Friday, August 28, 2015

Price Of Honesty

The practitioner on the art of seduction
The question from the floor at a National Day Rally public forum organised by government feedback arm REACH (Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home) was about the justification for the stupendous Member of Parliament (MP) allowance, which stands at $192,500 annually. Vivian Balakrishnan's response that no politician will work without financial incentives speaks volumes about his, and his party's, motivations.

General Nguyễn Cao Kỳ once confessed that everyman has his price, and his was an American helicopter. It came in useful during the fall of Saigon, he piloted himself to safety on one of the aircraft carriers positioned offshore for the evacuation. The question unasked was what is Balakrishnan's price.

His insinuation blemished the memory Lim Kim San who demurred compensation to take on the challenge of housing the masses. For one who sits shakily on a moral high horse, he should pay more attention to his own words:
“It’s not making me popular, but I will insist on honesty … on declaration of conflicts of interest … on declarations of related party transactions. I will insist that ... if you’ve cheated before, come clean.”

This coming from one who has yet to account for the $79.8 million buried in the books as "Other costs" in an inflated blowout of $387 million. Every project budget has an element of contingency allowance, typically about 5 - 10%, but $78.9 million should raise eyebrows, and warrant investigations of shady dealings like, say, related party transactions. Facebook user Ghazali was arrested for questioning the increase in the YOG budget because he wished figuratively to "burn Vivian Balakrishnan and the PAP" and "rally together and vote them out". The Minister's comment?
"I didn't know about it until I read about it in the papers. It shows that I almost didn't care."

We should care. It's our money, and we are not even referring to the plunder of the Central Provident Fund. Honesty is not restricted to money matters, it's synonyms are integrity, probity, and rectitude.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Paying The Price

New faces on the block
According to official spiel, this general election is supposed to decide on the team which will set the direction for Singapore for the next 50 years. Yet only 9 days - the minimum period under current election laws - is set aside for the electorate to vet the new players. This looks more like speed dating on steroids.

While the alternate voices - a better term than the derisive opposition label - struggle for a seat in parliament to represent our wishes for a better future, the incumbents have a string of hangers on lined up to ride coat-tails into office. A quick survey of the day jobs they are jettisoning in favour of entering politics suggests that monetary reward has to be a prime motivator:
  • former Syariah Court deputy registrar Rahayu Mahzam, 35
  • deputy director at a polytechnic, Darryl David, 44
  • assistant general manager at some child care outfit, Joan Pereira, 47
  • foreign exchange research head at a Malaysia bank, Saktiandi Supaat, 41
  • corporate lawyer - please, not another overcharging Alvin Yeo - Amrin Amin, 36
  • an animal activist, Louis Ng, 37
Even a former Assistant Commissioner of Police can expect a hefty hike in take home pay. As for the executive director of a homegrown investment, trading and management consulting firm, the game changer has to be "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

Goh Chok Tong begs to  differ, he is saying the electorate are the ones being seduced. In his equivalent of the horrible person's call for repentence, he admonishes:
"And if the (Marine Parade) people are not careful, they will be seduced... they will pay a price."

Goh has a curious choice in turn of phrase, accusing the alternate parties of "looking for plunder". Another $3 billion has just been announced to seduce the senior citizen's vote, on top of the Pioneer Generation Package goodies. Coming in at a time when industrial output has shrunk for 6 months in a row - with potential to drag the economy into technical recession - one has to ask where the money is coming from. Ask nicely, not the way Chee Soon Juan once did:
"Mr Goh! Mr Goh! Come here Mr Goh! I want to talk with you, come here! Where is our money Mr Goh? You can run, but you cannot hide."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Day Of Infamy

It's the final pork barrel giveaway - an extra day off. Never mind about the loss of productive man-hours, the incumbents are still relying on the easier method of productivity growth, shipping in more foreigners. Besides, Friday starts with a "F", as in "Fifty", used ad nauseam to mark the golden jubilee, although some may associate it with an unprintable four letter word.

Punters were placing their bets on September 12, since the last general elections of 2011, 2006 and 2001 were all held on a Saturday. September 11 is, and always be, remembered as a day of infamy. That was the day a powerful nation woke up to the danger of a foreign threat. Our own version of 911 happens to mark the first election since Independence without the horrible person making his ominous presence felt at a nomination center.

