necessary moderation in his sentencing.

I admire the persistency of some of the human rights activists and lawyers in continuing their fight against death penalty. I may not agree with them totally in the abolishment of death penalty because there are indeed many people who did evil things in this world who need no lesser punishment than the death penalty. But I would find that have a law that assert Death Penalty as the Mandatory sentence for Drug Trafficking or other crimes is not that appropriate at all. In fact, I do not prefer to have mandatory sentencing embedded in any law of crimes because we are a human society. Discretion should be given to the wise judges to decide on the sentence based on the severity of the case and the various circumstances surrounding it.

While many activists may feel hopeful that Yong Vui Kong may have a chance in his appeal because he has won unprecedented battle to get his execution extended twice, but I feel that as long as the law is not changed to get rid of the Mandatory nature of the Death Penalty, chances are that he will not get his second chance in life. There will be many more Yong Vui Kong in future.

For the mean time, it would be good for his family to treasure whatever time he has left in this world while we shall continue to press for a CHANGE in our law and justice to be done by getting the authorities to get the main culprits, the drug ring leaders, to proper justice.

Goh Meng Seng



* 2009-12-08
* 中國時報
* 【南方朔】





 當代知名的領導學專家波耶特(Joseph H.Boyett)在近著《選民進化論》(Won’t Get Fooled Again)裡,有一個專章談自戀型領袖。他指出,自戀型領袖在達到權力的高峰前,由於自戀所創造出的形象很迷人,而且自戀的負面效果還沒有累積到足夠的量,人們普遍會對自戀型領袖寄予過高的期望,因而有利於他快速攀上權力高峰。但到了這時,自戀型領袖的人格及能力特質裡的巨大缺點就會開始暴露,而使他站到很陡峭的滑坡邊緣,很容易快速下墜,波耶特還特別條列出自戀型領袖的許多負面領導症狀,我在此將其中比較有現實性的若干缺點摘要列出:




Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Does PAP really care about Rational and Informed Voters' Choices?

Prime Minister Lee took the trouble to announce the new electoral rule of "cooling off period" half a globe away recently. The main reason is that PAP is afraid that voters will vote irrationally after being emotionally charged in opposition rallies the day before.

PAP actually preempted questions about such act as self-serving by pointing out that there are other places who practice such cooling off period as well. However, Singapore is a rather unique political entity with its mass media being ranked side by side with many ill-democratic third world countries. How could it make comparisons to first world political entities in this instance? There are certain pre-requisites for such rule to be applied FAIRLY. Singapore will fail for the two conditions:

1) An independent Press. All local press is tightly controlled by the government via holding controlling management shares in these entities.

2) Independence of civil service and statutory boards. PAP has openly declared that PAP = government and government = PAP in the past. It would mean that it will not see itself differently from the civil service and statutory boards. Even the tax-payer financed People's Association has shamelessly declared that it has symbiotic ties with PAP as the ruling party.

It is only reasonable to expect PAP to utilize all the machineries under its control to do up last minute campaigning on its behalf. eg. getting grassroot organizations like RC and CCC to canvass for votes on their behalf. PAP candidates who are usually appointed as heads of such organizations could well attend all activities organized by these organizations during that cooling-off day to continue their campaigning under the guise of "grassroot activities". It has happened before in 2006 whereby PAP candidates have been attending various activities organized by PA grassroot organizations during election campaigning time.

Thus it is only reasonable to conclude that such electoral rules under such ill-democratic political system here in Singapore is only self serving for PAP.

If PAP is that serious about rational and informed voters' choice during polling time, it should have declared the election date 3 or even 6 months in advanced. This is to allow the mass media to give enough exposure to each political parties the opportunities to present their parties' positions on various political issues so to allow voters to have closer scrutiny on them.

Most modern democracies, even parliamentary democracies, have stipulated dates for elections well in advanced. The practice of announcing snap elections just less than 4 weeks before going to poll is not an act that augur well with the notion that the ruling party is concerned about "emotional" or even "irrational" voting.

Workers Party Chief MP Low Thia Khiang has it right on the dot that PAP could use its position as the government to make additional announcement on policies to counter opposition parties' attacks on its past policies failures in its effort to sway voters opinion. This will not be surprising as PAP has always put that arrogant view that Singapore government = PAP and vice versa. I mean it could only happen in Singapore that a ruling party could arrogantly announce that voters will only have priority in HDB upgrading as means pork barrel politicking even before the elections is being concluded!

I mean, slightly more than 50% of seats have been contested in GE 2006 but yet, PAP has been putting out such arrogant call to voters that they will only get priority in various government upgrading services if and only if they voted for them! Does PAP really care about "rational" and informed choices? Apparently not. They are only interested in "FEARED" and "SCARED" votes, that's all.

This is all evident with the track record of PAP's past campaigning, right from 1988 to 2006. Their only campaigning tactic is to take one opposition candidate as whipping boy and start to use all machineries available to go into gutter politics of painting them black, putting labels on them etc. 1988, Francis Seow targeted as "womanizer". 1991, Jufrie as "Malay Chauvinist". 1997, Tang Liang Hong as "Chinese Chauvinist". 2001 Dr Chee as "liar" and the "where is our money" saga. 2006, the all famous James Gomez saga.

They have never been interested to debate on important policy issues at all, except of throwing out pork barrel politicking threats of no HDB upgrading if Singaporeans do not vote for them. Does this track record speak well of PAP's concerns about "rational" and "informed" voters' choice? Apparently not. Their past actions and records for the past 20 years in electioneering is all about Scare Tactic, personal attacks on opponents and mudslinging. What "rationality" are we talking about here? There is no rational live TV debates on various issues because PAP has declined all challenges to live TV debates. PAP did not fight on the platform of debating on any policy issues raised by the opposition parties.

