Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Peg Ministers pay/bonus to Citizens' Quality of Life

If our PM and ministers really care for the citizens, they should be pegging their pay and bonus to things that affect our quality of life. More telling indicators to show they are doing a good job are inflation rate, health care and housing cost,...etc.  For example for every percentage increase in inflation rate, their pay and bonus should be reduce by double the percentage. This will help to ensure they would work for their current excessive pay and obscene bonus.

We have an over bloated cabinet with members having so much time that they take up numerous directorships in various private companies to fatten their pocket even more. This is regardless of conflict of interest and doubt if they will be doing due diligent work as directors in these companies. Likely they attend meeting to warm the seat only.

Our PM and his gangs have been saying like a broken recorder that we need foreign talents as we don't produce enough. Surely this is a sign they have failed us badly in our education policies. They love to point their fingers at the citizens when things don't work out.  The only way to make them ponder over their policies that went off tangent is to hit their pocket, since they are already blinded by greed and power.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Panda Fever

Two Pandas, named Jia Jia and Kia Kia arrived in Singapore recently. They are on loan to us from China as a gesture of good will.

Seems like there is panda fever on the island. There were long vertical banners hanging from lamp poles along Tampines Town central avenue which welcomed the two pandas. These were put up months before their arrival. Each panda has several banners dedicated to it with its name on it. So we have banners which welcomes Jia Jia  and another welcoming Kia Kia.

Tampines is not any where close to the zoo, wonder why the banners are put up. Perhaps they are welcoming the pandas in all housing estates across the island ? Wow ! Our govt don't even do this when foreign head of states visit us. So far, cannot recall any banner put up to welcome any of them.

Last Sat, I passed by a Church opposite Cathay Cinema near Dhoby Ghuat MRT. The church has a long horizontal banner with a huge panda face on it. The banner caption is something about 'He loves us so that we are not unloved'. I suppose  'He' refers either to God or Jesus. So what has the panda has to do with God or Jesus love for mankind ?  Is the church using the panda to represent us ? Though panda is a mammal like us, but in terms of genetic make up, it is not that close to us. Anyway, they don't believe in the evolution theory, so unlikely mammal is on their mind when they used the panda face. I suppose panda is so endearing and cute that the church is banking that it will capture more attention from the public compare to putting up a human face.

Our local zoo will be trying to breed them. Likely we will see success as our zoo has good track record breeding endanger species.  If successful, the new additions belong to China. Look like China is having a  great deal with their  'good will' gesture loaning pandas to zoos internationally. Their good will is never free. Not sure how much S'pore paid for the pair.  Any baby pandas born world wide will belong to China unconditionally. If I am not mistaken, they will be returned to China without charge for the expenses put in breeding and rearing the panda babies, when China claims them back.

When you have something the world demanded, you can demand anything from the world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Called to Serve

The book 'Called to Serve' is written by Steve Chia who is an NCMP from 2002 to 2006.  The book is a collection of his speeches and questions during parliament sessions. It provides an insight on how ineffective our govt under PAP has been. Many of the key issues which we have currently had been brought up as far back as 2002, which is 10 years ago !

As an NCMP, I think he has done a good job questioning those shortsighted policies. There has been comments in the internet community that opposition members in the parliament are not raising questions regarding those illogical policies which PAP bulldozed through. Perhaps they could read up this book and then they may realize that it is PAP, which has been turning a deaf ear, ignoring good feedback and suggestions from opposition members in the parliament.

Below is a summary of some of the issues Mr Steve Chia raised during his time serving as NCMP. We also notice some of the issues were repeated year after year with no resolution in sight.

2002 (10 years ago)
Budget Debate
- Widening income gap.  Heavy burden of direct and indirect taxes : GST, ERP, COEs.....etc
- Request for kinder and more caring society by not subjecting lower and middle income and aging community to more hardship and taxes.

2003 - Budget Debate
- Commented that govt accumulate huge reserves and surplus during good years, spend little of those surpluses in difficult years, and not providing any report of the investment return on the accumulated surplus.
- Request for greater transparency.
- Commented on the high salary and bonus of civil services without the same degree of rigorous benchmarking of private sector with regards to performance.
- Commented that retirement is only a luxury for the rich in S'pore. The rest has no option but to try to find work even way passed 65.
- We should be allow to use our own CPF money to tie over tough times.
- There should be distinction between S'poreans and non-S'poreans. Being S'poreans seems to have more liabilites than privileges due to govt liberal immigration policies.

