Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dr. Goh Keng Swee - A Singapore Giant

The following is an article by Corporate Observer:

Dr Goh Keng Swee: A S'pore giant
by admin , May 14, 2010, 1000hrs

By Loh Chee Kong

SINGAPORE (May 14, 2010) - The man behind Singapore's stellar economic growth- masterminding its economic and industrial policies, among his endless list of contributions, as the republic came into its own following independence - died today at the age of 91 after a long battle with illness.

Dr Goh Keng Swee (1918 - 2010)
Born in Malacca, Dr Goh Keng Swee - dubbed as the "economics wizard" and an alumni of the London School of Economics - was Singapore's former Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) who also helmed the finance, defence and education ministries in his 25-year political career.

One of the founding fathers of Singapore and widely seen as its economic architect, Dr Goh retired from politics in 1984 and had shied away from the public eye. From the country's early days, Dr Goh saw the economic imperative of the Singapore society - a central tenet of governance until today.

Dr Goh's trenchant thinking on Singapore's economy continues to influence present-day policymakers.

He once noted: "For us in Singapore, the road to greater wealth is through thrift, enterprise and hard work. The road to stability lies in prudence and foresight in prosperity, and patience and fortitude in adversity. In the swinging age of the new economies, all this sounds old fashioned and Victorian. No doubt it is, but I think it is unrealistic to expect that doctrines worked out for developed economies, when foreign trade forms a relatively small part of the GNP, would apply in their entirety to the exceptional situation that is ours."

He was responsible for setting up many of Singapore's key government agencies, including the Economic Development Board and the Defence Science Organisation, and oversaw the creation of the Singapore Armed Forces and the Jurong Industrial Estate. His legacy also includes policies such as compulsory conscription for male Singaporeans above 18 years old; the Gifted Education Programme; and streaming and religious education in schools.

The 1979 "Goh Report" greatly influenced the development of Singapore's education system - Dr Goh's idea of streaming, in particular, was conceptualized to provide different curriculum and rate of teaching to children of different abilities but the implementation on the ground, especially in the later years, had strayed from the vision.

When Dr Goh was appointed chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Board of Commissioner of Currency in 1980, he took measures to promote Singapore as an international financial centre - making amendments to three major financial regulations: the Banking Act, the MAS Act and the Finance Companies Act. During the 1985 recession, he acted to stop the downward slide of the Singapore dollar.

Another former DPM, Dr Tony Tan, paid tribute to Dr Goh in an issued statement. Dr Tan is the executive director of Government Investment Corporation of Singapore (GIC) - which was set up with Dr Goh's "pivotal" inputs and based on his "resolute belief in the need to protect and grow the hard-earned wealth of Singaporeans continues to influence the GIC community", said Dr Tan.

Dr Tan added: "Today, the idea of the Sovereign Wealth Fund seems natural, but Dr Goh's focus on reserve management was rare among countries in his time. Dr Goh's farsightedness and fortitude laid the foundation for the development of GIC as stewards of Singapore's foreign reserves."

Apart from having a keen mind for numbers, Dr Goh also appreciated the value of music and leisure - he set up the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the Jurong Bird Park. Inspired by a free-flight aviary he visited in Rio de Janeiro during a World Bank Meeting, Dr Goh wanted to build the bird park in Jurong - he saw the place as more than an industrial zone - as an outlet for Singapore families to escape from the urban life.

Dr Goh's prudence in maximising Singapore's limited resources was reflected in his personal life in which his legendary parsimony is well-documented.

His wife had previously recounted to this writer how Dr Goh would bring soap flakes and wash his own clothes on official visits overseas. Once, when Dr Goh was hospitalised, he even chided his wife for being a "wastrel" when she took a piece of tissue paper from the box. Dr Goh, his wife said, would carefully tear a piece of tissue paper into half - keeping the other half in his pocket for later use.


A rabid saver himself, Dr Goh was behind the setting up of POSB Bank - which had waived the minimum sum required by other banks - to help lower income Singaporeans build up their savings.

For all his penchant for hard-nosed economics, Dr Goh could never reconcile the idea of paying high salaries for public officers, including ministers. When it was announced that the British forces would withdraw from the Suez Canal in the late 1960s, Dr Goh knew it would impact the thousands of workers working in the British military bases in Singapore. He called the Accountant General into his room and told him, "We have to cut civil service pay, go and work it out, starting with me."

When he was offered the post of deputy chairman of MAS following his retirement from politics, Dr Goh was offered the same pay that he was drawing as DPM. He asked to be paid half the amount.

