Friday, May 13, 2016

Ineffective MRT Sound Barriers

In land scarce cities like Singapore and Hong Kong, it is inevitable that we will have to build our rail system in extremely close proximity to our housing estates or flats.

It is important that we take a serious view of the noise pollution of the subway/MRT that will cause health problem in the long term.

In 2011 GE, while my team was contesting in Tampines, we have raised the issue of health hazard due to the close proximity of the MRT rail built next to the various HDB flats, especially those in Tampines.

After the GE, SMRT started their so call "noise barrier" experiment but is it effective? Is it the right kinds of Sound barriers needed to reduce the noise from the track sufficiently?

I present my photo essay here on the inadequacy of MRT's "noise barriers"

I have put up an example of how Hong Kong MTR design their Sound barrier as compared to Singapore SMRT.

This photo shows the MTR system in Hong Kong. Arrow A points to the Covered Sound Barrier which it has built when the track is built close to the flat.

Arrow B is the strain station which is build underneath the housing estate, noise completely blocked from above.

This is the most effective Sound barrier.

This is the Sound Barrier built by Singapore SMRT. Observe how close the track is built next to the HDB flat. But the sound barrier is really pathetic.

First, unlike the HK sound barrier, it did not cover the whole track from top to bottom. Secondly, it is not even high enough to be effective! This is because sound will bouce off from the train and it will bounce off towards the flat.

At the very least, the Sound Barrier has to be as high as the train itself! It is a sloppy ineffective design.

Look at the whole straetch of rail sitting next to the flats but no Sound Barriers built.

It is a common sight that MRT tracks cut through HDB estates with BOTH sides populated with HDB flats.

We do not know how many such Sound Barriers have been built as they have promised.MRT has just quietly stop mentioning about their ineffective Sound Barrier experiment altogether!

It is surprisng that even those who live in private condominiums suffered the same fate but yet, they didn't make noise or demand for proper Sound Barriers to be built!

The issue of building effective Sound Barriers to MRT tracks as well as Expressway is NOT new. I have raised it several times in this blog since 2004.

Goh Meng Seng

Best Wishes to Finance Minister Mr. Heng Swee Kiat

When my brother passed away during the 2011 GE, Mr Heng Swee Kiat paid a visit during his wake while we were contesting against each other. It was a good gesture.

We may stand on the different sides of the political field but our contest is for the future of Singapore. Nothing personal.

Best Wishes to Mr. Heng. I hope he could overcome his current medical conditions and has a speedy recovery.

Goh Meng Seng

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Critical 10%

The Critical 10%

Well, it has been an interesting day with the expected backlash pouring out. While many opposition supporters and members always cry foul about how the Main Stream Media distorted opposition members' messages by putting up sensational headlines, it seems that many opposition supporters and online media are also 100% capable of doing so as well. ;)

Many anxious friends have expressed concerns to me privately as well as many have expressed quiet support in private messages. But that's the part and parcel of opposition politics.

Apart from all these chest banging and angry shouting, very few actually bother about the rationale behind my article. Maybe I am unable to express clearly and I apologize for that.

Almost none of the hardcore opposition members have asked the intelligent question on why 40% is so important? But definitely they have shown one united trait of labeling people like me who didn't sing their tune as "PAP mole". Well, again, I guess they must have learned from PAP in doing fast labeling work. ;)

I have read Ravi Philemon write up and also some others who try to justify how good SDP DR Chee is by making comparison between the "vote swing percentage" and putting up statistics as such. Vote swing percentage comparison was made between Punggol East By-elections and Bukit Batok By-elections and they declare BBBE is as good as PEBE!

Statistics has to be used very carefully with the context of data. Making such comparison is assuming that the difficulties of converting or swinging the votes at different levels are the same. This is a flawed assumption.

Let me put across this point. Do you think a candidate is great if he is able to swing from 12% votes to 30%? A whopping 18% swing. Is this 18% swing comparable to the 18% swing from 40% to 58%?

Of course not. The context of the data is that the hardcore opposition votes constitute about 30%. The next 10% from 30% to 40% are the opposition sympathizers. The next CRITICAL 10% from 40% to 50% are the neutrals.

To swing from 12% to 30% is nothing compared to a swing of 10% from 30% to 40%! And to swing from 40% to 50% is the MOST difficult because as we get nearer to the 50% point, the voters are neutrals who are white leaning.

