Tuesday, September 18, 2012

National Conversation - Need to break out of old ideas....

Hi. I haven't written anything for a while because I'm busy clearing as much work as possible so that I can consume my leave at the end of the year. It is strange how companies give you more leave as you become more senior but also more responsibility at the same time - you're older and less able to work longer hours but the expectation is you get everything done anyway. Last few years it wasn't uncommon for people in my company especially the more senior ones to come back on days they took leave to get work done. Work life balance is a great idea but the practically difficult in a competitive society.

I have kept up with what is discussed in our National Conversation...and find that it is the same old things said for the 10th time. Still, I appreciate the proactive effort of Minister Heng Swee Keat to eliminate the banding in secondary schools - something I wrote about and suggested doing in my blog. Things that we can readily do -lets get it out of the way. The rest of the National Conversation, I find rather boxed in by stale ideas, narrow vision and the tendency to cling to the status quo.

Here is a segment, I will use as an example:

[Video clip of National Conversation]

In the video clip, Douglas Foo a highly successful local entrepreneur described his difficulty getting dishwashers. This part of video has caused a firestorm on the Internet because the job description given by Mr.Foo ($3K per month, 9 hours per week, machine automated) was not accurate and he is now accused of opportunistically lobbying for his own interest. The camera then turns to Josephine Teo who is the Minister of State for Finance & Transport. She appeared to have doubts and didn't know what to make of Douglas' claim. A quick look at our employment data will tell you what Douglas said can't be right because more than 100,000 workers in Singapore make less than $1000 a month[Link] and most of the 50,000 Singapore cleaners make less than $1000 a month - but the minister didn't catch him by throat for what he said. MP Sitoh then launched into a discussion about how productivity can make us less dependent on foreign workers.  Productivity gains typically is about 2-3% a year in countries where there is no cheap imported labor and business have to compete by making better use of the limited pool of workers. Even if we can get productivity gains up to the level of other countries i.e.2-3%, we will only make a small dent on the dependence on foreign workers. If wages are linked to productivity gains of 2-3% we will also see little improvement for the low wage earners in the working class. So that particular round conversing produced no new ideas, some misinformation on the part of Douglas Foo and PAP MPs & ministers telling us to stick to status quo.

This topic has been discussed much deeper by economists, netizens and opposition members for a number of years. The problem is we have a 3rd world wage structure. The wages on top linked to profits and wages at the bottom depressed by imported labor. This is how we end up with this polarising income gap. Multi-millionaire Douglas' problem of hiring dishwashers is secondary to this problem. Douglas has difficulty getting his dishes washed but hundreds of thousands of Singaporeans find it hard to make ends meet. Surely dishes get washed in Finland, Switzerland and Australia where imported labor is not so readily available. The broader question we should ask ourselves is whether it is worthwhile to have businesses that don't generate good quality jobs for Singaporeans, dependent on foreign labor to compete and survive to be located here. We have finite resources in terms of land, housing and transport, we do a lot better if we host businesses that makes the best use of our precious human resource and pay good wages. Giving our businesses access to cheap foreign labor is a race to the bottom - it is a wealth transfer from those who have to compete with foreign labor to business owners. It will not result in shared prosperity and has led to Singapore having the biggest income gap among developed countries with 400,000 workers who make so little working they need Workfare to stay afloat.

The question now is how far the PAP govt is willing to go to fix these problems. Minimum wages? Shock therapy? They have kept the current model for economic growth going for far too long and there are only hard choices left. Doing too little will only guarantee rising dissatisfaction and anger. We just need to see what the income gap has done to the Hong Kong society to understand this. There is a widespread distrust of leadership and it doesn't matter who they put on top and what he does. They implemented minimum wages successfully this year but the income gap is so wide even such major changes are not  sufficient to address the issue. Corrective action in Singapore should have been made 6 years ago or even earlier. Now business have become dependent on foreign labor and major change will affect them and incremental changes will not solve the problem. Ultimately, we must understand that prosperity in our society is shared by workers getting good first world wages for the job they perform....and that is the way to grow the middle class and reduce poverty in our society. ...that is what a first world economy has to strive to achieve otherwise what is the whole point of being a first world country - people will stop supporting a system fails to achieve this.


