Thursday, November 30, 2006

Confused and disappointed

To quote:
"ST Nov 29, 2006
Ministerial pay 'lags behind benchmark'
But decision on whether to relook salaries rests with PM, says SM Goh

By Sue-Ann Chia

BRATISLAVA (SLOVAKIA) - MINISTERS' salaries are pegged to that of the private sector, but they still lag behind the benchmark.

It is therefore likely that when civil service pay is reviewed, ministers' salaries will also be looked at, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday."

You must be joking, right? First transport prices are raised, then ERP, then GST, and now MPs pay?

*applauds*

I must admit, I never even dare think about it; considering the predictions of post-election hikes.

Look here, I have a few questions:
  1. Does it make sense to compare our ministers' salaries with that of the private sectors?
  2. Should not a minster's pay be compared to his counterparts in other countries?
  3. The US president annual pay is US$200,000, while my Prime Minister's annual basic salary is US$1,100,000.
    - Source from Asian Wall Street Journal 10 Jul 2000

Someone tell me again. Is this a joke?

  1. Firstly, how can a minister's pay be pegged to the private sector or top earners? See the flaw here.
  2. Secondly, it's not apple-to-apple comparison!
  3. Thirdly, how can a minister pay himself so much when:
    - the US GDP (in 2005) is $ 12,310,000,000,000
    - Singapore GDP (in 2005): $ 126,500,000,000 (figures from CIA website publications)?
  4. Salaries of a general citizen are pegged to their productivity determined by the National Wage Council. How is it that my Ministers are benchmarked to the salaries of the top earners in the private sector?

Doesn't take much common sense that this whole minister salary increase is wrong. Totally wrong!

Who determines how much they get? Themselves? National Wage Council (who also consists of themselves)? Benchmark against the top earners in the six profession? Sheesh. Shouldn't it be the public who decides?

Why aren't the ministers assets declared? Or even their directorships holdings made known with declared takings each month/year?

To declare 2% GST hike and then tell me that they intend to increase the ministers salaries? Oh, the cheek of it.

As if they do not have enough money already. How many in Singapore actually bring home an annual pay package of $150k?

Sometimes I wonder - wouldn't it be better to have lower pay salaries and risk the corruption?

I don't know... I'm just confused.

And sorely disappointed.

PS. And the civil servants 2.2 months bonus is just a one-time. Ministers salaries are not. Why not increase the salaries of the lower-income group?

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Finn who loved Singapore (propaganda)? Help the poor? Fishy.

Read up some interesting article on the Finn (Mika Sampovaara) who praised Singapore model. However there were some 'hidden' stuff about him, which as usual the Straits Times did not publish:
Goodness. The cheek of it.

Putting character assassination aside, there are only 2 questions that will shed more light about his intent:
  • How much does Mika the Finn earn per year? Does he fall into the 'elite' category?

I bet he does. He's a derivatives trader. So of course he will sing praises on the elite model.

  • Has he converted his citizenship to that of Singapore?

Do you think the Finn is here because he loves Singapore? Or is he grabbing what he can here in Singapore (by paying lesser tax and other benefits) and then retire back in Finland?

I wonder who is the idiot now? SPH? Government? I can only say it's us, Singaporeans.

PS. A lot of my foreign friends do the same thing. Ever ask them about converting their citizenship? Heh.

---
Todayonline.com informs us:
Fishy.

I don't know Econonics, but I know what regressive tax is. Thanks to the information I gather from the internet.

There are lots of articles about the 2% GST hike. And many have shown how it will affect a Singaporean.

Listing a few that I thought would shed some light:
  1. Robbing Peter to pay Peter
  2. Low income and corporate tax = more investments?
  3. Can an increase in GST help the poor?

Thus saith the government. Just printing an article on a minister supporting the motion ain't going to get anyone far these days.

I just will like to remind the government that the citizens are more well-read than before. Information abounds in the Internet (and also blog) world.

---
A comment I've written in the P65er blog in response to Lim Wee Kiak's comments on the GST hike:

"Hi WK,

From your replies:

It seemed the GST hike will be coming, no matter what the majority of the population says. It was as if the hike was decided some time ago, and when it was announced, the word was to 'diffuse' the tension with counter measures and lots of discussion.

