Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Conversation: MP's wife

"I have a friend of a friend who has a colleague who is the wife of an MP, recently elected. She dem suay, she say."

"Not happy to be an MP's wife?"

"She's quite stylo one. Likes to dress up, look good, but now she says her husband, the MP must vet her clothes."


"She say the other day she was trying on a dress. It was supposed to be s tight-fitting dress, but she thought maybe too sexy so she got a slightly looser, larger size. Her husband told her to get one more size bigger! She was thinking, 'wah liao! then I look like I'm wearing a sack lah!' Sibei chum."

"So MP's wife cannot look sexy one ah?"

"Seems so."

"Well, then that explains the PM's wife lah?"

Monday, 14 December 2015

Elitism. It's all in your head.

"All Men are Equal".

Only scoundrels (and Lee Kuan Yew) might tell you otherwise.

But... Not all "equality" are... well, equal. There are different types of "equality" - equality of opportunity, equality of outcome, equality of privilege, equality of rights, etc.  "All men are equal" refers to legal rights or what is socially "equalisable".

The US Declaration of Independence conveyed such social rights on their citizens. The text of the Declaration reads: "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."

Sunday, 13 December 2015

One-Five Thousandth

The Climate Summit in Paris started over a week ago.

And the topic of sustainable energy kicked off the summit with this:
Filmmaker David Attenborough, whose soothing voice narrated the vicarious journey of millions of TV viewers through the wonders of the natural world, called at a climate summit on Monday (Nov 30) for scientific investment in "saving the world".
"The essence of the thing is that it should be cheap," the acclaimed documentary-maker told AFP. "Goodness me ... if we could catch one five-thousandth part of the energy that the Sun sprays onto the Moon, onto this globe every day, we would supply all the energy requirements of humanity. So how inefficient are we that we can't get that much?"
I don't know why the Moon was dragged into this. So we should have solar panels on the Moon?

Anyway, is it true that we just need to convert 1/5000th of the energy the sun "sprays" onto Earth?

Monday, 2 November 2015

Conversations on the See Oh Aiyah why so complicated?

"Just liddat, can just call for COE one arh?"


"Workers' Party. They want COE for the SGH Hep C outbreak."

"You mean COI?"

"What is COI?"

"Committee of Inquiry."

"Not COE?"

"This is not about buying car."

"Wah liao. So what is a Commty of Enquiry? Oi! Enquiry also starts with "E" wat! So COE correct wat!"

"Inquiry. Not Enquiry. Starts with "I" not "E"."

Saturday, 31 October 2015

If only...

From a blog post:

Mr Masagos said the Malaysians worked out a standard operating procedure with alert levels, trigger points and actions on fire suppression. 
[Oh good. I hope this mean what I think it means. 
So if there are less than say... 2000 hotspots, Indonesia will try to take care of them. When there are more than 2000 fires or hotspots, Singapore and Malaysia will activate their Air Force Haze fighting contingent. When Indonesian Ministers or Vice Presidents say neighbours should be thankful for 11 months of fresh air, or that help from stupid neighbours are insulting, Operation Zero Dark Thirty will be activated.  
These sort of trigger points?]

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Inscrutable Indonesians

From a Facebook comment on a story headlined: "Indonesia may declare (Haze) a National Emergency":
After weeks of it being an international embarrassment, after many infantile, tactless, insensitive remarks by Indonesian leaders, after hundreds of thousands of Indonesians have been living with life-shortening air pollution, after millions of hectares of forests have been destroyed, after countless wildlife have been displaced, killed, injured, or otherwise affected, THEN Indonesia declares a NATIONAL Emergency? Not an International EMBARRASSMENT. Not a Environmental Disaster on a Global Scale? 
Man, those Indonesians are inscrutable! "Inscrutable" - meaning "cannot be screwed."

Monday, 26 October 2015

Johor plays the secession card

Threats are the tactics of the powerless.

As Yoda said, do or do not. There is no "try".

So the Johor prince has articulated Johor's perceived option to secede.

Lawyers say the Constitution is silent on secession.

Just as it was when Singapore left the Federation. It took passage of a bill in the Malaysian Parliament to allow Singapore to leave the Federation. Thus it is not the unilateral decision of Johor to simply secede.

I do not think it is possible without a war of secession, and I do not believe such a war is likely. It is to nobody's benefit for such a war.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Conversations: Crossover, not Crosstalk

"Ha!  As expected. All guilty."

"The City Harvest trial?"

"Yeah. What a waste of time!"

"Well, justice has to be seen to be served."

"It was an open and shut case. Everybody knows it's bullshit! Waste time. Waste money."

"Well, they still have to prove it in court."

"Maybe. But the whole story is so complicated and so unbelievable, you know something fishy is going on."

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Liveable Cities 2015

Monocle has put out their 2015 most liveable Cities list. Singapore is 13. Up from 15. (That's in 2011, 2012, and 2013. In 2014, we were #16.) 

[Monocle requires paid subscription to read, so the links are to 3rd party sites or blogs.]

Monday, 12 October 2015

Conversations over the weekend - All about the Haze

"So Indonesia has finally decided to admit that they need help to put out the fires."

"Ya. We all dem stupid."

"Huh? Why you say that? We put out the fires good for us, what! Then no haze!"

"Ya, that is what they want us to do for them. We dem stupid."

"But it is good that they finally agreed to accept our help, right?"

"Finally, your head ah! They 'finally' accept our help because NOW they want the fires to stop burning! They only burn the forest to clear the forest right? They clear the forest so that they can turn the forest into Palm Oil plantation right? So how to plant when the ground is still burning? Every year they start burning during the dry season. Then when the rains come, the fires go out. Then they plant their oil palms. But this year, is the Kanina effect or something --"

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Short takes: Tony Pua and his "mercenary prick" statement.

"Oh wow! Amos Yee has grown up! Oh sorry, 'grown older', but not 'grown up'."

Thursday, 8 October 2015

How CPF invests your money.

As far as most people are concerned, this is all they understand... or need to understand:

As far as most citizens are concerned, CPF = Govt.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A Conversation with an Angry ARO

At GE 2015, there were over 800 polling stations, each of which was headed by an Assistant Returning Officer (ARO).

The AROs were appointed on Aug 28, 2015. Here is the list of them.

SG2B speaks to an Angry ARO, who wish to remain anonymous so that he can be more colourful in his language. You have been warned.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The (Eventually) Old Man, with a cameo by the Sea (with apologies to the classic)

The young man looked all around.

In the village, the people were hungry. They had nothing to eat.

The young man had just caught some fish for his family. Maybe he could give some to the others in his village.


He didn't have enough for everyone.

He watched as young men stripped leaves off tree branches, turning them into make-believe swords, and fencing each other in mock sword fights.

Others made kites and were flying them.

But all were hungry if not starving.

"Follow me, if you want to eat! Bring your sticks and your kite strings!" said the young man.

And the young men (and some women) of the village followed him.

He brought them to the sea about an hour's walk away, taught them to turn their make-believe "swords"into fishing rods, and the kite strings into fishing lines to fish in the sea. By evening everyone had caught something to feed their families.

Now the young men (and some women) knew how to fish, and their family would have something to eat.

Now every day, they fished to feed their families.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Educating Singaporeans

Beware of what you wish for. Your wish may come true in the wrong way.

The PAP is the master of economic incentives and disincentives. And they often fail to consider the message they are sending.

