Tuesday, January 29, 2013

WP's Political Strategy of fence sitting

Most first world parliaments have opposition parties fighting with their incumbents to rule and govern their country. Singapore has a very unique opposition that has been elected into parliament, but yet not aspiring to rule.The Worker's Party (WP) leader, Low Thia Khiang (LTK) says that his role in government is to keep "checks & balances": to be the co-driver, and slap the driver if he falls asleep.

Being in power since independence in 1965 makes it easy to find something the People's Action Party (PAP) government has done wrong. After all nobody is perfect, no matter how hard you work in the span of 50+ years, there will definitely be mistakes that have been made. Because the PAP is not perfect, LTK's WP promised to be the voice of the people. He called for Singaporeans who were unhappy with the government in any way to vote WP to bring about change. Once inside parliament, a first world opposition would provide alternatives to the status quo.

 UK Parliament's opposition MPs would come up with a shadow budget with an alternative way to use the taxpayer's money. They would appoint shadow ministers to provide alternative policies that can challenge the status quo. The WP have done none of the above. Why doesn't the WP practice what first world oppositions do when they claim to be pursuing a first world parliament?

The WP's excuse is that they are in parliament to provide "checks & balances" and not oppose for the sake of opposing. Upon further analysis, I realise that the truth is that WP is employing a political strategy of fence sitting, which is detrimental to the democratic process.

In this article i will explain the political strategy of fence-sitting and how it benefits the WP.

1) Escape from decisions that angers one side of the fence to please the other
One fact of life is that you can't make everybody happy. By saying they are only in parliament to check the PAP, the WP do not have to make a stand on one side of the fence while offending the other. Let's take immigration for an example since it was a major gripe which propelled the WP into parliament. Many people voted against the PAP because of their xenophobia. Nicole Seah from NSP even commented that there were so many foreigners in Singapore that she felt like she was in a different country when she was taking the MRT. There were many claims of foreigners taking away Singaporean's jobs. So one would presume that the WP once being elected into parliament would stand up to limit or even stop immigration, right? Wrong. The WP never made a stand on immigration, for or against. "Checks & Balances" only requires them to point out the problem but conveniently avoid providing a solution. "Checks & Balances" or fence-sitting is a convenient way to take advantage of unhappiness from 2 sides of the fence. Making a stand to allow immigration is good for businesses to sustain the workforce in the midst of a shrinking TFR and economy. However, immigration also creates xenophobia. Singaporeans do not want to have illegal aliens taking up their MRT seats or their jobs. On the other hand, restricting immigration appeases the xenophobic population. They have more space on the trains, lesser uncouth foreigners. But by doing so, they anger business owners who cannot find workers to do jobs Singaporeans do not want to do, increases their labour costs and we will not be able to mitigate the negative effects of a shrinking workforce and economy. Making a stand on immigration, either to restrict or allow, will definitely anger one side of the population. Another example is property prices. There are many complaints that high property prices are making it harder for newly-married couples to own homes. There are even allegations that the influx of foreigners are driving up property prices, increasing the feeling of xenophobia. Prices of bare land is controlled by the URA, why don't the WP force the government into a motion to either increase or decrease the prices of property? The reality is regardless of whether property prices rise or fall, there will always be winners and losers. Rising property prices benefit the retired and elderly who have put their life savings into their HDB flat. They can downgrade from a 5 Rm to 4 Rm or 4 Rm to 3 Rm flat and take a big payout in the Cash-over-Valuation. Property agents also benefit from a buoyant property market. They will definitely not complain about rising property prices as higher prices gives them more commission. If the WP stands for lowering property prices, it makes it easier for newly-married couples to own homes. But, on the flipside, middle aged workers will be putting their CPF monies into an asset that does not appreciate and is losing its value. Property agents will lose commissions and the WP will lose the votes of these Singaporeans. Saying that WP is only "Checks & Balances" allows the WP to garner the votes from both sides of the fence. When in fact both side's objectives and needs are exactly opposite of each other.

