Friday, November 30, 2007

SDP wants the same rights as snake oil peddlers!

You see them often at the night markets. These snake oil peddlers who give such convincing presentations for their magic elixirs that can cure almost any ailment humans can get. ...for just $10 per bottle you get a cure for any kind of skin problem and if you have stomach upset, you just need drink a spoonful and save that trip to the doctor. They have been around for decades speaking publicly to large crowds about their non-FDA approved miracle cures. With healthcare cost escalating, I notice their sales have increased as people seek alternatives to rising cost of conventional healthcare....the crowds attending their public outdoor presentations are huge.
I'm so shock the SDP demanding the right to speak in public without a permit. Who do these useless members of our society think they are? They certainly don't deserve this right because they will use it to poison our minds. It is dangerous...there is no guarantee that reading the Straits Times diligently for 20 days will fix the damage. They certainly don't deserve the same rights as credit card peddlers, floor cleaner salesmen and snake oil peddlers. I'm so glad the police has acted so objectively for the public good to haul them to court for speaking in public. I'm sure there will be great harm inflicted on our society if they are allowed to do this without prosecution. If you drink that magic non-FDA approved potion from the snake oil peddler you will save the trip to the clinic, that is why he is allowed to peddle his medicine for so many years - he is a trusted useful member of our society. These SDP guys they are here to peddle poison - demanding greater transparency from our esteemed govt, demanding greater freedom of speech & democracy, urging citizen to stand up for their rights...all the useless ideas they imported from overseas - we just cannot have that.
SDP pair again contest charges of speaking in public without a permit
By Teo Xuanwei, TODAY Posted: 28 November 2007 1127 hrs

1 of 1
> ">Chee Soon Juan (C)

SINGAPORE: Answering charges of speaking in public without a permit for the third time, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan and party supporter Yap Keng Ho on Tuesday accused the police of "selective enforcement". The duo, who represented themselves in court, claimed that they and about nine other SDP members did not flout the rules by promoting their party newspaper in front of Causeway Point on April 8 last year. Comparing themselves to hawkers who peddle their wares in public without permits but are not prosecuted, they questioned if the action against them was "politically motivated". Cross-examining the first witness, Mr Loh Zhen Hong, a former police officer who had reported the incident, Yap tried to show there was "unfairness in enforcing the law between the ruling party and the opposition". He used examples of banks holding roadshows to promote their credit cards and people who sell their products with loudhailers to argue that the party's activities on that day were "nothing out of the ordinary". Yap also grilled Mr Loh, who was off-duty when he spotted the SDP's activities, on whether he would have gone to the police if he had seen members of the People's Action Party or Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew making speeches. Mr Loh said that he would have done the same thing in those instances. District Judge Jasvender Kaur cut off Yap several times to remind him that his cross-examination should focus on proving that Mr Loh "had ill motivations to report to the police". After the court was shown the video clip of the SDP's activities that day, Yap contended that the police, by filming the proceedings, had already assumed the party had committed an offence. The court also allowed the footage to be released to the duo to help them prepare their defence. The hearing continues Wednesday and is scheduled to last till next Monday. If convicted, the pair face a maximum fine of S$10,000 each. - TODAY/ym

Monday, November 26, 2007

Deepest Sorrows.....

There are no strangers among Singaporeans.
You will always know the person or someone who knows the person.
Five young Singaporeans whose lives ended far too soon, left us in deep sadness.....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

October CPI 3.6% ...16 year high!!!

S'pore's Economy is not overheating
- PM Lee 10 Oct 2007 [link]

I see the Singapore economy is not overheating, it is just very hot.
Food is rising at 4.2% so I decided to check out what kind of food can be kept for 20 years so that I won't starve when I retire. At 4.2%, it means that your CPF minimum sum which returns 3.5% a year is probably enough for one meal a day when you retire.
Guess which component of CPI rose the fastest? Healthcare which is zooming up at a whopping 6.2%. I guess the govt want to discourage you from getting sick so they have to make sure there is a big and rising financial disincentive for getting sick. See how kind and caring the PAP govt is they want to enjoy a long healthy life so they keep healthcare cost high to deter you from getting sick. The Transport and Communication cost has risen by 4.3% due mainly to the increase in public transport fares, they want to walk alittle more as part of a healthy lifestyle instead of pampering yourself taking the public transport....all these cost increases are the wise decisions of our caring govt.
When you got that pay small increase in the beginning of the year, I'm sure you were very burdened.... not knowing what to do with the extra money. Our beloved PAP govt heard about your plight and has decide to give you some help with your money. Now you don't have to worry about what to do with that little extra amount because it is now gone! ...Eaten away by inflation.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Jim Jubak on the Market...

I couldn't have explained the wild market swings better myself....

The Disappearing Subsidy....

Yes, the GST hike is to help the poor.

Yes, means testing is to help the poor.

Charity shows also help the poor.....

Why are there so many poor people in the richest nation in the region?...

Given Singapore is now so affluent, one would expect more subsidies for the poor. There are many people impoverished by rising cost as their incomes remain relatively unchanged. My relative who is a technician is one of them. Having a family to support, he gets by by pinching on everything. ..every dollar counts. ...with the recent bout of increases there was even greater pressure to cut down. Unfortunately his daughter got sick on Saturday and was sent to A&E. The doctor wanted to admit her for observation. Mindful of the need to save, he asked for class "C". He was told by the admissions clerk that it was not available. When the govt tells us subsidised care exists, it does not mean it is available for those who need it. You want subsidised dental care? Go arrange it at the polyclinic where you have to wait for months. Has the availability of subsidised care has been reduced as the cost of medical care rose? Many poor Singaporeans don't even go seek emergency medical treatment at the A&E when they need it because one of the first thing the hospital does before they treat you is to collect $75.

As Singapore aspires to be a medical hub, it expands its capacity to treat the private foreign patients which include millionaires from Indonesia, Middle East and the occasional junta leader who is not denied medical care for humanitarian reasons.