2004 - Budget Debate
- Question if the introduction of  'S' Pass will depress wages and salaries further, making life harder for locals who are struggling with CPF and wage cuts. How could locals plan for more children then.
- Question how reducing a Ministry budget by a percentage to their Productivity Growth Rate could motivate productivity. Instead Mr Chia suggested that reducing a Minister or senior officer salary if productivity does not increase will be more effective.
- Question where is the money from business diversification from Temasek, EDB and other statutory boards. Mr Chia commented that the money should go back to govt revenue instead of remaining with Temasek,..etc.
- The high cost of educating a child (tuition fee,etc) impact procreation.

2005 - Budget Debate
- Request more to be done for our aging seniors.
- Remove or reduce water tariff taxes.
- Commented that the govt has already made up its mind of the casino project thought they claimed it is under proposal consideration.
- Adequacy of retirement fund
- Request govt to assumed greater responsibility for healthcare and education.

2006 (6 years ago)
Budget Debate :
- Object to PAP sweetening the ground before election creating unfair playing field for opposition parties.
- Called to reduce the size of GRC back to 1998, three-men team.
- Question if the govt is collecting more money than it dares to declare, how it arrives at an operating deficit when there is surplus revenue receipts and billions in Consolidated Fund to be transferred into national reserves.
- Request for transparency in disclosures from govt.
- Request to scrap or reduce TV/radio licences, water conservation tax and domestic worker levy.
- Request to do more for elderly and low income.

In Mr Chia other speeches such as Presidential Address Debates, Debate on Motions, Ministerial Statements,..etc. he touched on topics such as promotion of civil societies,  active citizenry, building social cohesion, fair election, reducing business cost, ISD, education, under capacity transport system (in 2002 this problem has already surfaced in Mr Chia's speech), NKF saga, PA and community grassroot should be neutral and not PAP vehicles....etc

Basically, Mr Chia brought up issues close to our heart which impact our daily lives. I would say as an NCMP, Mr Chia did more for us than our previous and current president who are suppose to safe guard S'pore reserve. But it seems that these 2 figure heads personal policy is "Silent is Golden". If they open their mouth to question the PAP, - the 'gold' will no longer go into their pockets.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spawning of Money Lenders/Pawn Shops

There is a noticeable increase in the number of Money Lenders / Pawn Shops  in all HDB heartlands. Some traditional pawn shops have taken to 'upgrading' their image to those 'trendy' money lenders, which called themselves 'financial companies'. They have learned to use our Govt deceptive strategy of calling our 2 casinos - 'Integrated Resorts' to disassociate from the negative gambling den image.

These Money Lenders also have 'deceptive' shop front that looks like those jewellery and time pieces shop with nice layout and display showcases. Only their shop name reveal the business they are in. We have Maxi-Cash, CashMax, MoneyMax....etc.
MRT interchange has become the hot spot for these Money Lenders.  There are 2 of them at Pasir Ris Interchange and the 3rd at White Sand Shopping Mall just beside the interchange.

There are also 2 money lenders at  Tampines MRT interchange and another 3 pawn shops at the bus interchange. These 5 'financial companies' are all within 1 to 3 minutes walking distance from each other.

When there are so many of them so close to each other - it is an indication business is GOOD and demand is STRONG.  

So 'thanks' to the govt policy of using 2 casinos to help boost GDP,  money lenders are having a field time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

'Goodies' - are in fact RAW DEAL

 Those staying in low rise HDB block have to pay between $1500 to 2500 for their lift upgrading program, depending if it is 3-room or 4-room flat.

For high rise block, 3 and 4-room flat pay between $500 to 700 respectively. Taking a conservative calculation using a 12 stories block, the govt easily rack in about $110K per block. So for an HDB estate, the sum is pretty substantial.

We the residents are made to pay a heavy sum for MIW mistake of not catering to aging population. This is the type of typical 'goodies' MIW have for us, which are in fact raw deal being package nicely to deceive the public.

I know of an elderly woman in her 80s live on the 2nd level of a low rise HDB block. She just complained to me the other day that she has to pay over $1000 plus for the lift upgrading. She told me that her CPF is almost depleted, but she also does not have enough cash to pay for the upgrading bill. She lives alone and depends on her daughter for monthly expenses. So she intends to spread out the payment via monthly installment using her CPF. Sigh, CPF charges an interest of 2.60% p.a. (subjected to adjustment) for monthly installment.  Besides losing out on the 2.5% interest earn on her CPF saving, she has to pay even more for the upgrading due to the interest charges on her installment plan. As with everything in S'pore, the charges included GST of 7%.

