Thursday, January 31, 2013

Singapore for Lease

The government of Singapore just announced that its target population growth number, right up to 2030, will be 6.9 million. No one can fault this government for being forward thinking. In fact, right from the very beginning, in 1959, Singapore has been led by a group of highly capable people who put policies into place that has brought it first world status in less than 40 years. You can't take away this achievement. I grew up under this government, and I must say, benefitted from these policies. There may be many naysayers. I suppose they might have had a vastly different and likely unpleasant experience compared to mine, but I would venture to say that for most of us citizens, life has become good. This is brought home the more you travel outside the country.

But I come not to praise the past, important as it may be. Let us not forget history, how we got to where we are lest a collective amnesia comes to haunt us one day. I come to consider how the current leaders appear to have a plan to lease out the entire country to foreigners come 2030. I quote Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for the Environment & Water Resources, about the rationale for this policy Whitepaper:

"...we will need some kind of 'top up' over the next two decades - foreigners to work with us, care for us, pay taxes and to help create opportunities...".  (Today, 31 Jan 2013, page 4).

If this doesn't sound like renting out our country for monetary returns, I don't know what is.  According to the numbers worked out in this scenario, by 2030, we will have 2.5 million foreigners gainfully employed in our midst whereas citizens will make up 3.8 million working people. That's roughly a 40% foreigner and 60% citizen-working population. Well, if you think about it, this scenario is based very much on our experience today. The older citizens among us are well endowed with residential properties. Many rent part or even all of these out to foreigners. It does not take a leap of imagination to arrive at the thought that we can rent out the entire country, much as we do our houses in order for our tenants, the foreigners, to "care for us" and "pay our taxes".

My worry is that this assumes the foreigners amongst our midst are stupid enough to support us in our "old age". Why should they? They come here to make money for themselves, to live for themselves, and to leave when things don't go right. Otherwise they won't be foreigners, would they? They'd would have traded in their foreign citizenship for Singapore's. But our government is an optimistic lot, and they think they can hook these 2.5 million foreigners, hook, line and sinker, to support the old folks in Singapore, willingly or unwillingly.

The optimism expressed in the White Paper goes beyond belief. And given that the current government has messed up the triumvirate policies on foreign workers, transport and housing in the past ten years, it doesn't give me any confidence in the robustness of the policy proposals. The White Paper would likely turn out to be largely a work of fiction.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hazarding a guess

Ms Lee Li Lian, opposition Workers' Party candidate for the Punggol East By-Election, was elected MP last evening. Congratulations to her!

It is said that her margin of victory was unexpected. In fact, it was astounding. I had earlier said to some colleagues that Dr Koh will be elected, no doubt about that. Well, it just shows how bad I am about politics and predictions. I am glad I stayed away from making too many predictions, and making them openly, unlike Mr Desmond Lim who, unwisely, put himself up for election and lost his deposit for the second time. I appreciate his wanting to "stay faithful", but I thought it was foolishness. When people have all but said they are not interested in you (he garnered only 4.45% in the last General Elections (2011), he should have seen the writing on the wall. Numbers do tell a story, pity that he cannot or refuse to see it. How to be a leader like that? Who dare follow you to the edge of a cliff?

At least Chee Soon Juan of the SDP has better sense, and perhaps, in the longer run, timing. But well, Mr Lim's deposit money will go to government coffers, and that will benefit the people, right?

But back to Ms Lee, whom the press has described as a "feisty" women. Indeed, she had the guts to stand against a much more highly educated specialist doctor. Of course she benefitted from the strong support of WP's leadership and machinery, but nevertheless, it is Ms Lee who is putting her head on the chopping block. She reportedly work tirelessly, visited every apartment block in the constituency, and made hard hitting speeches in the rallies. Perhaps not the best, not the longest and not the most inspiring. She might have had a lot of coaching, But then, who doesn't get coached? So you must give it to her for running a tireless campaign. And I salute the 54.52% of the voters who threw in their lot with her.

They were not seduced by the PAP's rash of "special offers" leading up to and during the political hustings. They were not distracted by other fringe candidates. They did not have a lot of amenities. But they placed their trust in this erstwhile Normal Stream and subsequently Polytechnic graduate (she also earned a business degree from Curtin University). Nowhere comparable to an MBBS and whatever other letters after Dr Koh's name. That's either faith or foolishness, only time will tell.

But I surmise that she will do well. But then, that's me with my predictions again. However, I am entitled to be right at least for once?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Two for one

Two for the price of one. The PAP candidate, Dr Koh Poh Koon, for the recently vacated constituency of Punggol East is promising that he will still serve the constituency in the unlikely event of not being elected. That's what all candidates seem to be promising nowadays. If you win, you serve, if you don't win, you'd still want to serve. Happened in Potong Pasir constituency where the PAP slogged for 30 years as a non-representative before narrowly wresting it back from the Singapore Democratic Party/Singapore Democratic Alliance in 2011. I suppose the electorate needs to be wooed, not just with carrots for today but the entire carrot farm. People just don't like "professional parachutist" who come by to win elections but otherwise cannot be seen nor heard. Happened in Hougang constituency too. Mr Desmond Choo promised to continue serving the residents even after his defeat at the polls last year. I am sure both men are sincere, and that's a bonus for the electorate. So does it matter anymore if the PAP candidate wins at all?

