Sunday, December 30, 2012

Insist on Meritocracy, Reject Mediocrity

Wan Bao has always been quite supportive of Workers Party (WP) all this while and it is exceptional for it to be so. This could be seen from the reports on WP since the Hougang By-Elections held earlier on. It is indeed rare to have a mainstream newspaper to be so supportive of an opposition party under Singapore’s unique political consrtruct. 

However, it should not be biased by its support to WP so much so that it would go that extra mile to use reports with twisted angle to attack those who have very different stance from it! (I am of course referring to myself!)

Just like the report shown above, it uses a very definite tone to assert that “majority of netizens feel that there is sourness written between the lines”; it would be totally misleading to those who don’t really know the fact at al! Well, I have checked through this comment posted on my FB and I have found there are over 20 FB friends agreed with my comments and have clicked “Like” while there are just only a handful of those usual suspects of hardcore WP people raising disagreement. How could that be considered as “majority”? Maybe the Chief Editor of Wan Bao should help the reporter to get a new pair of spectacles or that send the reporter to a couple of Statistics classes! Such gross misreporting could damage Wan Bao’s credibility and reputation (that is, if there is any left)!

Well, I am a straight talker and will not try to beat around the bushes. Some feel that this is REAL while more feels that this is just “ignorant” or even “idiocy”; this is just a matter of perspectives. Nevertheless, many people feel that as “politician”, it is better to be “slick”and have a “glib toungue”, must be more “politically correct”. However, isn’t that asking politicians to hide their real thoughts and replace them with sweet talking?  I don’t concur to such hypocritical pretence!

As for my comment, that is serious matter. There are a lot of people disappointed with WP’s performance since last General Elections. Even the so call “political observer” whom Wan Bao interviewed has to settle with the assessment of “WP’s performance is so so”. That is basically just a civil way (politically correctly smooth) of saying “mediocre”.  It is a fact that there isn’t much commendable performance. 

Right from the start, Chen Show Mao has conceded to PAP to become the great fearless Wei Zheng who will speak the truth, in all honesty with their criticisms. That basically means that PAP has become the Emperor while WP becomes the loyal court officials. There is basically nothing wrong to concede to the victor as it is a common practice in ancient history. But Wei Zheng is one who will speak up fearlessly (well, isn’t that as ignorant and idiotic as I do? LOL!) of the truth and facts and isn’t one of the fearful silent coward. However, just after one year plus, why has our Wei Zheng become the silent one on the policy front?

WP walks into parliament with the slogan of “Towards First World Parliament” but once in parliament, why are they bringing up such inconsequential questions on cats, dogs and bird droppings? Is it true that there isn’t any other important National issue to be brought up in parliament for debate? Why didn’t they bring up the issue of AIM in parliament earlier on?

Even for that “sure score” issue of ministerial salary debate, WP has screwed up so badly that it was mercilessly mocked by PAP. Not to mention about being exposed of plagiarism right in parliament. My little criticism of WP in my FB is really nothing compared to be shamed in the hall of parliamentary debate. How embarrassing! 

Just when we thought the worst is over, WP exploded with the Yaw Shin Leong scandal. The ultimate shame lies in how clueless WP was in handling such scandal. It has dragged the scandal for nearly a month before it was forced to tearfully sacrificed YSL. Apparently this has put a lot of doubt on the crisis management ability of WP. After the dust settled, we thought we could just close the chapter with a by-election. However, the WP candidate’s credibility was again put to doubt by a leaked minutes of its CEC meeting. Finally, the by-election has a happy ending with the magnanimous support of Hougang voters. But just as we thought all the storms have passed, residents under WP’s wards exposed that WP has used lucky draw to buy votes in support of HDB upgrading! This is the greatest ironic blow to opposition as a whole as we have been attacking PAP of using HDB upgrading to buy votes during elections! This is simply the pot calling the kettle black!
Our hearts are bleeding with all these missteps of WP! All these mediocre performance has absolutely nothing to do with the lack of confidence. I have thought through rigorously but I just couldn’t figure out how “confidence” (or the lack of it), as mentioned by the political observer, has to do with WP’s mediocre performance. However, I would say some of the incidents have to do with the over confidence, complacency and arrogance.

It is unimaginable that within such a short period of one and a half year’s time, WP has been making such fumbles in such high frequency and how is WP going to survive for the next 3 to 4 years before the next GE! Confidence can never solve these fundamental problems!

It is inexplicable for the Wan Boa’s political observer to assert that we should give WP one more seat so that they will have the confidence to perform better! This is really absurd! When did we become a country that abandon the core principle of meritocracy while rewarding mediocre performance?  We should insist on meritocracy and reject mediocrity.