So now they are further differentiating school fees for non-Singaporeans. This is not new.
Fee hikes for non-Singaporeans go back to 2009, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Government would sharpen the distinction between citizens and non-citizens, in a move to enhance the privileges of being a citizen.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

PM Lee's successor - A Conversation

"Wah Liao! Elections over already, people still talk and talk and talk. Whether opposition is dead lah. Whether PAP strong again. Whether PAP will become how lian again and forget who they working for. How the opposition can improve to win back the support of the people. Whether Singaporeans are stupid, lah. What do you think?"

"Whether Singaporeans are stupid?"

"Not just that, lah! Everything!"

"I agree with you. Elections over already, people still talk and talk. Mostly they talk about the wrong things with the wrong facts and with wrong assumptions."

"Wait! Simple question: Are Singaporeans stupid?"

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Politics of Singapore. (Or "what's this I hear about the 'New Normal'?")

With the 10 point "swing" back to the PAP, some are saying there was never a  "New Normal" that was being bandied about after GE2011.

GE2011 was just a hiccup. Voters were just having a "hissy fit" as Chua Mui Hoong puts it:
If so, then GE2011 was the equivalent of a hissy fit from voters unhappy over rising costs, infrastructure overloads and immigration.
-  "Silent majority's roar of support for PAP"
Chua Mui Hoong
Straits Times 12 Sept 2015 

Now, can we get back to our lives?

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The state of the opposition after GE2015

I've referred to most of the opposition parties as "irrelevant" before Polling Day.

Let's see if they have achieved relevance.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Three Key Secrets of the Vote

I cannot be sure, but I've heard enough anecdotes to have an inkling that many people still do not believe their vote is secret.

OK. Actually, I have met some people who absolutely believe that their vote is not secret.

They have their reasons.

Firstly, they notice that their ballot paper has a serial number. This makes every ballot traceable. If they don't intend to trace how one votes, then why is there a serial number, right? [play ominous music!]

Secondly, the election officials at the polling station reads out the voters name and some numbers. And if you are paying attention, it is to those people in white sitting opposite them. People in WHITE! [play MORE ominous music!]

Thirdly, the election official WRITES down something (I don't know - name, NRIC number, etc) on the counterfoil of the ballot! [Play EVEN MORE OMINOUS music!]

Monday, 14 September 2015

Top Ten Reasons for PAP to have done so well for GE2015.

Yes, it was a shocker!

Tan Jee "Sing First, Say Later" was flabbergasted! "Why this has happened"? All their ground sensing was that voters were unhappy with the PAP and their policies. Which suggests that their ground sensing may not be very representative.

Meanwhile, PM Lee said that the results “exceeded their expectations”.

A 10 percentage point swing towards the PAP! What could have caused it?

Here are the Top Ten Reasons PAP did unexpectedly well in GE2015!

Heeeeeere we go!

10 - All those posters of PM Lee looking at voters created fear in voters and they felt they had no choice but to vote PAP

Saturday, 12 September 2015

So how did the bookies do?

Predictions are only as good as their accuracy.

So how did the bookies predictions turn out?

Not very good, if we consider an accurate prediction to be within 2 percentage points, and a close prediction to be within 5 percentage points, and anything above 7 percentage points to be off the mark.

The "bookies' prediction" had 3 accurate calls (Ang Mo Kio GRC, Tampines GRC, and Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), and 4 close predictions (Chua Chu Kang, Pasir Ris-Punggol, Nee Soon GRCs, and Bt Panjang SMC).

However, they had 5 "Epic Fails" where they predicted the wrong candidate/party would win.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Dark Horses, Black Swans

Chee Soon Juan made a speech at a rally (Thurs, 3 Sep) that was titled (by the one who put up the video), "The Best Speech of GE2015."

On the one hand, that is some honour to bestow on an election rally speech. So I watched it.

On the other hand, considering all the other speeches and soundbites of other speeches, that may not be saying a lot.

Is it as good as the hype?

I would say it resonated with the audience.

AHPETC conversations

AHPETC is the Vietnam War of Singapore Politics.

It's a quagmire of claims and counter-claims and accusations and counter accusations, and like any war, the first casualty is truth.

So here is the most clear-headed summary of the AHPETC issue I could find.

Which I thought provided a pretty fair assessment of the issues. Though the conclusion could be read as pro-PAP.

But really, do we need to continue with this? There is nothing to be gained from this.
By now, most voters wouldn't be able to tell you the specifics of the long-running saga - only that neither side comes off well.

Commentary on the "Bookie" predictions

The so-called "bookie odds" figures should be viewed sceptically. I have no idea why bookies would have predictions to 1 decimal place. In fact, I seriously doubt if these practical mathematicians would see a practical need for such accuracy.

So while I will refer to these figures as "bookie odds" or "bookie predictions" in no way am I asserting that these are actually predictions of bookies.

Also, if these were empirical data - that is, people are betting on which candidate or party would win in a given GRC/SMC, say, Ang Mo Kio, and the results were: PAP-79.4% , RP-20.6%. So 80% of bettors were wagering that PAP would win, while only 20% (or 20.6%) were betting that RP would win - then all these percentages reflect is the aggregated wishes or opinions of bettors, and not the choices of voters.

Do you know as much as a bookie?

I got this message, source identified only as "bookie odds".

Make of it what you will.

Bookies' Predictions
Ang Mo Kio GRC : PAP-79.4% , RP-20.6% (PAP wins)
Sembawang GRC : PAP-58.4% , NSP-41.6% (PAP wins) 
Bishan- Toa Payoh GRC : PAP-60.6% , SPP-39.4% (PAP wins)
Pasir Ris -Punggol GRC : PAP-77.4% , SDA-22.6% (PAP wins)
Aljunied GRC : WP-60.9% , PAP-39.1% (WP wins)

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Conversations with a Friend (II) - Musings about the GE

"So are you scared already?"

"Scared about what?"

"Scared of the PAP, lah!"


"WP say, if PAP wins, they will increase taxes, increase GST, increase foreigners in Singapore until Singaporeans will be a minority in their own country."

"So if WP wins, there will be no increase in GST, no increase in taxes, Trains will not break down, and Foreigners will stop coming here?"

"If WP wins?"


"For sure fewer foreigners will be coming."

Friday, 4 September 2015

Rallies? Really? Bringing Elections up to date.

So this afternoon, I heard the PAP electioneering vehicle go by.

It is the quaintly anachronistic practice from the 1960s and 70s where a lorry (or a pickup) festooned with the political party's flag, loudspeakers, and a recording (perhaps an MP3 file, but I would not be surprised if it were an antique tape recorder. Not a cassette tape mind you. That would be too modern. No. A spool to spool tape recorder. Nothing beats old school, man!).

The vehicle makes its rounds through the estate blasting its message over the loudspeakers. It is the PAP candidates rehashing the accomplishments of the team, and extolling the virtues and promises of the PAP.

I assume.

Living on the highest floor, the message was a bit garbled.

"The PAP.... many years... achieved... promises.... good life... future.... Vote for PAP!"

This was in the afternoon. Of a workday. And it got me wondering.

Who is around at this time of the day to listen to this? You can only make it so loud before it is unbearably loud on the ground floor, and if it is not loud enough, it would be barely intelligible past the 12th floor. Have you heard of the internet, the radio, blogs, websites, and TV?

