Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Measures that PM Lee SHOULD Have Announced, But Didn't

There's a huge hulabaloo on the internet about PM Lee's national day rally speech and the measures he has announced and why they are crappy and inadequate. I agree generally that it was quite a crappy speech and some of the measures announced were silly and reveal that even right now with all the clanging on the internet and the growing resentment on the ground, the PAP still has no clue.

But instead of criticising PM Lee and joining in the chorus of why the PAP is fucked up, I shall instead propose SOLUTIONS to the problems facing our society today.

Friday, August 13, 2010

$387m Budget Understates Cost of YOG to Singapore Society

It has been widely reported that the original $104m budget for the YOG ballooned to a massive $387m. These are the direct financial costs of the YOG. However, the following are a few hidden costs of the YOG that, if we were to estimate and put a monetary value on them, could significantly blow up the total cost of the YOG to Singapore Society as a whole.

Firstly, if we were to calculate and add the monetary value of the thousands of man-hours of unpaid forced labour that Secondary, JC and Polytechnic students, as well as their teachers, have to contribute to the YOG, that would add a significant sum to the YOG black hole.

Secondly, consider the opportunity cost of the time spent by these students in the YOG, which they could have spent studying or other productive activity. Some students' grades will definitely suffer because of the time they have to spend on this event. This cost of the YOG has obviously not been factored in.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

SMRT Cares About the YOG, But Not About You

I could barely believe my eyes when I saw this news report on Channelnewsasia:

SMRT to add over 300 more train trips for YOG opening, closing ceremonies
Posted: 12 August 2010 1315 hrs

SINGAPORE: SMRT says it will add over 300 more train trips on August 14 and 26 - the opening and closing ceremonies of the Youth Olympic Games - to bring spectators and participants home after the events.

For the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, close to 200 train trips will be added along the North-South, East-West and Circle Lines after 10pm to shorten waiting time.

Train services will also be extended that day, with the last northbound, eastbound and westbound trains leaving City Hall MRT Station at 1.30am.

The last trains towards Dhoby Ghaut and Marymount on the Circle Line will be adjusted accordingly, to allow commuters to make their transfers at Bishan interchange station.

Likewise, the last Bukit Panjang LRT trains will be adjusted to allow commuters to make their transfers from Choa Chu Kang MRT Station.

For the Closing Ceremony on August 26, more than 100 train trips will be added on the North-South, East-West and Circle Lines after 9.30pm.

- CNA/jm

Why is it that SMRT can bend over backwards to add 300 additional train trips during the Youth Olympic Games, and yet during normal off-peak periods the train stations are over crowded and over packed? (see for example this report on Jurong East, where the trains were coming about every 5-7 minutes - or 12 trains per hour)

Does Singapore YOG Violate ILO Forced Labour Convention?

The following news story was in the Straits Times earlier this year:

Jun 15, 2010
S'pore to ratify ILO Convention
By Lee Jia Xin

SINGAPORE will ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Tripartite Consultation.

This announcement was made by Minister for Manpower Gan Kim Yong at the ILO in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

Convention 144 aims to establish national tripartite consultations in ILO member states to promote the implementation of international labour standards. It requires ratifying ILO members to undertake effective consultations on matters pertaining to ILO activities between representatives of the government, employers and workers.

With the ratification of Convention 144, Singapore has ratified seven ILO Core and Priority Conventions. One of the core conventions is the Forced Labour Convention (No. 29).

The International Labor Organisation, in C29 Forced Labour Convention, 1930, defines forced labour as follows:
Article 2

1. For the purposes of this Convention the term forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.

Let's break down this definition and apply it to what is happening to secondary, JC and polytechnic students during this Youth Olympic Games

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Maybe Pole Dancing Isn't So Bad After All...!!

When the news first broke that a stripper from Sydney would be choreographing the opening pole dancing act of the Youth Olympic Games, there was a major uproar from the online community. Some slammed the inappropriateness of pole dancing for a global youth sporting event, because of its association with sleazy strip clubs. Meanwhile, more open-minded commentators noted that pole dancing was a competitive sport in and of itself and did not necessarily have to be associated with the sex industry.

The recent economic crisis emerging from the United States, however, could put the skill of pole-dancing in a positive light for young girls in Singapore. Consider the following news article:

Stripper Finds Degree Profitable for Goldman Wasn't Worth It
By John Hechinger - Aug 6, 2010

Carrianne Howard dreamed of designing video games, so she enrolled in a program at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, a for-profit college part-owned by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Her bachelor’s degree in game art and design cost $70,000 in tuition and fees. After she graduated in December 2007, she found a job that paid $12 an hour recruiting employees for video game companies. She lost that job a year later when her department was shuttered.

