19 December 2014

Solving Problems And Messy Consequences

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the People's Action Party ("PAP") is different from other political parties because, inter alia, it solves problems and plans for the future.

Government Elected to Solve Problems and Plan for Future
The PAP was elected to form the government. Solving problems and planning for the future are the primary duties of every government.

Political office holders are paid handsomely to solve our problems and plan for the future of our country.

That is not to say that the opposition parties have not put forward any solutions.

15 December 2014

Blindly Accusing AHPETC

A reader, Lau Hak Tong, wrote to The Straits Times (Worrying Lack of Transparency, 13 Dec 2014):

"The public streets in the vicinity of the Hougang-Kovan Melody area, where I have lived for the past 30 years, used to be swept daily under the former Ajunied Town Council - until the changing of hands after the last general election more than three years ago.
These days, I hardly see any estate cleaners sweeping or doing maintenance work on public streets. Most of the streets are littered with fallen leaves and rubbish. Often, outdated event banners can be found strung on the road railings.

08 December 2014

Did National Environment Agency Exceed Scope Of Its Powers?

National Environment Agency ("NEA") took Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol-East Town Council ("AHPETC") to court for organising a fair earlier this year without first obtaining a permit from NEA.

The court found AHPETC guilty of contravening section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act (Cap. 95) ("EPH Act"), which states:

"No person shall promote, organise or stage any temporary fair, stage show or other such function or activity without first obtaining a permit from the Director-General [of Public Health]."

03 December 2014

Rejecting Sensible Amendment To Pioneer Generation Fund Bill

During the debate on the Pioneer Generation Fund Bill on 3 November 2014, Nominated Member of Parliament Chia Yong Yong said:

"I speak in support of the Pioneer Generation Fund Bill.…

It is heartening that the healthcare-related schemes announced to-date by the Government under the Pioneer Generation Package do not require means-testing.…

In this context, it is noted that clause 3 of the Bill states the purpose of the Act as 'to recognise and honour the participation and sacrifice of Singapore's Pioneers in the development of Singapore by providing to them who are now elderly and are or may be in need of financial relief, assistance or other support to meet their healthcare costs, and other costs of living in Singapore.' The Explanatory Statement to the Bill is similarly worded.

… I would like to draw the attention of the House to the phrase 'and are/ or may be in need of financial relief'. This phrase suggests that for a scheme to qualify for funding under the Pioneer Generation Fund, the disbursement of monies or provision of benefits to any Pioneer must be subject to means-testing or differentiation on the ground of financial need. If so, a scheme that benefits Pioneers without the requirement for means-testing would not qualify for funding under the Pioneer Generation Fund. That would be inconsistent with the declared intentions that the existing, the announced healthcare-related schemes should be drawn from the Pioneer Generation Fund because the current announced schemes do not require means-testing.

To address the foregoing concern, as well as concerns as to whether a Pioneer participated and made sacrifices in the development of Singapore, the language in clause 3 may be amended by replacing 'them who are now elderly and are or may be in need of' with simply 'Pioneers'. This would remove doubts as to whether the Pioneer Generation Package healthcare-related schemes as announced are eligible for funding under the Pioneer Generation Fund and would also grant the Government greater flexibility in designing and qualifying future schemes under the Pioneer Generation Fund. I do recognise that there are other possible interpretations of clause 3. But I would suggest that we should make a plain reading plain."

28 November 2014

HSA Should Step Up Enforcement Against Sex Enhancement Drug Hawkers

The Sunday Times reported that sex enhancement drugs were openly sold on the streets of Singapore — so openly sold that its reporters had no difficulty locating them[1].

"The peddlers, who are foreigners, hawk their sex pills openly in the red-light district of Geylang. Some also sell them online.

From 2010 to last year, [Health Sciences Authority ("HSA")] conducted 169 raids in Geylang and seized about 2.5 million pills and products worth more than $6 million. Twenty-six people were either jailed or fined for peddling sex drugs over that period.

24 November 2014

Dealing With Disobedience In Schools

The Straits Times reported that a primary school teacher was sentenced to 60 hours of community service for using criminal force on a pupil last year:
"[The teacher] had been frustrated with the 11-year-old for entering the class despite being told to stand outside as punishment for being late. So he pulled the child, who was suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dragged him all the way to the room next door. The incident took place at a top primary school in the east.

