Thursday, April 20, 2006

Have Singaporeans gone soft?

With the Singapore elections around the corner, this may be an appropriate question to ask again. Would we have the guts to vote with our conscience? Or do we continue to let bread and butter issues dictate our future?

The funny thing is, we care about our rights enough to stage a march to promote breastfeeding. Yet when our freedom of speech gets trampled on, we acquiesce.

In the eyes of A*Star chairman Philip Yeo, Singapore boys are whiny and immature because all government scholars who broke their scholarship bonds since 1990 have been Singapore males, and the occasional postings on the Internet criticising his scholarship programmes were also from Singapore male scholars.

But you know what? Looking at the way those who have the privilege to vote in the past, I have to agree Singaporeans (not just Singapore males) are becoming soft. In fact, I think they're becoming cowards.

If we have a nation of cowards (people who are afraid to cast their honest votes), then we will not have a strong nation. And the worst cowards are those who want to see brave and credible oppositions but are themselves too afraid to even vote for what they have been advocating.

So do something about it. Vote with your head, heart and conscience.

4 comments:

Juha said...

Is it safe to vote in that manner in Singapore now? Visited last year and have spoken to a bunch of Singkies lately and it really does seem like the ceiling's been raised somewhat.

Wish people downunder would take greater interest in Singapore, as business interests from there are becoming increasingly active here. Singtel owns 40% of our fattest communications pipe for instance, and may end up buying Telecom NZ.

SgReview said...

Note for Readers:
Please circulate freely --- to help fellow S'poreans make the right informed
choice at the coming General Elections (and not be easily seduced by Election
Carrots funded by the people's money).

Date: 31 March 2006
To: Editor, Singapore Review
From: Mr See Leong Kit
Subject: Mindboggling Numbers behind Singapore's High Cost of Living

Contents
1 Introduction
2 Uniquely Singapore --- A Money-Sucking Government
3 A High Stress Country
4 High Cost of Government
5 High Cost of Homes/ Cars/ Education
6 Questionable/Controversial Mega-Deals by Temasek Hldgs & GIC
7 Political Flirtation with Trade Union Movement
8 Pork-Barrel Politics --- Using Public Funds for Election Carrots
9 Incredibly Stupid Spending of the People's Hard-Earned Monies
10 Other Unjustified/Extravagant/Wasteful Public Spending Fiascos
11 Fiascos involving Loss of Human Health & Lives
12 Conclusion --- Factors affecting Singapore's long-term future


1 Introduction

1.1 About this writer --- a 58-year old educated/thinking Singapore Citizen
(by birth) and Whistle-Blower (one who must speak up when things are not
right).
NOT a member of any political party. Am speaking up as a Concerned Citizen.
Have been closely monitoring Government spending over the past 20 years.

1.2 Singapore can be compared to a floating ice-berg:
The smaller 10% visible part (above water) is what most S'poreans see ---
a clean/green city; apparent clock-work efficiency; etc,etc.

But the larger 90% not-visible part (below water) have been kept mostly
from public view by our PAP-controlled Press/TV media.

1.3 In this write-up:
$ = Singapore Dollars; US$ = US Dollars
m = million; B = Billion
we/us = Singaporeans; they = highly-paid politicians/bureaucrats

When looking at each mindboggling number:
(i) We should ask ourselves --- WHOSE Money? The People's Hard-Earned Monies,
Of Course!
(ii) While their mindset is --- WHY Worry? It's the People's Money.

1.4 Read on and then judge for yourself whether:

SG = Singapore Government, or SG = Screwed-up Government


2 Uniquely Singapore --- A Money-Sucking Government

2.1 Many of Singapore's national/social problems (eg insufficient job
creation; rich-poor income gap; rising suicide/divorce rates; procreation
problem; younger/educated/disillusioned S'poreans emigrating; etc) can be
traced back to these two fundamental causes:

(i) For COMPANIES/BUSINESSES (creating jobs for the people), the HIGH COST of
doing business here
(ii) For our PEOPLE, the HIGH COST of living

WHO SAYS S'poreans must "pay through their noses" for good Government, a roof
over their heads, a decent education for their children and a decent quality of
life?

And WHO SAYS S'poreans must tolerate (suffer in silence) our high cost of
living in order to enjoy a high standard of living?
[ Australia has a high standard of living, but its cost of living is nowhere as
ridiculous as Singapore! ]


2.2 The various/numerous taxes and dues S'poreans have to "Pay And Pay"
include:
income tax; property tax; ad-valorem stamp duty on property purchases;
GST, COE, ERP, maid levy;
transport fares and varsity fees going up and up; etc, etc.

[ From the Internet --- With apologies to Sir Winston Churchill, never in the
history of Mankind has so Many Singaporeans been Milked for so much Monies over
so Many years by the PAP Government! ]

Million-Dollar Question --- To run a tiny red dot island, WHY do the PAP
Government have "to milk so much monies from the people" ???

Final Correct Answer:
(i) to pay for the humongous remunerations/perks of our Ceremonial Presidency,
Bloated Cabinet and Bulging Bloated Bureaucracy. [details at para 4]

(ii) to provide an abundant/cheap source of funds for GIC, Temasek Hldgs and
other Government-linked business entities. [details at para 6]

(iii) to pay for GIANT ELECTION CARROTS to seduce the people for their votes
--- as in "pork-barrel politics" (using taxpayer's monies for political
advantage) and "election gerrymandering" (fiddling with electoral boundaries for
political advantage). [details at para 8]


2.3 Difference between "A Good Government" and "A Dud Government":

(i) A Good Government (i.e Competent and Caring) is one that will do its
utmost to SERVE THE PEOPLE through keeping the COST OF LIVING at sensible
levels by providing basic social services --- such as housing, education,
transport, healthcare, security --- at lowest-possible and cost-efficient
prices/charges.

