Saturday, 28 May 2011

Just for Laugh Ah Beng Malaysian Style

Ah Beng comes back 2 his car & find a note saying 'Parking Fine'
He Writes a note and sticks it to a pole 'Thanks for compliment.'

Ah Beng bought a new mobile.
He sent a message to everyone from his Phone Book & said,
'My Mobile No. Has changed. Earlier it was Nokia 3310. Now it is 6610'

Ah Beng: I am a Proud, coz my son is in Medical College .
Friend: Really, what is he studying.
Ah Beng: No, he is not studying, they are studying him.

Ah Beng: Doctor, in my dreams, I play football every night.
DR: Take this tablet, you will be ok.
Ah Beng: Can I take tomorrow, tonight is final game.

Ah Beng: If I die, will u remarry?
Wife: No! I'll stay with my sister. But if I die will u remarry?
Ah Beng: No, I'll also stay with your sister.

Ah Beng: People consider me as a 'GOD'
Wife: How do you know??
Ah Beng: When I went to the Park today, everybody said,
Oh GOD! U have come again.

Ah Beng complained to the police: 'Sir, all items are missing,
except the TV in my house.'
Police: 'How the thief did not take TV?'
Ah Beng: 'I was watching TV news...'

How do you recognize Ah Beng in School?
He is the one who erases the notes from the book when the teacher erases
the board.

Once Ah Beng was walking he had a glove on one hand and not on other.
So the man asked him why he did so. He replied that the weather forecast
announced that on one hand it would be cold and on the other hand it would
be hot.

Ah Beng in a bar and his cellular phone rings. He picks it up and
Says 'Hello, how did you know I was here?'

Ah Beng: Why are all these people running?
Man: This is a race, the winner will get the cup
Ah Beng: If only the winner will get the cup, why others running?

Teacher: 'I killed a person' convert this sentence into future tense
Ah Beng: The future tense is 'u will go to jail'

Ah Beng told his servant: 'Go and water the plants!'
Servant: 'It's already raining.'
Ah Beng: 'So what? Take an umbrella and go.'

A man asked Ah Beng why Ahmad Badawi goes walking in the Evening and not
in the morning. Ah Beng replied Ahmad Badawi is PM not AM

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Treating Burns

One hopes never to be in need of using it, but just in case:...
This is a simple but effective way to treat burns with the help of egg white.
This method is used in the training of firemen.
When sustaining a burn, regardless the degree, the first aid is always placing the injured part under running cold water till the heat subsides.
And next spread the egg white over the injury.
Someone burned a large part of her hand with boiling water. Despite the pain she held her hand under running water, then took two eggs, parted the yolk from the egg white and slightly beat the egg white and put her hand in it. Her hand was so badly burned that the egg white dried and formed a white film. Later she heard that the egg is a natural collagen.
And during the next hour layer upon layer, she administered a white layer on her hand.
While the egg white is still wet you will feel no pain from the burn. As soon as it dries up the pain comes back so reapplication is necessary. This method not only alleviates the pain it actually heals and prevents scarring from the burn.
That afternoon she didn't feel any more pain and the next day there hardly was a red mark to see. She thought she would have an awful scar but to her astonishment after ten days there was no sign of the burn, the skin had its normal color again!
The burned area had been totally regenerated thanks to the collagen, in reality a placenta full of vitamins.
Alternatives : Aloe Vera is also good for treating burns. Cut some fresh aloe Vera leaves and put it on the burnt area. Once the wound starts healing, break a capsule of vitamin E and pour the liquid on it. This will prevent scarring.
The first and foremost thing that is required to be done after burn is to pour lots of chilled water on the burn affected area for about half an hour.

Tips In Daily Life (Not a Reflection Post!)

1. Hot and spicy to tears, what to do?

If you accidentally eat the hot food that makes you shed tears, your first thought will be probably a glass of water. However, hot water is not a solution, it will make it more spicy. In fact, the best solution is to drink hot milk. OR EAT A SWEET

2. Keeping tofu firm

Soft tofu in the cooking process is very easy to break into pieces. If you want to maintain the integrity of tofu, you can soak it in salt water for about 30 minutes before cooking.

3. Soup is too salty

Making soup with too much salt, the subtle taste of the soup will be destroyed. If this happens, the remedy is to add cooked potato pieces for few minutes. The potato will absorb the salt. When soup is served, then remove the potato.

4. Soak a little vinegar before cutting taros

Cutting taro can make your hands itching. Soaking your hands in vinegar before cutting taros will prevent your hands from itching.

5. How to remove the wax from an apple?

If you often eat apples with their skin, then you would need to remove the wax first before eating ....
(a) place the apple into hot water, the apple's wax will vanish.
(b) Apply toothpaste on the apple to clean out the wax.

6. How to slow down potato germination?

Potato buds contain toxic alkaloids which can cause abdominal pain and dizziness. Placing an apple in potatoes can significantly delay their germination time. Ethylene gas produced by apple has hampered the effectiveness of potato development. Putting apples together with papayas or kiwi will make them ripe faster.
Further, apples can make persimmon astringency disappear but sweeten after a week.

7. How to make good rice?

After washing rice in water, add a few drops of lemon juice, (or a few drops of oil), cooked rice will turn out good and fragrant.

8. How to keep biscuits crispy?

When storing biscuits in a container, put a sugar cube in it at the same time. As the sugar absorbs the moisture in the container, biscuits or cookies can remain crispy and delicious.