Thus we cannot compare the swing of BBBE from 26% to 39% as the same of PEBE swing of 41% to 54%. The level of difficulty is totally different.

The CRITICAL 10%, which is from 40% to 50%, are the most difficult group of voters for opposition to swing and win over. Dr Chee has never crossed 40% and it shows that he has been rejected by this Critical 10% of neutrals consistently.

It may not be entirely his fault as this could be due to the successful PAP smearing but the cruel reality is, he just couldn't get pass that barrier for all his 25 years of opposition political engagement.

To understand why, we must look at how PAP's smearing convinced this group of voters. Don't pass judgement on whether they are right or wrong but these are the messages that the Critical 10% accepted. PAP has portrayed Chee as untrustworthy, lack sincerity and credibility. The Chiam baggage is the biggest convincing factor. Whether we like it or not, the Critical 10% has believed in these messages and voted against Chee.

Thus, if Chee continued in what he is doing right now, without getting rid of the Chiam baggage and its impact, there is no way Chee could get higher votes or win any elections.

Listen to this Critical 10% who are mostly silent. No matter how the 39% of opposition supporters protest, shout, angry or mock at the whole thing, the fact still remains, without the endorsement of this Critical 10%, we will always be the disgruntled and dismay 39%.

If you read my earlier article carefully, I said Chee should take a back seat. Contrary to many people who jump at first sight of what I have written, I fell short of asking Chee to quit politics altogether. He could put more energy in earning and giving his family a better life but at the same time, support whoever the new leadership to bring SDP to greater heights.

In fact, if he is willing to do that, he may just dispel all those PAP smearing about him being power crazy, insincere whatsoever etc. If he chose to contest again next GE, not as the SG of SDP but as a reformed and self redeemed politician under SDP banner, he might cross that 40% or even move towards a victory.

The best way to win over the Critical 10% is to listen to what PAP has been trying to tell them. Hardcore opposition supporters may sneer at these messages but we must understand that this has always been PAP's success formula in convincing that Critical 10%. Don't pass judgement too quickly and understand why the Critical 10% believe in PAP's messages.

If SDP DR Chee and all of us only listen to the ranting and shouting of hardcore opposition supporters, we will lose sight of what really matters to our political battle, the Critical 10%. These are part of the so call "Silent Majority".

Goh Meng Seng


I have enough of the attacks by the "MOB" but really, when they start to rant without reasoning, I ask myself do they really understand opposition politics is just not about them. The cult like behavior of these people sometimes makes me wonder whether our education system has failed so badly. Or we are just too far off from the proper development of Democracy. It is really something for me to ponder about.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Reflections on Bukit Batok By Elections

Reflections on Bukit Batok By Elections

Right from the start, the deal looks just too good to be true. Nobody has talked about David Ong's scandalous affairs but PAP imploded the issue on their own accord.

Curiously, Bukit Batok was just carved out from Jurong GRC during last GE2015. Then, PAP announced quickly that it will be sending an Indian candidate who had contested in Aljunied GRC to become its candidate for this BE.

It is just ALL TOO PERFECT and a GOOD deal for any aspiring opposition politician. Dream conditions BEST ever to happen in Singapore's context.

A By-Elections due to PAP scandal, opponent is a minority candidate in a dominantly Conservative Chinese ground.

My first instinct is, this is just too good to be true. PAP isn't that generous and its track record has shown that it is a petty and vindictive political party. Thus, the only logical deduction or conclusion is that, this must be a trap bait.

Well, whatever it is, we decided NOT to have multi-corner fight as an opposition. But under such suspicious circumstances, I also believe that we shall practice caution.

I checked on the demography of BB and found that it has an exceptionally high proportion of Indian voters. (It has 11% Indian voters.)  It is no wonder PAP is willing to field an Indian candidate. Well, isn't this ironic for PAP to accuse SDP of practicing "Racial politics"?

It would be PERFECT if SDP has sent Prof Paul Tambaya as its candidate because he will be effective in contesting the same group of voters against Murali.

Bukit Batok had a love hate relationship with SDP. It used to support SDP strongly back in the late 1988 and 1991 GEs when SDP was under the leadership of Chiam. However, it is also precisely due to this linkage to SDP, it has turned against SDP when Chiam left SDP under ugly circumstances/parting.