(ii) A Dud Government (which will do Singapore in)* is one that will think of
many ingenious ways to "milk as much of the people's hard-earned monies as
possible"

--- such as "do HDB flatbuyers in" through pricing supposedly low-cost public
housing at a cleverly-disguised profit using the clever semantics of "market
subsidy". [ see para 5.1 ]

[ *Origin of this PAP-coined phrase:
At every Singapore General Election, there will be scare-mongering politicians
warning voters ( with silly/childish threats like "poisonous time bombs" which
grossly insult the people's intelligence) that if they vote for the Opposition,
they will be voting in "a Dud Government that will do Singapore in". ]


2.4 SIMPLE LOGIC (which our highly-paid Politicians/Bureaucrats fail to
understand):

If it does not cost so much to run this tiny red-dot island, the
Government can then collect less taxes/dues from the People.

The People will then have more money in their pockets to, say:
(i) start/expand their own businesses [ promoting entrepreneurship ]
(ii) have more children [ solving our Procreation Problem ]
(iii) go on more vacation holidays [ to counter work/school stress ]


3 A High Stress Country

3.1 Soul-searching Questions ---

(i) To what extent has our High Cost of Living and our Elitist/Competitive
Education System contributed to a High Stress Country?

(ii) Have we achieve economic progress at great social costs?


3.2 Notice how our highly-paid Public Officials like to talk a lot about
money/materialistic matters (e.g. the economy, property market, asset
enhancement, HDB upgrading,etc) but hardly talk about the following disturbing
social issues ( "shameful matters" to be conveniently swept under the carpet?):

(i) Rising suicide rate among young S'poreans

More S'poreans (age 15 - 35 years) die committing suicide than from traffic
accidents. [ On average, one suicide very day! ]
Worrying trend --- suicide rates for youths on the rise (while declining for the
elderly).

Young S'poreans (under 18) seeing govt psychiatrists doubled from 1126 cases
(1990) to 2491 cases (2000) [ half were of primary school age i.e. under 13 ].
In 2001, 14,000 children were seen by IMH psychiatrists (of which 2233 were new
cases).

From 1997 - 2001, 20 primary students (under 13 years old) have committed
suicide jumping off high-rise flats.

(ii) Rising divorce rate amongst young S'poreans

In 2003, marriages fell 5% while divorce cases doubled over the last 10 years to
6,561 (i.e. 18 divorces every day! )

Particularly worrying is the rising trend of young couples divorcing within the
first five years of marriage.

(iii) Anecdotal evidence of more young S'poreans migrating.
(Previously, it was mainly the older folks who migrate following their
retirement.)


4 High Cost of Government

[ From Internet postings:
--- Paying peanuts may attract mediocre monkeys, but it does not logically
follow that handing out goldbars will attract competent chimpanzees !!!

--- Singapore is a supposedly First-World country, with a supposedly Open
Government run by supposedly World-Class million-dollar ministers and supposedly
First-Class half-a-million dollar senior bureaucrats.]

4.1 The Presidency (a largely ceremonial position)

[ Good Question --- Is it an Elected President (i.e. truly elected by the
people) or a Nominated President (i.e. nominated/endorsed by the ruling party)?
]

Parliament-approved FY2006 Annual Expenses for The Istana:
$2,507,200 --- President's salary [approx $200,000 per month]
$2,733,200 --- Salaries of Personal Staff
$1,108,500 --- Expenses of Household
$ 92,800 --- Special Services
$6,562,300 --- Total Expenses[ $547,000 per month ( almost one peanut! )]


4.2 A Bloated Cabinet:

Note (i): How strange --- President's salary published but not salaries of
Cabinet Ministers??? (as if S'poreans who are actually paying for their salaries
have no right to know !!!).

[ "We are OPEN AND TRANSPARENT...WE CANNOT HIDE what goes on in Singapore" ---
MHA Minister Wong Kan Seng (ST 18 May 2003) ]

[ "DPM Lee promises a more open Singapore"; "I don't make promises I can't keep:
DPM Lee" (ST 7 Jan 2004) ]

[ TODAY 2 Mar 2006 --- ....the Ministry of Finance "does not intend to disclose
the salaries" of individual cabinet ministers, added Prime Minister Lee Hsien
Loong* (*who is also Minister for Finance!).
Not even salary bracket ranges as required for Senior Executives of
Public-Listed Companies ??? ]

Note (ii): The "indicative salaries" below are mostly Basic Salary
i.e. Total Annual Salary Package will be much higher if other perks [eg
entertainment/transport allowance, CPF, Pension, mid-year bonus, year-end bonus,
performance bonus,etc,etc] are added on.

19 Ministers comprising Top 5 (MM, SM, PM, 2 DPM) plus 14 Ministers:

-- Top 5 Ministers @ basic salary comparable to President i.e around $2.5m per
year (about $200,000 per month)
-- 14 Ministers @ basic salary around $1.5m per year (about $100,000 per
month)

[ These are not just humongous, but obscenely-humongous salaries by both
international and local standards.

> How could the Prime Minister of tiny red dot Singapore be earning some double
that of the American President?
If US President George Bush screw up and presses the wrong buttons, the whole
world (incl tiny red dot S'pore!) can go up in nuclear smoke!
Even the Australian and Canadian Prime Ministers have joked about our
"world-infamous" ministerial salaries!
> The $100,000 that a Singapore Minister is paid in ONE MONTH is what a
typical experienced middle-age Singapore manager will earn in an ENTIRE YEAR!
> Nearly half-a-million (some 400,000) S'poreans even earn less than $1,500 per
month.


8 Ministers of State (Junior Ministers):
-- Salary range around $1m to $1.5m per year.


5 Parliamentary Secretaries & 1 Political Secretary:
-- Yatiman Yusof, Mohamed Maidin, Hawazi Daipi, Maliki Osman, Koo Tsai Kee.
Political Secretary Tang Guan Seng has been around for umpteen years!
-- Salary around $1m per year. Hardly any Ah Kow, Ahmad or Ali know what the
heck they actually do !!!