These days, Howard, 26, makes her living in a way that doesn’t require a college diploma: by stripping at the Lido Cabaret, a topless club in Cocoa Beach, Florida. “I didn’t know what else to do,” she says. “I’ve got a worthless degree. It’s like I didn’t attend school at all.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Does PAP Government Work for Singaporeans or Foreigners?

I decided to delve into an analysis of some of Singapore's Economic statistics today. I did a bit of sleuthing around and some analysis of our GDP data, and what follows below is the results of my analysis. All the data below is publicly available from Singstat. (all charts clickable for full version)

The chart above shows the nominal GDP breakdown from 1999-2009. From the chart we can see that GDP has been steadily on the rise, apart from the recent dip following the financial crisis. The chart also breaks down the GDP into the Foreign Resident share and the indigenous share of GDP.

This chart performs a statistical analysis on the first chart above. As can be seen, the % share of GDP that went to Foreign Residents increased consistently from 37.85% in 1999 to 42.58% in 2009. In other words, a progressively larger proportion of our economy belongs to foreigners. Correspondingly, the indigenous share of GDP has declined from 62.15% to 57.42% from 1999-2009.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Why Do We Care About Mr Ng's PRC Workers when Our Elderly Struggle to Survive?

TOC has recently run a piece on Aug 5 on Singapore's foreign worker policy "MOM policy change creating problems for employers". In the piece, TOC features an interview of a business owner, Mr Ng, who describes how he is facing problems renewing the work permits for 2 of his PRC workers. The MOM recently shifted its policy stance to tighten its foreign worker quota.
“With the pick-up [in the economy], unless they quickly revise this policy, a lot of employers will face the same problem that I’m facing now,” he said. Indeed, several other employers and business owners have told TOC they too face the same problems.
Here are a few important points from the interview of Mr Ng
  • Mr Ng has 29 total staff, of which 2 of them who are PRCs face non-renewal of work permit
  • Mr Ng claims that if MOM does not renew the PRC workers' permits he will have "a lot of problems recruiting locals ... to fill their gap", and says that that no Singaporeans want to work in a restaurant
  • Mr Ng pays the PRC workers around $800-$1000 a month
On March 29, TOC also published a piece by Gilbert Goh, titled "Employers still discriminating against older workers". Mr Goh pointed out the following:
"A weekend visit to Han’s restaurant at Harbourfront shocked me as the four staff working there were all Filipinos. From the person that took my order to the cashier and chefs, they were all foreigners happily going about their jobs. The only thing that stood them out from the former Han’s staff that I had seen previously, was the age difference. All of them appeared to be in their twenties. I found myself paying for my order grudgingly.

MAS Capital Charge on DBS a Mere Slap on the Wrist

Yesterday, it was reported that the MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) had slapped a $230m capital charge on DBS as a 'penalty' for the massive systems failure that occurred last month and that affected more than 1,000 DBS and POSB automated teller machines, Internet and mobile banking services, as well as Nets and credit card transactions.

The MAS required DBS to set aside S$230 million additional regulatory capital for operational risk and told it to improve customer communications procedures. This was widely noted in the press that MAS as a 'censure'. Teo Swee Lian, deputy managing director, financial supervision, MAS, was recorded as having said: 
"We expect all financial institutions to put in place a robust technology risk management framework that will ensure the reliability, resiliency and speedy recoverability of the institution's IT systems and infrastructure, whether outsourced or in-house. We have recently written to the CEOs of all financial institutions to remind them of this."

But does this set of measures on the part of the MAS constitute a real 'censure'? And does the $230m capital charge amount to much of a 'penalty'? Not according to research analysts who have been covering DBS stock.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Why I Would Like to Leave, by Kitana [Classic]

This was perhaps the best piece I found during my tenure at IS. Kitana was a prolific writer when she burst onto the blogging scene and wrote many fantastic pieces. Unfortunately, she has deleted her blog completely, and the following piece is pretty much all of her writing that is left. Kitana, despite the contents of this piece below, I hope you are still in Singapore and that you will start writing again.

Why I Would Like to Leave, by Kitana

Before I went to Canada for a year, I had to go for a medical check-up. During that check-up, the doctor told me that I would love Canada. And he had said that most of the people he knew that went to Canada, either never came back; or when they did, they’d returned to Canada shortly after. Few ever stayed in Singapore.

At the time, I wondered why. I don’t anymore.

The government asks us why we leave. They calls us quitters and deserters, for leaving our country, our homeland, for some other place that we perceive to be greener pastures. Why leave Singapore, where we rank tops for good governance (save for voice and accountability, where we scored a low of 38.2% this year), where we are so clean and safe and secure, and where we are so efficient?

