Sunday, January 30, 2005

Is the Singapore govt suffering from megalomania?

Straits Times
Jan 26, 2005

House approves increase in President's salary

PARLIAMENT approved an increase in the President's salary and other changes to the Civil List, which specifies his allowances and expenditure on the Istana and personal staff, for the fiscal year 2004.

The salary will be revised to $2,373,100, an increase of $247,100 from the estimated fiscal year 2004 expenditure.

As such, the total expenditure under Class 1 of the Civil List - which includes the President's salary, entertainment allowance and Acting President's allowance - will now be $2,492,700.

The pay raise for the Pres re-opened the old wound that Singaporeans suffered when the govt awarded itself a hefty pay raise to its already astronomical pay (12% to 14% on a salary range of $968,000 to $1.69 million) in Jun 2000.

What angered Singaporeans then was that while the govt officials had their pay freeze lifted, Singaporeans were told to be patient about having their CPF cuts fully restored.

In 2004, the govt again gave itself another pay raise. But this time it did nothing to the restoration of Singaporeans' CPF.

Both these govt pay raises were implemented at a time when many Singaporeans have either lost their jobs or taking home lower pay.

Is the govt suffering from megalomania and think that it is the only one that deserves the high pay and all the increases while its people should remain poor?

World Class

A few days ago the Straits Times proudly proclaimed "Singapore water world class". This yet again showed Singapore govt's obsession with "world class" title. To thrive for world class is a good thing as it pushes one to keep improving to excel. However, if pursued blindly and relentlessly there will be serious consequences.

Firstly, after achieving a few "world class" it is very tempting to become self-conceited and arrogant. Countries such as Msia, Taiwan and PRC have already told Singaporeans that they were too arrogant.

Relentless pursuit of "world first" will also cause one to unknowingly become insensitive to the feelings of others. In this aspect we have sufficient complains from our neighbours like Msia and Indonesia.

The most undesirable consequences, however, is the impediment on the development of individuality. To attain "world first", esp undertaken by the govt, team work is necessary. That means those involved will have to curtail their individuality as they have designated roles to play. This probably explains why the more "world first" Singapore govt achieved, the less entrepreneurs it produces.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Affordable Singapore

Straits Times
Jan 14, 2005

Reforms in price, delivery of health care by Radha Basu

REFORMS in how health care is paid for, to the way it is delivered, will remain the top priorities for the Health Ministry, so that all Singaporeans can continue to enjoy high standards of affordable health care.

Straits Times
Jan 14, 2005

Steps to ensure affordable water supply

MANAGING the country's water sources will receive more emphasis this year, Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said in an addendum to the President's Address.
In the addition, released yesterday, he said: 'We will also ensure affordability, service quality and reliability of our water supply, through adopting new technologies, improving operations, and facilitating public-private partnerships.'

I read with apprehension the above 2 news items. For in Singapore "affordable" is a precursor to price hike, if not an euphemism for high price.

From the enquiries on the prices of HDB flats, Singaporeans now know that the "affordable" prices charged are based not on the cost of building the flats but on whatever prices the HDB fancies which most often are more than double the cost.

It is not just the huge profits that is in question. It is about the insistence by HDB that it provides subsidized flats and makes every effort to ensure that they are affordable.

Singaporeans are getting quite annoyed with the continuous price hike of the various public services such as bus fare, GST, conservancy, etc, which were imposed at a time when they were facing either pay cut or retrenchment. Moreover, the justification for the increase: "price had not been revised for a few years", were plain economic idiocy.

Many Singaporeans now feel that the govt that had given them much prosperity no longer cares about them but is only interested in collecting revenue.

Are Singaporeans Really So Compassionate?

Singaporeans should be commended for giving huge donations, both in cash and in kind, to the Boxing Day tsunami victims. Within 3 weeks, they have given almost US$19m in cash on top of medical and food relief. Many of them have also volunteered to help out in the tsunami affected countries.

Besides the tsunami catastrophe, Singaporeans have also donated generously to the seemingly never-ending fund-raising TV shows by the various local charity organisations such as NKF, Ren Ci Hospital, etc. In all these TV charity shows, the funds raised were well above the target amounts.

Nobody ought to doubt the compassion of Singaporeans. However, there is one campaign where Singaporeans seem not as giving. It is the Red Race Campaign by Singapore Blood Bank. It was started in Apr last year and aims to recruit 10,000 new blood donors. Ten months into the campaign, the Blood Bank is only able to recruit less than half of its target number of donaor!

Why are Singaporeans more willing to give money, time and effort rather than their blood? Do they still harbour the incomprehensible fear towards blood donation? Or are they so hard-hearted that they need to see the graphic images of people suffering before they could be moved to act? I really hope it is neither of these but a want of publicity for the campaign.