9. What can be done if clothing stains with ink?

If ink gets on your clothing or fabric, you can use cooked rice or paste with a little detergent to remove the stain. Use your fingers to smear repeatly on the spot, stain can be removed quickly. Then soak it into fresh water with ordinary cleaning agent for a period of time before washing.

10. How to treat smelly shoes?

Put a small amount of baking soda directly into the boots, sneakers or shoes, that are obviously smelly due to dampness. Baking soda powder has the effect of absorbing moisture and odor.

11. Ring around the collar, or spotty under the armpit area of the clothing?

First brush some shampoo, shaving cream or lotion on the dirty area for five minutes.
Then wash off the stain.

12. How to keep flower fresh?

Adding a little beer in the vase can keep house flowers fresh for an extended period of time.
This is because beer contains alcohol whic is both antiseptic and disinfectant. Beer also contains sugar and other nutrients for the leaves.

13. How to sharpen scissors?

Stacked three aluminum foil together, then cut them with the scissors to be sharpen.
You will see surprising result.

14. How to remove annoying gummed labels?

It is quite annoying when comes to remove the price tags on merchandise. To remove the gummed labels neatly, all you need is to use a hair dryer to apply heat on the label before taking them off.

15. What can you do with beer beside drinking?

Most people know milk is good in cleaning foliage plants. In fact,use leftover beer to wipe plants is even better! Dip a cotton ball into beer, lightly wipe leaves to remove dust and keep them lustery.Furthermore, this method also prevents ants from coming to the plant.

15. What to do with unwanted perfumes?

Before throwing them away, unwanted perfumes could be useful.
You can use unwanted perfume to clean indoor light bulbs with cotton balls. When the bulbs light up and warm up, the whole room would be filled with the aroma.

17. Remove crayon graffiti from wooden furniture.

If you've kids at home, wooden furniture are subject to crayon graffiti. Crayon stains can not be removed with water. Although the use of paint solvents can do the job, the paint on the surface could be damaged. The most suitable method is to use toothpaste. Not only it cleans, it does no harm to the furniture.

18. Use vinegar to help mopping the kitchen floor.

The kitchen floor is often easy to get greasy. Before mopping the kitchen floor, pour some vinegar on the mop. This will enable easy remove of grease.

19. How to remove stains from tea cups?

Stained tea cups can affect their appearance. To clean up the stain with a man made loofah cloth the cups would have scratches in the long run. Just spread a little toothpaste and hand-wash the cups, stain can be removed easily. If the stain is too thick, wait a few minutes after applying toothpaste before washing.

20. Improved floor sweeping

The unused stockings can be attached to a broom to clean the floor. Stockings can help sweeping up cotton, hair and other particles that are difficult to sweep with an ordinary broom.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Some Reflections from Lee Seng Wai on Singapore’s Growth

Regardless of the election outcome, I am worried for Singapore.

by Lee Seng Wai on Monday, May 2, 2011 at 10:43pm

(Foreword: I post this essay knowing that I risk losing the friendship of some of the people I know. But I decided to do it anyway, because I believe the message is important enough to broadcast.

This wall-of-text is an open letter to any Singaporeans that comes across it. It is NOT meant to affect your vote. I did not intend for this to be a pro-PAP essay, but I do not blame you if you read it as such given the message inside. At times it’s going to read like a damning lecture to the middle-class and you will hate my guts. But I hope you can see the message of inspiration embedded within.)

We are days away from voting day. Regardless of the outcome, I am worried for Singapore.

Over the past weeks, a very worrying sentiment has risen up from the ground. We are all rightly concerned about the rising cost of living and the security of our jobs. But I am depressingly worried about the calls to prioritise jobs for Singaporeans, to spend more on welfare by tapping on our past reserves.

How our elections end – whether it is a crushing victory by PAP or the opposition, or a balanced outcome, will in fact matter little to the rest of the world. Come 8 May, it is almost certain that a few international papers will merely note our election results, and after that we will once again vanish almost entirely from the eyes of the international press.

But the sentiments that have risen will continue to manifest inside us after the GE is over. And over time, I worry that it will consume us as well.

“Jobs for Singaporeans first!”

There are foreigners all around us. They work beside us, live beside us, eat beside us. They compete with us for housing, transport, jobs. As a citizen, you have burdens that foreigners don’t – CPF, NS, expensive housing. Sometimes you wonder whether you are second-class citizens in your own country.

A few days ago, I read a proposal that manifested this sentiment: “No employer should be allowed to choose a foreigner over an equally-skilled Singaporean, even if the foreigner is willing to accept a lower pay.” I am sure many will find this proposal quite attractive.

Yes the foreigners are stealing your jobs. NEWSFLASH: Even if you kicked them out, they will continue to steal your jobs from overseas.

Think back about the time when you were studying, perhaps in JC or in university. Chinese, Indian and ASEAN students in your schools were trashing most local students in the exams. These foreigners were really hardworking – there are reports of Chinese students barely able to speak English when they first arrived, and scoring A1 in English when they leave. This is all rather depressing for the local students, so perhaps we should not let these foreign students into our schools to begin with? But that’s merely escapism – put these foreigners in another country’s schools and they will still excel. On an absolute scale, most Singapore students will still be weaker – they just don’t get to see the competition.

The same logic applies in the workplace. Even if your company never hired a single foreigner, that does not mean they have disappeared. It means they are now working for another firm, and it is likely that firm is your competitor. If the foreigners are able to do the same work for lower pay, then that firm will likely strive over yours in the marketplace. Cold comfort isn’t it? Maybe it’s better to have these foreigners in our firm fighting with us, than on the other side fighting against us.