If PAP is really interested in "rational" voting, then I would suggest that the last day of campaigning should be reserved for national LIVE TV policy debates being carried out in replacement of mass rallies. That would be a last campaigning methodology that would be FAIR to everybody, including voters as well as contestants.

But I seriously doubt that PAP will take up this challenge because they are not really politicians that could argue and debate well in public places. They could only live in the comfort of their ivory towers making policies with a very narrow perspective without the need of the true baptism of political challenge by anyone else.

It seems to be a forgone conclusion that such self serving, unfair rule will set in for the next elections. One intriguing question is why now? Has the ground shifted to such dangerous zone that PAP needs such added mechanism to ensure that it will not lose more seats?

The whole package of electoral changes is of great interests. I remember that the Prime Minister has mentioned in GE 2006 that he will have problem in finding time to deal (pardon his exact word "fix") with a parliament that has 10 or more opposition members. But now, we are seeing PAP increasing the number of NCMP, practically the number of opposition members to 9! Why?

The key lies with the so call P65 voters. PAP has shown its worry over those voters who are born after 1965. This group of voters have not gone through the political turmoil of the 1950s and most importantly, have not enjoyed full benefits from the economic success of the 1970s as well as cheap REAL SUBSIDIZED HDB flats.

By the time they are ready to buy a HDB flat to form up their family unit, they found themselves paying 6 or even 10 times more than their parents just for a decent, sometimes smaller, HDB flat. They are the ones who suffered the brunt of 1998 financial crisis, 2003 economic downturn due to SARS and the present financial crisis.

This group of voters are relatively well educated than their parents. They are more internet savvy and apparently, more demanding on the government of the day. They are more worldly traveled and well learned in what is happening overseas. Most importantly they will form more than 50% of the voters cohort by next elections and they will be the main force behind any "Swing Votes".

Although PAP understand the "potential danger" of this group of P65 voters swinging against them, but it seems that they do not really understand the fundamental needs of this group of voters. The PAP didn't understand what they desire to see in an elections.

This group of voters will not vote blindly for any opposition candidates, neither will they succumb to PAP's scare tactics and unfair electoral practices. Most importantly they value FAIR PLAY as well as a good balance of power. They are definitely not that kind of "irrational voters" that PAP wants to subdue by having that cooling off period. They are ready to take the chance of voting for opposition parties if they are convinced that the candidates are passionate and decent in pursuing their political cause. They are very rational voters who understand their priorities in making political choices.

PAP's change of the election rule may backfire on them as it would be regarded as an unfair practice as well as an insult to this group of voters' intelligence. Any pork barrel politicking will fail badly on this group of voters. This group of voters wanted to see more policy debates, not mudslinging during elections. This group of P65 voters wanted more FAIR rules and treatment to all political parties. If they cannot get fair reporting from the mainstream media, they will definitely turn to alternative sources of information which will include but not limited to the new media.

If there is a "cooling off period" without a balance of information feed, most likely this group of P65 voters will turn to the internet for information. This may not be a bad thing for opposition parties and will definitely backfire on PAP.

I am not really against the idea of cooling off period suggested by PM Lee basically because I think it is going to be advantageous to the opposition movement. Of course the PAP will make sure that they will have the last say in the whole campaigning by using all means to bombard the voters with all sorts of messages during the eve of polling day, but I have confident in our matured voters to be more sophisticated than what PAP think they are.

The only musing I have gained from this saga is to witness how naive and irrelevant PAP is. Action speaks for itself. PAP has never been concerned about "rationality" or keeping voters well "INFORMED" of all the choices they could have. Whoever is advising them on this scheme has totally missed the point about the potential P65 Swing voters. What they want is more policy debates, not some dubious "cooling off" period.

I always tell my little daughter that if she always insists in winning each and every games she plays by changing every rules favorable to her, she must well don't play any. Win and loss are just a norm for any game. It seems that PAP is behaving like a kid who only want to win in every political contests they participate in. Going to the extend of changing all boundaries and rules to maximize their chances of winning. Why do they need to be so burdened in doing all these things? No matter what they say, almost everyone in Singapore understand deep in their hearts that this is just another "Kiasu" (afraid to lose) rule that they are putting in to safe guard their own interests.

I will give the same advice to PAP as I did to my daughter. Just don't need to continue this silly contest since what perceived by PAP as "rational" is just, vote for PAP. Just turn this country's constitution into a Monarchy with all members being appointed by the Monarch. That will save a lot of trouble for the PM Lee in wasting his time trying to "fix" opposition. Save a lot of money and resources in conducting such an election with farce rules. Then maybe we will declare Singaporeans will live happily forever thereafter.

Goh Meng Seng

三分染房 之 好步是怎样成为奥步的?

作者:冀居·谢 3:04pm 02/12/2009

三分染房 之




最近mr brown又惹上麻烦了,事因他在新电讯多媒体入门网站inSing.com的一篇专栏文章,在环境与水源部的要求下被撤了下来。因为雅国部长在2006 年的武吉智马大水时说那时不常见的“奇哉怪事”(freak incident),到了2009年的武吉智马大水又说是“奇哉怪事”,于是mr bro 就随着他的口风,说政府应该委任一个 “奇哉怪事部长”(Minister of Freak Incidents)来处理这等事件云云,这下部长蹦了有三尺高。老实说,出来从政且薪水是世界第一高,面对国民的指指点点,本来就应该概括承受,出动到砍人家文章,实在太没有气质了。说起来这种“影子斜”的评论,本来就没什么,难道国民要批评政府时,得像大律师上法庭,人证物证确凿才可以开口吗?他要推翻你的言论易如反掌,你要推翻他的言论难如移山,这就是为什么审查制度是行不通的原因。