11 November 2014

Talking Point's Population Debate (Not) Revisited

On or about 7 October 2014, I heard (or thought I heard — the TV was on but I wasn't really paying attention) a Channel News Asia TV trailer drawing viewers' attention to an upcoming episode of its weekly talk show Talking Point.

The person who spoke in the trailer (probably Talking Point host Steven Chia) said that there was to be a Talking Point episode that would revisit last year's population debate.

Typically, such trailer would be broadcast one or two days before the Talking Point show — in this case, Wednesday 8 October.

04 November 2014

Singapore's Failure At Arbitral Tribunal

In 2012, the Singapore and Malaysian governments referred to arbitration an issue that arose from the 27 November 1990 Points of Agreement on Malayan Railway Land in Singapore ("POA") between the two governments.

Under the POA, Malaysia agreed to return to Singapore land that, for the most part, restricted the use for the operation of a railway through Singapore.

In exchange, the POA conferred options on Malaysia.

24 October 2014

Inflation — Measuring Price But Not Quantity Or Quality?

Some food stall operators selling fresh fish slices in soup weigh the amount of fresh fish that they serve their customers.

Their objective, I suppose, is to ensure that they are not carelessly or overly generous with the fresh fish — the most expensive ingredient of the meal.

To maintain or improve profitability, these and other food stall operators quietly reduce the amount of the more expensive ingredients, serving less meat, skilfully sliced into ultra fine strips; shrink or put less meat into fishballs or meat-balls; place more ice and less fruit juice into the same cups etc.

When determining inflation of cooked-food dishes, it is obvious that we cannot rely on prices only; quantity and quality matter too.

13 October 2014

Understanding Pollutant Standards Index And Air Quality

Last year, when Singapore suffered its worst haze ever, the National Environment Agency ("NEA") issued 24-hour PSI readings and 24-hour PM2.5 concentration levels every hour.

Since 1 April 2014, NEA has changed the way the 24-hour PSI is computed. In addition, it publishes the 3-hour PSI and 1-hour PM2.5 concentration levels every hour.

How much additional value is there really in these data?

23 September 2014

Climate Change Protests, Haze And Formula One

Street protests calling for urgent action on climate change attracted hundreds of thousands of people in more than 2,000 locations worldwide on Sunday (21 September 2014).

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who was present at the protest in Manhattan, said, "This is the planet where our subsequent generations will live. There is no Plan B because we do not have planet B."

18 September 2014

Territorial Disputes — Dignity Or Economics

At the official opening ceremony of the China-ASEAN Expo in China, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reportedly said that disputes and occasional friction between China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries should not eclipse the benefits that come from having good relations and economic cooperation between the superpower and the regional bloc (PM: Don't Let Rows Overshadow Good ASEAN-China Ties TODAY 17 Sep 2014).

Trade between ASEAN and China has grown. Economic growth created jobs, raised workers’ incomes and improved standards of living in Asia.

Mr Lee said, "I hope we can keep the momentum on regional integration up, even as we manage friction and issues that arise from time to time. We should keep difficult problems in perspective and not let disputes overshadow the positives of ASEAN-China cooperation."

That's easy for Mr Lee to say.

27 August 2014

Talking Point — CPF Reform

Channel News Asia's Talking Point recently dealt with the proposed reforms of the Central Provident Fund scheme that were outlined by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at his National Day Rally speech.

Permitted Withdrawals I
Mr Lee said:

"... I appreciate why some CPF members want to take more money out because they have been saving up over a lifetime of work, they want to use some of these savings, they want to do something they have longed wanted to do, some lifetime ambition. They may want to go on a journey, they may want go on a haj. Or maybe they have run into some family emergency and need money to deal with the emergency.

"So ... I think we should allow people the option to take out part of their CPF savings in a lump sum if they need to but subject to some limits."

05 August 2014

Understanding MediShield Reserves

During the recent Parliament debate, several Members spoke on the future capital adequacy of MediShield Life.

Since MediShield Life's reserves are derived from (i) MediShield's reserves, which will be transferred to MediShield Life; and (ii) annual surpluses, overly high reserves mean that premiums are excessive.