82 PAP Members of Parliament:
-- Likewise, what do this whole bunch "actually" do to "justify" their MP
Allowance of $11,900 per month (on top of their regular day job)???
[ SM Goh recently defended the $11,900 per month as "fair". Luckily (for him),
he didn't say the amount is "peanuts" !!! ]

-- They only show their faces mostly near a General Election.
-- They hardly bother to attend our infrequent Parliament sittings (convenient
lame excuse --- business commitments). But when either MM Lee or PM Lee speak
in Parliament, they were "somehow" able to attend! Some were even caught
napping on televised Parliament sessions!
-- At most, they hold weekly Meet-the-People sessions on resident's problems
dealing with bird-brained civil servants.
[Note: if our highly-paid civil servants have been doing a proper job, such
sessions would be unnecessay!].
At say, three hours per weekly session, these MPs are being paid close to $1,000
per hour!
-- They also get to hold Directorships in many companies (mostly govt-linked
companies), collecting easy "side income" from numerous director's fees.


5 PAP Community Development Council (CDC) Mayors
-- "Created to oversee" 14 PAP Town Councils.
-- Salaries of these "Mayors" are at Junior Minister level ($1m - $1.5m per
year).
-- WHY the need for such PAP Mayors when each Town Council are already headed by
a full-time Management Team?


4.3 A Bulging Bloated Bureaucracy:

> For a tiny red dot island, Singapore's supposedly First-Class Civil Service
has --- 9 Organs of State*, 15 Ministries and 67 Statutory Boards !!!
[ *Attorney-General, Auditor-General, Judiciary,etc]

> Managed by 18 Permanent Secretaries** and 29 Deputy Secretaries.
[ **Highest-ranking (and highest-paid) Civil Servant, with Salary range = $0.5m
to $1m per year ]

> There are already 15 Ministries --- WHY then so MANY stat boards?

You see --- every time there is a new function, they like to "automatically"
create a new stat board! (the more the merrier --- to "spread out" the
workload. Not Bad -- do less work but still get high pay !!! Why Worry? The
People Are Paying! )

WHO CARES if such a Bloated Civil Service will lead to "co-ordination problems"
(left hand don't know what right hand is doing during a REAL EMERGENCY of
Terrorism or Disease Epidemic) as well as "merry-go-round" frustrations for
citizens/businessmen?

Recent stat boards created --- WDA, ACRA, CCS, IPOS.
Hold on, more soon to come --- such as Casino Regulatory Authority.

Each new stat board created results in the creation of an overseeing Board (with
about 10-12 Board Members [mostly senior civil servants,who are paid a fee]) and
positions of CEO, Deputy CEOs, etc,etc.

Example --- at one time, managerial staff at the CPF Board (whose work can be
largely computerised) comprise 1 CEO, 2 Deputy CEOs, 5 Divisional Directors, 30
Deputy Directors, 59 Assistant Directors and 59 Managers.
Any private sector company with these many layers of "management fat" would have
"collapsed or gone bankrupt" donkey years ago !!!

More Shocking Revelations:

(i) The whole Civil Service has a ridiculous number of 216 Public Affairs
Managers (dealing with replies to the public).
[ Within the Home Affairs ministry (right under the nose of DPM Wong Kan Seng),
there are 27 Public Affairs Managers!]

Since most S'poreans are still "fearful of speaking up publicly", these Public
Affairs Managers are mostly "twiddling their thumbs" (nothing much to do).
Their Salary Cost to taxpayers = $15m EVERY YEAR !!! (based on average $5000
monthly salary and 2 months bonus)

(ii) 2003 HDB Overly-Generous $220m Retrenchment Payout Fiasco:

Under Minister-IN-CHARGE Mah Bow Tan, the HDB had grew unchecked into a 8,000
staff organisation with a $500m annual wage bill (or $55,000 per person ---
pointing to many over-paid "fat cats" !!! )

In July 2003, it then went overboard with its stupid and overly-generous $220
million retrenchment payout to let go 2,630 staff (or $84,000 per person !!! )
--- pointing to an inexperienced/panicky/botched-up handling of its first
major retrenchment exercise.
Human Resource practitioners in the private sector were rightly shocked at the
humongous payout ( without a 25-year cap, which is standard private sector
practice! ).


5 High Cost of Homes/ Cars/ Education

5.1 (a) Singapore's private home prices are "obscenely-high" while HDB flat
prices are "sky-high".
For most S'poreans, a home is the most expensive purchase they will make in
their lifetimes.
Some 90% of our population live in HDB flats --- representing the less-well-off
who cannot afford private property.

(b) Despite our high home prices, few buyers "feel the pinch" immediately
because up to 90% of the cost can be financed by long-term debt (over 20 -30
years).
Thus, many do not give a second thought to the fact if they borrow, say,
$100,000 under a 20-year home loan, they could ultimately cough up some $200,000
in total capital and interest repayments.


(c) SIMPLE LOGIC --- if a young couple in Singapore have to "sink so much
monies" into their "brick and cement" HDB flat, how much monies will there
be left to raise a family and sent the children to school/university (not to
mention providing for their own healthcare/retirement needs in their old age)
???


(d) Since 2002, many HDB flatbuyers have become "suspicious" on how HDB new
flats are actually priced.

They asked how a 5-room HDB new flat is priced at $200,000 when its construction
cost is only about $50,000 (as revealed from actual contracts of HDB Building
Contractors).
Adding on another,say, $70,000 for Land Cost & Other Related Costs, the Total
Breakeven Cost per flat is only about $120,000! (which HDB should set as the
selling price, as HDB flats are supposed to be low-cost public housing).