2) Turns everyone and anyone that is not satisfied with anything and everything against the incumbent
This statement speaks for itself. You really cannot make everyone happy. As human beings, we are always never satisfied with whatever we have. By sitting on the fence, the WP is effectively getting votes from anyone and everyone that is unhappy about anything, directing their anger at the incumbent. As long as you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and are having a bad day, you can always find something to blame the government for and consequentially support the WP.

3) Hides the WP's greatest weakness
 Lastly, sitting on the fence allows the WP to hide its greatest weakness. That it cannot solve any of the problems that Singaporeans are sending them into parliament for. The last time they tried to propose an alternative was during the ministerial salary debate. A big part of their GE2011 attacks on the incumbent was that the PAP ministers were over-paid. An alternative pay-scale was proposed by the WP based on the civil servant's MX-9 structure, but the alternative turned out to give the ministers an even higher salary than the status quo. "WP: Don't take by-election result as a sign of future trends." - Low Thia Khiang (ST 27th Jan 2013) What the WP is trying to say is that they are not ready to solve the problems Singaporeans are facing. When the reason they voted him in the first place is for these same problems to be solved. Fence sitting exempts the WP from any accountability because since they do nothing, there is nothing to account for. LTK is an astute politician. His use of the words "checks and balances" on the government has allowed him to rise to greater power without solving any of the problems people are facing today. At the end of the day, LTK knows that if the PAP cannot solve any of Singapore's problems, neither can the WP. The "checks & balances" strategy is against the notion of a first world parliament.

WP is going against the fundamental tenet of democracy where the opposition provides an alternative to the status quo while the people choose what they feel is best for them. Many believe that PAP's falling popularity is due to being not as competent as before. But one cannot ignore that a big part of WP's success is its ingenious strategy of "checks & balances", that allows them to promise Singaporeans everything but yet promising them nothing at all.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The changing business landscape of Singapore

In winter, butterflies migrate, or die in the cold.

2012 is Singapore's winter of discontent. And here is the common grouse of all: Singapore cannot sustain too large a population. And to me, 5m is far too many. I think it would not be difficult to agree with this statement. Employers, who are also people, would not find it difficult to agree with this statement.

So like the butterfly, our nation, employers and people have to either move with the seasons… or die in the cold.

Whatever line of business you're engaged in, it's time to re-look the value chain and find out how to re-allocate your resources.

Before that let's have an appreciation of the situation. Have a look at the following graph:

Over the past 8 years, we have achieved a 54% growth in GDP. In tandem, our labour force has also increased. Yet, with such a strong labour force, our GDP did not manage to grow even higher - this means, somewhere along the line, was a loss in productivity.

What about the next 8 years then? Here are two scenarios.

In this first scenario, we must lower our foreign labour in take. All else being equal, our GDP growth would dwindle to below 2% over 8 years. So what, you might ask. Without sufficient growth, the country will experience increased unemployment, lack of funds to keep public services moving and less opportunities to do more. Everyone suffers.

In scenario two, we'll aim for a healthy growth of about 3-4%. Still remarkably lower than the 50+% we've experienced the past 8 years, but enough to maintain a vibrant economy and for us to keep our jobs. Without the option of capitalising on growing labour, what must businesses do?

Move like the butterfly. Transform.

There are technologies and processes abound that businesses can invest and capitalise on. Broadly speaking, there is a pressing need to Increase productivity, increase profits and redistribute them to deserving employees to convince them to stay. The greatest difficulty rests on the shoulders of the SMEs, but it is also small companies that are nimble enough react quickly to changing economical landscapes.

Can this be achieved? Will employers turn their businesses around, help their staff become more productivity, reduce expenditure and invest in the welfare and careers of each employee? 

We shall find out when Spring comes about...

A Step Closer to a Two-Party system?

Many have labeled the entry of an additional Worker’s Party (WP) member into parliament as “a step closer to democracy”. I hardly agree with this. Democracy, by its strictest definition has always been around, albeit in a different mode from its western counterpart.