Thus my initial assessment is that Dr Chee is not exactly the right candidate to contest in BB due to this past baggage. It would be great if Prof Paul is fielded by SDP instead and he would surely have a fighting chance to win when he is short of such past political baggage. This was the basis of my first statement on this By-elections. If Paul is to contest, I will personally campaign on the ground for him because there would really be fighting chance to win.

But SDP has decided to field Chee. With due respect, I would think that this is really a strategic mistake. SDP and Chee is basically "showing hand" in this BE, without a proper assessment of the chances of winning.

True enough, the past baggage of Chiam came back to bite Chee. Whether we like it or not, this dagger is sharp and went deep down right into Chee's heart.

To be fair, SDP has a fantastic and wonderful team of back room operation team. It has run the logistics and media machinery very well. This is the real strength of SDP. Even WP political machinery cannot match SDP's backroom ops.

However, the reality is that Chee's leadership has only a track record of under 40% for the past two decades. SDP has never crossed the 40% barrier ever since Chee took over the leadership. (It is important to strike above 40% because it will keep PAP at their toes as this will make them vulnerable in these seats)

While many people would encourage Chee and SDP, citing this as the Best result Chee has achieved under harsh circumstances, but the hard truth and cruel reality is that JBJ has faced even more difficult and harsh smearing by PAP and its controlled media in the past but he has proven himself to be the true fighter who could bring WP to cross 40% and even won seats.

Whether we like it or not, whether we think it is FAIR to Chee or not, PAP has successfully decimated Chee's political credibility so much so that it actually affects the whole SDP.

And sometimes, I feel that it is really Chee's own doing in which he has given more than enough ammunition to PAP and its media to smear him.

For example, just for this BBBE, Chee has made quite a number of strategic erros.

1) The mismanagement of the Chiam meeting and saga is pretty glaring. While there will always be closed door negotiation but if it is agreed that this meeting should not be publicized or made known to the press, then SDP should keep to that promise. Furthermore, I hate to say this, although I dislike what Lina Chiam has done to Chee during this BE, but Chee must realize that he needs Chiam more than Chiam need him. Chiam is basically the KEY to his FUTURE political success and reconciliation should be achieved at all cost. Never mind on who is right or wrong in the past or present, but public Perception is everything in politics.

For SDP to come up with such conditions for Chiam, that is really a non starter. If there is no sincerity to strike a deal, then there should not be a meeting in the first place. The worse part is, when you come up with such unacceptable proposal but later, seen to milk on the perception that there is reconciliation process, then it is no wonder Lina Chiam is unhappy. She most probably feel that she has been taken for a ride or made use by SDP!

Thus, whatever excuses SDP come up with, any person with a reasonable mind would regard SDP in an extremely bad light, though we may feel that Lina Chiam is just too much to throw such a big dagger at Chee right at such critical moment of BBBE.

2) The focus on Town Council management has been overdone. The over promise of making Bukit Batok as the BEST Town actually backfired on Chee's credibility. No sound mind would believe in that promise basically because we know that to achieve that Best Town promise, you need funding and millions of it. Such funding is controlled by PAP via PA.. People's Association's CCC which will decide whether funding will be given to ANY upgrading projects proposed by any TC.

3) Having said that, swing voters know pretty well that there will be offset or trade off if they were to vote for opposition. Opposition must give them a solid reason for them to vote for them, making compromise or sacrifices on their HDB upgrading. Thus, the focus is about how good you will be as a REAL Check and Balance force in parliament. How good you will be as an MP to scrutinize PAP's policies in parliament. Chee might have that ability backed by his set of policy papers but yet, sorry to say that, he screwed it up when he REPEATED the mistake on MOM's statistics. If you have shown that you cannot digest, grasp or understand simple statistics as such, would the educated swing voters believe that you could debate and scrutinize PAP's policies in parliament properly? Some may believe that but most level headed person would not believe that.

I have tried my best in my own little ways to help SDP during the BE and I have witnessed Chee's family going all out to support him. However, when the dust settles, I feel extremely bad for Chee and his family. His wife and children have suffered much when he was fighting this war with no sign of victory around. When I read commentaries congratulating him and urging him on to continue fighting, I feel angry as well as sad. These people have unknowingly given Chee false hope.

We have to come to terms that Chee isn't going to go anywhere further than the current result due to many reasons and factors. Whether we like it or not, the Chiam baggage will always be on his shoulder if he didn't want to clear it off with sincerity.