If you are very poor and need medical care, what do you do? Some have no choice but to appeal to the public during the NKF shows or the Cancer Charity Show. The money donated goes to a charity that is regulated by the "light touch" of our govt, hopefully you get some of it for your medical treatment. Singaporeans are compassionate people, they feel alot better after donating to charity.
By Leong Sze Hian

After watching the Cancer Charity Show, my friend’s sister, a 50 plus housewife, was so depressed, that she jumped from the 10th floor of her HDB flat, the day after the show. As I watched elderly sick Singaporeans pleading during the show, that they have no money for medical treatment, medicine, and one lady who said that she did not even have 10 cents, the first thought that came into my mind, was isn’t there Medifund to help those who cannot pay for medical fees and Comcare to help the poor ? Since the reason given for raising the GST, was to help the poor, and the hike has already been implemented on 1 July, why do we keep hearing of pleas for help from the sick and the needy ? I would like to suggest that a detailed breakdown be given of what and how the estimated $ 1.5 billion from the GST hike will be used to help the poor. Too much resources for fund raising? According to a ChannelNewsAsia report: “Fifteen groups sharing different religious faiths came together as one on Sunday to raise funds in a big way for community projects in Aljunied GRC. At the community bonding carnival in Hougang, each of the groups, including the Singapore Buddhist Lodge and Jamiyah Singapore, set up a stall either selling food or organising games for residents. A maximum of S$350,000 in tickets was sold and the proceeds will go towards new facilities for the GRC’s Bedok Reservoir-Punggol division. The carnival is the first in a series of fund-raisers involving the religious groups in the constituency. Beneficiaries include the 19-year-old Punggol Community Club – expected to cost millions to refurbish - a Dragon Boat House at Bedok Reservoir Park and a kidney dialysis centre.” Are we directing too much resouces in our fund raisng activities for “new facilities for the GRC”, refurbishing a Community Club, Dragon Boat House, etc, at the expense of funds for the needy? All of the above manifestations may be attributed to the root cause of the problem, which is the widening income gap. The ever-widening income gap In this connection, I refer to the article “Bigger but unequal pay gains seen for ‘08” (BT, Nov 19). It states that “Manual workers, again at the bottom of the payout scale, are likely to get a merit raise of 3.7 per cent in 2008, compared to 3 per cent in 2007”. With increasing inflation expected to hit 4.5 per cent by 2008, the median wage increase for manual workers may in effect be a negative increase in wages in real items. This may further contribute to the widening income gap, which was one of three major challenges facing Singapore as highlighted by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong recently. In this connection, according to the Reuters news report “Singapore’s economic boom widens income gap” of 9 November, “the proportion of Singapore residents earning less than S$1,000 (US$690) a month rose to 18 percent last year, from 16 percent in 2002, central bank data released late last month show… and Singapore’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, has worsened from 42.5 in 1998 to 47.2 in 2006, and is now in league with the Philippines (46.1) and Guatemala (48.3), and worse than China (44.7), data from Singapore’s Household Survey and the World Bank show”. I refer also to media reports that Taiwan is becoming an M-shaped society because of the widening income gap, and that the number of Singapore millionaires could soar to 29,000 by 2011. Last year, the top 20 per cent of Taiwanese households earned six times more than the bottom 20 per cent. In contrast, using data from the Department of Statistics’ Key Household Income Trends 2006, the top 20 per cent of households in Singapore, earned about 12 times more than the bottom 20 per cent, based on the “Average Monthly Income from Work Per Household Member Among Employed Households by Decile”. Does the above mean that the income gap is about 6 times more than the Taiwanese ? In Taiwan, the average household at the top earned $ 82,300 (NT $ 1.82 million), whereas it was $ 13,700 (NT $ 304,000) for the average household at the bottom. In comparison, Singapore’s top decile by average monthly per household member was $ 83,880, versus $ 3,600 for the bottom decile. From the above, if we assume three members per household, the top earned $ 251,640 and the bottom $ 10,800. So does it mean that we earn about 205 per cent more at the top, and about 21 per cent less at the bottom, when compared to the Taiwanese, on this basis ? (Note : As the household income data is not given in decile format, I have used the per capita household income data in the above analysis. This analysis has been quite difficult because of the selective availability of data for different time periods.) Helping the poor? In Taiwan, some $ 11.3 billion (NT $ 250 billion) was handed out to the poor in assistance schemes that included monthly subsidies of up to $ 270 (NT $ 6,000) for the elderly. In Singapore, about 3,000 destitutes get $ 290 a month in welfare. How much do the elderly poor in Singapore get a month ? Since the reason given for raising GST was to help the poor, how much was spent last year helping the poor, and how much will be spent this year following the GST increase ? As a point of comparison, Singapore’s per capita Gross National Income was $ 45,353 in 2006, compared to Taiwan’s, estimated to be about $ 42,000. The poor in Taiwan pay $ 18 (NT $ 400) a month for a 36-sq-m rental flat. In Singapore, a 1-room HDB rental flat starts at $ 44.50 ($ 26 rental plus $ 18.50 Service and Conservancy Charges) for households earning not more that $ 800 a month. Those earning more pay higher rentals. In view of the above comparative statistics, I would like to suggest that we review some of our policies like the extra 1 per cent interest on the first $ 60,000 of CPF, because the poor may stand to gain less relative to the rich, as they may have lower CPF balances. The $ 700 million that the extra 1 per cent will cost, may be better directed to the poor instead.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stock Market Carnage & the Efficient Market Hypothesis....

There is a joke about 2 economists walking along the road and one saw a dollar note on the floor and told the other economist...the economist replied "That is not possible, if there is a dollar note on the floor someone would have picked it up already....".

I like this hypothesis in economics that state that markets are efficient especially stock markets. If you buy something on the stock market, it is correctly priced and your return is depends on the risk you're taking. Economists believe that stock prices follow a random walk with an upside bias and investors cannot predict the movement of stock prices. The hypothesis states that stock movement today is independent of its movement yesterday. The stock market prices are supposed to reflect all known information and only new information will move markets.......

Given the market turmoil of the past 2 weeks, I think most investors will ask the economists to "go fly a kite" with that hypothesis. It is very clear to them that markets are more likely to move down than up. The risk of inflation, subprime mortgages and a rising possibility US recession continuously pressure stocks to move down. It is crazy not to get out of such a market because "the sky is falling". Market commentators believe the stock market have more downside and "the worst is yet to come". As I type this, the US market looks set for an awful start today and futures indicate that it has a triple digit loss....the US$ looks weak, tomorrow Asian stock markets will sell off and that leads to more selling in US markets etc.....looks very predictable to me. So how does one reconcile the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) with the behavior of our markets in recent times?....are the economists wrong?

[....I've to go out now. I'll be back to write what I think is going on in the markets. Please if you have any views on the recent market turmoil or the EMH, please leave a comment... ]

Went to sleep, woke up to check the DOW and saw it has plunge 211 pts. Now if that is not going to cause a panic tomorrow, I'll be surprised. Then there will be selloffs in Nikkei, STI, Hang Seng and so on. ...its like a pattern. Last week's selloff I believe is due in part to the unwinding of the Yen carry trade more than fears of a US slowdown. As the Yen strengthens, hedge funds that borrowed the Yen heavily to purchase higher yielding assets around the world are forced out of their position. You can tell how much unwinding takes place by the "across the board selling" that takes place - you see commodities, stocks, Aussie$, NZ$ etc selling off at the same time. In the past 2 days, while stock markets around the world fell, oil and commodities rose and emerging market currencies fell - the unwinding has abated what is happening now is hedge funds are pulling out their money from risky emerging markets. Remember these hedge funds were responsible to our index rising from 2800 to 3800. The selling has been indiscriminate - it doesn't matter if the stock had good earnings and growth potential, they are just sold off with everything else. It is the falling stock prices that induce alot of fear in investors not the deterioration of the economic fundamentals....

