Some of my thoughts on CPF, foreign talents and globalization

January 31, 2008 by · 3 Comments
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I was responding to one of Thinkall’s posts in Sammyboy Coffeeshop forum.

Thinkall wrote in one of his posts:

… … As long we there is no firm understanding in this country why wealth decision making belongs to individuals, the State extends its tentacular claws on all aspects of life, which is what it is doing.

The reason why we find the State almost impossible to be delimited is precisely because the real cost of such intervention has not been bared out for all to see.

… …

Now, CPF obligation must also be the same reason why such cost must be laid bare before the whole country. There is no way this government can possible cover the holes they dug for themselves for the last 40 years, constantly dipping into CPF for all kinds of unproductive allocations.

The collective cost of state intervention is now becoming clear, very clear: The high cost of living; the high level of individual debt in Singapore; the constant delay in payment of CPF due; the attempt to eliminate obligation with compulsory annuity; the explosion of immigrants to enhance incremental flow of monies into CPF to buttress the float; the unwillingness of G&T to be openly audited; the constant change in CPF rules to ensure liquidity in accounts even when there is no apparently reason (.i.e. the recent 20k rule that cannot be invested by April 2008); the attempt to incentivise current CPF funds receivers to delay receiving such funds.

All CPF changes, voluntary and involuntary, do just one thing: to delay payment … …

My reply:

The idea of CPF began from the British, and it was a good idea. In the early years, the PAP made use of CPF to foster national savings. This cheap source of funding was also used to fund govt projects, build infrastructure, and develop the economy. An entire generation benefitted from rising property prices and wages. Home price appreciation gave them a secure retirement, and this was handed down to the next generation, creating a core 40% group of voters who would unfailing mark the lightning box at every election.

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Thinkall on the issue of leverage, banking, Singapore’s SWF, and the subprime crisis

January 27, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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24 Jan 08

The business of banking is a very simple business; the only difficulty is the myriad devices developed for existing and contingent liabilities. The whole business survives on credit and financial reputation.

We currently own a whole host of banking entities not truly understanding that collective liabilities amassed are nothing short of one way ticket to financial hell in any future unwinding, which must come.

The business of financing modern economy is simply leverage.

Every single household is a leverage entity from here all the way to Europe and America.

Not a single family is spared.

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Thinkall: PAP will fall with SWFs books

January 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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23 Jan 08

The whole notion that the Government is not in control of the degree of investment and principles that delimit the investment quantum is simply ridiculous.

The whole notion of separation of SWF’s responsibilities from State Governance is simply unacceptable.

Is the state merely an investor?

Do the monies belong to the state? Is not the state merely a custodian of those funds?

Is there a more complex relationship?

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Singapore Democrats: Election reform – What needs to be done

January 23, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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Election reform: What needs to be done
Singapore Democrats
22 Jan 08

In his speech at the election reform forum on Sunday organised by the Singapore Democrats, Dr Chee Soon Juan pointed out several activities that needed to be done in order to being about change to our electoral system:

Research best practices. A report is much needed to reflect best practices in elections systems around the world. It is not to compare the types of elections such as the winner-take-all system or proportional representation format but rather to publish a set of recommended practices that allows elections to be conducted fairly and cleanly. The deficiencies of the system in Singapore can then be measured against these best practices and focus be made to rectify the ills.

Develop website. A website that would document all the information about Singapore’s election system and its flaws is presently not available. Such a site would be very useful for reform activists as well as researchers/observers/analysts.

Publish training manual for poll watchers. A write-up should be published on the goings-on of elections for volunteer poll watchers. The publication would highlight the process of voting and teach the watchers what to look out for as well as to report any anomaly that occurs.

Recruit and train poll watchers. Non-party poll watchers should be recruited and trained to observe the voting process. The effort should begin now so that enough volunteers can be recruited and be ready to be assigned to the various polling and counting stations when the next elections are called.

Raise awareness. The reform agenda must necessarily include raising awareness among Singaporeans on the importance of revamping our horrendous election rules and procedures. This should start with the various communities such as university students, women’s groups, NGOs, etc and then reaching out to the general public. Such an activity is needed in order to gain public support for the reform effort.

Seek support from bloggers. The blogging community can play an active role in the campaign. Calls should be made to bloggers to help disseminate information about the problems about elections in Singapore and effort to institute changes.

Seek international observers. Effort must be made to raise the profile of flawed elections in Singapore. Organisations like the United Nations, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Commission, International Federation for Election Systems, etc must be made aware of the situation here. They should also be encouraged to send teams to observe elections here.

Learn from overseas reform campaigns. Reform campaigners should learn from activists in other jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and so on about some of the activities undertaken and the effectiveness.

Engage the Prime Minister’s Office and the Elections Department. Even though the authorities would rather us disappear, a sustained effort must be made to meet with them and impress upon them the necessity and urgency for election reform.

