2econdsight

"to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief"


Leave a comment

AND THE CPF CHARADE CONTINUES…

After months and millions of words exchanged in personal conversations, articles in pixels and print, SMSes and tweets – even a lawsuit – suddenly, in just 48 hours, Singaporeans were treated to 3 new reports that suggest the CPF mountain is about to move one nanometre.

Joint Responsibility For Old Age Income Security
Ex-NMP Laurence Lien got the ball rolling with his opinion piece in the ST, 21 Jun, ‘Joint Responsibility For Old Age Income Security.’ The buzz appears to praise and cheer his suggestion for GIC to ‘pay out bonus returns periodically’.

But netizens cannot be more than mistaken.

Lien states clearly, ‘At first, it was not my intention to write about the Central Provident Fund (CPF). But I feel compelled to do so given the persistent lack of clarity about what the real issues are.’ And clarify he did, harking back to his stint as a MOF director to assure readers that, notwithstanding ‘the Official Secrets Act does not permit me to say any more than what is publicly known’, readers should just trust him. The GIC is not broke and returns achieved are within ‘benchmarked returns’. Still, more transparency to build trust ‘needs to be addressed’, he asserts.

And, yes, the Minimum Sum goalposts have not shifted but, oh yes, he is ‘sure CPF members would welcome the Govt setting limits early and giving sufficient notice of future changes.’ Really? Has he been reading alternative media or MSM articles and comments to take a pulse of the displeasures?

Furthermore, he makes it clear that ‘The majority of CPF members should not be so focused on the Minimum Sum or on wresting control of it. They should instead look at total retirement planning in order to answer questions such as: How much money do they require for retirement? What is the potential shortfall? How much must come from personal savings? How much longer do they need to work?’

Hence, readers should not miss his key thrust, namely; ‘Income security in old age presents dilemmas and hard choices for policymakers everywhere, not just in Singapore. The sooner everybody – government and people – starts working together, with openness and cool heads, to address it today, the better off everyone will be in the future,’ he concludes.

My sincere apologies to everyone who has invariably preferred to jump on Lien’s almost passing suggestion that the Govt ‘should be able to accumulate excess returns… over the long term and pay out bonus returns periodically’.

As much as I think Laurence is not your PAP MP but speaks his mind in Parliament, to gush over what is but his tentative 5-word idea is selling ourselves short on two counts.

First, we MUST NOT lose sight of a potentially seminal event in citizens’ fight for justice in the CPF issue. I refer to TRE reader, Trust et al, who recently spotlighted Trust Laws that may give us our full legal right to ALL the full returns that have accrued from use of our trust funds by GIC over the years.

Second, Lien‘s idea, if accepted, implicitly draws a line on the past and accept ‘periodical bonus’ at the pleasure of the govt henceforth. Why should we deny ourselves of what might be rightfully ours from the past? Nope. Settle what’s owing (if, in fact, Trust Laws prove to be on our side) before we even discuss the new. Even if the courts should interpret the laws to our disadvantage, we should still fight on based on the apparent neglect of the CPF Board in allowing our hard-earned savings to be degraded instead of enabling ‘Singaporeans to have a secure retirement, through lifelong income, healthcare financing and home financing.’ The only income that is ‘lifelong’ for ALL CPFers must surely be ‘interest income’ for our funds that continues even when one is jobless or retired.

MOM’s ‘Minimum Sum Among Aspects Under Review’
Both TODAY & ST reports give prominence to the review of the Minimum Sum, currently pegged to the CPI.

In the face of complimentary remarks for Minister Tan CJ, I want to alert citizens of 2 salient observations.

One, whilst the Minimum Sum is amongst the issues under contention, it is NOT the most important. Instead, it is the CPF interest rate and our right to withdraw our money at 55 that are the 2 life-&-death issues for the majority of citizens and that impact EVERY CPFer here and now – not ten, twenty years hence.