The call for protectionism is strong. It is incredibly seductive. And it is deadly. It is deadly because it risks the livelihood of your firm. The security of your job starts from the security of your firm’s profitability in the marketplace. If your firm is sinking, then it can’t afford to keep you employed for long. At least if your firm is floating, you as an employee have a fighting chance.

The “Singaporean-first” proposal in the earlier section is not only escapism – it is also the vilest form of office politics. In normal office politics, you might sabotage a colleague’s work but at least they get to do some work. In protectionism, you shut them outside the office door.

“That means nothing if I can barely keep my job and my pay is so low!”

Yes the foreigners are depressing your wages. NEWSFLASH: They are willing to work for the same low pay whether they are in Singapore or not. But their existence here helps make sure you actually get paid.

It boils down to the survival of your company in a dog-eat-dog world. Think about the last time you, as a consumer, bought a product. Take for example a carton of milk. There are many brands on the shelf. You might exercise some brand loyalty, but if the cost of one brand is too high compared to its neighbours, chances are that you will switch brands. Throughout this entire process, you will not stop to think how the milk company has structured its business, hired and paid its workers, how many locals are employed etc. All you care about is the quality and price of the milk.

The same decision-making process made by a buyer is happening billions of times everyday. The goods and services of Singapore companies are out being compared with those of other countries. We cannot compete purely on cost in a world of Chinese dominance - if we are going to be more expensive, then we need to better in quality and speed.

But we also cannot ignore cost – and perhaps this is where cheaper foreign labour comes in. We also cannot ignore the possibility that any company requires a critical mass of workers in order to function. There are reports of companies complaining that they can’t attract enough Singaporeans, hence they resort to foreigners. Without the foreigners, will the Singaporean jobs in that company still exist?

“Those fat cat bosses are just roping in cheap labour to support their own oversized pay!”

A fair sentiment. I personally believe that the “overpaid” bosses are actually fairly paid. A firm is a profit-maximising entity. It makes no sense to pay someone more than his value-add to the firm. If your boss’s only contribution to the company is a proposal to slash wages, he’s not worth his pay because anyone (e.g. a facebook warrior like you and me) can propose that. So it stands to reason that those people earning $10k,$100k, etc per month are actually worth that much to the firm.

It also stands to reason that people of your bosses’ calibre are rather rare (or at least rarer than you), because if there were tons of people of your bosses’ calibre, then there wouldn’t be a need to pay them so much.

The real question is not how overpaid the boss is. The real question is - how can you increase your own pay? How can you become the “overpaid” boss?

Improve Yourself

There is a simple answer that I advocate: Improve yourself. Improve your own market-worth until the scarcity value of your own talent lets you rise about the rank and file. Until you qualify for better pay.

If you are a graduate, you have spent nearly two decades in school studying. It must be depressing to start work in society and tussle with foreigners for low wages. But like I’ve tried to explain above, this is because the world itself has changed. It is not your fault that the rise of China and India happens while we are working adults, flooding the market with cheap labour. But it has happened anyway and we have to deal with it. China and India’s rise are not going to be the end – within our lifetimes, we may see the rise of Africa and the other ASEAN countries as well.

But there is a way out of all this. Cheap foreign labor is only cheap because it is not that high up the talent ladder. Talented foreign labor is really expensive because the expats' command so much scarcity value that they can demand expensive benefits. If you can pull off the same work as the talented expats, then the firm will much prefer to hire you over the expat.

Our government is practically begging citizens to upgrade ourselves. If you upgrade yourself, you have less foreign worker competition, because you are cheaper than the expats and their benefits. If we all upgrade ourselves, maybe the company doesn't need to hire another foreigner because together, we can output more than a similarly sized foreign team. Overall you can get higher pay.

The government says they want to increase everyone's wages. Do people think that they can merely sit back and enjoy a higher payout? How many people out there believe that their annual salary increment is a god-given right? A higher salary must be justified by better performance.

If you are turning in the same performance at the same job year-on-year, is your annual increment justified? Or does it make more sense for the company to find a cheaper foreigner to do your job?

A few days ago, I discussed this issue with my ex-classmates who are almost all in the IT sector, and are thus competing with the foreigners at the frontline. My advice to them was this: “Go pick up management skills and strive to become a team leader or project manager. In today’s world, very few products are the work of a single person. Instead, many products are created by teamwork. As long as teamwork is needed, there must be a leader who knows how to manage.” Guys, if you are reading this, I know you are capable of going further. If you think your boss is doing a sucky job, then you can become a better man and replace him.

“But Singaporeans have an unfair disadvantage! We have to live here where we have more burdens. Whereas foreigners don’t have a stake here and go home anytime!”

This is where I believe the frustration is most justified, and where the government is in a bind because there are no easy answers.

The deck is somewhat stacked against Singaporeans. While there are levies and quotas for the lower-skilled foreigners, I believe graduate foreigners do not incur CPF employer contribution costs. So in order to level the playing field, perhaps there should be a 15.5% levy on the pay of a skilled foreigner. But think back about the earlier message about your firm’s viability. Will such a move adversely affect a company’s competitiveness so badly that its products are priced out of the market, that the jobs it creates in Singapore disappears? It is a difficult call to make.

Yet it is also the government’s goal is to create jobs. What if the only way to create jobs for Singaporeans is to allow companies to import foreign labor so that their overall manpower costs are acceptable?