But the HDB chose this very ingenious "market subsidy" approach --- "by
pricing NEW flats just below the market price of comparable RESALE flats".
So, HDB will look at the prevailing market price (say,$260,000) of a RESALE 5-rm
flat --- and then "pluck from the air" a lower figure of, say, $200,000 as the
selling price of a NEW 5-rm flat (NEVER MIND even if its actual Total Breakeven
Cost is only $120,000).

The HDB can then go around boasting that the new flat buyer is getting a "market
subsidy" of $60,000 --- when there is actually no "true cash subsidy", and the
HDB is really making a very handsome profit of $80,000 PER NEW FLAT SOLD!


Several people (incl this writer) have written to newspaper forums on this
important issue affecting some 90% of our population.
Following which, there were many angry reactions on various Internet websites
over the PAP Government's recalcitrant "lack of transparency" on the HDB Flat
Pricing issue.

[ Further detailed arguments are found in this writer's "Be Open on HDB Flat
Pricing --- Open Letter to PM Lee" at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review/message/2242 ]


5.2 High Cost of Car Ownership

For S'poreans in marketing/service type jobs or those living in the East and
working in Jurong area, a car is often a necessity and not a luxury.

At one time, a medium-sized car (Toyota Corolla) cost a whopping $110,000
(import cost from Japan was only $15,000).
And at another time, COE prices nearly hit $100,000 !!!

After paying the lumpsum COE upfront, the motorist next have to pay recurring
ERP charges !!!
Revenue for Govt from COE payments = $200m every month (on average)
Revenue from ERP = $??? per month.
Revenue from Parking/Traffic Offence fines = $??? per month.


5.3 Increasing Cost of Education

(a) Why such costly/posh educational institutions (sinking so much monies into
brick and cement???):

--- $435m SMU new City Campus in Bras Basah area.

--- $322m Republic Polytechnic new Woodlands Campus (latest amongst 5
Polytechnics).
Designed by a famous Japanese architect (expensive Foreign Talent! Singapore
architects not good enough?)

--- $370m new ITE College East Campus (near Singapore Expo).
A really ULTRA-POSH "mega-campus" (for hands-on technical education???).
Hold on -- another two more such mega-campus coming up (Central Campus and West
Campus) !!!


(b) See how, in tiny red dot Singapore, the 4 Universities
(NUS,NTU,SMU,UniSIM) and 5 Polytechnics try to "outdo each other" in offering
"duplicating courses" and resorting to costly Press/TV advertising campaigns?
The students will, of course, have to pay for all these costs !!!

(b) What the heck is going on ???
First, Golden Taps at the NKF (National Kachang Foundation?)
Next, Golden Chairs at the NTU (Nanyang Technological University) !!!

News report on NTU Business School buying as many as 300 top-end "ergonomic"
Herman Miller office chairs costing $2,200 each (when chairs costing $300 to
$400 are just as good and lasting !!!)

(c) "University fees have increased by an annual average of 5% since 1990 and
they have gone up every year, Mr Tharman said" (BT 2 Mar 06).

Mr Tharman, we all know that already. But why are you not telling the people
the detailed numbers of Govt bursaries/scholarships generously given out to
Foreign Students (most of whom are "making use" of Singapore as a "stepping
stone") ???

(d) $1m --- Consulting Fee which the MOE will pay an External Consultant to
review teacher's pay and career structure (annouced recently [clever timing!] as
yet another Big Election Carrot).

MOE has been around for donkey years, and has a massive Personnel Division
headed by 1 Director, 3 Deputy Directors and 12 Department Heads.
And yet have to pay so much in consulting fee to external consultants ???
Why can't they do most of the work with so much in-house resources ???


6 Questionable/Controversial Mega-Deals by Temasek Hldgs & GIC

6.1 Every now and then, we read about Temasek Hldgs/GIC spending
millions/billions buying this and that bank/company/property in this and that
country.

Yet, these two companies (wholly-owned by Ministry of Finance) are well-known
for their "Corporate Opaqueness" --- that is totally inconsistent with the
"Corporate Transparency" constantly preached by Singapore's Minister for Finance
(Husband of the Temasek CEO!).

>> Temasek $6.2B purchase of 96.12% stake in Thai telecom giant Shin Corp ---
triggering angry protests by Thai demonstrators at Singapore's Bangkok Embassy
and burning of photos of Temasek CEO and Singapore PM.
[ Upon completion of the purchase, Shin Corp's share price fell, leading to
Temasek incurring a paper loss of $1.39B.]

>> PSA unsuccessful bid of $10.7B for P & O British shipping giant.

>> DBS unsuccessful bid (for as much as $10B) for majority stake in Korea
Exchange Bank.
[ Previous 2001 Fiasco --- DBS bought HK Dao Heng Bank for $8.9B (at 3 times
book value!). In its 2005 results, it has to book an impairment charge of
$1.13B over this acquisition, resulting in a fourth quarter loss of $441m.]

>> Fiber-optic cable operator Global Crossing (Temasek took a 62% in 2003)
chalked up losses of US$336m in 2004 and another US$358m in 2005.

>> Wafer fabricator Chartered Semiconductor (60% Temasek-owned) had
accumulated losses of more than US$1B since 2001. [ Chartered shares have lost
90% of their value since 1999.]


7 Political Flirtation with Trade Union Movement

7.1 Of course, instead of "political flirtation", they prefer to use the
nice-sounding term of "symbiotic relationship".

7.2 IRREFUTABLE FACT --- Singapore's progress stems from the contributions of
ALL S'poreans ( from entrepreneurs, managers, supervisors to toilet cleaners,
road sweepers,etc,etc) and not just unionised workers !!!


7.3 Strictly speaking, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is not a
public/Govt body but a private membership organisation --- with its operating
funds coming from the membership fees paid by union members.

7.4 Currently, there are two Cabinet ministers (Lim Boon Heng/Lim Swee Say)
doing work for the NTUC.
Rightful Questions --- Since their salaries are actually paid out of public
funds, why are they not doing work for SINGAPORE (the country) instead of NTUC
(trade union movement)?
And if they are doing work for the NTUC, why is the NTUC not paying for their
million-dollar salaries?