Anonymous said...

Love reading your articles. Agree with your logic and believe that minimum wage will be the first step to closing the income gap.

I think redistribution of wealth in Singapore is worse than any other country after we remove estate duty. There is no need to increase any other taxes to increase social spending on the poor. All we need to do is to bring back estate duty but this time make it simple nd straight forward eg estate tax exemption for residential (own stay) up to $10 million and other assets up to $1 million. Anything above that subject to estate duty of 25%.

Anonymous said...

No constructive change will come as long as the PAP holds two-third majority in parliament. hard truth.

Anonymous said...

PAP can't reinvent itself as said by Catherine Lim.

It is true. They remain arrogant and inward looking. The sooner the 60.1% realise this the better.As of now we are already 10-15 years behind.

Anonymous said...

It is clear that PAP is now in deep shit,there are some signs that they have started to think about it,but too slow and too little,not signs that shows great leadership.

Anonymous said...

This National Conversation is not a sincere and serious exercise. As if they don't know what people's concerns are? They should already know what to do if they want to. Just too much effort and 'pain' for the businesses and the rich. A feeble attempt to salvage the lost of credibility of the ruling party. People got to kick more sense into them by hitting where it hurt most. 4 years seemed like a long wait, but it will just be the beginning. Our generation is still got to suffer the ills done. Hope the next generation will not.

Anonymous said...

You need to have some opposition in this type of forums to kill off opportunist and ball-carrying suckers like Douglas Foo. In the ST, the ang moh ceo now claim tnat the dishwashers' job specification is very demanding requiring 12 hours workday, six days per week etc when more than 300 people make inquiries. Who is Douglas Foo trying to bluff?? What else is in his can of worms?

Anonymous said...

Another talk cock piece

Anonymous said...

"...Singapore having the biggest income gap among developed countries with 400,000 workers who make so little working they need Workfare to stay afloat."
Lucky Tan

In GE 2011, there were 2 million eligible voters. Assuming all 400,000 workers voted opposition, that is 20% of the total votes only what!

And PAP got 60% votes and 93% seats, which is much more than enough for a 2/3 majority in Parliament.

So still got lots of buffer before PAP can even lose its 2/3 majority, not to say lose power.

Anonymous said...

That's why the biggest income gap is not really a concern so therefore everything - blogging, conversation, $3000 dishwashers and what not can still wayang.

Anonymous said...

2 nights ago, I was returning home and there were a group of people at the lift lobby. As the people got in, there was one middle-aged Singaporean man behind me. He told me off to move into the lift. This is as eeryone was trying to get in front of me.

Long story short, he lambasted at me as he continued the journey up. All manner of vulgarities came out.

Then he tailed my wife and I to our floor and popped in and exclaimed: "So here is where you live?!"

Needless to say, I know what was going through his head. He assumed that I was an Indian national because I am a somewhat fair-skinned Indian and I have an accent; even though I grew up here and am a true blue local Singaporean.

I told him off immediately that I am a Singaporean and not a fucking Indian national or PRC.

The moment he realised this after checking with me numerous times, he apologised profusely. He asserted that he had bad experiences with PRCs and Indian nationals. I told him I had bad experiences with all of them.

2 things hit me. National Conversation is an exercise in public relations.

I was mistaken as an Indian national even though I am a Singaporean. And I was badly treated.

The chinese Singaporean man was rude but he has his reasons.

My family and I have decided to leave Singapore. We don't want our children to go through this. It's enough that we have to go through it.

Ghost said...

What Douglas Foo said was crap and the fact that a government Minister didn't know that it was crap worries me profusely. Seriously, simple logic would tell you there's something wrong with the job description given by him.

Anonymous said...

The median wage in Singapore is $2700 per month in 2011.

Which means roughly 50% of voters earn at least $2700 per month.

Assuming all 50% of these voters voted PAP.

And since PAP got 60% votes, it means that at least 10% out of 60% who voted PAP earn less than $2700 per month.

Or at least 16% (10/60 X 100) of those who voted PAP earn less than $2700 per month.

So the support for PAP is not really bad what, considering that life can be hard for those earning less than $2700 per month and HDB flats can now even cost $1 million.

