Monday, December 5, 2011

Food for thought - on Ministerial Pay

Following SDP public presentation on their recommendations on Ministerial pay on 30 Nov, NSP organised one on 4 Dec. I think the opposition parties are doing a great job to put pressure on the government so the committee under Gerald Ee, which they appointed will be on their toes, instead of just 'wayanging' with the aim to justify for the overly excessive salary of the ministers again. LKY had done it in the 1980s, then Goh CT in the 1990s and current PM Lee in 2007. After 3 rounds of revision, it is a path to millionair and retire a billionair just by joining PAP.

James from SDP was invited to present their recommendations. NSP gave theirs and Tan Jee Say spoke too. Interesting forum as I pick up some new thoughts from the participants who spoke after the panel of speakers. I will share them here, as the press will report what speakers' speech but not the floor discussion.

1) It is PAP as a party that finds it difficult to attract talent. They make it into a national issue instead and use this as a reason to justify for the high salary to attract talent. So it boils down to policies and party alignment. After all we have seen talents joining opposition parties this election.

2) In this election, the new candidates are from the army and civil service and they have not attracted high flyer from the private sector. This shows their reasoning is flaw. Then why peg it to the top 8 earners from 6 private sectors? It becomes irrelevant. In fact, one participant suggested that those top talent in private sector would not join because they do not want to be perceived to be going in for the money - so PAP policy is having the reverse effect.

3) Another participant suggested PM needs to be pay so much is because he has to earn more than his MPs. If MPs work full time, instead of the current part time MPs, they would not have so much time to take up numerous directorship in private companies. Then our PM need not be so highly paid. Those directorship could be paying $50k or more each. Our MPs are known to hold directorship in 10 or more companies. Besides, MPs are also still holding on to their formal career. Added up MP could be earning alot of money. Now we can guess how much they are earning based on PM pay.

4) The bonus and variable components of ministerial salary are counter productive as it could affect policies decisions. We have seen it happening already. The emphasis on GDP growth at all cost and taking the easy way by letting in many foreign workers which jack up GDP.

Friday, December 2, 2011

SDP Recommendation on Ministerial Salaray

The SDP recommendation papers is fair and well written. Even with the SDP recommendation, our PM and President are still the highest paid leaders in the WORLD. The fact of the matter is that they have paid themselves EXCESSIVELY. The fix component amounts to 16 months. The variable components can be more than 20 mths. This is ridiculous they are paying themselves 3 years salary in a year !

Then 8 months bonus tie to GDP! Ministers can get up to 14 performance bonus from PM, which criteria for assessment is secret! Is it fair that leaders determine their own salary and bonus ? I would call it 'open corruption'. Just because they legalized it does not make it ethical.

Ministerial Pension

The pension component is not touch on in SDP recommendation on ministerial salary. Not sure if the govt appointed committed headed by Gerald will give recommendation on it. I understand that NSP is coming out with their own papers too on ministerial salary. Perhaps they should focus on the pension part, since SDP has done a great job on the salary recommendation.

My personal take on the pension :

1) Since the ministers are getting CPF, for those who are also entitle to pension, they should be given an option to choose either CPF or pension at age 55. They should NOT be drawing money from both CPF and pension. If they choose pension, then the CPF fund will become their pension fund.

2) The pension fund draw down age should be change to 65 in line with CPF and not the current 55. This has resulted in ministers drawing excessively salary, bonus on top of pension dish out to them while still in service.

3) The lump sum payment option for pension should have a cut off date, perhaps say 5 years. If the pension starts at 65, they have to decide before they turn 70 if they want to have a lump sum. If they don't they cannot opt for it later when they know they are near their end stage. The current system is not fair and leaders determine their own benefits which they take advantage of.

4) Our current President who have served in the cabinet before may be entitled to 2 pension. One as a minister and the 2nd as president. This is ridiculous. This has to be look into.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our Trains Are Full

'Car Park Full' signs are common. Now recently we have 'Our Wards are Full' at Khoo Teck Puat hospital. This hospital is a recent addition to the healthcare scene and it is already overload.

So in the near future, we will have 'Our trains are Full' sign at MRT control stations. This will prevent overloading of the platform and stampede. Yeah, at this rate, it is a matter of time before we have a stampede due to overcrowding at MRT station.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Positive reinforcement instead of fine

The proposed pilot scheme on stray cats feeding requires stray feeders to register with Cat Welfare Society (CWS)and feeders will be fined if they do not clear up within 2 hours. We should use positive motivation instead of negative enforcement to get feeders to support the scheme.

These feeders are compassionate folks. With education and motivation they would make the effort to clean up after feeding. Fine will not work as they would quietly feed and make a quick 'exit' like what they are likely doing currently. Why should they opt to register with Cat Welfare Society which imposed membership fee and then be fined when they failed to clean up?

Some suggestions on positive reinforcement :

1)Pet shops owners be roped in to give a discount on purchase of cat food for registered stray feeders.