So maybe the alternative solution is to allow the foreigners to be employed cheaper than the local, and then set a quota on the skilled foreigners instead so that there are still some jobs left for Singaporeans. Yet setting a quota on skilled labor is easier said then done. There are many sectors that require skilled workers (e.g. banking, engineering, law, medicine etc). The demand for their goods/services changes MUCH faster than it takes to produce the worker. This is the problem with producing talented locals –there is a long, long lead time. You need at least 15 years of schooling to produce a graduate – and even then he is specialized in certain fields only. What if that field is not in vogue at the end of the day?

That said, maybe the government could level the playing field at least a little more. Men with NS obligations have their salary during reservist paid for by the government. Maybe more can be done to compensate the employer for the lost productivity during the reservist period? My favourite (and ridiculous) suggestion is to impose a levy whenever a company employs any non-NS men, like Singaporean women, PES E men, and all foreigners. We can all guess how popular such a move will be.

At the end of the day, as much as some people hate foreigners, talented foreigners also pay income tax here. They may not have a stake in the country, but their tax dollars are being used to fund national goods like defence, law & order, roads, workfare etc. They help to bear our burden too.

“We want sustainable economic growth! The system is overcrowded!”

Yes it is the government’s job to improve public transport. And fast. But we should realise one thing - globalisation is not going to slow down and wait for us to improve our public transport. The same applies to housing.

The world is never going to say: “OK Singapore, time out for about 5-10 years so that you can grow your people, trains, buses and houses. We’ll compete after that.” Because if we did take a time out for 5-10 years to halt foreign labour whilst we improve the infrastructure here, it’s not going to be the same world anymore. Singapore, as well as its companies, will not be in the same place when we left off.

I am not going to dwell too much on how cost-effective our transport system is. I suffer with you on our trains during peak periods, but the people I know in other countries report that theirs is worse. One thing I do know through my own tourist experience is that our MRTs fares are amongst the cheapest in the developed world. Are we willing to pay more to improve the capacity of the transport system? If you answer yes, good for you. But do you speak for the poorer folks (especially the ones who can’t access the internet and thus read this essay)? Yet the government has to make a decision on behalf of these people. If public transport is too expensive, these folks might not even be able to get to work.

Digressing a little on HDB prices, there are many complaints nowadays about how people end up with zero CPF when they fully pay up the flat after 30 years (i.e. as they reach retirement age). This puzzles me somewhat because this statement only holds true if your pay never increases for 30 years. As long as your pay rises, you have more CPF contribution so you won't end up with zero CPF. Alternatively you could tap on that CPF to refinance faster so you fully pay off your flat earlier.

How plausible is it to have your pay never increase for 30 years? A productive worker is an asset to any company. As long as this worker upgrades himself via life-long learning and harnesses his experience, he should be eligible for higher pay in the marketplace. Granted, your real pay will be eroded as food, energy, inflation and children costs grow over time. But these are natural facts of life in every country. Even if house prices were lower, the growth of other living costs still has to be contended with, because the price of food, energy and other essentials that we import are all dependent on the global market price.

Yet there are so many calls for less foreign labor competition. Does this mean that people believe that they should be allowed to do the same job all their life, immune from the effects of global competition?

“What’s the point of earning all that money if we have no time and freedom to use it? Not everyone wants heart-burning economic growth!”

Yes you have every right to choose a slower pace. It is your freedom. It is your call.

But you speak only for yourself, not for everyone else. Not everyone thinks like you – there are others who want to sprint as fast as they can. An entrepreneur told me once “In order to succeed, you must first have hunger. Insatiable hunger.” There are local SMEs that aspire to be world leaders.

Singapore should be a land of opportunity. Those who want to fly should be allowed to soar. Those who want to slow down and smell the flowers should be allowed to do so. It will be selfish for one party to force their way over the other. So we should choose policies that allow everyone to compete at their own pace.

What kind of policies should we have to allow Singapore to be the land of opportunity? This is something that as voters you have to decide for yourself. My vote is to have policies that can allow the ambitious to sprint unfettered. Because if you want a slower pace, you (as an individual) can always choose to run slower. You can choose to trade-off career progression for personal time. It is ok to do that. Just don’t force everyone to run as slow as you.

“Why chase all that economic growth if we end up leaving the poor behind? Whose economic growth are we seeking?”

There are heart-tugging stories of the poor, squeezed out of their jobs by the foreigners, saddled by heavy living costs. And yes we should help these people. I am glad to see that Singaporeans are not beasts who abandon our kind. There is a strong call for more welfare. The question is how this welfare is done.

The cold reality of capitalism is that there will always be winners and losers. It is survival-of-the-fittest on the global scale. Not everyone gets to be the front-runner. For every winner, there will definitely be a loser. What we need is a way to give the losers a way or a chance to turn into decent winners.

The saying goes “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” In today’s context, it is very likely that we will have to give fishes and teach fishing at the same time.

The sustainable way to help the poor is to allow them to earn a better wage, not to live off ever-increasing subsidies. And the most sustainable way to a better wage is for the poor to upgrade themselves. Hence I support the philosophy to give the poor a chance to upgrade themselves through heavily subsidised training schemes. The PAP does too, although I know there are some who question the efficacy of these training schemes.