Rather, the more appropriate label we ought to attach to the result of the 2013 Punggol by-election should be: “a step closer to a two-party system”.  Why? Three reasons: Firstly, ever since the capture of Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) from the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 2011, the WP has won every single election it has contested. Secondly it does not fall far behind the PAP in terms of the popular vote in contested areas. Thirdly, it has found itself a political enclave, with one GRC and two Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) geographically connected to one another in the northeast of Singapore. These are signs that the WP is gaining power at an increasing pace and may assume the role of an alternative government in a two-party state in a matter of decades. It is in light of this observation that we should begin to analyze the direction towards which Singapore politics is heading.

If we are indeed heading in the direction of a two party system, then three of the biggest impacts this would have on our political environment would be:
1.     The ability to block of constitutional amendments introduced by the majority party
2.     Increase in intensity of debate and political scrutiny
3.     The high possibility of a change in government via general election

These are powerful responsibilities. However, based on its recent performance, does the Worker’s Party look like it can one day handle them?

The introduction of an additional Worker’s Party MP into parliament will do much to pressure the ruling government to meet the expectations of the people. However, the performance of the Worker’s Party has come into question time and again. This includes its lackluster performance in parliament (http://publichouse.sg/categories/politics/item/537-how-did-the-workers%E2%80%99-party-do-in-parliament) alongside questions over whether it can fill an executive role if it were to assume the reins of government one day, something which the party itself does not believe it is capable of doing. (http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20110324-269714.html)

There is some merit in the Worker’s Party increasing presence in parliament in terms of offering an alternative voice. However, is it fit to play a bigger role? Looking at its performance as well as the quality of its candidates, I do not think so. More importantly, the pace at which it is improving, if it is even improving at all, still falls short of the pace at which it has been gaining seats in parliament. If the party’s rate of improvement does not keep up with the speed at which it is gaining power, we will witness an opposition coming to assume a significant level of political responsibility but yet lacking the quality to fulfill it. This is a phenomenon that will have adverse effects on Singapore politics.

The larger the presence in parliament by any party, the higher the bar will be raised. If the Worker’s Party does not buck up, it deserves no more than what it already has.

Nasi Lemak!

All this talk about Punggol reminds me of one of my favourite dishes: nasi lemak! And especially, Punggol Nasi Lemak!

Beautifully fried chicken and eggs, freshest vegetables, carefully prepared curries - even standing in the queue alone is enough to drive you mad with desire. Been one of my most favourite eating places ever since I was living near Kovan almost 10 years ago. I'm happy that it remains a popular hangout. They have newspaper clippings to let us know that once upon a time, they used to charge 20cents for just chilli and rice if you're really down and out.

If you haven't tried this dish yet - you cannot say that you're a true Nasi Lemak aficionado. So don't take my word for it, go now, go today, go to Upper Serangoon road for this famous delight!

Just don't go on Thursdays (i think) cause that's when they're closed.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Streets of London - Ralph McTell

This is a beautiful song. Hope it brightens up your day :)

Have you seen the old man 
In the closed-down market 
Kicking up the paper, 
with his worn out shoes? 
In his eyes you see no pride 
Hand held loosely at his side
Yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news 

So how can you tell me you're lonely, 
And say for you that the sun don't shine? 
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London 
I'll show you something to make you change your mind 

Have you seen the old girl 
Who walks the streets of London 
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags? 
She's no time for talking, 
She just keeps right on walking 
Carrying her home in two carrier bags. 


In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven, 
Same old man is sitting there on his own 
Looking at the world 
Over the rim of his tea-cup, 
Each tea last an hour 
Then he wanders home alone 


And have you seen the old man 
Outside the seaman's mission 
Memory fading with 
The medal ribbons that he wears. 
In our winter city, 
The rain cries a little pity 
For one more forgotten hero 
And a world that doesn't care 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Notes about Dr. Koh

The following note is clipped off Facebook. It claims to be written by Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin.