7.5 Many S'poreans have all along thought that (from its name) the Singapore
Labour Foundation (SLF) is a trade union body --- very few know it was cleverly
incorporated way back in 1977 as a statutory board under the Manpower Ministry.
[ SLF CEO is Nancy Teo,a former union official ]

[ SLF Minister-IN-CHARGE = Ng Eng Hen
SLF Chairman Mah Bow Tan/ Dy Chairman Lim Boon Heng/ Director Lim Swee Say ]


7.6 WHY THE HECK is SLF (a public-funded statutory board) trying to be a
big-time Property Developer ???
Two SLF mega-property projects (with many unanswered questions):

(i) NTUC HQ Building in New Downtown
$400m 32-storey glass tower. Announced in 2001/Completed in 2004.
WHY such a posh building on expensive prime land for a trade union office
building? Why not a functional building in a suburban location?
$140m land cost said to be paid for by the SLF (out of public funds).
$75m grant from the Government (WHY are public funds given to NTUC,a
private membership organisation?)
WHO actually paid for the remaining $185m ???

(ii) SLF Ang Mo Kio Town Centre Mega-Complex
First conceived in 2001 as a $200m Mega-Complex (31-storey condo tower,
21-storey office bldg, NTUC Hypermart, Bus Interchange) to be jointly developed
by SLF, NTUC Income, NTUC Choice Homes, NTUC Fairprice.
Project faced inordinate delays (drawing anger from residents).
In 2004, SLF decided to drastically scale-down the project to "integrated
shopping mall-cum-bus interchange", with project cost indicated at $340m.

Million-Dollar Question --- HOW much is the SLF and/or the Government
"paying/contributing" towards this second NTUC project?

Right from day one, this ambitious/costly project was mired in
controversy --- being rightly criticised by Private Developers/Retailers for
the way the SLF had been awarded the choice site (without a competitive bidding
process).


8 Pork-Barrel Politics --- Using Public Funds for Election Carrots to Capture
Votes

8.1 Definition of "pork-barrel politics" --- the use of public funds (instead
of political party funds) by politicians for political advantage.

8.2 2005 Amazing News Report:

"Singapore's PM criticizes Japan's pork-barrel politics"
JapanToday 7 Oct 2005

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday criticized the corruption
and pork-barrel politics that have bedeviled Japan's political system.

Lee, speaking at a luncheon organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association,
said "But they (Japan) landed into problems because of corruption, money
politics, pork barreling, and then necessary changes were not made and the
country, instead of making adjustments and prospering like America, just flew
straight on and went into a storm."

8.3 2006 Equally Amazing News Headlines on Singapore's Election Budget ---
overflowing with such super-big election carrots/handouts/giveaways/goodies:

( $30.62B Total Government Expenditure in 2006 Budget )

$2.6B 2006 Budget "Progress Package" handouts for low-income S'poreans and
NSmen.

Mega-Makeovers by Town Councils (announced so far, with more to come!):
Aljunied $160m, Tampines $332m, Ang Mo Kio $500m,
East Coast $500m, Jalan Besar $517m, Marine Parade $565m,
Sembawang $570m, Jurong Town $661m, Pasir Ris/Punggol $1 BILLION !!!


Question: Is it really such a big deal ???
Answer: NO BIG DEAL !!! These are actually the people's hard-earned monies
"over-collected" in the past through numerous taxes/dues and now "returned"
(without any accrued interest!) to the people to seduce them for their votes.

Pertinent Comment: On elections won through pork-barrel politics, other
political ploys and with no level playing field --- such victories are "both
hollow and without honour" in the eyes of educated/thinking Singaporeans!


9 Incredibly Stupid Spending of the People's Hard-Earned Monies

9.1 $600m --- Amount earmarked for Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) to make the
lifts stop at every floor.

This is proof of yet another HDB Monumental Screw-Up.
In the original design/construction of HDB flats, the lift equipment and lift
shaft are already provided for.
So it would be easy and hardly costly to leave "doorway holes" in the brick
walls of the lift shaft --- so that the lifts can stop at every floor!
BUT HDB did not do so in the very first place (being stupidly penny-wise but
pound-foolish).
SO NOW the HDB is trying to "remedy" their past Monumental Mistake by spending
$600m of the people's hard-earned monies ( IN ADDITION to making the people
suffer all these years without the lifts stopping at every floor !!!)

WHY, OH WHY must our people Pay And Pay (PAP) for all these Monumental Blunders
of our Highly-Paid Public Officials ???

[ HDB Minister-IN-CHARGE = Mah Bow Tan ]


9.2 $160m --- National Parks Board's Giant 2006 Election Carrot to "spoil"
the "unspoilt beauty" of East Coast Park !!!

[ NPB Minister-IN-CHARGE = Mah Bow Tan ]


9.3 $246m --- 2006 Total Expenditure Budget of the People's Association (a
statutory board under MCYS).
PAP politicians may deny it like hell, but smart S'poreans know very well the PA
has been used to "politicise" the grassroots movement to favour the PAP.

$500,000 --- PA's "Image Revamp" spending this year in getting Public Relations
company Burson-Marsteller and Dick Lee to "rebrand itself to appeal to the
young".
If young S'poreans are not interested in the PA's programmes:
(i) a Good Govt will close down the PA and help save $246m for taxpayers
(ii) whereas a Dud Govt will spend another $500,000 to keep it afloat at all
costs (perhaps to save the job of loyal civil servant-cum-PA CEO Tan Boon Huat?)

[ PA Minister-IN-CHARGE = Dr Vivian Balakrishnan ]
[ PA Chairman Lee Hsien Loong/ Dy Chairman Wong Kan Seng/ Members Mah Bow Tan,
Lim Swee Say ]


9.4 $400,000 2005 URA Marina Bay "Branding" Exercise:
URA's highly-paid civil servants allowing themselves to be CONNED by
Foreign CONsultants on the latest management buzzword of "branding".
Ended up spending this sum to re-brand Marina Bay as ......Marina Bay
!!!!!! WHAT THE HECK !!!

