Monday, January 23, 2006

So, I am daft~

ST: Are you concerned that Singaporeans will be swayed by the Workers' Party's ideas in their manifesto?

PM: No, I'm quite sure Singaporeans are not daft. They're sensible, they understand, they have seen what works. They're not going to believe this. But some people in the Workers' Party believe this. So I think the matter has to be examined. ...

ST, Jan 23, 2006, 'S'poreans not daft, they know what works'

Man... After spending hours on writing the article on the "4 time bombs" talked about by Dr Ng, I am being told that I am a "daft" Singaporean. Ouch, it hurts...

Is there a potential "time bomb" being perpetuated in our current system?

Jan 22, 2006
GRCs, housing ethnic quotas must stay

WP manifesto shows a failure to understand what makes inter-racialism work here, says Khaw

HEALTH Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday criticised the Workers' Party for wanting to do away with group representation constituencies (GRCs) and the ethnic quota for buying HDB flats.

Both policies, he said, were instrumental in maintaining racial harmony here.

Answering a question about racism at the Annual Conference of Feedback Groups, he said he was 'aghast' after reading the Workers' Party manifesto.

'It shows a failure to understand what makes inter-racialism work in Singapore and why we are different from the rest of the world,' he said.

In its 52-page manifesto released last week, the opposition party listed a raft of proposals on policy areas from public housing to defence.

It also called for constituencies to be based on geographical areas instead of GRCs and wanted to scrap the current ethnic restrictions on housing - arguing that they were not needed as Singapore had already attained 'a level of multi-racial integration'.

GRCs - electoral groups of at least three MPs, which must include at least one member of a minority race - were first started in 1988 to maintain a multi-racial representation in Parliament.

The housing ethnic quota tries to ensure a more even spread of races in public estates, by restricting the proportion of flats that can be owned by different races in a neighbourhood or block.

For example, Chinese residents can own no more than 84 per cent of units in a neighbourhood and Malays 22 per cent.

Mr Khaw said the racial harmony Singapore now enjoys is 'not accidental', but the result of '40 years of serious policies put in place'.

Why else, he asked rhetorically, would Singapore change its Constitution to create GRCs, but to ensure non-Chinese will be represented in Parliament? Why else would Singapore form IRCCs (inter-racial confidence circles) after Sept 11?

As for housing ethnic quotas, Mr Khaw said he knew they were unpopular but stressed that they were here to stay.

'For us as MPs, we know every few weeks there will be somebody who comes forward saying please abolish the quota. And we just got to keep on saying sorry, ethnic quota is not negotiable,' he said. Abolishing it would cause 'happiness for a very short period'. But what would happen after that, he asked.

'Suddenly your whole block will be Chinese block, Indian block, Malay block. Then the next thing after that is a Chinese school or Indian school because schools tend to be in the neighbourhood. [Emphasis added] And then you polarise.'

On the WP call to scrap GRCs and housing ethnic quotas, he said: 'If you want to destroy that, think three times. Maybe think 30 times. General Election after General Election, we must always remind people of these things. It is what makes inter-racialism work in Singapore. Let's not alter that.'

Since “time bombs” are in fashion currently, I would also like to alert Dr Ng and Dr Khaw of a potential “time bomb” that is being perpetuated in our system which might eventually threaten our multi-racial society.

A lot of you might be wondering what the potential “time bomb” is.

My answer is: “The educational system, especially the SAP school system.”

The “Chinese schools and Indian” situation mention by Dr Khaw Boon Wan is already present in Singapore.

I was formally a SAP school student, I can very confidently tell everyone that in a SAP school there isn’t much opportunity to mix with other ethnic groups as there are virtually no Malay and Indian students in the school. I believe the situation would be very similar in most other SAP schools.

In fact I can say that is it entirely possible to go through our educational system without mixing with any other racial group. Sound impossible? How about me giving an example?

Chinese parents send their children to Chinese primary schools like Mahabodhi, Tao Nan, Nanyang girls, SCGS, many of these children will go on to the SAP schools.