Then there will be a confirmed announcement in Feb’07, with rehashed reasons cited in Oct’06.

Like it or not, the government has decided on the 2% GST hike.

Sounds familiar? I draw you to the Casino (let’s call a spade a spade) debate. If there was a debate at all.

The reasons provided for the GST hike till today does not convince any man on the street.

“Your concern is mine too when I learned about the GST increase. I am not an economist but from the papers I read, globalisation is one of the key drivers. ”

Again globalisation? That means to say it’s also alright to migrate or leave one’s country to work elsewhere too? *read sarcasm*

Politicians have used this word too flippantly, in my honest opinion.

It’s akin to weird weather changes and blaming it on El-Nino, Global warming, Ozone depletion, etc. It’s like telling the masses, what can we do? It’s bound to happen. Take it, accept it. Once you get past the first stage, it won’t hurt so much. Afterall, it’s the bottom line dollar that matters.

So we have transport fare hikes, ERP hikes, GST hikes. Again I’ve said in Zaqy’s blog, what’s next? Conservancy? Utilities?

“Face with an aging population, changing demographics, increased competition from other countries such as Ireland and Hong Kong (with lower taxes) for foreign direct investments and retention of our high net worth individuals, I see we don’t have much choices. I welcome any suggestions that can help Singapore in the long run.”

There will always be other countries who are doing this and that. So must we follow suit? If yes, I don’t see their citizens doing NS?

Ok, I may be off the mark in NS point, but the principle is the same. Following other countries just because they had revised some changes is not going to get us far.

Investors just don’t disappear overnight. For the government to be reactive to such changes and also giving (in)valid reasons for hikes - yes, citizens will disappear overnight.

$0.02"

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why the alternate views. P65ers blogsite and comments.

It happened during my honeymoon and maiden trip to Europe in 2000. Missus and I were traveling with the Contiki Tour to 10 European countries. Exhilarating fun!

During our rest in the hotel room in Paris (nearing the end of the journey), I switched on the television. As usual I liked to channel-skip. (Women swear they find it irritating. Men still do it anyhow.)

The news of the day was about a group of illegal Chinese migrants who were packed into a container tanker and shipped to France like cargos. Many of them died during the journey due to overcrowding, poor ventilation and sanitation and sicknesses. They were just anchored offshore, awaiting their fate.

Being a typical Singaporean, the initial thoughts going through my head were:
  1. They deserved it for being illegals. (I didn't know how blessed we were in Singapore)
  2. Nobody's fault. They knew the risks.
  3. Can't blame the French government if they refuse entry to the illegals.
  4. Surely you can't account for people dying? At least not of your own nationality. Thousands die everyday anyway, etc.

What surprised me while switching the different channels were the various alternative views/perceptions/reports of how the media portray the French government!

One channel showed the ministers backing the government with their laws (probably ruling party owned); another side showed the opposition claiming the migrant laws were not good enough (probably opposition owned).

Then you have the human-rights group bashing the government for not taking them in first so more would not have died; then you have the people protesting outside the government house; then...

You get the picture? Or pictures? Yeah just a simple event triggered a lot of activities, discussions, alternative views and no-holds-barred bashing of government.

Initial reaction was: Great, how can this be? Can't the government take action against these 'jokers'? This IS your government after all! How can you fault them in front of the world?

Yet I was thrilled, fascinated.

Only then I realised how backward and isolated my mindset was. Mental constipation. I was not thinking out-of-the-box and all these years, it was 'cooped' up to think ONLY what the main newspaper -The Straits Times told me. I was 'boxed up' to view the pictures the SG government want me to see, the stories they wanted me to hear.

So there you have it. Just a simple exposure triggered me to see issues from different angles, perspectives. Which let me to read into politics, speak about it, acknowledge it. And not fear it.

After all, we do have a choice, don't we?

---
An encouragement to my readers:

Do take a second look at the P65s-blogsite. Their maiden speeches are there. Comments have started to trickle in, and yes, the new MPs do respond.

Er, just ignore the blogsite theme. It's painful to look at. But do visit and at least read their speeches.

See some of the comments I've posted below. It's a start at least.

Zaqy Mohamad:

  1. November 15th, 2006 at 1:48 pm
    I've tried to publish the comments below but it failed somewhat yesterday. However, after knowing about the GST hike and also hearing some other speeches, I do not think our comments matter.