[ URA Minister-IN-CHARGE = Mah Bow Tan ]


9.5 $150,000 North-East CDC "Dare To Dream Fund" providing repeated
sponsorships in public funds to "self-styled adventurer" Khoo Swee Chiow.
An angry ST Forum writer wrote " Why should good money be given to a person for
his self-glorification? What does his being underwater for 212 hours and 30
minutes do for Singapore?".

[ North-East CDC Mayor = Zainul Abidin Rasheed ]


9.6 $250,000 Said to be the cost of 2005 LTA "Image Survey":
Next, it is the LTA's turn to "throw public monies to the wind" by
hiring an (expensive) American Public Relations firm to conduct an "image
survey" to find out what the people "think" of the LTA after the Nicoll Highway
collapse !!!
What a Big Bunch of Bird-Brained Bureaucratic Buffoons !!!

[ LTA Minister-IN-CHARGE = Yeo Cheow Tong ]


9.7 $200,000 --- what LTA spent in 2005 to "save a matured Angsana tree"
located right in the middle of a road (outside Raffles Junior College) ---
resulting in several traffic near-accidents!
Which is more important --- saving human lives or saving a tree???


9.8 $125m --- Cost of LTA Expressway Monitoring & Advisory System (EMAS).
The Electronic Road Signboards were completed in March 1998 but plug was pulled
in October 2003.
LTA did not bother to explain why (as if the public have no right to know !!!).


9.9 $40.3m --- Contracted Cost of LTA "high-tech/ state-of-the-art/real-time"
information on bus arrivals.
In 2003, just months before the project completion, LTA terminated its contract
with Stratech Systems because of software and integration problems.
LTA reportedly face $4m in claims, but refused to disclose how much of the
$40.3m has been paid to Stratech Systems (as if taxpayer-citizens have no right
to know !!!)


10 Other Unjustified/Extravagant/Wasteful Public Spending Fiascos

10.1 The Esplanade --- Two Big Durians or One Big White Elephant ???

Total Project Cost = $630m construction cost + $700m imputed land cost
= $1.33 BILLION
Divided over its 4000 seats, each seat cost $330,000.

2002 Opening Ceremony expenses = $13m
Management Offices renovation cost = $600,000 ( one peanut! )
Cleaning spiky exterior each time = $300,000 ( half a peanut! )

Total Operating Losses (for past three years) = $110m (from govt grants)

Million-Dollar Question --- FOR HOW LONG will the Govt keep pouring in some
$40m of public funds every year into a potential bottomless pit ???

Sick Joke #1 --- American Idol-reject William Hung's Singapore concert was
held at The Esplanade !!!

Sick Joke #2 --- And WHY still build so many other costly "state-of-the-art"
arty-farty theatres? Just look at the long list:

> $28m 615-seater Drama Centre inside the new $203m National Library HQ Bldg
(Victoria St).
> 500-seater Main Theatre in the $150m Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts city
campus (Prinsep St) due for 2007 completion.
> 388-seater Theatre in the $115m Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts new premises
(Bencoolen St) completed in 2004.
> 10-storey Singapore Arts School (Kirk Terrace/completion 2008) will also have
a theatre.
> NUS already has a University Cultural Centre!
> Newly-completed Republic Polytechnic (Woodlands) also have a very grand
1200-seater Cultural Centre !!

[ MICA Minister-IN-CHARGE = Dr Lee Boon Yang ]


10.2 Is it "Changi PRISON" or "Changi PALACE" ???

$1.095 BILLION --- Cost of Changi Prison Complex Redevelopment !!!
These "free-spending freaks" must have gone overboard with state-of-the-art
James Bond-type "super-kiasu" security technology to prevent prisoner escape
!!!
Or were they thinking of putting aircon and big Plasma TV sets in every prison
cell so that the prisoners can enjoy EPL/World Cup football matches in comfort
???

[ MHA Minister-IN-CHARGE & DPM = Wong Kan Seng ]


10.3 Singapore has more than Seven Wonders of The World --- with so many
Government buildings looking like posh 5-star hotels!

[ Note: It is sheer stupidity and sinful extravagance to pour so much of the
people's hard-earned monies into such brick-and-cement public buildings.
At best, Govt office buildings should be airconditioned and of functional
design. THAT'S ALL !!! ]

>> Since 2000, $3 BILLION spent on constructing 17 new govt buildings (despite
existing govt buildings having vacant office space totalling some 1.7 million sq
ft !!!)

>> 2002 LTA Proposed $500m Office Bldg Fiasco.
Finally Aborted, following hugh public outcry. One outraged Business Times
reader rightly screamed "Have these well-paid and pampered bureaucrats no sense
of shame?"
The LTA only needed half the space in the proposed building --- hoping to rent
out the remaining half (when the private sector office space market was facing
its worst glut!).
So much for highly-paid Public Officials trying to be smart-aleck
Landlords/Businessmen in competing with private sector counterparts!

[ LTA Minister-IN-CHARGE = Yeo Cheow Tong ]


>> In June 2002, HDB moved to its spanking-new $380m HDB Hub from its
still-new Bukit Merah premises.

[ The Bukit Merah premises were then left vacant for some 18 months, incurring
an opportunity cost in lost rental estimated at $1 million per month! ]

What "posh extravagance" [like a 5-star hotel lobby] for the HDB Sales Office at
HDB Hub:
Plush fabric sofas instead of durable moulded plastic chairs.
Polished granite floors (slippery) instead of heavy-duty ceramic tiles.
Large expensive Plasma TV screens instead of cheaper alternatives.