When these children went on to JCs, there is a high possibility that they might still lack the opportunities to mix with Singaporeans of other racial group as there is a tendency for JCs to group student from the ethnic minorities into the same class so as to make it more convenient to hold 2nd language lessons. If they go to JCs like HCJC or IP schools like Dunman High, which are basically an extension of SAP schools, then they will have very limited chances of mixing and studying with Singaporean students of other ethnic groups.

As for our universities, it is an open-secret that there isn’t much ethnic diversity in our undergraduate population. This problem might be more acute in NTU than in NUS and SMU.

Hence if Dr Ng and Dr Khaw are really very concern about racial harmony in Singapore, I suggest that they 1st look into our educational system rather than focusing on the housing quota as nowadays most Singaporeans interact much more with their schoolmates than their neighbours.

My Analysis of the "4 time bombs".

Govt warns of 'time bombs' in Workers' Party manifesto

It may claim ideas are like PAP's but WP has four 'dangerous and wrong' proposals, says Ng Eng Hen
By Lydia Lim and Zakir Hussain

THE Government yesterday accused the Worker's Party of planting 'time bombs' that would destroy key pillars of Singapore's stability and success.

Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen last night identified as 'dangerous and wrong' four proposals by the opposition party: to scrap grassroots organisations, ethnic integration policies and the elected presidency, and to raise subsidies.

Responding to the Workers' Party (WP) manifesto launched last weekend, he noted that the WP and the PAP were 'moving closer' in some respects. He reminded Singaporeans, however, about fundamental differences separating the two parties.

'On these four fundamental issues, PAP and WP are obviously taking different approaches,' said Dr Ng, who is the organising secretary (special duties) of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

'The four time bombs within WP's manifesto will weaken and tear Singapore apart,' he cautioned.

'This cohesive society that we have carefully nurtured and kept together for 40 years will be fractured. Racial harmony will be destroyed. Whether or not WP intends for this to happen, this will be the tragic result if they implement these ideas.'

The remarks signalled the PAP's move into a higher gear for the upcoming General Election, and that it wants to draw a clear distinction between the parties - even as Dr Ng acknowledged that some of the WP's proposals 'on economic policy, society, education, defence, sports and recreation and environment sound very much like what PAP MPs have asked for, only slightly different'.

He threw this challenge to WP chief Low Thia Khiang: Reconsider the party's manifesto, or campaign on these four key issues at the General Election, expected to be held in the next few months.

Dr Ng's point-by-point rebuttal of WP proposals was interspersed with comments that drew appreciative laughter from his 300-strong audience of Toa Payoh East residents and grassroots leaders at a Chinese New Year reunion dinner.

On the WP's call to abolish residents' committees and citizens' consultative committees, he observed: 'They say you are the 'eyes and ears of the Government'.'

By casting grassroots groups in such a light, the WP was belittling their efforts to build bonds between the races, contain the Sars and dengue outbreaks and others, he added.

He also scoffed at its proposal to replace grassroots groups with a social-cohesion public holiday to build community ties, saying it was 'dangerous and foolish' to think the various communities would come together naturally.

Turning to the WP's call to do away with the ethnic quotas for public housing, he warned that without them, Chinese, Malay and Indian Singaporeans would end up living in different estates and there would be little mixing between the races - a point also made at a separate event by Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday. Said Dr Ng: 'When things go wrong, we will become strangers and even more suspicious of each other.'

He also criticised the WP's call to replace group representation constituencies (GRCs) with proportional representation, under which political parties would be allocated seats in Parliament according to the percentage of votes they won.

This would result in parties being formed along racial and religious lines to incite communalism or religious bigotry to win votes. The GRCs ensured parties campaigned not on race or religion but on policies for the country's long-term good, he said.

They were how Singapore had 'averted disaster'. The WP's proposal would bring Singapore back to the 1960s, he warned.