2)Get sponsorship from vet clinics to lower medical cost for stray feeders when they bring in both strays and their own pets for consultation.

3)Cat Welfare Society to waiver the membership fee for the 1st year for stray feeders registration.

Friday, November 4, 2011

21% increase in Medical Test !

Many of us do not go through the details in our medical bills, especially those hospitalization charges with a 'complicated' long list of billing. If we do, likely we are in for surprises. I have been billed wrongly 3 out of the 4 unlucky occasions when I ended up in hospital. Changi Hospital billed me for x-ray which was never done and overnight bed charges when it was a minor day surgery with no overnight observation. KK billed me for item which was not issued to me. Sigh....yes they make mistakes both human and system errors. I learn that Changi system will automatically reflects bed charges and has to be manually 'unchecked'. The nurse will presume x-ray is done if there is surgery.

Then the cost of medicine which I blogged about in my previous post. They are not subsidized ! As the amount is small, most patients thought they are subsidized. But the fact is they cost more than purchasing them from Guardian Pharmacy. Going by the large volume of patients per polyclinic per day - this could work out to a substantial sum !

I am diagnosed with Glaucoma in May this year. I am seeing the doctors at SNEC and applied for subsidy. Glaucoma can lead to blindness. The medical bill will be substantial over the years as the disease deteriorates.

We are at the mercy of the doctors regarding the frequency of consultation and medical tests done. So far I have gone for 5 consultations and 10 medical tests! The best part or rather the worst is one of the tests has 21% cost increase just over a period of 5 months ! As most patients do not go through their bill in detail, likely these so called government subsidized clinics and hospitals can get away with their profiteering at tax payers expense without being noticed. Government is subsidizing patients with tax payers' money, but are these Polyclinics and hospitals really passing on the cost back to the patients ?

Note : The eye test concern is taken as SNEC. It is called Optical Coherent Tomography which charges went from $56 to $68 (21% increase)

Pilot Scheme For Strays

Caregivers of strays and pet owners welcome the pilot scheme regarding feeding station for stray cats and registering of cat in HDB in near future. However the proposed scheme is likely to see teething issues in these areas :

1) The need for strays feeders to register with Cat Welfare Society (CWS) and feeders will be fined if they do not clear up within 2 hours. Those caregivers from CWS are responsible feeders. It is normally those who are not with any animal welfare groups who mess up the place. What is the likelihood of these folks registering themselves with CWS so that they can be identified to be fined ? For the scheme to be successful there must be active ground outreach program to identify and educate these feeders. Only then can CWS hope to get them to register themselves.

2) Most cats are territorial. Some estates have more profound strays issue than others. In certain HDB estate zones, there are more than 2 strays per block. To have only 1 feeding station per 3 blocks of flat will not work. It is more practical to have 1 feeding station per block.

3) The scheme allows registration of 1 cat per flat. What happen to those who have more cats? If forcefully implemented, then the rest will end up as strays or terminated. This will defeat the whole aim of the scheme which is to nurtured a more compassionate society. For the initial phrase, be more flexible and let owners registered all their cats with the understanding that they need to be responsible to ensure their pets don't give problem. Let this batch live out their live spans. Have a cut of date for registering for the initial batch of cats. After which it will be 1 cat per flat registration.

4) The key to success in this scheme is compulsory sterilization both pets and strays. The current program run by SPCA and CWS for strays sterilization is not 'user friendly'. It involves balloting for limited sterilization vouchers at SPCA or reimbursement and patronizing only approved vet clinics for CWS. If SPCA and other animal welfare group could come together to implement mobile vet services, this could enhance the success of the sterilization program and improve animal welfare.

This pilot scheme is a step in the right direction towards a more compassionate society. It is only when any culture has a sympathy for its animal companions, that it has a chance to become sensitive and caring in all respects.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Subsidy or Profiteering ?

Are our healthcare and medicines at Polyclinics and government subsidised hospitals really SUBSIDISE? Or is it just playing around with numbers and words just like what happened to HDB flat pricing? Mah BT has been defending his profiteering HDB policies to his last day, insistng that HDB flat is affordable though it cost nearly half a million and 30 years to service one's housing loan. So how does our govt defines subsidised healthcare and medicine?

There has been some commotions in the internet that those so call subsidised healthcare and medicine, are in fact more costly than if you get them private clinic and pharmacy. From my personal experience recently, this is true. We know Guardian Pharmacy is out to make profit. But surprise, surprise - medicines purchase from Guardian cost less than those from Polyclinic. I suffered from rashes and consulted the doctor at a Polyclinic. 20 tablets of Clorphenamine cost $1.40 from the Polyclinic. At Guardian, 50 tablets of the same medicine cost $1.50. So Polyclinic makes more than 100% profit over what Guardian does! Is there any subsidy at all?

They buy in bulk and the discount is there. To a layman subsidy means selling below cost price to us. For example, an item cost $1.50. The Polyclinic got it at $1. The govt folk out 30 cents and it is sold to us at 70 cents. The subsidy is thus 30 cents.