【静态】: 行动党这么多年下来,对于大选真的是兴起鸡肋之叹,只希望快快过去,大家恢复正常的生活。他们对大选没有热忱、对自己的群众大会没有热忱、对扫街拜票当然更没有热忱。他们唯一害怕的是那些会热昏头的反对党支持者,因为会像传染病一样在全国传播开来,所以他们希望有个24小时的退烧时间,让那几巴仙回心转意的民众过来投给行动党,那他们就十分满足了。

【动态】: 老实说新加坡的竞选是个实力悬殊的角力(短期内还应该是如此),一边是无权无势的反对党和民众,一边是紧握政权的执政党。最后的24小时,反对党和民众如果在警方强烈执法下可以完全噤声,可是执政党就不同了,他们还是总理、资政和部长,他们随时可以发表政策方面的讲话,接待外宾时,你总不能让他一句话都不说。除了他们自己,他们还可以命令他们部属在最后的24小时发表政策性的未来规划,这些都会影响选情,如何监督、监督得了吗?




Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Education Hub of Degree Mill?

Recently there are a few ADVERSE reports on Singapore's "Education Hub". First of all, two private schools own by a man were suing NTUC Income and CASE for withdrawing their accredited status which made them lose money.

Then there were two foreign reports which are very adverse on Singapore's Education Hub. The first one is from Malaysian Insider. According to the report, Singapore has been "black listed" by Oregon’s Office of Degree Authorisation (ODA) as "degree mill" which chunks out unaccredited degrees.

This is a serious matter as it affect our international standing. Imagine if you are applying for a job in America and even when you have a NUS or NTU degree but Americans have such a bad impression of Singapore as a "degree mill", you may just lose that opportunity right away just by the virtue of perception of your prospective employer.

The other report is even more damaging to the "Singapore Brand". The report is actually a TV program being broadcast in China CCTV.

Singaporeans are generally regarded as trustworthy by the Chinese because Singapore is known to be a place that follows strict rules. The so call "Singapore Brand" is simply based on our trustworthiness in having upright people who seldom break the rules or the law of the land.

However, this documentary portray Singapore as a land of the cheat, with Education institutions cheating on the students in providing unaccredited paper qualifications that aren't even recognized by the Singapore system at all.

To me, this is a big scandal. What happen to our good Singapore brand name? Has it been totally tarnished by the overly aggressive move of PAP wanting to make Singapore an Education Hub? Or just any HUB that they are so obsessed with?

I guess the whole system under PAP is behaving in a cult manner. Whenever someone in the great leadership position mention some "novel" idea, the people down there all follow like bees to the honey. Ever since the concept of HUB being mentioned, suddenly you hear all sorts of HUBs being created or pursued, quite mindlessly.

In this case, it seems that we have gone overboard. There is apparently no proper guidelines, control mechanism and supervision from the relevant authorities. What we are witnessing is basically everyone trying to push over their responsibility when something goes wrong. Should the Minister in charge of Ministry of Education be held responsible for this mess of having unqualified institutions chunking out unaccredited degrees to the consumers, be it local or foreign? Or just the MP in charge of CASE?

It seems that so far, nobody is interested in clearing up this mess. How long should we tolerate should attitude of no accountability and irresponsibility?

Goh Meng Seng

Singapore on list of ‘degree mill’ countries

SINGAPORE, Nov 26 — Degree mills that churn out ‘graduates’ at the drop of a hat are the sort of dodgy outfits we link with shadier parts of the world, but the problem is a lot closer to home and threatens to harm Singapore’s name as an education centre.

Small as it is, the country appears six times on a list compiled by Oregon’s Office of Degree Authorisation (ODA).

The American state has strict laws regarding the use of qualifications from unaccredited institutions and those dubbed “degree mills” or “degree suppliers”.

It requires that a person’s business cards, CV and letterhead declare if his degree is from an unaccredited university.

The term — degree or diploma mill — has been used in the United States and around the world to refer to “substandard or fraudulent colleges that offer potential students degrees with little or no serious work”.

They range from those which are simple frauds — an address to which people send money in exchange for a degree — to those that require some nominal work from the student but do not require the college-level study normally required for a degree.

Oregon’s laws make its list one of the most comprehensive compiled by a state government body in the United States.

It names six institutions here as offering unaccredited qualifications: Cranston University, Templeton University, Trident University of Technology, Vancouver University Worldwide, Westmore University and Lee Community College.

Names of institutions go on the list if there are queries made by members of the public. Checks are carried out on the status of the university both in the US and with foreign governments before they are put on the list.

Checks by The Straits Times found that Westmore University’s website is hosted by a company operating out of Science Park.

Vancouver University Worldwide, which was ordered to be shut by the Canadian government two years ago, had offered its courses here for a few years.

Several insurance industry professionals have MBAs, while some even have doctorates, from the university.

A few Singaporeans were also found to have degrees from Cranston University and Templeton University. Both are listed as online universities, based in Singapore and possibly Nevada.

The Palin School of Arts and Design in Bras Basah lists Trident University of Technology degrees, but Palin officials say that currently they are not offering the degree programme in advertising and design.

ODA’s list says Trident was denied approval by the state of Wisconsin and it was never legal in New Jersey as claimed.

But what was surprising was the presence on the list of Lee Community College. The private school has a CaseTrust for Education quality mark and is popular for its diploma courses in counselling and psychology.

The Straits Times found that the school, in Maxwell Road, also offers a degree from the American University for Humanities (AUH), which a staff member said is accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education.

ODA’s website has this to say about the American university: “New name for American University of Hawaii, which was closed by court order. Operations claiming accreditation from The American Academy for Liberal Education in Lebanon do not meet Oregon legal requirements and degrees are not valid here. Degrees issued from Delaware are not valid in Oregon.”