MOST IMPORTANTLY --- Instead of "throwing public monies to the wind", why not
lower prices of HDB flats TO DIRECTLY BENEFIT OUR PEOPLE ???

[ HDB Minister-IN-CHARGE = Mah Bow Tan ]


>> $203m new 16-storey National Library HQ Bldg (sitting on expensive prime
land in the city along Victoria St).
Has 14 internal gardens! (recurring high maintenance costs!)
Would not the money be better spent on the various Regional Libraries to better
serve the people at their doorsteps?
[ The nearby SMU new city campus already has top-notch library facilities. WHY
the wasteful/unnecessary duplication? ]


>> $208m new Supreme Court Bldg.
Designed by "renowned British architect" Norman Foster (expensive fees!).
His "shitty" spaceship design is totally out of place --- people thought it is
a shopping centre with a revolving rooftop restaurant!
Our local Singapore architects cannot handle such a project? Must engage Foreign
Talent?
[ It should have been a "stately" building to blend in with the surrounding
historical buildings in the Civic District.]


10.4 2002 IDA "Honest Mistake" Fiasco.
A Monumental Bureaucratic Blunder involving non-recovery by IDA of an erroneous
overpayment to SingTel of $388m of the people's HARD-EARNED MONIES.

Adding insult to injury, NO APOLOGY was tendered by then IDA Minister-IN-CHARGE
DAVID LIM, IDA Chairman (Perm Sec Lam Chuan Leong) and then Head of Civil
Service (Perm Sec Lim Siong Guan).

All three were nowhere to be found. The buck was cleverly passed down to a
junior official, who then "conveniently dismissed" the matter as an "HONEST
MISTAKE" !!!
What a deplorable show of DISRESPECT for the people!


10.5 Going Overboard on Government IT Spending?

>> In 2004, OneMotoring website (previously under LTA) was contracted out for
revamp/operation to a private company at a cost of $5m.
In 2006, the website was again upgraded at a further cost of $36m.

>> In 2004, to "encourage" IT use among retailers, IDA reportedly paid 20% of
the $1.5 million computer system for private supermarket chain Sheng Siong.
This represents $300,000 of taxpayer's money!
Why should the IDA "subsidise" a commercial enterprise using public funds?

>> In 2006, IDA announced its $1.5B IT Outsourcing Tender for the civil
service and $120m Infocomm Manpower Development Roadmap.

[ IDA Minister-IN-CHARGE = Dr Lee Boon Yang ]


11 Fiascos involving Loss of Human Health and Lives

Fiascos involving sinful spending or loss of the people's hard-earned monies are
BAD ENOUGH.
EVEN WORSE are the following fiascos involving loss of human HEALTH and LIVES:

11.1 Mindef's Hall of SHAME (not FAME) --- some recent incidents:

Mar 1997 Artillery accident in New Zealand.
2 dead (age 18 & 21), 11 injured (4 hospitalised).

Apr 1997 Anti-tank round exploded in Pasir Laba Camp.
21-year old NSman died; 4 other NSman injured with shrapnel
wounds (one had right forearm amputated)

Feb 2001 Navy ships collide at Changi Naval Base.
20-year old NSF officer died (He was bound for studies
at leading US varsity)

Jan 2003 Navy ship collision off Pedra Branca.
4 women officers dead (age range: 23 to 25).

Aug 2003 FIRST Dunking Death Incident.
19-year old NSman dead. [eldest son/ main breadwinner]

Jun 2005 SECOND Drowning Death Incident.
24-year old Regular dead. [only son]

[Note: To die during wartime defending Singapore is heroic bravery.
But to die during peacetime training is senseless stupidity !!!
During the last 10 years(1994 - 2003) --- 37 training deaths/ over 3,000 NSmen
injured.
Similar figures not disclosed for first 20 years of NS (most likely higher!) ]

$110,000 --- Mindef's cheapskate compensation payout for dead NSman
[ which is really "peanuts" compared to our million-dollar ministerial salaries
and the millions donated to tsunami/earthquake victims in foreign lands.]


11.2 2000 ENV Hand,Foot & Mouth Disease Fiasco.
[ 4,000 infected/ 7 young children dead ]

This was Singapore's first major HFMD outbreak. Then ENV Public Health
Commissioner Wang Nan Chee [highly-paid Civil Servant] was caught napping, slow
to react and his deplorable "smug complacency" contributed to the deaths of 7
innocent children.


11.3 2003 NEA's EHI Laboratory SARS case Fiasco.

Once again, Public Health Commissioner Wang Nan Chee displayed a deplorable
"smug over-confidence" in maintaining the researcher could not have been
infected in the EHI laboratory. He was subsequently proven wrong.

Possible Dire Consequences --- WHAT IF the SARS-infected NUS researcher (who
was lucky to survive) had wandered around and infect other NUS students and the
general public, resulting in a possible Second Round of SARS?


11.4 2004 LTA Nicoll Highway Collapse Fiasco. [4 dead]

Possible Horrendous Consequences --- WHAT IF the collapse happen only AFTER the
project was completed and during peak-hour traffic?
ABOVE GROUND, many cars/buses plunge into a big gaping hole along Nicoll
Highway?
BELOW GROUND, many MRT commuters suffer the terrible fate of being "entombed" to
death?
Total Death Toll in the hundreds, thousands ???


11.5 2005 NEA Dengue Epidemic Fiasco.
[ 14,210 infected/ 19 deaths (incl a 10-year old student) ]

Once again, our complacent NEA officials were caught napping and slow to react:
(i) Not learning lessons from 2003 Major Dengue Outbreak in neighbouring
Indonesia [ over 50,000 infected/ over 500 dead (mostly children) ].
(ii) Singapore's 2004 Dengue cases at 9459 was already a ten-year record high.
[As it turned out, the 2005 figure of 14,210 was even 50% higher! ].