Oh you have? And you have blocked most if not all of them?

Great job!

Nothing assures me the PAP is the party to bring us to the future than their commitment to kicking it old school with that loudhailer truck.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Musings on the Impending GE - Conversations with a Friend

From conversations with a Friend.

"I think GCT would prefer to retire instead of going for one more term, but he agreed because the party needs him to hold Marine Parade."

"But based on what he said (about WP being arrogant, etc), I think he trying to lose so he can retire anyway!"

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

PAP's strategy for 2015

No. PAP still doesn't have a strategy.

This is just my fantasy.

This is what I THINK PAP should do. But they won't.

Because they are too conventional, conservative, straightforward, politically naive, and unable to think out of the ballot box.

And also because my strategies are kind of unorthodox.

I had previously suggested some strategies for them. But apparently no PAP MP reads this blog. (And I criticise them for THEIR communication skills? What about mine?)

I read the news report on Goh Chok Tong's press conference.


Here's a free advice. From now on, at all Press Conference, after the formalities of introducing the new candidates. their background, their area of interest and achievements, etc say only this:
This election is about discovering the will of the people, what the people want, and who they think will most likely give them what they want. With free and fair election process, I am confident that the will of the people will be made known. And PAP accepts the results of the election whatever the outcome.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

GE 2015 Outcomes - Scenarios

I shouldn't do predictions cos I keep getting them wrong.

So I'll take a page from the PAP and just do scenarios

First, let's put aside the unlikely, extreme scenarios

Extreme Scenarios - Highly Unlikely

There are two extremes. The first is PAP takes back AHPE and no other opposition wins any contest. PAP wins all 89 seats for a clean sweep of parliament. We all go back crying.

The second is PAP loses EVERY seat. And there are 28 WP, 11 SDP, 11 NSP, 11 RP, 10 SingFirst, 8 S/DPP, 6 SDA and 4 PPP.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Best is Yet 2B

I am a sceptic, a cynic, a realist.

And a "realist" is how a "pessimist" describes himself.

So I might be a pessimist too.

Recently, I said to my colleague, "I fear the best years of Singapore are over. It ended with LKY, when he handed over the country to his successor."

PAP and LKY were handed SG to rule when Barisan Sosialis walked out of Parliament in the 60s. PAP then became the default and only choice of a small island city state (political joke) ever at risk of spiralling into the trash heap of history.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Democracy. The Worst form of Government?

It's been some time (more than 8 weeks!) since my last pontification on Democracy. So of course, it is time for another one.

I do apologise to regular readers of this blog (yes, all three of you. Thanks, Mom! Dad! Honey!) for my "obsession". I would not be, if the democracy-evangelists/ideologues would just shut up.

The latest is this opinionated piece by a "democracy-ideologue/apologist for India" which is titled: Does Democracy lead to Good Governance?

But in a classic bait-and-switch, after asking this very important question, he instead answers another question - "Is Democracy Desirable?"


Then, there was the Greek Referendum. Where the Greeks were asked if they would like to suffer austerity measures, or not. They voted "no". How... surprising.

And some weeks back Bill Clinton cited a quote popularly attributed to Winston Churchill (it is not from him) "that America will always do the right thing... after they have tried everything else." This quote may have "evolved" from this:

“Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources.”

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Irrelevant Sideshows

Apparently, we have 11 opposition parties or more.

All of them save perhaps 2, are irrelevant.

Parties of Personalities - Class III

Most of the parties are one-man show with delusion of grandeur and rational Singaporeans would never vote for them.

Tan Jee Say, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Goh Meng Seng, and Desmond Lim are clearly persons of ego, and legends in their own mind. Benjamin Pwee doesn't come across as being in the same league as the rest in terms of ego. But I'm leaving him here for now, mainly because he is synonymous with the Democratic Progressive Party. I may be doing him an injustice, but it is a small injustice.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

I shall miss LKY's National Day Rallies.

A colleague asked me what I wanted to hear from this year's National Day Rally.

This was my reaction to last year’s NDR:                         

I can't help but compare with the NDRs of Lee Kuan Yew.
Firstly, I thought it was sad that time had to be spent during this NDR in explaining the CPF, the minimum sum, and retirement options. But perhaps it was the zeitgeist - the concern of the day, of the people. And perhaps it is an indictment of the government's communication of policy.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Being Singaporean

Many years ago (some time in the early 80s, before the world-wide web), I read an article about the Singaporean Identity (in a printed magazine): What it means to be Singaporean.

It was a reflective piece with interviews of various personalities, of which I only remember Toh Chin Chye being one of the more prominent interviewee.

The article concluded (IIRC) that the Singaporean Identity was still emerging, still being defined, and it was a long and on-going process, and it cannot be rushed.

I mused about that for a long while and accepted that it was probably a reasonable conclusion. Anyway, SG was about 20 years old or a little over, then, so it was probably premature to try to pin down a distinct SG identity.

But the point is that thinking about the Singapore Identity is not a new thing and it has piqued the interest of many.

Fast forward to today.

And there is a new study on the Singapore Identity.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


Over a year ago, I speculated as to the possible outcomes for the next General Election.

My conclusions were:
The best scenario I can see is WP taking another GRC and SMC for 13 seats in Parliament. NSP could maybe take a GRC or an SMC. But this is an overly optimistic scenario. NSP may still be shut out in 2016.
I ignored and am ignoring the other parties, because they are irrelevant.

SPP is a spent force. Other opposition characters have been playing musical chairs. Apparently, we now have 11 opposition parties. Is that a lot? Well, there are 16 presidential candidates in the US... just from the Republican party.

Since that speculative post (of 9 May 2014), LKY has passed away. I wrote then:
Tanjong Pagar's fate may well depend on whether LKY continues to run. If he runs, he will likely hold the ward. But if he decides to retire, the backlash could be harsh.
Well, I think with his passing Tanjong Pagar is unlikely to fall to the opposition.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Top Ten Unimportant Documents destroyed in Malaysian Police HQ

From the Home Office at Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur, Here's the Top Ten List!

Top Ten Unimportant Documents Destroyed in the fire at Malaysia Police HQ

#10 Investigation into Anwar's Black Eye (4/10 on the Unimportant Scale)

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Sept 2015?


May 2016.

Sept 2015 is wishful thinking and the projection of impatient minds.

Or these impatient minds could be right.

I doubt it.

Here's one analysis why it is unlikely to be Sept 2015.
I seem to recall that during Budget 2015, it was noted that this year's budget will incur a deficit of about $6b. And there were some programmes that have been extended to 2016 and beyond which means that the 2016 budget will also incur a deficit. But this is fine as the govt has accumulated surpluses over the last few years, and can offset the deficit with those surpluses.
BUT, if the election is before April 2016, parliament will be dissolved and there would be a new government (new parliament) in FY2016, and there would be NO surpluses to offset the budget deficit. 
If there is a planned deficit for the FY2016 budget, then the GE cannot be before April 2016.

BUT, I could be wrong.

[Edit/Afternote (6 Aug) : Then Minister for Transport announced fare decrease of 1.9% at the end of the year, and the opening of 12 stations on the Downtown Line 2 on Dec 27. 

And it is seemingly more certain that Sept 2015 is not going to be elections.

Still thinks it will be May 2016.]