    Coz I didn’t think your speech (or any others made an impact). It was as if the die had been cast, the plot determined. I feel disappointed. Maybe sorry for you too and even more so for the general public/common man.

    ---
    Here were the initial comments:
    Nicely done, Zaqy. Been waiting in anticipation to hear what you will speak on. I’m glad you have brought up some ‘current’ issues, eg mrbrown, malay community, disquiet among S’preans, etc. Glad you did your research and groundwork.

    Let’s hope it wasn’t just a speech (I truly don’t, coming from you), where it will be minuted down with no real action items. Many new MPs come into PH, highlighting real issues, bringing ‘connection’ with the man on the street... more

Michael Palmer:

  1. October 12th, 2006 at 6:29 pm
    If you want to ‘connect’, sit in the stands during the Chingay with your family among the common people. Not in some VIP seats and also not surrounded by a whole lot of plainclothes policemen and reporters.

    Sit there and ENJOY as a COMMON S’porean. See the procession from a citizen point of view.

    Know what? The word will get around and will spread faster than a speeding bullet.

    That’s what I call ‘connect’... more

Hri Kumar:

  1. November 15th, 2006 at 4:26 pm
    “Singapore is a philosophy, a state of mind. It will not be fully appreciated unless we understand our past, what we are today and where we stand in relation to our neighbours and the world.”

    Kudos to you for bringing this out. Very thoughtful words. May I add “Not only our past, but our future too.”

    Currently, the state of mind on the ground ain’t good with the surprise GST hike (actually no surprise to me. I kinda expected it. It hasn’t changed all these years, has it?).

    A country’s identity, loyalty is a state of mind. The government has been trying to instill National Education to the citizens. I do not know what the success rate is (reports and newspaper can be skewed), but I am sure it was a failure, having talked to campmates, friends who are/were teachers, students. And that’s just my outer circle. Even I, myself, don’t quite believe in it... more

So there you have it. Give it a shot. Alternatively.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Alternative: The Stoic Singaporean. ShinCorp Deal.

A very nice read (arty-farty) about the plight of a Singaporean citizen.

My comments to the author?

Nicely put.

For the uncouth me however, it's not stoic. It's the stupid/dumb/moronic Singaporean who does not fight for the alternative, or even make a stand for what he believes in.

Every 5 years, he does not make his national decision with his heart and conscience but with a 'kayu' (Singlish; meaning thick or stupid; incompetent) and fearful judgement - thinking it might just get a litte better the next phase.

So he deludes himself.

Each time he hopes someone from the other wards will make a stand and decide alternatively. For him, he only thinks for his ward (more likely himself) to benefit from the handouts.

And he deludes himself again. Year after year.

So finally, he says 'I've had enough'. And he packs up and leave. For good.

---
Alternative viewpoints: Temasek-ShinCorp Deal

vs

Also note: using today’s exchange rate, the paper loss of 23 billion Baht is equivalent to S$968,735,546.40, or US$616,126,398.90.

I wonder how come reports are so vastly different?

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Get out of my elite uncaring face

Will it change anything? Nah... but I sure get a kick in voicing my disgust and disappointment.

---
Funny that 2/5 of my predictions about the upcoming hikes after the last General Election came true. And all within 4 months. Not bad, eh?

Actually I don't need to be an economist or rocket-scientist to do the maths. The truth is - those items listed within are basic necessities that every citizen in every country needs. Read it here:

I'm going to monitor it under the Fav Stuff section in the right column.

---
In my honest opinion, this should be the 'read-in-between-the-lines' summary speech by PM to the citizens of Singapore:

"Thank you for voting for us - here is 2% GST hike as your gift...

...oh did I also mention, I have this very comprehensive package to help you tide the GST hike. Do read the fine prints below though I doubt you will because your eyes will always be on the nice 'sweeties' you are going to get.

Oh, thank you, thank you!"

*gives the mega smile and the famous world-leader's wave to the cameras*

Fine prints:
1. There is no such thing as free lunch. This is the e*lee*t economy. Life will kick you in the balls. If not, I will.
2. All profits are belong to us. All your monies are belong to us. You owe us a living, a life, an existence. There will be winners and losers. You are definitely not the former.
3. The government will recover the cost of this comprehensive package sooner than you expect. And even more. Let's say 2008 10% GST? That's an idea for thought.