From this incident, looks like they are not even selling it at cost to us, but profiteering tremendously since they are selling way above Guardian Pharmacy price!

Their formula for subsidy must be similar to those used in 'creative accounting' found in those devious financial reporting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

'Stuck' ...'Stifling'...Singapore

I was on a bus last week and overheard two teenage students talking. They are studying in local government schools as I can gathered from their uniform. One is a Canadian Chinese while the other from India. The Indian girl was telling her friend that as long as her kid brother does not become PR or take up citizenship, he need not do NS. Sigh - her brother is probably around 10 years old and her family is already planning for his escape. The Indian girl then lamented that she is 'stuck' in Singapore, while the other said the country is 'stifling'.

These are the feelings of youngsters from new immigrant families who the government welcome and try to integrate. They are doomed to fail. These foreign students prefer to mix amongst themselves. They miss their motherland and their heart is not here. When they grow up, they will return to their homeland or migrate to some other countries.

Our government is in denial. They are pouring millions into integration programs for new immigrants. They offer generous scholarships to foreign students and subsidies their education in S'pore. All these efforts and money could have been put to better use to benefit local students and the disadvantages.

Our elderly are working in their twilight years, struggling to make ends meet have been so glaring that it not only sadden most of us, but also surprise foreigners. This is a side of S'pore they don't expect to see. After all, the city projects a 'wealthy' and 'clean' image of 1st world country, that even beggars do not 'exist' on our streets.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mdm Lift & Mr Dirty

Mdm Lift is a ginger tabby which loves to hang around the lift lobby on the ground floor. She will eagerly board the lift with anyone who allow her in. That is how I came to name her Mdm Lift. She is stray cat and a kind hearted one. She shows her compassion to fellow 'sick' cat by rubbing heads with it as a form of greeting.

There is a sick tom cat which salivate badly. I call him Mr Sick. He loves to rub his head against other cats as a form of greeting. But all other strays avoided his friendly gesture,except Mdm Lift. Mr Sick is also a very dirty cat. I have no idea how he got into this state and continue to maintain his dirtiness. I have been actively cleaning him with wet tissues but it does not help. He remains dirty. He has got better over the month, so I renamed him Mr Dirty, as another stray feeder protested that I called him Mr Sick. She prefers the name Mr Healthy for auspicious reason. Personally, I think Mr Dirty fits him better. I never seen any cat as dirty as him. Perhaps it is one of his surviving strategy ? He looks so pathetic that he is always fed first and he gets the choicest food.

Back to Mdm Lift. When I first noticed her, she was not sterilized. When she was on heat, she was surrounded by more than 7 tom cats which flocked to my block from the surrounding HDB. Neighbours were both surprised and amused by the gathering of cats. So we had cat concerto for a few nights. Luckily some kind hearted souls started sterilising the strays. Now Mdm Lift is neutralised and no longer a prima donna.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Waiting Time

I went for a walk with Nature Society and one of the participants mentioned that her elderly mum walked out of SNEC specialist clinic after hours of waiting. Yeah, it is true, the average waiting time is at least 2 hours even with appointment. It is not uncommon to spend at least 4 hours at the clinic if they send you for test(s).

I have been going to SNEC regularly this year since I was diagnosed with Glaucoma. I can verify that even in specialise clinic, the patient load is very heavy. So one can image what happens in the polyclinics.

Health Care - Overload

Besides our transport infrastructure being overload, our hospitals, polyclinics and specialist clinics are also badly overload. So now the government is trying to get us to consult our GPs instead. But getting patients to go to their GPs is unlikely to resolve the problem. Even with subsidy, GP consultation will cost more.

MOH should consider having more than 1 Polyclinic per estate. Some estate has larger population than others, and having 1 polyclinic is insufficient to meet the patient load. Bearing in mind S'pore population has increase to more than 5 millions the last decade, the existing numbers of polyclinic could not cope with the demand. For example, the entrance lobby space has been shrink in some polyclinic due to extra chairs and counters set up to handle the patient initial registration. Patient load and traffic increase and yet public space decreases, which resulted in overcrowding.

Then the clinic stops taking in patients without appointment at 10 am though it operates till 12.30pm on Sat. This resulted in many patients being turned away. The reason is it has reached the maximum patient load for the day. This is due to lack of foresight by MOH. Now they try to get GP to lighten the load. But our govt is responsible to ensure affordable health care. Should not MOH starts planning for more polyclinics to be build ?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Great Music or Tone Deaf ?

This is funny but the truth behind could be S'pore undoing. (cut and paste from feedback on TR)

There was a comedy called “Yes Minister” and later the sequel “Yes Prime Minister”. In one episode Sir Humphrey, the chief of the civil service astutely suggested the reason why England was in such a mess was because the Minister of Finance was a bankrupt, the Minister of Health was sickly, the Minister of Education was illiterate and the Minister of Law was a crook.