The list is, of course, not exhaustive. The SDP would like to see a working committee establishedto identify other initiatives that may be needed as well as to carry out some of the activities mentioned above.

We will call for another meeting soon to coordinate this effort. If you did not sign up at the forum on Sunday, please email us at [email protected]

Watch video clips of Dr Chee’s forum presentation here (courtesy of watchtowerv)
[Part I], [Part II], [Part III]

Chia Ti Lik’s speech at SDP forum on electoral reform, 20 Jan 08

January 22, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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How to reform the election system

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, friends and family, observers and activists. Welcome to this forum. My name is Ti Lik, and I am tasked with opening the topic of reform of the election system.

I do so from the vantage of someone who has been there and done that. I have seen the elections from both sides of the camp albeit on different levels, I am currently also experiencing pushing for change from a non-partisan vantage point and of being someone who wishes change to come and will support the party who genuinely pushes for that change.

By targeting the election system we are also referring to the process of elections, the structure of the state institutions and its flaws.

Now, the question of reform of the country and its institutions is a forgone issue. By and large people would agree that reform in those areas are much needed and all of us will agree that change would have to take place in accordance to law or via the establishment of a new legal order.

1. take place in accordance to law – self explanatory

2. establishment of a new legal order – setting a new government via extra – electoral action / revolution / coup etc.

Very often the much needed reform is described as something to be done only after you secure power which falls under (1). This is the ploy of the People’s Action Party.

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Singapore Democrats: Singaporeans Participated in International Human Rights Torch Relay

January 22, 2008 by · 2 Comments
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Singaporeans Participated in International Human Rights Torch Relay
Singapore Democrats
21 Jan 08

For the first time in Singaporean history, a human rights torch had come on shore, so declared human rights lawyer Mr M. Ravi, the president of the Singapore chapter of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG). On Saturday, a group of human rights activists and Falung Gong practitioners gather at the Civil Service Club at Changi to continue the international torch relay, which had started in Greece and gone on through countries such Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and most recently Indonesia. An initiative of the CIPFG, the relay is to highlight human rights abuses in China, and in particular the ongoing harvesting of organs from Falun Gong practitioners. The coalition is also calling for the boycott of the Beijing Olympics 2008.

At the convening conference, Mr Ravi expressed elation that Singaporeans are now showing more care and concern about human rights issues and abuses. Citing his own experience with the Falung Gong practitioners as their legal representative when a few practitioners were charged for illegal assembly in Singapore, Mr Ravi assured the audience that their persecution under the hand of the Chinese authority is well documented and not something their have fabricated.

Guest speaker Mr JB Jeyaratnam voiced support for the cause and added that there are also human rights violations in Singapore. He expressed the hope that when the time comes [to stand up against human rights violations in Singapore], that we will all be up to it.

The Assistant Secretary-General of the Singapore Democrat Party, Mr John Tan, recounted his interest and concern about human rights abuses in China since his youth. He has heard of persecution of Christians, Tibetans and, more recently, Falung Gong practitioners. Counting it an honour to be able to play a role in calling China to accountability, Mr Tan stressed that China must not be allowed to get away with their abuses by collecting international goodwill through the hosting of the Olympics.

In between local speakers, the moderator, Mr Sng Beng Kok, conducted e-interviews with two foreign guests. Both the Asia Director of the Human Rights Law Foundation, USA, Ms Theresa Chu, and the Human Rights Torch Relay Organising Committee member in Australia, Mr Hamish Oliver Perrett, articulated their support and wished the Singapore relay well.

After the conference, the group held a brief ceremony to commemorate the relay of the human rights torch and proceeded to the Chinese embassy to hand in a petition (see content here). Thereafter, they went to Mount Faber Park for some photographs before dispersing.

As their numbers dwindled, police officers confronted the remaining ten persons and seized their banners and torches on the pretext that the items were needed to aid in the investigation into their possible commission of illegal assembly.

Stories and video in Chinese from other sources can be found here and here.

SDP’s public forum on electoral reform, 20 Jan 08

January 20, 2008 by · 4 Comments
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SDP just concluded a public forum on electoral reform, held at Allson Hotel on 20 Jan 08, Sunday, from 2pm to 5pm.

Speakers at the forum included Chia Ti Lik, J.B. Jeyaretnam, Jufrie Mahmood, and Dr Chee Soon Juan. Mr Tan Tarn How was slated to speak too but backed down.

The forum could only be described as passionate, lively, sincere, and robust.

True to his firebrand style politics, Chia Ti Lik fired the opening salvo by pointing out the severe flaws in our current electoral system, and lambasting certain Opposition parties for having the cheek to openly claim to seek electoral reform in their manifesto, but only pay lip service to those ideals in Parliament. He said that this was tantamount to defrauding the electorate. Calling a spade a spade, Chia Ti Lik said that merely having a government approved Opposition in Parliament that is only content with operating within the system and scratching the back of the PAP would get us nowhere. He said that if the avenue to reform the system through parliamentary means was closed to us, we should seek to do so by other legal extra-parliamentary means such as campaigns and robust public dialogue.