Thursday, 16 July 2015

I had a Dream -

So I dreamt that Attention-Seeking Banana Boy (ASBB) read about how Singaporeans rallied to the side of the teenager on the train who was being bullied by an Angmo. That teenager was wearing a t-shirt. "I'm Fucking Special", it declared.

The Angmo apparently disagreed, perhaps because as an Angmo he felt HE was the fucking special one.

(Oh, this post is unlike my usual posts and will feature "fuck" or "fucking" throughout. If this word causes you to flashback to relive the last time you fucked and the unpleasantness that ensued, you should probably stop reading. If you object to the word for religious reasons, this is not a place of worship, and this is not holy scripture. If you object to your young children reading this word, this blog is not meant for small children... or big babies. If you do not like the word, because it reminds you that you are a 40-year-old virgin, there's Geylang. But really, that is none of my business. If you object to the word because you think it's crude and has no place in public discourse, you're THAT Angmo from the train, right?

Anyway, my dreams are rated M, so consider yourself warned. Or advised.)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

PAP's strategy revisited (or why I am not PAP election strategist).

Previously, I had suggested that PAP should pull out of Opposition-held wards unless they have a candidate (or candidates) who are passionate about that SMC/GRC and believe that they can win the ground.

Now, PAP  has once again proven that they are the world's worst politicians.  Take the recent statement about PAP's strategy in Aljunied:
“Why would we want to field somebody that we know has a higher chance of being rejected and deprive ourselves of an office-holder?”
In case you are a PAP politician, let me explain what that translates to for the Aljunied Electorate

1) "We're not wasting our Ministerial talents on your ward."
2) "We don't think we will have a good chance to win anyway."
3) "So you will get people we can afford to lose, or don't feel too bad about losing or not having as MPs. Why yes, you can call them 'losers'."
4) "And yes, what is most important to the PAP is OUR plans and how we can use the electoral process to get what WE want (potential office-holder)".

So if you are an Aljunied voter who is undecided or leaning towards the Opposition, would the above unintended message persuade you to change your mind?

The PAP has once again shown that when it comes to politics, they are guileless communicators. They say exactly what they think and they don't think about how they come across. (As Exhibit A, I present Tan Chuan Jin and his comment about "cardboard collectors").

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Hot, Flat & Crowded - highlights

From a review and summary of the book by Thomas Friedman, taken (with permission) from a note on Facebook.
Hot, Flat & Crowded is a book by Thomas Friedman who, as a book reviewer notes, "is a journalist, and journalists needs editors, and this book needs serious editing. It's 400 pages of small type. There's a 220 page book in here somewhere, struggling to get out."
This is not that 220-page book, but the highlights of the book.

First some explanations of the title.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Finally, a comment on Amos I can agree with

From a FB comment:
I feel sorry for Amos because he was poorly advised, and poorly influenced, and was ultimately used by people. 
His lawyer (actually most lawyers) don't understand probation. Yes, for some offences, you would want to studiously avoid a criminal record - sex offences, violent crimes, and crimes that suggests a lack of personal integrity, or a weakness of character. Then yes, it makes sense to go through a year of more of probation to ensure those records never exist. For this "offence", his interests would have been best served by taking the few weeks jail and that would be the end of it.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Why Tolerance is Intolerable.

From a Facebook Note:
Why Tolerance is Intolerable (A comment on a message of tolerance to LGBT) 
24 June 2015 
When one's position is informed by values, tolerance of other positions informed by other values, is intolerable.
Why? Because if you believe in the One True God, then what of other believers of other faiths? Obviously their gods are false. Then how can one tolerate those of other faiths? 
Obviously only in a patronising way. Not necessarily overtly patronising. But in your heart of hearts, you KNOW you are the follower of the One True God (OTG, reg'd trademark), and those of other faiths are obviously wrong, deluded, and hell-bound.
How else can you tolerate them except with the Knowledge that they are wrong, but you have to keep your mouth shut because, hey - multi-culti, diverse and fruity, let's all just get along or the ISD will get you for sedition? 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Weaning Singaporeans off their cars

There was this article on the Straits Times about how to wean Singaporeans off their cars.

It was not a very good article. It was basically suggesting that Singapore introduces Trams... because "Trams are the number one means of public transport in Leipzig."

Anytime you read something that is basically gushing over something that works very well in some setting and suggests it be adopted by SG without considering the factors why it works very well over there... you have a dumb article.

Extract from the online comment:
Trams? Old tech. And like the MRT, if a tram breaks down, the next one cannot move because they are on the same track. I've seen this in Melbourne.
Trams need either powerlines or tracks or both. It means fixed infrastructures and that means inflexible application. Trams are old tech. Quaint, but may not be relevant or appropriate to Singapore..
The "Trams" of the future will be driverless/ autonomous "trams" that do not need to run on tracks. This gives them greater flexibility in application and deployment.
Subsequently, in a flurry of for and against letters to the forum page, writer after writer wrote in defence and attack of the proposal to "wean" Singaporeans off cars.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Persistent Myths - Singapore Myths

I don't mean conspiracy theories from the fringe lunatics (although those are persistent... and also mythical... )

I mean myths or ideas promoted by the authorities, experts, and people who we expect to know better or know things based on facts.

Apparently, some of their opinions are based on what they WANT to happen, or think SHOULD happen, rather than what can realistically happen. Or perhaps even what they need to happen POLITICALLY.

What I mean about "persistent myths" are something like what were uncovered by these Unconventional Wisdom, questioning conventional wisdom. Or persistent myths masquerading as "known truths".

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Top Ten Reasons Phey Yew Kok turned himself in after 35 years on the run

From a Facebook note/post(Note: Link may not work due to privacy setting by Facebook user.)

The man is 81 years old.

He has been a fugitive almost half his life - 46 when he fled.

Why did he turn himself in after all these years?

Top Ten Reasons Phey Yew Kok turned himself in

#10 He wanted to meet Amos Yee personally, before he dies.

#9  The money ran out.

#8 Three words: Pioneer Generation benefits

#7 The SEA Games closing ceremony made him nostalgic for Singapore

#6 Didn't you hear? MERS has arrived in Thailand!

#5 His Thai mistress left him.

#4 Medishield Life.

#3 He found out his Thai "wife" was having an affair with Yaw Shin Leong.

#2 Free medical in prison

And the number one reason he turned himself in and came back to Singapore:

He wants his CPF money back!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

GUTS 1: Moving towards Singapore 2.0. Part 3: Enterprising Singaporeans

The Grand Unified Theory of Singapore (GUTS) today 
and what We need to move to SG 2.0

Part 3: How to Get Singaporeans to take more Risk

Part 1 covered the problems of Singapore today - An Ageing population, rising costs of living, Inflation from an emerging, rising China, the problem of home ownership, falling birthrates, rising healthcare costs, and the Sandwiched Generation.

Part 2, considered what Singaporeans want. Or need rather. And why we are so kiasu. And why Meritocracy leads one to the Just World Belief, and why that leads to justifying inequality.

In Part 3, we ask, "How to get a Singaporean to take more risk?"  You may also want to read "The Third Freedom". which ends with the same question.

My Dental Surgeon - A cautionary tale?

The only certainty in life is uncertainty. Disasters, natural or unnatural, domestic or global can strike at any time and affect everyone, good or bad, smart or not, deserving or undeserving. Perhaps there is a role for government to provide a social safety net not because people are lazy "takers", but simply because misfortune strikes us all.

