EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr Teo Ho Pin, Coordinating Chairman of PAP Town Councils, has written a letter to the ST forum page entitled “Well protected, with positive returns”. In the letter, he explained on the need for maintaining sinking funds for retrofitting works and co-paying lift upgrading. The sinking funds are distinct from short-term funds formed from the S&CC and represent accumulated surpluses for long-term use. Dr Teo also briefly explained how the funds are managed and said that they are managed prudently. This is essentially a rehash of points he made earlier. In my opinion, without greater transparency from the Town Councils themselves, Dr Teo’s statements alone are insufficient to assure residents that sinking funds are well managed and there has been no abuse.
Read Wayang Party’s take on this: Dr Teo Ho Pin now backtrack and “recognize” the gravity of the PAP Town Councils’ screw-up
Well protected, with positive returns: ST forum letter by Dr Teo Ho Pin, 28 Nov 2008
I WOULD like to clarify the recent commentaries and queries from readers.
Q: Why is there a need for town councils to accumulate sinking funds?
Town councils are required to maintain sinking funds to finance long-term and expensive works such as replacement of lifts and water supply systems, repainting, re-roofing and electrical re-wiring works. We also use sinking funds to co-pay for lift upgrading so that residents pay less. By gradually accumulating sinking funds, HDB residents avoid pay an additional lump sum each time these major works are done.
The 14 PAP town councils manage about 900,000 HDB flats or 9,000 HDB blocks. After almost two decades, our sinking funds amount to about $2 billion or $200,000 per block. This is not excessive as the overhaul cost of just one lift for a 12-storey block costs about $100,000.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On 14 Oct, Mr Tan Kin Lian posted a message on his blog that he copied from one of the postings in the Channel News Asia forum. The original message was not authored by him, but many netizens misunderstood and thought that Mr Tan wrote it himself. He has now stepped forward to clarify, after Mr Kelvin Lim wrote about this in the article “SDP: Misunderstood, misguided or misaligned?” published on the Online Citizen website.
By Mr Tan Kin Lian, 27 November 2008
I refer to this posting:
The posting in my blog was written by somebody else in CNA forum. I reproduced the message in my blog but overlooked to mention the author. It gave the wrong impression that the message was written by me.
I wish to apologise to Chee Soon Juan and his sister for the damage that is caused to them by the statement, “what many stupid and selfish politicians in Singapore have done and seek self destruction.” This statement came from the original posting (by someone else).
I do not personally share this sentiment and wish to acknowledge their personal sacrifice in fighting for what they believe in.
Written by Ng E-Jay
27 November 2008
By now, most readers would be aware of the recent debate in the Straits Times forum page over whether Singapore is better off with a one-party or multi-party political system, ending with Mr Li Hong Yi writing that no one had made a convincing case why a multi-party system would be better for Singapore.
The standards arguments for and against multi-party democracy have been repeated many times by many people ranging from your average joe to senior politicians. At times like these when we seem to be going round in circles, it is good to take one step back and distill the essence of what both sides are trying to convey.
Dr Tan Wu Meng’s letter entitled “Why Singapore’s political system works” published on 21 Nov captures the fundamental political beliefs held by those who are in favour of continued one-party rule by the PAP. Essentially, those political beliefs are:
- The PAP has done a good job governing Singapore thus far.
- In all likelihood, the PAP will continue to govern well as the ruling party.
- Multi-party politics elsewhere has often degenerated into the politics of obstruction, replete with indecision and paralysis, with short-term sectarianism trumping long-term national interests, and with the undue influence of special lobby groups. As such, Singapore is better off without it.
Once these fundamental political ideas are distilled and fleshed out explicitly, with the unnecessary jargon and rhetoric removed, it becomes much easier to decide if one agrees with them.
Written by Ng E-Jay
25 November 2008
This is my response to the TOC article entitled “SDP: Misunderstood, misguided or misaligned?” written by Mr Kelvin Lim and published on TOC’s website on 25 Nov.
Mr Lim begins his article by describing SDP as a party which is “arguably Singapore’s most controversial political party, boasting a colourful history involving ideological clashes with the government, inter and intra-party disunity and facing an inundating surge of legal lawsuits and charges.”
I have no qualms with SDP being described as colourful or controversial, since throughout history many initiators of great social and political change have invariably been described thus by their fellow men, but I take issue with Mr Lim’s inclusion of the phrase “inter and intra-party disunity”.