A firm believer in meritocracy, one of Dr Goh's greatest fears for Singapore is that it could become an "old boys' club".

He once said: "In advanced societies, it is not so much open nepotism which is to be feared but the insidious 'old boy' type whereby no legalities (sic) are committed but in which the pinnacles of power, influence and wealth are the reserve of those born into the right families."

Dr Goh added: "A system may arise in which the dominant minority... arrogate to itself not only the openings to the seats of power, but also the avenues by which individuals can fit themselves out for such positions of power. The dominant minority is thus able to point out those outside of the charmed circle just do not have the necessary qualifications to be admitted to the elite group."

Following his retirement, Dr Goh would find it hard to read the newspapers or watch the news on television - knowing that he no longer had an influence on the nation's affairs.

While some may see it a pity that Dr Goh had voluntarily cut short his political career and retreated from the public eye prematurely - so much so that many younger Singaporeans have not heard of him - his wife reiterated that Dr Goh never sought "money, power or glory or even to be honoured".

In a booklet she published in 2008 in tribute of her husband, after she had set up the Goh Keng Swee Foundation, Mrs Goh wrote that Dr Goh "made all the contributions... for the nation and for Singaporeans".

She added: "The fact that today's political leaders can go round the world to sell the Singapore success story is in itself satisfaction for him. Dr Goh himself mentioned that God has given him a reward for what he has done for Singapore. His pastor, Reverend Macolm Tan has said that his reward is in heaven."

Rest in peace, Dr Goh, and thank you.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Tribute to a National Icon - Dr. Goh Keng Swee

I received news about the passing of Dr. Goh Keng Swee this morning while in Hong Kong. I am very much saddened by this news.

Later in the evening, a ST reporter requested a response from me, on behalf of my party. This is what I said to him:

Our nation has lost a great man who has contributed tremendously to our nation building. Although we do not agree totally to some of his past policies but his spirit of socialism and public service are the source of inspiration to many of us. In mourning his death and the lost of our national icon, we would like to remind PAP of their humble democratic socialist root which was fully manifested by the late Dr. Goh Keng Swee. The PAP should reflect upon their great deviation from the socialist foundation which was upheld by Dr. Goh Keng Swee. Last but not least, our deepest condolences to the family of Dr. Goh Keng Swee.

A special Tribute to Dr Goh Keng Swee for raising Singapore up from a poor country to one with strong economic foundation.

I have not met Dr. Goh Keng Swee personally. My first impression of him came from my late father. Although my father was a skeptic of PAP rule, he had shown much respect to Dr. Goh Keng Swee, acknowledging him as the few, if not the only one, who was sincere and always had the interests of the people at heart.

I got to know Dr. Goh Keng Swee better after I became a student of Economics in NUS. I went through pages and pages of those White Papers that he wrote during his tour of duty in many ministerial portfolios. A true blue Socialist at heart and a Visionary in his era. In 1960s when many countries were caught up with protectionism due to the rise of nationalism in the post-colonialism era, he pushed for Free Trade Port and invited foreign investments onto our shores.

From the description of many others who have worked with him, he was someone who would always be very careful of spending every cent of taxpayers' money. He was also someone who would think of ways to lower cost for the benefits of Singaporeans at large.

Although I did not agree with some of his policies, especially streaming and elitist grooming (Gifted) program in education but I have a lot of admiration and respect for Dr. Goh Keng Swee. He has left a legacy which is hard to be matched by anyone in modern history. He has set a high standard for people who are in Public Service, be it civil servants, ministers, politicians or otherwise.

I am inspired by his socialist idealism and pragmatism which are embedded in many of his policies. It is rather sad to see how the contemporary PAP has forsaken much of the solid ideological foundation upon which our nation was created. It was only after the fading away of Dr. Goh Keng Swee from local politics that we started to hear people cynically relating PAP to Pay And Pay. From HDB, COE, Healthcare to Education, we have lost every bit of socialism in them. Cost recovery and even profit making have become the main policy direction for almost all ministries.

While Singaporeans mourn the death of a great man in this Nation, I hope that everyone of us, including PAP members, should reflect upon the stray path that we have been put on since the stepping down of Dr. Goh Keng Swee.

It is very unfortunate that I won't be back in time to pay my last respect to Dr. Goh. May he Rest In Peace.