So how much is enough?

Incurred Loss Ratio, Not Claims Ratio
Using MediShield as an example, Mr Gerald Giam compared annual claims to annual premiums (the claims ratio), and concluded that premiums were excessive.

As Dr Janil Puthucheary pointed out, we have to consider the change in MediShield's liabilities in addition to the annual claims versus the premiums collected (the incurred loss ratio).

According to him, MediShield Fund's incurred loss ratio was 119 per cent, 111 per cent and 91 per cent in 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively. It averaged 96 per cent in the past five years.

Furthermore, also according to him, for not-for-profit scheme such as MediShield, the ideal incurred loss ratio should approximate 100 per cent. However, this is not quite correct, as we shall see later.

29 July 2014

NUS, SAF Making Life Easier

It beginning to seem that some organisations are changing standards to make people happy.

Grade-Free First Semester
Two months ago, National University of Singapore ("NUS") announced that it will implement a grade-free first semester for first-year undergraduates who are on the modular system. Students will be graded and they can either keep the grade and have it counted toward their Cumulative Average Point ("CAP") or choose a satisfactory / unsatisfactory grade and not have it counted toward their CAP.

NUS says that the objective is to enhance the quality of an NUS education.

Everyone knows, of course, what will happen — students will opt to keep good grades and discard all other grades.

17 July 2014

Government's CPF Public Relations

The Ministry of Manpower and Central Provident Fund Board released the following advertisement (TODAY 16 July 2014):
It is a curious piece of public relations.

16 July 2014

Temasek's Protection Of Past Reserves

In its latest annual Temasek Review, Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited set out how it protects its past reserves.

"As a Fifth Schedule[1] entity, our Board has a responsibility to protect our Company’s past reserves. This includes ensuring that every disposal of investment is transacted at fair market value[2].

"Our Board and CEO have a duty to seek approval from the President before any draw occurs on our Company’s past reserves.

"There is no draw on past reserves as long as our total reserves equal or exceed our past reserves.

"Mark to market declines on existing investments would not be a draw on past reserves. Similarly, a realised loss on disposal of an investment would not constitute a draw on past reserves, as long as the disposal was done at fair market value."

10 July 2014

MediShield Life Winners

People With Pre-Existing Conditions
People with pre-existing medical conditions will be happy just to be covered under MediShield Life. The loading — up to 30 per cent for ten years only — barely covers the significant cost of insuring them. Existing MediShield policyholders will be forced to subsidise them, with the remaining cost being borne by the Government.

People With Undisclosed Pre-Existing Conditions
It is not clear how the MediShield Life administrator will determine whether anyone who is not a MediShield policyholder has any pre-existing conditions. There are likely to be quite a few people who will deny having any pre-existing conditions. Unlike private life insurance or hospitalisation insurance, there are no penalties (e.g., withdrawal of coverage) for lying about pre-existing conditions under MediShield Life.

09 July 2014

MediShield Life Losers

Existing MediShield Policyholders
People with pre-existing medical conditions will pay a loading of up to 30 per cent for ten years; thereafter, they will not be subject to any loading.

However, this loading is hardly enough to cover the significant cost of insuring them. Existing MediShield policyholders, many of whom bought MediShield coverage for no other reason than to protect themselves from future medical conditions (i.e., constituting pre-existing conditions if they did not have MediShield coverage before the diagnoses), will be forced to pay 3 per cent more in premium in cross-subsidies, in a twisted interpretation of inclusiveness and collective social responsibility. Such cross-subsidies will increase further when the 30 per cent loading on existing pre-conditions is removed.

The remaining cost, said to be 75 per cent of the total cost of providing MediShield Life coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, will be borne by the Government.

03 July 2014

Why Government Wants Pre-Funded MediShield Life

The MediShield Life Review Committee in its Report dated 23 June 2014 said:

"Distributing Premiums More Evenly Over Lifetime. Our Committee also heard concerns that the elderly could have a problem affording MediShield Life premiums, because the premiums would increase with age. We therefore recommend that premiums be distributed more evenly throughout one’s life, i.e. higher premiums during working age, so that premiums rise by less in old age. In addition, policyholders currently only start receiving premium rebates (which reduce the net premium) from 71 years old. We recommend starting the premium rebates earlier at age 66. This will enable Singaporeans who have just retired or are near retirement to start benefiting from having paid premiums ahead when they were younger."