Although the school has been offering degree courses for years, a check with the Ministry of Education (MOE) revealed that Lee Community College is not approved to offer any external degree programmes.

An MOE spokesman said the matter would be investigated.

It warned that new regulations require all private schools to seek permission from the new statutory board, the Council for Private Education (CPE) before offering external degree programmes, including online programmes.

Non-compliance may lead to deregistration of the private school and prosecution of its officials.

Lee Community College’s chief executive, Dr Frederick Toke, said the school spent over US$100,000 (RM338,000) to seek accreditation for the degree programme, which was from the American University for Humanities in Tbilisi, Georgia.

It was accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education, a recognised accrediting agency in the US for liberal arts institutions, but was rejected by the MOE.

Toke did not explain why the school continued to offer the degree despite the MOE rejection. He would only say that the school is now seeking MOE approval to run other degree programmes from the US.

Alan Contreras, the administrator for Oregon’s ODA, said Singapore never used to feature on the ODA’s list.

“The problem Singapore has is that it opened the door to private post-secondary education without establishing a serious governmental oversight process to make those providers prove that they are legitimate,” he said.

“In effect, your government has allowed its name to be used inappropriately because only government authorised colleges can issue genuine degrees.”

Contreras also warned: “Without enforcement of standards by the government, anything goes. This is why the reputation of degrees issued in Singapore is falling.”

The MOE said that under the new laws that will come into effect by the end of the year, the Council for Private Education will run checks on these claimed partnerships.

“These measures will help ensure that dubious programmes offered by degree mills will not be permitted by CPE to be offered in Singapore,” said the spokesman.

But the new laws have come too late for a 26-year-old who attended evening classes and did course work for over three years for an AUH degree from Lee Community College.

The administrative manager hopes the new laws for private schools will ensure that only valid degrees are offered here.

“I took up the degree because I was interested in a counselling career. I spent more than US$20,000 of my hard-earned money to study for the degree. Now I find out that it is worthless.”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Vote for Change - The Lost Generation

I have been reading the TOC article and comments on the projection that born and bred Singaporeans may become the minority in our own land and this slogan "Vote For Change" keeps repeating on the various comments.

This slogan is repeated because many of the readers of TOC feels that the PAP's FT policy that opens the floodgate indiscriminately for foreigners to come into Singapore to work and suppress our wages are causing harm to the place. We have one of the most liberal emigration policy in the world. No other countries in the world open up their doors as wide open as ours.

One may argue that these are just emotional outbursts that only happen in the cyber world. However my recent experience on the ground indicate otherwise. Singaporeans from all walks of life, regardless of race and religion, have come up to me and complain about "foreigners" taking away their jobs. Even the coffeeshop auntie whisper to me how angry she is that some cheap foreign labor have been taking away jobs from Singaporeans like her. The underlying emotional pressures cannot be underestimated.

However, what is the thing exactly that we want to change? Prior to GE 2006, just before the Workers' Party published their manifesto, some of us were thinking of a catchy slogan for the manifesto which will become the theme of our main campaign during the elections. My wife and I have dealt with the theme of "CHANGE". After much discussion and deliberation, the theme "Change" though looks attractive and sound catchy, we decided that Singaporeans are not ready to stomach such "drastic" movement.

On hindsight, although the Workers' Party manifesto did bring up good policy views, but it just falls short of providing much revolutionary ideas that could be termed as "fundamental change" to the present socio-political-economic system. Most of the ideas were about tweaking the present system, though some of the ideas would mean a total revamp of policy directions. Thus in the end, I would have to agree to the slogan "You have the Choice" instead.

There are many dimensions to the concept of Change. As I have stated in my earlier postings, the fundamental pillars of a nation consist of Social, Economics, Culture and Politics. If anyone wants to call out for fundamental change to Singapore's development path, he will have to provide a central idea or ideology or Core Values as the fundamental guiding principles to deal with all the four pillars of this nation.

My personal political belief is Democratic Socialism and it has been the guiding principle for me in molding my policy views over a wide spectrum of issues. Although some would argue PAP is also founded on the ideology of Democratic Socialism but I would say that they have discarded such idealism long time ago. From my perspective, they are moving towards Ultra-capitalism instead. Thus, if I am going to use the concept of "Change", I would urge voters to Vote for Change, from the ultra-capitalism to the ideology of Democratic Socialism. However, in modern context, I was told that people no longer care about political ideologies any more.

Thus, I was quite puzzled about the "Change" that some Singaporeans are yearning for. Exactly what kind of changes are they talking about? From the TOC article and comments, it seems that the people there are hoping to change the FT policy so to eradicate the social-economic problems that comes with it. Or to change the ways that the whole government works? Changing the power structure within the parliament so that the ruling party would become more responsive, responsible and accountable to the people's wish?

If that is the case, we will be seeking bigger change than just voting more opposition members into parliament. The whole political system has to be revamped. I would champaign for a proportionate representation system for Singapore so that minority voices would not be ignored altogether in the process of policy and legislative parliamentary debates.

Changes that would bring more accountability and transparency within the government is a big theme that needs great courage from the voters to vote towards such transformation. Such changes are indeed necessary but to me, insufficient in terms of a total review of our national policy directions. But maybe our concerns back in 2005 is still valid, Singaporeans may accept certain pace of change but not a drastic one.

Interesting enough, this call for "Vote for Change" is initiated by somebody that would most probably call themselves "The Lost Generation". It is a simple term but invokes great depth of thinking.

Why "Lost"? The fear of being the minority in our own homeland may constitute to such label. We are lost because we have been overwhelmed by foreigners in our land. We are lost because we are helpless when job advertisement in our very own land actually discriminated against us, all of us Singaporeans, when they state categorically that only foreigners need to apply. Best of all, there is no law or rules that our elected government could apply and do something about it. We are lost in bewilderment when the minister in charge of labour would make the wild call for "Cheap, faster, better" workers while the ministers themselves would constantly justify why they need to be paid the MOST EXPENSIVE salaries in the world as ministers.