He also challenged the WP to explain why it wanted to remove the elected presidency, an institution that helped check the Government from corruption and squandering the nation's financial reserves.

Finally, Dr Ng turned his attention on WP's calls for higher subsidies for the elderly, unemployed and single mothers, and in services from education to health care, public transport and housing.

He said the WP was dishing out 'empty promises'. 'Anyone can promise but WP should tell us all, how will WP pay for this expensive shopping trip?' he asked.

If these higher subsidies were financed through higher tax rates, then businesses would not invest in Singapore and this would reduce the number of jobs.

He pointed out that the PAP government was also helping the needy but in ways it could afford.

To applause, Dr Ng ended by assuring grassroots groups that the PAP would not allow anyone to abolish them and pledged to uphold policies to ensure Singaporeans continued to live as one cohesive society.

Actually hor I din get to read WP's manifesto yet la, but judging from what Dr Ng have said my sense is that some of “time bombs” are massively exaggerated la… While the others are valid in some ways but still are somewhat exaggerated. Let me start from the “time bombs which I feel are massively exaggerated.

WP: Abolish the Elected Presidency and make the presidency ceremonial. The power of Parliament as the people's representatives should be unfettered, and this abolition should be done alongside changes to the electoral system.

Dr Ng: The Elected President is a check against a corrupt Government and protects reserves from being squandered. Singaporeans voted for the PAP after the elected presidency was openly debated in the 1988 General Election.

Me: Well… Is the S’pore suffering from massive corruption from 1965 to 1993? Does S’pore have an elected president during that period? I believe both of the answer will be No… So what is the problem?

By the way how many times did we Singaporeans vote for our president huh? Only once leh… S’poreans last voted for the late Mr Ong Teng Chong as our president in 1993. That, incidentally, is also the 1st and last time we voted for our president, at least until maybe after President Nathan’s term expire…

It is worth noting that Mr Ong Ong Teng Chong NEVER got to know exactly how much reserves does Singapore actually have. In fact Mr Ong Teng Chong had to write to the govt. in 1996, after three years into his presidency, to ask for the amount of reserves that S’pore possess. Amazingly, the Finance Minister replied that it would take "56 man-years" to provide to produce a dollar-and-cents value of the immovable assets!

When Mr Ong decided to compromise and ask only for the list of all the properties that the government owns, it took "less than two months" [That was according to the Finance Minister, Ong says it was "a few months"] for them to produce the list and even then Mr Ong said that the list was incomplete. Mr Ong even had experiences of only coming to know of things that he was responsible for after reading the newspapers!

It is also interesting to note that the issue of the Singapore reserves is no longer mentioned after Mr Nathan became our president.

Under these circumstances, I inclined to believe that the ability for the president to act as a check against a corrupted govt. and guard our reserves is really at best very limited.

Hence abolishing the Elected Presidency, to me, is really no big deal... Except that I might lose an extra public holiday every 6 years. But then again judging from the way the Elected Presidency is going, I don’t think I am going see any holiday anyway…

If anyone wants to know more about the “56 man-years” affair you can go here for further info.

WP: Give more subsidies to the elderly and unemployed for education, public transport, health care and housing. Infrastructure and support for vulnerable groups need to be improved.

Dr Ng: It is the Government's duty to help the less fortunate, but only out of Budget surpluses, which is where the recently announced workfare bonus for low-income workers will come from. Calling for more subsidies is always popular - but 'how will WP pay for this expensive shopping trip?'

Me: Actually hor, there are many ways to get the money lah. For example how about reducing and/or eliminated all subsidies for non-Singapore citizens without any next of kin who are Singaporean citizens? I am sure that most will agree that the welfare of Singaporean CITIZENS rather than foreigners should be number one priority for any Singapore govt.

Or maybe we can add the revenues generated from all govt. land sales into the budget. From what I know this money is not being included in the budget and it goes straight into the reserves. In most countries, money from the govt. land sales is part of the budget.