"The stock market anticipated 7 of the last 4 recessions", George Soros (I think).

Stock markets fell ahead of every recession and sometimes fell in anticipation of recessions that don't come. In George Soros' book he explained the idea of reflexity - selloffs in stock markets can actually trigger the recession it is anticipating - a form of sell-fulfilling prophesy. ...and George Soros probably triggered the collapsed of the Pound by shorting it heavily together with the speculators preying on counrties undergoing economic weakness. The Asian Crisis was precipitated by hedge funds attacking asian currencies and shorting the stock markets. This caused long term foreign investors who are normally resilient to lose confidence and pull out en masse causing the collapse of Asian economies. Shortly after the Asian Crisis, the US formed a committee to look at the emergence of hedge funds and to develop a govt response to these funds. There are persistent rumors that Hank Paulson is part of a mysterious Plunge Protection Team, whose job is to work with bankers in secret to stabilise the markets in the event of a hedge fund attack (I will come to this later and explain how it is related to the frequent mysterious selldowns we see on the US equities market in the last hour and how it is related to the discount rate cut in Aug 2007). Hedge funds today control several trillion $ and there is little doubt they can move markets.

Last week there was an article in The Edge explaining how the Indian govt can actually buy oil fields and extract oil at less than $50 per barrel and the Saudis complained about the persistent demand for them to pump more oil while they already have no more storage space and have to put them supertankers sailing around without a place to unload. So is there a real shortage of oil? You look at the moves in the oil market, it can go up (or down) by US$3 per barrel in a day, what does that say about real demand and supply? Why is oil rising if the US economy is suppose to be slowing down and US the biggest consumer of oil?

If you go back to Soros' book The Alchemy of Finance, there a few interesting diagrams inside explaining how markets are inter-related and intertwined with the economy. You can mount an attack by creating a vicious cycle. If you examine the attack on the Hong Kong US$ peg during the Asian crisis it goes like this short the HK dollar, this will result in the HKMA defending the peg by raising interest rates, higher interest rates cause the HK stock market to fall, investors fearful of further downside pulled their money out putting more downside pressure on the HK dollar ...and so on. The cycle was broken only when Donald Tsang as Finance Minister decided one day to use the reserves to buy up blue chips on the HK exchange. ...the move caused the market to have its largest one day gain in history and burnt speculators bad enough so they remember not to mess with the HK markets for a long time.

In the book Crisis of Capitalism, George Soros explained that the US economy is likely to face a crisis because of mounting debt. Not only are they running a huge deficit with the rest of the world, the US consumer has chalked up a record level of debt, the housing market is buried by bad debts and so on...all these problems can be traced back to the time the gold standard was abandoned and countries adopted a fiat money system.....since then it has been one crisis after another all related to currency - Mexican peso crisis, Asian crisis ....and the current crisis that is unfolding remember we started with a subprime problem (not a weak problem US$) but now it is transformed into a weak US$ problem.

Now what is happening is the creation of a vicious cycle centered around America's economic problems:

1. Pushing up of oil & commodity prices to manufacture inflation fears.
2. Shorting of US$ and US/global equities since rising oil prices
hurt consumer demand.
3. The weakening US$ can be used to argue for higher oil
prices. the meantime the Nikkei gets bashed because the Yen keeps rising. While the US has a real serious subprime problem it is trying to handle and prevent a contagion, the weak US$ & falling US stocks add to its problems. A recession will worsen the subprime problem and vice versa so this can really get nasty. History tells us that if markets are operate at this point without intervention we will see a shock or massive dislocation in the markets soon i.e. the worst is yet to come.

But do governments intervene in the markets? ....and does a Plunge Protection Team exist? ...and why does US market selldown in the last half hour?

.....Go back to 17 Aug 2007, the critical day is the meltdown 3 months ago. I was awake that night to watch the US market trade as fireworks was expected, it was options expiry day and market was very (DOW) suddenly broke and went into a free fall -100, -200, -300, -400....just when everyone was about to throw in the towel, the US market made a miraculous recovery to close +ve territory. That night the Fed announced a discount rate cut and the situation was diffused. If you go back to the trading of the past 2 weeks, the market will trade "normally" throughout the day and then a flood of sell orders would come at the last 20 minutes causing the market to close at the low of the day. ...strange why would sellers wait until the final 20 minutes to get out and at very bad prices when they have the whole day to do so. ....a last minute selloff gives no chance for the buyers to step for a better close. Whatever it is, confidence in the US markets is lost and that adds to the downward pressure on the US$ in Asian trade....

Nobody knows when the markets will turnaround. I usually buy when there is alot of fear but I've been selling to raise cash in anticipation of better opportunities to buy. Already I see the dividend yields reaching double digits with some of the REITs having DPUs of 12-15% or more ....a quick check on the various REITs show they are lock on to average leases of 5 years or more even in a deep recession, they should be able to pay at least half the dividends. I'm not a big fan of REITs but if the yield get high enough, I find it hard to resist. ....I'm not biting yet as better opportunities might arise.

When will the market turnaround? There seems to be no end in sight. If markets operate efficiently it should have discounted the subprime problem and US economic slowdown already, but there are probably other forces at work. My take is the currency markets probably hold the some point the Japanese central bank will have to intervene prop up the US$ as they have done so many times in the past ....... they are now on the verge of recession as their exporters are strained. One verbal warning was given last week by BOJ and typically they will act when the speculators least expect.

Up or down the markets are always very interesting as long as you are cautious and don't get burnt by the volatility. Within the volatile moves are opportunities that will be handed to you as investors throw the baby out with the bath water.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

No such thing as good opposition in Singapore!!!!

Although I've not seen my PAP MP for a long time, I know he is working very hard for me.

These useless, worthless, good-for-nothing, average, ordinary humans who call themselves the Opposition in Singapore are at it again. This time they are getting bashed for doing nothing....yes nothing! I guess the Straits Times is now done warning us about the numerous evil misdeeds of Chee & his sister so they have to turn to the other bad guys - the Worker's Party. I'm so glad the Straits Times is so thorough in carrying out its responsibility of educating Singaporeans, they simply cannot let the WP get away with their bad influence on Singaporeans - I see them sometimes at the hawker center selling the Hammer to spread their wrongful ideas and giving harmful speeches in parliament on why Singaporeans should be given easier retirement and asking what the PAP govt is doing with our CPF money. That Low guy is especially vicious towards our beloved govt and don't underestimate that NCMP woman she hides an evil intent to bring about change in Singapore.