This is a compilation of reflections and stories on Dr Koh - by the people on the ground, as well as people who worked with him previously.

Rather than just relying on edited clips that may not always reflect who he is, I would like to share the reflections and stories sent in by many of you. In moments of need, Poh Koon has been there for those who counted on him.

Melvin Kwek who is a fellow NSman shared this:
"… a couple of weeks ago, just before the announcement of his candidacy for Punggol East, I shared with Poh Koon that my sister-in-law was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, and I wanted to know more about possible treatments and if we should seek a second opinion. He immediately called me and sounded more worried than I was, and offered to review my sister-in-law's medical history and have a chat with her to provide her with the necessary information for her to make an informed decision. All this while knowing that he would be completely swamped with campaigning the by-election. This selflessness and sincere willingness to help a friend, is very typical of Koh Poh Koon."

Dr Yue Wai Mun, a fellow NSman and doctor shared:
"Poh Koon took over our National Service unit. I also know him as a colleague when he was working in SGH. What struck me about him is his almost 'superhuman' capacity for hard work, especially when pursuing worthy causes. I can see this in many facets of his life, be it work, family, personal fitness and in his role as a National Serviceman. When faced with an issue, I have seen him go to the ground, understand the issues at hand and return to solve the problem through his resourcefulness, gumption and just pure persistence. I am sure that if he is elected the residents will benefit from these same qualities. He is a man who can and will get the job done."

My friends, it is all about values and walking the talk. It is about the care and concern with which we apply ourselves to our duties and responsibilities. And we do so because we believe in our people and our Singapore.

I spoke to Poh Koon when he was grappling with the decision to step forward. He has come in knowing what this responsibility will entail. Many of you know what it is like today. For example, to have your name made fun of by the likes of Png Eng Huat and worse, when Png even mocks Poh Koon's father for giving him his name. All for laughs and votes, I am sure -but not in good taste.

Poh Koon believes that this is his duty and responsibility, and he has stepped forward. Thank you Poh Koon!

You know, we are in a very strange situation these days. Let me quote a posting by Mr Kong Kam Yean on his FB wall:

"I find it amusing...
SDP says vote them to parliament and they will let WP run their town management.
WP says vote them to parliament and they will let PAP run the government and make them work harder.
RP says vote them to parliament and they will make the WP to work harder to make PAP government to work harder.

Come on, in other countries, the opposition will say vote me because I can do better than the current government."

Whatever it is, we are working and taking action for our people and our Singapore. As we have done so from our days leading to independence, till today and we will continue to do so into our future.

Claiming credit for work done by others is unfortunately also becoming common these days. Sometimes, it is called plagiarism.

For example, Mr Chen Show Mao made points about helping the elderly. We are in agreement here. It is a very important area. Examples like BMW's practices were highlighted to show how we could move in the right direction. Indeed! In fact, DPM Tharman shared about the BMW example in September last year and also referring to companies in Germany and Scandinavia whom we can learn from. I am glad that the example was useful enough to be shared with all of us again.

In fact, I have also previously shared examples closer to home, like St Luke's Eldercare. They showed how they adjusted their work processes, leveraging on schemes like Advantage!, to re-design jobs for older workers. Over 90 per cent of their staff are aged 40 and above.

I am not sure if it is deliberate, but WP might have also missed out an important initiative, which is the Special Employment Credit or SEC - this supports employers to raise employability of older Singaporeans. The more the employer pays the older workers, the more SEC they get.

There are also practical steps we have taken, like the Re-Employment Legislation and increasing CPF contributions for older Singaporeans.

We believe in translating ideas and concerns into real action and we will continue to do so. We cannot afford to be a wayang party, all talk, stirring anger, making broad statements, but not being prepared to work hard at the details, and to really help our people.