He has given his best under the best circumstances any past and contemporary opposition politicians could dream of but yet, unable to cross that 40% barrier. No matter how we look at it objectively and rationality, it could only mean one thing, whether we like it or not, he has been tainted beyond hope. He is just unelectable.

This is this cruel but honest view I have with regard to Chee. As I have said, SDP has a fantastic support team behind but as long as Chee is leading SDP, all their effort may just come to nothing.

I guess for the sake of Chee's family, it is time for him to take a back seat and allow others to take SDP to greater heights. 5 years is a lot of time for a human being, 20 years of his prime has been spent in this opposition fight. It would be too cruel to ask him to continue to fight a destined lost war without much concerns of the sacrifices made by his family members.

Goh Meng Seng


The Independent has put up my article and there were some unhappy comments from the hardcore opposition supporters. I have replied as follows:

I thank you for all your comments here. I just need to make some simple clarifications.

Many people brag about the "high swing" SDP Dr Chee got from this BBBE. This is the common mistake people made in statistical analysis. Statistics must be analysed along with the context of the data.

For example, would you cry victory when someone improve from 12% to 30% in a SMC fight? Nope. Why?

We always say first 30% of opposition votes are the hardcore votes. It is a no brainer that one could increase easily from 12% to 30% under normal circumstances.

30% to 40% are the opposition sympathizers' votes. Need a bit of persuasion but still manageable.

But the Key critical 10% comes form 40% to 50% which are mainly the votes from the Neutrals. That's where we need a lot more persuasion to win over their votes.

Thus, it is totally irrelevant to compare the vote swing of BBBE from 26% to 39% to the vote swing achieved in PEBE which is from 41% to 55%. The core group of voters converted are of totally different nature with different levels of difficulty.

My whole point is simple. It may be a "good result" or even "best result" from Chee BUT let's face it, it was achieved under the most perfect situation you can find in Singapore's political context. It could only mean that Chee has PEAKED.

Throughout all his 20 plus years of leadership, SDP has never crossed 40%, never able to convince the neutrals. That's the harsh reality.

To urge him to carry on, giving him false hope and false prophecy, you will be making him and his family to make more sacrifices for absolutely nothing in sight.

Goh Meng Seng

P.S. Don't ask who I am as you know who I am. I may not be perceived as great as Dr Chee but I have crossed the 40% twice and led a party to cross 40% for two GRCs and one SMC. Yes, I am not that great but I am short of that critical baggage that will prevent me from convincing the Neturals.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Ministry of Manpower Statistics lacks Credibility

Someone alerted me to the Ministry of Manpower's Statistics on Employment recently and I took a good look at it. The first doubt I have in mind is related to the "differentials". 

Let me explain. Increment in Jobs data for "Local"  may be subjected to a few factors which was explained by MOM in this news article at Straits Time.

MOM clarified that the increase mentioned by Dr Chee is not the total number of new jobs taken up by locals last year. The increase is actually the difference between the total number of locals taking up and leaving jobs, for example due to retirement. This difference - the "net" number of new jobs taken by locals - was 700 last year.
Locals here is defined as Singapore citizens + Permanent Residents. What this means could be expressed in the following simple equation:

Increment in Jobs for Locals = Increase in Citizen workforce (ICW) + Increase in PR workforce (IPRW) - Death (D) - Retirement of older workers (ROW) - "those left workforce but not looking for new jobs" (LW) - Retrenched (R)

Where the variables are affected by:

ICW     - Directly influenced by those born 20 years ago
IPRW  - Directly due to New Permanent Residents issued (Net growth of PR+New Citizens)
ROW  - Directly influenced by those born 55 years ago
LW     - Reflected in Long Term Resident Unemployment
R       - Reflected in changes in Unemployment figures

For those who are well trained in statistics would just take MOM's explanation just as it is. BUT, if you want to really understand the relevance of the whole statistics, you will have to look at each and every component. I shall leave out Death (D) but examine the others. 

Most importantly, one way to observe whether such statistics are relevant or "good data sets" or not, we will have to examine the "differentials" by looking at the comparisons between past and forward data, if any. 

I shall compare the data between 2015 vs 2014. 

Please refer to the following data set which is from MOM website:

2015 is a "abnormal" whereby there is a DRASTIC drop of the increment of jobs for LOCALS, from 96,000 to 700, as compared to a slight drop of increment of jobs for Foreign Labour, from 34,000 to 31,600! 