My dentist (or dental surgeon), who's in his sixties, had heart surgery a few years ago, recovered, but found that he had to carry on with his practice in order to pay off his hospital bills. Yes, he did choose to go to a private hospital, but it struck me that this was a doctor of dentistry (or whatever is the official qualification of a dental surgeon is), running his own business, presumably making a lot of money (or not. His rates were rather reasonable. Low even), but who still have difficulties when a medical or health crisis struck.

The Third Freedom

Singapore has been criticised for not having "Freedom". Specifically, Freedom of Speech/Expression, Freedom of the Press, and maybe freedom to chew gum.

Calvin Cheng rebuts this criticisms, pointing out that we do have Freedoms - Freedom from Crime, Freedom from poverty, Freedom from Religious Intolerance, Freedom from Unemployment.

This was, in turn, critiqued for conflating Freedom (or civil liberties) with Security (the Freedoms Cheng argued that Singaporeans have).

Previously I have argued that the first Freedoms, a.k.a. civil liberties are instrumental freedoms. They are a means to an end. They are intended to support the democratic process to ensure good government (this is a hope, a theory, not a guarantee)

The second Freedoms, or security, are what people REALLY want - Freedom from deprivation, Freedom from economic uncertainty, Freedom from crime and danger, Freedom from abuse, harassment, predation. In short, the Freedom to live our lives in a civilised manner, without having to deal with rudeness, intrusion, uncertainty, and fear.

Which is probably enough for most of us.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Nothing is Impossible (On Freedom of Expression Part 3)

I think it is incredibly sad that when it comes to Freedom of Expression, nothing is impossible.

But I an getting ahead of myself.

In Part One of this series of posts on Freedom of Expression, my point was that Freedom of Expression is over-rated.

Especially if the Freedom is also free from Responsibility.

You may have heard this wry observation about raising children: we spend 18 month encouraging them to stand up, walk, run, and speak. And then the next 18 years telling them to shut up, sit down and stop running around.

And the reason simply is this: Having the ability is one thing. Using the ability responsibly is the next thing. As Spiderman's uncle told him: "With Great Power comes Great utility bills".

Or maybe it was "Responsibility".

Monday, 8 June 2015

Why HKers are not as crazy about cars as SGers

During one of my lunch conversation with my colleague, he noted that HKers are not as crazy about owning cars as SGers.

He suggested that perhaps it is because HK has a good MTR system and people find it very convenient to use public transport so they do not feel the need to own cars.

Alternatively, he also suggested that HKers spend more on getting their homes so they can't afford to get a car. Which may be true (see chart below).

From "Home Prices and Inequality

The Chart shows that HKers pay 17 times their household income to buy a home. Singaporeans just pay 5 times. Our median household income is higher and the median home price is lower in SG than in HK.

So that may be a factor.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Freedoms, Liberties, Democracy - Why Everyday Singaporeans don't give a fuck about two of these.

A follow-up of sorts to this previous post on Democracy.

To be honest, I really do not want to write about Democracy. Again.

Most people don't understand it, and trying to establish common understanding of Democracy tends to make any post I write rather long.

Nor am I interested in writing a primer for Democracy. Most people won't read it or if they did they probably won't agree with some or all of it and you end up in a semantic argument over WHAT is Democracy.

Then there is Freedom. And Liberties. Or to be precise, civil liberties. (Which suggests that somewhere out there are uncivil liberties?)

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

How to plan for your retirement

Step One: Decide how much you need on an annual basis.

This will be easier when you are closer to retirement. However, you need a figure to work with when you are younger, cos retirement planning should start as early as possible.

So this is the first problem.

The second problem is that you can only think in terms of today's dollar. Today, Chicken Rice costs $3.50. In yesteryears, it was $1.00 or $1.50. By the time you retire there may be no chicken rice. Or it will cost $8. Or $10. So whatever you estimate you need would be in today's dollar. Factor in 30 - 40 years of inflation, and you have no way of knowing how much inflation would have affected the amount you need.

So you should just give up trying to plan your retirement. With your luck, there may be no retirement in your lifetime anyway.

The End.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Democracy First!

You may have read this before:

The CEO & The Fisherman

The CEO is looking to have a really fresh meal so he goes to the docks in the town and finds a man unloading his fishing boat with his morning haul. He buys a great looking fish and starts talking to the fisherman. The fisherman says “every day I fish for a few hours in the morning, then I eat lunch with my family, take a siesta, visit with friends, have dinner and go to bed.” The CEO says “Well if you fished for a few more hours every day you could buy a bigger boat. Then you could manage a team of fishermen and buy more boats and then move to the United States to manage your company. Then you could build your business until you can sell it to a major company and retire!” 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Better Internet (On Freedom of Expression, Part 2)

[Part One: Over-rated.]

I saw this question (about making the Internet better): "Can you disagree with someone yet still respect their opinion?"

This is like the US position on Freedom of Speech: Contextless. Idealistic. Theoretical. Meaningless.

Context is important. How did the person arrived at their opinion?
- God spoke to him and told him what is true.
- He read it in the Bible/Koran/I-Ching/Torah/Holy Book and so it must be true.
- His Church/Temple/Mosque/Synagogue has reflected, meditated on the issue and had promulgated a position and he is required by his faith to adopt the same position.
- Someone sent  him an email, precisely on this matter.
- He read it at the Flat Earth Society website.
- He read it in Popular Science.
- He read it in Time Magazine.
- He read it in the Straits Times.
- He read it in his company's sales brochure. Heck, he WROTE the freaking sales brochure.
- He does research on the subject and has studied the issue.
- His view is informed by his personal experience or the experience of family members.
- After studying the issues from both sides, he has adopted his position because it offers the best hope for him/for his family/for Singapore/for the world.
Say you are having a debate on the internet with one or more persons. And the person has one or more of the above as the reason how he arrived at his position that differs from you.

Which would you be able to respect?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Over-Rated (On Freedom of Expression, Part 1)

Freedom of expression is overrated.

Freedom not to listen to over-rated expression is under-appreciated, and under-exercised.

When I read that some 17-year-old (later revised to 16-year-old) twit had posted a Youtube video deriding Lee Kuan Yew, I thought to myself, what does a 17-year-old have to say about Lee that would be insightful, inspiring, thought-provoking, interesting, erudite, fresh, or significant?

There are only so many hours in a day. Five minutes wasted on dumb things are five minutes of your life you will never get back.

I read Colin Goh's take on the issue which I thought was the right, nuanced approach.

He is just an attention-seeking kid and giving him attention is precisely the WRONG thing to do. The fault lies with the media firstly for reporting it. The next party at fault were those who searched for and watched his video because of the news report. The third group of people at fault were those who made police reports after watching the video. As Colin wrote, 20 wrongs piled on one wrong does not make it right.

Unfortunately, all those "faults" were almost... inevitable.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Future of Hawker Centres - How to keep prices low, food tasty, and the culture alive.

The solution is Democracy.

To be more precise: Meritocratic Democracy.

Who knows good food? Most, if not all of us.

Did you ever have a favourite hawker, and then he moved because the rent was raised?

At that time, didn't you wish you owned the coffee shop so you could give the hawker cheap rent so he could continue to do his business and you could continue to enjoy his food?

I did.