Anonymous said...

Median wage also includes many PRs, and PRs can't vote.

And many PRs are working in the lower paying jobs.

So the Singaporeans (voters) who are earning more than the median wage of $2700 per month could be more than 50%, maybe even 60%.

Don't forget, even primary school teachers and army captains can earn up to $9000 per month, you know.

So you can imagine the large number of Singaporeans, especially civil servants, earning good salaries. Who do you think they will vote?

Anonymous said...

"...400,000 workers who make so little working they need Workfare to stay afloat."
Lucky Tan

But there may be a million or more workers earning more than the median wage of $2700 per month.

So what is 400000 vs 1 million?

You have to see the big overall picture.

Anonymous said...

"Thus, Singaporeans, who in the best of times, are the most stupid people on earth,
bred and made that way for easier control and management, discouraged from criticising the govt and therefore all critical thinking, believed in certain fallacies:

"I came, I saw, I solved it_ Stupidest govt of all time"

(I came, I saw, I solved it_ ICONOCLASSING Pt 2)


(Jaundiced Lenses A Letter to Tony Blair)

(Singapore Rebel Speak truth unto power Lee's Betrayal of PAP and Singapore Devan Nair)

(Disinformation, Propaganda, Paid Trolls, and Control of Information)

(Singapore's People's Association — Central Intelligence Agency)

Dignity and the Wealth of Nations - NYTimes.com

Joshua Chiang

Anonymous said...

In other countries, trouble only starts when majority are poor and unhappy. Their govts, being not as capable as the PAP govt, allow this to happen. Or maybe their countries and population are much larger, so even if their govt are capable, is also much more difficult to manage than if it is just only 5 million people.

It is much easier to make 60% of 5 million happy than 60% of 100 million happy, right?

That's why I believe Singapore will continue to be prosperous and stable despite the wide income gap.

Of course if I were the PAP govt, I will still have to pretend and wayang a bit lah, even conversation or not, I will still win.

Anonymous said...

One thing most distracting of govt people having conversation with lesser mortals is the cock hair they keep spitting out of their mouths when talking. Can you please stop the despicable habit?

Anonymous said...

Is it fair to blame a government consisting of less than a 100 parliamentarians for all the policies and developments in the Country?

There are 3 millions Singaporeans, they cannot be robots controlled remotely by 80 over others, or are they?

Anonymous said...

That is why I say......these few good men buay jai see..a few generals controlling millions of foot soldiers who could easily shred then into strands of pubic hair

UFO said...

this conversation showcased how detached from the ground our MPs are. they just merely took the words of businessmen (who are in general cunning and inhuman) for granted and think they are gospel truth. businessmen are out there to make a mockery of PAP regime.

Anonymous said...

In countries such as Australia and UK where cheap foreign labour is not available, the forces of supply and demand dictate the salary structure of workers (inclusive of minimum wage laws). For example, plumbing and mining are two of the professionals that most young Aussies shun and hence, people in these professions command a high salary - higher when one considers these professions as not of the higher professional grade (e.g., CEOs).

This reflects the truth of the matter - if the supply for workers of a specific skillset is limited, employers will be forced to increase wage to attract these people.

In Singapore, the access to cheap foreign labour has circumvented this process, leading to perpetual wage capping for low skilled or semi skilled workers in a society where, paradoxically, costs of living in Singapore is rising.

In short, PAP's short-sighted and flawed logic made possible by a dictatorship form of governance that did not have checks and balance.

Lye Khuen Way said...

Great to have Lucky back.

As he pointed out the Great National Conversation has so far scored one hit. That of doing away with the school banding.

As for that SS incident, with Minister/MP lost when the biggest BS was right in front of them, we can rightly conclude that nothing substantial can be expected as far as this National Talkshow is concerned.

Anonymous said...

Our National conversation remind me of the queue one afternoon at Bedok,UOB bank.
There were 8 people in the queue and the Priviledged Banking line was empty.Along came a loud mouthed lady in shorts,with tattoo muttering loudly,"Eh ,why UOB service so lousy ,queue so long ? ".
Reluctantly she joined the back of the queue.Five minutes later,dissatisfied,she walk to the front of the queue and loudly shouted ..."Eh,I am in a hurry and I cannot wait for your lousy service or something to that effect.The inexperienced staff were cowed and immediately served this uncouth ,unreasonable women (Singaporean) at the expense of those law abiding customer in the queue.

