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From India With Love…A Little Gesture & The Long Game

In the context of inter-country realpolitik, attending state funerals is more than just deciding where to lunch.

Putting aside SE Asia countries, the EU has no single representation and therefore, the 3 countries that matter most internationally are USA, China and India.

Only India is represented by her sitting Prime Minister Modi. Why does Mr Lee Kuan Yew deserve such an honour fr rockstar PM Modi even though the two have never met and, from available records, Modi never once spoke about LKY?

Not only that, PM Modi has taken the rare step of declaring Mar 29 a national day of mourning.

What is behind this realpolitik of a move? What have Singaporeans done to deserve such an honour? Here’s my guess.

George Yeo revealed in a recent CNA interview that LKY had misgivings about India. In fact, “He was profoundly skeptical. And never failed, afterwards, to send me articles which expressed skepticism about India’s development.”

Well, thanks, or no thanks, to Georgie Boy who strongly advocated for the India-Singapore CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) signed on 29 June 2005. Georgie was ‘rewarded’ with a seat in the Governing Board of Nalanda University in India.

Courtesy of the CECA, Indian PMETs, particularly but not confined entirely to the IT sector, have been washing up our shores since 2005. In fact, according to this article, Singapore is obliged to allow “127 kinds of professionals” to work in Singapore for up to a year, apparently without being classified under any employment pass (ep) category. According to India’s Business Standard, there are about “200,000 non-resident Indians in Singapore working in ITES, financial services and scientific research sectors among others.” It is not clear if appeals can be made to extend, due to business exigencies, the employment after the one-year period is up.

 

MOM Dec 2014 statistics show a grand total of 1,133,200 ‘Foreign Workforce excluding foreign domestic workers’. As MOM refuses to give the breakdown, we can reasonably guess that at least 40% may be of Indian origin i.e. 453,280.

 

If these 200,000 are not included in the ep statistics, then the number of Indians ‘doing jobs that Singaporeans cannot or will not do’ are in the region of 650,000. Together with their dependents and happy wanderers on long-term vacation, is it any wonder that buses, trains and cabs are mostly filled with Indians in and around the Changi Business Park and they dominate the faces in the crowd at Shenton Way, construction sites and other areas in Singapore on any given workday?

 

Now, if we assume the average annual salary to be just S$30,000/yr, we are looking at about some serious S$19.5billion, a huge chunk of which will be remitted to India to rebuild their villages, feed mouths and cloth bodies.

 

It is little wonder that back in Feb 2013, India decried CECA violation by Singapore, protesting against SG’s tightening of employment of Foreign Talent after the PWP outcry. India submitted a request to address the issue. We are none the wiser our non-transparent and non-accountable PAP govt’s response to shed light on exactly how many Indian nationals SG is already hosting compared to any other nationality. All we know is that we continue to see more and more non-Singlish-speaking Indians on our roads, in private cars, in our lifts, at restaurants, food centres – and in our faces.

 

Does the above revelation explain why PM Modi’s advisors have convinced him to put aside precious time to honour ‘the lion among leaders’ and 29 Mar 2015 a national day of mourning even though ambassadors must have reported back that LKY was not enthusiastic about the CECA with India? No doubt, reports of increasing Singaporeans’ unhappiness with foreign workers and social media chatter whenever a rape case in India occurs must have also reached Modi.

 

Can PAP leaders, Lee Hsien Loong in particular, see the long game in India’s little gesture – to pre-empt any changes to the CECA that is biased in helping PM Modi employ 650,000 or more from India.

It is times like these that we wish for the insightfulness of the GrandMaster LKY to separate the covert from the overt actions of India for his son and cabinet.

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Lee Kuan Yew and the price of political stability

There is little need, in my view, to start writing about what one thinks of LKY at this moment of his passing. What can one write that has not already be written? Why add to it, then? From a marketing perspective, it doesn’t make sense to fight for attention in the face of so much ‘competition for attention.

Regardless, I think the most interesting thing to do is to observe what has been written and summarize it insightfully, if not learn something from it. Someone actually has done just that. She gathered what’s captured on social media and categorized them rather relevantly under ‘populist memory-making in progress’, ‘mobilizing collective effervescence’ etc. Check it out here.

As for me, I think I’d wait 100 days before I pen my thoughts…so that I should not be caught up with the ‘effervescence’ of the moment…but say something worth time to write about and others to read.