Perhaps more portion of the money earn from investments from past reserves can be used. I believe that the current ratio is 50:50 with 50% of the money being included in the budget while the other 50% are transferred straight back into the reserves to be reinvested. Perhaps the new ratio can be 70:30, with 70% being included into the budget.

Why not reduce the amount of $ spent on new roads, MRT and LRT lines? Personally I feel that some of these projects are not really needed, so why not reduce expenditure on this area and spend it on other areas leh?

In any case with the projected huge increase in revenues coming from the IRs, maybe there isn’t any need to do any of the above at all.

Now I will go on to the “time bombs” which are valid in some ways but are still somewhat exaggerated.

WP: Remove ethnic quota for HDB flats as society has attained a level of multi-racial integration. End the GRC system and consider proportional representation to ensure maximum participation by voters and contestants and to 'reflect party votes at the national level'.

Dr Ng: Ethnic quotas foster multi-racial public housing estates. The GRC system ensures all races are adequately represented in Parliament whereas proportional representation will see parties form along communal lines.

Me: There are 2 issues here I will start from ethnic quota for HDB flats. I do not know the exact distribution of ethnic quotas but I believe is somewhere along lines of Singapore racial makeup, which accord to Singstats is 75.56% Chinese, 13.64% Malays, 8.7% Indians, 2.1% others.

While I disagree that ethnic quota should be abolish, I feel it should loosen substantially. Personally I think so long every block of flat have at least 50% of the households being Chinese, 5% Malays and 2.5% Indians, it should be fine. The rest of the 42.5% can be left to the market. But hey, another public holiday won’t hurt lol…

As for the claim that by adopting proportional representation we will see parties forming along communal lines and thus destroying racial harmony is really a gross exaggeration. This is because the problem can be solved by amending the constitution or enacting a law to make all political parties to have, say, at least 25% of their MPs from the ethnic minorities.

WP: Abolish all Residents' Committees and Citizens Consultative Committees. They act as 'eyes and ears of the Government', prevent community leadership developing naturally and impede community living.

Dr Ng: These grassroots organizations are necessary to bring racial and religious communities together, keep them together and play a role in crises.

Me: I guess this is the only point I agree with Dr Ng. My stand is that the RCs and CCCs should not be abolished. Dr Ng is right that these organizations have important roles to plays.

However WP is right too. RCs and CCCs are indeed the 'eyes and ears of the Government'. In fact, the day that the grassroots organizations can no longer function as 'eyes and ears of the Government' by listening to feedbacks and reflecting it to the govt is the day they should abolished, as their existence no longer serve any purposes.

However I think changes are needed on the way these organizations are being run. My view is that only Elected MPs and no one else should be one who should in charge of these grassroots organization. The reason is simply because only the elected MPs have the mandate from the residents to represent them in the parliament (hey parliament is also part of the govt ok, govt is not just the cabinet!).

However as far as I know this is currently not the case. (Please see this artice by Trasy for further insights on how RCs and CCCs work.) Hence I believe this situation should and must be corrected.

Phew... I have finally finished my half-baked analysis, pls feel free to leave comments if u have any!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Qn: Is Singapore an open global society? Soros: Obviously Not!

George Soros, one of the most recognizable names in Southeast Asia. This is due his rather infamous role as a currency speculator in the Asia financial crisis.

However few know that he is also a big time philanthropist and liberal political activist. Recently he was Singapore for a forum attended by an audience of 1,600 academics, government officials, businessmen and undergrads. Below are the reports on the forum.

Thursday, January 12, 2006
A liberal speaks his mind
Billionaire Soros calls for open societies that are tolerant of differing views

Clement Mesenas

Within the plush comfort of the Raffles City convention centre, billionaire George Soros held court yesterday to an audience of 1,600 academics, government officials, businessmen and undergrads, enthralling them with his beliefs and vision for a global open society — and declaring that Singapore had yet to score in his book of liberal politics.