Two pertinent observation from this incident.

1) if you are rich,you will be using the priviledge queue and such uncouth or unfair situation will not affect you whatsoever.In Singapore, it is good to be rich.

2)I fear that the National Conversation degenerate to loud noise.Make a lot of noise and you will get heard and served.Like,I pay 3k for dish washer ,and I still cannot get enough applicant.Complain,threaten and shout like this uncouth lady and probably you will get heard and served.

Is this what we want to encourage in a National Conversation ? Please spare some thoughts for those in the queue,law abiding and keeping quiet and contented with our current government,thankful for what they have achieved.Are these contented folks going to be penalise ?

Anonymous said...

why do so many commenters presume that if you earn a low salary you will vote agst the PAP?

i kno o many low-wage earners who voted got the party. Mostly it is fear that their lot will get worse, or that the govt will punish them in some way. Another reason is that they actually believe the fears put into them by the PAP, and the PAP's claim that they have better people. These guys are dazzled by degrees. So they believe that the opposition is poor quality.

Few people really really think in Spore. Neither do they question. This is a very accepting nation. So they buy into PAP's twisted logic and reasons.

Anonymous said...

"Eh,I am in a hurry and I cannot wait for your lousy service or something to that effect.The inexperienced staff were cowed and immediately served this uncouth ,unreasonable women (Singaporean) at the expense of those law abiding customer in the queue."

What rubbish are you shitting here? You try to do that at any government bodies, you will be told to go fly kite.
The elite system is designed to serve elite and they have fear in fixing CPCB people! There is no place for loud mouth lowly educated peasant in Sin society.
For the lesser mortals, you better learn to kow tow to your rich masters if you want to feed on crumbs.
You, are a willing ass sucker and boot licker. I have more respect for pimps than for people like you who go to school, get a decent job, marry and have kids and then wait for your kids to bury you six feet under.

People like you perpetuate the elitist system and are the true murderers of the poor and weak in society and the rapers of innocent folks.

Go to hell!

Anonymous said...

The elite system is designed to serve elite and they have NOOOOOO fear in fixing CPCB people!

Anonymous said...

Fuck SINKIES, they are a stupid lot.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Lucky.

Look at the Panda at the zoo.
Look at the dogs and cats kept by the wealthy peoples in Singapore.
See the nice treatments given to these animals.

When Singaporeans ask pitifully for modest increase in salary, Singapore wealthy bosses scold Singaporeans harshly to the extent of replacing the Singaporeans by cheap foreigners. In this way, the cost saving in term of significantly lower wage paid to cheap foreigners can be partially used to provide better living condition and better foods for the animals kept by the Singapore wealthy bosses.

This is harsh but this is the hard truth of today Singapore where animals live more comfortably and treated better than the middle and poor Singaporeans.

How come our society had become like this?
Why are the middle and poor Singaporeans treated in this terrible and horrible way?

Well, we have to ask the PAP and hope that the PAP may provide the solution in the national conversation
for this is the kind of society PAP has created for middle and poor Singaporeans and as such, PAP should be responsible enough to solve the problem.

Hope is still after all hope. We should not have too much hope as PAP may not have the courage to make the necessary changes and whatever that is happening in the national conversation is just some kind of performance played by PAP's self-made "stage show".

Having said all these, how I wish to live like an animal in the house of Singapore wealthy bosses.

Anonymous said...

How come our society had become like this?
Why are the middle and poor Singaporeans treated in this terrible and horrible way?

Because we stupid and got no balls.
We keep supporting their policies because we keep voting Pro Alien Party.

Anonymous said...

Told you so...your people born stupid despite amassing so many toilet papers.

Anonymous said...

Every election I will just vote against the PAP, even if the other party is a monkey. Unfortunately I don't think I can contribute anything else to this country. The "National CONversation" is a joke and not representative of what S'poreans feel. Just go to a coffee shop and you have a more meaningful Conversation than what is broadcasted on TV.

Do I think this country can change? I think so, only if the PAP is voted out.