I have found the issues not easy to deal with because there are many concerns and dynamics. But all of us, including my colleagues in the Civil Service whom I have a great deal of regard for, are focused on working the issues and making things better for all of us.
In fact, the ones who have spoken up with useful and constructive comments are from all of you Singaporeans. Many of you have provided detailed ideas and suggestions about how to improve things. Some of your ideas have been incorporated, not only in the initiatives but also our regulations and laws.

Thank you for speaking up and working with us.

I am new to Government. But I can say that we will be steadfast in serving our people and our country. Things may not always be popular but we will address them and deal with them as best as we can.

And we ask for your support to work with us.

Let me end here with a letter from Madam Vivien Tan.
"My husband nearly lost his life during the SQ006 accident. He suffered horrific burn injuries. When he was warded in Ward. 43 SGH burn centre, he was in a comatose state, fighting for his life. I was basically lost and was in despair as I looked at my husband's condition. It was a time where i needed comfort and support badly.

Poh Koon was a young doctor at the Ward. It was in him that I found a source of strength and comfort. His personal attention to my husband as well as constant visits to his bedside gave me tremendous relief. In addition he spoke with me sincerely and showed empathy and concern to my young daughter and me. As a junior doctor he constantly related my concerns to the senior consultants and I can detect his great sense of dedication and sincerity. My husband eventually made a good recovery. As I look back on this painful part of my life, I am glad that we had Poh Koon with us who made the journey more bearable and comforting.
Poh Koon is not just a great medical professional but a great person, humble, sincere and passionate."

Poh Koon will serve the people of Punggol East with all his heart and will do his utmost for all Singaporeans. All of us here will continue to do our utmost for our people and our country. We will do it for all our todays, and for our many tomorrows in the years to come.

Man arrested for allegedly threatening RP's Jeyaretnam

I refer to this: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1249782/1/.html

Is this necessary? (The threats i mean)

I won't say if I'm supporting the Reform Party or not, but here is the son of JBJ, the man who was once chief of the Worker's Party.

Singapore is liberalising, but this does not mean we need to behave like hooligans. We're talking about political leadership, command and control of 5 million lives here.

This is not a football game.

Signal before changing lanes. Please.

If there is one thing I can't stand, it's drivers who don't signal before changing lanes.

Please, for the sake of our mental health, signal before. you. change. lanes.


But don't you just love kittens :)

Sometimes we just need a little distraction.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why Punggol East deserves better than the WP

While we await the WP’s last rally for this by-election tonight, let’s take a look at their track record in general since the 2011 GE and their performance in the by-election. This by-election, mind you, is not about the PAP or the WP. It is about the residents of Punggol East and who they deserve as an MP who will look after their needs and tend to their estate. I therefore make the case that the residents of Punggol East deserve better than the WP.

The WP is a Self-Centered Opposition Party

And one that is increasingly demonstrating the signs of arrogance in both its manner of speech and action, I might add.

Why self-centered? WP chief Low Thia Khiang said bluntly last night that opposition unity is not possible in today’s context.

The message that the WP sends to its opposition counterparts is a chilling one: You are on your own, and the WP does not want anything to do with you. At all.

Its rejection of the SDP’s proposal to run a joint campaign speaks for itself. That the WP did not even bother to enter negotiations with the SDP attests to their arrogance and self-importance as the leading opposition party in Singapore. Now that Low has said opposition unity is impossible, we realise that he did not even bother to make an attempt in the first place.

 Last night, Lee Li Lian audaciously asked where the PAP it was before the by-elections. Excuse me, we had Palmer covering the ground and taking care of the ward for quite some time and then after that ignominious affair, we had Teo Ser Luck (a mayor, no less) as a caretaker MP. The PAP was there all along.

I would actually turn Ms Lee’s question back at her: Where was the WP before the by-election?

Low Thia Khiang’s answer: we decided to focus on Aljunied and cease all ground activities in wards previously contested by the WP.

My short answer: The WP abandoned Punggol East.

The WP is manipulating your anger

In 2011, the WP walked right into Punggol East and cruised away with 41 per cent of the valid votes cast.