We are lost when the problems that foreign labour brought upon us as in cheap labour substitution and inflated HDB prices are not dealt with properly but on the other hand the government is more concern about Singaporeans not welcoming and integrating well with these foreigners in our homeland. It is strange when some of these foreign labour could not speak our "common language" Singlish/English while serving us in hawker centres and coffeeshops but instead, the burden of integration actually lies with us. We are lost when the government takes more care to the businesses instead of its people. GST increased just to reduce corporate taxes. Opening the floodgate for foreigners so that businesses could have cheaper labour substitutes.

Personally I am not all that anti-foreigners. But the situation becomes so absurd when the ruling party allows indiscriminately foreigners to flood our land with disregard to the fact that our infrastructure, public transport, healthcare, housing and public space could hardly cope with such influx. The problem does not lie with the foreigners but the government of the day. It is the ruling party who have open the floodgates and they should be made accountable for all the problems that are generated by this policy decision.

I guess the most important factor that created the Lost generation is the feeling of betrayal by the government with the series of policies that do not take care of them.

Vote for Change....and Accountability.

Goh Meng Seng

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kelvin Teo's interview

Kelvin Teo, the main ex-writer of Kent Ridge Common, has requested to interview me and I gladly obliged. The following is the link to the full interview.

I will reproduce the interview here:

Kelvin: How did your previous experiences especially during your student days and all that prompted you to step into politics?

GMS:Before answering this question, a quick introduction to my background. I was born in the era of “White Terror” whereby even a whisper of discontentment of the ruling party PAP would be sternly cautioned by the elders. That was the reality in 1970s whereby the ruthless detention of political opponents by PAP was met with fear and apprehension. Anyone who dare to include phrases or words which could suggest links to communist literature will be called up by ISD for coffee or face detention ultimately. Singapore, the jewel city of Southeast Asia Cultural Renaissance has turned into a total cultural desert overnight.

My late father used to be a member of an opposition party, United Front. Although he didn’t have much formal education but his upright character and political views have tremendous influence on my youthful mind. I used to read the Chinese newspapers with him. Back then, there was still Nanyang Shangbao which was more independent and critical about the ruling party before it was forced into merger with Xinzhou daily and under total control of the government. My father was pretty critical about some of the policies and political repression that the ruling party exercised back then. The impact of the forced closure of Nanyang University and merger of the Chinese newspapers still lingers in my mind up till this day.

I received my secondary school education in a SAP school, River Valley High. I was the Chairman of the Student Council for a period of time. The life in a SAP school made me feel a little uneasy as it was not totally “real” as compared with the world outside. I realized that there wasn’t any Malays or Indians in our school. This is unhealthy and I began to wonder if we should provide First Language education for Malay as well as Tamil so that the SAP school could have a better racial mix.

My education in River Valley High also molded my socialist mindset. The study of modern Chinese literature provided me a good foundation in understanding social justice/injustice, exploitation of the feudal system on the peasants and what it means to fight for justice, fairness and a society that value equality, freedom and human rights.

I received my training in Economics from Hwa Chong Junior College and subsequently, the National University of Singapore. My study in NUS was especially valuable as it provided me the opportunity to have a more critical mind in examining many of the past and contemporary policies made at that time. It happened that most of the controversial policies were made in the 1990s, from the implementation of GST, COE, assets enhancement (which resulted in the rise of HDB pricing) to ERP. My training back then equipped me with better understanding of the rational as well as the flaws behind these policies.

I also participated actively in the digital forums of the University intranet bulletin board, focusing on social and economic issues. Such participation in public discussion was extended beyond my varsity days when internet became available to Singaporeans after 1995. Prior to my actual participation in opposition politics in 2001, I have always regarded myself as a social armchair critic who took some time off from my business venture to participate in some social charity work on the ground.

My disagreement on the many social-economic policies implemented by the PAP came to a critical point in 1997 when PAP insisted in using HDB upgrading as the basis of pork barrel politics during the 1997 General Elections. That was actually the last straw that pushed me to consider seriously about either making a change to the whole political culture and system or just to emigrate to some other place instead. The basic sense of justice and fairness began to develop to a greater level of dissatisfaction of the various politicking tactics utilized by the PAP to silence or disable its political opponents.

The disagreement with the various social-economic policies coupled with the dissatisfaction with PAP’s disgusting politicking are the two main factors that eventually made me cross the line to join opposition party in 2001, right in the midst of the General Elections. Such disagreement and dissatisfaction are strongly influenced by my upbringing and learning in my earlier life.

Kelvin: You have a dream which is and I quote:”To build a true alternative in Singapore”. What inspired you to come up with this vision and how did you arrive upon it?

GMS:I have been through the era of great political suppression in the 1970s and 1980s. I have seen through all the flaws and merits of the ultra-capitalist-based policies made in the 1990s and the new century. The ironic thing is that although I despise the political oppression of the 1970s and 1980s, however, to a certain extent, I do appreciate the level of socialist idealism embedded in the social-economic policies formulated back then.

The PAP has once founded its principle of governance based on Democratic Socialism but it has totally discarded its fundamental political ideology along the way. While it always tries to sell its policies to Singaporeans with twisted logic and sweetening tongues, the actual impact and full implications of all these policies are not well deliberated at all in the public sphere. This could only happen in the past where total monopoly of power and the media allow it to be the dominant opinion maker in Singapore. The rapid development of the internet has diluted PAP’s influence and dominance in public political discourse.

