Be careful Singapore.

I have not posted for a while because I have been SO busy!

Nonetheless, the latest news in town caught my attention because it has to do with the country’s future.

I am sure many of you have read about the way the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council have approached the polls for the Neighbourhood Renewal Project. I read it with much disbelief that a Town Council would approach the polls this way. Polls should be done in an open and fair manner without any rewarding mechanisms to skew the results.

The favouritism and biasness displayed towards those who voted  “Yes” is a subtle signal that a favourable position towards what the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council wants will be rewarded. In the long run, the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council is encouraging people to agree with its proposals and decisions because there will be something in it for these residents.

Personally, if the residents choose to accept the carrot, that’s their prerogative. I disagree with this reward aspect of polling but it’s the residents’ prerogative. After all, they chose the MPs who would lead the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.

However, be careful Singapore. If this develops into a way of politics in Singapore, then I think we should reconsider if the Workers Party is the right party to lead. We will be no different from corrupted countries where people are rewarded for doing what is considered right and not by being upright.

There is a chinese saying “路遥知马力日久见人心”. It means on a long journey, we will see a horse’s strength. Over a long period, we will see a man’s heart. A year on, we are beginning to see the characters of the WP MPs. In the things they say and the way they treat others, online and offline. I worry.


Hougang By Elections Update 2!

"PAP vs WP"

Desmond Choo (L) and Png Eng Huat (R).


Workers’ Party nominee has been announced, with little surprise.
Mr Png Eng Huat, a businessman will be WP’s candidate for the By Elections in Hougang.

Little is known about him but he stepped up after the infamous Yaw Shin Leong, former Member of Parliament for Hougang, was sacked by the Workers’ Party for personal indiscretions. While Low of WP initially maintained that those were just rumors, they eventually sacked him because he did not turn up for the meetings to clarify matters.
If someone Low has known for so long could have indiscretions which Low did not know about, what makes anyone think that Mr Png would be more trustworthy or have integrity? I’m not doubting whether Mr Png has integrity or not. I am questioning if Low and his party knows Mr Png well enough?

Yaw Shin Leong’s scandal was the first in Singapore. The first time an Opposition got into Parliament by winning a GRC and the first time a MP was sacked by his party for indiscretions. Till date, Yaw Shin Leong has not stepped up to clarify. Some friends call him a coward. I don’t know better – but I wished he came up to speak, be clear and as the phrase goes “BE A MAN.”

According this Channelnewsasia article, I quote Low’s impression of Png:

“He described Mr Png as mature and the “right candidate” for the by-election.
Mr Low said he has known Mr Png before the 2006 General Election.
He said he observed the way he works for some time and is confident that he’s a person of integrity.
Mr Low said Mr Png is sincere in serving the people. He believes Hougang needs someone like Mr Png, who can connect with its residents.
Mr Low said if elected, Mr Png can contribute to the party’s leadership and parliamentary work.”

The answer logically is simple – because Png wasn’t as good as Yaw so WP decided to send Yaw instead!

Well, the truth is we never know everything even if we have spent a long time with them. Sincerity cannot be judged, it is tested and only seen over time. Integrity can only be revealed over time. Also don’t know what parliamentary work is Png going to support.. maybe be like Pritam, take someone’s else work and present it as his without attributing the source at the time of speech. Damn, you can get sacked from your university course for plagarism…. Or be like Gerald who didn’t know about MX9.. Old news but relevant nonetheless.

Well, the same might be said that we don’t know Desmond Choo, PAP’s candidate, for long. But Desmond, at least, he’s been working hard for more than 1 year while the WP MP was sorely Missing In Action (hence no speech link..)

Actually, I want a peaceful by election. One that is honourable and with integrity. For candidates of quality to fight cleanly and maintain peace amongst the people of Singapore. And for Mr Tan-Jee-Say-I-Don’t-Know-Be-MP-or-President-so-I-Just-Join-Both-Elections-And-Ended-Up-Losing-Both to just stop his press releases. It’s getting *quite* annoying every time he opens his mouth.