In Singapore we have a civil engineer looking after Arts and Communication and an eye doctor looking after Civil Engineering problems. Till today I can’t figure out the logic on what basis Ministers are allocated their Ministries. Maybe the top leadership thinks they are God/s. If so, then the citizens of Singapore are participants in the Divine Comedy. It is one hell of a life.


LKY remarked: “To be the Prime Minister, you don’t have to know every instrument, but you got to recognise, ah, he’s a good violinist, he’ll be the first violinist, he’ll be the double bass. Then you coordinate them and then you have great music. And if you already have a great orchestra, you can put A DUMMY there and you still got great music…”


The only problem is our violinists are trying to play the piano and vice versa. And the resulting cacophony is passed off as jazz. It works great if you are tone deaf.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Flood - Blame it on the weather again

Singapore is flooded again. Orchard Road shopping malls, roads, basement car parks are the worst hit. There is an article in Today paper that said our minister is doing 5 things to solve the problem. The title give a good impression - the minister is doing 5 things. But wait a minute - what are they ?

From what I can figure out - seems like nothing new and only 3 things are mentioned in the article :

1) proper drain maintenance (isn't this what is expected ?)

2) improve planning (so they have been sleeping all these years and not planning properly ?)

3) make sure roads are still passable during floor (good but how are you going to do it ? Details are needed !)

Minister VB can talk a lot but he has bad track record. Millions is going down the drain again if he is trapped by his own 'psychological' wrong mind set. He is blaming it on the weather even before he has done a full scale investigation on the root causes of the recent floods. Then he is playing mind game with the public - saying there is a limit to what we can do and asking us to cope.

This is poor leadership and setting the wrong direction at the start. It is so easy to blame and weather and appear to be doing something by spending millions on improvement. What is the use if these so call improvements are NOT solving the problems !

Nothing is mentioned on the Marina Barrage. If there is a 'prime suspected cause' this should be the one. What is the point of widening canals and drains when the discharge point is the problem. Water will get build up and back flow inland causing massive floods.

A word of caution, before VB starts spending millions on manpower for planning and upgrade to drainage system - do a ROOT CAUSE analysis first.

If it really points to Marina Barrage - have the courage to face it and tell the public. We know it is LKY's bright idea and pet project, but did not PM says there is no sacred cow ?

It could be just tweaking of the computer programming controlling the barrage discharge flow rate. If there is engineering design problem, then improve it.

Do not waste public funds again doing tons of improvement and at the end of the day - still floods all over S'pore.

We don't buy your lame excuse that is it due to the weather, though we do not deny it is one of the contributing factors.

We don't accept that there is a 'limit' to engineering solution, since our PM is thinking of going nuclear. This is certainly more complicated compare to flood control.

Besides, we do not pay a minister millions to cope with his failing. This is just not acceptable. If VB cannot solve the problem, suggest he tenders his resignation. We can get a foreign talent minister from aboard to do his job. Likely he /she will come better, cheaper and can do the job faster.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A roof over our head But no food on the table

Selective Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) - this is precisely what ordinary citizens like myself is afraid off. HDB policy is a ticking time bomb waiting to kill us with debt in during our retirement years.

It is reported that HDB is buying back some 34 years old blocks for flats for redevelopment. Just imagine the financial stress that after paying off your housing loan, HDB wants you flat back and force you to buy another one at a higher price ! It will be a downgrading of flat for sure in order not to shoulder heavy housing debt again.

So if the flat is older eg 60 years, its value is lower, then even if we downgrade, we will likely be burden with another heavy HDB loan at this current rate of sky high ridiculous HDB price.

The current HDB policies are NOT popular with us ordinary citizens, regardless of what Mah BT thinks. Asset enhancement means nothing to us who just want a roof over our head and not be inconvenience by this SERS. There is sense of belonging and attachment to our home, neighbours and surrounding - that cannot be compensated by money!

HDB senseless policies will leave old folks with a roof but no food on the table. Since more than 80% of the population is housed in HDB, the consequent is very severe if such senseless policy is to continue.

Mah seems to think there is nothing wrong with the current policy. This is indeed worrying as there is none so blind as those who refuse to see.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Casino as S'pore Iconic Representation ?

Sydney has it Opera House as its icon. It projects culture and artistic refinement.

We are truly 'unique' as we have MBS as our icon ! What image does a casino projects ?

Granted that MBS stands out in its architectural design, but it cannot escape from its predominant image of a gambling casino.

The fancy name of Integrated Resort is coined to soften the casino's image and to make it more acceptable to build not one, but 2 casinos in our country with a tiny land mass.

If we the citizens find it perfectly acceptable to have a casino as our country's iconic representation, what does it says about our change in value system ?

I would rather have Botanic Garden being our icon, though it is 'outdated'. It projects a wholesome image. It is where families can immerse in nature and our children learn about conservation.

MBS is fast becoming our national icon is contribute by its strategic location granted by the govt. Sad indeed.