Perhaps by “intra-party disunity”, Mr Lim was referring to Mr Chiam See Tong’s disagreements with Dr Chee Soon Juan’s over the latter’s hunger strike as a means of protesting against his high-handed and unjust sacking from the National University of Singapore as a lecturer. In 1993, Mr Chiam had called for the Party to censure Dr Chee, who had been elected to the post of assistant secretary-general earlier in February that year. However, none of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) members supported Mr Chiam’s motion, whereupon the former Party leader tended his resignation, citing that he had lost the confidence of his colleagues.
Logic favours two party system; Governments better off with checks and balances (ST letters in response to Dr Tan Wu Meng)
Logic favours two-party system: ST letter by Mr Rayner Teo
22 Nov 2008
I REFER to the current discussion on the ideal party system to govern Singapore.
In my view, the debate boils down to this question: Is the potential monolithic mindset of a single-party system more dangerous than the chaotic free-wheeling debate engendered by a multi-party democracy?
All things considered, the balance of benefits and costs comes out in favour of the latter.
In his letter yesterday (‘Why Singapore’s political system works’), Dr Tan Wu Meng notes that a multiparty system is no guarantee against groupthink. But compared against a single-party system, surely it provides at least an assurance that more views are heard. Dr Tan points out that People’s Action Party (PAP) MPs have challenged ministers, but these are often on finer points of policy, not on the very direction of Singapore’s development. No PAP MP would throw out his party manifesto or risk the Party Whip.
Dr Tan cites the PAP’s experience in its defence. However, it is fallacious to argue that past experience guarantees future performance, as anyone who has read the fine print on financial products will know.
Experience did not prevent PAP town councils from investing in a manner more befitting an investment banker than a government body.
ST Letter written by Ms Jeannie Lim, High Notes Investor Group Committee
25 Nov 2008
I REFER to Mr Chua Sheng Yang’s letter last Saturday, ‘What he meant’.
We take issue with Mr Chua’s claim that there are many people seeking redress when there has been no injustice done in the first place.
We would like to ask Mr Chua how familiar he is with the issues of the collapse of the Lehman-related products such as Minibonds and DBS High Notes.
Recently, we carried out a data-gathering exercise among High Notes 5 investors. Preliminary findings show a consistent pattern of customers being told at the point of sale that High Notes 5 was low risk and safe, something that does not match DBS’ recent public admission that the product had a risk rating of ‘8 to 9’ on a scale of 1 to 10.
Now, Mr Chua could well say that investors may assert this only because High Notes 5 has collapsed. But would he also contend that a reasonable retail customer, if given all correct information, would still risk his entire investment on such a risky product in return for a mere 5 per cent in annual interest?
And would town councils also knowingly have invested public funds, especially given that they are not aggressive investors?
To us, there are systemic failures in the product, in the selling process and in the targeting of customers. Therefore it matters not if the investors were professionals, or business people, or in fact, organisations like town councils. All of them have been similarly misled about the nature of what they bought because the risks are not commensurate with the returns.
Jeannie Lim (Ms)
High Notes Investor Group Committee
Written by Ng E-Jay
24 November 2008
On 23 Nov, the Sunday Times published an article written by Nur Dianah Suhaimi entitled “Tan Kin Lian eyes elected presidency“. The subtitle was “Ex-NTUC Income’s chief will run if he has 100,000 people willing to support him“. (Link)
The Sunday Times article said that he is considering standing as Singapore’s next elected president or contesting in the next general election as an independent candidate, and that “he made no bones about his political ambitions in an interview with the paper”.
But the article also stated that Tan Kin Lian first wants to see at least 100,000 signatures and names of Singaporeans who are willing to give him their support.
“I will only do it if enough people want me to lead. If Singaporeans want change, they must have a stake in it and show their commitment by putting down their names. I cannot do this without strong support,” Tan Kin Lian told the Sunday Times.
Tan Kin Lian first talked about wanting at least 100,000 signatures in his interview with the TODAY newspaper on 18 Oct.
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics, Dr Wong Wee Nam
Written by Dr Wong Wee Nam
21 November 2008
“All professions are conspiracies against the laity.”
— George Bernard Shaw
When we were in school, one of the unforgettable proverbs we learnt was “All That Glitters is Not Gold”. Another was “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover”. For all intents and purposes these proverbs taught us to be more skeptical, more discerning and not to be easily taken in by propaganda.
The recent financial crises and economic events show that in this world of mass marketing, botox, silicone implants, controlled media, irresponsible press and proliferation of experts on whose opinions seem like absolute truths, it is not easy to inoculate ourselves against mass persuasion and herd–thinking. In the world where pursuit of money has become the primary goal, it is not hard to be blinded by any glitter.
For years we have been told that we must pay for top talents of the world. Without the top talents, we would lag behind. We accepted that because we thought that the world was too complex for ordinary mortals to manage without the handing over the reins to the talents and experts.