We need an alternative set of thinking and policies to counteract PAP’s twisted policy rationale. For example, while PAP claims that GST is good as it broadens the tax base, but the trade off will always be unfair taxation on the lower strata of the income group. Most countries that implement value-added tax would have a system with adequate social welfare for its socially and economically disadvantaged people. This is never the case in Singapore in which GST is implemented simply for a broader revenue base for the government so that it could afford to lower tax for the corporate and higher income groups.

Such a twisted policy direction was hardly questioned because most Singaporeans are made to believe that in order to keep MNCs happy and continue to invest in Singapore, our poor lower income group should be sacrificed and taxed.

There are many similar examples in other policies like FT (Foreign Talent), ERP, COE, HDB, Healthcare and even CPF which need greater critical examination. The killing always lies in the details which twisted and tilted these policies against the basic economic rationale and interests of Singaporeans.

The true alternative will only be possible if and only if we have a strong vision and political belief in social justice, fairness, equality as well as respect for human dignity and fundamental human rights. We as a society and a nation must realize that happiness and well being of the people are not solely derived from materialism and economic well-being. Besides, GDP growth alone may not benefit all Singaporeans if the system here does not distribute the fruits of such growth in a fairer way.

Thus, the True Alternative I am talking about is the alternative guiding principles in governance and policy making. The most fundamental difference in this True Alternative versus the current PAP’s behavior is that we should not treat Singapore as a corporation. The government should not behave like a profit-oriented management team of a corporation. The role of a government is not about making how much “profit” in terms of budget surpluses. The role of governance is to provide a fair and level playing field for all, to manage the inherent unequal distribution of wealth and income within the system and to provide the various public goods which will enhance the development of economic activities and welfare of the people.

Kelvin: What challenges from within the opposition camp and elsewhere did you encounter as you attempt to make your dream of building a true alternative come true?

GMS:Due to the decades of dominance of the mass media by PAP, it seems that the PAP has entrenched its set of core values into Singaporeans at large. Even many opposition members have been made to believe in certain PAP’s twisted political rationale unknowingly, so much so that we are unable to “think out of the box” that the PAP has created for everybody.

The main challenge is to convince the people that certain PAP’s logic is flawed. For example, the PAP’s logic of pleasing MNCs and doing whatever it can to get them to stay in Singapore so that they could provide jobs for Singaporeans. Only by doing so, we could continue to depend on exporting goods and services to make a living. We have seldom questioned such logic and correlations between MNCs, export and jobs. The truth is, while other countries like Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong would similarly depend on export as a source of growth and provision of jobs, they have lesser dependency on MNCs as the main job providers. On the contrary, many of the companies in these places have developed into main contract manufacturers instead of just reaming as support industries for the MNC factories. While Taiwanese firms are able to manufacture their own brands of computer motherboards apart from contract manufacturing for big brand names, most Singapore companies are still just providing metal casting and molding services to hard disk manufacturers.

We have to convince our people to walk out of PAP’s version of logic and examine critically what other alternatives we could have instead. But this is a very tedious and challenging process. Opposition parties are mostly not sufficiently confident enough to challenge the PAP on this front because they lack strong understanding and learning of various options of economic development models. On the other hand, opposition parties also lack strong understanding and learning of various political ideologies. You could hardly find any consistency and clarity in terms of political ideologies from the various opposition parties. There isn’t a habit to develop strong core values in terms of social-economic perspectives. We will need to spend some effort in developing our set of core values and political beliefs other than depending on the simple common “anti-PAP” rhetoric to stay relevant.

Kelvin: If in the near future, the PAP government is suddenly replaced in a ‘freak election’, do you think there will be people who will be able to step up to the plate and ably run the Singapore ship?

GMS: If the PAP really loses power in any election, then it would not be a ‘freak election’. It would actually mean that the social-economic conditions have deteriorated to such a bad state that Singaporeans have finally decided that enough is enough. The talk of ‘freak election’ is just a mere scare tactic.

I predict that in a transitional period to full democratic development, there will be a time where none of the political parties could win more than 50% of the seats to become the government straight away. A coalition government will have to be formed. The PAP may become the biggest party in the coalition government. There will be a period of stable transition into a real multi-party democracy if that happens.

If the opposition parties decide to form the coalition government without involving PAP in the process, I am confident that the civil service could continue to be the backbone of the government while the new cabinet formed by the coalition could provide new directions and guidance for the whole government.

In a proper democratic setup, the ministers are elected guardians of the government who will set the agenda and directions for the civil service to carry out their duties. The ministers are empowered by the people to carry out whatever visions, agenda or plans that they have put up during elections to convince the voters to vote them in. Although the present opposition parties may have different beliefs or agendas, I believe that a consensus could be achieved if a coalition government is to be formed.

What is your opinion of Singapore’s economic growth during the early years and if the current economic model for growth is sustainable in future?

GMS: The two major sources of economic growth could come from injection either of capital or labor or both. Singapore’s economic growth during the early years of nation building is fueled by influx of capital, particularly foreign investments brought in by MNCs. The chief economic architect Dr. Goh Keng Swee has designed the system such that industrialization is supported by building up our free trade port which we are naturally endowed with, i.e. our strategic geographic locality and deep sea port.

However, the over reliance on MNC investment has resulted in the inability of Singapore to stand on its own feet in terms of manufacturing. It also resulted in negative total factor productivity as our high saving rates was not met with efficient use of funding in production and investments. Unlike the other 3 Asian Tigers (especially Taiwan and Korea), Singapore was less successful in developing our contract manufacturing base but instead, we developed more into supporting industries for the big MNCs.

While Singapore produced big international brand names like Seagate hard disks with all the advanced supporting industry in metal casting and molding, we were unable to develop our own brand names unlike Taiwan (ASUS, ACER, Biostar, Gigabyte etc) or Korea (LG, Samsung, Hyundai, etc). Taiwan and Korea started with contract manufacturing for big Western brand names but eventually developed their own end products. Singapore took the other approach by inviting foreign MNCs to set up their factories here while our local companies begin to develop into supporting industries for these MNCs.

