2econdsight

"to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief"


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Unemployed PMETs: The Political Art of Selective Quantification & Info-Sharing

No one can fail but be greatly impressed when a minister is in a position to tell the whole world the quantifiable numbers of jobs that his government is creating. Or already created.

A newly-minted 4G acting minister, in ‘acting’ his part, tells us “where available jobs are or will be created in coming years:

  • 30,000 IT professionals
  • 3,000 more jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in precision engineering
  • 1,000 rail engineers;
  • At least 1,200 professionals for finance, mostly in IT and compliance
  • 4,000 early childhood educators”

And, for good measure, there are “some 70,000 vacancies in National Jobs Bank” currently.

The screenshot below, taken on 25 Oct, 1925 hrs shows a grand total of 37,323 jobs. About half of what the minister claims. Integrity and accuracy are important. But, well, let’s not quibble over only a very small exaggeration, shall we? After all, the minister is just being true to his calling; exaggerating what makes him look good, minimizing or hiding the bad.

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-7-25-31-pm

Oh yes, someone helpfully points out that among the claimed “70,000 vacancies” there’s one that is specifically reserved for Thai nationals. How many more vacancies could there be that are ‘reserved’ for non-Singaporeans – not so carelessly revealed but confidentially hidden?

Regardless, same day, different event, his 3G ministerial colleague also spills out another huge figure: “Singapore will need 30,000 more healthcare workers in five years”. WOW!
There are “ample good jobs for Singaporeans” indeed.

 

Isn’t it amazing that our ministers could pull numbers out of their hats – when and where they choose to do so?

Does that not mean that we have the systems in place to track numbers when and where we deem important or relevant enough?

Does this not beg the question, how many Singaporean PMETs who are unemployed and who remained unemployed for x months are there? But we have never once heard any minister, any minister at all ever mention the quantified number of unemployed Singaporean PMETs. Never!

Does that mean that they are not keeping track of the number? MOM reported last Feb that “four in 10 vacancies, were for PMET jobs”, so is 40% not significant enough to track?

Obviously not.

Actually, there is a rather simple way about it without getting PMETs to register with MOM. Wouldn’t the sudden and prolonged CPF contributions of members with above, say, S$3000/month salary be a good indication of an unemployed Singaporean PMET? In fact, not only the number of unemployed PMETs but also for how long their CPF accounts have not been credited.

So, are the statistics a state secret? Or they have been hidden, obfuscated, not discussed for political exigencies?

Whatever the true reason(s), Peter Drucker has this to say that is relevant to the ministers’ action or lack thereof.

Image result for drucker you cannot improve what you cannot measure

I think and believe that Mr Goh Keng Swee would have done things quite differently.

But to all my fellow unemployed PMETs with mortgages to service, children to feed, school fees to pay – and increased Medishield Life premiums to be auto-deducted from what’s left of our CPF money – let’s not complain, alright? After all, we gave 69.9% approval for the job that the government has done.

Every nation gets the government it deserves. Vote wisely the next time.

Law Kim Hwee

 

 

 

 

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Sex & The Minister

I address this blog to my fellow younger citizens, Singaporeans of my children’s generation, born in the 1990’s. “Sex in small places” concerns them. Beyond the funny responses and factual criticisms is a bigger issue at stake – the mindset of the ministers they vote for, whose thinking will influence their future, their lives. It’s much more than just sex and is surely no small matter.

Josephine Teo had all the time in the world to reply to the “question on whether young people are not getting their flats early enough to have children.” But

with a straight face, Mrs Teo declared: “You need a very small space to have sex.”

She cannot try to wiggle her way out by claiming that her reported words “might not have captured everything in the way I intended.” And, now, wants to switch to “an honest conversation on how, as a society, we can get ready for Millennial family.”

Unless, of course, she’s (Alice in Wonderland) Humpty Dumpty, “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” Nope. ‘You need a very small space to have sex’ is basic
subject-verb-object English with simple words whose meaning is clear enough.

So, no, no, no. Don’t change the subject. Cannot!

Aside from the avalanche of responses directly engaging her “sex in small spaces”, the more relevant question, the mindset issue is, “What informs such a cheeky, cavalier, condescending reply from a senior minister?” Or, what guides her to reply with the words she did?