But where are the experts now? Instead of bringing prosperity and wealth, the financial experts are the main cause of the economic catastrophe that we are witnessing now. Now we know that top talents, when they make a mess, can really create havoc and bring a lot misery to common people by causing them to lose their life-savings. Though experts have appeared to try and find a solution to the crises, we know they are as helpless as every one of us. They must appear to do something so that when the problem irons itself up everyone will be grateful to them.
Written by Dr Patrick Kee, 18 Nov 2008
Rejected by ST Forum page
I refer to the articles, “AMD not euthanasia? Confusing terms, says MPs” and “Prepare for the ‘silver tsunami’ now” (Straits Times, 18/11/2008)
First of all, we need to question the need for legislation for patients to refuse futile treatment when they are terminally ill. Surely, a better way is to make it a rule that doctors should not prescribe futile treatments or procedures for the terminally ill. What is needed is not legislation but the education of our doctors and nurses on the principles of effective and compassionate end of life care. Counselling services should also be provided for those who are terminally ill and their families.
Secondly, we need to address the suffering of those who are suffering from debilitating illnesses but not at the end of life and their families. They need support through good and competent hospice care. Such care should be seen as an essential service and should not be dependent on charity. The cost can and should be borne by the government
Our increasingly materialistic society is also in urgent need of spiritual education to understand suffering and to find hope in the midst of tribulation. This is an area which our religious institutions should look into.
Thirdly, we need to recognise the potential and resources of our elderly instead of labelling them as the “silver tsunami”. We need to focus on how we can help our elderly to live up to their lifespan of 90 to 100 years with good physical and mental functions. Towards this end, we should focus on simple and inexpensive ways of being healthy like exercise, eating right, stress management, hobbies and so on.
The world is fast changing and we need creative solutions for the challenges ahead. We must ask the right questions instead of trying to correct the wrong answers of the past.
Dr Patrick Kee
Written by Ng E-Jay
18 November 2008
This is my response to a Straits Times forum letter penned by Mr Chua Sheng Yang published in the print edition on 18 Nov.
Entitled “Questions on investment products rally”, Mr Chua claims that “too many people are taking advantage of the situation to get back money from what they knew was a risky investment“. He was referring to the recent rallies organized by Mr Tan Kin Lian at Speaker’s Corner to help investors seek redress over their failed investments in structured products.
Mr Chua sounds like a toy-sized replica of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew who also assumed that “investors had no case” and that they went in “with their eyes open”. Like the Minister Mentor, isn’t Mr Chua also jumping to conclusions without any substantial facts, and even before the investigations have been completed? Who is he to assert that investors are taking advantage of the situation and that they knew it was a risky product?
Mr Chua quotes the example of a manager and a businessman who invested several hundred thousand dollars in the structured products, and he opines that they should not get their money back. But surely whether or not someone is entitled to compensation should be dependent on whether there was mis-selling or misrepresentation, and not whether the investor is educated or well-to-do. Even wealthy and educated people have property rights.
Mr Chua asks: “Is Mr Tan organising the rallies at Speakers’ Corner for purely altruistic reasons, or is he organising them to help his colleagues in his position as a writer of The Online Citizen, a website which is well known to have an anti-government stance?”
Like a toy-sized replica of MM Lee, Mr Chua is also not above resorting to personal attacks to advance his point. Also, if Mr Chua had been reading the Online Citizen website more closely, he would have realized that it is not an anti-government website, but rather, one that tries to offer many points of view, even pro-establishment ones.
Mr Chua then accuses Tan Kin Lian’s own insurance agents of adopting “the same practices which he now deems unscrupulous” and asks why did he “not tell his agents to practise more ethics then, when he was CEO?”
Perhaps rather than hurling potentially defamatory accusations at NTUC agents, Mr Chua should instead ask whether MAS is doing its job of addressing investor concerns and safeguarding their rights, and whether the sales representatives of Lehman-linked structured products conducted themselves properly. In his zeal at taking down Tan Kian Lian, Mr Chua has totally lost his focus.
Finally, Mr Chua says: “I urge the Government and the banks not to cave in to the political solution of reimbursing all investors.”
I find it absolutely amusing that Mr Chua should attempt to politicize the issue, when the Government has itself been exhorting others not to do so.
Furthermore, the real crux of the matter is that the MAS and banks should do the right thing by giving investors fair compensation and reviewing the way financial products are sold. Giving investors their due and redressing the wrong that has been done to them is all about making sure their rights are respected. This has nothing to do with offering “political solutions”, but rather, about offering “right and fair solutions”.