Tuesday, April 11, 2006

We are Citizens, NOT just consumers.

New PAP candidate Miss Jessica Tan used the analogy of the cutthroat world of business to make her point on the weak Opposition and the accusation that they are hamstrung by the fact that Town Councils in its wards had lesser grants: "Our objective is to win and serve the needs of our customers. If our competition is unable to catch up with us, I'm not going to apologise for that. I don't think the party needs to make apologies for the fact that the Opposition is weak."

Well, although PAP need not make apologies for the weakness of the opposition parties, it cannot be said the same for giving the opposition wards’ Town Councils lesser grants.

The reasons are simple.

Firstly, we are Citizens, NOT just consumers. We, Citizens, have our rights and obligations. It is not as if people in opposition wards had a choice of paying taxes or serving NS. Since our fellow Citizens in the opposition wards has fulfilled their obligations by paying their taxes, serving their NS and etc., why should they be discriminated in this way?

Secondly, even in the business world there are anti-trust laws to keep the big companies in check. Why shouldn’t this be the same for politics?

We should always have enough safeguards to prevent the giant political party from crowding out its competitors through anti-competitive methods. I am sure, as a general manager with Microsoft Operations, Miss Tan knows what I mean.

Lastly we, as Citizens, wanted to see a competition of ability between each of the political parties. By denying the Opposition ward’s Town Councils the same level of funding that the PAP wards Town Councils received, it is skewed the competition in PAP’s favour and thus giving it an unfair advantage. One might even called it unethical since the fund for the Town Councils also comes from the taxpayers.

If PAP really has better candidates, the performance of its Town Councils should surpass the opposition wards even with the same level of funding. But as Workers’ Party chief Mr Low Thia Khiang had said: "The current situation now is not like comparing which candidate is more capable but whose father is richer."

Friday, March 31, 2006
New to the fray but up for the fight
No 'armchair critics', PAP's three new candidates are here to stand up and be counted

Loh Chee Kong

A FORMER model, a lawyer and a high-flying businesswoman got together yesterday to talk politics.

Described as "typical Singaporeans" of the post-independence generation, they spoke on issues that have engaged others of their vintage: Does Singapore need an Opposition? Are Opposition parties here inherently disadvantaged? Should younger People's Action Party (PAP) candidates be allowed to breeze into Parliament so easily, sometimes without even a contest?

Broadly speaking, their answers to these questions were: "Not just for the sake of it", "Not really" and "Why not?" — though sometimes they had different points of view. And the three young Singaporeans — the latest batch of PAP candidates to be trotted out — had no hesitation in sharing their perspectives.

So, should the talk of a clean sweep by the ruling party worry younger voters?

"Do you want an Opposition just for the sake of Opposition? Or do you want an Opposition because you feel that many or some things are not right? If something's not right, then don't be an armchair critic. Do something about it," said Mr Michael Palmer, 37, a lawyer with Harry Elias.

Added his colleague Teo Ser Luck, also 37 and a one-time model who is now a general manager with DHL Express: "You cast your vote for your future and who can take better care of this country."

The third new candidate, Ms Jessica Tan, 39, said it would be good to have political debate and differing views. But stability was equally important, according to the general manager with Microsoft Operations.

But wasn't the Opposition weak and hamstrung by the fact that Town Councils in its wards had lesser grants?

Ms Tan used the analogy of the cutthroat world of business to make her point: "Our objective is to win and serve the needs of our customers. If our competition is unable to catch up with us, I'm not going to apologise for that. I don't think the party needs to make apologies for the fact that the Opposition is weak."

Lawyer Palmer likened the election process to two parties arguing their case in court. "Ultimately, who wins and who loses — the judge decides. In politics, it's the same. It's the people who decide. So, I can't see why they say there's no level playing field."

Mr Teo responded more specifically to the issue of lower grants for Opposition wards. People vote not just for candidates but also for the parties they represent, he said.

