Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Eerie Quiet

The letter writer asked for a waiver of the 3 year waiting period for a HDB flat after downgrading from private property ownership. Instead of being free to hop about happily in the garden, his rabbit will probably be confined to a hutch in the balcony. And poor doggy may have to be debarked to maintain the silence of the lambs housed in high rise pigeon holes with 99-year leases. Such is the fate of those who swallowed the sugared blue pill of asset enhancement.

Talking on the Chinese language station 95.8FM  radio call-in , even the prime minister admitted that there are retirees who are asset-rich cash-poor. "We should take a close look at this problem.... ", he said, without venturing any solution.

The Reuters report of another quiet group highlighted the eerie silence at night in Sentosa Cove, the only place in Singapore where foreigners can buy landed property. Spurred on by the 2004 Financial Investor Scheme (FIS) that allowed foreigners with a global net worth of $20 million to become permanent residents (PRs) if they parked $5 million (raised to $10 million in 2010) in country, $2 million of which could be put into property, the gold rush was on.

Fast forward to July 2014, a four-bedroom apartment in Sentosa's Turquoise condominium went under the hammer at a mortgagee sale for $1,400 per square foot. In 2012, a similar flat in the same block went for $2,450 per square foot and in 2007, it fetched $2,800. "The rental can't even cover the mortgage for these high-end investments - they want to offload but there are no takers," said the head of research at property consultancy OrangeTee.

No pity for this lot. Without a doubt, they helped pushed the COE to untenable levels. Last month United Overseas Bank (UOB) reported a doubling in its bad debt charges for the second quarter, attributing to a group of investors struggling to service high-end property loans.  Inevitably, the banks will have to hike interest rates, and even those flat buyers who opt for the Housing Board's fixed concessionary loans may not escape the bloodbath ahead. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Monday, September 1, 2014

11,800 More Votes

It was obvious the hike for the non-graduate civil servants was not meant to address the shameful Gini coefficient. The management executive officers - specifically those who work on policies and oversea operations - who are benefiting from the 5 pay cent increase this month are, by one account, in the over $10,000 a month salary bracket. The beneficiaries of this largess include 6,500 management executive officers and 5,300 management support officers.

This unexpected generosity comes after the 5 to 12 percent increases announced for Home Team officers recently, and public sector nurses have been promised 5 to 20 percent over the next two years.

The Public Service Division (PSD) cited factors like economic growth, despite the published fact that GDP growth is nowhere within smelling range of  5 percent.

Based on advance estimates in July 2014, the Singapore economy grew by 2.1 per cent on a year-on-year basis in the second quarter of 2014, slower than the 4.7 per cent growth in the previous quarter. On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally-adjusted annualised basis, the economy contracted by 0.8 per cent, a reversal from the 1.6 per cent growth in the preceding quarter.

Another line used is the keep up with the Joneses in the private-sector argument. At least one dissenting voice shot this down, "I don't think civil servants are lagging behind the private sector." The CEO of the Center for Executive Education felt the PSD should "clearly articulate and provide the information on how extensive its private-sector salary data study was and what industry level it benchmarked salaries to."

The Home Team showed its true colours at Little India. The nurses' hard work are marred by horror stories of how a woman died because her aspirator was not switched on, and a grandma with an assigned ward and bed number who had to spend the night in a hospital corridor. Nobody really knows what the non-graduate civil servants do, since we assume policy making is in the powerful hands of the superscale permanent secretaries. However, we do see lots of helpers manning the balloting centers during a general election.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Barking Dogs Don't Bite

When we adopted a rabbit from the SPCA, we were told to pay for the spaying and neutering fee, on the understanding that a neutered male rabbit will live longer. Also, altered rabbits are supposed to be calmer, more loving, and dependable once the undeniable urge to mate has been removed. All we remember was that the poor creature was sad and forlorn for at least a fortnight. You would be sad too if your family jewels were surgically nipped off.

The Housing Board recommendation to some Ang Mo Kio dog owners about debarking noisy canines seems to have upset some animal lovers. The Action for Singapore Dogs organisation claims on their Facebook posting that "This is an extremely cruel and painful procedure of removing the vocal chords which can cause constant physical pain." Sounds a thousand times more scary than the Isis "FGM edict" hoax in Iraq about enforced female genital mutilation.