Having made his wealth by the time he hit 50, Mr Soros is now into encouraging transitional and emerging nations to become "open societies" — open not only in the sense of freedom of commerce, but more importantly, tolerant of new ideas and different modes of thinking and behaviour.

His Open Society Institute, which he founded 25 years ago, is a network of philanthropic organisations that is active in more than 50 countries — from Africa, Central America, Asia and South America.

Mr Soros emerged as a liberal thinker as he engaged a distinguished panel that included Mr Kishore Mabhubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Professor Tommy Koh, chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies.

Interestingly, the United States, unquestionably the world's freest nation, earned the ire of Mr Soros, especially the Bush administration's war on terror following the 911 attacks.

"How can we escape from the trap that the terrorists have set us," he asked. "Only by recognising that the war on terrorism cannot be won by waging war. We must, of course, protect our security; but we must also correct the grievances on which terrorism feeds ... Crime requires police work, not military action."

Admitting his admiration for America, where he worked many years as Singapore ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Kishore Mabhubani believed that as the US grew in power, it felt less of a need to get to know the rest of the world, and in the process, was becoming more and more closed as a society.

Agreeing to some extent, Mr Soros maintained that the US was a functionally open democracy, but "yes, we have lost our way", he said, pointing to the time in 2004 when the Bush administration, in his view, made a colossal blunder in launching the invasion of Iraq.

Though he donated close to $40 million in an effort to defeat US President George Bush during the 2004 elections, he views the US as a viable democracy. "We can criticise our government, we can change our government and in due course, we will correct the wrong."
With Mr Soros's drive to bring about change in China, where he admitted failure, and Myanmar, where efforts continue, the focus inevitably fell on Singapore. Panel member Benjamin Lee, a third-year National University of Singapore student, asked Mr Soros how he rated Singapore as an open global society.

Mr Soros was blunt.

"Obviously, Singapore does not qualify as open society," he said. But Singapore is prosperous and prosperity and an open society tend to go hand in hand, he said.

"I detect a desire of greater openness," he said, adding that he had great respect for the achievements of Singapore's energetic leadership.

"But I hope they will be brave enough to take the next step in the development of an open society."

One way forward, he felt, would be to allow greater freedom of expression. The use of libel suits and financial penalties can be a tremendous hindrance to such expression, said Mr Soros.

Responding, Prof Koh, stressing that he was not a member of the ruling People's Action Party, said that "open" and "closed" societies are two ends of a spectrum. "While the US appears to be moving from a more open to a less open society, Singapore is moving in the other direction — from close to open."

Singapore ought to be encouraged, and it will in due course, make progress towards becoming a more open society, he added.

In response to Mr Soros's remarks, a Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts spokesman told Today: "If we were not an open society, George Soros would hardly be able to make the comment at an open forum in Singapore, and be reported in the Singapore media."

Friday, January 13, 2006
Debate on openness not closed – yet
Derrick A Paulo

Another day, another forum and the same question: Is Singapore really an open society?

Speaking at the Singapore Perspectives conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, author Catherine Lim and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas) political scientist Ho Khai Leong said yesterday that the new administration has taken only "half steps" towards a more open society, in which political freedom is like a "stream which meanders and sometimes disappears into the ground altogether".

Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan countered that political openness was not an end in itself but part of the process of good governance.

According to Dr Lim, though, even if Singapore is to a certain extent succeeding in showcasing an alternative model to Western democracy, it is likely in the long run to lead to its own ruin.

The need for authentic expression was too important, she said. "It can neither be intimidated into permanent silence nor seduced by material wealth," she said. "And if it is, we are all worse off for it."

She called on the Government to let mavericks and "troublemakers" play their roles, as they give society a certain rambunctiousness. That kind of environment, she noted, nurtured a leader like Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

The alternative, she said, is a monolithic society, which makes standard copies of its leaders.

She also had a bigger concern.

"I've come to believe with a heavy heart that even if the Government wanted to do something about it, Singaporeans are so used to the Government making decisions for us, any major change will be viewed with alarm," said Dr Lim.