It is also necessary to give the poor some fishes, because in a globalised world, the cost of unskilled labour will always be at a low due to oversupply. But the cost of living in a small country like Singapore will continue to go up. A person barely making ends meet is hardly able to find the time to upgrade himself. This is why I support the concept of workfare to top up a person’s pay, and not the minimum wage. With workfare, the cost is borne by the government who spread the cost on everyone (including those job-stealing foreigners who pay income tax). But with minimum wage, companies may choose not to hire the poor at all (a far worse outcome), and you risk clipping the wings of the companies that do toe the line. If your beef with workfare is that the payouts are not enough, that’s a separate debate altogether and I shall not dwell into it for this essay.

It costs lots of taxpayer’s money to fund workfare and subsidised training schemes. The bulk of the government’s tax revenue comes from corporate tax, income tax and GST. Since corporate tax depends on the company’s profits, any policy that could dampen a company’s profitability will reduce corporate tax income. So we should think carefully before implementing any such scheme as it could injure the goose that lays the eggs to feed the poor. SDP’s Tan Jee Say questioned the benefits of our shipyards because 75% of the sector’s workforce are foreigners and the shipyards take up valuable waterfront land. The last time I checked, the majority of Keppel Corp’s profits come from its offshore & marine arm. Keppel Corp’s corporate tax revenue in FY2010 was nearly $600m. More than enough to fund our workfare budget ~1.5 times over.

Income tax and GST are disproportionately funded by the middle class and the rich. So perhaps it makes sense to allow the talented to be able to fly, because the higher they soar, the more tax revenue we can collect to help bridge the rich-poor divide.

“But there are developed countries that can survive well while hardly relying on foreigners for jobs!”

This is true – we need look no further than Japan and Australia. In these countries, the locals do the blue-collar jobs, and dare I say, with pride. They are well-paid - my Australian ex-boss told me that the truck drivers at the mines can be paid more than teachers. “Why can’t this develop in Singapore?” you ask. “Isn’t it a chicken-and-egg issue? Singaporeans don’t want to do these jobs because the pay sucks when you can easily get foreigners to do it cheaply!”

In my opinion, this is the overwhelming advantage of vast natural resources, technological expertise and branding. Australia’s vast oil/gas/coal/ore reserves give it the export prowess to support an expensive workforce. Japan’s technological expertise can be seen in its powerhouses of Sony, Mitsubishi etc. Japan’s quality branding and culture creates demand for its Kobe beef, bluefin tuna, and over-priced fruits.

What significant advantage does Singapore have that can equal to these countries? We have Keppel and Sembcorp shipyards as the world’s number 1 and 2 oil rig builders. We rank amongst the world’s top few airports and ports. But other than that? There is nothing to mine or grow here. The only thing we have left is ourselves.

“What’s so bad about drawing on the reserves?”

I’ve spent almost all of this essay explaining why foreign labour is crucial to Singapore. There’s another thing I want to talk about – drawing on past reserves. There are some who think that drawing on past reserves will be the panacea that solves our cost of living issues today.

Theoretically speaking, if the reserves are large enough and are invested properly, you can always draw off a small stipend to help ease the burden of the people, without compromising the growth of the reserves as its value is eroded by inflation.

But the implementation is tricky. Any use of reserves to fund evergreen policies (e.g. an annual cash payout to citizens) is likely to last forever, because no party is likely to succeed in an election on a platform to remove this subsidy. Think about how difficult it will be to remove the Baby Bonus policy if we realise one day that the policy is the wrong way to achieve its intended objectives.

And can such a reserve-funded dividend ever be large enough to make a difference in our lives? If it is a token sum it wouldn’t help you much. But if its payout scales along with living costs, then it is a slippery slope. Such a policy is akin to a fuel subsidy for the population. And we have seen how countries (like our neighbours) that subsidise fuel are now straining under the weight of these subsidies as global energy prices soar. Can Singapore afford to do the same?

This is where I would personally err on the side of caution. The reserves are meant for emergencies. The nature of emergencies is that you cannot really predict their occurrence and their impact. Better to keep it in the bank and deal with today’s (smaller) problems with today’s budget as much as possible. Because when the next crisis hits us (could be the US national debt crisis), we will want to be prepared.


“The world does not owe us a living”. A phrase parroted by the PAP until some of us are disgusted. Ask yourself, how true is it? Even if we kept the foreigners out, they will still exist out there fighting against us. If they are not in your company attacking your rice bowl, they’re outside attacking your company’s ricebowl. We cannot tell China and India to stop having babies, or tell them to stop educating their citizens. They have every right to live, just like we do.

No political party or government will ever be able to shield a small country like Singapore from the winds and tides of global competition. To attempt to do so through protectionist measures will only offer us temporary relief. But it will also laden our ships with costly measures and could cost us dearly in these choppy waters, or when the next big wave hits us.

Sometimes our insignificance scares me. Think about it. We are a small country. Our own population is less than 0.1% of the world’s population. How much does the world care about us? I venture that the world cares about Singapore as much as we would care for the ants scurrying across a table. Whether the ants survive or not matters little to us, but it certainly matters a lot to the ant.

Have Singaporeans gone soft? There is a litmus test that you can try. Ask the foreigners (the ones whom everyone accuses of stealing their jobs, not the happy expats) what they honestly think of the Singaporean mentality today. I did my test. It wasn’t pretty.

It is not the point of this article to influence your vote. Even if you throw the PAP out, the new rulers will still take years to dig the tunnels for new MRT trains, and years to build new HDB flats. Your relative costs will continue to be higher than the workers from the emerging economies. In the meantime, the global competition is constantly breathing down your neck. How would you, as a citizen, react?

