Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Haze thy neighbour

Right now, and for the last couple of days, Singapore's favourite website must the NEA's (National Environment Agency) PSI (not pounds per square inch, but pollution standards index) page which reports the 24-hourly and 3-hourly reading of the air in Singapore by region. The region with consistently the highest reading is the western part simply because it is geographically closest to the source of the smoke emitting from the island of Sumatra, which is one of the largest islands of the more than one thousand that make up Indonesia. But the rest of Singapore is no less polluted with find particulate matter that is harmful to health.

The bloody Indonesian government. It can't decide what to do about it. It can't decide how to stop this annual occurrence, it can't decide if they would want Singapore's help to fight the fires causing this air pollution, it can't decide who to point the blame at - i.e. businesses which practice the slash and burn technique, and even if they do, they cannot decide if they want to act. Right now, one can only say that Indonesia is impotent, really, it can't do anything about the problem, or chooses not to. All they are doing is wayanging away. Singapore is just a red dot and dots do not matter, I suppose. Not today, not ever. They're not going to change, unless their generals and wives visit the island for a shopping spree. But that's it. Its a spree, they are gone like the whirlwind and the haze comes back. And the rest of us, its neighbors, are left to hold the ball and suffer the consequences. It doesn't matter whether Singapore has strict emission rules, from the car to the cigarette, and punishes those on the island who pollute the place.  There's always the island of Sumatra, shaped like a cigar, which smolders away 2-3 months of the year.

I am not going to visit Indonesia for leisure for a long while now, blame the %#4%@&* idiots which calls itself a government.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The freak that never was

Another theory is working its way around the corner. According to this version, last Friday's General Election result was a freak result. If the PAP government had lost enough seats to boot it out of government, we'd call it a freak election result. But when the PAP wins so convincingly against expectations, is this not also a freak result?

There are people digging into various numbers and some have come up with the hypothesis that the swing originated from a particular group of people called new citizens. The assumption is that new citizens became new citizens because they liked what they saw, they liked the way Singapore is organized and governed, and they see it as a permanent home. So it is quite natural for them to vote for the PAP. The question is, how many of these became new citizens since the last election and  voted in GE 2015? For a start, there was an increase in the number of voters in GE 2015 - 2,304,331 to be exact. In GE 2011, the total number of registered voters was 2,060,373, making a difference of 243,958. This is a 11.8% increase. The number of spoilt votes in both GE 2011 and 2015 is more or less the same, around 2+ %. Given Singapore's declining birth rate over the last 20 years, the net increase in number can only be attributed to immigration/emigration. Obviously, an increase means there were more people coming into Singapore than going out. Thus the major component of the increased voter numbers can be attributed to new citizens in the last 4 years. Would these have caused the swing towards the PAP? Possibly.

This is a sketch of the new citizen hypothesis, but it does suggest that 'old' citizens may not have contributed as much to the PAP votes as has been assumed so far.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Thick Haze+Rain = ?

Thick Haze+Rain=Sauna. No thanks to our neighbour, Indonesia. That's how I felt when I was walking back to my office just now. Now, not only does Indonesia deign to give us oxygen for 10 months of the year, and the haze the other two months, their haze, mixed with rain has raised the temperature of the environment. I thought that rain would dissipate the haze, but no, it has mixed with the rain to give us something more potent - acid rain. Well, I may have exaggerated. But this is how Google defines acid rain:

"rainfall made so acidic by atmospheric pollution that it causes environmental harm, chiefly to forests and lakes. The main cause is the industrial burning of coal and other fossil fuels, the waste gases from which contain sulphur and nitrogen oxides which combine with atmospheric water to form acids." 
 I don't know if there are nitrogen or sulphur in the air now, I hope not. But if there are, it'll be a real concern.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The PAP did not win

After a day of speaking to some people, conversing through WhatsApp, reading what is on the internet and listening to the broadcast media, I have come to the conclusion that the PAP did not win but rather the opposition parties lost. What convoluted logic, you might ask. If you didn't lose, it means you won, right?