Besides, MBS totally block out our scenic coastal view. So we are left 'admiring' an man-made structure instead of beautiful sea view.

Monday, April 18, 2011

PAP's Report Card

We have no idea how PAP comes up with 'good grade' for themselves. Common folks like us with common sense tell us that PAP has failed miserably in their 'exam'. We use realistic and honest grading system to judge their performance. For example :

1) What we see at ground level - elderly folks still working at hawker center cleaning tables and dirty dishes

2) PAP acknowledges that most S'poreans don't have enough for retirement, so we are advised to continue to work forever if we can. Our CPF policies promise heaven but deliver hell.

3) Our transport system cannot cater to the exploding population - it is not only overcrowded, it is becoming unsafe too.

If a governing party cannot even get some of the important basic policies right and implement them well, can they still claim to be doing a good job ? Are they 'A'team? What sort of party will make such claims? A dishonest party!

Why is our current govt behaving like greedy unethical Wall Street bankers? Paid themselves handsomely and still top up with obscene bonus. They are even entitle to pension scheme which they abolished for the civil services.

PM's nonsense

When PM uses so many strong words – we know something is fishy... " honestly report that the PAP has lived up to its responsibilities.. We don't give ourselves our own report card,..I would say: 'We've passed the exam'."

Sorry PM, we disagree with you. PAP has failed miserably for not living up to your responsibility towards us. You have been giving good grades to your own report cards all along. Such an act is dishonest. We do NOT have confident in PAP since you have failed us time and again. We do NOT trust a party that operates without transparency and accountability.

As for the Lift Upgrading Programme – it is the result of short sightedness in past planning that failed to cater to the aging population. You are covering up for past mistake. We the citizens have to bear part of the cost and suffer years of dust, noise and inconveniences.

You have been claiming that we have the best education systems in the world for years. You still need to do more? So what you said in the past is untrue? If we have such great education system, why are you unable to find talent for your team? Why is our youth politically apathetical?

PAP will not have our mandate this coming election as you have failed in your responsibility towards us.

What is the point of taking care of our national reserves when folks are suffering? Besides, is it not more prudent to instruct Temasek and GIG to stop taking high risk and gamble away billions of pubic money?

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I refer to Lee Hwai Jiin letter to The Straits Times's Forum on 16 Apr 2011.

Ms Lee argued that NCMPs do not have voting right because they do not represent the electorate since they did not win the majority of votes in their ward during the election.

She has apparently missed the point Workers Party is trying to get across, which is to have opposition MP in parliament instead of NCMPs. PAP is trying to tell us that NCMP is a good alternative to opposition MP. It is not, and therefore flaw.

NCMP is an unfair system PAP introduced to entice those who are 'sitting on the fence' to vote for them, giving voters the wrong impression that NCMPs could represent them. Thus Workers Party is NOT asking for voting rights for NCMP which Ms Lee misinterpreted. Workers Party in fact wants PAP to abolish NCMP system.

Marina Bay Sands

It is disappointing that Marina Bay Sands is becoming an iconic representation of S'pore. The 1st time I heard of such sentiment was at a talk conducted at National Museum. The speaker (whose name I cannot recalled) is a local historical researcher. What he said hit a note in me. Yes, it is indeed sad that a casino becomes S'pore iconic structure.

In The Sunday Times (dd 17/4/11) Mr William Lim, a retired architect and urban theorist expressed the same sentiment. He would rather that Botanic Gardens be chosen as our iconic site.

The trouble is, our shortsighted govt has given a prime and prominent piece of land to build a casino on. It is the 1st thing one sees when approaching by sea. In fact, the Marina Bay Sands totally obstructed the beautiful scenic coastal view.

We are a SMALL city but we have 2 BIG casinos, one of which is becoming a iconic building. Which country or city in the world has a casino as iconic building ? Likely we are the only one. Uniquely S'pore indeed and nothing to be proud about.

PAP terrible decision not only ruined our coastal view but our country reputation as well ! S-i-g-h.....and they claimed to be 'A' team amongst the political parties in S'pore !


I refer to Jolly Wee's feedback in The Sunday Times on 17 Apr 11. Jolly said that netizens lack civility and has taken to ridiculing even the president.

Apparently Jolly has forgotten that MM Lee himself, our respectable 'great' leader is guilty of such folly. He has called our formal ex-president who enjoyed alcoholic drinks names (I shall not mentioned out of respect). He has also used rude names on opposition parties and even us ordinary citizens. Should not our respectable MM lead by example ?

Could Jolly ponder over why netizens are respectful towards our previous presidents like Mr Ong Teng Cheong and Mr Benjamin Sheara ? Why do they only ridicule the current president ?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Another Senseless CPF Policy

Currently share delisted from SGX brought with CPF fund is still being reflected in the various CPF approved Investment Bank statement (such as OCBC, DBS, etc).

This is an unreasonable CPF policy. Investors have already suffered losses and still have to pay the thrice a year service charges to the bank till they could closed the investment a/c upon reaching 55.