Another participant asked: "Are we depending too much on the Government changing, and not on ourselves changing?"

Dr Balakrishnan agreed.

"In a democracy, the people get what they deserve. The people decide whether they go along with policies. The people provide candidates for elections," he said.

Dr Ho, meanwhile, said there is now a greater need for openness due to "new realities" created by issues in the past year, such as academic freedom and the National Kidney Foundation scandal.

The latter "confirmed many Singaporeans' suspicion that something is rotten in the state of Denmark", said Dr Ho.

However, Iseas director K Kesavapany said later that "credit should be given where credit is due". "Did the Government sweep it (NKF) under the carpet?" he asked.

Wrapping up, Dr Balakrishnan emphasised results over openness or even partisanship.

"I don't really care whether the PAP is in power 50 years from now. I do care whether the Government 50 years from now is a Government with competence, honesty and commitment, one which is pragmatic and recognises the world as it is," he said.

"As for political dissidents, there will always be a place for them. But up to a point, they have to ask themselves: Are they willing to take responsibility, do more, get their hands dirty and have their results judged in real life — tangible outcomes, not mere theories."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Singapore is world's 2nd freest economy. Really?

Read the 2 articles and decide for yourself how much economic freedom do you, as a Singaporean, really have.

Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 04 January 2006 1719 hrs

Singapore retains spot as world's second-freest economy
By Channel NewsAsia's Hong Kong Correspondent Roland Lim

HONG KONG : Singapore has retained its position as the world's second-freest economy, behind first-placed Hong Kong, according to the latest index of Economic Freedom released by US think-tank, The Heritage Foundation.

For the 12th year running, Singapore has been praised for its efforts to cut taxes and attract foreign investment into the country.

The Lion City has been scoring high on recent international ratings.

Last year, Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, or PERC, said Singapore had the best judicial system in the world.

That is helping Singapore keep its place as the second-freest economy in the world.

The Heritage Foundation notes that Singapore has done better over the previous year.

Said Edwin Feulner, CEO of The Heritage Foundation, "Singapore is doing some of the right things as it privatises some of its non-strategic government holdings down there. So there are some things government can do but we don't usually encourage more government activity."

The foundation highlighted the cut in corporate tax rate in Singapore to 20 percent from 22 percent.

It also noted efforts to divest non-strategic government-linked companies and cut the percentage of government spending as a share of GDP.

Danny Gittings, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal, said, "Singapore has made a number of progress this year, including cutting taxes and so on, and these are now feeding through this year's results; but not as fast as Hong Kong. We now see that the gap between Hong Kong and Singapore is wider than it has been for quite a number of years."

Singapore scored 1.56 out of a possible 1 -- the lower the score, the better the ranking -- while Hong Kong kept its top spot with a score of 1.28.

And while Hong Kong managed to keep its title this year, Singapore may be in for a tough time next year, chased by closely-ranked Ireland and Luxembourg.

Both are busy replicating Hong Kong and Singapore's successes with low taxes and a strong legal system. - CNA /ct

Economic freedom? It depends where you stand

Philip Bowring, IHT


HONG KONG National league tables make good journalistic copy, which is devoured especially avidly in nations that happen to score near the top of this or that list. But they can equally tell some very tall tales that reflect better the biases of their assessment criteria than facts on the ground.

One of the more widely disseminated is the Index of Economic Freedom, published by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation for the past 12 years. This year, as in numerous past years, it has declared Hong Kong the world's freest economy, closely followed by Singapore, with Iceland, Ireland and Luxembourg close behind. (The United States is ninth.)

It is clear is that the rankings of Hong Kong and Singapore are based to a significant degree on ignorance of their domestic economies. In its 10-point assessment, the Heritage Foundation puts a high premium on freedoms for foreigners to trade and invest and enjoy low taxes, and remarkably little on the freedoms of the local inhabitants.