Psst. I prefer Desmond Choo. Like his Facebook page here.

Hougang By Elections Update

Breaking news!

1. Hougang By Elections have been called.

2. Nomination on May 16 2012.

3. Elections on May 26 2012.

PM Lee has also issued a statement via his Facebook Page.

Alex Tan, former Reform Party candidate, moving overseas?

Former Reform Party candidate Alex Tan Zhixiang has decided to quit Singapore for good

I came across this article yesterday and was positively stirred. Not in the way Alex would wish, “for my (sic) very last struggle with the PAP is to deny them the very young people they need to sustain their political dominance.”

No Alex, I have decided to deny YOU the very delight of seeing us join you overseas. What an audacious declaration of your struggle!

The fight you claim to have fought wasn’t for the people but for yourself. That’s why you will be going because the people who remain don’t matter to you.  

The country, called Singapore, has provided you with the very environment to be educated in peace, to eat in peace and more importantly grow into who you are in peace. No war, no strife, no struggle for food and for the very breath of life. The country in which, you are now getting an engineering degree and then moving on to what you see as greener pastures.

Coming from a former candidate, this speaks volumes of your tenacity and your love for the country. If a candidate can find a place too stifling and decides to leave the country, there is no predicting that you would not leave if you are in office. Character is not developed over night and will continue to be revealed in every circumstance. 

Life in Singapore would probably be wonderful for someone who sees strife every single day and someone who needs to fight to live instead of living it.

Countries with strong social safety nets usually have high tax rates. Let’s roughly take an example off the New Zealand’s inland revenue website.

Example 1 (extracted from here)

John’s total taxable income for the year was $65,238. Here is how to work out the amount of tax due on the income:

$0 to $14,000 at 10.5% = $1,470.00
$14,001 to $48,000 at 17.5% = $5,950.00
$48,001 to $65,238 at 30% = $5,171.40

Therefore the tax due on John’s income of $65,238 was $12,591.40 NZD. (Extracted from here)

As a percentage count, this works out to approximately 19.3%.

The same income in Singapore will mean that you will pay 2316.66 SGD  in taxes. (You can use the calculator here if needed

Social safety nets come at a cost and the cost will be borne by the citizens in one way or another. Simply put, you earn more because you need to pay more.

San Francisco is a beautiful place no doubt. It is also part of US and we all know from the news that US has its own fair share of economic, social and political problems.

The point is – seriously – there is NO perfect country. There isn’t! 

Alex Tan’s impending departure from the nation makes him and his fiance (non-Singaporean) happy. By all means, go. I’m just glad he will remain a former RP candidate and won’t be a candidate of any form in Singapore anymore. 

He said, “I fought, I lost and now I’m gone because my family come first.” 

The fight you claim to have fought wasn’t for the people but for yourself. That’s why you will be going because the people who remain don’t matter to you. 

I’m staying because this is my country. ’nuff said.

On Labour Day…

PM Lee held his annual May Day Rally. Like some of the countries in the world, May Day, aka Labour Day, is a designated public holiday set aside to celebrate “the economic and social achievements of workers[1]

You can listen to his speech on YouTube here. Transcript available here.

Outlining the problems of cost of living, low wage workers, foreign workers and an aging population, PM Lee highlighted similar problems faced by countries such as those in Southern Europe and reminded that “…we should see our progress and problems in perspective.”

In Singapore, PM Lee shared that our problem is that we have created “…opportunities, more than we have bodies to fill…” The people are already working overtime and yet consistently, almost every sector has a shortage of manpower. As a result, it is important that we need foreigner workers. But just how many do we need depends on the economic situation.

PM Lee also outlined how European countries were struggling due to welfarism and state paid pensions that are bankrupting the governments. He quoted Italy as an example. What the Italian government spend on pensions in 1 year is almost (in terms of percentage GDP) what the Singapore government spends on the budget every year for everything. Everything includes healthcare, defense, education, housing… just to name a few.