*turns to scholars and lackeys*
Now, find me a reason by end of year why I should increase to 10% GST. Your bonus will be tied to it, understand?

4. If you are not an elite, get out of my elite uncaring face.

---
Jeez, to think so many ministers (I don't know if they are just 'wayang', or selling 'ko-yok') speeches, including the president (eversince someone revoked his mandatory budget approval, I have no idea what he is there for), bloggers, stories, articles, studies, highlights, programmes, what-have-yous, etc have mentioned these things in common:

  • The new poor. Help them.

The feeling I get after hearing PM's speech is:

  • Thanks but no-thanks. This is my agenda. Take it or leave it.

Already many people have the general consensus confirmation that the government is uncaring, unresponsive to feedback, clinical, business-minded, profit-oriented, cold.

Just to prove their point - Oops!... I did it again.

So thanks those who sold their souls for progressive packages/payouts during the last General Election.

Thanks.

To quote someone:
"'Now get out of my elite uncaring face."

---
About Vivan Balakrishnan's speech about 'Many helping hands'. I had a darn good laugh. Really.

Some of the blogs that summarized my thoughts:

  1. The Million Dollar Difference
    He expects free help to come from volunteers who need to be passionate , committed. Yet the ministers are paid in millions to be passionate, committed (if not they go to private sector or become corrupt)?!!

    Common man says: what talk you?
    .
  2. Mr Wang Is Skeptical
    I will be too, unless I'm paid millions.
    .
  3. Funny comments by Lunatic Fringe:

    MIW (men-in-white): "Do what I say, do not do what I do…"
    Peasant: "Yay….Majullah MIW!… MIW is the greatest, tax from me GST and give back to me as workfare!"
    Robin Hood: "I thought it should be rob(tax) the rich, give to poor? We have the royalty that tax (GST) the poor and giveth to the rich (tax breaks/concessions)? Did they not consider zero-rating essentials?"
    Peasant: "Huh???!!!"

LOL

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Fishy business

I smelt a fish when I noticed the way how the Straits Times and Today portrayed the resignation of the WP (Workers' Party) member Goh Meng Seng.

It was as if the WP has dissension within. Crap.

For me, there were too many loopholes and many questions not answered. It was as if the media wanted to blot out the whole truth of the matter. The newspapers only chose to publish the 'juicy' bits that made the WP look bad.

Nothing beats hearing out of the 'horse's mouth'. Read it and make your conclusion.
Sheesh... talk about media transparency. What a load of bull!

PS. This is to all those who only read the ST reports. Please grow up.
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Why I will emigrate

This blog post literally hits the nail on the head. Read it:

If I ever leave, gosh, I'm going to miss my:

  • Late-night suppers
  • Night-walks with missus
  • Roti prata, satay, mee goreng
  • Coffee-shop coffee
  • Cheap hawker food
  • Durians
  • Pineapple tarts, etc.

*sobs silently*

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Baby killings. 'Victim' muslims. Tit-for-tat?

Read from The Straits Times a few days ago on the article about "active euthanasia" of newborns. As usual, I can't find the article online in the if-you can't-afford-to-pay-then-don't-read Straits-Times. So I've linked reports from other sources instead:

I can't imagine killing those babies. I mean do they have a voice or choice? Can someone speak for them? The parents? Who gave them the right? The law? The country? I can understand when an adult, who has had lived his/her life, feels it is necessary to end the pain and/or spare the guardians and loved ones from carrying the 'burden'.

But a vulnerable baby who cannot utter even a protest when its life get "snuffed out"?

Yet there is also another part in one of the reports:

"The college is arguing that "active euthanasia" should be considered for the overall good of families, to spare parents the emotional burden and financial hardship of bringing up the sickest babies.

"A very disabled child can mean a disabled family," it says. "If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome."

It can be very trying on the family - both in terms of emotional and financial burden. Which parents do not want a healthy child? Whose fault is it?

Side note: It's definitely not God's fault as some fault Him for the tsunami disasters and many other natural causes, sicknesses and deaths. Neither is it God's will or is He glorified.