His image, however, is still being milked to the hilt by the mainstream media. That, and scary archival footage of falling bombs when the Brits were having their butts kicked during WWII. Goh Keng Swee was on duty with the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force (SSVF), assigned to the "Battle Box" (an underground signals centre) at Fort Canning, when the air raid sirens sounded. Another volunteer was Edward William (EW) Barker, member of the Machine-Gun Company, comprised mostly of Eurasians. The infantry E Company was filled by Chinese recruits, while the Armoured Company manned by Europeans. There were about 2,000 men in the SSVF. ("Goh Keng Swee, A Portrait", by Tan Siok Sun, page 41)

Most of them are dead, many probably killed in battle repelling the invaders. Not for them the honours that were bestowed by the daft on two wartime collaborators, or richly rewarded with princely appointments. 911 is a reminder of unsung heroes, not fictitious champions of our down trodden. The tragedy that will unfold on Black Friday is that more will have to repent before true democracy can prevail on this island.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Same Old, Same Old

The Elections Department (ELD) is tweaking the rules again, raising maximum spending limit from $3.50 to $4.00 per voter, tilting the "level playing" field to political parties with deeper pockets. Other changes include new ballot papers featuring candidates' mugshots "to help the elderly identify the candidates". Since we only get to see these guys face to face once in fifty five years, we won't know the purity of their hearts from a brief encounter. What they should include is an accompanying short quote reflective of their true colours:

"If you’re lazy and work less, you’ll have less Medisave" - Khaw Boon Wan
"Without foreign workers, Singapore is likely to become a ‘garbage city’. Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are." - Goh Chok Tong on Tokyo has no rubbish even though the Japanese capital has no rubbish bins in public places

"A manpower policy that advocates hiring "Singaporeans first" will not benefit the economy in the long term" - Senior Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor
"We (also) need to reflect, are we the way they described?" - Bay Yam Keng on Sun Xu's "more dogs than humans in Singapore"
"However, it may not be wise to call for the tradeoffs to be tilted further to an extent that it dissuades good people from coming forward in future” - Grace Fu on ministerial pay cut
"Some cardboard collectors treat it (collection of cardboards) as a form of exercise and activity rather than being cooped up at home" - Tan Chuan Jin
"Well, everybody has a car, we have two — my wife drives one, I drive one. We are both professionals, we need to travel" - Koh Poh Koon on car ownership
"...I regret making the decision because, in the end, the baby continued to be in intensive care, and KKH now runs up a total bill of more than $300,000..."- Lim Hng Kiang on regretting the decision to save a baby's life.
"If we spent 387 million dollars, will we get value from that expenditure? In my mind, the answer... is yes." - Vivian Balakrishnan on YOG budget blowout
"Whether a participant perished or survived depended on where he or she happened to be at the time." Heng Swee Kiat on why 12 year olds died on Mt Kinabalu

Monday, August 24, 2015

Please Let Them Go

You know the National Day Rally Speech (NDRS) has hit a new low when viewership has to be boosted with a "getai" introduction. Did anyone count how many times the horrible person's name was mentioned? Crooner Kit Chan should have chosen another tune from the Disney blockbuster, "Frozen". You know, the one with the chorus line that goes, "let it go, let it go, let it gooooo........"

You really have to think twice if you were planning to buy a second hand car from this guy - who also professed to a second career as a housing agent - when he says his best performing ministers are Vivian Balakrishnan and Lim Swee Say. If someone opened a window, the audience should able to get a whiff of the free smoke from Indonesia. Wait, it gets betterrer, even the Kate Spate fetish gets a mention. Maybe it was just a distraction so someone can swipe the toothpicks. How come Deputy Prime Minister Tharman did not warrant a mention? Latter had arguably produced the best soundbite in 50 years, about the provision of a trampoline instead of a safety net so Ah Kong can bounce back to collecting cardboard boxes till age 65, that's upped to 67 by 2017. And if we are to believe Tan Chuan-Jin, it's a healthy exercise to keep active, instead of wasting time doting on grandchildren.

After the litany of pork barrel giveaways - Special CPF Housing Grants, New Fresh Start Housing Grant, New Proximity Housing Grant, Higher Medisave Grant for newborn, etc - he still has to make sure the daft knows what the speech is all about:
"...if you support what we want to do ahead, the future that we are building, the please support me, please support my team."

Notice there's no discussion about a workforce decimated to two thirds "core Singaporean", whether the outing Transport Minister's promise of a fare reduction will be kept, and how hard the Medishield Life premium will be hitting us - except the neat reminder that the premiums will start when a baby takes his first breath. Mahathir was roundly trashed for saying certain folks were provided for from cradle to grave. Last night there was clapping for being taxed from the womb to the tomb.
Warning: The expiry date has just been extended