But of course. Singaporeans are not dumb. It has been demonstrated many times over that a PAP MP is best able to erect buildings such as community spaces, hospitals, sports complexes, wet markets and the like at greater speed and certainty than any opposition party candidate can. They don't have to content with dirty tricks blocking their way. Don't get me wrong. I am not urging voters to vote PAP in the Punggol East by-election on 26 January 2013. I am not writing about a situation that has not already been practiced and proven elsewhere. It is just a fact of life in Singapore for years now. That's the benefit of having been in power for so long. The civil and social infrastructure virtually belongs to one party - the PAP, so much so that the PAP cannot see it being used, nor shared, by any other party, never mind that tax-payers' money enabled these to be realized in the first place. The AIM-AHTC saga has demonstrated this.

So the opposition parties have their work cut out for them. And from the look of things, every opposition party wants a piece of this pie. They can use this platform to blow their trumpets but not necessarily to win. So when you know that the chance of winning is slim, you don't need to shy away. Take the opportunity to hold rallies, trumpet your policies, reach out to people, blast the competitors and prepare for 2016 when the next GE is scheduled to be held. The people of Punggol East appear to have been quite happy with the performance of its last PAP MP. Why would they want to change, anyway? It is really local bread and butter issues that most electorates are concerned about, not freedoms of expression and greater opposition representation in Parliament and the like. But who knows the minds of the electorate?

But strange things can happen...stay tuned.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Suspect body of work

Here it goes again, another sordid account of sex and lies rolled into a case of corruption in "squeaky clean" Singapore. This time, a law professor stands accused of favouring a student through an illicit sexual relationship. The student reportedly gained from the tryst through better grades in the professor's classes. The Court is now called upon to decide if there is any truth to the allegations.

Once again, the CPIB's "star" witness, the student in question, has given evidence in Court that contradicts the statements she gave to the CPIB during its investigations and upon which the same body has proceeded to charge another with corruption. Why again? Because in another case of corruption with illicit sex, CPIB "star" witness, a Ms Cecilia Sue, also offered contradictory evidence in Court - accounts that did not square with the statements she gave the same CPIB officers.

I am leaving the Courts to decide, as I must, the merits of each of these cases. But my question is, what is wrong with the CPIB? Surely having its star witness perjuring themselves in Courts once is an aberration, but when it happens again, you begin to wonder how CPIB obtains the written evidence upon which a case is made. From what I have learnt so far from the press, it appears that such evidence may not have been given entirely voluntarily, which explains differing accounts proffered in a Court of Law and the CPIB statements. For the second time in as many months, CPIB has had to decide if it is going to impeach the evidence of its main witness. The greater question is if CPIB has not lost its credibility as an investigating body that aims to uncover corrupt practices. Can CPIB bring another case to court without the same thing happening again? The likelihood, going by the two recent cases, suggests that it is not high.

We shall soon know as there are two pending cases that will be brought to Court in the coming weeks, that of the corruption cases of Mr Lim Sin Pang, formerly chief of the SCDF, and Rev Kong Hee of the City Harvest Church. Well, maybe not the latter as it does not involve sex. But one never knows.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Mind your own IT business

Singaporean, or at least those politically-aware, would have seen it coming. A reportedly shell company owned entirely by the PAP buying up a software system that was developed with tax-payer money for the sake of maintaining a software system that experts have judged as "obsolete and unmaintainable" defies every rule of business logic. But let me not be accused of repeating anything libelous. After reading through whatever is there on the internet regarding the AIM-AHTC saga, both from AHTC and AIM, I came away with the distinct impression that AHTC has not explained the situation clearly and fully, and AIM has not been convincing at all with its explanation.

This is why the blog posts on this subject by Mr Alex Au on his Yawning Bread blog has not only captured the attention of the social media, it has been vetted through a fine toothcomb by the PM's lawyers, who have determined that parts of the posts are libelous and threatened to sue. Truth be told, I don't read Yawning Bread at all, but due to the publicity that has been stirred up, I have also begun my "fine toothcombing" of the posts, some of which are quite lengthy and appears to have been a product of extensive research. Dr Teo Ho Pin's explanation (defence) of the issues raised by both WP's Sylvia Lim, bloggers and social media, pales in comparison. To me, his explanation raised more questions that it answered. Quite obviously, he has never been an IT professional, but trying to explain an IT business. It's like expecting Ms Saw to run a train company, no?

I do not propose to jump into the fray to add my 2 cents worth, for it is only 2 cents after all. I have no first hand contact with either party that I can add meaningfully to the unfolding events. The only thing I want to say is that it appears that the PAP has become rather petty of late. It used to be that they were focused on winning the hearts and minds of Singaporeans, never mind that similar libel laws have been used in the past. I don't know about Mr Au's political affiliations, but he appears to be a private citizen expressing his opinion publicly in a medium that even PAP stalwarts and Ministers have embraced with a vengeance. And anyone who have read those posts will come away with the impression that it is not all rant. Is this precisely the reason why he is being sued, that he is being too honest? (Brazen is another word to substitute for honest).

Unfortunately, those who are late to the "game" will never be able to judge for themselves as the offending post has been removed from the blog. How to have a conversation like that?

Read AsiaOne for reports around this saga. Then trawl the internet for the details.
Is this AIM or is that AIM?