Therefore, be not misled as daft ones. Minimum Sum review is a diversionary, administrative flare. More interest payments and the option to cash out are our legal rights. (Note: Unbeknownst to many, MOM issued this to TODAY, 22 Jul, “CLARIFICATION: The article earlier said that the Government is reviewing CPF interest rates. This is wrong. The Government is reviewing ways to better buffer the CPF against inflation and CPF interest rates is one of the ways currently used to guard against inflation.

Two, I marvel at commentators’ words of approbation for Tan CJ. Is he not the one who took a year to study the problems PMEs above >40 faced and came up with the toothless FCF? Is he also not the one who called Singaporeans ‘bigots’ who objected to the PIDCS event?

My dear fellow citizens, watch what the man does, not what he says – or how he looks, or what he looks like he can do.

That said, I do acknowledge that Brigadier-General Tan is a junior in rank amongst his cabinet colleagues and possesses less space to manoeuvre.

Private Pension Plans Option for CPF in Future
Also at the same IPS’ CPF forum, the item of interest raised by Finance Minister Tharman is his receptiveness to more investment options for CPFers. But is this a key issue? Or a diversionary one?

Citizens should again note that our 2 most important outcries for justice, re CPF interest rate and withdrawal at 55 are completely omitted in his discussions.

CONCLUSION
Isn’t it strange that in a forum dedicated to discuss ‘CPF & Retirement Adequacy’, no questions were raised or discussed on the achievement or lack in the CPF mission in its 59thyear of existence? Is not evaluating how far and how far short CPF Board and members the logical starting point for the forum, for the way forward?

Regardless, citizens must not be fooled by what has been written or said by our supposedly neutral and respected non-political leaders and ministers.

Remember their track record of deception and diversion.
Remember to watch what they do, not what they say.
Remember to stay the course, not to settle for the seemingly good, only to sacrifice the best for ourselves.

2cents

Advertisements


2 Comments

GE: 3rd Tea Leaves Reading (Part 1 of 2)

WHERE NOW?
We first questioned [link] ‘proponents of an early GE (who) point to global, regional and local factors to support their prediction’, showing that PAP’s overriding considerations to time a GE rest on ‘the ground must be sweet’ and finding ‘enough candidates’.

We then explained [link] how a GE pre-50th National Day may serve for ‘history to write of fools relying on the vicissitudes of an electorate never so restless, so vocal to be grateful for a past long gone – but a future in peril’. With such vocal voters and a PAP seemingly bent on expending, nay, jettisoning all the trust built up by their founders, any ‘talent’ in her right mind would need more than an invite to tea with the PM to be persuaded to stand under a political banner in certain decline.

Furthermore, the Pioneer Generation Package & Fair Consideration Framework are not fully evaluated for their vote-buying impact. Hence, why would anyone think that PM Lee’s finger is already on the trigger?

GE SCENARIOS & STRATEGIES
We now move on to discuss some scenarios and strategies.

Scenario A – Increase in Parliamentary Seats to Contest

Without access to actual voter headcount, we use the Singapore Resident figures as proxy for this scenario.

Year

Total Population (’000)

Singapore Residents (’000)

MP Seats Contested

Average Residents per MP

1984

2,732.2

2,443.7

79

30933

1988

2,846.1

2,598.5

81

32080

1991

3,135.1

2,794.7

81

34502

1997

3,796.0

3,123.4

83

37631

2001

4,138.0

3,325.9

84

39594

2006

4,401.4

3,525.9

84

41975

2010 (Census)

5,076.7

3,771.7

n.a.

 –

2011

5,183.7

3,789.3

87

43555

2013

5,399.2

3,844.8

n.a.

 –

2016*

5,721.4

3915.0

to be announced

?