There was a prata stall at the coffee shop at my block. It was not the BEST prata, but it was pretty good. Curry was pretty substantial and flavourful (not the sad, thin watery dhall you get at some places), and the prata kosong were square. That is very rare today. I miss it.

The coffee shop changed owners 5 times over 12 or so years. The prata stall hung on for maybe 3 changes of ownership, but the 4th change came with a rent hike that was too much. So it closed. Or moved. I don't know.

Another stall moved in - Western food. Damn good fish and chips - hawker was "London-trained". But when the 5th owner took over, the fish and chips stall also moved. The rent went up by 250% or something, according to the hawker.

Now the coffee shop is half empty. Three or more of the stalls are permanently vacant. I hardly go there any more. Bravo, coffee shop owner.

Businessmen can be quite stupid. One owner (I think it was the 2nd) turned the coffee shop into a 24 hour joint. There is NOTHING around except HDB flats after 10 pm. I could be wrong, but my assessment was that the 24 hour experiment was a failure. The next owner dropped the 24 hour operations.

The turnover and turnover of the ownership of the coffeeshop over the years just introduced change (apparently simply for the sake of change) and not all the changes were rational, reasonable, or advantageous to the residents. And for the hawkers, it was the hike in rent. (Here is a good history/overview of the hawkers/hawker centres in Singapore, and the different rent hawkers are paying.)

So... What if... the Residents OWNED the coffee shop?

Be Like Lee

Can we?

Maybe in just one way: From a post on Lee, the husband:
He will be known firstly as the Father of Modern Singapore, as Singapore’s First Prime Minister, as one of the longest serving PM, as an astute statesman, and perhaps he was proud of his achievements as PM of Singapore.
But as a Man, perhaps what is most personally meaningful to him was that he was a husband, and he had a wife, who was all things and everything to him, and he, to her.
Many have said great and wonderful things about him. His intellect is evident, his commitment to Singapore, undeniable, and his foresight and tenacity is legendary.
But in the quiet, private moments he is first a husband to his only love, and a father to his children.
And his love for his wife, and their love for each other, and their partnership is what I admire most, and what I can emulate.
We may not be PM, or lead a country, or give advice to world leaders, but we can love our family, our spouse. 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Same-Old Criticisms of Singapore

We've been going about this all wrong!

When people say Singapore is undemocratic, we shouldn't defend it or get all defensive. We should agree. "Yes it's undemocratic. There's no freedom. You won't like it here. Don't come. But it's ok for tourists. Just don't come here and try to get a job."

When they ask, "is it true chewing gum is banned in Singapore?" Say yes.

Then say, "can you imagine a place that doesn't allow chewing gum? It's inhumane! You can't possibly live in a place that doesn't allow chewing gum! That's like a Basic Human Right!"

If they ask if it's true that there is no press freedom in Singapore? Say yes. All you read in the Straits Times is how good the SG government is. Instead of how horrible the US government is, like what a truly free press should be doing. In the US.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

What is Government For?

The Lee Kuan Yew Conundrum

Singapore's late leader governed undemocratically but effectively. Which raises a question: What is the ultimate purpose of government?


MAR 30 2015,

[This is an ideologically created conundrum. It is a conundrum because democratic ideology asserts that all REAL progress comes from TRUE Democracy. Singapore is not a TRUE democracy (by their reckoning). Hence, Singapore cannot have REAL progress.... BUT, by any metric, Singapore has had EXCEPTIONAL progress. Ergo, conundrum. 

BUT... Singaporeans generally do not sit around wondering about this conundrum. We simply go about our lives unaware that we are creating a conundrum for ideologues.]

Washington, D.C., is fast becoming an acronym for “Dysfunctional Capital.” Singapore, in contrast, has become the poster child for “the concept of good governance,” to quote the Financial Times’s obituary for the country’s longtime leader, Lee Kuan Yew, who was laid to rest on Sunday. For Americans in particular, this contrast presents a conundrum. On the one hand, Americans hold as a self-evident truth that their democracy is the best form of government. On the other hand, they see mounting evidence daily of Washington’s gridlock, corruption, and theatrical distractions, which makes their system seem incapable of addressing the country’s real challenges.

Monday, 30 March 2015


Inevitably, the pushback came.

Yes, while a nation grieves (inappropriately, I think), some have reinforced their anti-LKY positions.


Like his passing.

He was 91. His wife has passed away 4 years ago. He has held on to see SG reach it's 50th year. There is nothing left that would hold him here.

Even as Singaporeans said, "get well soon!"

I was saying, "go, gentle into the good night."
Your race is done, the victory won,
You've earn your right
To go, gentle into the good night.

Not that I wanted him dead!

But Valar Morghulis. All men must die.

It is inevitable.

Friday, 27 March 2015


Press release from PMO on 23 Mar at 3:20 am:

"At 3:18 am, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's condition was permanently stabilised."


PM Lee declares seven days of holiday. However, he spells "holiday", M-O-U-R-N-I-N-G.


Q: Why did thousands of people queue up to see LKY lying in state?
A: They heard on the internet that LKY has died.
Q: So they have come to pay their respects?
A: No. You can't trust anything you read on the internet. They are confirming the fact personally. Some things are too important to trust the internet.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Life goes on. Regardless

In "Haiku for Lee Kuan Yew", was this:
What advice do you have for Singaporeans now that you are gone? Remember, your advice must be in the form of Haiku 
"Keep Calm. Carry On.
Walk Softly. Carry Big Stick.
Winter is Coming."
Be unflappable. Don't panic. Life goes on, regardless.
Don't need to make a lot of noise, but be prepared to make an impact. Speak softly but back up your words with deeds or the willingness to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done.
And winter is coming. Be prepared for hard times, cold times.

Sunday, 22 March 2015


When an old tree falls in the forest, there is an impact.

But even before it falls, the forest anticipates.

When the great spreading branches falls with the tree, a patch of sky will open up, and in time many plants and bushes will spring up from where its shade once covered. And those plants will grow and compete and in time perhaps one will surpass the rest and become a new great tree. But only time will tell.

But even as some anticipates the opportunities that have been withheld, that would now be freed, others anticipate the passing with empathy and affection if not love for the great tree, and how it has impacted or even allowed them, their lives.

And some show their love and appreciation in their respective manner.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

A transcript of Lee Kuan Yew's interview with The New York Times - Sept 2010

[This interview was published about a month before Mrs Lee passed away - note the date.]

Sept 2010

Interviewer: Seth Mydans

NYT: You should be glad that you've gotten way past where most of us will get.

That is my trouble. So, when is the last leaf falling?

Do you feel like that, do you feel like the leaves are coming off?

Well, yes. I mean I can feel the gradual decline of energy and vitality and I mean generally every year when you know you are not on the same level as last year. But that is life.

My mother used to say never get old.

Well, there you will try never to think yourself old. I mean I keep fit, I swim, I cycle.

And yoga, is that right? Meditation?


Tell me about meditation?