PM Lee also explained the problem with youth unemployment from another perspective. In Spain, at least 24% of the population is not working, of which about 52% are youths. The implications are youths who do not know what it means to be in a job or learning the necessary job skills. That’s like a generation of youths having a late head start in life and possibly lower economic power when they are older.

Disagreeing with Professor Lim Chong Yah’s proposed shock therapy of increasing low wage workers’ wages by 50% in 3 years, PM Lee while appreciating Professor Lim’s good intentions, shared that the only realistic way of increase is to do it “step by step, with wages and productivity going up in tandem together as fast as we can but as fast as is possible.”

PM Lee also emphasized, “Let me be quite clear, Singaporeans will always be our priority. This is the focus of all our policies.”

Hear hear!

“Look into the future, not back to the past
Commanding a premium, not offering a discount
The first choice for investments and talent
Not a place which is bypass and neglected
Where things get done cheaper better and faster” – PM LEE

Yale-Singapore – Is Singapore so bad?

Came across some good articles I’ll like to share on the Yale-Singapore controversy. If you have been away, I am happy to introduce you to the Yale-NUS College. Yale, together with NUS, has set up a liberal arts college in Singapore. The contention by some in Yale is that there is no academic freedom in Singapore, thus stifling the possibilities of a vibrant academic culture.

Sharing with you 2 articles:

An unnatural country’s take on democracy. ( If Yale can go to China to teach and set up programmes, why is it so controversial to go to Singapore? )

Yale-NUS a timely, visionary initiative: Four reasons why resolution adopted by Yale faculty is disappointing by Professor Tommy Koh

I rise in support of this academic collaboration. Education has had its way in shaping my mind, just like it did (does) for the Yale faculty who participated in the voting process

Political Leaders in SG Rank Better Among Singaporeans

A friend forwarded me this through the email. We don’t know who is the author as it was also a forwarded mail. Nonetheless, if you are the author, please let me know. I will be glad to edit and give credit accordingly. It’s too good not to be shared!

Business, Political and Religious Leaders Around the World Fall Short of Expectations

Political leaders here rank better among Singaporeans, according to Ketchum’s Leadership Communication Monitor

· Over 50% of Singaporeans believe that political leaders are the most effective communicators, compared to business and religious leaders

· 65% of Singaporeans believe that leaders need to be open and honest about the challenges ahead amidst challenging economic times


SINGAPORE, March 20, 2012 – Singaporeans feel that political leaders demonstrate the most effective leadership domestically and internationally compared to other types of leaders. This is one of the key local findings of a 12-country survey by global communications firm Ketchum. While the overall study reveals that leaders from business, political and religious life are falling desperately short of expectations around the world – with Europeans and Americans the most disillusioned – Singapore leaders have performed better among their peers.

Amongst Singaporeans, leadership skills that matter include the ability to handle an issue or crisis calmly (68%), to lead by example (66%), to communicate in an open and transparent way (65%), and also be able to articulate a clear long term vision (63%).

They add that the most important action leaders need to take to restore confidence during challenging economic times is to be open and honest about challenges (65%). Over half of Singaporeans (57%) state that effective leadership from business leaders will be very important in terms of navigating the unstable economic future. Most leaders seem to be moving in the right direction, with more than one third of Singaporeans having greater confidence in business (40%) and political leaders (36%) navigating through the economic crisis within their country compared to one year ago.

In terms of industry, 32% feel that the technology industry showed leadership, the highest of any other industry, followed by media (27%) and the banking industry (27%). Consumer goods companies (13%), brewing and spirits (12%) and over-the-counter personal health care product (12%) companies all rank among the lowest in terms of exhibiting leadership.

Effective communications is closely linked to leadership, as eight in ten Singaporeans (80%) stating that effective communication was extremely important to leadership. Singaporeans believe that political leaders (51%), business leaders (47%) and religious leaders (45%) are the most effective communicators, more so than other categories of leaders.