Such a model may have worked for the two decades from the 1970s to 1980s, but it couldn’t possibly sustain when other cheaper production bases like Malaysia, Thailand, China and even Vietnam evolved. While the Taiwanese or Korean companies could just build new factories in these places and continue production of their goods under the same branding, Singapore’s companies within the supporting industries will face more difficulties in following the MNCs to set up shops in other countries.

In terms of educational comparison between the workforce among the 4 Asian Tigers, Singapore was known to have the least educated workforce as compared with the other 3 Asian Tigers. This was in spite of our efforts to build up more polytechnics back then. The situation was worsen when Nantah was forcefully closed down, leaving NUS as the only university left for the 1980s. Surprisingly, the PAP argued that we only needed one University for Singapore. It was a big mistake. Taiwan, Korea and even Hong Kong were trying to set up more universities, Singapore ended up doing the reverse. Eventually, the PAP realized its mistake and started to re-open the university as NTU years later. The PAP also started to open more universities later in the 1990s.

Although we tried very hard to play catch up in building up a credible and more educated workforce, the years lost due to PAP’s shortsightedness result in a gap in the educational level of our workforce when compared with other prospering countries in Asia. In the early 1990s, the PAP finally have to fill up this gap by opening the floodgate to foreigners to work in Singapore. They were termed as “Foreign Talents”.

We have moved on from a capital-intensive driven growth to a labor-intensive driven growth. This basically means that our GDP growth is driven by the rapid injection of foreign labour coupled with continuity in attracting foreign investment by MNCs. Foreign labor ratio started to balloon from the 1990s till the new century.

Is such a model of economic growth beneficial to Singaporeans? The initial influx of foreign labor was basically to close the gap of the lack of talents in certain areas. However, as it developed, the enormous influx of foreign workers have basically covered the whole spectrum of the workforce, from the lowest wage jobs, factory workers, technicians, skilled workers to middle management, engineers to top management. It has become a source of wage suppression for all Singaporeans as well as cheap labour substitute for almost all level of jobs.

One good indicator is that in spite of high GDP growth, income per capita for the middle and lower class Singaporeans income earners was lagging behind the growth rate. This means that the huge influx of foreigners and capital were the sources of our economic growth but it does not necessarily benefit the local work force. Foreign MNCs came here to set up factories, employing mostly cheap foreign workers. They will definitely contribute to the economic figures but Singaporeans will enjoy smaller of that economic pie of growth.

Such a model of growth is unsustainable in the long run as it would create permanent and structural unemployment or under-employment for the local citizens. We are beginning to see some of the effects whereby local ex-senior managers end up driving a taxi. This is basically under-employment which the cheaper foreign workers created a mismatch of employment versus skills/qualification for local citizens as the result of the substitution effect.

Kelvin: What will be the most significant economic/bread and butter issue that will crop up during the next elections?

GMS:The high influx of foreign workers which displace local employees, crowding out public space, putting pressure on basic infrastructure like public transport and pushing up prices of public housing. This issue will be the main critical one for PAP. The PAP has to answer all the questions on their policy of opening the floodgate for foreign workers which has created a whole list of social-economic problems.

Kelvin: What changes in other areas besides economics such as healthcare, housing, education, environment, defense, etc, would you like to see in the next few years and beyond?

GMS:I would like to see a faster pace of democratic development of the political system into a proportionate representation system and implementation of a comprehensive social welfare system for the social-economically disadvantaged. No doubt that Singapore has progressed over the 50 years of PAP rule, but we are at the crossroads of disconnecting the monopoly of power by PAP from the future progress of Singapore. Singaporeans have progressed in terms of educational level and exposures to the outside world. They will no longer take PAP’s words as the only true words of the wise. They will constantly make comparisons with other successful economies which have better progress in democracy with Singapore. There are also successful economies which have implemented a certain level of comprehensive social welfare system as well.

On top of that, I would like to see a more progressive society with various Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) developing. Such NGOs may play a crucial in developing a fairer platform and system for Singaporeans. Particularly, I wish to see the setting up of the Equal Opportunity Commission as well as Human Rights Commission to ensure that discriminatory practices as well as human rights abuses are being minimized or totally eradicated.

Kelvin: What specific lessons can we implement from the policy successes (e.g. healthcare, economics, trade) of other nations that can also benefit us in the future?

GMS: I am particularly interested in the Nordic countries’ educational system, particularly Finland and Sweden. They have put tremendous efforts into the “real” education of their people, instead of a production line system of chunking out graduates to match the targeted industries that the government wanted to enhance on. Real education provides a series of diversified disciplines which develop and nurture the human talents instead of pre-determining what the human should be molded into.

On the healthcare front, the wide coverage of the Canadian and Taiwanese healthcare insurance systems is something we need to take a second look into. The ability of the Canadians to lower prices of drugs by putting pressures on drug companies with bulk purchasing is something we could learn from. The national finance of research effort within the medical field may also lower future drug costs to consumers.

The Hong Kong system is an interesting one to examine closely. It is basically a capitalist financial center which practises socialist economic re-distribution by means of extensive social welfare schemes. There are many things we could learn from the Hong Kong experiences in balancing the interests of the businesses (capitalists) and the workers.

Kelvin: Your party will be adopting a “minister-specific” strategy, which involves addressing particular policies drawn up by a minister and his ministry. Is the party coming up with the equivalent of a shadow cabinet whereby a particular member will shadow a particular minister he is contesting? What in your opinion are the potential benefits and drawbacks of this strategy?