Well, I started it about two, three years ago when Ng Kok Song, the Chief Investment Officer of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, I knew he was doing meditation. His wife had died but he was completely serene.
So, I said, how do you achieve this? He said I meditate everyday and so did my wife and when she was dying of cancer, she was totally serene because she meditated everyday and he gave me a video of her in her last few weeks completely composed completely relaxed and she and him had been meditating for years.
Well, I said to him, you teach me. He is a devout Christian. He was taught by a man called Laurence Freeman, a Catholic. His guru was John Main a devout Catholic. When I was in London, Ng Kok Song introduced me to Laurence Freeman. In fact, he is coming to visit Singapore, and we will do a meditation session. The problem is to keep the mind from running off into all kinds of thoughts. It is most difficult to stay focused on the mantra. The discipline is to have a mantra which you keep repeating in your innermost heart, no need to voice it over and over again throughout the whole period of meditation.
The mantra they recommended was a religious one. Ma Ra Na Ta, four syllables. Come To Me Oh Lord Jesus. So I said Okay, I am not a Catholic but I will try. He said you can take any other mantra, Buddhist Om Mi Tuo Fo, and keep repeating it. To me Ma Ran Na Ta is more soothing. So I used Ma Ra Na Ta.
You must be disciplined. I find it helps me go to sleep after that. A certain tranquility settles over you. The day's pressures and worries are pushed out. Then there's less problem sleeping. I miss it sometimes when I am tired, or have gone out to a dinner and had wine. Then I cannot concentrate. Otherwise I stick to it ... a good meditator will do it for half-an-hour. I do it for 20 minutes.

What will you do with your CPF at 55?

Some of you will have plans.

Some of you will check your CPF balance, and get depressed.

Some of you may be too young to think about it; 55 is too far away to worry about.

Some of you will have a flat or some property to pay off even then.

But if you didn't have debts, and the money is available, what would you do with it?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


There has been some interest in this article from Sept 2013 - 18 months or so ago: 

Extract from the post:
In fact there is desire, if not pressure, for the PRC to assimilate into Singapore society by picking up English, and speaking more English.
So we have the interesting contradictory situation of wanting good Mandarin speakers to speak more English, while we want Singaporeans who don't speak Mandarin well, to improve their Mandarin... to speak to... whom?
 Is this an issue again?

Monday, 16 March 2015

A Tax before Dining

Previously, I had looked into who pays how much of tax because of a remark by a Minister.

Then I re-read this "parable" about the 10 diners - and wondered.
Every night, 10 men met at a restaurant for dinner. At the end of the meal, the bill would arrive. They owed $100 for the food that they shared.

Every night they lined up in the same order at the cash register. The first four men paid nothing at all. The fifth, grumbling about the unfairness of the situation, paid $1. The sixth man, feeling very generous, paid $3. The next three men paid $7, $12 and $18, respectively.

The last man was required to pay the remaining balance, $59. He realized that he was forced to pay for not only his own meal but the unpaid balance left by the first five men.

Thursday, 12 March 2015


ST has this site for sharing ideas about what Singapore would be like in 50 years time - in 2065.

In other words, what would the Singapore To Be (Singapore 2B) be like?

Go take a look at the ideas of some Singaporeans.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Same Old Saw: The Unnecessary Evil

Over the weekend, this opinion was featured in the Straits Times:

National service for women: Time to change mindset
Feb 28, 2015

Ho Kwon Ping
In a recent dialogue session, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen was asked about female conscription, and he answered that it should not be for reasons of equity. In other words, it should be only for demographic reasons - if there are not enough young men to defend the country.
I wholly agree that female conscription should not be undertaken simply for equity reasons.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Budget - Tax Changes - Beyond $160,000

If you earn less then $160,000 a year, your income tax rates aren't affected.

Here is the summary of increases for you high earning Whales.

Source: ChannelNews Asia, via Facebook
How much more will you need to pay? Work it out yourself, you five-percenters!

Or get your accountants to do it.

Or if you like, you can move to HK...

Budget - COE

I do not know if the COE premiums were ever intended to be a significant revenue stream.

Whatever the original intent, it is now.

COE (Vehicle Quota Premiums) contributed $6.1b to the government revenue in 2014.
It is expected to contribute a similar amount in 2015.
Source: ST interactive

At 9.5% of government revenue it is the 4th largest component of revenue after Corporate tax, GST, and Personal Income Tax.

And with the Budget proposal for 2015 projected to incur a deficit of $6.7b, the $6.1b from COE becomes critical... and indispensable.

Which means... the COE is going to remain with us for some time. the government can't afford to lose almost 10% of it's revenue!

Which means alternative schemes to tweak the COE is not likely to be adopted if they may adversely affect the COE revenue.

Or proposals to smoothen the COE supply will be assess with an eye on the revenue stream and whether it would be disrupted.

So if you are hoping for the COE to come down... be aware that the government is betting against you.

But you already know that.

[Afternote: ERP collection is just a drop in the bucket compared to COE premiums:
The Government collected S$152 million in Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) revenue last year, which is a dip from the S$160 million consistently collected in preceding years, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew to Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 11).]

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Budget 2015: CPF changes

What does the CPF changes mean for you?
The income ceiling for CPF contributions will be raised from $5,000 to $6,000 from next year onwards.

An additional 1 per cent interest will be applied to the first $30,000 of CPF savings for those aged 55 and above next year, on top of the existing 1 per cent extra interest on the first $60,000 of savings. This means that the first $30,000 in Special, Retirement or Medisave accounts can earn up to 6 per cent interest.
First the easy details.

If you are over 55 and intend to leave at least $30k with CPF, you get another 1% interest.

Let's say you leave $60k in there and $30k earns 6%, and the next $30k earn 5%. In one year, you earn $3300 in interest in total. In 10 years, at simple interest calculations, you get $33,000. Your $60k become $93k. Compounded, it would be a little over $100k. When you are 65.

Not too shabby, but how long will $100k fund your retirement? If you are frugal and live on $20k a year, your $100k will last you 5 years. Probably less with inflation.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Crystal Ball Gazing - Goat/Ram/Sheep

I'm no prophet.

Don't ask me for 4D numbers. If I know what's the winning number, I'd tell my mother. She buys 4D.

But here are some "Crystal ball gazing" based on trends or signs that are obvious. At least, obvious to me.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Why you would not vote for the PAP

If you were looking for a litany of sins committed by the PAP, this is not the blog piece.

Two years ago, I suggested a strategy for  the PAP.

Not to win back Aljunied, Hougang, or Punggol East. Those wards are for the WP to lose. Not for the PAP to win back.

Two years ago, I noted:
When they lost Anson, Potong Pasir, and Hougang, their basic strategy was to just flail away at their opponents until one was disqualified, one moved on, and... oh they still haven't won back Hougang.
The theme of that post is that the PAP doesn't have a strategy.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Who's afraid of the Minimum Sum?

If you are earning at least $2500. 

On average. Over your entire working life. 

According to one report, young Singaporeans (in their 20s) earn an average of $3000.  Oh wait. That's wrong. It should be US$3060. Depending on the exchange rate used, that could be SGD3900 to over $4000.

Really? Young Singaporeans earn THAT much?

Yes. If you are a college graduate at least. That was the target group surveyed. (Still incredulous!)

OK. What if you are NOT a college grad? 

Can you meet the Minimum Sum with just your Special Account?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Don't call us poor... things?

There is (was?) a series on CNA on low income families, how they cope, how they are being helped, and the title of the series is, "Don't Call Us Poor".


I understand that from an informative and public education point of view, the series is commendable. I hear good things about it.

[As an aside, I haven't watched the series because I don't have a TV. Does that make me poor? Well, don't call me poor!]

But what's with the title of the series?

Are the titles below all implying a certain perspective or are there any differences?