I sincerely believe there is a way out for all of us. We need to improve ourselves and our value proposition. If we cannot be cheaper, then we must be faster, better, stronger, more efficient. It is not just about more paper qualifications. It is not about working longer hours. It begins with a change in mindset. Think positively. Hunger to learn more. Harness your experience. Take pride in the mastery of your work and skill. Embrace the competition and the challenge that comes with it.

It all starts with you as an individual. I believe Singaporeans can do this. Our forefathers came to this land with next to nothing, and they fought so that we can live like we do today. Their blood flows in our veins. We are capable of greater things.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

It Started with Political Apathy

First my humble apologies for posting another message to you but I can't help it as this article

from a Y generation provides us with assurance that they wanted to do something for their country.

Passing on from a friend as worth a read from this young lady. Considerable
effort must have gone into this well analysed and dissected discourse.
There is hope in our Y generation. To paraphrase a respected mentor-
generation has its genius and will rise to the challenge

It all begins with political apathy
Published 28 April 2011 media , personal perspective , politics and
government , society and culture Leave a Comment
Guest essay by Loh Peiying
I am 20 and I cannot vote.
To be honest, I was never really bothered with politics. I had a father who
was very political but that was as far as it went. He would always nag at
me for being so apathetic. Like everyone my age, there are more fun things
I could do with my life. I can watch Glee, spend hours painting my nails or
queue for a cup of bubble tea from KOI. I lead a comfortable life, I have a
spot in the university… what more could I ask for. Why should I even care?
At my age, few care about politics. Exams are stressful enough. But now I’m
tweeting and sharing political news almost 24/7 like nobody’s business.
Some of my friends think I am crazy.
What sparked off this interest in politics? Nothing much really. Perhaps it
was boredom during lectures at University. I made a radical decision to
‘like’ The Online Citizen on Facebook which has been updating me daily with
alternative news. All this information merely compounded what I already
knew from my father.
The more I read, the more concerned I became. I do not know where even to
begin with what is wrong. So instead of making a list of reasons, I shall
share my personal experiences instead.
Recently I saw an advertisement for a three-room flat near my place. It was
going for over S$400,000. That scared me. The amount set off alarms in my
head. I went to ask my father for more details. He told me he had bought
our current five room flat in 1983 for S$123,000, but today’s market value
for it is approximately $650,000. That’s just insane. I know life is not
meant to be a bed of roses, I know I would have to work hard, but these
prices seem insurmountable. Moreover, I believe the prices will continue to
climb if nothing effective is done to solve the rising costs of living.
Does that mean that to have my own place, I have to live an eternity of
debt? What about kids? Do I even dare consider raising any?
What about others who are less fortunate than I am? What are they going to
I have some friends who aren’t as lucky as me. They did fairly well for
their A Levels or their GPAs but it was not enough to make the cut for our
local universities. I understand that the system is based on merit and that
is fair and justified. What I cannot stomach is the number of foreign
students studying in our local universities, on our money. What gives our
government the confidence that these people will stay and ‘integrate’?
While I was doing a stint as a relief teacher, an elderly cleaning lady
came up to me and complained that students were pouring paint into the
sinks and clogging up the plumbing. She implored me in Chinese, “Please
tell your students not to do this anymore. We lead a very hard life you
know. Each month I only earn $500, it is tough enough already.”
What? $500? She is so much older than me and my salary then was more than
twice hers. Her work is so much more taxing and how is $ 500 enough to
There is this old lady near my block. She is always hunched, pushing a
trolley and picking up cardboard boxes. Once I saw her fighting viciously
with another old man for a cardboard box. Is this our so-called modern and
First World society? I am sure she’s not the only one in Singapore living
like this.
Why are there people like her living on the streets, while our ministers
earn so much? What justifies this gulf of disparity and why aren’t they
doing anything? This makes me so angry. How can we just stand by and watch
– and not do anything?
Being paid so much, there should be accountability. Is there?
I have become disillusioned with the ruling elite in the ways that they
trample on our rights as citizens and cut our vocal cords on politics.
There is something very morally wrong with the way we are governed.
Why this election
Whoever said, “do not underestimate the power of the social media”
seriously was not joking. Ask any young person and he will tell you that
Facebook is his death knell. We surf the internet for hours when we should
be studying. Yet at the same time, social media has allowed me to hear the
opposition’s voice where it has been hushed in the Straits Times.
I would probably still be living in ignorance if not for Facebook.
Things in Singapore already seem pretty bad but to make things worse, the
new People’s Action Party (PAP) candidates take it on to a whole new level
of scary. If candidates like Tin Pei Ling are going into parliament, we
ought to be very worried. She has failed to show the critical depth that is
needed to handle national issues. When I showed a friend Tin Pei Ling’s
introductory video, he commented that she sounds like a brainwashed robot.
The recent reports circulating on the internet involving Lui Tuck Yew also
raised some eyebrows. How can someone like him lead the people? Members of
Parliament (MP) are here to serve the people, not the other way around.
Also, PAP’s Desmond Choo mentioned on the news that “progress” to him was
to make a resident in Hougang hesitate voting for the Worker’s Party. What
is up with that? Is defeating the opposition his main goal? Can this be an
indication of the type of mentality that runs within the ruling elite?
In contrast, the opposition holds so much more appeal for me. For one, they
are not pretentious. Their sincerity is apparent in their videos. They know
what it is like to be an average Singaporean, they have got credibility,
and last but not the least, they are sacrificing so much for us. The
Workers’ Party’s First World Parliament proposal and manifesto is very
impressive. Also, Nicole Seah has really moved me and many youths with her
ability to speak up for my generation. We are all fans, buzzing with
Building up to the election, the blunders made by the PAP are bigger and
the challenges we face as a nation are larger. Sometimes it feels like
there is no space to breath. This cannot keep up. It cannot go on.
I’m not here to represent all of the youth in Singapore, and I am not much
different from them.
Being a History Major, I have learned that young people are a catalyst for
change. Many of my friends are already frustrated with the system. We are
saying, “Enough is enough”.
The opposition needs help. The odds are stacked heavily against them. The
PAP always emphasize the need to vote wisely and to beware of a ‘freak
result’. But as Mr. Brown sings, “bookies confirm don’t play because we
already know who’s the winner.”
Some of my friends actually believe that I’m going to get called up by the
ISD or have my face printed all over the papers. Such ridiculous thoughts
really make me laugh, but at the same time, it gives me an inkling of the
fear and apathy that exists.
As V from the movie V for Vendetta says, “People should not be afraid of
their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” The first
step is to get alternative voices into parliament as checking mechanisms
and to ensure accountability. There are good candidates in the opposition
who can represent people like me and be this alternative voice. I want
democracy but democracy is nothing without options.
So if I cannot vote, I will do the next best alternative. Volunteer.