Meantime, here’s a piece by Chris K…worth reading.

The writer pays his heartfelt respects to the late Lee Kuan Yew whom he saw as a brilliant but deeply flawed man. The deserved accolades and equally deserved brickbats underline the political stability and economic goods delivered by Mr. Lee even if many were uneasy about his repressive methods to achieve his goals.

Indeed, much has been written and will be said in the coming days of the essential political stability which was the foundation for successful nationhood. The writer has no qualms in agreeing with this view. Here is a story from the past.

There was social and political unrest in the country. Workers were on strike and many clashed with the authorities. The people yearned for less troubled times and more social order. An up and coming political leader claimed his main party opponent infiltrated or a front for communism. Its key members were arrested, crippling it as a political force. That leader delivered his promised political stability with strong and decisive leadership.

That country was not Singapore but Germany. Those rioting workers not Hock Lee workers but German workers. That opponent crippled by wrongful arrests not the Barisan Sosialis but the Social Democratic Party, one of the two main parties that governed the present day Bundesrepublik. That political leader not Lee Kuan Yew but Adolf Hitler.

The writer never thought Mr. Lee was Herr Hitler even if he copied some of the latter’s (and Josef Stalin’s) methods.  Though his attempt at eugenics was awfully close to the Nazi’s Herrenmenschen (Master Race) ideology, he knew to stop short of  turning Singapore into a totalitarian state. But the real trouble was the people’s legitimate desire for order and stability was also the sea in which a Mr. Lee or a Herr Hitler swam, to paraphrase Mao’s words.

For such yearning above all else has far reaching consequences in the hands of a leader with overarching ambitions. It becomes a blank check for the curtailment of civil rights, the suppression on freedom of expression and the exercise of political repression using a plain and simple desire of the people for order and stability as raison d’etre. From there, the banishment of opponents and the accumulation of power is just a short step to restrictive social conformity and total political dominance.

Mr. Lee was commonly said to have a dark perception of human nature. Not surprising if one remembers his famous admonishments such as “native Singaporeans are failing because spurs are not stuck in their hides”. That same dark perception of human nature is a warning not to put trust in humans exercising total political dominance. Humans simply cannot help themselves when it comes to abusing power. Mr. Lee, himself, was a prime example. Many felt the repressive methods to achieve political stability at the dawn of nationhood was necessary (the writer does not ascribe to it). But once political stability had been achieved, total political dominance and the repression that comes with it were shown to be a habit easily acquired but hard to kick. For it was comfortable to govern without scrutiny and accountability but the consequences are that Mr. Lee’s successors are themselves failing because those spurs are not stuck in their own hides.

The desire for social order and political stability is human. But that desire needs to be tempered by an acceptance that the democracy is by necessity noisy, quarrelsome and even shaky from time to time. And democracy is crucial in the protection of rights including economic rights (think CPF) and to the curtailment of the power of the state vis-à-vis the individual. Germany and Japan showed the pre-war political stability bought by repression was a false paradigm and the post-war embrace of liberal democracy and yes the instability that comes with it propelled them to greater heights.

Singapore today is not the Singapore when Mr. Lee was Prime Minister. For all his accomplishments, the nation needs to move on from the habits of the past. The best way to preserve social order and political stability is to have political inclusion not exclusion, cohesion not disparity, a civil service not beholden to party politics and acceptance of diverse opinions not “we know what is best, never mind what the people think”.

Most of all, in today’s Singapore a reliance on total political dominance and opacity in government is for losers. Real men and women in politics ought to be unafraid of contesting on a level political field. This is the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew that the nation needs to overcome.

Chris K


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When The Khaw Talks Cock…He Crows Nonsense

Khaw Boon Wan, Minister of National Development, Chairman PAP and ‘probably
Singapore best Health Minister ‘ (that according to the PM who promised Swiss living
standard only for his elites but Swiss living cost for the rest of us and who appointed
him to the post) , appears to be styling himself as the Spin King Extraordinaire with
his latest Budget debate speech. ​

Please bear in mind how this self-proclaimed, practising religious man, very forgiving,
instead of apologising for a serious lapse (first time in 25 years) in the Fernvale espisode,
chose to spin the Butterfly Lovers tale to deflect responsibility.​

It has come to the point where instead of assuming integrity of info in the august chamber
of parliament, I now need to fact-check ALL claims that ALL PAP ministers make.
Likewise, WP’s info. ​