Coz' if it's really God's will or for His glory, then they should gladly accept it. They shouldn't even be seeing specialists and surgeons to 'fix' those 'glorified' problems. Unless I'm wrong, in many cases, they still visit doctors and take medications. I feel it is just man's religion/self-righteousness/pride or blaming God for questions they cannot answer.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son... If He didn't love, why bother even to give? Why would a loving Father bring sicknesses or disasters to His children, only to heal them later? To teach them?

Do one as an earthly parent even do such an evil thing, less so God? To burn one's child only to apply medicine later and then tell the child, "Papa (or Mama) did it because I love you. I want to teach you about my love."

Goodness, the theories people come up with. As Singlish puts it - What talk you? (translation: You are not making any sense)

But I disgress.

Does having a blind eye label one as disabled? What about a hole in the heart? What about a deformed arm? Where do we draw a line?

Many questions, few answers. That happens when we play God, or try to fill His shoes.

---
Another interesting article:

Just the other day, I was talking with my Aussie friend. He was telling me about the new policies in Australia to tighten the controls of Muslim immigrants, especially the radical ones. The claim is that most of them don't assimilate well into the country's culture and society.

I don't blame the lawmakers. Wearing a veil is one thing. Having to talk to someone behind a veil is another. Imagine teachers behind veils, or insurance agents or even cashiers. Or even in a face-to-face-veil boardroom meeting.

A picture can paint a thousand words, a face can launch a thousand ships. Wearing a veil is not even required for a Muslim (as confirmed by my Muslim friend and also written in the article). How do you expect me to sign a deal with you if I cannot even see your face?

I mean wouldn't it be downright rude if Christianity (hypothetically) requires all believers to turn-around, wiggle their bottoms at you as a form of greeting? Who cares if it's your religious greeting? Who cares if it's your religion even?

You are bloody insulting me, that's what only matters. So if the world ostracize you because you need to shake your butt at me, then don't blame me for doing likewise.

On the same train of thoughts, we as Singaporeans when we travel to other countries should not believe ours is a superior system. Yes we may be efficient, yes we may be meticulous and well-planned, yes we may expect a certain kind of customer service from our service providers, retailers to respond within the next hour (eg. signing up for a broadband internet).

People don't always work like you think they do. People don't suit you. A shopkeeper in Europe may take time to chat with you as a form of friendly greeting. It is not slow service, mind you.

Just ask Wes&Jo - a Singaporean couple living in Paris. It's a whole new experience. And I'm sure, they have a whole lot to tell... and share.

My point is:
Most people in general can tolerate other views. But when it gets inconvenient and pointless for them in daily affairs, there is usually an attitude of ostracism.

Including a backlash of criticisms.

---
Another article in the elite Straits Times (hardcopy) mentioned that an Indonesian radio station has held a drawing and coloring contest to portray Denmark's royalty as pigs - in retaliation against the publication of cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed in a Danish newspaper.

The prize? 5 million rupiah (S$860).

I don't see the Danes running out the streets burning flags, chanting anti-Muslim slogans, boycotting of Indonesian products, vowing to kill those radio presenters, etc.

So where does it end? What are you trying to prove? Do you have to stoop so low?

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Duh.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

More about me

Just decided to keep a list of stuff I like or will like to have.
(Legend: italic grey - completed/bought)

Songs/MP3

  1. That Thing You Do - The Wonders and other artistes
    I dig all the songs in this album
  2. Needles and Pins - The Seekers
  3. Castles in the Air - Don McLean
  4. The Very Best of Jane Monheit - Jane Monheit
    Underrated Jazz/Swing singer
  5. Norah Jones Jazz albums

MobilePhone

  1. Sony Ericsson K610i (red)

Cartoons

  1. Full suite of Calvin and Hobbes comics
    I have 4 of them only.
  2. Far-side Gallery comics

Books - Fantasy

  1. DragonLance Chronicles - Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
    I bought the three books.
  2. DragonLance Twins Trilogy - Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
    Ditto, see above.
  3. The Erevis Cale Trilogy - Paul S. Kemp
    - Twilight Falling (#1)
    - Dawn of Night (#2)
    - Midnight's Mask (#3)

Books - Politics
(always 2 sides of a coin)

  1. From Third World to First : The Singapore Story: 1965-2000 - Lee Kuan Yew
  2. Lee's Law: How Singapore Crushes Dissent - Chris Lydgate
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