It is folks like her who are hardest hit by all these govt 'goodies'. They are burden further with interest charges. In fact, the govt is penalizing them for not being able to pay cash outfront. Is this not robbing the poor ?

Our govt extractive institution has many payment modes and schemes to collect money from the public. They have refined the art of extraction is to ensure all PAY UP. So they have cash payment (at self service kiosks - AXS, SAM all over the island), CPF payment, cash/CPF,  GIRO, CPF/GIRO. When it comes to collecting money, they are very efficient.

As for those who suffer financial hardship, they have many 'creative' assistance schemes to suck more blood from you. They offer extension of years for repayment, deferment of payment until the flat is sold...etc, etc. But the catch is - they come with INTEREST repayment. Thus, the longer one drags the payment period, it will cost them even more due to interest charges.

So, BEWARE of  'goodies' from the govt.

Our Govt. Extractive Institutions

Our govt, dominated by a single political party for decades has become an Extractive Institution. They have refined the art of sucking the public dry over the years. A typical example is first they privatized public infrastructures like our bus service and mass rapid transport. Then our govt investment arm will become major shareholder in these companies. They received a handsome sum selling them off and later collect rich dividends yearly, besides washing their hands clean from running basic important public infrastructure.

Another clever con job is their lift upgrading program, which they sell to the public as 'asset enhancement' of our HDB flat. They have used it as a 'carrot' during past elections to entice the citizens to vote for them.

First they made a blunder in not catering to our aging population, not only do they not admit to their horrible short sightedness - they have the cheek to make us pay for the lifts. Then they declared that  they are doing us a favor as they are 'subsiding' the lift upgrading. Did they really subsides the lift upgrading - only God knows !

It is just like our public housing flats which they claimed they are selling to the public at subsidy. Basically the con scheme is similar to those run by unscrupulous retailers who first jack up their selling price and then declared they are have a fantastic discount sale. So let's say the origin price tag is $100. They jack it up to $150 and then give customers a 20% discount. End result is they make more profit than before. This is the art of extraction our MIW is very good in.

They denied opposition ward to uplifting program, until opposition did it on their own without help. The best thing is the residents need not pay for it. All of us in MIW wards paid for our lifts. The point is the Town Councils have collected so much money that every year a large proportion ends up in their sinking fund. We know that some of them have lost millions investing these sinking funds in toxic high risk products in the past. So they can gamble away the sinking fund but not put it to good use to upgrade the lifts.

This is the type of Extractive Institution MIW has become.All their talk about an inclusive society is just pure talk. How to become build inclusive society when their fundamental principle is base on extracting as much as possible from the citizens to benefit their own 'elite' group financially and politically.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Can Asia Beats Corruption ?

CNA is currently running a program on "Bridging Asia".  Last week, they had some' thinkers' debating on the topic 'Can Asia Beats Corruption ?'  The votes from viewers are a resounding NO.

In fact, one of the female judges, sum it up much better than the debaters as she highlighted that corruption comes in many forms and it is impossible to be truly rid of it.

A good example is 'squeaky' clean S'pore. We have been bombarded with a number of corruption cases recently involving high ranking officers in various govt. organisations.

These are cases infringing the law, but then we have so many 'untouchable' cases involving 'legalised corruption' which will not surface since they do not infringe the law, which has been change to accommodate them.  So many examples come to mind. Just to name a few ....Electorate dept under the PM, redrawing of electorate boundaries at every election to give MIW an edge, our infamous GRC concept....etc, etc ..sigh.

Dignity Kitchen

Dignity Kitchen is a social enterprise started by Mr Koh Seng Choon. It is truly an unique and inspiring set up to help the socially disadvantage from diverse background. They range from the hearing and sight impaired, intellectually challenged, autistic, Parkinson suffers, single mums, ex-prisoners....etc. Their age group is from teenagers to senior folks in their seventies.

At the moment it is not really self sustaining but Mr Koh is confident it will be, given another year or so. The food is good and there are many kind hearted folks helping out (eg. some of S'pore famous chefs).

There were many initial hiccups due to lack of govt support. Mr Koh has a frustrating time being directed from one govt organisations to another trying to get funding. In the end, he just did it on his own. Now that he has established Dignity Kitchen and proved that it is possible to train and prepare disable folks to run hawker stall and prepare them for job placements, our govt got interested with the publicity he has received. So after giving him 'hell' initially, they want to share the limelight.

Mr Koh is a visionary as he aims for IPO and to list the company in SGX in the near future. This will provide more seed money to enable him to reach out and do much more for this neglected sector of society, which our govt is not doing much to help.

