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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]


  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.



3 thoughts on “Government Gibberish 2

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 4 Jul 2014 | The Singapore Daily

  2. I think that the only time he wasn’t farting from his mouth is when he said it’ll be good to reduce turnover.

    The current system is just too exploitative and inefficient. It is a vicious cycle to keep wages low by keeping skill levels low. Agents syphon from this by continuous churning of more new foreign workers.

    By reducing the turnover and stopping the churning, hopefully the workers staying within the system will become more skilled and better and hence less of them will be needed (more efficient) and wanted (more costly to employ).


    • Hi, Jake.

      I appreciate both yr observation and the fact that, despite yr apparent dislike of ‘he’, you would concede a valid point that ‘he’ has made.

      To an extent, what you say is valid, especially the system being ‘too exploitative and inefficient’. However, the ‘churning’ part is debatable. Why would a contractor want to ‘churn’ a worker if that worker is doing a good job for him?

      It’s not the churning. It’s the policy of adding cheap labour to create growth tt presents agents (& some dishonest bosses) with that opportunity to exploit the poor workers.

      That said, I still think the Belgian approach (if I had read the correct info) has merits. Let’s start fr the most basic ‘unit’ – the worker. Is it possible that there are no experienced, skilled migrant workers in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, M’sia or China? Not possible, right? Just look at their skyscapers…and not many have been reported to have collapsed.

      But those ones will not come to SG to work for $18/day, will they? Would it not make sense to pay them, for the sake of argument, say $50/day? Well, why not if they can complete their work in 1/3 the time needed for a project (incl having to train the $18 worker to similar skill level)? On top of that, the boss gets better quality of work – and can probably ask for a higher price. In fact, the M’sians who could do those work are now in SG working – only as their own bosses instead of as employees.

      Aside fr wanting to lower their cost risk with cheap labour, bosses probably also do not like that they would have less leverage over those who are skilled & experienced who may stand up to them. They prefer those who are seriously weak in their bargaining position, the easier to exploit.

      As for the exploitative ‘system’, it is a difficult one. But that should not even be a consideration at the point of fashioning a migrant worker policy. It is a separate concern that must be dealt separately. It’s another issue for another discussion.

      Rgds, 2cents.


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