 Population data extracted from Dept of Statistics
*linear projection based on respective % increase from 2010 to 2013
^non-GE years

From a low of 30,933 SG residents in 1984, we increased to 43,555 per MP in 2011. A 41% increase – even as we become more educated, vocal and the world roundabout us becomes more complex. Regardless, the $200k we pay per MP far outstrips that 3 decades past. And unlike these latter-day part-timers raking in S$1mil for 2 speeches ($200k/yr x 5-year term), MPs then whilst less educated were mostly serving residents full-time, and not concerned with their own day jobs.

There is therefore a case for redrawing constituency lines to increase parliamentary seats. If we hark back to 1984, then we can look at 132 seats at the next GE. But that is highly unlikely. A figure of 100 may be more realistic. Or about 39,000 per MP. (Note: 1984 data is as far back as conveniently available.)

No need to jump the gun condemning any such increase as PAP’s efforts to better their chances. It is a neutral and, in my view, a welcome, necessary even, change to better serve citizens’ interest. The increase cuts both ways for all parties.

With more MPs, more views from segments that might be otherwise drowned out can be heard. A bigger pool of MPs will also mean more candidates from which to form the cabinet to focus more time on national, international issues without neglecting municipal ones.

That said, it would be naïve not to recognise that PAP stands to gain more on 2 counts; one, they have more resources to produce the requisite numbers and two, as incumbents, they can redraw constituency lines with demographic data to their advantage. But let’s not begrudge that small point as, ceteris paribus, Singapore’s national interests are better served with a larger pool of MPs. Who knows, the changing tide may be strong enough to negate PAP’s advantages. Maybe even work against it.

Scenario B – Smaller GRCs, More SMCs
Such a scenario, unlike the increase in seats, is borne of PAP’s realization that not only does a questioning electorate no longer buy in their time-worn rationale, GRCs can and will work to their detriment if not destruction under current political climate.

But trust the PAP not to admit to ‘flip-flopping’. See, they can only ‘flop-flip’ – when a policy, approach is a sure flop, then flip they will – but trust them to flaunt their flip as being responsive to calls for changes. Ha! Flop-Flippers!!!

Again, let’s not begrudge them their cheap thrill. Smaller GRC, more SMC can work to the Opposition’s advantage.

Scenario C – Role of MSM and Social Media
As a non-social media geek, I can only guess the obvious: MSM will play a decreasing role to Digital & Social Media. How the parties on both sides adapt to the new landscape matter more than ever. How they deploy  their resources must be informed by the demographic make-up at the point of the GE.

27.5% eligible voters are <35 and another 51.3% are 35-59 years old. The remaining 21.2% >60 are mostly unschooled and/or non-IT literate. So, how many will get their news via non-MSM?

Anyway, even the PAP must know that MSM has lost a critical chunk of credibility. Perhaps, to the extent that readers will not only disbelieve but instead believe otherwise what’s reported!

As for Digital Media, most dedicated websites are still at their kiddy-to-early-teen stage, with varying degrees of credibility. Further, social platforms like FB, Tweeters, Blogs etc, are all an enormous unknown, unaccredited mass. Each is as credible as the one who chooses to rate it in each instance. By sheer repetition alone, a view can gain ‘credibility’.

Competing parties must decide based on their audience, goals of each message and resources. Obviously, opposition parties are better off focusing on the digital forum without neglecting hardcopy media. The latter to mine the senior voters’ dissatisfactions over CPF, Healthcare, Transport and general cost of living issues.

Scenario D : Demographics
Again, without access to actual voter headcount, we will use the latest available data on Singapore residents.

AGE

20-29

30-49

50-64

>64

2010

519,800

1,251,600

743,700

338,400

2013

522,500

1,231,300

816,300

404,400

% Change

0.50%

-1.60%

9.80%

19.50%

Population data extracted from www.singstat.gov.sg

The obvious increased voter numbers are those ≥50; an additional 138,600 votes (or +12.8% for their cohort) since GE 2011 is not insignificant.  Making up about 41% of the electorate, their concerns over CPF and Healthcare issues can only be ignored at the politician’s peril. Parties need to delve deeper the data.