Well consider this. Everybody that I encountered today plus those I gathered 3rd hand, told me that they did not want to vote for the PAP, but considering the quality of the alternative, they had no real choice. Many just voted for the less bad party, or some not at all - i.e. spoilt their votes. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

I believe there remains a deep underlying disenchantment with the PAP, despite the landslide, and the overwhelming votes in favor of the PAP has sent this sentiment deeper. That is why social media will remain highly critical of a PAP government because there remains the perception that the WP can do little in Parliament to make any difference. Mr Low Thia Khiang, WP leader, has made this point his clarion call for GE 2015. Unfortunately, few heeded his call.

So the party is not over, not on social media, not by a mile.

10 reasons why PAP won

Here is a list of probable reasons for the unreasonable result of the GE 2015:

1.   No contest between house/estate and democracy.
2.   Too many "rubbish" parties - RP, NSP, SPP, SFP. SDA. There was just no choice.
3.   Credible ones like the WP and SDP have been tainted historically, fairly or unfairly.
4.   No one can (be allowed to) run town councils and balance the books except the PAP.
5.   Gerrymandering - attending this masterclass is required to qualify for PAP senior membership and win elections.
6.   Reverse mote and beam effect.
7.   Miracle - Rising from the dead (LKY effect)
8.   Feel good factor - SG50, freebies, fireworks, and PGP.
9.   Military might - Leopard Tanks on the streets during National Day celebrations
10. Hungry Ghosts have packed up and heading for the door.

Seriously, this is CNA's analysis.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

PAP GE2015 Tsunami

Without a doubt, a Tsunami swept through Singapore last night, trickling in after 9pm and then rolling in seemingly unexpectedly unstoppably as the night progressed. It was unabated even after midnight. The only respite came on a tiny bay that was protected by a barrier of rock called Hougang. The Tsunamic only subsided after Aljunied bay provided resistance, but only just. At the end of the day, the carnage was obvious. The PAP tsunamic had caused devastation that few had expected. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the PAP has scored a landslide victory in the GE 2015. It swept all constituencies except those that it did not already hold except one. And the victory was at hugely increased majorities, some going as high as 75%. 

Before voting closed, the PAP was biting its nails, but this proved wholly unnecessary as the night wore on. It began scratching its head, wondering if some miracle was taking place on a cool September night right in front of its eyes. Others were beginning to become sick, wondering what was happening to their bodies. "It was time to go to bed", they resigned. The noise they had anticipated wasn't likely to send them into cloud nine. The ship had come to harbour, safe and sound, spared the rocks that threatened to sink it.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you have just witnessed a landslide victory of outsize proportion. LKY, wherever he is now, would have been very pleased and proud. The political party he founded is alive and well after half a century, regaining the support of most of the island's citizens. Ink will be spilt in the coming days and weeks reflecting on this extremely surprising phenomenon. It just goes to show that life throws you curve balls sometimes, and you don't know where it comes from nor how to catch it, unless you are seasoned enough.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Smoking polls

Went to the polling station this morning. This time around, the station is located in a HDB Pavilion - a sort of a roofed courtyard that is often either used for wedding receptions (a favourite of our Malay friends) or funerals (a favourite of our Chinese friends). There is no air-con but in the morning when I was there, it was quite comfortable except for the hazy atmosphere. No, not the one contributed by the Indonesians, the air was quite smoky, you can smell it in the air. It comes from the burn bin used to burn joss papers. It is, after all, still the 7th month. But I do pity the people who manned the polling station. They have nowhere else they can go to. And the pavilion is surrounded by apartment blocks thus obstructing any wind.

Perhaps in future, the people in charge can look into the welfare of our polling officers. It is ironic that this should happen at all as Singapore complains to the Indonesians but does not bother to look at itself.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

WP leading in the election

Speaking in dialects appears to have been a favourite tactic in GE2015. The latest is Sun Xueling speaking in Hokkien. It was quite natural for Low Thia Khiang to speak in Teochew. He has been doing so from day one as a politician in his former ward of Hougang. The PAP candidates, who pride themselves for being different are meekly, no loudly, imitating the WP's Low. Who does the PAP want us to follow? Its leaders or WP? The PAP has capitulated to the WP, or more specifically, Mr Low Thia Khiang!