This could be quite a substantial sum as when a share is delisted, it affects a number of investors.

Let us presume a 30 year old investor is affected by a delisted share, he has to continue to pay service charges to the bank 3 times a year for the next 25 years before he could closed his account upon reaching 55 ! This certainly
does not make sense.

The bank could not do anything as it is CPF policy. And likely they are happy for the current senseless policy to continue, since they can continue with the service charge for a counter which is permanently inactive due to the delisting.

Should not CPF Board review their current unreasonable policy ? Not surprising the answer is NO. What they suggestion is even more ridiculous. CPF asked you to buy back the share with cash and further more incur other charges such as CPF administration fee, transfer fee and also the bank charges.

This is what our 'productive and efficient' govt policy offers the public.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How our govt skewed the statistic

This is just one example how our govt skewed statistic - change the reference parameters.

Mr Leong Sze Hian has pointed out that our govt has recently change the data definition and thereby resulting in better numbers. A paragraph taken from his article :

In this connection, last year’s resident full-time and part-time workers’ real income increased by 1.3 and 10 per cent respectively. But these figures may look better because of the change in definition in 2009 to classify part-time workers as those working less than 35 hours a week, instead of 30 hours previously. This may make the part-timers’ income higher because those previously working more than 30 hours may boost up their overall earnings, and full-timers income may also look higher because those working less than 35 hours would no longer be in their category. In other words, the presumably bottom rung of full-timers were moved to become presumably the top rung of part-timers

Budget 2011 – Effective ?

Our govt is still taking the same old path and patching up pot holes as and when they appeared. In other words, the budget is not addressing the problems facing S’pore adequately. It failed to address the one of the key issues, which is the large influx of foreign workers which has impacted HDB / property prices, wages, availability of hospital beds, public transport... Thus, their patch work will not work but will just temporary ‘relieve’ the problem.

Work Levy
The increase in foreign workers levy will not curtail the demand for foreign workers. It will only fatten the govt revenue and this is the reason they continue to open the flood gate to foreign workers.

What will happen is employers will reduce benefit, cut wages or pass on the cost. S'pore workers will suffer too even if they are able to get the job as their wages will be further suppressed due to competition from foreign workers. Without minimum wage to protect local low income workers, all these patch work schemes will not work.

HDB Grant
The 40K grant looks good on paper only. It is unlikely to benefit the target recipient of lower income earning $1.5k. This is because their earning is too low to enable them to buy a flat in the first place. The price of flat has increase do much that it is basically out of reach for them. With a family to support, they will be heavily burden servicing their housing loan. Even if they are able to keep their job for the next 30 years, they will end up with no retirement fund. The govt is not addressing the problem which they know existed. Most S'porean do NOT have enough fund for their retirement. Are their policies sound ? Why are they still continuing with this 'explosive littered' path ?

We know older workers have reduced CPF rate. Thus the 'rebate' to employers, which is meant to encourage them to retain / employ older workers is negligible.

As there is no CPF contribution to foreign workers, there will be more saving for employers to use them instead of locals.

The CPF top up scheme for self employed as it so ridiculous. Those who are eligible in the low income group has to top up their CPF in order to receive the govt top-up which is mainly paid into their medisave a/c.

Folks are struggling to make ends meet and have to come up with money. Then the Since most of the govt top up is into the medisave a/c, how can this help them in coping with daily expenses ? Most may rather forego the govt top-up since they may not have the extra cash to top up their CPF a/c in the 1st place !

A total of S$90 million, BUT read on - only $300 per year. This work out to $25 a month ! With inflation, how much can $25 help ? Besides, if my understanding is correct, seems like the family has to top up their child Children Development Account in order to receive the govt 'grant'. All our govt schemes ask citizens to come up with cash out front before giving them 'peanuts'. If folks are struggling to make end meet, they are better off without the 'grant' which basically suck their money first. Is our govt sincere in giving help to the lower income with so much conditions attached ?

These temporary measures they have been implementing over the years do NOT solve the root problem. If they do not WAKE up soon, the problem will balloon till it burst and the social cost will be very high.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Deterioration of Bus Service

First we have bus drivers who speak only Mandarin and nothing else. Then they took the wrong route. These are as a result of them being 'foreign' to our local scene. Now lately, looks like inconsiderate driving is becoming the norm rather than exception.

On 15/2/11, I boarded bus service number 12 (SBS8295P) and soon find I am in for ‘rough ride’. Every time the bus stopped, commuters are jerked forward and back. As the bus was crowded, those standing had to brace themselves to prevent falling.

The driver also committed a traffic offense during the journey. He let a passenger alight near the traffic junction between East Coast Road and Joo Chiat Road when he realised he missed stopping at the bus stop. By doing so, he was putting the passenger at risk, as she could be knocked down by oncoming motorcycle which normally travels on the inner lane.