Both places rightly score highly on free trade. City states that owe their existence to entrepot trade naturally avoid import tariffs or pesky currency regulations. Equally, they both give a more or less free hand to foreign investors in externally oriented industries.

A closer look at both economies, however, calls into question the description of their trading and ownership environments as "free."

In Hong Kong, a handful of private groups operate domestic monopolies or oligopolies in power, retailing and transport, all linked to a few major property development companies, which also own media and other major domestic enterprises. Foreigners who have tried to enter - as the French group Carrefour did into retailing - have been squeezed out by anti-competitive cartels. The government, meanwhile, in the name of being business-friendly, resists competition or anti-trust laws that might open up these markets.

In Singapore, it is the government itself that stands in the way of the unfettered private enterprise that the Heritage Foundation's criteria are supposed to favor. The major real estate, banking, transport, manufacturing and utility companies listed on the stock market are all government-controlled entities. They may be efficient, but is this an economy free of government intervention? The index also claims that "the market sets almost all wages." But actually "wages are based on annual recommendations made by the tripartite National Wages Council."

Tax rates and revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product are low in both cities. But governments control land supply and use it not just to raise money but to redistribute income in an off-the-books manner through publicly developed and managed housing provided with low-cost land, in which 83 percent of Singaporeans and 40 percent of Hong Kong citizens live. In Hong Kong, land prices for the rest are kept especially high, with the result that living space per inhabitant remains very low compared with countries with similar income levels. Land in Hong Kong is sometimes used for subsidizing favored industries and in Singapore tax subsidies - which by definition are discriminatory - are common.

Tax levels in Singapore look quite low. But how free of official imposts are its citizens when compulsory contributions to its Central Provident Fund take 33 percent of wages and are invested largely as the government sees fit, through nontransparent official vehicles such as the Government Investment Corporation? Compulsory savings help toward the accumulation of foreign-exchange reserves and a very high investment ratio. But the rate of return on those assets has been low.

As a social security system, the Central Provident Fund, with links to government housing and medical care, may have many merits, but individual economic freedom is not one of them.

There is no space here to go into all 10 of the Heritage Foundation criteria. Hong Kong and Singapore economies should rate quite well by most performance and access measures. But the simplistic bases of these tables, devised from afar, can be dangerously misleading: The Heritage Foundation index also deems India less free than China, places Cambodia ahead of Malaysia and Indonesia below Ethiopia.

Nor is this the only baffling table. The Swiss business school IMD has a competitiveness index which puts Hong Kong and Singapore just behind the United States but just ahead of Iceland. IMD has South Korea inferior to Belgium, Malaysia and New Zealand.

In the World Economic Forum's version of competitiveness, meanwhile, Taiwan is the leading Asian economy, at No. 5, in a world headed by Finland and the United States, while Hong Kong is down at 28th. Choose your index according to your prejudice.

Casinos: Why not?

Since Beast has post an article on his views on the upcoming IR projects, I will also post mine.

Before I start, let me clarify that I am a supporter of the IR projects.

The 2 IR projects will lead to an injection of am estimated total of US$5 billion into our economy. I believe that by any count that would be a large boost for the Singapore economy.

Furthermore, the remaining bidders for the IR projects are the world’s 3 biggest casino operators like MGM Mirage, Harrah's and Las Vegas Sands. I don’t think that they would be prepared to invest up US$3 billion in the project if they are not confident of its success. Singapore’s convention industry would also receive a massive boost from the IR projects.

As for the social cost of the casinos, I would only say the long economic downturn probably drove more people to loan sharks and crimes then any other factors. The 2 IR projects can , in my opinion, provide the economic boost that S’pore sorely needs.

My only complain on this issue is on the process of how the issue has been decided. The building of casinos in S’pore is a very divisive issue for Singaporeans; hence it is only appropriate that whatever decision that is finally made has the support of the majority of the Singaporeans. Therefore I believe that a referendum should be held on the issue to let Singaporeans decide if the IR projects should go ahead.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Casinos: The very mere mention of these establishments incites extreme feelings of excitement, ranging from eager anticipation from hard-core and moderate gamblers, to downright hatred from the religious rights and victims of gambling addicts.