Do drop by Dignity Kitchen with your friends and family. There are 11 stalls selling a wide variety of delicious food at reasonable price. There is a chicken rice stall run by an one-arm hawker. Seeing how he slice up the chicken 'single handed' shows that nothing is impossible at Dignity Kitchen.

It also has a drink stall manned by the hearing impaired duo. There is a poster to teach customer how to order their drinks using sign language. If you prefer the easy way, you can point to the item in the drink menu next to the counter. The soya bean drink is so fresh and yummy.

Then there is also a corner where paintings by a mentally challenged painter is displayed. They are for sale. There is also a book corner selling 2nd hand books run by single mums with many children to feed.

The place is very well run and efficient though service is at a slower pace. But the staff are all so cheerful and positive, it is just great.  It is just opposite Bedok North Secondary School. The address is 1 Kaki Bt View, Techview. It is on the ground floor. They operate from Mon to Fri. Weekends normally cater to company visits and events.

You can donate your books to them and organise your company function at their place. They are able to cater to activities run by their staff. You can interact with these folks and see first hand how positive they are not to let their disadvantage hinder them. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

SIM Annual Convention

One of the outstanding talks at this year SIM convention is by Ms Yen Tan,, COO of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. She was involved in the restructuring of Alexandra Hospital. She is a passionate speaker whose love for her job came through clearly in her speech. Her talk was on "Transformation : Lesson from S'pore Last Restructured Hospital".

She has a simple rule which helps to promote caring and patient centric service. Always tell oneself :
- If not me, who ?
- If not now, when ?

She believes in leading by example and going out of the way to ensure patients' comfort. She inspires !

Another outstanding speaker is Ms Jessica Tan, MD of Microsoft S'pore. She is sharp and could grasp questions from the floor and answer them clearly. What a great contrast to the Sn Parliamentary Secretary which I blogged about in my previous post. We can see a distinct contrast of those who spend most of their life in the private sector and those who are from the govt public sector. After years in govt sector, they become parrots of their master, only able to repeat what their master dishes out to them. It is a pity SIM selected such block head to give the opening speech. High 'ranking' govt official does not equate to intelligent speaker.

Then there was  Mr Richard Eu, CEO of Eu Yan Sang who gave a interesting history of how his great great grand father started the company. Mr Eu is the 4th generation who successfully modernized and re-branded the company. Mr Eu's family business was at its peak during the 2nd generation. They owned tin mine, rubber plantation, bank, remittance firm....beside dealing with TCM which his great great grandpa started.

However, the business tide turned turning the 3rd generation, when all the businesses were sold off, including Eu Yan Sang Chinese medicine business. This was due to the inheritance being divided amongst the 13 children of Mr Eu great grandfather.

Mr Richard Eu together with 3 of his cousins bought back the medical business and the rest is history.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"We must accept"

Now the popular overused phrase by those MIW block heads is "We must accept".

Think it started with LKY who told us we must accept flood as it is part of global climate change and no amount of engineering can help. But now we are pumping in millions into engineering solution to resolve it. So engineering does help after all.

Climate change is only part of the flood equation. The other factors are MIW's failings. They knew it and as usual will never admit it openly.  When they run out of excuses, now they tell us TO ACCEPT IT ! In other words, they are telling us to shut up and just accept the mess they have created.

Why should we accept their messy shortsighted policies ? Just because they have done some right things in the past, it does not accord them the privilege to mess up the future of S'pore and expect us to "accept it".

I was at SIM annual convention over the weekend. One of the speaker, a Sn Parliamentary Secretary turned out to be one of those typical block heads with no substance. Either he could not grasp the question from the floor or could not provide an intelligent answer. So he used the phase "We must accept it" when a question related to the large influx of foreign workers was asked of him.

Sigh, if this is the type of so call 'high caliber' folks we have administrating the country, - we are doomed !

Cats - Hierarchy Of Needs

We have hierarchy of basic needs and now a manufacturer of cats' product has come up with hierarchy of needs for our feline friends. They are :
1) instinctual needs
2) emotional needs
3) physical needs

Ok - the product is catnip and according to the product package - it is good for cats' physical needs as they need stimulation provided by catnip.

Reading at the product information write out, one would have thought it is for human consumption. They are highlighting how eco friendly the product is :

- certified organically grown
- grown and processed without pesticides or chemicals
- supports sustainable agriculture

Sustainable agriculture ? I think the manufacturer is really overdoing and exaggerating things.

So our pets are going organic too to support the environment.