Right before I submitted the volunteer form to the Workers’ Party, I was
actually watching Martyn See’s compilation of the IMF incident with Chee
Soon Juan and his sister, Chee Siok Chin. The police were trying so
desperately to stop Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin from demonstrating.
They surrounded the two and linked arms, entrapping them with human
barricades so they could not walk. I cried a little because I was so
embarrassed by the huge spectacle the government made. But I also cried
because I felt helpless.
I chose to help the Workers’ Party because I believe in their cause.
Although I personally disapprove of their silence on the issue of gay
rights, I think they are still our best bet.
When the Workers’ Party called for volunteers on Facebook, I hesitated. I
opened and closed the link at least 5 to 6 times before actually filling it
out for submission. I was scared like everyone else my age yet it is so
silly because I know that there is nothing to be afraid of. I don’t want to
live in fear anymore. This is my country and I’m merely exercising my
rights as a citizen.
I love Singapore and I want to make it better. A lot better.

Fastest Circulated Letter

Singapore Pte Ltd – a letter
Posted by theonlinecitizen on April 25, 2011
Samuel Lai

Dearest PAP,
You have been running Singapore like a business, like a corporation, where you are the top management, where the people of Singapore are your employees and where all other institutions like education, health and transport, are your subsidiaries. No sir, this is not Singapore Pte Ltd, and we are not working for you.
Every policy that you have come up with has been made with economic growth in mind, i.e., to increase profitability for Singapore Pte Ltd, with retained earnings going into the national reserves.
Our education model has been structured to produce a quality workforce so that we can contribute efficiently and effectively to the nation’s economic growth. You dispense with the arts and concentrate on the commerce and sciences. You bring in plenty of foreigners into our schools so that we have to learn to work and study harder in the face of more competition. And you have succeeded. We now work one of the longest hours in the world with low wages.
This has been done at the expense of social costs. As human beings, we have needs to get married, to start a family, to have kids. As human beings, we have needs for work-life balance, needs for social activities, and needs for communal living. The culture and environment you have so delicately created have come at the expense of those needs. We don’t have time to play football and therefore we suck at it. Ok, in fact we suck at everything that does not make money. And we definitely suck at making children.
When you look at our low fertility rate, which you have so created because of the environment you have made, you try to improve it by offering stop-gap solutions in baby bonuses and tax reliefs. And in fact, the reasons you want the fertility rate to rise is to continue providing quality workers to work for Singapore Pte Ltd, put more money into the reserves through taxes, HDB profits, consumption, investment, i.e. increase Singapore’s GDP.
And of course, the other viable solution is to attract talented foreigners to fill up this institutional void. This causes another set of problems, like whether locals find it harder to get jobs, and whether these diasporic communities will take up citizenship, or leave without further contributing to birth rates. Well, what the hell, talented foreigners are always good for Singapore Pte Ltd.
You privatize our transportation system. You couldn’t run such a basic necessity of a first-world country with the same efficient and effective fervor. So, running it as a private entity was the only viable way? You talk about health tourism. Is that what the health sector is about, making money from foreigners?
Once in a while you declare dividends (grow and share) to appease us, so that we don’t remove you from your managerial posts.
Perhaps the most telling of Singapore Pte Ltd are the KPIs of top management. Our CEO, earning $3 million per annum, has his wages pegged to GDP growth, and so are the wages of the COOs, the CFOs, and the various department heads. Your main motivation is Singapore Pte Ltd’s profitability. And given that at least 60% of Singapore’s GDP is contributed by Temasek Holdings and GIC, it certainly makes sense to increase the coffers of the national reserves.
It’s all about economic growth, economic growth, and economic growth.
However, countries are not just rated by economic growth. There are many other indicators that one may use to determine a country’s standing in the world, such as the purchasing power of the average citizen, the culture and ease of living, the efficiency of transportation, the range of quality education, the cleanliness of the streets, personal safety risks, and so on and so forth. You have undoubtedly excelled in some areas, but certainly not in others.
You forget that Singapore is not a corporation, but a community of individual human beings who have feelings, who can discern between what is good for us and what is not, what is fair and unfair. We, who have basic needs to have a roof put over our heads, and food to eat, have willingly contributed to your goal of building up the nation’s economy not because we are your employees but because we want Singapore to prosper, to achieve the vision of a first-world nation in which its citizens do not have negative emotions of fear, fear to vote, fear to speak freely, fear of the struggles of putting food on our table.
So, let me remind you, dearest PAP, that we have voted to put you where you are today. This makes us the shareholders. We are social beings, not economic assets. Together, we the citizens of Singapore own Singapore. It is us, the citizens, with our problems of rising costs of living, and not the profitability of the country that you have to care more about. And if you, dearest PAP, continue to run Singapore not as a nation of citizens but as a business, there will come a time when us, the shareholders, the real board of directors, vote you out and replace you with another management team.
Yours sincerely,
A shareholder of Singapore Pte Ltd