IMPLICATIONS

The scenarios are the 4 key ones that impact most on how parties and candidates will fight the next GE.

The first implication is that the Opposition must plan for more potential candidates. More than before, candidates must be attractive to each constituency on her/his own merit.

Secondly, increased seats contested, more SMC and smaller GRC will serve PAP’s own survival (foreknowledge advantage, bigger base to form cabinet) and instincts (the tide is turning against them) to remain the dominant party.

Thirdly, looking to how elections have been won in other countries may inform the message and media strategies to use as much as local relevant conditions will.

Finally, completely relook both the target audience composition, the message for each and how best to exploit the changed demographic landscape.

Overall, the Opposition parties never had it this good.

Writing as a pedestrian observer, the above observations are by no means exhaustive and any criticisms or contributions to the discussion are welcome. Please, just keep it civil.

In our 2nd part, we shall try to understand some key strategic possibilities.

2cents


2 Comments

A Voice for our asset-rich, cash-poor seniors…

Calvin Cheng, the NMP who only resigned from Young PAP after it was reported that he remained one despite his NMP status, has written a letter in the ST forum [see below] demanding that ‘other taxpayers should not be funding the sentimentality of people in long-term asset-rich, cash-poor positions’.

Déjà vu a la Wee Shu-Min
It reminds me of Wee Shu-Min’s ‘get out of my elitist face’ rant at Derek Wee whose observations have proven prophetic about the deluge of FT upending PMETs in SG. That was in 2006. Where we are today proves that this govt has completely ignored the feedback from that internationally-reported episode of a PAP MP’s daughter kicking a fellow citizen in the face for voicing a genuine concern.

Is history repeating itself now with Calvin Cheng again trying to divide SG society into tax-payers vs ex-taxpayer retirees? He writes that those in long-term asset-rich, cash-poor situations are “a case of bad financial management” with assets that they are ‘unable to upkeep anyway’. Therefore, sell they must those assets.

On the contrary, these seniors were actually ahead of their cohort to plonk their savings in assets that have appreciated far more than other classes. They were supporting tangibly the then govt’s call to plant their roots deep in SG. Calvin is not only disparaging and disrespectful; he is dishonest not to acknowledge that fact.

What exactly are the problems?
Such asset owners are unlikely not to have planned for their normal expenses. So, where do they appear to experience cash shortfall? Their complaints fall mainly into 3 categories, namely; healthcare, transport and property taxes.

On healthcare, even Han Fook Kwang, ST Managing Editor, with a big 6-figure salary bemoans the unexplained, unreasonable doubling of his Medishield premiums. That is only the ‘certain’ part where the figure is known. How about the ‘uncertain’ part; falling sick as a silver-haired person is more likely to – but fear of not knowing what the cost for treatment will be is a legit concern?

Transport costs have shot up. Where most would be able and planned for a private car for runabout use, the COE alone now costs 2-3 times more than when they first bought a private property. Being old, buses and MRT are not the first or available options.

Property taxes are, to be fair, not such a heavy burden. But given the cavalier attitude of the elected leaders towards the other feedback, this and the daily costs of living are all thrown in to help stir up their pot of discontent.

Healthcare and private transport costs were curved balls that this govt has thrown at them – and us who will join their ranks soon enough. They are valid concerns and complaints.

Calvin did acknowledge that ‘people with assets can still find themselves unable to make ends meet, when they encounter unexpected situations such as temporary unemployment’. What has he been smoking? He’s behaving like an older Ms Wee Shu-Min – out-of-touch and completely elitist. Increasing numbers of PMETs are now long-term umemployed. Implicit in his observation is that the govt washes its hands off the plight of those without a secured employment.

A better approach
I do not claim that our asset-rich, cash-poor seniors should rely entirely on the govt to help them. But Calvin’s approach is not in the interest of and can be fatal to nation-building. It is myopic – and dumb. We who are not yet seniors are observing how this govt treats the seniors for a clue of what is to come for us. Why pay so much taxes only to be later seen and treated as discards and burdensome, past our use-by dates? Why should we serve NS to defend a country – for those who are rich?