I am not in the real estate business. So, with regard to the preface to Khaw’s claim
of the ‘more benign situation’ (i.e. public housing) in Singapore, I did a check on info
available on the net. Here’s the result of my trouble.​

Chobham Manor vs HDB – Profit-seeking Private vs Public-Service Housing​

Confining my brief research to the Chobham Manor development, we can now compare
almost apple-to-apple.​

Location
: By subway, Chobham is about an 18-min-1.5km from the nearest Stratford Int’l Station. ​: 13-15 min to London Financial District (Stratford to St Paul’s/Chancery Lane,
Central Line)​
: 23-27 min to Hotel/Shopping belt (Stratford to Bond/Baker Street, Jubiliee Line)​: The similar SG location would be area around Eunos/Kembangan to Raffles Place,
EW Line.​
: Or area surrounding  Yio Chu Kang/AMK MRT to Orchard Road, NS Line.​

Housing Type
: Private development (not HDB public housing).​: Mix of exceptional range of new 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 bedroom homes.: Price from £450,000 for a 753 ft2, one-room ground floor unit. Comes with ‘private    ​
rear garden and allocated parking space’​
: i.e. about S$1225/ft2.​
: No info available on the ownership period but I’m told that it then means either 999 ​
years or freehold. Even if leasehold, renewal of lease can be had for a small amount,   ​
unlike in SG where the top-up can be ridiculously high and not automatic. Or it auto-​reverts
to Govt land bank.

Furnishing
: Nobilia, Siemens & Zanussi-equipped kitchen.​
: Gap sanitaryware & Porcelonasa tiled ensuite bath.​
: Full underfloor heating with battery back-up.​
: Turf/Deck where applicable.​
: Full details in pg 6 of downloadable brochure.

Journalistic Sensationalism & Ministerial Sloppiness 

Furthermore, Khaw’s convenient use is proof of his second-hand car salesman approach
(in parliament, at that!).​

It’s common for media editors to think up sensational, attention-getting headlines.
That is what not only The Independent but also London Evening Standard did with their
respective headlines;

“Londoners queue overnight in sub-zero temperatures to buy one bedroom flat for £400k”
& ​“House hunters queue overnight for chance to spend £400k on a one bedroom flat”.​

On closer reading, The Independent actually referenced The Evening Standard’s report.
We also learn only ‘dozens of Londoners’ queued to get a shot at the limited first phase
of 35 mixed units up for grabs and a photo showing about 15 in the queue in front of the
sales office. What’s more, amongst those interviewed is a “K Chiu, 37, a restaurant owner
from Hong Kong, said, ‘I’m buying this as an investment in London, abuy-to-let. It will be
amazing after it’s completed and I think the area around it will have developed really nicely. With Crossrail coming here and the number of students from nearby universities
looking for accommodation, hopefully the rental and selling pricewill go up quite a bit”…
sounding almost like a kiasu, PR or a citizen living in a subsizied HDB flat and wanting to make a small killing. A mindset moulded by years of PAP-controlled
brain-washing for the daft and greedy ones in our midst, never mind the less-fortunate
struggling to make ends meet.​

Regardless, we all can understand journalistic license. But how becoming is it for a
‘PAP-proclaimed honest and personof integrity’ to either be sloppy or, more likely,
selectively speaking words to mislead citizens from the august room of our Parliament?

Let me state unreservedly, I take no pleasure spending time researching and analysing,
fact-checking to blast PAP ministers. PAP has constructed a system that makes for almost
an unreasonable streak and over-reliant attitude in Singaporeans in their blind pursuit of their Party’s continued reign.

Ministerial jobs are not easy, I concede that. But the line must be drawn when ministers
mislead, deceive without batting an eyelid. And when they believe in their own heresy that
they are the only ones capable and honest to govern Singapore to the absolute exclusion
of those who do not share in their ideology and under-handed methods of politicking.​

I will continue to draw and to highlight that line. Not for those who are hell-bent either as
enraged detractors or die-hard supporters of the PAP. I do this for the rational FMMs
(fencesitters, marginal supporters andmal/misinformed voters) and urge them to fact-check
what I write as well as question the ‘truth behind the beauty, the meaning of the beliefs’ that
PAP espouse. If PAP point to the beauty of the HDB success, ask what is the truth behind it
that make captive of us Singaporeans servicing our mortgages only to face retirement inadequacy
and then having to face the prospects of moving out when older or tolerating a stranger tenant
in the flat. Asd what the meaning of their practice of meritocracy is when we see that their connected ones (via PA, RCs, GROs and, even in the cabinet and the top ranks of TLCs & GLCs)
are landing all the plum jobs.
Never stop asking.