The Desperate Appeal of the MM - by Yoong Siew Wah, former ISD Chief

Copied this article from the Recalcitrant Singaporean, Yoong Siew Wah who was a former ISD chief. Very interesting that a number of former high ranking government officers such as Dr Ang Yong Guan and Benjamin Pwee, have come out in support of the Opposition. Mr Tan Jee Say explained that there is a difference between gratitude and servitude. He said he was grateful to the government and his former bosses in the government but it did not mean that he has to be in servitude to them.

The Desperate Appeal of the Minister Mentor

The amount of excitement that has been aroused on the opposition parties is something even the normally arrogantly sanguine MM Lee Kuan Yew could not fail to miss. It must have frightened the wits out of him to see that the wind of change has finally come to sweep the PAP from its pedestal. Maybe the PAP may not be swept from power, short of a freak election, but certainly an admission of a number of opposition MPs into Parliament is not a remote possibility. They will have the responsibility of providing a meaningful and effective check to the PAP's impetuosity in Parliament.
So our highfalutin MM Lee has suddenly waken up to this potential threat to the PAP monopolistic tranquillity in Parliament and decided to use his passé influence as a founding father of independent Singapore in a last desperate attempt to win back the pro-opposition votes for the PAP. So he goes into the ritual of how the first generation PAP leaders had gone through great political sacrifices and hardships to bring Singapore to its present prosperous state and appeals to voters not to rock the foundations, reminding them of what's at stake.
It cannot be argued that the first generation PAP leaders were selfless politicians who were in it not for the money. They were really there to serve the plebeians and to improve their livelihood politically and economically. The same may be said of the second generation PAPinit leaders ially until the mercenary PM Goh Chok Tong introduced overnight astronomical salaries in the region of millions a year for his already well-paid ministers and himself. The third generation PAP leaders inherited his preposterous financial legacy. The second and third generation leaders could hardly be described as selfless and not in it for the money. By the time they retire, all these affluent ministers are multi-millionaires enjoying humongous pensions.
MM Lee at tsaid that he May 7 General Election, the PAP is fielding candidates “of proven character, of high calibre and with a track of performance that shows they will not fail in taking on responsibilities". Can the same be really said of the 24 new PAP candidates? They are untested individuals and to are likely enter Parliament on the coat-tails of anchor ministers in the GRCs. So how are they of proven character and of high calibre? In fact some of the opposition candidates are no less eminent than the PAP candidates and can match them in every sphere. One of them Chen Show Mao even surpasses them in proven character and high calibre and his candidature has become a bee in the PAP's bonnet.
MM Lee concluded by calling on voters to vote for men and women of proven character and track records of high performance. Make the right choice to secure the future of your children and grandchildren. This is a desperate call to the voters to vote for PAP candidates by MM Lee who is himself an insult to the intelligence of the voters by standing for election in spite of his advanced age and blundering behaviour. That his Tanjong Pagar GRC is going to have a walkover is a travesty.
The writing is on the wall. The judicious Singapore voters will decide on May 7 whether there should be more opposition MPs in Parliament. This is history in progress and no PAP force can reverse it.

Another Guinness World Recprd : MP for 20 Years Without Winning a Single Vote!

Guinness world record for being a MP for 20 years without winning a single
Mr Koo Tsai Kee, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC is retiring. We
should offer him our heartiest congratulations!
He’s been an MP for 20 years since his foray into electoral politics
in 1991.
Mr Koo should be congratulated for achieving what no other
MP anywhere has probably ever achieved. That’s why the rather toned-down announcement of his
retirement and inconspicuous reports by the media has done him a great
So, what is it that this great man has done or achieved?
Mr Koo is the only MP who has, in all of his 20 years as MP, never won a
single vote in an election!
Because he has never really ever fought an election and
never ever won a single vote in an election!
No one in Tanjong Pagar has ever had to cast a single vote for or against him in all of his 20
years as MP.
1991… 1997… 2001… & 2006!
Walkovers all! Never contested!
Indeed, whichever way you look at it, an astounding feat.
Mr Koo has, without doubt, demonstrated what it means to be a successful
"Walkover MP"!
The Straits Times, in its own small and humble way, tried to pay a
well-deserved tribute to Mr Koo by telling us that „he has served residents
in two wards in the GRC: his own Tiong Bahru ward as well as Minister Mentor
Lee Kuan Yew’s Tanjong Pagar ward, where he stands in at Mr Lee’s Meet the
People sessions.
Mr Koo is also Minister of State (MOS) for Defence. Which means he takes home
some S$1.2 to S$1.6 million a year! At the S$15,000 a month as MP and that
salary of S$1.2 to S$1.6 million a year as MOS, Mr Koo can surely retire a very rich and happy man indeed.
Not bad for an MP who never contested an election and got any votes?