The solution is NOT for the govt to turn on their default mode, treating such issues with ‘what can be right about giving away a little more money – again’? Instead, it should comprehensively study the actual issues and uncertainties that our asset-rich, cash-poor seniors are facing. Then, based on the, one hopes, objective findings, fashion solutions appropriate to and in recognition of the importance of treating our seniors with the decency that we expect from others for ourselves. Trade-offs included.

It is inconceivable, nay, downright morally bankrupt, that this govt can, at will, whip out $3.6 bil to help SMEs (legal entities) with PIC (Productivity & Innovation Credit) but budget zilch to help these seniors (flesh & blood) who gave their best years and bought into this govt’s Singapore Dream of owning a roof over their heads to retire under.

If this govt is smart – and less heartless – it can be a sizeable vote winner that cost much less than $3.6 bil. Opposition parties should take note of this potential, increasing block of voters.

As for callous ex-NMP Calvin Cheng and his likes, please get out of our caring humanity face.

2cents  (admits that he is asset-rich but  –  not yet  –  cash-poor)

*  The author blogs @2econdsight.

‘No’ to permanent subsidies for asset-rich, cash-poor

I APPRECIATE that the Government is looking into offering MediShield support for asset-rich, cash-poor Singaporeans on a case-by-case basis (“MediShield support for asset-rich, cash-poor”; Thu), but it is important that subsidies are not made permanent.

In the short term, people with assets can still find themselves unable to make ends meet, when they encounter unexpected situations such as temporary unemployment.

It is unreasonable to expect them to sell illiquid assets quickly in these situations.

However, if these situations persist for longer, then it is a case of bad financial management.

If a person finds himself in a long-term low-income situation while holding on to assets, the solution is to sell these assets, which he is unable to upkeep anyway.

While it is endearing to hear of people with little income trying to hold on to their inherited property, the correct thing for them to do is to sell the property so as to make ends meet, instead of looking to the Government for help.

Other taxpayers should not be funding the sentimentality of people in long-term asset-rich, cash-poor situations.

Calvin Cheng Ern Lee

[First appeared on ST Forum, 5 Jul]


1 Comment

A TALE OF TWO COMMITTEES

There appeared to be not very much discussions with two recent relatively important events, namely; the recommendations by the Committee tasked to look at strengthening NS and the COI’s report on the Little India Riot.

Much can be discussed of each Committee’s findings. However, my interest is to see if there something may be right or amiss with the Committees themselves. Perhaps, in each terms of reference, composition, how they go about their work and such.

To keep the article short, I list beloe the key deficiency of each and ask if Committees these days are no more what they used to or should be. But only another ‘tool’ in the govt’s ‘toolkit’ to propagate their own Party, not the national, agenda.

NS: Medication and Treatment Without Diagnosis of Condition

Dr Ng Eng Hen correctly observed ‘…Others have dismantled their NS systems, not because threats disappeared but because public support waned.’ He also reportedly asserted that the ‘Committee to Strengthen NS (CSNS), recommendations are a comprehensive package of significant measures to strengthen NS for future generations and provide SG with a strong defence’.

The CSNS was formed in Mar 2013 ‘to examine how the NS system can be strengthened for the future, to better serve Singapore and Singaporeans’. It comprised 2 working groups with their respective focus;

a) Support for NS : examined how we can better motivate our servicemen and maximise their contributions. The WG also studied measures to strengthen support for NS among the community.

b) Recognition & benefits: examined how we can better recognise and show appreciation for the contributions of our servicemen.

From the given info, the need for such a committee appears not to arise from a desire to build on an already strong ‘public support’ but to arrest what may be a public growing weary or wary of NS for our sons… even as the PM himself declared that the Singapore they are sworn to defend ‘belongs to everyone’, including PRs whose sons get to chose whether or not to do NS when turning 18. No such luck for true-blue born ones.