1 "Don't call us Disabled"

2 "Don't call us Retarded"

3 "Don't call us Stupid"

4 "Don't call us Ah Bengs/Ah Lians"

5 "Don't call us Elites"

6 "Don't call us Lazy/Skivers/Shirkers/Slackers"

7 "Don't call us Poor"

8 "Don't call me 'Shirley'."

Monday, 9 February 2015

Letter of Disappointment

When you get a government job, I understand that you get a Letter of Appointment.

Similarly, when you are appointed to some role like a member of the CPF Panel of Advisors, I suppose you will get a Letter of Appointment.

So when you are discharged from that job or that appointment, do you get a Letter of Disappointment?

Maybe I am being unfair, but I really think the panel should all get Letters of Disappointment.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

How you should respond to the CPF changes

The CPF Advisory Panel has made their initial recommendations and it is likely to be adopted (duh!)

What should you do?

If you are the low income earner who is unable to meet your minimum sum, most of the recommendations are of no help to you. And the option to withdraw 20% of your RA at 65 is not without costs.

It does provide you with a choice, but whether you want to exercise that choice will depend on your situation - do you have a need for that money at 65?

And that is for you to decide based on your personal situation.

For the gamblers in you, here's a tip. Or some scenarios to consider.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Tolerating Freedom of Speech/Expression

There are two positions.

You may believe that the freedom of expression is an absolute freedom to be unbounded by any limits or restrictions because any limits or restrictions would dilute or even render meaningless this "Freedom". As the British PM argued, the freedom of expression includes the right to offend.

Or you may believe that there are no absolutes. As someone once explained, "my freedom to swing my arm ends where your nose begins". Similarly, The right to keep and bear arms include the responsibility to practise firearm safety. And so the freedom of expression is necessarily bound by or should be limited by judicious and responsible exercise of that freedom. Pope Francis argues that Freedom of Speech must be practised without offending.

You may believe one or the other. The point of this post is not to convince you of one view or the other, or to argue one view or another. There are lots of articles arguing for one position or the other.

The point of this post is to point out that tolerance is dead. It is a recurring theme in this blog because we are becoming more intolerant. Because we are getting more educated, have access to more information, we think we are better informed, and that our "informed" opinions are correct.

Friday, 30 January 2015

A CPF for those who need it most

The CPF scheme was set-up to
... enable Singaporeans to have a secure retirement, through lifelong income, healthcare financing and home financing. (CPF Mission statement)

But those in the lowest 10th percentile cannot rely on the CPF alone to provide for their retirement. The current rates are too low and if the contribution rates were raised, they would have little to take home for daily expenses.

So... the recent brilliant idea to have different minimum sums for different groups of people, was... kinda silly, really.

To be fair, I think the idea is just an idea. But then again, this is a government that doesn't broach ideas unless they are reasonably enamoured by the idea. So...

This idea is still paternalistic, and prescriptive. It would require categorising people according perceived needs and it would not be able to make fine distinctions, or address special considerations or circumstances.

The net effect is that there will still be complains and resentment.

My issue with the Minimum Sum is that it is mandatory, prescriptive, and paternalistic. And that it takes away personal responsibility from those who have it least (which may be a pretty good definition of paternalism.)

The best thing to do with the minimum sum is to do away with it.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Let's Talk about Tax, baby.

Let's talk about Tax, cos it's that time of the year (I got my "love letter" from IRAS).

Unless you are one of those who earn less than $20,000 (or just a little more) and do not need to worry about tax at this time of the year.

At Singapore Perspectives 2015, Minister Chan Chun Sing made a comment about how only the top 30% of Singaporeans pay taxes.

I had my doubts about that fact and did a check.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Singapore Perspectives 2015: Audacious choices Opening Address by Janadas Devan

Janadas Devan's opening address at Singapore Perspective 2015. A look back to history.

Jan 28, 2015

The months leading to Singapore’s separation from Malaysia on 9 August 1965 were the founding generation’s finest hour, not just for the leaders of the time but the electorate that coalesced around them.

By Janadas Devan

Fifty years ago today, our future was uncertain. We didn’t know it then, but on January 26, 1965, the Singapore Cabinet debated a paper that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had written on possible constitutional rearrangements in Malaysia.

1964 had been tense: the People’s Action Party (PAP) had decided to contest the Malaysian General Election in April 1964, but won only one seat among the nine it contested in Peninsula Malaysia. In July 1964, and again in September, Singapore exploded in race riots, with a total of 36 people killed and 560 injured. Singapore and Kuala Lumpur clashed repeatedly, in the Federal Parliament, in the media and on the ground. Singapore saw no economic advantage in merger — the reason why we joined Malaysia in the first place, believing a small island state could not survive without a hinterland. For example, the Economic Development Board had to seek permission from Kuala Lumpur to award pioneer certificates to prospective investors here, entitling them to tax-free status for five to 10 years. In the two years we were in Malaysia, only two out of 69 such applications were approved, and one came with so many restrictions it amounted to a rejection.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Reactions to Singapore Perspective 2015: Choices

I had two objectives.

Firstly, to listen to the "Three Wise Men" of Singapore: Janadas Devan, Bilahari Kausikan, and Kishore Mahbubani.

Secondly, to get a little bit of History of Singapore. I am a history buff, after all.

I was not (too) disappointed then by Singapore Perspective 2015.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

To Be or Not to AirBnB

So URA is asking for feedback on short-term rental for residential properties as facilitated (and popularised) by apps like AirBnB.

Link to URA Feedback site (until 23 Feb 2015): http://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/Surveys/short-term-stay

I value my privacy and I would not let out my home or a room for visitors. But that's me.

I think if my neighbours want to and need to (for the money), I think they should be allowed to.

I do not anticipate a parade of visitors trooping through my neighbourhood if short-term rental (hotel room rental) were allowed. If HDB allows, then ALL HDB flats would be allowed, and if there is sufficient supply, the visitors would be spread out throughout Singapore. And each room or flat would only be occupied by these visitors once in a while.

Unless the HDB flat is iconic like the Pinnacle@Duxton.

I would stay there at least once. Just for the experience of living in a million dollar flat.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What Drives Us?

The govt is setting up a committee to look into applications and ideas for driverless cars.

In the committee will be experts, academics, and the LTA and A*STAR.


Those people are going to be whizzes at marketing new technology.

That said (sarcastically), what would be some of the possible uses of the Autonomous Car/ Driverless Car (AC/DC)?

Friday, 16 January 2015

Thoughts on Investment on a Friday

Apparently, some people want their CPF out in one lump sum in order to be able to invest at age 55. They think they can do better than CPF.

You are thinking of investing?

Here are the usual investment advice you will get:

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Update: Deployment of the KRI U.H.

Previously, I had speculated as to Indonesia's possible deployment of the KRI Usman Harun, and SG's possible options in terms of responding to what one may see as provocation.

Well, the TNI did deploy the KRI U.H., the official reason being that the ship has capabilities for searching for the QZ8501.

Mindef issued a statement on KRI Usman Harun’s deployment:
"Singapore offered its help for this humanitarian effort arising from a tragic accident of AirAsia flight QZ8501 which has befallen our Indonesian neighbour. We offer our deepest condolences to the bereaved families of the passengers and crew. The SAF will continue to assist in this search effort professionally.”
MINDEF studiously avoided mentioning the KRI U.H. name. Merely stated our continued participation professionally. Perhaps implying the Indonesians are lacking?