Both ruling parties of the Singapore and Malaysia Governments made their citizen's lives even more miserable with the latest Causeway Toll Hikes. Tolls for a round trip into and out of JB is now 556% higher!
Lessons to be learnt
(1) Trust No Govt - Especially BN and PAP. They will only have their self interest at heart and not yours.
(2) Remember all the times that they screwed you over and exercise your vote wisely.
(3) Never fall into their trap of over selling to you. Case in point Iskandar residential homes.
Are you going to travel to work in Singapore from JB every day? Assuming a 20 days working month, that amounts to S$ 256 added to your travel cost and time. Good luck to those who bought into the nightmare.
(4) These toll hikes are poorly thought out and will just hurt businesses and trade. Your food, raw material imports are going to be more expensive as traders claim that they need to recover their costs.
(5) What can you do? Don't keep quiet, make sure you express your displeasure (legally). Silence only makes them more bold.
Let me weight in on what cause this petition to arise. PM Lee said that Singapore belongs to everyone staying here in Singapore including Foreigners on work permit passes. It may be a slip of the tongue or an intentional way of pacifying the foreigners who have bore the brunt of anti-foreigner sentiment in Singapore.
I doubt that the speech writers for PM Lee would have made such an insensitive boo-boo in the midst of so much dissatisfaction. So I discount the possibility of it being a slip of tongue, especially since the phrase was crafted with much thought behind it “Singaporeans,
new arrivals, people who are on permanent residence here, people who are on
employment pass here, (are) all participating in one big Singapore family … So
that we feel that this is a place which is special, which belongs to all of us
and where we all celebrate one another’s festivals and happy events together.” If that is the case, it is extremely disturbing on what it implies and that the statement was deliberate. It means that so long as you are physically here in Singapore, regardless of what ever contributions, service, family roots, etc, you own a piece of Singapore's land, resources and wealth. Is PM Lee so desperate to welcome any and everyone to Singapore? Are all the talk about nation building and national service just hog-wash?
The petition is unlikely to change anything, but at least it will highlight the displeasure and frustrations of all Singaporeans on such thoughtless remarks from our so-called leader. So I urge all who are unhappy with his statement to sign the petition. The alternative of keeping quiet and letting everything slip-by was the mistake Singaporeans have made for too long a time.
report card for the A-grade pay PAP Government
In the Straits Times Insight
Section of 19 April 2014, the newspaper published their results of a survey
done of 500 Singaporeans. It would be interesting to ask who these 500
Singaporeans were. And assuming by association that they would try to interview
grassroots or governmental-affiliated people, the results are even more disastrous.
(note in point, the CNA telecast of conversation with PM LEE where they
discovered majorty of the participants were from grassroots organizations.) (http://youarebetteroffted.blogspot.sg/2012/09/singapore-con-version-2012-proof.html)
As usual, the newspaper being a mouth piece of the Government did their best to
water-down the impact and tried to state that several changes needed more time
to be effective. Unfortunately, it does not hide the fact that the mid-term
report card was terrible. For a country obsessed with grades, I have taken the
liberty of translating the survey results.
(1) Health Care and the elderly, survey results “B”,
The Government started a charm offensive with the Pioneer Generation Package
and Medishield Life to defray health costs and focus on the people older than
65 years olds who has been Singaporeans since 1986. (note : the second criteria
was after Singaporeans feedback that there needs to be numbers of years, reflecting
the concerns of free given citizenships by the government to foreigners over
the years.) I would have to give credit to the Government in their better PR
efforts to gain political leverage by publicizing the PGP and Medishield Life.
It seemed to make an impact on the survey results. It will help all families
with elderly members better manage health care costs and concerns, especially
the well-established phrase “It is better and cheaper to die in Singapore, than
to get sick and undergo costly treatments in Singapore Hospitals to die all the
However, let’s be pragmatic, did the Government suddenly realized that the
silver hair Tsunami was coming ? No, it was well known after they changed the
birth rate policy to correct the future lopsided demographics. Then why this
package now? In one simple word, Votes. The Pioneer Generation, those above 65
years of age, were known to be staunchly PAP supporters, having gone through
the nation-building efforts together and the majority have seen significant
improvements to their own and children lives. So it must have been an amazing
vote swing in the 2011 elections that have displayed the unhappiness of this
Generation to the missteps in housing, transport, foreign workers policy that
they see affecting themselves and their off-springs. Unfortunately for the PAP, trust once lost will
take much more than a PGP to regain back. In 2011, the younger generation
influenced the votes of the pioneer generation, in 2016, the grandchildren
generation will greatly influence the votes.
(2) Housing, survey results “B+”, actual “B-“
The intense increase in BTO HDB flats and seven rounds of cooling measures have
served the government well. COVs and the waiting time for newly wedded couples
have come down dramatically. Also PRs cannot buy HDB flats until they waited
three years. This is reflected in the survey. But still bear in mind that Singapore
property prices are still one of the highest in the world and the ratio of
salary to housing prices still remain at unsustainable levels. Worst still
foreigner ownership of non-landed private property are still continues unabated
and welcomed by the Government.