We would logically think that even before deliberating on Support and Recognition & Benefits, CSNS members must surely ask themselves first and foremost the question, ‘How did we go from strong, unquestioning public support to hearing voices, albeit in the extreme, calling for ‘Abolish NS’?

If such a fundamental question is ignored, if no diagnosis has been made, and correctly made, what good are all the recommendations (treatment)? Isn’t it common sense that the govt would first try to identify, understand and discard or rejig those policies that have, over time, caused erosion of the support for NS amongst citizens?

Little India Riot: Forensic Criminalistics – With Preferred Witnesses

Of the 5 terms of reference, the first 2 are most important since they determine what the next 3 ought to be.

1. Establish the ‘factors and circumstances’ that led to the riot and

2. Establish how the riot unfolded and how the response forces managed the incident.

Our purpose, as with the CSNS, is to examine if this committee has got their fundamentals right in the first place. Otherwise, whatever followed would again simply be the wrong medicine or recommended treatment from a misdiagnosis (or a no-diagnosis for CSNS).

We would think that for any COI to be able to get a fairly accurate picture of the ‘factors, circumstances and events unfolding’ in the riot, ALL WITNESSES prior to, at the point of, during and after the rioting must be called for questioning.

Did the COI do so?

Apparently not. Consider;

– All the MSM reports were confined to the bus driver and his assistant, personnel from the SCDF & the Police as witnesses. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that the driver and assistant could only view things from within the bus and not outside where the real action was? And those sent to quell the riot, didn’t they only come AFTER the riot started and could shed no light whatsoever as to what happened prior to, at the point of and, indeed, during the first early critical moments when matters got out of hand?

– As reported, 53 of the alleged perpetrators were summarily ‘repatriated to their home countries’. All within a matter of 12 days.

– Another 200 were given stern warnings for their ‘passive and incidental role’.

– Yet another 2 dozens or so were charged in court.

Only 8 (9%) out of 93 witnesses were ‘foreign worker’, of which 2 served jail terms. But NONE were from the 53, neither was it clear if any of the 200 – all closest, physically and time-wise, to the real action – were called to testify.

Wasn’t the 53 being repatriated akin to ‘destroying or removing evidence from the crime scene’ by no less than the Singapore Police themselves recommending it to the Manpower Ministry?

Therefore, how credible, trustworthy could the COI findings and recommendations be based on procedural and substantive considerations?
And we have the Chair, Hri Kumar, of the relevant parliamentary committee describing the report as ‘robust’. Bad joke.

CONCLUSION

Without belittling the sincere efforts of those who sat on the CSNS and the COI, Singaporeans must honestly and vigorously question the MPs they have elected and the Cabinet that initiated the two committees;

1. Are Committees formed to determine already pre-determined or preferred outcomes of the sitting government?

2. Or to determine the factual realities upon which useful conclusions are drawn and actions can be correctly taken for the good of Singapore, not a particular political party?

If we continue down this road, Singapore will lose all our hard-earned credibility as a nation under the rule of law.

2cents


3 Comments

Government Gibberish 2

This is the 2nd feedback to PM Lee’s request to ‘collect(s) examples, and help us do better’, to ‘use simple language which people can understand’.

Where Lim Swee Say uttered only Gibberish on CPF, the Little India Riot COI report spawns not just Govt Gibberish but also some Garbage.

First, The Gibberish

Those who criticised Hri Kumar for ‘opening his big mouth’ without reading the full CNA report were unfair. As Parliamentary Committee Chair for Law & Home Affairs, it fell on him to, well, open his mouth. So, please, be civil, do apologise to him on his FB page about the size of his mouth.

Whilst opening his mouth is appropriate, what emits from that mouth is something else altogether.