In other words, the WP effortlessly attained 12,777 votes by simply doing NOTHING before the GE.

Do they deserve to walk away so easily this time? Will the voters of Punggol East actually allow the WP to waltz in after being absent allow the WP to win the ward without putting in the requisite effort?

The WP strategy is thus one of complacency and a very simple one: the WP is trying to ride the tide of anger, hoping that it will be enough to send them past the 50 per cent mark.

Admittedly, the WP will clinch at least 30 per cent of the vote, if the rules about a 30 per cent hard core existing on each side are true. 40 per cent in the middle will have to think hard about who they should vote for, and I hope they will not allow themselves to be manipulated.

The WP has no new ideas, and even if they did, they wouldn’t work

Lee Li Lian mentioned that she will champion the causes of the elderly by fighting for free transport and for allowing them to use their Medisave without restrictions if they are above the age of 75.

All that sounds admirable. Really, it does. But will it work?

Using Medisave without restrictions sounds good, but let’s not blind ourselves to the fact that as a person gets older, the chances of falling sick increase as well. Hence, taking the long-term view, it is far more prudent to use the Medisave sparingly. Otherwise, once you are in your 80s, you will need to pay in cash if your Medisave is depleted.

Free transport for the elderly sounds brilliant too! But did Lee Li Lian tell voters what the pitfalls or trade-offs were? No. Let me tell you. Making transport free for the elderly means that other commuters would have to absorb the costs. And guess who would have to bear the brunt? Adult commuters (and polytechnic students too)!

The WP has made little or no mention about their manifesto. Why?

I don’t know, maybe they aren’t proud of it. Maybe they know it is not worth publicizing.

First World Parlia-what?

I’ll quote former NMP Calvin Cheng’s words do the speaking here: “or a party that campaigned on the promise of more debate as part of their march towards a ‘First World Parliament’, whither the debate? Surely if you have an alternate vision for Singapore, a vision burning to be articulated in full, asking questions would not suffice? Surely if even a Nominated Member of Parliament can force the whole of government, including its most senior statesman, to focus their attention on a ‘hifalutin’ issue and engage in robust debate, then a party with six elected members of Parliament, two NCMPs , and an alternate vision for Singapore can do so much more?”

The Choice

It is clear: the fight is between the PAP’s Dr Koh and WP’s Lee Li Lian.

Yes, the PAP is not perfect. But it promises you that it will always be there to look after your ward even if not elected. Look at Desmond Choo in Hougang, serving with all his heart.

Do not fall prey to the WP deal of “vote one WP, get one PAP free”. If you accept such rhetoric, politics becomes a cheap bargain, and you allow yourself to become a customer in a transaction. Politics is not about transactions and bargains. It is about your life, your future. It’s serious business.

Looking what the WP has (not) done so far, I think Punggol East is far better off in the safe hands of the PAP.

Punggol East, you decide.

Changes in Aljunied - Part II

Another letter adapted from Facebook, by Mr. Goh, 55, Bedok North:

I am sure Punggol East residents will vote wisely on 26 Jan 2013, taking into account the performance of PAP as well as Opposition Parties since the last GE, and reflecting their aspirations on what they feel is a better democratic system for Singapore.  This was thebasis of my vote in GE 2011.

But being a resident of Aljunied GRC, I should also urge Punggol East residents to vote with their eyes open, and take into account this little issue of estate management.  Because whoever wins the election, will run the Town Council and be responsible for the day to day maintenance of the estate. There is a difference when the WP takes over the Town Council.  For Hougang residents, they probably got used to the WP system all these years.  For Aljunied residents, I think many of us are still adjusting to it.  And I thought I should share our experiences with our fellow Singaporeans living in Punggol East.