J.B. Jeyaretnam recounted the colourful history of his participation in the elections and related it to serious issues facing the electorate like the fear factor, freedom of information, transparency, funding for political parties and what he calls “the blatant intimidation of voters”. Jufrie Mahmood said that we should first seek to reform our media which is blatantly pro-PAP if we are to stand a chance of reforming the electoral system. Finally, Dr Chee Soon Juan gave a resounding wrap-up of the stark reality that we face and the work that needs to be done. Lamenting the lack of an independent electoral body, Dr Chee called for a committee to be formed to examine how the establishment of independent election commission could be achieved. He said that he would continue to persuade Opposition parties and civil groups to come together and unite in this cause. He also called upon everyone who was willing to participate in reforming our electoral system to indicate their support by standing up. Most members of the audience rose and eagerly stood up to be counted.

At the end of the event, a form was passed around to allow people to sign up to join the committee on electoral reform.

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Singapore’s turn to export inflation to its neighbours

January 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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M’sia to bar S’poreans from taking home cheap food

Malaysia is planning to bar Singaporeans and Thais from taking home staple foods like flour and sugar to avert shortages of the subsidised goods, reports said Wednesday.

The move comes after the government was last week forced to flood the market with thousands of tonnes of cooking oil and flour as shortages left supermarket shelves stripped bare and restaurant owners warning they faced disruption.

Smuggling of supplies of cooking oil, petrol and flour is also rife across Malaysia’s porous northern border with Thailand.

Malaysia heavily subsidises 21 food items including sugar, milk, salt, wheat flour and rice.

Rising prices are a sensitive issue in Malaysia and the government has taken prompt action over the shortages ahead of general elections expected to be held this year.

Discount ads on taxis illegal, says LTA

January 7, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said that discount ads on taxis are illegal. This follows a recent report of TransCab taxi driver Mr A.L. Tan displaying a sign on his windscreen announcing his waiver of the 35 per cent surcharge for peak-hour rides. Cabbies complain that passengers are disappearing during morning and evening rush hours. What used to be a $2 flat surcharge for travelling between 7am and 9.30am, or 5pm and 8pm, is now calculated as 35 per cent of the metered fare.

Mr Tan’s cab company has warned him that his marketing tactics run against TransCab’s company policy. The LTA backed the taxi company.

However alert ST Reader grognard pointed out correctly in the comments section of the Straits Times online edition that there is nothing in the PTC Act (Chp 259B) itself that makes advertising for lower fares illegal:

The Public Transport Council Act (CAP 259B) states:

Bus, taxi and rapid transit system fares
23. —(1) No person shall be entitled to demand and take any bus, taxi or rapid transit system fare in excess of that approved by the Council.

(2) Subsection (1) shall not prevent any person from demanding or taking a lower fare than that approved by the Council.

According to LTA, cabbies caught calling out to passengers along the road are considered to be soliciting for passengers. Apparently the LTA has lumped advertising for lower fares under the broad umbrella of “soliciting”. Under new stiffer penalties, cabbies can be fined $500, given 12 demerit points and have their licence suspended for four weeks for soliciting. However, there is nothing that prevents a cabby from giving a passenger a discount at the end of the journey if he so wishes.

This is my comment:

I feel it is unfair that advertising for lower fees should be considered “soliciting”, along with other actions such as touting. After all, some cabbies genuinely feel that the recent taxi fare hike has NOT benefitted them, but has only made their business worse off. Not allowing them to openly advertise lower fares would be unfairly penalizing them even further.

There’s a reason it’s called “public service”

January 4, 2008 by · 1 Comment
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There’s a reason it’s called “public service”.

From ministers to perm secs all the way to rank and file officers. Why do we call them “civil servants”? Because they are servants of the people. We pay them to serve the nation, to implement good policies, to make a better community for all.

Public service is very different from private enterprise which is profit-driven. In private enterprise, you are rewarded for boosting the company’s bottom line. In public service, you are compensated for the service you have rendered to the country and community, and the benefits you bring to the community are not necessarily measured in dollars and cents.

Lost in the hustle and bustle of bringing public service wages in line with private sector wages is the seemingly quaint but still utterly relevant notion that people should enter public service primarily out of a desire to serve the nation in a capacity that they can excel at, whether it is teaching, policy research, or administrative work.

In return for their service to the nation, public servants should be paid a decent wage that allows them a reasonable standard of living. But to argue that they must be paid more simply because their top counterparts in the private sector are raking in $XXX millions a year is to reduce them to a profit motive.

The following ST Forum letter says its best. To quote, “Public service requires a different aptitude, ethos and capacity, and emphasises empathy, altruism, selflessness and a strong sense of purpose in contributing to the community. It carries with it a heavy emotional investment, often difficult to quantify in monetary terms.”

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