"They need to be well-informed on whether the person and the party will be able to deliver what is promised," he said. "Voters have increasing demands. Who is the one who can meet their demands? Not everyone can — you have to decide."

Another point on which all three candidates agreed was that a contest would be good. "But if there's no contest then I'll still go ahead and do the job," said Ms Tan. "At the end of the day, it's not just about the contest but being able to represent the residents and do the work, although a contest would give clearer mandate."

Even so, what of the impression that rookie PAP candidates breezing into Parliament, either through walkovers or by hanging onto the coattails of Ministers?

Mr Palmer spelt out his feelings on this. "First of all, I'm actually looking forward to a contest. I would be disappointed if there wasn't one," he said.

But he dismissed the notion of hitching a free ride. "I don't think you can say any of us will be riding on the coattails of Ministers because we will have our own divisions within the GRCs to deal with. We have our own work cut out for us. You can't just let the Minister do the walkabouts and meet-the-people sessions while you just sit back."

In the end, there appeared to be just one issue on which the candidates did not see eye to eye: Party political films.

Mr Teo Ser Luck felt films with "certain political agendas which will better the lives of the people" should be allowed, while the other two candidates disagreed.

It was left to Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean, who introduced the three candidates, to have the final word: "Politics is a serious process of understanding issues, of making important decisions on issues affecting our future," he said. "Politics as an art form — as entertainment — would deflect from that."

Thursday, March 30, 2006
Compare apples with apples: WP's Low

IF my rival can do it, then so can I, indicated Opposition MP Low Thia Khiang in response to reports that PAP's Eric Low had promised to help Hougang residents privatise their HUDC estates.

He said that if his constituents wanted their estates privatised, he would certainly fight for it as hard as Mr Eric Low had.

"Is he saying the Opposition MP can't fight for it in Parliament or is less effective in fighting for certain rights or interests? I think we are equally effective," said the Workers' Party (WP) chief.

Speaking to reporters after his meet-the-people session last night, Mr Low also touched on the issue of upgrading which, he acknowledged, could be important for residents.

"But when it came to improving amenities, MPs should be given similar resources, he said. "The current situation now is not like comparing which candidate is more capable but whose father is richer," said Mr Low.

"If the Government gives me the same amount of resources as the other PAP wards, I'm very sure that if I can't do a better job than PAP MPs, at the very least, I can do an equal job."

Mr Low also leapt into the lift upgrading debate started by Potong Pasir MP Chiam See Tong, who said his Town Council's proposal to stop lifts at every floor had been rejected two years back.

The HDB then stated that the previous Town Council Act had prohibited the use of residential sinking funds to upgrade the lifts to stop at every floor. The act was amended last year.

Mr Low claimed that his Town Council had a lift upgrading programme approved by the HDB six years ago, though he clarified that the money had come from the Town Council's surplus funds.

But one year after that, another application to carry out similar works also using surplus funds had been rejected, he said. The HDB said it was looking into Mr Low's remarks, made late in the day.


At 2:43 PM, April 12, 2006, Anonymous Thinky said...

Hi... Do you think next time you can highlight your comment or differentiate it against the actual report that you gathered. It will be easier for readers like me to directly read up on ur comments.

Thanks and I m enjoying reading your blog

At 3:34 PM, April 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tats exactly what they're doing. they rope in the high flying scholar-types in the commercial sector like banks, MNCs, law firms, investments, CEOs, CFOs, COOs, wadafark Os and bring them straight into politics, and they go about executing their new political role (if any) in the same manner they go about operating a profit-oriented company.

And you wonder why costs to us keep going up across the board, even for essential services like water, electricity, housing, public transport and medical.

Single minded objective - Profit.

Of course, we're constantly reminded that housing is HEAVILY SUBSIDISED, medical is HEAVILY SUBSIDISED, public transport is HEAVILY SUBSIDISED, and that the government is bearing the bulk of the costs. Citizens of Country XYZ are in fact paying X% more than what we're paying, so we must be thankful for paying more. Or less. Or what we were made to believe.