Over time I've come to believe it is not possible to have good opposition in Singapore. Why? If members of the Singapore opposition do what their counterparts do in other countries like Malaysia & Hong Kong , they will turn into criminals. The PAP has made legal provisions to protect our society from the opposition. While the opposition in other countries can organise peaceful protests & standup aganst govt action & policies, there is little the opposition in Singapore can do without breaking the law. They can't even organise a cycling event for themselves without breaking the law...... they can't even walk (yes, walk) on Human Rights day without being accused of inciting violence. Any kind of film to explain their work is illegal and Straits Times is constantly helping us to understand how dangerous they are. So what is left for the opposition to do in Singapore that is not illegal? Not very much. If they need to organise anything, they often need permits. Even to carry out non-political activities like upgrading the lifts of residents, they can be stopped. The PAP govt has legislated away the possibility of an active opposition restricting from almost all the activities that the keep opposition in other countries busy.

Singaporeans are so lucky to have a govt that protects them from the opposition and a media that constantly warn them of bad opposition.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ang Moh Tourists Apologise for Trishaw Incident...

Their story goes like this:

  1. They were a bit drunk and wanted to take a taxi.
  2. They wanted a "car taxi" but old man comes to them to offer trishaw ride.
  3. The old man was very slow and seeing that they are not going to get to where they are headed, they stop him and got down one quarter of the way.
  4. They eventually paid him in full but that was not captured on video.
  5. They are actually very nice blokes ...they apologise for their behavior.

When I google for comments on this incident, I see many good Singaporeans expressing outrage at the behavior of those tourists. Yes, Singaporeans are respectful and kind towards our old folks unlike these hooligans. We are all very kind towards the elderly especially our govt who expresses so much concern for the old. Recently they been very busy with the re-employment of the elderly. I'm sure when I get to seventy my brain would have slowed so much, I won't be able to keep doing IT type jobs. I guess the next best thing is getting re-employed to clean tables or riding a trishaw. I wonder if I will be able carry 3 overweight tourist like that old uncle. I wonder why the old uncle cannot be given a motorised trishaw. I guess giving him a motorised trishaw would be considered welfare and in Singapore welfare is a dirty word. Besides, our govt departments may not be able to handle something different like a motorised trishaw the time he get his license, he will be eligible for annuity.
The New Paper did 3 articles on the trishaw incident and never once asked why an elderly Singaporean had to make a living ferrying overweight tourists on a trishaw. It seems like the numerous campaigns to promote work for the elderly is successful. With the govt pushing our DDA(draw down age) further and further into our golden years ...and keeping CPF returns at low single digits, they ensure we don't waste our golden years doing useless things like touring around, looking after grandchildren and walking around in the park. Singaporeans are so lucky to have a govt that cares so much about them to work out useful productive plan for them that extends well into their golden years.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Another day another charity scandal.... Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Here we go again. This is like a neverending drama serial just when you think that it is over, a new story pops up. This time it is Ren Ci and its appears to be more serious than the NKF.

In Ren Ci money was loaned to various businesses(interest free) and the amount recorded in the books was smaller than what was loaned out effectively siphoning money from the charity.

In the 60s and 70s before MM Lee and his men cleaned up Singapore corruption was rife. You can purchase anything from certificates to driving licenses. One of the great achievements of the PAP govt was to clean up the corruption and they were pretty harsh...... zero tolerance for dishonesty. I heard that officers conducting driving tests were allowed to carry limited amounts of money in their wallet. If they were found with wads of cash, they would be sacked. Over the years, corruption declined and we forgot how bad it was. But are Singaporeans more honest that they were 40 years ago? I believe they are... not because we are born virtuous but because of this fear that they will be caught. It is the laws, regulations and effectiveness of enforcement that keep many people honest. I believe corruption tends to fester in areas where there is little regulation and people think they can get away with it. In the Citiraya case, the former CEO who was convicted for fraud managed to bribe storemen, clerks, accountants, executives to carry out his misdeeds. When there is money to be made and people think they won't be caught fraud occurs.

After the NKF scandal broke, public pressure resulted in the formation of an Inter-ministry Committee on Regulation of Charities & IPCs in early 2006. You can read about the new rules and guidelines here. Our govt believes in using a 'light-touch' approach when it comes to regulating our charities. They now have to follow a new Code of Governance to improve the way they are run. The code is not mandatory and charities (including churches/temples) can choose not comply with the guidelines if they are able to explain why. Given the 'light-touch' and millions of dollars collected by our charities...hmmm if you're a dishonest person, would you try to cheat a bank with all its safeguards or.....

The govt has decided to review mega-churches and temples which attract something like $10-$20M per year in collections. These entities have been in the news for snapping up properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars and a number of them also operate big businesses. Many welcome this move by the govt and donors expect them to be honestly run so any surprise here will be a mega-surprise for them.
Scandals have tarnished a large number of our charity organisations. It is not unexpected. Where there is alot of money and very little regulation & controls, it will attract crooks and conmen. This is not unique to Singapore:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

$6,000 broadband bill....

and the headlines on the New Paper is "Man gets $6000 phone bill because he went overboard". You might think that SingTel is has gone overboard for billing this customer but according to the New Paper this customer has gone overboard....not our friendly GLC.

When he signed up for SingTel's Broadband on Mobile service he was given a 10G limit for $22.42 per month. You might think that if you exceed this by 2-3G (G=gigabyte), you would be billed $60-$70 ...but no!!! The user exceeded the usage by 3G and was billed $12,000. SingTel gave him a discount of 50% for being such a good customer and his discounted bill came to $6,000.

The first thing I did when I signed up for my mobile line was to deactivated the GPRS packet services for web browsing. I had a friend with one of those Nokia phones that has a "quick button" to get to M1's homepage. Once every few times he pushed his phone into his pocket, he will accidentally press this button and download M1's homepage. He didn't realised how expensive until his bill came and he needed to pay for downloading M1's homepage a few hundred times that month.

Caution, broadband lust
Man gets $6,000 phone bill because he went overboard
By Celine Lim
November 06, 2007,4136,146904,00.html

DOWNLOADING fever can lead to raised temperatures.