I think there are two big differences between PAP and WP run Town Councils:

First, PAP run Town Councils are eager beavers.  You complain about lights not working, fan in common areas not working, drains not covered, trees not pruned, etc, and the Town Council will often rush to rectify it because they seem to think our votes for them depend on it.  Sometimes you do wait, but probably 8 out of 10 times they do get done.  WP run Town Councils are different.  Many of my friends living around Aljunied have the same experience – if you complain about all these matters to WP Town Council or even the MP, they will say it is the responsibility of HDB/NEA/NParks etc, basically goes back to Government.  And guess what when you call these departments?   The civil servant will tell you it is the Town Council.  But when PAP was in charge, the Town Council will just do it.

Second, there is little collaboration between Town Council and grassroots.  I am not getting into any arguments here about the role of grassroots and whether the elected MP should be the Advisor.

The reality is that when the opposition wins a ward, the Opposition MP runs the Town Council and then there is a separate Grassroots Advisor. When it comes to upgrading programmes (yes, Aljunied still got upgrading programmes even after GE 2011), the coordination becomes not very ideal.  Someone I know living in Bedok North and serve in the grassroots told me that there were 5 blocks there which were selected for HIP.  The grassroots and HDB wanted to push ahead, but could not, because the WP run Town Council did not approve the use of the void deck to set up the mock up and conduct the residents ballot. So after all these complains about opposition ward are deprived of upgrading, this upgrading project in Aljunied GRC got stalled.  In the end, after some hoohaa, WP Town Council approved it, and the ballot was successful. So this separation of roles does not work in favour of residents.

The same friend of mine told me that in Bedok North, the electricity supply to the Neighbourhood park were disrupted.  The park is maintained by the grassroots so naturally the Town Council will not repair it.  The grassroots got an external contractor to do it but Town Council refuse to grant access to the switch room under their charge.  So things are stuck. It appears that to repair without access to the switch room, underground wires need to be re-run, and will cost a lot of money.  What a waste, all because the two hands cannot clap together.

I am not interested in saying who is right or who is wrong here.  But I just wanted to highlight to Punggol residents that there is a difference when WP takes over the Town Council.  Vote with your eyes opened.

Changes in Aljunied - Part 1

Saw this going around FB - insights of Aljunied when they were took over by the opposition:

I will like to create public awareness regarding the mediocre estate maintenance in Worker's Party Ward, Paya Lebar Division.

The condition of the estate is definitely not as it was promised during elections by the worker's party candidates. I do see a strong need that the reality of the situation to be made aware to the public.

Attached pictures of conditions of estate after nearly 2 years of AJHTC management. Benchmarking the last town council management standard, the existing town council management fall far short of expectations.  Deteriorating paint work, poor cleanliness conditions and reactive/mediocre estate maintenance is affecting the living conditions of the residents in the estate.

Additional Points points to share:

Reactive Estate Maintenance:
1) lightings replacement - within 18 months - personally made 4 calls to Town councils to replace blown light bulbs
2) Lifts with no lighting - 07 Jan 2013 Blk 161 Hougang St 11. Lift A with totally no lights, an avenue for crime to take place
3) Falling door on MSCP - Safety Hazards for residents, require to contact TC to remove falling door

Poor Town Council Management:
1) No response and follow up on e-mail
Emails to Town council receives acknowledgement without follow up and closures, when follow up for response after 3 months, a sub standard response not indicating concrete corrective actions or measures on the issues raised were received.

Workers Party MPs:
1) Workers Party MPs using misleading termIn most WP Rally, WP MPs often mislead audiences using phrases that "they walk all the blocks in the constituency" creating misleading impression that they conduct door to door visits covering all units. However in reality, as residents in paya lebar ward, Blk 161 Hougang Street 11, No WP MPs has conducted house visit either prior to election or post elections. For residents in Serangoon garden estates, I was told that there are no sightings of their designated MPs too.

2) Workers Party MPs Focus
WP MPs have not demonstrated strong delivery of productive parliament debates citing reasons for lacking of resources. Nonetheless, the MPs are spending precious time in attending funerals and wedding of their constituency. Although a commendable efforts to engage residents, but that should not be at the expense of fulfilling a competent MP to deliver productive debate and manage local estate maintenance issues.

