Saturday, April 30, 2011

No money no house

In these Elections, the PAP has warned (actually, I was thinking of using the word 'threatened') that the value of Singaporean's properties, which mostly refers to their houses, will likely fall if the Opposition Parties were to win in their constituencies. The latest came from none other than SM Lee Kuan Yew, with (surprise?) Mr Mah Bow Tan, the Housing Minister (formally the Minister of National Development), sitting beside him. Earlier on, Mr Mah had criticised the Workers' Party for proposing that public housing prices not be pegged to the resale market prices, but instead to the median income of Singaporeans. He warned that doing so will cause property prices to fall and thereby possibly wipe out a substantial value of every Singaporean's house. Well, I won't go into the arguments which have swung back and forth and will probably still be debated long after the Elections.

My point is so what if the valuations dropped? The increased values of our houses are first of all, unrealized gains. What good is it to be told that my house is worth $900K when the house that I need to replace it with, should I want to cash out, will probably cost me $900K, if not more? So what real gains are there, really? How much more wealthy have we become with all the touted asset enhancements brought to the people by the PAP government?  Now I would admit that this is true for the older generation, those that bought their HDB apartments relatively cheap, direct from the government. They probably paid $120K to $180K, or thereabouts, for a 4 or 5 room apartment back in the 1980s and early 1990s, but have since then made a real pile of money as the values of their properties have increased 3 or 4-fold. Well, the younger Singaporeans among us have found that this is no longer true. They have to pay through their noses nowadays for their first HDB apartment, and more if they have to settle for a resale one. And part of the reason is that the government had decided to price public housing according to market rates. So the Workers' Party does have a point. The disappointment is that the PAP cannot see the point, or at least is pretending not to. A climb-down now during these Elections will cause a lost of face, if not votes.

I admit that I am one of those who benefited from the relatively cheap housing in the early 1990s, and I voted for them in every election. But you know, I don't gain any more benefit from the rising value of my house today. On the other hand, the increased (and increasing) valuation of my property only attracts higher property tax. The real beneficiary of asset enhancements is the government. So, tell me, Mr Mah, how has PAP's recent housing policies really benefited me and the many property-owning Singaporeans?

See also Mr Wang Says So

Friday, April 29, 2011

Devil fight devil

The Singapore General Elections are in full swing. All but one constituency is being contested. Some have very strong and credible opposition teams, such as that in the Aljunied GRC. There is a sprinkling of other promising opposition candidates spread across the other opposition parties, so this General Election is shaping up to be a fight to watch.

But I was puzzled when Mr Khaw Boon Wan, erstwhile PAP man and Health Minister was reported to have said, "You cannot suddenly plonk somebody, no matter how bright and take charge of a government". (MyPaper, 29 April 2011, page A8). Is he speaking for the opposition or for the PAP, because that's exactly what the PAP did, 'plonk' some people into the PAP election teams and expect them to form the next government - people like the 2 high flying Generals, and the Doctor who was gifted a seat in Parliament when another PAP candidate pulled out at the last minute, and even a former civil servant who paid for her early release from the Civil Service, not to speak of that girl.... Is Minister Khaw a shadow opposition member, because, in this instance, he appears to be carrying the torch for them.

Perhaps PM Lee should look at the devils within?

Friday, April 08, 2011

On Second Thoughts

Opposition MP Low Thia Khiang pitch about buying political insurance now resonates with me. The present government is good, but it is not perfect. Some policies are not debated enough in Parliament nowadays. Many PAP members make the obligatory speeches, especially near election time. Truth be told I am hearing from some 'new' MPs in Parliament in the last few months. I didn't know they were MPs, to start off with. I couldn't place their names at all, much less their faces. It is said that faces are easier to remember, but.... Sylvia Lim, only a losing finalist and thus not a duly elected MP, has been far more visible. And even when they speak, they don't offer fresh perspectives, and tend to sing the same tune as the government. Their speeches do not inspire and make you sit up. In fact their speeches are so bland that I wonder why Mediacorp even bother to broadcast their speeches on TV.

And yes, they are yes-men and yes-women. Take the proposal to reduce GST, as proposed by Mr Low Thia Khiang. If there were a Tan Cheng Bock or a Tan Soo Khoon, it could have been different. I am sure they will bring something new to the debate. But the current generation of PAP MPs? I suppose they assume that Mr Tharman, with his array of statistics, can only be right. Where is the debate? The cut and thrust that once fired up Mr Lee Kuan Yew and  which helped to engage with the electorate and carry them into and through unchartered waters. There are still uncharted waters in the future, as the PM always reminds us, but who can carry us through them? The A-team? 'A' in the classroom only or 'C' on the ground too - the ability to Carry the ground on their own steam?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The 10 Reasons

PM Lee Hsien Loong's speech that there is not enough good people in Singapore to form another team of government ministers is less than convincing, to say the least. That the PAP has tried their level best to attract good people into the party and to stand for elections but failed does not mean that there are not enough good and capable people who can take over the government. Most of the new PAP faces come from government or the trade unions. You wonder why. I think there is an obligation factor involved or even a ladder-climbing opportunity, I mean, for the serving civil servants. After all, they don't have to resign their civil service posts if they become MP, do they? The PAP has wondered why people from the private sector are so reluctant to go into politics. I think these are possible reasons, which, I am sure the PAP also knows:

1. Being in government will make no difference to career advancement in the private sector. What's more, loose change under the table is an unpardonable sin. In the private sector, under the table shenanigans are sometimes obligatory to move the business agenda forwards, no?;
2. The good people know there is already a good government, so they wouldn't be able to contribute significantly more. In this sense, the PAP is a victim of its own success;
3. The good people don't agree with the PAP, which isn't the same as not agreeing with the government. Perhaps some of the ways the PAP does things, their policies and approaches just put these people off;
4. They don't like playing politics, at least not in public though they may not shy away from it in the office. The variables are far less in the office compared to the public. They are in control, not controlled;
5. The PAP is looking for Saints. So the good people don't want their past to be dredged up, for example, forgetting to pay that $100 tax 10 years ago, whether intentional or not. There is such a thing known as guilt by association;
6. The sixth is an extension of the 5th. They don't want dirt to be digged up about their close ones, or even the not so close ones, although they were in the least at fault themselves;
7. They don't see themselves as patriots who feel they have a responsibility to give back to society. This doesn't make them bad people, does it?;
8. They value time spent with the family more than power and glory;
9. They don't want to be traumatized and have some senior person tell on them; and
10. They hate white shirts and trousers / dress pants.

Well, ok, the last reason is somewhat frivolous, but your can't blame people for their dress sense. But you know, there are about enough reasons to stay out, at least for those thousands who are successful in the private sector. If there aren't these thousands of good people out there, who do you think is bringing wealth into Singapore? The sitting MPs?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Kidding you kidding me*

Has SM Goh Chok Tong lost it? He back tracked when he realised that his initial remarks about Ms Tin Pei Ling having to seek 'trauma specialist' Dr Fatimah Lateef's help for trauma suffered due to negative talk of her hadn't been stately as befits a senior Minister. But instead of saying 'I stand corrected...' as MM Lee Kuan Yew did when he back tracked on his remarks about Malays being a race apart in his book "Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going", SM Goh put it down to jesting (tongue-in-cheek was the word he used). And what is worst, the Straits Times are also convinced that he was merely joking and making people look like fools for taking him that seriously over the remark. Unfortunately, this remark, made on Facebook and went to Twitter on 2nd April, couldn't count for an April Fool's day joke. Otherwise, Mr Goh could have honestly explained it all away.

First, even if it was a joke, it was done in bad taste. Given how Ms Tin has reportedly suffered, the last thing SM Goh should have done is to pour oil over simmering coals. He did so. The PAP has always said that people who stand for national elections must be serious people, and here, you have have a senior minister jesting over one of its own deeply hurt comrade. Was it really intentional? It would appear that only the PAP and the Straits Times believe that it is.

Second, it would have been good if SM Goh were contrite about his ill-considered remark (also known as a boo-boo). I believe that what he was originally reported to have said, about Ms Tin having to seek medical (psychiatric) help, was true. Instead of coming clean, as PAP always demands of its opponents, he sidestepped the issue by trying to pull wool over the eyes of the rest of Singapore, claiming that he wasn't serious at all. Come on, Mr Goh, give Singaporeans more credit for being able to tell the difference between serious and foolish talk. That's what you would want them to do in the coming General Elections, right? Representatives of the PAP should do no less.

Apparently, SM Goh has still not learnt enough from the Master in the art of contrition, not that the Master is a particularly contrite man.

See Yahoo's report

* to be sung to the tune of ABBA's 'Loving me loving you".

Friday, April 01, 2011

Youth in the Box

What's wrong being 27 and standing for national elections? Singaporeans are biased and can be sexist too. Many people are casting doubts on Ms Tin Pei Ling's qualification for standing as a PAP candidate for elections, slated to be held either this month or in May 2011. Many say she is too young and thus lacking the bearing of a law maker and representative of the people. People forget that one of the important roles of an MP is to think on the national scale, propose measures to do something better or institute suitable controls via laws to facilitate activities for the country. Sadly, in Singapore, MPs are more often viewed as glorified social workers, whose job is to write letters, petition government departments for this convenience and that 'want', and, occasionally do some walkabouts for the publicity. It would be even sadder if MPs themselves view their role in this limited, parochial manner. But so far, that's the impression I get from a majority of little-known sitting-MPs who turn up to speak in Parliament only near election time.

But lets not judge a person by her youth. It has been pointed out that Mr Tan Soo Khoon, a former PAP MP, was also 27 when he entered Parliament. Actually, Ms Tin, age-wise, is in good company. Britain's four-time PM, William Gladstone, whose political life spanned over 60 years, first entered Parliament when he was only 23 years old. The similarity, for now, ends there. If she is elected, she will be judged sooner rather than later, with all manner of yardsticks thrown at her. Then only can we know the measure of this brave woman.