At 6:56 AM, April 13, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

Hi Thinky:

Errr... I tot I had seperated the actual news article from my comments already?

Perhaps u can be more specific abt what format you would prefer?

Can gimme a sample via of a reorganised piece?

At 11:03 AM, April 13, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

Hi anon 3:34 PM, April 12, 2006:

I don't think making profits is bad thing. Bcos profits can be made in essentially 2 ways.

The 1st way or bad way is thru increasing price. This is especially true when there isn't much REAL competition in the mkt. Eg like HDB, SMRT, bus companies etc.

The 2nd way or the good way is through improving efficiency and cutting down wastage. Thus profit motive can give great boost to productivity and even lowering the prices, which is good. Eg is telecommunication industry.

However for to the 2nd way to work there must be REAL competition and/or price capping. Information must also be freely and easily available to the consumers, ie perfect or at least near perfect information.

Sadly, we do not have what are required. So to me, what is needed is not to get get rid of profit but rather we should strive make the environment conducive to the 2nd way of making profits instead of the 1st way.

At 12:22 PM, April 13, 2006, Anonymous Thinky said...

Hi.... Probably you can use different font color for your comments, I think that will be better... Cheers

At 2:25 PM, April 13, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

Hi thinky:

ok will try to do that in the future.

Anyway thanks for reading my stuff. Hope to see u comment more often.

At 6:21 PM, April 13, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AT82: That's exactly what I meant. Absolutely control, absolute monopoly, absolute power.

I remember some years bk when the NE line just went into operation and takeup rate was low. To boost traffic, several key bus routes were cancelled to "encourage" usage. Of course, the reason given were there were duplicates in routes, this will cut costs etc etc. Residents have no choice but to take the NE line.

Some private transport companies saw this opportunity and applied to operate bus routes along these areas. I've not heard of a single successful transport operator.

Say, if SMRT fares goes up to $8.90 for a trip from Woodlands to City Hall, and trust me there'll be very good and valid reasons to convince us of that, and that $8.90 is actually a heavily subsidised rate, what options do we have?

Of course, since we live in a truly democratic society, we certainly have the option to exercise our right to choose. We can choose to pay the $8.90, take a slow walk from Woodlands to City Hall, buy a bicycle, car pool, take a bus, or heck, not go to Orchard altogether.

It a truly competitive market environment, operators have to find creative means and ways to cut costs to remain profitable. In a single-operator environment, there's absolutely no necessity to. Just pass on the costs to consumers. And we're talking about essential services here.

At 1:33 AM, April 14, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

Hi anon 6:21 PM, April 13, 2006:

Sorry, for ur info our public transport is not subsidised.

They operated on the basis that what they earned must be able to cover their operating costs, which i think is a sound basis.

But the problem is we have public tpt operation raising prices when they are having record profits!

In a monopolistic environment like ours, the freedom to raise prices undermined the need to increase efficiency.

At 5:01 AM, April 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AT82: I'm just using that as an example.

Why would a sole player in a monopolistic environment care about operational efficiency, reduce redundancy, or cut the flab? Its not like there's another player fighting for a share on the market. Its all about record profits. Operational costs going up? Just pass the costs to the users. Its not like they have a choice anyway. Make'em swallow it.

What 'bout medical, healthcare, housing? What about the incident where one reader pointed out that a PRIVATE, PROFIT-ORIENTED healthcare company is offering dialysis services for kidney patients at a rate lower than the NOT-FOR-PROFIT NKF? They simply brushed it off as a non-event.

We're getting to the same point here. W/o checks and balance, and w/o competition whatsoever, the incumbent are truly free. And when the truth of the NKF surfaced, everyone went, "I don't know. We were mislead too. Everything's good on hindsight. Nobody's really accountable. Its (another) honest mistake. Let's move on."

At 4:11 PM, April 16, 2006, Blogger at82 said...

Hi Anon 5:01 AM, April 16, 2006:

Since check and balance is impt to u, then u gt the chance to do something abt it soon. ;)

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