The stated rationale for pre-funding doesn't make sense.

17 June 2014

Pitfalls Of Raising CPF Interest Rate

Some people are demanding that the Government raise the interest rate on their moneys in their Central Provident Fund ("CPF") accounts.

They say that Temasek Holdings, which together with Government of Singapore Investment Corporation ("GIC") and Monetary Authority of Singapore ("MAS") invests on behalf of the State, achieved 8.86 per cent return to its shareholder for the financial year ended 31 March 2013 and 13 per cent compound return to its shareholder for the 10 years ended 31 March 2013.

Currently, the CPF interest rate is 2.5 per cent for the Ordinary Account ("OA"), 4.0 per cent for the Special, Retirement and Medisave Accounts, and an additional 1.0 per cent for the first $60,000 of a member's combined balances, with up to $20,000 from the OA.

What are the consequences of raising the CPF interest rate?

28 May 2014

Home-Makers — Who Should Provide For Them?

Association of Women for Action and Research ("AWARE") opined that the State should give adequate social assistance that meets the needs of all Singaporeans throughout their lives, not just when they are employed[1].
Meeting the needs of economically vulnerable groups should be the prime objective of a retirement scheme such as the Central Provident Fund ("CPF") Minimum Sum Scheme.
In particular, AWARE says that the State should address the needs of full-time home-makers, who are mostly women, who do not have much in their CPF accounts because CPF moneys are mostly derived from their employment. More elderly females than men need to use their family members' Medisave accounts to pay their hospital bills.

26 May 2014

MediShield Life Should Not Be Pre-Funded Part II

This is the second part. Part I may be found [here]

Computational Complexities
With MediShield, CPF Board determines the premiums for each age cohort based on actual hospitalisation experience, and it adjusts the premiums from time to time. Similarly, the insurers offering the Integrated Shield plans base their premiums on actual hospitalisation experience, and adjust the premiums from time to time.

With pre-funding, CPF Board will have to determine not only the premiums for each cohort but also the forecast hospitalisation incidence and costs, and life expectancy. Based on these estimates, CPF Board then has to determine the cross-over age (the age at which each cohort stops pre-funding and starts drawing down on the pre-funded premium).

22 May 2014

MediShield Life Should Not Be Pre-Funded Part I

It appears that the Government is very keen that MediShield Life premiums should be pre-funded.

The Government's Rationale
The premium that a person pays for hospitalisation insurance, such as MediShield, MediShield Life or the Integrated Shield plans, increases as he grows older because the statistical probability of his being hospitalised increases.

The Government says that when we are young and employed and earning a good income, we can afford to pay more so that when we are old, we don't have to pay as much as what we would have to pay if we didn't pre-fund.

In other words, the young should set aside some money in MediShield Life as a form of savings and use this money later on in life to help reduce their premiums.

Hence, we should pre-fund our MediShield Life premium, the Government says.

Let's see why MediShield Life should NOT be pre-funded.

06 May 2014

Singapore Should Not Co-Host 2019 Asian Games

Vietnam announced last month that it would not be hosting the 2019 Asian Games due to its lack of preparedness and costs, estimated at US$500 million.

The Asian Games, which were held for the first time in 1951, have grown to consist of around 40 sports with 10,000 athletes from 45 countries taking part. Host nations are put under tremendous pressure to build infrastructure and accommodation to stage the world's second largest multi-sport event.

Singapore National Olympic Council ("SNOC") vice-president Ng Ser Miang said on 18 April that Singapore was not interested in bidding to take over as hosts.

02 May 2014

Singapore Snippets April 2014

Talking Point — Is Singapore Too Expensive For Middle Income Singaporeans, Channel News Asia 2 April 2014

In the absence of an official definition of the middle income, moderator Steven Chia started by using households falling within the 30th (or more correctly, the 31st) and 70th percentiles as a working definition.