“In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you
have long taken for granted.” – Bertrand Russell 

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains
a fool forever.” – Chinese proverb 

 

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Jo Teo Confuses, Confirms and Corroborates

Context is, of course, very important to interpreting and understanding what’s said. But before we can proceed, we need to ask, if Jo’s motivation is to ‘clarify’,

– Why then does she not include verbatim both the ‘suggestion’ or question asked and her original response at the REACH Post-Budget 2015 Public Forum, 26 Feb?

– Why did CNA & Today delete the original report of the Forum? Were they ‘instructed’ to do so, by whom?

Without knowing what she was responding to and the original reports, how does it help readers to compare what and why she finds it necessary to clarify after nearly a fortnight.

She Confuses
As it is, the uploaded videos at REACH, PAP F/B & Youtube are absent her reply. We only have CNA & Today original reports i.e. “She addressed one participant’s suggestion that national servicemen should be paid more. While she noted the importance of giving NSmen recognition, Mrs Teo said service for the country cannot be measured in dollars and cents.”

Since she prefaces her clarification with ‘My recent comments on National Service appear to have caused a stir, wouldn’t the logical first thing to do be to refute the reported remarks and context? As only ‘110 participants’ attended the forum, uploading the video of the relevant part will also allow everyone to listen, watch and weigh in more intelligently.

Note also that she did not repudiate both the part about ‘one participant’s suggestion’ and her reported response i.e. while she noted the importance of giving NSmen recognition…service for the country cannot be measured in dollars and cents.’

Instead, of directly addressing the unclear report, she introduced unverified, her own perceived, unverified view and projecting herself as a leader ‘sensing the disquiet’. With that, she then rephrases her reply as ‘the contributions of NSmen cannot be valued in monetary terms. What the SAF provides by way of the allowance cannot be used to measure the high levels of their contribution – it cannot be measured in dollars and cents.’

In effect, she paints herself as a leader while using a personal, emotional spin to nudge fence-sitters, marginal supporters and the mal/mis-informed voters (FMMs) to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Bottomline and specific to the episode, in not repudiating the report and introducing unverified info without the requisite video for readers to understand the original words and context – combined with the now un-cached report – she comes as someone caught with her pants down and then taking 2 weeks to dream up a narrative to confuse the FMMs .

Suffice to observe that her case as she makes it out to be will not stand muster to a basic court appearance on at least 2 counts; concealing and removing evidence.

Hence, instead of clarifying, she tries to confuse her way through.

She Confirms
Moving away from the specifics of this episode, let’s try to piece her words and conduct as a Senior MoS.

A little over a year ago, in response to the initial Marina Coastal Expressway foul-up, she said, ‘We cannot have the attitude that everything will be perfect from Day One. If we go in with that attitude, it can only mean that we have to build in a lot of redundancy.’

Even for SMEs, whether offering goods or services, the most basic operational philosophy is ‘getting it right the first time’. Many of us have also heard and read of Goh Keng Swee’s modus operandi along the same line. Lee Kuan Yew (when he was younger and not given to hubris and lowered standards about 50-year floods) once related at a National Day Rally how he insisted that when he picked up his phone in his official car, it’s got to work! Period.

Do not the 2 episodes (readers here, please list more snafus here) suggest that Jo Teo is not fit for her job as a Senior MoS and should go back to being an MP?

Furthermore, it is said ‘out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks’. So, there is no need for any hearer or reader to ‘twist’ her words as her supporters (in particular, Calvin Cheng) allege. Her conduct is plain enough for the reasonable person to see. Jo Teo believes deep in her heart that there is ‘service for the country’ and, well, ‘service for the country’ – depending on who dominates parliament to assign the monetary recognition level. (NB: Nowhere is there any call for the same level of monetary recognition as ministers. All calls are for what is reasonable as ‘recognition’ e.g. where ministers insist on pegging at the top 10% earners, some ask only to measure against current cost-of-living. So, who is twisting whose words?)

With this, Jo Teo confirms that she has more than reached her level of incompetence and that for all her words and (debatable) charm, she believes in her own sense of entitlement, supposedly, as a PAP-sanctioned ‘talent’, never mind service to country.