Singaporeans find the most important areas for business leaders to be personally involved in communicating are crisis response (58%) and financial results (58%). When Singaporeans form their views on leaders and leadership, channels that allow for both visual and audio content, such as broadcast media (48%) in-person contact (49%) and televised speeches (47%) are seen as most credible.

Interestingly, residents of Singapore view press releases (57%) as the most credible communication sources when forming opinions about leaders. Online sources such as Twitter (6%), blogs (25%) and other social media platforms (14%) are all much less credible.

Global findings

In other parts of the world, more people believe leadership will actually get worse in 2012 (31%), compared with anticipating better leadership (27%). Perhaps most concerning, the report found a 28-percentage-point gap between expectations of leaders and their delivery against those expectations.

However, the study reveals leadership credibility in 2012 and beyond requires a combination of decisive action and honest, transparent communication – most effectively achieved through a leader’s personal presence and involvement.

“Our study reveals for the first time the full extent of the world’s disappointment with its leaders across every category of human endeavor,” said Rod Cartwright, Director of Ketchum’s Global Corporate Practice. “But the research is also rich with practical insights – a clear blueprint for more effective leadership and leadership communication. What is clear is that effective leadership and effective communication are inextricably linked.”

Perhaps unexpectedly, the Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor found that business leaders were seen as the most effective over the past year – beating politicians, not-for-profit bosses and even religious leaders. More than a third of respondents said they were more confident in business leaders than a year ago, with 36% viewing business as providing effective leadership (receiving an “excellent” rating of 8 or above on a scale of 0-10) and 48% seeing them as effective communicators.

This compared with just 25% of politicians and religious leaders, who achieved the same “excellent” rating. Although expectations of politicians to provide effective leadership in difficult times were higher than any other group (63%), they suffered the lowest vote of confidence, with 47% expecting worse political leadership in 2012.

Within the business community, knowledge-based industries were perceived as having the most effective bosses. Ranked highest on leadership effectiveness was technology, with a 44% approval rating, followed by media (39%) and telecommunications (36%). Banking chiefs came in fourth overall in the poll worldwide with 32%. The energy sector and financial services leaders were ranked fifth (31%) and sixth (30%) respectively. Consumer business leaders lagged far behind on leadership, with consumer packaged goods placed lowest at 20%.

Perhaps most significant for the business community, the research underlines a direct link between positive perceptions of leadership and business-critical decisions such as a willingness to buy stock, goods and services or recommend working at a company. This explains crisis response being seen as the most important area for business leaders to communicate personally (53%), followed by financial results (48%) and the state of the business (40%).

Personal Leadership and Powerful Communication – A Direct Link

Clear, transparent communication topped the table of key leadership behaviors. For 84%, effective communication is extremely important to strong leadership, while 48% rated it as the number one factor. However, action matters – with tough decision-making, leading by example and calm crisis-handling following immediately behind.

The study also revealed that globally, the number one action leaders should take to restore confidence in 2012 is to be open and honest about the nature and scale of the challenge ahead (57% US; 52% Europe v s. 43% China). By contrast, only 17% indicated a preference for leaders to spare them the full picture to avoid panic.

Trustworthiness was seen as the number one source of leadership credibility for corporations, placed above quality of management and financial strength. In order to win that trust, the report found that the personal “presence” and involvement of a leader in communicating was vital. As a result, communication via face-to-face and traditional media left social media trailing. Face-to-face contact provided the greatest source of leadership credibility (50%), followed by televised speeches (43%), broadcast media (41%) and print media (38%). Digital platforms and social media were well off pace, with blogs at 20%, Facebook at 16%, advertising at 13% and Twitter at just 8%.

Cartwright said: “It is clear that mainstream media still carries a great deal of credibility. When it comes to digital and social media, the message is that most people don’t believe that the leader is actually involved. This doesn’t mean we should conclude that these channels are redundant as a vehicle for establishing credible leadership – quite the contrary. Rather, it underlines the absolute imperative of making the ‘presence’ of the leader shine through.”