GMS:No. Even though we are adopting the “minister-specific” strategy, we are still far from contesting all seats, particularly all the GRCs. However, this method will allow serious opposition candidates to learn the rope of policy analysis. We are just on the development path of a more mature democracy whereby political players will have to develop themselves personally on matters of public interests, i.e. policy analysis debates. Hopefully, in 10 years time, we will be able to groom more people, enough people to form a shadow cabinet after we win more seats in parliament.

There are great benefits from this strategy as it brings the contest into its proper context. Voters are voting for legislators in parliament, not just local estate managers. The PAP has successfully confused Singaporeans about the real meaning of General Elections with the Town Council concepts.

Most countries have two-tier elections in which they elect the local Town Councilors apart from their legislators in parliament or Congress. But in Singapore, the PAP wants to avoid the focus of General Elections to be set on National Policies which affect everybody so much so that they will always divert voters’ attention from the real issues created by their policies towards how good opposition members are in managing their HDB flats (scare cry about rubbish building up in their cutes) or attacking individual opposition candidates, making a mountain out of a molehill and flood the mass media with constant bombardment on opposition candidates’ characters. Real policy issues are rarely debated during General Elections in Singapore for the past 2 decades.

The PAP has lost a couple of seats back in 1984 when the policy issue of granting graduate mothers special privileges caused a social uproar. Thus, from then on, policy issues have been avoided for subsequent elections. Future elections proceeded as followed: 1988, concerted attacks on Francis Seow, 1991, attacks on Jufrie , 1997 attacks on Tang Liang Hong and introduction of pork barrel politics of HDB upgrading, 2001 attacks on Dr. Chee Soon Chuan, 2006 attacks on James Gomez. There is systematic evidence that the PAP has tried to avoid serious policy debates during elections so that they would not become the focus of public discontent. They have somehow managed to successfully divert the focus of Singaporeans during elections to the management of Town Councils, priority of HDB upgrading as well as personal character attacks on individual opposition members. It is about time that we have to bring Singaporeans back to the serious issue of legislation of laws and policies during elections.

What is lacking from our system is extraction of accountability from the PAP government. Ministers hide behind the notion of “collective leadership and responsibility” to avoid taking rap from unpopular or even bad policies made under their charge. Collective responsibility must not mean nobody’s responsibility. Since the policies are executed and carried out by the ministers, the ministers should be the first to be made accountable for these policies.

This strategy, if accepted and worked for this coming elections, will have far-fetching implications on the policy making process. Ministers will take Singaporeans’ interests into more serious considerations before they agree to implement any policies (made under the pretext or influence of collective leadership). This will be the most important impact of this strategy.

However, after two decades of “noise” during elections, voters and opposition members may no longer be proficient and sharp in their analysis of various policies. Adopting such a strategy may put us in an awkward position if we are not proficient enough to provide convincing alternative policy views. In another words, it will expose our own shortcomings during elections. This is especially so when we do not have full statistical data to do indepth policy analysis. Having said that, this is a necessary painful path that we need to take in order for all of us, both voters and opposition members, to grow together for the betterment and advancement of our democracy.

My main concern is that Singaporeans may not be used to such an approach to general elections. Some Singaporeans may be used to looking at short-term benefits of HDB upgrading and carrots hung by the PAP, and disregarding the importance of extracting accountability from PAP ministers for their policies under their charge. It will only take the fall of one PAP minister on the context of unpopular policies made by his ministry to send chilling influences to other PAP ministers to sit up and take Singaporeans’ views, sentiments and interests seriously. But it will take tremendous courage for many voters in a GRC just to do what is right for Singapore.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The extend of influx of Foreigners

This is SERIOUSLY interesting. Figures hiding behind statistics!

Ok, there are average 46,300 PR approved each year with 2,200 renouncing their PR same period of 9 years. Meaning, each year, there are about an increase of 44,100 PR.

9 years (from 2000 to 2008 inclusive of 2000 & 2008) of 44,100 = 396900!

Non Residents amount to 1.253m with a another total of 533,000 PR.

It practically means that prior to year 2000, there were only 136100 PR and the number actually increase almost 300% within that 9 years!

For 35 years of Nation building, we only have 136100 PR. But within 9 years, we have an increase of over 300%?

Now you know why HDB flats are so expensive right now.

Goh Meng Seng

News from Asiaone

Two-thirds of PR applications successful

Mon, Nov 23, 2009

An average of 46,300 people are granted Singaporean permanent resident (PR) status every year for the past eight years, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Mr Wong Kan Seng said in Parliament today.

In his reply to Mr Chiam See Tong's question about the number of PR applications received, granted and PR statuses renounced, Mr Wong said that PR applications have been increasing steadily in recent years.

From 2000 to 2008, an average of 74,500 applications for permanent residency were submitted by foreigners each year. Of these, an average of 46,300 applications were successful.

An average of 2,200 also renounced their PR status each year during the same period.

Mr Wong said that the increase in number of people granted PR was due to two factors, namely a strong economy and the need to augment Singapore's population.

A booming economy growth of 6 per cent to 8 percent between 2004 and 2007 meant that Singapore required more foreigners to work here. Most did not intend to stay long term, but "a good many" are well-qualified, skilled personnel who decided to stay longer and applied for PR.

Singapore's low fertility rate also meant that the country would age rapidly and start to decline by 2020 if the country closes its doors to foreigners. This would increase the burden of Singaporeans and the country's competitiveness would decrease.

Mr Wong also said that the Government recognizes that Singaporeans feel anxious about the large inflow of foreigners in recent years.

Singaporeans should not think that all foreigners here are PRs, he said. A large portion of foreigners are here on short-term passes, with 1,253,000 non-residents in Singapore as compared to 533,000 PRs.

While Singapore needs the continuing inflow of immigrants into the country, Mr Wong said that the government is mindful of the concerns of Singaporeans.