She Corroborates
As a junior amongst full minister, her conduct appears to corroborate how more and more citizens are perceiving the PAP leaders, that they are out of touch with us and that, when confronted with a slip in word or action, they lack the courage or integrity or both to admit to being human sometime, to apologise but instead try to divert or deceive their way through.

Still fresh in our memory is Khaw Boon Wan’s sham Butterfly Lover talk-cock (sorry, no better English term than a Singlish one) to deflect over-complacency and professional neglect of duty in his ministry’s tender evaluation.

The worst and highest level event of the PAP’s shameful, self-deluding ways is PM Lee saying, let’s move on, after Singapore’s renowned terrorist, Mas Selamat, escaped while sacking a low-ranking guard and letting uncle-in-law Wong Kang Seng (who incidentally organized a casual makan session that resulted in his nephew making PM-elect back in 2003/4).

There we have it, Jo Teo’s clarification and conduct serve to corroborate the perception that PAP leadership is unlike the original PAP of their fathers’ days. They have become self-serving, touchy narcissists lacking in competence and integrity.

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Superficial Idealist Meets Superfixated Ideologues

It’s difficult but I try to cultivate the habit of understanding things in their original context; original, not proper. ‘Original’ calls for objectivity. ‘Proper’ implies projecting one’s values on the context.

Another thing I try to be more careful with is when responding to someone who suffers from a visible, physical disability. Words may unintentionally be used that imply negatively of that someone. Or, readers may bend or impute seemingly harmless, objective words/phrases to hit back at you.

So it is that I transcribed Chia Yong Yong’s full 18-min speech to understand what the big hoo-ha is all about.

Superficial Idealist
PM Lee & Minister Ng correctly interpreted (that doesn’t mean both got it right contextually) CYY’s main thrust. Essentially, both lauded her take that ‘collective responsibility must take place in the context of personal responsibility. Without personal responsibility, collective responsibility would break down.’ I’ll come back to them later.

Now, let’s put CYY’s view in her context.

Yes, CYY ‘is the President of SPD (Society for the Physically Disabled) and widely known for her accomplishments despite a muscle wasting disorder.’ But does her physical disability bestow greater credibility to her views when it comes to matters of personal responsibility over one’s own legal possessions and property? Even though CYY wasn’t born in a well-to-do family, does it necessarily mean that she actually understand, never mind empathise, with those amongst us still struggling to pay off high HDB housing loans at 55? Or wish to venture into a small buinesss, or after years of self-denial, to enjoy that special trip overseas, perform what may well be the only haj this lifetime (compared to how ‘she packs her bags twice a year for overseas vacations and church camps. Australia, Thailand and most recently, South Korea are destinations of choice’?

Does an accomplished physically disabled but relatively well-off with little or no family obligations actually understand what having to look after our CPF-less parents, raise kids of tertiary age while at the same time hoping to be able to save enough for one’s own & spouse’s retirement feel about how we should spend our CPF monies?

Instead of speaking from the safe abode of parliament, I challenge CYY to bring her message to citizens in dire or near dire need to lay hands on the originally & legally-contracted (she a lawyer?) CPF withdrawal conditions. I’ll be happy to help her organize a town hall meeting to that end. Perhaps, then, the premises upon which she so coolly, so carelessly based her original CPF yakety-yak will be more rigourously, empirically founded and valid.

Otherwise, please pardon my directness, ‘Remain seated down but shut up about CPF.’

 

 

Superfixated Ideologues
Back to our 2 PAP leaders. Let’s see how they misappropriate words to fit their own context, justify their own views, serve their own ends.

CYY’s 18-min speech covers Social Service, Skillsfuture and National Research Fund fundings i.e. her CPF take is but one of 4 areas. Collectively, her message is:

The people who are dispensing the funds have to exercise personal responsibility  to ensure there is no wastage. There will always be inevitable leakage. The people who benefit also have to ensure personal responsibility in acting with integrity in their claim for their money. 

When we talk about personal choice, choice always comes with responsibility. Benefits come with obligations. When we exercise our personal choice, there is a price to be paid… And Mdm, I submit that price should not be paid by somebody else.”