On another level, is the PAP disavowing the legacy of its founder, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who launched the 'Speak Mandarin Campaign'? LKY argued that a multitude of dialects divided the country. LKY, and the PAP government were so successful that it destroyed a whole generation of Singaporeans' ability to speak in any other dialect except Mandarin. Is the PAP doing a  u-turn, admitting it had been wrong, or is it just being condescending?

Here is a list of instances of candidates speaking in dialects in GE2015 if you are interested in listening in:

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

PAP Math wizardry: 1+1=3

RP's Ken Jeyaratnam proposed cutting NS from 2 to 1 year. S Iswaran replied that this will worsen the manpower crunch. Wouldn't releasing more young people onto the economy earlier result in an increase in manpower? It doesn't take our world-beating students to figure such basic math. Mr Iswaran better consult his children next whenever Maths comes up. Otherwise Singapore will be done for. Alternatively, we can let Ken, who was previously a fund manager, take over. I like his proposal about NS.

See today's Today newspaper page A2 for the report, if you missed his embarrassing math 'live' , on the 9pm news yesterday.

Friday, September 04, 2015

A lion in the midst

Going by my armchair view of the hustings so far, it would appear that the mouse in the house is actually the ruling PAP. The Worker's Party looks like the lion capable of eating up the mouse in Bukit Batok (paraphrasing the WP). By all measure, its rally in Hougang on 2 Sep appears to have been very successful, certainly appearing to be the most well attended so far. People are just so tickled by the quotable (and may I add, intelligent) quotes that came out of the Hougang rally. At this stage, quote for quote, the WP has won hands down. Now keep an eye tonight in Nee Soon, where its next rally will be held.

Even with the local media typically behind them, the PAP has been relatively quiet. I suppose people don't need to attend their rallies because whatever they have to say they have already said in the past 4+ years they have been in power. The big carrots rolled out have been quite obvious in the last year or so. People are just not interested in seeing the PAP candidates praising themselves on stage in an election rally, I suppose.

I think people really want to hear what the WP want to say. Having been in Parliament and running town councils for 4+ years, their words seem more credible. People don't necessarily want regime change. And personally, I would rather that we follow the WP's script.

On the other hand, I am just sick and tired of K Shanmugam and his parrot, Khaw BW going on about WP's nefarious activities behind closed doors. It just so reminds me of an Indian fortune teller who would come around the place with a parrot in its cage. It would release the parrot to pick from a deck of cards to tell a fortune. This was when I lived in the Naval Base in the 1970s. I have always wondered what happened to that parrot. You know what? The Naval Base was part of the Sembawang Constituency. What a coincidence!

Well, coming back, I'd say, don't beat a dead horse deader already. It would appear that the PAP's highly paid Ministers have nothing else to beat. People would rather listen to what the WP is saying. Now go figure.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Can you stand for this?

"I can't standz it no more", so said Popeye. My sentiment exactly, when I read of "Saint" Khaw Boon Wan's words regarding the ongoing problems that the WP has had with its accounts. The latest, of course, is the MND coming out, days before the General Election kicks off, about the WP 'overpaying' its contractor for town council services in Worker's Party held constituencies. He used the word "friends" when referring to the contractor, parroting K Shanmugam without much thought. The word is emotive and brings unsaid compliments or aspersions, as the case may be.

How did Mr Khaw come to the conclusion that FMSS bosses are WP's/Low Thai Khiang's friends? Because they work in the same office? Friends are whom you go out with, share with them your personal thoughts and feeling, help each other out when the need arises, rebuke them when they have done wrong, if only to get to back to the straight and narrow. These are examples of friends. So I don't know what mischief "Saint" Khaw was up to.

The best you can say about Low and FMSS Directors are that they are regular and perhaps trusted partner, but friends? Then again, I do not claim to know their exact relationship, but I feel that if there is a suspicion that a crime has been committed, then the police should be called in, or the CPIB at least. But no, these PAP bigwigs just want to throws stones from the side, to "ka'cheow" the WP. The law, well, it is irrelevant in this instance.