To uncover what’s behind her reply, we just need to ask her a simple question:

“Would Josephine Teo tell that to her own three children, would she?”

It’s highly unlikely, if not rather obvious, that as a mother, she would not tell that to her own children. So, why is she dishing out such advice to our millennial citizens?

Because “sex in small places” applies and is good enough for little people, for peasants. The retort is similar in vein to another minister asking, “Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?” It’s pompous and patronizing. But it’s how an ‘actsy-borak’ airhead would talk to those she considers to be beneath her station in life, simpletons, peasants.

So, “sex in small places” reveals a mindset that thinks…

While our children have sex;
They, the elites’ offspring, well, they make love.
While our children must make do with a very small area;
They, their elites’ offspring get a new condo with their S$mil salary in a year.
While our children have to put up in their parents’ HDB 4-roomer;
They, their elites’ offspring are gifted a new wing in their bungalow.
And while to us they preach the virtues of self-reliance;
They, the elites, well, they get to practise self-actualization.

My fellow younger citizens, you and your lives are no more than a problem for the PAP ministers to solve, to social-experiment. You are a digit, a number in their statistics game, another brick in the wall.

You can either believe Josephine’s euphemistic, soothing doublespeak, “In this day and age, it is not possible for us to say that you are somehow bad, you are not doing your part for society”. Or, you can put the pieces of how she and her colleagues have been talking down to, patronizing us on various matters to form the consistent picture of who they really are, what they think of us. They reveal their true selves unconsciously, inadvertently, unintentionally by how they answer to our concerns. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks
.
The truth, my young friends, is they want to mould you into happy idiots….

I’m going to find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each other’s paint-by-number dreams
And then we’ll put our dark glasses on
Have ‘sex in small places’* until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We’ll get up and do it again
Get it up again

I’m going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender
…Jackson Browne, 1976, (* with apologies)

So, Josephine, would you tell your own children, your colleagues’ children, “You need a very small space to have sex”? Would you? If not, why say that to our children?

Law Kim Hwee


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The Truth Behind The Beauty of Tharman (Part 2/2)

We next analyze Tharman’s response to being the next PM of choice in a survey. One that had Singaporeans across all social strata eating out of his hand.  One that serves only to re-confirm why their overwhelming choice (55% vs Teo CH’s 17%) is not misplaced.

Just to be absolutely clear, because I know there’s this talk going around … I’m not the man for PM, I say that categorically. It’s not me. I know myself, I know what I can do and it’s not me. I’m good at policy-making, good at advising my younger colleagues and supporting the PM, not being the PM. That’s not my ambition and that’s not me.

Whoever’s the next Prime Minister will be part of this team culture. He or she would be first amongst equals, first among equals in a team. We each find a way to contribute to Singapore, that matches our strengths, and we each contribute to a strong team. (28 Sep 2016)

A proven leader, an intellectual respected and recognized internationally, not just domestically, speaking such humble words. A rarity, indeed.

Now, we analyze not to ascribe negative implications but to try to uncover, to understand better the possible truths behind the beauty of his utterance.

In search of higher honour
Perhaps, Tharman is wise to these words, “But when you are invited (to a wedding feast), take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.”

He knows that the Blackbox survey outcome is inviting. But it is not the official ‘invitation’ – not yet.

Teasing out peer support
Perhaps, he takes a leaf from Dr Mahathir’s masterful performance at the UMNO 22/06/02 AGM. For those not familiar, read this or watch this. Not as dramatic, but the desired effect of such public an announcement (his ‘I’m not the man for PM’ vs Dr M’s ‘I’m resigning all party posts, as PM etc’) cannot but serve to create some needed theatre, the more to deepen the favourable impression.

Ruling himself out, Tharman positions himself to gain from creating the conditions whereby if he is ‘forced to be‘ PM (his words on 4 Jul 2015 broadcast to an international audience, no less), then those who ‘force’ his change of mind (similar to Mahathir being pleaded to rescind his decision) will have to back that up to support him loyally. Brilliant!

Disarming the competitors, charming the market
Perhaps, Tharman knows, sees, senses subtleties within the cabinet. Or who knows what’s whispered behind closed doors? Who can vouch for the cabinet members’ absence of secret ambitions? As the clock goes tick-tock-tick-tock;  it can only encourage outsize ambitions or narcissistic ones in disguise, no?