Her main thrust is to minimise waste and abuse of Budget money dispensed to support Singaporeans in social service, skill acquisition, R&D and, almost as if an afterthought to brandish her PAP-stamped credentials, the issue of CPF to cast doubts on the Workers’ Party call on CPF retirement payment at 60 instead of 65.

Observe;

  • 5 days after CYY’s speech, 8 Mar, the elevated interest level in CYY’s speech to PM Lee & Ng is seen from it being the only one that both highlighted in their FB account. Inderjit Singh’s call for Minimum Wage and his clear justifications is totally, totally snubbed. Hey, Eng Hen, doesn’t Inderjit’s call carry ‘a lot of credibility given his own life story and personal struggles’ as a businessman!!?? …Whiskey Tango Hotel, what hypocrisy by Sunray! Out!
  • The other 3 issues CYY spoke about were completely ignored (remember ‘context’?), only our ‘not our money CPF’ was selectively highlighted and praised to serve PAP ideology god .

What does this tell us about the PAP leaders’ mindset? It’s clear isn’t it? The PAP top guns continue to hang on to their superfixated, unbending ideology of helping the rich get richer while protecting them from having to play their part in the social contract even as Singaporeans are genuinely  and increasingly crying out from being thrown under the unstoppable bus of PAP’s combined GDP-growth-at-all-costs and self-reliance policies.

Can we afford another PAP term of office, with their reluctance, nay their refusal, to revisit their flawed policies in response to Singapore’s changed reality? Kicking the can of retirement inadequacy (PAP-created) and high-cost living (PAP-created) down the road only, perhaps, to blow up in the faces of our children later? Does PM Lee have to actually see some actual ‘dead poor‘ or some deaths-from-being-poor in his dream of a 6.9-mil residential Disneyland for more billionaires (no worries, no squeeze if you are one of them or theirs) before they change their mindset?

My 2 Super’trivial’ Questions
“Ms Chia, our Budget money, is it really PAP’s private money?”

“PM Lee, is it right to think of taxpayers’ money as ‘our (PAP’s) money’, to be spent solely as PAP choose to in order to and only when it maximises PAP’s chances to win the next GE –  is that ‘collective responsibility’ or legalized grand larceny?”

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Government’s Spending Gap: Now you see it ……… then you won’t.

Now that we know the government has a $6.67b shortfall in its budget, isn’t it fortuitous 
it is announced effective from 2017 the application of the expected long term rate of
return rule to Temasek’s share of the Net Investment Return Contribution which can
make that fiscal shortfall disappear, as if by magic?

  Temasek delivered only dividends
First, the writer is ticked off by the Ministry of Finance explanation of the NIRC on 
its website,
“comprised up to 50% of the net investment returns on the net assets managed by MAS 
and GIC and up 
to 50% of the investment income from the remaining assets which
includes Temasek”
 

In the disclosure following the announcement of the changes, this is now revealed to 
be incorrect. Temasek had delivered its declared dividend which was far less than 50%
of its net income. Moody’s October 2014 credit opinion reported that Temasek paid a
dividend of $2.8b to the government, far less than $5.3b if the MOF was correct.
So the MOF’s communications department did not know what it was communicating.

 What is Real Returns?
The actual or nominal returns comprised dividends, interest and valuation of its 
assets minus investment costs such as operational costs and management expenses.
Real returns is a calculated rate of return in which the inflation rate is subtracted
from the actual or nominal return, e.g. GIC’s S$ nominal return may be 4%, its real
rate of return is 2% assuming 2% inflation rate.  

Using the real rate of return on GIC and MAS is economically sound and follow best
practice such as Norway’s GPF. It permit spending while compensating for the effect
of inflation. The actual question is a political one: is the 50% cap necessary given
the already massive size of the reserves? In comparison, there is no cap on the GPF.

 The Spending Gap’s Disappearing Act

How much will Temasek deliver under the new rules? Based on its current $223b 
portfolio, the amount of NIRC derived per Temasek’s reported rates of return 
calculated below

Period Reported

Actual Returns

Real Rate of Return

(2% inflation rate)

Temasek’s

share of NIRC

Increase over

2014

Inception from 1974 16% 14% 15.6b +12.8b
20 years 6% 4%   4.46b +  1.66b
10 years 9% 7%    7.8b +  5.0b

 

We do not yet know Temasek’s dividend contribution to the 2015 NIRC of $8.94b 
but it appears the budget shortfall can only be closed by basing the expected
real return on the inception rate.

 Spending Past Reserves?