(3) Transport, survey results “D-”, actual “F”
Of all the sections, Transportation fared the worst, this affects everyone
everyday when they go to school, work, shopping, etc. All the promised
improvement of more trains, more maintenance, more buses have not translated to
a more comfortable ride. Now 3 years after the 2011 elections, we still read
about regular breakdowns on the MRT and terrible long bus waits. And despite
all these, they had the audacity to raise the fare rates. Car prices and COEs
are at ridiculous prices and yet we see the rich foreigners flaunting their
money by driving Maserati, Ferraris and Porsches on the congested Singapore
roads. Attempts to correct COE prices, by insisting on a higher downpayment and
tweaking the category did nothing to improve the situation, only re-emphasizing
the helplessness of middle-class Singaporeans. I doubt these issues will be
solved satisfactorily before the next election and the Transport Minister will
just be replaced again having walked off with a handsome multi-million salary.
(4) Foreign Workers, survey results “C“, actual “D-”
The survey claims that foreign workers policy was not on the high priority of
Singaporeans, I think they have got it wrong. Cases such as Anton Casey (http://youarebetteroffted.blogspot.sg/2014/01/why-singaporeans-need-to-revoke-antons.html)
and the recent Philippines Day Celebration show that the issue of foreigners in
Singapore is still very much in the forefront. The people Singaporeans interact
with everyday are very much in their face. When you have trouble communicating
with the service waitress or when every nurse has a foreign accent, it is a
stark reminder how Singapore has changed due to the ineptness of this
Government. We need foreigners in many sectors of our industries, but what are
the right amount and the right integration timeframe so as not to erode our
Singapore core? Is the Government going
to correctly revise the Population White Paper for the next elections? What is
the acceptable timeframe for a PR to decide to convert to Singapore
Citizenship? These are unanswered questions that should been addressed.
Some of the sectors seemed to be at acceptable grades, however, these need to
be put into perspective to the salary grade of our government. Our first Prime
Minister claims that in order to get the A-team in Singapore to run the country
you need to pay them A-grade salaries, even more than any country in the world.
I think Singaporeans have been seriously
shortchanged. If Singapore was a private company and this was the mid-term
report of the Executive Team, the Board of Directors and Shareholders would already
have asked them to resign. Unfortunately for Singaporeans, we do not have a
ready alternative in place, so we grit our teeth & put up with a less than desirable
team. It is Singaporeans’ imperative to build up a credible alternative that
would be able to function and deliver like the A-grade team we deserve.
Tommy Koh wrote a very interesting
article “Is there an ideological cleavage in Singapore?” in the Newspapers
today. He muses what he describes as the belief system and shared values that
Singaporeans uphold and if these have changed. In simple words the Rules of
Singapore Society. He listed the five as :
For each of the values listed, I analyzed
my perception of the general Singaporean’s ideals and contrast what our
Government leaders are actually practicing.
trade and investment
For the most part of it, Singaporeans
understand that we need free trade to be moving smoothly, we are a country with
no natural resources or agricultural hinterland. Food is mostly imported
together with all the equipment, fuel, car spare parts and yes, importantly
iPhones and Samsung mobile phones, to keep the country going. Let’s face it, if
Singapore was besieged by an immense flotilla of warships, we would probably
last a few weeks at most a month. This is also aligned with Tommy Koh’s
article. The Government has also been clear that free trade is necessary, and
has made progress in accessing non-traditional resource markets and keeping our
borders open with little protectionist policies nor high import taxes.
Singaporeans feel that the right balance
of private and public sectors in the economy makes sense. On one hand we need
private companies to make a decent profit, continue to innovate and bring value
to the market place where consumers are willing to pay for the goods and
services. However, goods and services that should not be driven by profit such
as health care, education, defense etc should be clearly under the public
sector. Tommy did not make a clear distinction of this and his main point was
that whilst we accept a market economy, we do not accept a market society where
winner-takes-all. So what has the Government been doing? In one word,
“Befuddled”. Certain services such as Defense, Water resources, Land resources,
Tax departments are clearly run by public institutions and very successfully in
some cases. But others are in a mixed-up hybrid scenario.
First bugbear is Public Housing, by the
very virtue of the name implies it a Public Good, but with the series of poorly
appointed Housing Ministers, the HDB had lost it’s mission. DBSS, ECs, prices
pegged to market rates, have caused major discontent in the populace. Things
are turning around, but the jury is still out there whether these are
structural changes or a band-aid.