Charlotte McGowan, a dog breeder for over 40 years, provides some alternate perspectives at her "Myths and Facts" presentation about debarking (bark softening):
Q: Does debarking remove the dog's ability to bark?
A: No. Debarked dogs continue to bark. What debarking does is to lower the volume of the bark so that it does not carry for miles around.

Q: Is this a "cruel and barbaric procedure?"
A: No.  People with little or no experience raising naturally noisy and talkative breeds may tell you this. People with breeds like Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties) can tell you that this procedure is simple and that it saves lives of dogs that might otherwise be dumped in the pound for their barking. Debarking is a more simple procedure than removing the uterus in spaying or removing testicles in neutering.

Q: Do dogs suffer emotionally from debarking?
A: It is a huge myth to suggest dogs are emotionally disturbed by debarking. Debarked dogs can bark. Even if reduced sound comes out of their mouths, they don't seem to notice at all! Debarked dogs that are not being constantly disciplined for barking, in fact, tend to be much happier dogs!

Before you join the throngs of unhappy people who go on the internet to research additional viewpoints - satisfied people don’t have time to go on the internet, we are told - consider the relative lack of reaction when the minister tried to debark the vociferous online voices. It is a sad day when the activists pay more attention to barking dogs than complaining citizens yapping for the return of their CPF.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Their Gods Must Be Crazy

News like this is enough to turn any one into an atheist. First we have this wife of a mega church pastor cavorting semi-clad in a music video to win more converts, and giving geishas in general a black eye in the process. For the record, real geishas do not provide pleasures of the flesh. They are highly skilled professionals, traditional female entertainers dedicated to performing various Japanese arts such as classical shamisen music, dance and games, appreciated for their subtlety, strength, and grace.

There's nothing subtle about the females travelling to the Middle East to offer up themselves as sex objects for the insatiable Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq. Not just the 3 Malaysians mentioned by Malaysian Insider, Sunni women from Australia and the United Kingdom are also participating in the Jihad Al Nikah  (Arabic: جهاد النكاح‎, often translated as Sex jihad or Sexual jihad), draining the energies of the combatants who probably need it more on the battlefield. It's enough to give the comfort women of World War II a bad name.

Apparently it started after the fall of the town of Mosul, and people were ordered to send their unmarried women to jihad for sex. Note the unabashed request for virgins - these nuts should kill themselves and collect their entitlement of 70 unsoiled maidens in the after life. During WWII businessmen shipped willing prostitutes overseas to service the troops. It was only when the supply ran out that local females were "recruited" to staff the pleasure barracks. Cruel as it may be, at least the Japs didn't invoke a religious entity to justify their atrocity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Lament For Education

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are two glaring examples of how to be successful without benefit of a university degree. Forbes magazine published a list of college-dropout billionaires on March 11, 2009 and noted that the average net worth of billionaires who dropped out of college, $9.4 billion, is approximately triple that of billionaires with Ph.D.s, $3.2 billion. Then again, what is the purpose of education?

John Goodlad ("In Praise of Education", Teachers College Press, 1997) wrote that educational stimuli stirs and prods the maturing individual to engage in a process or self-transcendence from narcissism to identify with and assume responsibility for humankind and for all species of flora and fauna on which humankind's own survival depends. Quite a mouthful to say that it's better to stop and smell the flower bouquet than swipe the free toothpicks from a restaurant table.

The journey of education, he said, is endangered by alternatives lushly advertised in travel folders that offer more and earlier self-gratification for less discipline and sacrifice. We see that in our variant of meritocracy, where an 18 year old has his path to obscene wealth chartered by the type of scholarship he is anointed with. Never mind if the skillset calls for obfuscation and dereliction of accountability, the legions of minions can always be counted upon to be exploited to the hilt.

The contention that education is a moral endeavor is a frightening prospect for these people. Goodlad cites the British philosopher John White, who believes there are moral positions that should be made available to everyone in a democratic society, such as fairness, caring, justice, equality and community. Tragedy is a leadership populated by amoral individuals.

It is obvious that education has been corrupted to lesser ends than guiding the delicate process of self transcendence. No wonder the discussion of education is tainted by discourses of starting pay and competitive salaries. Society has no room for ruminations about higher aspirations when the earthy needs of affordable housing, transportation and job security are not met.