A tale of 2 parties

Democracy is a political structure that is desirable, most of the time at least. Then again, democracy is such an animal that it can manifest in many ways – the most common of which are the multi-party democracy that with maturity consolidates in a two-party system.

When thinking about the archetypal two-party system, the country that comes to mind is the US, where the country is almost polarized into a world of Democrats and Republicans. The parity is so similar that policy differential is actually very moderate between the two parties.

What is more severe though is how the bipartisan politics has hampered the growth and development of the country. The US economy has been in the doldrums since 2008. Unemployment is a sordid 7.8% and economic growth is so low that prices have not risen since last year, based on their Consumer Price Index.  This is followed by low consumer confidence, the continuing decline in home values and increase in foreclosures and personal bankruptcies.

All of these have been worsened by an escalating federal debt crisis, which has blunted the government’s fiscal tools to pull the country out of a recession. Conventional economic ideology prescribes that a government can adopt an expansionary fiscal policy, made up of cutting taxes and increasing government spending, to pull out of a recession. But how does a government mired in debt, loosen its purse strings and forego much needed revenue that will come out of taxes? In other words, to help the economy and the American people get out of this mess, and once again taste economic security, the government will have to first sort out its debt problem.

So what is stopping it? The answer can be summarized in two words – bipartisan politics. President Obama’s administration tried to embark on cutting fiscal debt through, among other things, a tax on the wealthier and cutting spending on high expenditure areas such as defence. But the main obstacle in getting some of these legislation and bills passed were Democrats’ political foes, the Republicans who thwarted all attempts to get these measures out of the way in the interest of partisanship. Of course, on the surface they argued that they disagreed with some of these measures in principle, but the reality is if they played on the same side of their political opponents, even if in the larger interest of the country and its people, it wouldn’t be politically tactical. Sadly, that is the ugly head of a two-party system rearing itself, probably at its worst.

Moreover, a two-party system really creates a system where political choice becomes obsolete and where the party not in power simply has to continue to undermine the ruling party’s efforts and plans, whatever they may be, and take pot shots. The strategy is clear and simple – prove them wrong and create the impetus for change within the constituents. Guess who benefits when the constituents look for change? No prizes, for getting that right.

This is best highlighted in the current political scene in Singapore. The WP has sent 6 members into parliament purely on the back of this strategy. “The government’s policies are flawed, and you need change. We are that change, so vote us in,” is their famous election cry without much substance involved otherwise. 

What is even more bizarre is how the WP is building a campaign through a complete abuse of the democratic system – perverse democracy – by simply saying, “If you like their (PAP) policy, then it has happened because of us. They need to be kept on their toes so vote us in,” without any regard for actually what they can offer or have done.

But expect the WP to continue this strategy for a while to come, simply because they can. Make no mistake that the WP is aiming to build a two-party system in Singapore, first by eliminating and discrediting all the other opposition parties, and then by eroding the PAP’ s two-thirds majority in parliament to form a coalition government.

That explains why the WP rejects any moves to form a partnership with the other opposition parties, no matter how many proposals come their way. They are trying hard to eliminate their competition and establish themselves as the only alternative voice to the PAP.

That also explains why the WP is fashioning itself less and less like an opposition party. So that when the time comes to form a coalition government, they would appear as the likely choice as a partner to the PAP.

That is the sort of viscous cycle we should not get ourselves into. A two-party system will not provide the stand-alone opposition with any incentive to work hard and offer a good credible choice to the voters as they will simply need to prove the other wrong to gain mileage.

For the sake of Singapore, I hope voters here will always ensure that a multi-party system exists so that if the WP or any other party falters and fails to deliver, then there are others who can step up to the challenge. Should Singapore plunge into a difficult and turbulent period, like the US is now, we hope that unlike the Americans, we have a clear and decisive government to pull us out of it and that it is not hindered in its role by the ‘other’ party.