They do not seem to be concerned that their inconsiderate driving habit is posing a safety risk to commuters. It would do well for bus service providers to constantly remind their drivers that they are serving the public. Public safety and comfort could be compromised by their inconsiderate driving habit. Besides, they should at least take in drivers who can understand and converse in English at the basic level.

Gone are the good old days of local drivers who can understand and converse in more than 1 language and even speak dialects.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Town Council & HDB - 'Grand Master of Taiji'

This is an extract from Todayonline - Voices : A friend who volunteers to assist her town council in resolving complaints about cats was recently asked to ''remove'' a cat..

What happen is Town Council and HBD have for years been the Grand Master of Taiji - they have washed their hands clean from issues relating to cat in HDB. They rely on animal welfare groups to mediate and resolve the issue with resident who has issue with cat in HDB. They just want to be the 'good guy'.

The problem with abandon cats in HDB and irresponsible pet ownership lies with HDB outdated policy of not allowing residents to keep cat. So there is no guidelines on it and cats do not need to be microchip as 'officially' they are not allow in HDB.

Lost cats cannot be traced and owners who abandon their cats, also cannot be traced. SPCA has a low adoption rate for abandon cats since majority of the population live in HDB. Besides, most animals taken in by SPCA are put down and only about 10% are adopted. So folks who do not want to live with the guilt of their pet being put down, start dumping them at HDB void decks. Another reason could be it is more convenient than making a trip to SPCA.

More prominent group like SPCA is sticking to their old routine of accepting abandon animals but not addressing the root cause of the problem. They should spend more time petitioning to HDB and gathering ground support to push for change.

What we can do as individual, besides voicing our displeasure with HDB - is to be proactive. There are always some inconsiderate animal care givers. If I see them in the act, I will talk to them politely. Normally they response positively. If I see food remains at void deck - I clear them up. Our little act can help minimise complaints.

S'pore is becoming so sterile with our obsession with cleanliness. Compassion and tolerant can help us adopt the attitude of 'Live and let live'.

Deadly Mistake

Recently there is an article in Todayonline - Voices, about cats in HDB. Under the feedback section, a reader responded and said authority should do something as cats carried deadly virus and spread SARS. many years have gone by since SARS and still folks are carrying the misconception with them. Cats do NOT carry the virus nor spread SARS. This 'folklore' is the result of AVA culling strays irresponsibly during that period. Though AVA is supposed to be the expert in animals, they did not have the guts to rebuke the govt (in particular the ignorant Minister who gave the order). They just went around exterminating all the strays inhumanly. Now you know why we called them civil 'servants',- they obey orders 'blindly'.

Our govt is ignorant and they do make DEADLY mistake. The worst is that they never admit their wrong doing and just let this 'myth' continues.

I think one of the reasons folks remember the incident is because our govt scared the shit out of everyone by implying cats which are commonly found in HDB carry the SARS virus. This is inspite of animal welfare groups like SPCA, Cat Welfare Society meeting them to clarify the issue. Is this an act of a responsible govt ?

So let us remember that our govt do made mistakes - often costly and at time deadly too. Their high handed way of dealing with issues is frightening. The incident clearly shows they lack compassion. So is it surprising we have laws that can detain folks without trail and lock them up for decades ?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Power of Volcanoes

National Museum held an very interesting and information talk on The Power of Volcanoes in conjunction with their Pompeii exhibit. Pompeii is a Roman town which was buried in volcanic ashes in 79 CE.

Instead of the usual 1 speaker, we had 2 volcanologists addressing the audience. Dr Chris Newhall from Earth Observatory, S'pore started by highlighting how a volcanic eruption in one country could have international impact due to the inter-connectivity of global aviation. We listened to a taped conversation between the pilots of a commercial plane and the airport control tower when the plane was caught in volcanic 'cloud'. We could hear the stress voice of the pilots when the plane's engine stalled. The speaker then related this back to the Icelandic Mount Eyjafjallajoekull’s eruption in April 2010, which caused the greatest disruption in air travel in major parts of Europe and the UK since the second World War.

Dr Antonius Ratdomopurbo, Volcano Seismologist who has spent more than 2 decades studying volcanic activities in Indonesia showed pictures and video clips on the deadly eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Merapi in 2006 and 2010. We learn that volcanoes 'explosive' forces is also classify just like earthquake magnitude. It range from 1 to 8, the higher the number, the more powerful the eruption forces. Each increase in number reflects a multiple of 10 times more the damaging force. The number give an indication of the volume of volcanic lava/ashes and also how wide spread will be the damage.

We were told that though Mount Merapi eruption is consider minor (classify as 3 and 4 in 2006 and 2010 respectively), the damage done by the lava and volcanic ashes which can spread far and wide is severe. Mount Merapi which is in Central Java erupts frequently every few years.

Mount Pinatubo in Luzon, Philippines, eruption in 1991 was considered the second largest eruption of the 20th century. It last eruption was more than 400 years ago. Normally the more powerful the volcanic eruption, the longer the time interval between next eruption. Mount Pinatubo volcanic cloud spread a radius of more than 500km !