Anonymous said...

People should go read Kenneth Jayaretnam's article's about our reserves and CPF. Do many knwo the the IMF has reduced our reserves after some questions were raised by Kenneth and Christopher. I want to get back my money as soon as possible (even if it means giving up citizenship) and get the shit out of here before the CPF wihdrawel age becomes freaking 89 and minimum sum becomes $500,0000. Wake up and start asking questions

Anonymous said...

You're not alone, my friend. I'm also planning for the get-out day.

Anonymous said...

National Conversation? Dear Mr. Tan, we don't have to look so far. The minister of education is visiting our school and the principal pre-selects who the audience will be to engage with the minister. Experienced English and Social Studies teachers who speak well and are critical of certain systems in place are left out of the conversation.

If a principal can do that, what more the PM?

Everyone is playing a game here. And nothing will change.

In 2002, after the Remaking Singapore committee was set up, has anything changed for the better? In fact, things got worse.

10 years on, we now have a new packaging: National Conversation.

It's singing a new tune to an old song. And many Singaporeans are going to buy into it.

When they made the Remaking Singapore committee in 2002, they were literal about it. They really remade Singapore with all the PRs and foreigners.

Now, this National Conversation is about regrouping and reannointing the NEW SINGAPORE normal with all the new family members.

There are a lot of angry singaporeans on the streets. Singaporeans are becoming xenophobic. i've witnessed a lot of frustration lashed out online and offline.

Opening the floodgates to grow the economy is a cop-out and it is unsustainable. For how long are we going to seriously tread on this model of economic growth? We're an island; we can't keep inflating ourselves.

I think PAP has lost it. They're in it for themselves now. And all they do these days, is to manage the perceptions of the people of SIngapore.

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans are waiting for the Rulers to have political will to change.

Singaporeans are waiting for Rulers to break out of old ideas.

Singaporeans are waiting to strike first prize in Toto, Big Sweep, $D and chap ji kee. And the superstitious are waiting for heaven.

So all wait and wait, so wait long long and chze chze terk theng.

Anonymous said...

They are all FM 90.5. Hear only the good stuff. Scolding them is too hard on their egos. They want you to stroke their egos for all the sins they have committed and for the hypocrite they are. But will you? No, you instead gently use their language tone to reprove them hoping for change. Are they listening to your succinct persuasive elegant use of language?


Only by removing them and changing the game board will change things. That won't happen when you talk like them - properly or in ... proper order.

Because the law will be invoked by hypocrites to keep the order, isn't it, you fools?

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that Douglas Foo still requires dish washers to manually wash the dishes. Why not look into using machines to do the job? Your productivity increases and have less of a need to employ labour to do the job. These labor wont be working as dish washers but maybe get help to improve their skill sets thru WDA to work on something else. Something that can pay them more. Just two cents worth....

Any here business are complaining not able to get workers when they arent even looking at how to improve their productivity.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how the muslims eventually brought down their dictators? Properly I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Yah, the Muslims are very law abiding. That's why so much peace in the middle east.

Last I heard, their dictators are still ruling over them peacefully and prosperously.

They are so lucky like Mr Lucky Tan

Anonymous said...

Fear the law :)

Especially religious laws :)

ah lian said...

Wah, it's quite a pain to hear Josephine Teo speak in Mandarin. Hmm... actually, to hear her speak. Full stop.

Lucky, is there another video link to the next part of the wayang?

[It ended just when Josephine Teo asked Heng Chee How whether he thinks wages have risen overall, I want to see how he siam the obvious... And looked like they'll be talking about tripartism. I also want to know how they're selling this piece of koyok now.]

Thx v much. :)

Anonymous said...

Real stupid man. At the end, quiet.Shhhh...

Anonymous said...

You gain your life, you lose. You lose your life, you gain. That's the deal.

Anonymous said...

I will be responding to this round of national conversation in a simple way... I will be boycotting SS.

Anonymous said...

We do not want foreigners in Singapore. But are we going to give up the following?
1. Domestic maids
2. Hawker Centers
3. Coffee Shops

If we give up on these we will greatly reduce our need for foreign and cheap labour.

Anonymous said...

Kick the over paid fuckers out. That's the only way