Such imbalanced drop in the increment of jobs for Locals vs Foreign is pretty alarming but MOM tried to explain it away by using the logic that there was more retirement of older workers than new entrants to the workforce due to "aging population". 

However, aging population is NOT a new phenomenon. Every year, there will be people retiring from the workforce while there will be new entrants. The differentials or "net effect" of this is reflected by the net difference between the two. 

However, such differential cannot varies in such a wide variance! How to examine or determine such variance?

Now, before we look at the variance, we shall look at the unemployment rate. According to MOM's statistics, the Resident (equivalent to Locals) unemployment rate is pretty stable for the past few years. Specifically for 2014 and 2015, there is only a slight increase of 700 unemployed which constitute an insignificant 0.1% to the overall unemployment rate.   

Thus what does this say? The differential must be due solely to difference in new entrants vs retired workforce.

New Entrants to workforce comes from two sources. One, increase in PRs and two, due to natural births happening twenty over years ago.

For simplicity, we compare the numbers born in 1960 (the earliest recorded data on birth) vs 1994 ( taking 21 years old). The result is 61775-49554= 12221 for birth differential. What does this mean? It means that we have a deficit of about 12,000 jobs if we depended on our natural growth of workforce alone. i.e. a negative growth of jobs for Locals of 12K if there are no supplement of PRs.

Please also note that for the period of 1990 to 1995, the total birth were pretty constant without much variation. 

However, what is the supplement from PRs and New Citizens? 

The following is the old chart I have used before on this blog. We must note that we must use data from this chart by minus 1 year basis in order to reflect on 2015 growth of local JOBS. i.e. for 2015 increment of jobs due to increase of PRs, we should look at 2014 new PR granted by ICA. 

Consistently for the past few years, the increase in PRs is pretty constant, along with New citizens. Please note that we should not include the data on New Citizens because these new citizens are from the original PR stock. The net effect should only be reflected by the total increase of PRs. 

The consistent potential maximum contribution of increase in PR + New Citizens is less than 30k.  

What do all these imply? It actually means that the new entrants for the past few years should be pretty CONSTANT.

Even if we take the variation of retirement of old workforce (ROW) into consideration, the variance should not exceed 5,000!

So how could MOM statistics come up with such a statistics with such a wide variation while maintaining a pretty constant unemployment rate?

From the 12K deficits of jobs, we add 30K impact of increase in PRs, we will get a net effect of about 18K of increase in jobs for Locals! Do a plus minus 5K or even 10K for the variation due to birth rate variance in the 1950s or 1960s, at most we should get about 28K of new jobs! How could we ever get such a huge 96K increase in jobs in 2014 for locals?

Does it mean that those previously out of job market aka in long term unemployment have re-entered the job market? No. The Resident (or Local) Long Term Unemployment numbers are pretty constant for the past few years as well! (No drastic decrease).

Thus, to me, the sum doesn't add up.

There are two question marks here. If we assume normal distribution (a technical statistical assumption), it is totally IMPOSSIBLE to have 96K increment of jobs in 2014 (which equivalent to about more than 100K new jobs created) or even 37,900 increment of jobs for Locals in 2011 IF we do not have at least 100K of new PRs in 2014 or 50K of new PRs for 2011!

And it is impossible to have such a minimal increase of unemployed Locals if there are nearly 30K of new PRs in 2014 which presumably will get into the workforce. There should be at least 15K of increment of jobs, not 700!

This is why I conclude that MOM's statistics doesn't really make any sense nor tally to differential between births in different time frame and the increase in PRs. Thus, MOM's statistics lack Credibility and totally nonsense in my view. Especially for period from 2010 to 2014 whereby New PR issued was curbed at constant about 29K but they still report such a high number such as 96K for increment of jobs!

It is either ICA's statistics is erroneous or MOM's statistics is totally rubbish. There is no other way around it.

In short, when Birth rates are pretty constant in the short period of 5 years from 1990 to 1994 as well as 1960 to 1965, new PRs numbers for last few years are pretty stable, unemployment numbers stable, long term unemployment stable etc but only increment of jobs for Locals fluctuates with WIDE variance, there MUST BE something wrong with the statistics. Such inconsistency is a very telling sign of rubbish statistics in the making.

Goh Meng Seng