He gave his one-word take on the COI report, ‘robust’. We must commend his brave attempt to simplify a complex 76-page report, excluding annexes. Perhaps, that impossible attempt was only possible if he knew what his preferred audience wanted to hear, i.e. ‘only the right thing’. The daft ones?

But the real test is if he meets with what his Boss demands i.e. ‘people can understand’. And measured against the gold standard what LKY, the Father of his Boss had set, namely, ‘avoid confusion and give words their ordinary meanings’… No one should mess with the Father, right?

So, what does ‘robust’ ordinarily mean? The Oxford Dictionary [link]

robust…adjective:

  1. (of an object) sturdy in construction. “a robust metal cabinet”
  2. (of wine or food) strong and rich in flavour or smell. “a robust mixture of fish, onions, capers and tomatoes”

Well, it appears that ‘robust’ is used mostly to describe ‘objects’ and ‘wine & food’. ‘Robust reporting’, yes but not ‘robust report’ if one googles. So, it’s a world first for Kumar. CNA then reported Kumar talking about some findings of the COI.

He did not explain what is ‘robust’ about the report. Hence, being a first without both precedent ordinary meaning and explanation, ‘robust’ is pure gibberish.

As Singaporeans like to say, ‘Make me blur, man.’

Now, For Some Garbage
As Chair, Kumar believes in having officers who can engage the foreign workers in their Mother Tongue’. It’s a noble idea – but one that elites appear to like spouting as a matter of course when the money to implement it is not their own. Taxpayers will again have to foot the bill.

I have worked with construction workers from India & Bangladesh, even dined with them. Their boss and supervisor spoke to them in English. And I don’t do Tamil or Bengali.

So why must Singaporean taxpayers ultimately bear the cost to engage or train APOs to speak the Mother Tongues of migrant workers? In most instances, maids either learn before or on-the-job to speak what the employers speak.

And where do we draw the line? Bengali, Tagalog, Burmese, Vietnamese or the many dialects of  Mainland Chinese now heard in the loud profusion of sounds on a night out in Geylang?

Garbage idea – in the same vein as ‘Singaporeans must adapt to foreigners in our midst’.

Next, Kumar ‘also suggested reducing the turnover rate of migrant workers here. Those who have been here longer would be more aware of Singapore’s social norms, and can better educate and guide new workers who come to Singapore.’

With this suggestion I dismay of the overarching group thinking ways of the PAP and theirs. It sounds good. No downsides. Like growing GDP at all cost to ‘create jobs and money to spend on social programmes’. Or choking this already densest of a 770-sq-km island with 6.9 mil people in another 10 years – just so to keep the GDP humming and to compensate for the lowest fertility rate. All apparent solutions – without any regard for their blindsides, downsides. They highlight trade-offs, but only when citizens scream out to alert them of the barbarians already at the gate of their policy failures.

Because elites work only with data, don’t meet them, don’t understand that migrant workers who stay longer will naturally form their own networks. How they organize themselves will be away from our law enforcers’ eye. Just consider the ‘long-stay migrant workers’ in Malaysia (albeit, illegal ones) are a group unto themselves that is nigh impossible to dislodge. Why create a different set of challenges that may be worse than what we try to prevent?

Why not the Belgian way? You may come only if you have requisite skills. We pay you fair salaries as we would a resident. You live relatively well while here. You finish your contract for a project. Then you go home.  Same goes for new ones coming. That they do not stay for long ensures that they are clear about making their money and then returning home once that’s done – no trouble, please. Your loved ones await.

Currently, our theory-smart policy wonks and ministers (many generals but nary a single businessman amongst them) fall hook, line and sinker for the businessmen’s argument about retaining known and not having to retrain new workers. No wonder we get those at the bottom of the skill ranking from the supply source. No wonder you get more subpar HDBs & condos.

Go, learn from how the Belgians create a system to ensure only skilled and qualified labourers get their permits. Will not our productivity drive be given a boost that way?

So, Kumar’s suggestion  is another piece of garbage thrown in with the gibberish.

2cents