The build-up to our 2005 Dengue Epidemic actually started around end-2004.
But it was only around September 2005 [i.e. nine months later!] that the
laid-back NEA officials started "pressing panic buttons" ! (when our hospitals
were already clogged up with dengue patients).


12 Conclusion --- Factors affecting Singapore's long-term future

12.1 This is what will actually "do Singapore in" (sooner or later):

The AAA ( Arrogant/ Autocratic/ Authoritarian) style of political governance ---
which Singaporeans have tolerated for 40 years --- as manifested in this
well-known political mindset:

"We know all. We know best. We are always right. Who are you to question us
or tell us what to do?"


12.2 All the above various Fiasco after Fiasco point to:

(i) a pathetic lack of LEADERSHIP (at the political level)
(ii) a deplorable lack of MANAGERIAL COMPETENCE (at the bureaucratic level)


12.3 The ROOT CAUSES behind all these fiascos lie in the following:

(a) control/manipulation of Press/TV media (people only hear "feel-good" news
and not "the good,the bad and the ugly" aspects of a society) = yes-man
journalists

(b) mollycoddling/pampering civil servants (through condoning their
shortcomings/mistakes in serving the people) = yes-man civil servants

(c) using the law as a political weapon through defamation suits to silence
differing/dissenting views (i.e. Fear Factor,Singapore Edition) = yes-man
citizens

Simple mathematical equation:
yes-man journalists + yes-man civil servants + yes-man citizens
= perfect recipe for fiascos/cock-ups/screw-ups/cover-ups (involving PUBLIC
FUNDS as well as possible HUMAN LIVES )
= SINGAPORE going "down the drain"


12.4 What Singaporeans have learned from the NKF Disgraceful
Debacle-cum-Shameful Scandal:

(a) From the Internet: "What the NKF saga has proved is that people who win
defamation lawsuits may not be innocent and those who lose may not be guilty."

(b) Most quoteworthy Internet posting by a young/educated Singaporean:

"People with INTEGRITY counter accusations with the TRUTH, not lawsuits!"

(c) What many Singaporeans think about defamation legal threats:

--- a most unbecoming/unprofessional as well as distasteful/disgraceful habit
(especially coming from Public Officials).

--- a cunningly-clever way to strike fear and prevent charity-donors [or
taxpayer-citizens] from asking rightful questions and seeking rightful answers
on how their donated monies [or public funds] are being spent.


(d) [ "Obviously the checks and balances didn't work." --- PM Lee's first
comments on the NKF Scandal (CNA 15 Jul 05) ]

Immediate Postings on the Internet:

Wearing his hat as Finance Minister, PM Lee had constantly preached on the
importance of Good CORPORATE Governance and the need for "checks and balances";
"transparency and accountability"; "level playing field" (under Competition Act)
and encouraging "whistle-blowers" (to expose corporate fraud/wrong-doing).

BUT wearing his hat as PRIME MINISTER, WHEN is PM Lee going to DO SOMETHING
about the long-overdue/much-needed similar "checks and balances", etc,etc, to
promote Good POLITICAL Governance ???

WHY the double standards between Corporate and Political Governance?

[ ".....we can always do BETTER if we try HARDER. We ALWAYS MUST try HARDER.
Don't just do NATO (No Action,Talk Only)....."
--- PM Lee Hsien Loong (5 May 05 CNA "Up Close" programme) ]

[ "Government that knows its job seen as key election issue: MM Lee" --- CNA 24
Jan 06
"Look at PAP's record before voting, MM Lee tells S'poreans" --- ST 27 Feb 06
]


12.5 This writer's relevant commentary "Can Singapore Continue To Survive?" is
at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review/message/2257


12.6 Links to writer's other contributions in Singapore Review:

>> "Mindef SECOND Drowning Death Fiasco --- Open Letter to Minister Teo Chee
Hean" at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review/message/2142

>> "On Defamation Legal Threats --- Open Letter to Philip Yeo" at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review/message/2193

>> "Can Our Bird-Brained Bureaucrats Tackle Bird Flu (After Screwing Up On
Dengue)?" at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review/message/2186

willy said...

I admire your guts but you gotta be careful or else you'll get into trouble.

Anonymous said...

I, the Singaporean, am a pathetic combination of English-speaking CNN/Hollywood-educated citizen of the world, a semi-free man under the Lee Dynasty and the Ugly Chinaman.

My local newspaper (the only allowed to operate) tells me that my country is Number 1 in this and that. I believe it because the Income Tax people are really quick in making me pay my taxes. And I get parking tickets very regularly.

My parents told me that I must get ahead or die of starvation. I believed it and studied hard to make it to university. But they did not tell me that if I want my voice heard I must be a Scholar first. So my peers and I end up as Non-Scholars and since we are deemed to stupid to say anything of use to the leaders of the nation, we turn to muttering among ourselves. After a while, we stop muttering because everyone kept telling us that the walls have ears.

Deprived of being heard, I turn to making money and became a small business owner. I was told that Singapore is a business friendly country. What I did not realise that is that it is friendly only to Big Businesses and state-connected companies run by (yes, again) Scholars. When the sector I was in became lucrative, a state-connected company lured my biggest clients away and my business collapsed.

So I took up a job and stop trying to come up with clever ideas that Scholars might also copy. I move from an HDB flat to a private condominium and then to a landed house and keep on paying more and more for the mortgage. I am one of the 3 million idiots trapped by what is supposed to be the biggest asset of my life.

So I better work harder and smarter. No time for volunteer work, no spare cash for charities, no time for culture - where is culture to be found anyway? My boss treats me like **** and I treat my staff likewise. Where did this corporate culture evolve from? It cannot be from the way we are governed, can it? Go by the book. No exceptions. Show me proof. Break the bond and I will sue you. Turn up at this or that department or we will issue you a warrant for your arrest.

I am a Singaporean. Fearful, cowardly, retarded in character, shallow in aspirations, materialistic, stingy, disappointed, disillusioned.

I am a Singaporean.

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