If the inception rate of return is used, then it must be remembered that the GLCs 
were transferredto Temasek at nominal prices, i.e. well below their actual market
value. Therefore, part of the inception rate of return of 16% was unearned by Temasek, representing the difference in the GLCs’ nominal transfer prices and market prices.
In other words, it includes past reserves realised in the rate of return.

If expected real return is based on the inception rate, is that therefore not
spending past reserves?
 

Can secrecy be justified in a potential breech of the constitution?
 Whatever the expected long term real return, it should now be
of national interest.

 The Trouble with Temasek

What is problematic with the change of rule from dividends to expected real return 
is that delivering dividends is delivering realised cash, i.e. dividends and
interest earned by Temasek. Delivering returns is delivering not just dividends
and interest but also the unrealised market value of assets.

In this Temasek differs from GIC and GPF as it holds huge bloc of shares
exceeding 20% of a portfolio company’s market value up to 100%, a risk
highlighted by its spat with S&P. It takes majority control or  seek
to have a major influence from risk concentration. However delivering returns
means Temasek will require to sell down its holdings which affects its control
over portfolio companies. This is not faced by GPF in particular since it does
not acquire more than 10% of any company.

 

Mr. Tharman even admits:

“Temasek’s inclusion in the NIR framework was deferred in 2008. One reason was 
that there were no 
established methodologies for projecting the long-term expected real return 
on its portfolio. This is in 
light of Temasek’s investment approach of 
taking concentrated stakes and making direct investments.”

Since Temasek’s investment approach has not materially changed, why is there now an 
established methodology when previously there had been none? Is this more a leap in
the dark made imperative by the budget shortfall?

 

Conclusion

The writer had always called for greater use of the reserves and such use of the 
reserves be ringfenced specifically for mandatory social entitlements such as a
retirement pension or allowance to back up CPF, reduce citizens’ healthcare spending,
childcare support etc. But, despite a 55% increase, total spending on social transfer
is still below the NIRC.

Estimated Social Transfer for 2015 NIRC provisioned in Budget 2015
$7.15b $8.94b

 

However unlike mandatory social entitlements, few of these binds the government 
since most are one-off top-ups and rebates and transfers to endowment funds, all of
which can be granted, withdrawn or in the latter not disbursed at the sole discretion
of the ruling party.

 

Which means, if the rule change on Temasek and the tiny tax hike do not deliver 
enough revenues the government can still close the deficit simply by reversing social
transfers, preferably right after the next general election. Or it can raise GST to
piss off the masses. Or it can rein in elevated spending on defence and the world
highest government and civil service salaries together with a more meaningful tax
hike on the wealthy and the corporations. Hurt the masses’ pockets or their own?
Easy option or Hard Truths for the PAP?

 

Chris K


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Facing Uncertainties…Not Afraid To Be Insecure

Sedated and on mechanical ventilation, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s condition reportedly ‘improves slightly’. His son PM Lee Hsien Loong is recovering from his prostate surgery. The once self-pronounced seat-warmer PM#2, Mr Goh Chok Tong, appears to want his seat back, discussing succession.

But while trying to sound stateman-like, he appears to undermine his successor.

PM will be alright. But his prostate cancer, and mine too, show life’s unpredictability. Hence, all the more reasons to plan for uncertainty. I hope competent men and women of integrity will step forward to carry Singapore into the future. — gct”

2 observations from Goh’s posting.

First, on uncertainty, he invariably opens up a can of worms for PM#3. By putting ‘plan’ (or planning) alongside ‘uncertainty’ in the current, restive political climate, citizens would naturally ask how PM Lee’s planning record looks like.

Singaporeans are rather reasonable people. We understand that no one can be in full control of events. But we are less forgiving where some future scenarios of reasonable certainty are concerned.         Hence, before discussing ‘uncertainty’, we want to first measure PM Lee against the handful of ‘certainties’ he has dealt with both as Dy PM and PM. We find 3 issues of critical concern for an aging populace.

Retirement Adequacy: What’s relatively certain back in Nov 1990 when he made Dy PM is the number of 65 year-old there would be 2015. It was not a matter of uncertain guesswork but near statistical certainty when economically unproductive, our seniors need adequate retirement funding. Besides, he and the PAP cabinets he led over that period were in full control of the Parliament. What’s more, his own team and even his wife were all helming MAS, GIC & Temasek Holdings. They were able to pass laws and make executive decisions on the CPF returns such that CPF’s mission (annual report 2002), ‘to enable Singaporeans to save for a secure retirement’ is achieved.