Seemingly ignoring Mr Chia, panelist SIM University Associate Professor Randolph Tan chose to use his own definition — the three middle quintiles i.e., those falling within the 21st and 80th percentiles.

In any discussion, participants must agree on common definitions or otherwise follow the lead of the moderator.

In any case, Assoc Prof Tan's definition of middle income is too wide.

21 April 2014

Silly Jubilee Baby Gift Idea

The National Population and Talent Division in the Prime Minister's Office is leading an initiative to put together a "small yet meaningful" gift supposedly from all Singaporeans for Singaporean babies born next year.

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore's independence.

If each gift costs $100, the total cost will be approximately $3 million. This money is better spent on other more worthwhile causes. But, then again, our Government seems to be quite generous when it comes to spending on headline grabbing events e.g., the inaugural Youth Olympics.

08 April 2014

Dialects and the Pioneer Generation

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam told Parliament that the Pioneer Generation Package ("PGP") beneficiaries did not need not worry even if they were unsure of the PGP's exact benefits because the benefits would be provided to them automatically.

Notwithstanding that, the Government is embarking on an extensive drive to reach out to PGP beneficiaries, possibly because politicians mostly find it difficult to resist being associated with providing a lifetime $8 billion freebie to an estimated one out of every six voters.

As part of this outreach, the Ministry of Communications and Information ("MCI") recently released a video showing a "fortune teller" using the Hokkien dialect to explain the PGP to an elderly woman.

02 April 2014

Notable Quotes 2014 Q1

Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill
[The Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill provides] for a focused set of powers, far more limited than the extensive powers available today under the Public Order Preservation Act, to support the security, traffic management, and alcohol restriction measures in Little India. The powers accorded to the Police and regulatory agencies under the Bill have precedents in our existing laws. These provisions are derived from relevant public order legislation and scoped to serve the specific objective of maintaining law and order in Little India.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean

This Bill is a disproportionate response to the riot in Little India.

24 March 2014

Usman / Harun Revisited

Two Indonesian marines posed as the late Osman Mohd Ali and Harun Said at an exhibition held in conjunction with the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue, a two-day forum that sought to boost collaboration among Indo-Pacific nations.

Osman (or Usman) and Harun were two Indonesian marines who infiltrated Singapore during Indonesia's undeclared war on Malaysia (of which Singapore was then part) and, disguised as civilians, planted bombs in MacDonald House that killed three civilians and wounded dozens others. For their cowardly act of terrorism targeting civilians, they were found guilty and executed in Singapore. They were honoured as heroes by the Indonesian government in 1968.

Singapore's Response
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs ("MFA") said it was concerned and disappointed over the incident. The Singapore Armed Forces ("SAF") delegation withdrew from the event to which it had been invited.

13 March 2014

CPF Sense And Nonsense Part Two

This is the second part of a two-part article.

CPF interest rate is too low
The interest rate on CPF balances is too low, and many people want a higher interest rate. But is it realistic?

Budget and balance of payments
CPF moneys are invested in special issues of Government securities. The interest rate of these, and other, Government securities is determined by several factors.

The Government budget is usually a surplus. The surplus for the three years FY2011 to FY2013 (ending 31 March 2014) was $13.7 billion. Also, this surplus was or will be achieved after endowment and trust funds are topped up by $18.5 billion, which means that although this amount is expended according to Government accounting, most of it is not spent immediately and ends up being invested in Government securities. Similarly, of the $8.0 billion transferred to the Pioneer Generation Fund, only about half of it will be used over the next 10 years. The result is that the Government is flush with cash and does not need to borrow.

Our country's balance of payments is usually a surplus i.e., there is a net inflow of funds into Singapore. The overall balance was $134 billion over the past four (calendar) years.

12 March 2014

CPF Sense And Nonsense Part One

Much criticism has been levelled at the Central Provident Fund ("CPF").

Let's examine some of them in this first part of a two-part article.

CPF contributions are a tax on members
Income taxes and GST, once collected by Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, are paid into the consolidated fund that belongs to the State. They no longer belong to the individuals who paid the tax.