Take Mr Zhou Yong Liang for example, who got hot under the collar when he saw he was first billed $12,000 for exceeding his data downloading limit.
He had signed up on 13 Sep for SingTel's Broadband on Mobile service, which has a 10GB-limit, for $22.42 a month.
Two days later, the service was activated.
Mr Zhou checked his email, surfed the internet and downloaded episodes of a TV drama series onto his phone.
On 17 Sep, he got a call from SingTel at 10.45am informing him that he had busted the 10GB data limit by 3GB. He was to pay the excess charges of about $12,000 at a bank.
Mr Zhou raised his case in the Lianhe Zaobao letters page last month.
He said he got a second call at 2.16pm that same day from SingTel.
This time, he was told that he would get a 50 per cent discount on the excess charges, bringing the bill down to about $6,000. His account was suspended at about 5pm the same day.
A SingTel spokesman said: 'We have contacted Mr Zhou to explain to him the charging scheme of SingTel's Broadband on Mobile service. We have since resolved his matter.'
He declined to say how, but added that the account user was happy with the resolution. He said that there have been a 'small handful' of customers who had similar complaints to Mr Zhou.
Excess data download costs $3.80 per Mb so 1000Mb, or 1GB, would cost $3,800.
That explains why Mr Zhou was charged about $12,000 at first for downloading the additional 3Gb.
But that payment scheme applies to those who 'pay-as-you-use' while subscribers with a monthly plan, like Mr Zhou, get a 50 per cent discount off the excess charges. In other words, around $6,000.
Singtel monthly subscribers pay 0.19 cents per kilobyte in 2KB blocks for excess data download.
The spokesman said that the 10GB download limit is sufficient for the average person's needs.
He explained that the service is meant for users to access the Internet 'while on the move' for about 15mins at a time.
They can check their email or surf the Internet using their 3.5G phones or devices, which can stream videos, receive TV signals and send large files.
But some people use up more gigabytes than others.
The spokesman explained that some use their Broadband on Mobile service in place of a modem to download files and videos to their handphone, transmitting the data to their laptops or computers via infrared communication.
For example,downloading a five-minute video file would take up about 100MB.
Downloading a 50-minute long drama serial would use up around 1GB of data.
So downloading about 8hrs of drama would already use up the 10GB download limit for the month.
The spokesman added that SingTel is currently working on a feature to alert users of their data usage when they reach 'a certain threshold', which has not been decided upon yet.
A similar-priced plan with M1 offers a free 5Gb download limit for a $22.42 monthly fee. Excess data download is charged at $4.28 per GB, up to a maximum of 50Gb.
Starhub charges pay-as-you-use customers 1.07cents per kb for excess download charges and 0.32 cents per kb for those on their $5.35 monthly plan.
The maximum data charges are capped at $94.16 for both types of customers

Nov 5, 2007

$1,064 shock SingTel bill: Why no warning trigger?
I RECEIVED a shock when I saw my daughter's latest SingTel mobile phone bill this month - a whopping $1,064.46 was charged to a single item called 'GPRS Data Usage Charges'.
There was no breakdown except an indication of '212892K bytes usage'.
I know I can't blame SingTel for the charges but what I would like to know as a parent and consumer are:
1. Why is the GPRS usage so expensive?
2. How does SingTel and other mobile operators inform their customers of the charges involved? For many, the indication of KB usage makes little sense. Do the operators alert the user after each session the amount that has been charged so that consumers (especially younger children) are aware of the implications of cost due to their actions?
3. How can a bill for a 'student account' run up to over $1,000 without even a warning triggered?
I am now waiting anxiously for my next bill, and I wonder how many parents are in the same predicament as me.
Chai Lee Fung (Ms)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Warrant Officer Gets Retrenched....SAD LETTER...

'Every soldier is precious to us. Every national serviceman, every operationally ready national serviceman, every regular who serves with us is a precious and valuable person.'
- Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean, 2006
"Yes, yes, the govt also increases GST & implement
means testing to help the poor"
-Lucky Tan
I was not treated badly by regulars when I served my NS. Whatever you think of them, they are Singaporeans just like the rest of us.
I find the letter below by WO Hendry Minjoot very sad. Not because he got retrenched after 32 years of service with the SAF and have a family with 2 school going children to feed ....people above 40 getting retrenched in Singapore is now routine. I found the letter sad because Mr. Minjoot actually believed the propaganda he was fed by the organisation he served.
'The SAF is concerned with the well-being of its people and their families, the SAF values its people, looks after them and their families so that they can give wholehearted attention to their assigned duties.' - SAF Management Philosophy.
Technically, his organisation did not lie to him. Since he is retrenched, he is no longer with the SAF so their obligation to him has ended. As I understand he reached 50 yrs of age and the SAF claims that it has difficulty offering "suitable jobs" & there will be long term stagnation. I see the SAF is retrenching him for his own good to prevent him from stagnation 5 years before his retirement age.
A few days ago, our esteemed PAP Minister Lim Boon Heng actually said finding jobs for the elderly is a national priority and here we have the best funded organisation in Singapore retrenching people before their retirement age using a standard excuse that private sector companies use. If SAF doesn't want to keep older workers, why should profit oriented companies in the private sector even bother? A few months ago, PAP MPs & Ministers were in parliament speaking passionately against ageism swearing to go after evil employers who practice ageism....threatening to criminalise ageism.
Singaporeans are lucky to have a govt that constantly reassure them that their future is bright and that the Golden Age is upon us. All of us feel better after listening to their wonderful speeches and fantastic plans for us. We should be happy as we have a caring govt that put our interest above of everything else.
Home > ST Forum > Story
Nov 6, 2007
Warrant officer asked to retire 5 years earlier
I WAS a regular serviceman in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). I served a total of 32 years, comprising full-time national service, reservist and regular service, from 1974-2006.
I was one of more than 200 regular servicemen and women in the Army who were notified in May last year that we would be given Special Early Transition. Some of the reasons cited included difficulty in offering us 'suitable jobs' in the long run, restructuring and possible 'stagnation'. We were given only six months to transit.
Having attained the rank of a warrant officer in 2001, it meant that I was able to serve till the compulsory retirement age (CRA) of 55. I transitted last November after just turning 50, five years short of the CRA.
The Control of Personnel Centre announced that we were not under-performers. I was still PES 'B' and I received my performance bonuses annually without fail. I had also met all other requirements, i.e., Individual Physical Proficiency Tests, Annual Trainfire Programme, Body Mass Index, and Annual Proficiency Knowledge Test.
I also did not have any discipline or medical problems. The latter meant that I was still combat fit and still deployable. There are some who have not conformed to one or more of these requirements and yet are still serving in the organisation.
Till today, I am still somewhat in a state of depression at how the organisation had overlooked all my years of loyal and dedicated service.
The SAF Management Philosophy states:

'The SAF is concerned with the well-being of its people and their families, the SAF values its people, looks after them and their families so that they can give wholehearted attention to their assigned duties.'

The Defence Minister himself said last year:

'Every soldier is precious to us. Every national serviceman, every operationally ready national serviceman, every regular who serves with us is a precious and valuable person.' The organisation failed to honour its word to allow me and many others to serve till the CRA of 55. I have a wife and two young children still attending school.

Second Warrant Officer (Retired) Henry Minjoot

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Art of Subsidized Healthcare....

You won't know what it is like until you get sick or someone close gets sick.

It is so unfair that the PAP govt has to provide subsidized healthcare to Singaporeans. The PAP govt has better use for the money like spending on defense, corporate tax cuts and iconic buildings - subsidising the healthcare of Singaporeans results in a misallocation - treating sick Singaporeans generate no returns for Singapore Inc. However, it is a problem to tell Singaporeans that the grand plan is to reduce subsidy to zero - squeezing sick Singaporeans to pay for as much of their healthcare as possible is not a popular idea given the rising cost of healthcare. Other means have to be used to take away this subsidy from is my story.