I have told those within hearing that if I were living in the Aljunied GRC, I'd vote WP at the drop of a hat, if only because I cannot stand some of these all-knowing self-serving, and frankly, thoughtless, PAP Ministers anymore. I hope that Aljunied GRC residents share my sentiments.

Friday, August 28, 2015


The PAP is not serious, is it? It is fielding a relatively lightweight team of mostly rookie candidates in the Aljunied GRC ward to battle the tried and tested WP team that includes its founder leader, Mr Low Thia Kiang and its Chairman, Ms Sylvia Lim. We can read it two ways:

1. Aljunied GRC is an almost surely a lost cause. The WP has become so entrenched that dislodging them will be a Herculean task. So no point sacrificing Ministers. Remember that George Yeo was a significant loss to the party and the government. This PAP team is expendable.

2. The PAP believes that the WP's reputation and competence has already been torn to shreds so that whoever (read PAP) contest the ward will surely win against the WP. It won't be a walkover, of course not, but the WP won't stand a chance as the PAP steamroller comes to town.

Whichever, my sense is that the PAP does not think that its chance of winning back Aljunied GRC is very high. But then, you never know. The same way that George Yeo was defeated may come back to haunt the WP this time around.

p.s. I stand corrected. WP's founder was the late David Marshall.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Development economics - 101

For those of you who are wondering where the free book "UNDP and the making of the Singapore's Public Service" reported in the Straits Time might be available online, I found a copy here: http://issuu.com/undppublicserv/docs/booklet_undp-sg50-winsemius_digital

You do need to sign up to the Issuu site, but it is worth it for the sheer amount of popular publication such as quite current magazines, available for free on Issuu.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Q for the money

It is said that Singaporeans like to queue. This is proof yet again. Long lines were seen outside of banks. Singaporeans were seen queueing on 20th August 2015 to exchange their money for newly designed notes that commemorates Singapore's Golden Jubilee. Although $20 million worth of the new notes will be printed, enough for all Singaporeans, people just love to queue. Yesterday morning, before the bank was opened, some people had already staked their positions in a queue in front of the bank entrance. Hello...this is not the launch of Apple's latest gadget.

This is proof yet again that Singaporeans are not as hardworking, as in being productive, working late, typically till 7-8pm,  as they have been made out to be. They would rather stand (or sit) in a queue for hours on end than to do something more productive. The only way in which Singapore has any hope of increasing the productivity of its workforce is to replace these people with robots. No no no, the robot won't replace the person in the queue, they'll replace the person in the workplace.

Singaporeans like to queue, right? Its a distinctly Singapore thing, uniquely Singapore...sigh....

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Times and Seasons

Election fever is in the air in Singapore, as Defence Minister, Mr Ng Eng Hen announced. What better time to light up the fire of the election machinery of the PAP than in this Jubilee year? And what better year to hold a General Election? There is speculation that polling day will be 12 September 2015, the last day of the Ghost month. Some have even spoken about this date with certainty, as if they have the inside track on the PM's thoughts. But I'd say it isn't a bad bet.

As the days and weeks progress towards that date, the PAP has been revealing its slate of candidates, with many MPs either retiring or moving from their wards. On the other hand, the WP, being the only opposition party, has stated that its sitting MPs are staying put. The PAP can afford to play musical chairs because its proposition, its selling point, has never been about the MP, the candidate. It is about the Party. So it doesn't matter if the incumbent moves away. (Well, I am wrong here. It matters because if the incumbent stayed on to fight, he/she will lose, for sure). But the PAP's spin is that the replacement will be just as good - its a tag team, bro. That's why you sometime never knew that that person is an MP. Let me qualify that - a PAP MP.

While the WP seem to be holding together, and the other pretenders too. However the NSP imagines that it has invested too much into the constituency of Macpherson to back out now and are therefore reneging on its earlier promise. No wonder that its Sec-General resigned! How to gain the trust of the people when a party behaves so dishonourably even before elections are called? Better balek kampong lah.