CPF contributions are paid by us and our employers into our own CPF accounts and credited to sub-accounts (Ordinary, Special, Retirement and Medisave) in our own respective names. Unlike taxes or the proposed pre-funded portion of MediShield Life premiums, the moneys that we pay into our CPF accounts belong to each of us individually. Even the moneys paid into CPF LIFE, other than the portion that is pooled to ensure (or insure) annuity payments to us after our Retirement Account is exhausted, belong to us.

03 March 2014

Budget 2014 Thoughts

Some thoughts on Budget 2014.

Real Median Wage Growth
Citizens' real median and 20th percentile wage growth in 2013 was about 5 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively.

Citizens' real median and 20th percentile wage growth in the five years to 2013 was about 9 per cent.

The 5-year wage growth data include employers' CPF and refer to full-time employed citizens.

The actual 5-year wage growth is likely lower than that given in the Budget Statement higher because the Ministry of Manpower changed the definition of full-time employment in 2009. Prior to 2009, a person was considered to be employed part-time if his normal hours of work were less than 30 hours a week. This criterion was changed to 35 hours a week in 2009.

25 February 2014

AHPETC Needs To Change

The managing agent ("MA") of a town council is a key entity to give effect to the town council's responsibilities of controlling, managing, maintaining and improving the town.

Although Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council's ("AHPETC") performance was rated generally on par with that of the other town councils for FY2012 (ended 31 March 2013) in estate cleanliness, estate maintenance and lift performance, some points raised by its auditor in its audited financial statements for FY2012/13 should give AHPETC pause for thought about its compliance culture, including but not limited to the role of its MA in ensuring compliance with the Town Councils Financial Rules.

I will discuss four of the issues raised in the audit of AHPETC's financial statements for FY2012/13.

21 February 2014

AHPETC Lessons For Opposition Parties

The Workers' Party's experience in managing Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council ("AHPETC") is a timely wake-up call for the opposition parties that aspire to win any electoral constituency in the next general election or by-election.

Managing Agent
Around the time of the handover of Aljunied TC from Aljunied GRC's losing People's Action Party ("PAP") Members of Parliament to the victorious The Workers' Party Members of Parliament (and therefore elected members of the town council), the incumbent managing agent ("MA") indicated its desire to be released from the MA contract.

No reason was disclosed by newly constituted Aljunied-Hougang TC ("AHTC") why the incumbent MA would voluntarily walk away from the MA contract, which is estimated to be worth about $4 million a year (before Punggol East was merged into AHTC to form AHPETC).

Managing a town is not a piece of cake.

20 February 2014

AHPETC Audit — MND Must Act

For the second consecutive year, Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council ("AHPETC"[1]) was late in finalising its audited financial statements.

For the second consecutive year, AHPETC's independent auditor, Foo Kon Tan Grant Thornton LLP ("FKTGT") issued a disclaimer of opinion.

Inability To Obtain Information
Following the 2011 General Election, the Ministry of National Development ("MND") directed reconstituted town councils (e.g., Aljunied TC) to prepare financial statements for the period from 1 April 2011 to 31 July 2011.

According to AHTC, it agreed to the incumbent managing agent's ("MA") request to be released from its contract with Aljunied TC[2].

17 February 2014

KRI Usman Harun: Moving Forward Quietly

Referring to Indonesia's decision to name a frigate KRI Usman Harun after the two Indonesian marines, Osman Mohd Ali and Harun Said, who were convicted and executed in Singapore for the March 1965 bombing of MacDonald House, Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam said on 12 February 2014 (edited for brevity)[1]:

Why Singapore raised the issue in the first place

The marines used civilian disguise. They planted a bomb in MacDonald House targeted at civilians. Killed and injured civilians. It was part of a campaign of terror. It was illegal under international law. They were tried in the Courts. The case went up to the Privy Council. They were found guilty. They were hanged in 1968.

12 February 2014

Moving Forward on KRI Usman Harun?

Indonesia's minister for foreign affairs Marty Natalegawa said that there was no ill intent when his government named a frigate KRI Usman Harun after the two Indonesian marines Usman Mohd Ali and Harun Said who were executed after being convicted of setting off a bomb in Singapore that killed three people and injured 33 others in 1965.

