Monday, August 19, 2013

NDR 2013 : What's wrong with PAP?

I have read some comments on Facebook and there were quite a number of applause for the POLICY TWEAKS from PM Lee. Yes, it is just POLICY TWEAKS, nothing revolutionary. It is worrying that all these tweaks seem to have hoodwinked some middle ground voters to only see the impact on their compartmentalized interests instead of the overall larger picture.

There are many things I think need to be addressed but since I am no longer Secretary General of an opposition party which will need to address broadly on the various issues, I will choose to focus on two most important issues.

HDB Higher Grant is Good? 

The debate on how to reduce HDB prices have started since I have raised this issue way back in 2010. There are two main methodologies:

1) Reduce the listing prices of New HDB flats directly according to Cost-plus formula.
2) Increase HDB grants

These two methods may or may no result in the same pricing in New HDB flats. But even if they did, they will have very different implications on the whole Government budgetary situation even though the impact on those Singaporeans buying their First HDB flats is the same.

The reason is that whatever HDB pays for land used to build these new flats, will be paid to SLA and all these money will go straight into the Reserves. This is one of the reasons why PAP can keep boasting about having exceptional ability to accumulate reserves. But wait, once these money goes into Reserves, it means that it will no longer be accountable to public scrutiny as the management of reserves is totally opaque and unaccountable to anyone! (President, you say? Look at what President Ong TC got from PAP when he asked for details!) It would practically mean that if more HDB grants are given to first time buyer without direct price control on the HDB prices, all these government grants will go straight to the reserves which will be managed in a very opaque way and not accountable to parliament nor public scrutiny.

Such transfers of government funds from its current account would have severe implications on the overall budgeting. It would mean that there will be relatively smaller funds for Education, Healthcare, Transport etc as compared to no grants given at all.

This is not to say these are real "subsidies" because the PAP government still make money from the land sales which is very much higher than their purchase price through the Land Acquisition Act. 

To make comparison, let's say there is no grants given but the HDB price is already set at the Cost-plus pricing. Singaporeans will enjoy very low HDB pricing and at the same time, the government do not transfer funds into the reserves directly but could use it for Healthcare subsidies.

This is the reason why I have been advocating Cost-Plus pricing mechanism, a totally revolutionary change in the system rather than the populist (because it makes Singaporeans think that Government is giving them money or subsidies) High Grant methodology advocated by Workers Party (Gerald Giam has made the point in TOC Face Off Forum) and now adopted by PAP.

Some people raise two concerns. One is on the impact on resale market and second, how to price the land that the Government own.

For the first issue of resale market, it is absolutely untrue that a change in the pricing mechanism of NEW HDB prices via Cost-Plus pricing would crash the resale market. Put it simply, the higher grant method would have crashed the resale market if what they say is true! But this is totally untrue.

HDB resale market is totally a segregated market because the needs of the people who are buying in resale market is totally different from first time buyers in New HDB flats. A substantial percentage of buyers in resale market are PRs who cannot buy New HDB flats. Most Singaporeans who buy resale flats are mainly upgraders or downgraders who will already have a flat or property as a leverage. If the BTO pricing for upgraders or downgraders is maintained at market prices, there will be no incentive for them to shift. Some are first time buyers but they are willing to pay a premium for choosing on where they stay. Thus, it seems that the HDB resale prices are more likely to be affected by Private Property Prices, as these are direct competitive substitutes, rather than NEW HDB prices!

As for how to price the land SLA acquired, we could learn from the Germans who are good at curbing unnecessary excessive speculations in property prices. Property prices are allowed to have a 1.5% increase in value per annum , anything above that, they will be subjected to very heavy taxes. Government land can be priced according to such formula, fixed at 1% or 2% increment per year.

Heathcare: PAP's Universal Healthcare Insurance?

The next important issue is of course Healthcare. Many people start to claim that PAP has finally embraced "Universal Healthcare Insurance System" simply because it has announced to cover elderly over 90 years old. That is really a misunderstanding of what Universal Healthcare Insurance entails.

Universal Healthcare insurance will need to cater to both Bigger SCOPE and DEPTH. What PAP is trying to do is just to increase slightly on SCOPE and a little bit on DEPTH. Furthermore, as some people have already mentioned in many blogs and articles, the payout from Medishield is pathetic as compared to the amount of premiums it received. The coverage of Medishield is pathetic. Medishield is in effect, "making money" and this coincide with the fact that healthcare spending by PAP government as compared to other developed countries in terms of percentage to GDP is also inadequate.