Last year an evil rice seller sold me rice with a grain of sand inside. I broke my tooth on the grain of sand and started bleeding. Needing some kind of immediate dental treatment, I called the polyclinic. They told me the earliest appointment possible was weeks away, I had to wait even if my tooth was bleeding. Somehow I remembered that there was this beautiful building near Chinatown emblazoned with the words "National Dental Center". I figuredNATIONAL meant that all Singaporeans could get some kind of subsidized dental treatment there. I got there at 3pm and the place was empty....looked like not many people in Singapore needed dental treatment. When I walked up to the clerk, she asked me where was my "referral letter". No referral letter no subsidized dental treatment....and guess how to get this "referral letter"? I had to get it by seeing the dentist at the polyclinic....Gee my tooth was bleeding and I had a puzzle to solve. Without this letter I was told I would be charged the same rates as private clinics. Since the center was empty, I won't have to wait - I thought I should just get treated and 'get it over with'. A rookie dentist saw me told me I needed to get the tooth extracted after looking at the X-ray. He said sorry 3 times during the extraction as he struggled to pull out my molar. He eventually got it out, I paid the market rate for the treatment....and learned an important truth about subsidized healthcare.

The govt plans to reduce the amount of subsidized healthcare available. This can seen in form of longer queues at polyclinics and the limited capacity allocated to subsidized care. The polyclinic near my home has 2 dentists to take care of the whole estate! For me, it was just a tooth - $70 solved the problem. But what is it like for people with a more serious illness? They are told that they will not be accepted at a public hospital if they want subsidized care but will be treated if they are admitted as private or unsubsidized patients.

You might get all mad about this but becareful you might not be able to get subsidized care for your madness:
Nov 5, 2007

Parents' dilemma over mental patient
MY DAUGHTER has suffered from depression for a number of years. Two weeks ago, we went to see a polyclinic doctor to get a referral to see a psychiatrist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). We were told this was not possible. The reason given by TTSH - it has too many subsidised psychiatric patients - is unacceptable.
My daughter was asked to go back to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for treatment. She has been there for a number of years. Most of the time, as parent and caregiver, I have to ensure she follows up on her treatment. She intensely dislikes travelling the long distance because of lethargy arising from her illness. I have to spend many frustrating hours persuading her to go to IMH but she always resists. It is frustrating to take her there, even by taxi which is costly. Often, the parent has to go to IMH on her behalf. Besides the patient, the caregiver is also under tremendous stress. My daughter prefers to go to a nearer place. Because of the urgency and seriousness of her condition two years ago, I took her to IMH for treatment without referral. Hence, at the moment she is still a full-paying, non-subsidised patient at IMH.
Does it mean TTSH has stopped taking subsidised patients? She will be accepted as a full-paying patient. But she has not been in full employment since she graduated and came down with depression. Only her parents as caregivers can take care of her, but what if we are not around?
The healthy minds campaign is on, but it defeats the purpose as there are sufferers out there besides my daughter.

Catherine Tham Kuen (Mdm)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Do you understand all the CPF rules?

I thought I did. Over the years I've collected a shelve full of little information booklets from the Tampines CPF Office. I have read every line in the booklets like a school kid studying for his exam. I thought I knew everything about the CPF...until I read this Straits Times forum letter....then I realised that I knew next to nothing - those little booklets cannot possibly contain the whole masterpiece ......not even a smal fraction.

If you think you know alot about CPF, read this....
Heirs of late co-tenant lose out under CPF rules

I AM the administrator of my late brother's estate. He had a 97 per cent share in a Tampines maisonette, while the co-tenant, his acquaintance, held the remaining 3 per cent. The resale flat was bought for $432,000 in 1999. My brother used some $69,000 of his CPF money while the co-tenant contributed about $17,000.
After my brother's death, when I inquired about selling the flat, HDB officers told me the proceeds from the sale would be distributed according to share ownership. We subsequently decided to sell the flat and found a buyer in June at a sale price of $380,000.
Only at the final appointment to complete the sale in late September, did I learn that the HDB and CPF Board do not take into account the big amount of CPF funds my brother used to buy the flat when computing his estate's share of the sale proceeds. Because he is dead and has no CPF account, that money is treated as if it did not exist.
To explain, after deducting some $323,000, mainly to pay back the HDB loan, the co-tenant got back all his CPF money plus interest - $21,500 - while the estate got back nothing of my brother's CPF money.
This is contrary to what I was told by HDB officers who said the sale proceeds after HDB loan repayment would be divided according to ownership, that is, 97 per cent and 3 per cent. I was told there would be no need for any refund of CPF money to my brother's account, as he is dead, and proceeds would be returned in cash. At no time was I told by these agencies that, under current procedures, they would act as if only the surviving tenant would get back what he or she had paid out in CPF money.
I have written to the CPF Board, which replied with a reiteration of the present procedure - that on a member's death, the CPF withdrawn towards an HDB flat ceases to be refundable. It did not say why this money cannot be returned to the estate in cash.
I did not know this CPF money is not refunded to the deceased's estate in cash. Thus, his beneficiaries, who may need this money to carry on, lose out.
Take another example of two people who buy an HDB flat 50-50 as co-tenants with each using $100,000 of his CPF money. One dies and the flat is sold. After repayment of the outstanding mortgage, there is a balance of $100,000. This entire amount will go to the surviving tenant as a refund of CPF withdrawn. The beneficiaries of the deceased flat owner will get nothing.

Ann Williams

To better appreciate the above letter, one should have a good understanding of the difference between joint ownership & co-tenancy. Here is a good writeup :

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I think you better get insurance - As much as possible!

How much can a one month stay + treatment +intensive care in a public hospital cost?
$41,000. Note that this is probably subsidised class "C" charges since the father of the patient works as a driver. The full charges is $41,000 x 4 = $164,000. If means testing is in force, which will most probably disqualify families who stay in condos (or five room flats?) earning professional or double incomes from class "C"...bills in the region of $100K will be commonplace. Now I see why PM Lee says means testing is to help the poor....because it cannot possibly help the middle class.
If you have children, the message is very clear.... you are strongly advised to buy insurance and you have to be prepared to pay more premiums as the cost of healthcare goes up. There is little doubt that the govt is moving towards an American style system based on insurance in which there is little motivation for the govt to rein in the cost as everything has to be covered by insurance and govt subsidies withdrawn/reduced. The Americans have a system that generates the highest profits for healthcare companies in the world - see Michael Moore's move SICKO. Our leaders aspires Singapore to be a highly profitable medical hub for the rich in the region why should precious resources be allocated to people who cannot afford to pay when others are willing to pay for it - it amounts to an opportunity cost & misallocation that Singapore Inc cannot afford. The PAP govt is going to right this wrong for Singapore Inc and as good corporate citizens we have to be prepared to fork out more in insurance premiums. Thank goodness our beloved Straits Times is doing an excellent job to remind us to get insurance packages....some of which are sold by our GLCs.