Goh Meng Seng

Afternote: I will be able to pay my last respect to Dr. Goh after all on 20 May.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sell New HDB flats at cost instead of asking citizens to sell flats for retirement

We refer to the interview of Minister Mah Bow Tan entitled “Mah Bow Tan on the frontline talking about HDB prices, COV and Elections” published in Lianhe Zaobao on 8th May 2010. On behalf of National Solidarity Party, I would like to make the following response:

We wish to remind Minister Mah Bow Tan that the success of HDB House Ownership scheme is built upon the sacrifices of our forefathers. Without the Land Acquisition Act which empowers and allows the ruling party to acquire almost 80% of land from our forefathers, Singapore would not be able to develop so rapidly and HDB would not be able to execute the House Ownership smoothly.

This is one of the most important land reforms since independence. We could only examine the role of HDB and the pricing mechanism for new HDB flats properly under this context. In its first 20 years, HDB has fulfilled its role under this land reform plan, i.e. utilize the acquired land to build HDB flats and sell them at cheap prices or even under cost to the people, in doing so, redistribute land to the people. This is the fundamental role of HDB. Most people who had their land forcefully acquired did not protest because they knew that they were making sacrifices for the people and the Nation. This is the social contract between the people and the ruling party. The HDB flats has only a 99-year lease and it provides stability to the whole system. It ensures future generations of Singaporeans will have a roof over their heads throughout their life span. This is the basic concept of land reform, distribution and public housing policy.

But now Minister Mah says, “The government cannot sell the new HDB flats at cost because this would mean that flat owners will not be able to sell it at market prices in future.” We do not understand on what basis does Minister Mah make such an assertion. Prior to 1990s, our father’s generation bought their HDB flats at cost or even under cost and now they can still sell their flats in the resale market at market prices. Isn’t this PAP’s policy? The government selling new HDB flats to Singaporeans at cost price has absolutely nothing to do with whether Singaporeans could sell off their flats in the open resale market or not.

Minister Mah also says, “The House Ownership Scheme is most beneficial to Singapore because it could ultimately allow house owners to sell their flats for a profit and use it for retirement. Selling flats at cost price would not achieve such aim.”

First of all, a HOME is not an “investment”. People only use properties as investment when they do not use it as a HOME. It is only when people have their second house then they could consider it as a “tool” for investment!

Secondly, if Singaporeans do not need to suffer from high HDB prices and use their CPF to pay for a 30-year mortgage, they will not need to “sell flats for retirement”! Minister Mah is simply putting the cart before the horse.

Thirdly, we can hardly imagine any first world country or world-class government asking their people to “sell house for retirement”!

Fourthly, can Minister Mah guarantee that each and every generation of Singaporeans can sell their flats at good prices when they retire? Can such scheme work in a rapidly aging society? From the economic perspective, it is totally unsound. In a rapidly aging society, there will be more elderly people than youngsters for the next 20 to 30 years, meaning more sellers of HDB flats than buyers! How can prices be good in such a market situation?

The root of the problem lies with the fact that prices of new HDB flats have outstripped income growth for the past 30 years. Our last generation paid only a 10 or 15-year mortgage for their HDB flats but now, our present and future generations will have to pay a 30-year mortgage for their new HDB flats! If they are married at 30 years old, they can only finish paying up their mortgage by 60 years old. By then, there will be little money left in their CPF. This is why they need to “sell flats for retirement”!

We call upon Minister Mah and PAP to take their responsibilities as embedded in the social contract of land reform seriously and fulfill them, instead of trying to shrug it off by using all sorts of flawed reasoning and excuses. We do not expect the ruling party to meddle with the resale market but we hope that HDB could resume its original role by publishing the cost of all new HDB flats and selling them at cost price to first time Singaporean buyers.

Goh Meng Seng
Secretary General
National Solidarity Party


谨《联合早报》于2010年5月8日刊登之“谈屋价 谈溢价 谈大选 马宝山上火线”,我代表国民团结党作以下回应:





第一, 一个家不是单纯的“投资”项目。人们只有把房地产当投资,而不是一个家。唯有人们在拥有第二间房子时,那才算是房地产投资!
第二, 如果国人无须面对超高屋价而须动用公积金负担起30年的房屋贷款的话,他们也无须面对被逼“卖屋养老”了!马部长的这番话根本是本末倒置的。
第三, 我们从来没有听过那一个先进国家或世界级的政府会叫他们的人民“卖屋养老”的!
第四, 马部长能担保每一代人都能在退休时能把屋子卖得好价钱吗?在一个迅速老化的国家里,这“卖屋养老”的计划真的行得通?从经济学的角度来看,这种计划根本是行不通的!在一个迅速老化的社会里,在未来的二、三十年里,老年人肯定比年轻人来得多。如果依马部长的计划,每个老人都须“卖屋养老”,那么卖屋子的人(老人)肯定比买屋子的人(年轻人)多!在这种情况之下,屋子的价钱怎么能好?