I have actually put up the idea of Universal Healthcare Insurance in NSP GE2011 Master Manifesto but unfortunately, it was not raised as the key policy view. The concept is simple.

1) Healthcare of Citizens should be the responsibility of Citizens, Employers and Government. (GEC). Insurance premiums should be shared by these three entities in different percentages. Non-working family members should also be covered with different percentages set for GEC in premium payment.

2) Universal Healthcare Insurance should have wider coverage, allowing citizens to cover every outpatient treatment in private clinic with a list of fixed payout for various drugs, consultancy and operations. Any excess will have to be born by patients. This means that for most Singaporeans or Foreign workers covered under this scheme, they will pay minimum amount for most treatments if they go to government hospitals or clinics. But if they chose to visit private hospitals, there will be a limit of insurance coverage and they will have to pay extra for their choice of expensive medical care.

3) Foreigners working in Singapore should also pay a higher premium into ths Universal Healtcare Insurance. The rational of this is to pool risk of working foreign population in Singapore to cross subsidize an aging Singapore citizens. For Foreign workers, the government will not pay for their premiums. The Premiums should be shared by the employers and foreign employees.

4) Most of the time, there should be surplus in the pooled fund. If there is any shortfall, the government should top it up.

These are the basic structure of my Universal Healthcare Insurance scheme. It has wider Scope and Coverage.


If PAP didn't transfer more funds into Reserves via HDB grants, most probably it would have more funds in current account to provide more spending on healthcare.

The fundamental question we should ask ourselves, how much reserves is enough? Should we have indefinite increases in our reserves and compromised on the well being of our citizens in Healthcare?

If the policy directions are done properly, there should not be additional increase in Medishield premiums or Medisave at all. That is what is wrong with PAP. They are totally obsessed with increase in reserves, stingy on spending for the well being of citizens and thus, never ending pay and pay.

Goh Meng Seng

Monday, August 05, 2013

Bad Editorial Practices by TRE

This is another response to TRE and I hope it will be the last.

First of all, I thank TRE for putting up my article. However, I think TRE is intellectually dishonest in two instances:

1) TRE has yet again, divert the REAL issue from my original title "Political Offensive Against Pan-Opposition Movement" to this present title "Goh Meng Seng: I'm not Anti-WP. It is apparently another attempt of Trolling and I am really very disappointed with TRE. We have been attacking SPH reporters about certain reports but the truth is, it was always the editors who change the titles of these reports deliberately to slant focus and even edit their reporting in a skewed manner. This is bad editorial practice and I regret that TRE has learned from SPH editors as well.

2) TRE claimed that it has just merely put up my posting from the forum for all to see but the truth is, they were taken out of context and worst, only two out of quite a few postings are posted to portray a slanted perspective with the Trolling intent. Someone has already pointed out this point in his comment on the said article. Half truth is no truth. Here again, a usual bad reporting practice learned from SPH as well. I do not think it is anything FAIR by reporting selectively and asked readers to form their own opinion from these slanted presentation.

As for the many disparaging comments posted on here on TRE, it is regrettable that most are made without even reading carefully what has been written and it is also apparent that they have been largely misled by the slanted title TRE has chosen to replace mine.

It is also disheartening to see some die hard opposition supporters/WP people to use such a language against those who they disagree with, even going to the extend of cursing me to die early. I am not perturbed by such cursing but I guess these people are abusing their Freedom of Speech and Expression in which Pan-opposition movement has fought very hard for it.

To put it bluntly, even hardcore PAP IB doesn't use such curse openly against opposition members. If you want Freedom of Speech, you must first learn to respect other people's right to express themselves freely even though you may disagree with it.

Last but not least, for those who cannot comprehend exactly what is going on, nope, I have no interests in meddling nor interfering in Sylvia Lim's love life. It is none of my business, really. I could only wish her good luck and happiness. I was just commenting on the way Sylvia Lim handled the press on this matter which puts herself in a very dangerously vulnerable position politically. Whether you take this as "advice" or not, I am really not bothered but it puts WP and the whole Pan-opposition movement at risk again.

It is also a good lesson to be learned by younger opposition members. Don't ever feel compelled to reply to reporters about your love life if it is just a normal relationship (i.e. not a scandalous adultery or such). They should protect you as a public figure if they truly love you.

Goh Meng Seng

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Political Offensive Against Pan-Opposition Movement

This is my letter to TRE in response to one of their post.