He said they thought that we would have forgotten about the bombing that took place almost 50 years ago. But at the same time, they did not forget their two so-called heroes whose sole claim to martyrdom was being caught and executed for their cowardly and criminal targeting of innocent civilians, which act is no different from the cowardly and criminal acts of present day terrorists.
He said that Indonesia would bear in mind the lessons from this episode and urged Singapore to move forward.

Move forward?
If he became aware, even belatedly, that Indonesia had hurt Singapore's feelings unintentionally, why did he not apologise and why did the Indonesian government not change the name of the frigate?

Compare his response with that of US President Barack Obama. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel was outraged on finding out that the United States had been spying on her, Mr Obama apologised and said that such spying would stop.

But when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to apologise for his country's spying on Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono nor cease such spying, relations between the two countries became tense, and continues to be tense to this day.

07 February 2014

Civility in the Face of External Provocation (KRI Usman Harun)?

On learning that Indonesia had named a frigate KRI Usman Harun after the two Indonesian marines Usman Mohd Ali and Harun Said who were executed after being convicted of setting off a bomb at MacDonald House in Singapore that killed three people and injured 33 others in 1965, Singapore leaders called their Indonesian counterparts.

Singapore's Reaction
Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam spoke to his Indonesian counterpart to register Singapore's concerns and the impact it would have on the feelings of Singaporeans, especially the families of the victims.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen spoke to their respective Indonesian counterparts.

05 February 2014

Civility in the Face of Contemptuous Provocation (Anton Casey)?

Referring to Anton Casey's remarks that had riled Singaporeans, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said:

"[Casey] has done something wrong, [and we should] repudiate it, condemn it, but do not lower ourselves to that same level to behave in a way which really makes us all so ashamed of ourselves to become abusive, hateful mobs, especially online and anonymously.

We risk having an over-reaction, we risk having unrestrained, anonymous viciousness on the Internet.

You scold, you swear, you curse — all the wrong instincts get fed and in a group, there are certain group dynamics and it is like a pack of hounds hunting, which is bad. We have to be better than that, to deal with situations civilly, patiently, tolerantly. Hold a stand, but remain a civilised human being."

29 January 2014

Will Bus Service Reliability Framework Work?

Land Transport Authority ("LTA") will introduce the Bus Service Reliability Framework ("BSRF") in a two-year trial to improve en-route bus regularity, and reduce instances of bus bunching and prolonged waiting times.

Twenty-two bus services, which include a mix of long and short trunk services and feeder services, have been selected for the trial.

The BSRF assesses the regularity of a bus service using the concept of Excess Wait Time ("EWT"). EWT is the average actual additional waiting time at selected bus stops for the respective services compared to the expected waiting time based on the buses arriving at regular intervals.

28 January 2014

The Mainstream Media's Mission

MediaCorp recently aired some advertisements for positions in the group.

Some of these positions purport to achieve the following career goals:

▪ Reporters: serve the country.

▪ Digital artists: make hearts beat faster.

▪ Producers: unite a nation.

▪ Cameramen: open hearts and minds.

What is the mission of our mainstream media?

24 January 2014

Singapore's Coming Challenge: ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint's Free Flow of Skilled Labour

The ASEAN Economic Community ("AEC") Blueprint[1] signed by the heads of government of the ASEAN countries in 2007 envisaged a single market and production base in ASEAN comprising five core elements — free flow of goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labour.

The goal is to transform ASEAN into a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy.

The AEC Blueprint builds on the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement ("AFTA") of 28 January 1992 among the then six nations of ASEAN. AFTA's objective was economic growth by accelerating intra-ASEAN trade and investment using the Common Effective Preferential Tariff ("CEPT") Scheme.

Most people understand a free trade agreement ("FTA") to be an agreement involving two or more countries to promote free flow of goods and services among those countries. Beyond this traditional view, many FTAs also promote free flow of investment, capital and labour.

13 January 2014

Cleaners' Progressive (Minimum) Wage Model

The Government will introduce the Progressive Wage Model ("PWM") in the cleaning services sector.

It will legislate cleaning services providers to pay their staff an entry-level salary of $1,000 per month, and subsequently give staff increments in tandem with their skills upgrading.

The median gross monthly wage is about $850 currently.

A similar PWM will be implemented in the security services sector once the tripartite partners (i.e., the Government, NTUC and employers) reach a consensus.