We learned that even low tech observation and measurement method could still give an accurate prediction on the likelihood of a volcano erupting. For example, the diameter of the crater increases and the physical contour of the crater changes in shape. The difficulty is in predicting exactly when it will erupt and the severity of damage which affects the area of evacuation.

Prof Tommy Koh was in the audience and he asked the speakers if S'pore could be affected by Indonesian volcanic activities. The answer is yes, if the volcano nearest to S'pore erupts and the wind direction is blowing in our direction. S'pore could be affected by the volcanic ashes up to a few cm thick.

The audience also raised the question of the impact of volcanic activities on proposed nuclear plants to be built in Asean region. Though there is way to protect the plant from volcanic ashes but it is still a danger to have such plant sited in volcanic belt and earth quake zone. Seems like in the past, there has been no guideline on this matter. Hopefully more stringent standard would apply to suitability of nuclear facility location.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Town Coucil Wasting Public Fund

Recently in my HDB estate contractors have hacked away the base structures supporting the letter boxes. I thought there is a relocation exercise of all letter boxes in the estate. But it is not the case, the letter boxes are only temporary transferred to another brick based structure. They will be located back to the original location.

Is this not a wasteful exercise ? The existing base structures are in perfectly good condition. Building materials and resources are wasted in constructing the temporary bases and then erecting new ones.

I do not know if the same exercise is carried out in other HDB estates. What is the reason for the wasteful exercise ? I heard that they have excess budget and wanted to use it up. I know such things happen both in private and government sectors. They normally overbuget and when there is excess budget at the end of the year, they would try to use it up. If not they have to provide an explanation and would have their budget reduce for the next year. The only difference is some use it wisely, while others, like what the Town Council wasted building materials and resources.

Is it not enough that they lost a substantial sum of money in investment products, which they have no business to be involved in, since their core function is estate management ? Now they are wasting public funds in non value added project.

Animal Liberation

I attended a Buddhist introduction session recently and was impressed by the society dedication and sincerity in sharing the wisdom and knowledge of Buddhism. They showed a video clip to introduce new comers to the society's activities. There was one section in the video showing Animal Liberation which upset me. Caged birds were released. Often unscrupulous business men profit from capturing wild birds and sell them to folks who want to liberate animals as part of their Buddhist practice. To me - this is a misguided act.

Buddhism teaches kindness and refrain from harming life form. I believe animal liberation arises from this noble concept. However times have changed, and we need to pay attention to the context in which animal liberation is carried out. If not instead of it being an act of kindness, it could become an unintentional act of cruelty.

1) If animals, be it birds, turtles…etc are purchased for liberation, this is not true kindness. The only person who benefit is the business man or pet shop owner who sell the animals for liberation. The animals in fact suffer unnecessary stress of being capture and then released again. Statistic has shown that more than 50% of captured animals die due to injury, stress or ‘hunger strike’. Wild animals when capture may refrain from eating or drinking. Unscrupulous business men may not take care of the capture animals properly resulting in high death rate.

2) Liberation of animals into unsuitable surrounding may result in low survival rate.

3) Animals which are not resident to the area/S'pore could upset the eco systems and resulting in death of other animal species. An example is the popular red ear turtle sold in pet shops which are often released into reservoirs. Red ear turtle are not resident species of S’pore.

4) Those who do not understand the true meaning of animal liberation may be encourage to be irresponsible pet owners. Often pets are abandon when the owner cannot cope. They use the excuse of setting the animals free, when they are in fact committing a very cruel act. In S’pore we often see turtles, tortoise, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs…. release at parks and reservoirs. These are house hold pets, they cannot survive on their own. Some have been breed for decades as pets and need human care. These animals ‘set free’ often suffered a prolong death due to injury, disease or hunger.

Buddhism is against taking of life. But is not subjecting an animal to prolong suffering even more cruel ? This is surely not in line with Buddhist teaching.

No animals should be purchased for liberation. It will only perpetual the demand for these animals and the vicious cycle of animal cruelty.

a) Participate / Support worthy Animals Welfare Project / Causes
The society could instead support or participate in animal welfare projects or causes. For example Resort World Sentose captured wild dolphins and trained them to perform for the public. Many had died and those that survive the ordeal will face a bleak future in an unnatural environment with the sole purpose to entertain the human race ! Animal welfare groups in S’pore like ACRES, SPCA… are petitioning for their release. This is a valid case of animal liberation.

b) Adopt an abandon animal
There is no greater kindness than the commitment to care for and give a home to an abandon animal. Those members who like animals could be encouraged to adopt an abandon animal from SPCA, Cat Welfare Society and other animal welfare NGOs.

c) Take care of the strays
Members could be encouraged to take care of the strays in their neighbourhood. There are always stray cats to be found in HDB and even private condos / estates.

Certainly the above mentioned worthy causes are more meaningful than the empty gesture of releasing animals just for the sake of practising Animal Liberation.