If we lose this insistence on meritocracy, Singapore would definitely and eventually end up with a political slimy mud filled with mediocrity instead of becoming “First World” class!
If WP chose to contest the by-election due short term political interests considerations, before it rectifies, consolidate and make adjustment to its present team of MPs, even if it managed to win another seat, it will face the greater risk of having further mediocre impact that would cause even more blunders. This is especially so when it is obvious from Hougang By-election that WP is pretty dry on its talent pool now.
WP should stop and reflect upon itself, bides its time in re-consolidation and take stock of its weaknesses before it starts afresh again. Only in doing so, it would be able to meet the high expectations of its supporters to accomplish and fulfill its mission of creating the “First World Parliament”.

Nothing is absolute in this world. More may not be good. We should have quality MPs instead of just quantity. If the slate of MPs are still lacking in quality, it should just give them closed door training to perfection. WP should get its house in order first before it moves forward to win any other seats. In short, it is best for WP to give it a pass for this by-election.

Goh Meng Seng

Afternote: There are two interesting comments from private friends to me

1) If what WP lacks is confidence, then there is no need to reward it with another seat to boast confidence but instead, just send them to those expensive Motivational Talks available in the world!

2) If we are to extend the Wan Bao political observer's advice to commercial world, then companies will need to give those mediocre employees a big pay rise in order to boast their confidence to perform better!








就算是能拿高分的部长薪金辩论工人党也搞到一团糟,还被行动党真正在国会大堂狠狠的”酸“ (冷嘲热讽)了一顿。工人党议员在国会大堂上被揭发是文抄公这事不提也罢了。我这在面簿的网络小空间小小”酸“工人党并没什么大不了的,但在所谓的”第一世界国会“大堂上被对手大肆羞辱一番,情何以堪啊!当我们认为最坏的过去了,工人党竟然闹出了婚外情丑闻。这丑闻是丑在工人党一开始就不懂得如何去处理善后!拖拖拉拉的被丑闻纠缠了几乎整整一个月才以孔明挥泪斩马谡方式了结了。这危急处理能力真是叫人怀疑!当尘埃落定后,我们以为可以补选了事,但就在补选期间,候选人竟然被泄露的议会记录质疑在电视访问中所说不实!补选终于在后港人的宽容下圆满结束。也就在我们以为从此会风平浪静时,又被居民爆出工人党在管辖区内以幸运抽奖为利诱,收买对翻新支持的选票!这对于反对党一向抨击执政党以组屋翻新来收买选票是一种多么大的讽刺和打击啊!简直变成了小巫见大巫了!

工人党这种种的一切,是多么令人痛心啊!这一些平庸的表现,跟所谓的“信心”一点关系也没有。 我左思右想,怎么也想不出与”晚报政治观察家“所说的”信心“有任何关系,倒是想到也许有些事是跟工人党太过自信,自满和自大有关吧。我很难想象在这短短的一年半载里头,工人党竟然会失误频频,那么接下来的三、四年到底要怎么过啊!这不是多点信心就能解决的问题!





事事无绝对,不是每一样事情必须多就是最好的。议员贵精不贵多。 如果既有的议员还未精,那就得先闭门练兵了。这时候让贤是为上策。



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SMRT - The Ugly Truth of Ultra-Capitalism

 This is derived from a blog post from Transitional Eternity. 

 It has confirmed my suspicion all along that the workers and drivers in SMRT have been short-changed by the management/Directors by allocating vastly disproportionate sharing of the increase in profits over the years. Director has increased their own fees by a whopping 970% over 11 years while the workers and drivers were given a mere 67% increment. These are derived from the costings found in the annual reports. 

 We have been talking about RISING Income gap or disparity all these while and PAP government just act blur when their own GLCs under their charge are practicing such blatant Ultra-Capitalism of exploitation and unfair distribution of earnings. 

Such practice of Ultra-Capitalism is totally unacceptable and unsustainable. It will be a key of social dis-stabilizer in the mid to long term.

Fruits of earnings of any cooperation should be fairly distributed among the workers, management/directors and the capitalists/investors. The percentage of increment should not vary too much else the income gap or disparity will be widen substantially over time. If this is not kept in check, the whole system may just collapse and chaos may reign. 

Goh Meng Seng

Dear Mr Lui recognizes the need of a pay rise for our bus drivers, has asked commuters last Friday where “where is that money coming from[Here] after two weeks of deliberate hibernation and expects commuters to pay for the persistent mistakes of SMRT’s poorly-maintained train tracks and exploitation of foreign labour at the expense of wage depression for local workers. His first appearance and golden words came after the dust for the SMRT bus drivers’ strike saga has settled.  