Secondly, Public Transport is a
Frankenstein epic disaster, Public Transport operators are expected to make a profit while at the same
time maintaining service standards, while the Government funds these operators’
capital investments in the form of buses and trains. As what a local blogger
succinctly declared “Privatizing Profits, Nationalizing Costs”, it is not
rocket science, Private or Public Transport, make a decision, don’t feed a
Health care is in a slightly better
position, but still some aspects of it smack of bureaucrats trying to act too
smart. Singaporeans are clear that if they have a complicated and/or urgent
medical condition which requires a very experienced surgeon, the private
hospitals/medical route is the way to go. Polyclinics and Public hospitals
provide credible healthcare at subsidized prices, but only for people who can
wait 3 to 6 months. But if you need the condition to be addressed faster, get
off the subsidized prices and pay private prices. So the Public Healthcare
system discriminates whether you can pay for faster service?
Singapore belongs to an interconnected
world and Singaporeans would definitely reject being an isolated regime such as
North Korea. Free flow of ideas, technology, people and capital from all parts
of the world makes Singapore a vibrant city. But as Tommy quipped, we are also
a country with no hinterland to escape to or avoid the omnipresent crush of
people. And I read with a faint smile on his jibe at Anton Casey
(http://youarebetteroffted.blogspot.sg/2014/01/why-singaporeans-need-to-revoke-antons.html) , “the growing resentment felt by many
Singaporeans that wealthy foreigners are free-riders. They come here to make
money and lead very comfortable lives, but give little or nothing back in
return. To make matters worse, some of them have a disrespectful attitude
How about the Government’s position on
Global City or Singaporean Home ? They use either as convenient spin-doctor
propaganda. When it serves their agenda, they proclaim it a Global City as necessary
to encourage business startups and employment to attract rich Chinese,
Indonesians and Russians whose money are suspect. And manipulate the theme “Singapore
Home” when they tell Singaporeans to sacrifice two years of their prime for
National Service. Many of us may have the similar experience when bonus time
comes around, and your company CEO tells you that business is tough and the
external environment is uncertain. The CEO then change his/her tune to future career
opportunities and upbeat business forecasts when you receive a competing job
offer. Make no doubt about it, PAP’s Government goal is the ensuring the
survival of Singapore the Global City, regardless if Singaporeans are part of
that survival equation or not. (http://youarebetteroffted.blogspot.sg/2012/10/first-hand-acccount-population-dialogue.html).
Let’s be pragmatic, Singapore cannot
function without any foreigners, we need the thousands of workers who labour in
construction sites, cleaners, cooks, waiters, housekeepers, retail executives
etc. These are mostly hard working people who want to earn enough and return
home to their families.
What Singaporeans are indignant about is
encapsulated in George Orwell’s Animal Farm quote, “All animals are created
equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Tommy also alluded to this
in his article, “First, Singapore discovered that some so-called foreign talent
was not very talented. Second, there was the discovery that, in some cases,
when a foreign chief executive officer was hired, he or she discriminated
against Singaporeans when hiring staff.” Singaporeans are sick of their leaders
placing foreigners on a pedestal just because they come from a foreign land.
Before the bruising 2011 elections, the government
was adamant that their consultants were correct, and that foreign talent were
more talented rather than foreign. Many worthy and talented Singaporeans were
sidelined or never given the opportunities in this xenophilic environment. They
have now changed their tune with the National Jobs Bank where companies have to
demonstrate that they cannot hire Singaporeans within a certain period before
they can hire foreigners. Time will tell, if this is a charade to appease the electorate
for the next elections or an effective tool to stem foreign workplace invasion.
A first step is to acknowledge that they
were wrong and not all foreigners are talented. We have yet to see this realization
in official speeches.
Pursuit of a better life, strive for
excellence and meritocracy are cardinal drivers for Singaporeans. We celebrate
our successful members of society be it when Singapore wins the Asian football cup
or when Anthony Chen’s ilo ilo wins Camera D’or at the Cannes Film Festival.
And as Tommy stated, “Singapore want to be assured that meritocracy is
accompanied by social mobility.”
In general, the government over the
years has performed reasonably well in this arena, increasing open places in
prestigious primary schools for non-affiliated children, scholarships and bursaries
for bright children who should not be disadvantaged due to their parents’
economic background. However, it is not all a rosy picture, why are scholarships
that could be given to needy Singaporeans given to Asean scholars, Chinese
post-graduate students and visiting academia? Many of whom only use Singapore as
a stepping stone to greener pastures overseas. Rolling stones gather no moss.
Singaporeans want more dollars given to the taxi-driver’s son or daughter who
may not be as academically bright as a chinese scholar, but who would be a
respectable upright member of Singapore’s society. Rather than anointing a
nomad who would flee once the going gets tough. The government needs some
soul-searching in this regard.
this deliberating thought exercise, I would say that Singaporeans continue to
uphold the belief system and values that make us unique, competitive and highly
regarded world-wide. The crux of the problem is that these values have been
mutated to suit the government’s own misguided goals. The ideological cleavage
in the belief system is really between Singaporeans and the existing PAP government,
and if the government does not Repent, then perhaps a hammer would be needed to
hit the nail on PAP’s head.