How better to disarm potential competitors to the crown while charming the populace than to so publicly volunteer one’s disinterest to be ‘first among equals’. All the more potent a maneuver when none from the crop of mostly GRC-parachuted paper generals appears to be his equal.

Consider the polled ‘first choice ‘ paper general to be PM (9% vs Tharman’s 55%); he’s helmed 4 ministries since May 2011, namely; Community Development, Youth & Sports, Defence (2nd minister), Social and Family Development, sec-gen of NTUC & minister in PMO i.e. merely 17, 19, 20, 12 and 13 months respectively in each post – what has he got to show for pocketing >3X his previous Army Chief salary during those tenures? No surprise that pmo.gov.sg displays only his CV of appointments, but nothing on quantifiable achievements.

Dispelling suspicions, maintaining the peace
Perhaps, as the far-and-away favourite, keeping quiet is not an option for Tharman. It raises too many suspicions, emotions among colleagues.

So, in the Singapore context, it isn’t too far-fetched to think that someone has to plant (assign) both the reporter and the particular questions for Tharman to, well, clear the air.

Isn’t it curious that, when his boss isn’t the issue, he took pains to remark, “he’s extremely highly regarded, not just domestically but internationally.”

Creating higher entry barrier for Opposition
Perhaps, by weaving ‘team culture’ into his explanation, Tharman deliberately condenses the PAP history, stories, heroic figures (Goh Keng Swee & Rajaratnam) and values and beliefs in the best possible light. The unspoken goal: to further exaggerate and entrench the cultural elements (4 of the 6 identified by Deal and Kennedy, 1982) of the better characteristics of PAP’S leadership model in the minds of citizens.

Against the backdrop of his approval ratings, his intonation of PAP ‘team culture’ raises the bar for the Opposition in the minds of his audience.

And so, perhaps, the truth…
Beyond his expressed disinterest to the Premiership, the subtle possibilities of his smooth-spoken, carefully-weaved words are many. In short: Here is a man gifted and politically deft; skills he can deploy and employ to either prioritize his own, his party’s or the nation’s interests. The question is, “What is the man’s true intent?”

Let’s be reminded that it was Tharman who announced in Apr 2013, that the cabinet is now more left-of-centre, “focused on upgrading the lives and improving the lives of lower-income Singaporeans and older folk too“. Trumpeting such a fundamental change by the PAP cannot be accidental but planned. And only someone in the vanguard of the change in thinking could be the appointed herald. Just how radical a change? Look no further than Apr 2007; Balakrishnan sarcastically asking ‘Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?’, reacting to an MP’s plead for a few dollars more for the poor,.

But singing the praises of PAP’s leadership change process, Tharman also calls it ‘succession‘. Succession happens only in Communist China, Cuba and North Korea. Does that hint of his covert ideological bent to perpetuate the dominance of the PAP’s rule?

Is he playing his ‘joker’ card in a very well-hidden, complex and conv0luted intra-party game to commandeer the left-of-centre thinking a little further left so as to serve, to truly serve our low-income and elderly? And while he’s at it, to repair the extensive and substantive damage done by the GDP-growth-at-all-cost-cum-FT-policies  and also lighten our high housing/cost-of-living and citizens’ over-taxed burdens?

Hence, the truth is that in Tharman holds both the hope of we-the-citizens for a re-imagined, gentler, kinder Singapore and the nightmare of the worst of the PAP’s insatiable desire for political dominance to carry on their cold, calculating GDP-growth-at-all-cost and ‘Singapore is for everybody’ policies to the detriment of we-the-citizens’ unity as a nation.

For now, both truths are only possibilities. Which will prevail. Only Tharman knows. While we can only hope.

But while we hope, let the preferred PM-to-be know that we are stuffed with DNA from our parents and grandparents who conquered the odds to build the Singapore we now have. We got the verve, the spirit in us all to reshape our lives to be truer and closer to our pledge to “achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation” –  not ‘for everyone’ or just ‘for rich citizens, rich foreigners’ but ‘for we-the-citzens’ who recite the Singapore Pledge from our hearts since Primary One.

We’ll rally around him.

Is Tharman up to the challenge?

Law Kim Hwee