The fact of the matter is, that there are people who will give up all of the above, for more freedom.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

National Identity, by Solitaire Joker [Classic]

This piece was written by Solitaire Joker back in 2006. He has since made his blog private and inaccessible to the public. But this is a piece I found really meaningful back then, and is still very meaningful today.

National Identity, by Solitaire Joker

Today, the green and secure island of shining domes, skyscrapers, and machine-like efficiency that we call Singapore is the place I call home.

I remember the burning sense of patriotism that I had when I was young. In the heyday of Singapore soccer, when half the citizens were cheering heart and soul for Singapore in the Tiger Cup, I remember the exultant and jubilant talk about Singapore’s stellar wins over Malaysia’s teams. I remember feeling very strongly for Singapore then, when I was still an innocent child who concerned myself only with the TV guide, soccer, and books. I remember, as if it was yesterday, making 22 cardboard flip-outs, naming 11 of the pieces after all the Brazilian World Cup players, and naming the rest of the pieces after the Singapore team (yes, I could practically tell you the name of every single player on the Singapore team then) and playing them against each other with a squashed-up paper ball on a large cardboard that was used as the soccer pitch.

And Singapore always won in my memory.

Singapore soccer then was a great way to gel the country together. But it went downhill soon after the Abbas Saad match-fixing scandal.

But as I grew into maturity, and losing my innocence along the way, I began to see the flaws of the Singapore system and began to feel disenchantment and disillusionment. My current position in a policy branch where much policy information runs through my hands is not helping either, being exposed to the inner workings of how government policy think-tanks work.

How did Singapore first start out as a nation?

PAP Government Abuses its Monopoly Power to Suck the People Dry

In Economics, a Monopoly exists when a specific individual or an enterprise has sole control over the supply of a particular product or service, and hence is able to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it. The concept of Monopoly is typically applied to corporations and businesses, and one example of corporate monopoly in Singapore is SMRT, which has the sole operating rights to the North-South and East-West lines in Singapore. Lucky Tan has recently written a good piece on how SMRT is abusing its monopoly, I will not elaborate on this here.

The concept of Monopoly can also be applied to groups other than corporations. It can be applied to Governments, which have a de facto monopoly over the provision of public services. This monopoly of government is not good or bad in and of itself, and in fact can be a very good thing when public services are provided cheaply, efficiently, and to the public benefit. This is because governments are not ordinarly profit seeking operations, but instead are institutions created to serve the public interest, unlike businesses and corporations.

In Singapore, however, there is little acknowledgement of the concept of 'public interest' when it comes to how the government is run. Indeed, the PAP has been explicit in years past about how Singapore should be run like a corporation: Singapore Inc. This profit-seeking mentality means that the PAP has not been shy about abusing the monopoly power inherent in Government, to suck as much 'profit' out of Singaporeans as possible. Here are some examples in which it does so.

I am a Singaporean, by Dan E [Classic]

I used to run a blog several years back, called "The Intelligent Singaporean" Back then, the Singaporean political blogosphere (plogosphere) was small, young and fledgling, and there were only a few voices out in the internet who dared to write and criticise the government. Most were anonymous - including Mr Wang (who actually helped me kickstart IS). Only a couple used their real names to write, like Mr Alex Au of Yawning Bread.

While I was running IS, there was still intense skepticism from many parts of society towards the plogosphere. ST Journalists were very critical of bloggers and generally looked down on us. Society at large viewed us with suspicion, and I'm sure the PAP was watching us with a close eye. No one thought we had a chance to make a difference, no one thought we would succeed.

I closed down IS on August 25, 2007, almost 3 full years ago. I had just finished my studies and had other priorities in life, and couldn't afford the time that IS required. Since then, the plogosphere has exploded.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Darth Zorro Lim Swee Say - Liar Or A Fool?

'When times are good, we work hard together to build up ... social capital, by being one of the most pro-worker nations in the world'
- Minister Lim Swee Say, National Day Message 2010

Not content with leading his storm troopers and clowning about in his Darth Zorro suit to the entertainment of Singapore's nurses and the ire of Singaporean netizens, the NTUC Secretary General has now set his sights on perpetuating the insidious mistruth that Singapore is "one of the most pro-worker nations in the world".

The black-masked member of Lee Kuan Yew's elite "Intellectual Class," who infamously coined the term "cheaper, better, faster" and sang the song "upturn the downturn" (see below), incidentally is paid more than $2 million a year for his costume-bearing antics and pretensions to the Singapore idol crown. Yet, Lim's assertion that Singapore is 'pro-worker' could hardly be further from the truth.