Nov 4, 2007

40 years of his Medisave wiped out in 3 months
Mr Mohammad did not buy insurance for his children and was forced to break the bank when his daughter came down with ovarian cancer
By Nur Dianah Suhaimi
MR MOHAMMAD hopes to get financial aid from SGH to pay his daughter's hospital bill. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
View more photos
DRIVER Mohammad Abdullah had saved over $30,000 in his Medisave account over 40 years - and saw it go in just three months after his daughter got ovarian cancer.
The youngest of his four kids, Siti Aishah, 17, was diagnosed last August and has been in the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) ever since.
Siti Aishah, like the rest of her siblings, has no health insurance and doctors have no idea how long she will have to stay in hospital. Her surgery, chemotherapy and dialysis sessions, blood transfusions, treatments in the intensive care unit and morphine jabs chalked up a $41,000 hospital bill in just the first month.
Government subsidies and her father's Medisave paid most of that bill but chemotherapy, dialysis and morphine are not subsidised and must be paid for in cash. This took about $4,000.
Siti Aishah's final bill is still to come and her father is in a fix. His Medisave is gone, his savings are depleted, his wife - a Malaysian and a housewife - has no CPF or Medisave. His three older children have their own families and financial responsibilities.
He thought they didn't need it
'I don't know how I'm going to pay. This is my fault. It never occurred to me to buy my children health insurance. I didn't think they'd fall seriously ill.' MR MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH, whose daughter Siti Aishah was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.They waited too long

Some basic policies
Mr Mohammad, 58, earns $2,500 a month. 'I don't know how I'm going to pay,' he said. 'This is my fault. It never occurred to me to buy my children health insurance. I didn't think they'd fall seriously ill.' Last week, it was announced that newborns and young children will be automatically insured by MediShield.
Medical social workers applaud this new initiative.
The KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), which cares for most sick children here, sees about 30 families seeking financial help each day, with at least 90 per cent of them admitting that they did not buy insurance for their kids.
KKH's chief medical social worker Sylvia Mun said: 'We see an entire spectrum of people, from the low- to middle-income.'
For low-income families, a three-day ward stay for something as minor as asthma can be a financial disaster.
But middle-income families find themselves in a rut when their children are hit by serious, chronic illnesses, said Mrs Mun, who covered her three children under MediShield as soon as they were born.
Each week, her team will see at least one family saddled with massive hospital bills, ranging in the hundreds of thousands.
'If the family can't qualify for Medifund or other subsidies, we accept instalment payments,' said Mrs Mun.
Families can be paying the hospital bills even long after their child has died.
Siti Aishah's illness shocked her family. Apart from the occasional cough or cold, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) student was never seriously ill.
Then, three months ago, she started having bad headaches for days. Then came unbearable stomachaches. Her stomach became so bloated that she looked seven months pregnant.
For four days, she could barely eat or drink, vomiting often. She was taken to SGH, where she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Doctors immediately removed one of her ovaries and a cancerous tumour in her womb but other complications set in. Her kidneys stopped functioning and there were blood clots in her lungs, causing breathing difficulties.
After being treated twice in the intensive care unit, her condition improved. She has had 20 sessions of chemotherapy and is slowly regaining strength.
Siti Aishah, who is 145cm tall, weighs only 30kg now and has lost almost all of her once-thick locks. She said: 'I know that the past few months have been difficult for my parents. I just want to get well and go home quickly.''
Mr Mohammad hopes to get financial help from SGH. 'If I can't get aid, I might just have to pay by instalments.'
His predicament is all too familiar to another family whose sick child also racked up massive medical bills.
The parents, both teachers, had not insured their two children. The mother, 41, said: 'We were planning to get insurance for the children but always procrastinated.'
Her seven-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was four. The treatment, which included chemotherapy, blood transfusions and steroid shots, lasted eight months, much of it in hospital.
The mother said: 'She was admitted to hospital more than 40 times in the first year. My husband and I were living out of our suitcases.'
The medical bills came up to $60,000, a quarter of which the parents paid for in cash. The rest came from their Medisave accounts.
Because the cancer was detected early, the prognosis was good. The girl recovered quickly and is in remission - and Primary 1.
But the family is taking no chances. The mother said: 'After our daughter's illness, we wasted no time buying health insurance for both our children.'

Some comments by readers on the insurance policies we have been sold:

Latest comments
The impression that an "as charged" plan, together with a deductible & co-insurance rider, will pay off "an entire bill" is an absolute false sense of security.No two plans combined will absolutely cover a hospital bill 100%!Stay alert! Analyse the plan's features and benefits closely.Be prepared to pay the required premium for the highest level of protection.Each "shield" plan has an annual limit of claim.Certain "as charged" plan has pro-ration factors.Pro-ration factor will limit the allowable claim amount.This pro-ration factor usually is included for stays in private hospitals, or stay in a higher class ward.Example, a patient stayed in a A1 ward, in a private hospital. The total bill incurred was $10,000.Within the selected "as charged" plan, there is a pro-ration factor of 65% for private hospital, a deductible amount of $3,000, and a co-insurance component of 10%.The amount of bill to be covered by the "as charged" plan is only $3,150.The rider will cover the deductible $3,000 + co-insurance $350. That's $3,350.There is an outstanding amount of $3,500 to be paid by the patient.Depending on the no. of days stay, this amount might be paid through Medisave (at the point of final billing).
Posted by: paufurhs at Sun Nov 04 10:59:52 SGT 2007
You don't need to. The few private insurer like NTUC income, Aviva provide shield plans that cover your hospital bills on the "as charged" basis, meaning the whole claimable bills will be paid by insurers except the $3K deductible and 10% co-insurance of the balance. Best part is the premium can be paid using your CPF Medisave. On top you can buy a rider using cash to cover both the deductible and co-insurance portion. This can make the shield plan comparable to a private H & S plan costing thousand of dollars which is comprehensive and pay the first dollar. You dun incur a single cent when kena hospital stay and treatment.
Posted by: lee_kum_wah at Sun Nov 04 08:26:44 SGT 2007
As far as I know, there is a cap to how much the insurancewill pay for a single illness of an insured person. Can one take double insurance so that each insurance company can help pay $20000 of the $60000 bill?
Posted by: zxcv0088 at Sun Nov 04 06:12:10 SGT 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Please forgive these British Hooligans!

Sorry I must be the last blogger in Singapore to write about this. I was among the first to view this youtube video but was so shocked I took a few weeks to overcome my shock to write something about it.

Part 2 of the interview (in Mandarin) :

These British tourists are hooligans who shamed their country with their despicable behavior - drunk rude bullies who robbed an old man. Definitely a product of the dysfunctional British education system. When I saw the video I was shocked by how cruel they were to a weak old man who had to labor so hard to make ends meet. I found it difficult to believe human beings can behave this way, they were worse than animals. .......but after thinking about it for a few weeks, I urge everyone to forgive them.....why?