Monday, May 03, 2010

CNA Talking Point: NCMP Scheme

I was invited to give my views in the Talking Point program about the changes to the Constitutions particularly with regards to the increase in NCMPs in parliament.

You could watch the exchange of views at Channel News Asia website or Youtube here.


Sunday, May 02, 2010

Please Donate DIRECTLY to NSP

My heartfelt thanks to many supporters who have shown their concerns to me after knowing my intention to sell my flat for NSP election campaign.

Some of you wanted to donate directly to me during my walk about or at other public activities. I appreciate very much of your kindness and support but I have to decline such direct donations. It is a matter of principles that I have to keep my finance very simple and clear without any complications.

I would instead urge my supporters to donate directly to NSP account. But please remember to email us your personal particulars and state the amount that you have donated to nsp-cec@yahoogroups.com after you have banked in your contributions into our party's bank accounts as follows:

National Solidarity Party
UOB account at 933-341-747-9

We are obliged to return or surrender a received anonymous donation (to the authority) if, by accepting the anonymous donation, our total accumulated amount of anonymous donations received for the financial year should amount to S$5,000 or more.

- We are obliged to return or surrender a received donation (to the authority) if a donation originates from a non-permissible source such as:

(i) Permanent Residents and foreigners;

(ii) Singapore citizens who are below 21 years of age; and

(iii) Unincorporated associations which include businesses, societies, trade unions, mutual benefit organisations, professional firms, charities, co-operatives, corporation soles and incorporated trusts.

It is very important for you to provide us your particulars else any anonymous donations which pass the total of $5,000 in a year would be confiscated by the PAP government. Thank you very much.

Goh Meng Seng

Saturday, May 01, 2010

May Day Message 2010

I will be attending the May Day Picnic at Hong Lim Park this evening (4pm to 6pm)and most probably, TRY to give a SHORT speech there. (Well, people always commented that I give long speeches...) Please join us for this little gathering at Hong Lim Park.

Meanwhile, NSP has issued our May Day Message 2010

NSP's May Day Message 2010
Sat, May 01, 2010

In recognition of May Day, the National Solidarity Party honours the workers of the world in general, and those in Singapore in particular for their invaluable contributions towards nation building through their strife and hard work, sometimes in demanding and non-conducive environments.

Although a fundamental prerequisite of Production, labour is often taken for granted, especially by organizations with vested interest. Workers are expected to be more productive as in faster and better, yet they are also expected to be “cheaper” as well.

Labour unions should be truly independent to best advance the interests of their members. They should not be beholden to the State or any political power. In Singapore, the NTUC has categorically stated that it has a “symbiotic relationship” with the ruling party PAP. It would naturally serve to help sustain PAP’s political hegemony. At times, the NTUC operates much like a sub-division of the PAP.

Thus, in many sense, the NTUC has become a labour front turned political party. Its Secretary General and several other leaders are cabinet ministers, and the entire body has openly aligned itself towards a specific political identity. Under such circumstances, it inevitably loses its independence and ability to exert a better bargaining for the workers whose interests it supposed to safe guard.

The PAP Government has pride itself for having formulated an unique “tripartite” relationship with the labour front and the employers federation. However this is done by pure dominance of the labour union NTUC instead of treating them as independent equals.

Consequently, despite various fiscal schemes to promote productivity, Singaporean workers are often over-worked, over-regulated, under-paid and under-motivated. On the other hand, the leaders of the so-called “tripartism” are generally over-paid. Indeed, the divide between the rulers and the ruled has further expanded year after year.

Perhaps, the Government could re-examine its policy paradoxes involving market versus values, local against foreign, and family versus work. The mad chase after high GDP growth regardless of cost and benefits have caused great confusion to the People. High GDP growth is fast becoming meaningless to Singaporeans when many of them are displaced by cheaper foreign workers in the process. The stagnated income level for the our lower income workers has made High GDP growth figures totally irrelevant.

The union, NTUC, has not resisted any attempts by the PAP government to artificially boost GDP growth at the expense of Singaporeans by opening the flood gates to foreign workers. This is the most glaring failing of NTUC as well as the “tripartite” relationship.

Nevertheless, NSP continues to share a common aspiration with the Singaporean worker in maintaining a positive outlook that livelihood would improve with the anticipated structural changes in the national political scene in the coming months.

Ken Sun
Chairman, Central-South District
National Solidarity Party