I spent my Saturday afternoon scouting for possible sources of that “money” that our transport minister Lui Tuck Yew demanded. And easily found the pool of money in:

(1) The Directors’ Fees
Steady growth in directors’ fees between 2002 to 2012 and 2007 is the exceptional year which sees a 0.26 million drop in directors’ fees. There are certainly more years of upward growth in directors’ fees than in SMRT’s net profits. By 2012, directors’ fees have grown to a whopping 970% in a span of 11 years.

Contrasting the generosity of SMRT on its directors, the growth of staff costs (excluding directors) is a mere 67%. While directors have seen their fees increased in several folds in the last decade, staff below the directorial level who constitutes the bulk of SMRT’s labour force and where a big majority of these people are directly involved in SMRT’s daily core business, sees little growth in their income.

Not belittling the role of SMRT directors play, however, staff who operate SMRT’s business are neither of negligible importance either. Without these people, directors will be deemed redundant! It is no surprise to see SMRT’s deliberate maneuver of low wages for its operational staff to drive away Singaporean workers and thus, giving way to the excuse of seeking overseas labour at a cheaper price.

When we compare directors’ fees with staff costs, it is not difficult to notice that the percentage growth in the former outruns the latter. Directors’ fees grow at a double digit rate for most years except for 2006, 2007 and 2011, indicting an above-inflation rate of growth for this group with a greater absolute amount than the wages of the majority of non-directorial staff. A 10% increase of a $60 000 fees would result in $12 000 in absolute terms.

Between 2004 and 2005 and 2008 itself, non-directorial staff sustained an actual fall in costs despite SMRT operating at a positive gain in those years. The percentage rise in staff costs ranges between 2.5% to 42.5% and a double digit growth occurred only in 2003 (42.5%) and 2012 (11.6%), where the rest of the decade, staff costs are either at a negative growth or growing less than 7% single digit rate on the average, which if inflation rate is factored in, the real growth is minimal.

1 million dollars to come off directly from the directors’ fees towards the bus drivers’ increment fund as a compensation for the persistently poor performance of both train and bus services since 2011 and the inconvenience caused to commuters. As SMRT employs approximately 2000 bus drivers [Here], about 30% of its total staff are employed in thebus sector (SMRT Annual Report 2011), one million dollars would bring about an average of $500 p.a. extra.

Total number of employees in SMRT group

(2) In SMRT’s Net Profts
This is one area which private company SMRT could consider dipping into for raising bus drivers’ salaries.

Since 2002, SMRT has sustained consecutive years of positive gains. By 2011, it generated a 2.8 fold of net profits compared to 2002 and even during a weakening net profit in 2012, there is still a 2.1 fold gain as compared to the 56.8 million in 2002.

There were three less better years in SMRT’s overall net profits growth for the period between 2002 and 2012, namely 2006, 2011 and 2012 but respectively years of net profits still clinches 2 times more than 2002’s net profit.

Total net profits’ accumulation comes to a figure of 1.3 billion dollars in the last 11 years alone, 23.6 times of that of 2002’s net profit figure. However, on paying its staff (excluding directors), SMRT has spent a total of 2.5 billion in the last decade, a mere 13.9 times than that of 2002’s. Net profit growth easily outstripped the growth of staff costs, baring the strong reluctance of profit sharing with its non-directorial staff who does the actual work in generating revenue.

SMRT may be successful in expanding its sources of alternative revenues beyond its core business—public transport itself. However, it would be myopic to neglect its core business without which will cause a severe dent in its alternative sources of revenues. 

As much as SMRT’s claim of its accountability [Here] towards its shareholders (the government being the largest shareholder in this case as Temasek Holdings owns a 54% stake in SMRT), however, it has more to account to the commuters for the facts that SMRT’s infrastructure comes from the public funds, as well as the transport fundallocated to the transport providers comes from the public’s purse strings.

Dip into the pool of funds reserved for SMRT’s shareholders. As the largest shareholder, the government has the obligation in restoring the confidence of the public and its citizens of the promise of Singaporeans First by: 

1) securing well-paid jobs for locals (pay foreign drivers the same wage as local bus drivers to reduce the unfair reliance of foreign cheap labour) 

2) stop fleecing local commuters for profiteering

Mr Lui should allocate at least 4 million dollars from the pool of net profits which SMRT has amassed in the last decade. That meagre amount will not dent the 1.3 billion pool but will bring more quality living for its frontline workers and will also help to transfer the expense of SMRT's mistakes from the commuters. 

After all, our government works for the welfare of the people and isdistinctly different from those corrupted nations which milk its people to the last drop.