Dear Editors,

I write to you in response to the article you have put up on Sylvia Lim & Quah Kim Song saga. It has inaccurately portrayed me “criticising” or “attacking” WP or Sylvia Lim. For the record, these photos of QKS with his ex-girl friend were not put up by me at all. I only make comment on the observations on how Sylvia Lim has been entrapped by such personal attachment and public life in which she was slowly led or misled into a politically vulnerable and dangerous situation.

Die hard opposition supporters like you in TR Emeritus (TRE) may not take it as an important issue over the photo revelation but we should always bear in mind that Singapore political battles are fought over the middle ground, not over die hard opposition or PAP supporters.

PAP has been on the “defensive” right after GE 2011 in which the Prime Minister himself has lowered himself and apologized during last GE. Apparently PAP has come to different conclusion now and it has adjusted its political posturing and position, moving off from defensive to offensive mode.

This can be seen from the Ceiling Gate Saga and the open criticism on prominent opposition member, Ravi Philemon over the Haze-N95 Mask saga. Such offensive has been extended by some sectors (ISD, PAP people, SPH or otherwise) to cover all other opposition members and bloggers like Vincent Wijeysingha, Alex Au etc.
I regret that amidst of the recent launch of new political offensive initiative by the invisible hand against Pan-opposition movement, TRE has chosen to divert attention and focus from the key message I have put up on the forum.

The key concern is the observation of the latest political offensive and the call for prudence on Sylvia’s part in dealing with her own private relationship else she may find herself victimized by those who have planned all these deliberate, well planned offensive against all people who are anti-PAP or anti-establishment (including SPH etc) regardless of whether they are bloggers or prominent opposition members.
We have seen deliberate attacks on individuals and website like yours by pro-PAP netters as well as the main stream media (MSM).

As much as WP Low Thia Khang has wished to “walk his own path” from other opposition parties, WP and its MPs will always be seen as part of the “Pan-Opposition” movement. People with the agenda to prolong PAP’s monopoly of power in Singapore will not stop or be merciful in finding all means to attack WP, even if it means to use underhand tactics as such, leveraging on its members’ private lives to undermine the whole Pan-opposition movement.

Many people may portray me as “Anti-WP” which is totally inaccurate at all. I am first and foremost, part of this Pan-opposition movement. But I also think that the only SUSTAINABLE way of keeping effective opposition presence in parliament is to keep opposition MPs in parliament up on their toes and not to be complacent. Especially so when the question of integrity, democratic values and principles are at stake, opposition movement must always be seen Whiter than the White PAP and keep ourselves on the Moral High Ground.

Anyone, especially the die hard supporters, who may always point to “Oh PAP also do that” are doing a great disservice to the whole opposition movement. If opposition parties or MPs are so much the same as PAP in some undesirable traits, then it begs the question on WHY would the MIDDLE GROUND voters want to vote for Opposition Parties instead of PAP since both are as black as they are? Furthermore, if opposition MPs cannot clear any doubts or questions on their integrity and such, it will compromise their position in parliament as an effective check and balance in parliament because they have lost the Moral High Ground.

As we can see and will see more in future, PAP will use diversion tactic whenever WP MPs want to question them on various issues….eg. they will shoot WP at Ceiling Gate, FMSS Gate when WP want to question PAP on AIM saga…etc. Such situation is detrimental to the Pan-opposition movement.

In fact, PAP is now trying to portray itself as “clean” and “white” again with the recent actions taken against errant civil servants, its own ex-MP and even its own MP cum Speaker of Parliament in Palmer-Gate. It is trying every means to create the impression or perception that it has the Moral High Ground of impartiality to enforce necessary punishment to its own kind. This is done concurrently with the effort to “expose” WP’s weakness or even create doubts on its overall integrity. Yes, die hard supporters may just brush this off as political smearing and such but we must again remind ourselves the the battle is fought over winning the minds and hearts of the middle ground.

If Pan-Opposition movement cannot show that it is impartial and fair in commenting and making reasonable remarks on the shortcomings of ourselves, we may risk losing credibility in the minds of the middle ground.

I shall use a quote from a prominent Malaysian businessman to end this article:

Failure is the mother of Success, Success is also the mother of Failure”

I hope that the Pan-opposition movement in Singapore can develop healthily and shall maintain its Moral Compass in maneuvering through the rough seas of political struggle.

Goh Meng Seng