In other words, Singaporeans entrusted them with every possible resource to carry out the responsibility of ensuring our Retirement Adequacy.

Regrettably, PAP leaders have not applied the same clarity of purpose to adequately grow our retirement dollars as they did when initiating and passing the bill to increase our Minimum Sums or to unilaterally rescind on the contract to allow for withdrawal at 55. Instead, they give us a derisory 2.5% since 2004 while our less talented, much lower-paid neighbour’s EPF managers paid rates almost consistently double to their members. One can only guess, sadly, that the $mil-salaried ministers and civil servants were merely pussying about with digits – the citizens – not just the dollar figures in CPF accounts, knowing full well that it wouldn’t matter to themselves and their own either way.

Housing: Why is it nigh impossible to achieve an affordability ratio of max 3X annual income when the government owns 76.2% (as at 1965) of the total land area? Is it because of their devious mental block that selling land for affordable HDB citizens amounts to ‘raiding our reserves’? What are the reserves for if not to benefit citizens, current and future, the ultimate land owners, through judicious management instead of greed?

Healthcare: Whilst it isn’t easy to grasp how new medicine and technology can affect healthcare costs, it is inconceivable that on the matters of physical healthcare amenities, we can end up with one-year dental appointments, exceptionally long waiting times and – horrors – either no hospital beds or settle for beds along corridors or in makeshift tentages. After such failures, it’s incredible that PAP remains so cocksure of their competence and has now legislated that with retirement inadequacy staring us down, everyone alive into our unemployed70’s, 80’s, 90’s will still have to pay insurance premiums.

Second observation; ‘competent men and women of integrity’. With the GE looming, Goh’s call for this category of citizens to ‘step forward to carry Singapore into the future’ can only suggest one, and only one, thing. PAP hasn’t got enough candidates and/or those they now have recruited are deemed to be less than competent and/or somewhat wanting in integrity…to meet the uncertainties ahead.

As if he didn’t quite get the point across about the dearth of candidates to form the next team, a fortnight later, 1 Mar, Goh indirectly criticised PM#3 for failing in succession planning. How else is one to interpret the trumpeting of his own succession planning right after ascending the PM throne while helpfully pointing out that ‘the present team still needs a few more people to be completed. I know he’s looking for more people outside, and by the next election and maybe a few years after that, we can see the entire team more or less shaping up.”

Eh, ‘maybe…more or less shaping up’ – after 10 years and now pushing 65 and cancer-stricken? ‘Whisky Tango Hotel!’ (i.e. ‘what the heck!’…apologies, but Whisky Tango Foxtrot is alien to my speech). Can you imagine your ex-CEO making such a statement if you are CEO, recovering from major surgery?

To all you PAP zealots and FMMs (fence-sitters, marginal supporters and mal/mis-informed voters) out there, the message is not as cryptic as faux-statesmanlike Goh would like to think he is putting across so as not to hurt poor little Loong’s feelings. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see and udnerstand that the Lee Hsien Loong Team

a) Has failed miserably in not even managing issues that are certain and foreseeable (just 3 e.g. Retirement Adequacy, Housing and Healthcare Affordability).

b) Has either been incompetent (did not bother to find successors and/or the S$mil salaries and S$8/- bypass medical cost for themselves and family members are too good to pass) or conducted themselves in such a way that competent and honest people find them a stench to identify themselves with.

Please be not tricked by Goh’s subtle implication to vote in ‘a few more people’ the next GE in order to form the full team. THINK! If the leaders you have entrusted your retirement funds, the roof over your head and your medical needs – not to mention the ominous, continued loss of PMET jobs to more and more foreigners – have failed with such critical basic certainties in our lives after more than a decade and despite the impressive GDP figures, can you afford to trust them another 5 years?

Or is it time to start putting in place an alternative team to learn the ropes?

Which is riskier, those who have actually failed to deliver but continue to be in denial or those yet untried but stepping forward at great personal costs?

What is your answer to your children’s question circa 2025, ‘How did you vote to bring about where I am now?’

“When an old culture is dying, the new culture is born by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.” Rudolf Badro,

Reimagine a new Singapore circa 2025 – and beyond – that is born, not by a few, but 65% voters who are not afraid to be insecure…

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