These British tourists coming from a welfare state were probably shocked out of their normal human nature when they saw a 70 year old trishaw rider. Back home in Britain old people are wasting away their time looking after grand children or walking around in Hyde Park. To see such an old person working must have been very amusing to them, they probably never have to see this in their backward society where work ethics is badly eroded. Then when the trishaw start paddling & panting, they could see how difficult it was for him..... we in Singapore have a compassionate society where we force our old folks to take up a strenuous job of ferrying overweight Western tourists around to make ends meet so they can enjoy the dignity of being self sufficient until they are 85 yrs old, that is when they can retire and start collecting their $200 per month annuity. The Brits have a society of hooligans & bums, the way the treat the old in their society is just so despicable, they undermine the dignity & work ethics of the old by giving them sufficient to live on. It is no surprise that highly civilised Singaporean netizens were so outraged they threaten to beat up these hooligans if they ever set foot on Singapore and want our police to arrest them for robbery and send them to jail for ill treating this old man.
Singaporeans have the moral authority to denounce this group of British tourists for ill treating an old men who was working hard for a living. Singaporeans understand why the old have to work for a living ..... something that these young Brits cannot understand. They come from a different backward society that treat the old differently, what was amusing to them looks absolutely cruel to us...seeing an old man having struggling for a living is alien to these British hooligan robbers but completely normal and acceptable for compassionate Singaporeans.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

PM Lee : Now means testing to help the poor....

Remember when PM Lee announced the GST hike, he said it was to help the poor. Nobody could figure how taxing the poor more will help them, like I explained it will help the poor and old contribute to the PAP govt.

Now the govt says that means testing is meant to help the poor. See how caring this govt is, it is always helping the poor. The poor who are now already entitled to class "C" ward will still be getting class "C" ward when means testing is in place so how does means testing help them? Means testing helps the poor by making the middle class pay more for their medical care and denying the middle class subsidies when they are sick. Yes, the govt is again helping the poor by impoverishing the middle class when they are sick. I guess this will help to close the income gap by making the middle income poorer in their time of sicknes and need. So they are helping the poor not by giving them more subsidy but by denying the middle income folks their subsidy.

The cost of medical care is rising much faster than GDP and per capita income growth. Much of it due to the govt initiatives to turn Singapore into a medical hub for the rich in the region - the Indonesian millionaires, Myanmar junta leaders, Saudi oil sheiks etc. PM Lee's own sister explained that the booming private hospital sector has caused doctors to leave the public hospitals - the pay difference is huge and doctors are only human. This causes cost of medical care to spiral up. Singapore served 410,000 foreign patients last year and PM Lee explained that no one not even Myanmar junta leaders is turned away as long as they have money because:

"Somebody who is sick, he wants to come to Singapore, he needs treatment and you're telling me that I shouldn't treat him because he is not a good man? It goes against the Hippocratic oath of doctors"- PM Lee on why Burmese Junta leaders are treated in Singapore.
PM Lee respects the Hippocratic Oath but I'm sure if a penniless Ethiopian cancer patient arrives in Singapore, our medical hub will just route him back to Ethiopia with his cancer.
While allowing the cost of medical care to rise, the govt realised it still needs to subsidise Singaporeans which undermines its motive to make more money as a medical hub. For years they have made Singaporeans purchase more and more insurance to pay for rising medical cost, but still Singaporeans can opt for subsidised class "C" wards at hospitals. The next strategy is to make people wait longer for subsidised treatment. It seems Singaporeans are quite patient when it comes to saving money - they will fire off a few letters to the Straits Times forum but are still willing to wait for subsidized care (dental appointment at polyclinics is now arranged 6-9 months ahead). Means testing is a way to deny subsidies outright. If you can afford a $300K HDB flat, what is the big deal about paying $100K for your medical bill....if you don't have the cash, they will work out an instalment plan for you.
The poor is so lucky in Singapore. The govt has found another way to help them which is to allow them to keep their subsidies. There is no point taking away the subsidies from the poor anyway since they are already having immense difficulty paying for the "subsidized" it makes no difference to the govt whether they keep their subsidies or not. However, the middle income will be quite juicy for the govt to "squeeze"....and squeeze they will, this time in their time of greatest need when they are sick and desperate for treatment.

Singaporeans are so lucky to have such a caring govt that is always thinking of new ways to help the poor.

PM Lee suggests hospitals implement means testing to help the poor
By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 29 October 2007 1926 hrs

PM Lee suggests hospitals implement means testing to help the poor

SINGAPORE : Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has suggested that hospitals implement means testing to help the lower income group. This is to determine how much patients should be subsidised, based on their means. Mr Lee said this is a sensitive issue and the Health Ministry (MOH) will be consulting unions on this. He was addressing over 1,000 unionists at the NTUC Delegates conference on Monday. Good and affordable healthcare has been one important issue facing Singaporeans. While many initiatives are being rolled out to address this, PM Lee told unionists that subsidies will still be needed to help the lower income. To ensure that subsidies are given only to those who need them most, hospitals may need to implement means testing. PM Lee said: "It's not easy to do; it's a very sensitive (issue) and the Ministry of Health is studying this carefully. The idea is there, but how do we implement it fairly and simply without making hospital care unaffordable for the middle income group. "Once MOH has some firmer ideas, (Health Minister) Khaw Boon Wan and his team will consult the unions on what to do and how to go about doing this." Mr Lee assured the labour movement that the government will always keep in close touch with the unions on all major issues. Going forward, he said the government must now make sure that workers benefit from the growth and vitality of the economy. But the government cannot assume this would come about automatically. And in some cases, some special attention or action would be required. Special attention to the economy has helped it grow 7.6 percent in the first half of the year, according to Mr Lee. For the whole year, growth could possibly hit the top end of the government's forecast of 7-8 percent. But the current turbulence in global financial markets remains a risk factor. Turning to the booming property market in Singapore, both in the prime office space and residential segments, Mr Lee noted that the Urban Redevelopment Authority has withdrawn the Deferred Payment Scheme for property purchases last Friday. "This step will help to dampen excessive speculation and to inject some reality into the market. But more fundamental than the ups and downs of the property cycle, the government is committed to keeping housing affordable for Singaporeans," said the Prime Minister. Mr Lee assured them that the government will continue to monitor trends closely and take further action if necessary. The aim is to make sure that the property market stays in balance over the long term. Mr Lee also stressed that Singapore is successful only after difficult adjustments over the years. He said: "Because we have taken these steps, each one difficult but each one necessary, we have moved forward together. We have stayed competitive, stayed ahead of other countries, our neighbours and we have prospered. "Why have we been able to make these changes? It's not that other countries don't know they are necessary, but we have moved one step faster than others. And one major reason we have been able to do this is because of the strong support of the labour movement." With the government, workers and employers working together as a winning formula, Mr Lee stressed that Singapore must keep on adjusting and adapting in order to stay ahead. - CNA /ls