According to the statements given by certain members of Parliament, the setting up of casinos will help generate about 35,000 jobs (quite a subtantial boost to the local economy if you ask me) in the Singapore market, boost local tourism, and retain millions of gambling money from local gamblers who regularly seek the solace of overseas casinos year after year.

At a glance, everything sounds fine and dainty. A considerable economic boost, more job oppportunities, more entertainment outlines in sunny but otherwise boring Singapore (We seem to be running out of tourist attractions, unless you consider zoos and artificial aquariums as one). A closer examination, from a social point of view, reviews far more disturbing issues.

The social costs incurred from the mere existence of casinos have been blatantly overlooked by the Singapore government. Granted, the government has "seeked" the advice of Singaporeans, through media forums and somewhat dodgy surveys with regards to "yes, ", "no" and "I don't know" Q & As. What the general population is unaware of, however, is that the government has already given the green light to the casino proposals, regardless of public opinion towards the issue. Without a proper referendum or some kind of vote, the government cuts through in the middle of a national issue, and decides that the casinos will go on, with or without popular consensus.

Coupled with the high-handed manner of discussion being dished out, a series of rules and regulations being suggested by the government with regards to who, and what, will not be allowed in the proposed casinos, has rankled many Singaporeans, like myself.

It is reported that Singaporeans will have to pay a levy of a hundred bucks just to get through (Not too sure, can someone confirm). Point is, as long as you are a Singaporean, chances are, you will never get to step into a Singapore casino. If that is true, are we going to place a sign "Dogs and Singaporeans not allowed" in these casinos?

Needless to say, we have no say in this issue altogether. Which means, the issue has degenerated into a mindless political exercise, aimed at blunting the ill-feelings amongst the general public over the casino issue.

In light of such a condescending attitude towards public opinion, needless to say, there really is little point in going through the pros and cons of casino establishments. Just for discussion's sake, however, and perhaps to air my two-cents view with regards to a redundant issue, I shall attempt to list them down.

1. Boosting an otherwise stagnant tourism industry (Hint: Do we really need a tourism board? You decide)

2. Boost job availability (35,000 potential jobs, as the government would have you believe)

3. Diversion of money drained by Singapore gamblers from overseas casinos to Singapore coffers.

4. Boost local economy with additional money in government coffers?!

1. Breeding/expanding the current crop of hardcore gambling addicts, straining the already overstretched gambling addiction pychiatric clinics available in Singapore.

2. Proliferation of loansharks, as more gamblers will seek the extravagant interest rates of these thugs to feed their gambling habits.

3. Loss of self-worth amongst Singaporeans, especially National-Service males, as the major of Singaporeans will join the ranks of cats and dogs by being denied access to the casinos.

4.The fact that a nation has to resort to establishing casinos to boost tourism/economy, implies the state of moral emptiness and desperation of the general economic situation in Singapore.

Gamble at your heart's content, but always remember the golden rule: The house invariably wins in the end.

The Beast

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Interesting Conversation with Wolong.

Had an interesting conversation with wolong yesterday at trasy's blog (It started rather innocently though lol), hence I am posting it here so as to share it with all of you.

Be warn, it is quite lengthy :P.

By the way wolong if u are reading this, I have a small request to make. Is it possible that u can try to write with more punctuation marks in the future? Sometimes, it is really very hard to read your posts leh... lol. :D

Oh, Another thing wolong, I always go for suppers. ;P

January 03, 2006 6:20 PM, At82 (Me):

Latest news!

PM Lee has ordered the Registration Officer to revise the registers of electors and complete the work on or before February 28 this year.

Elections is really coming. Probably after the 2006 budget is revealed. But it is of high possiblity that I won't be able to vote this time round. Sianz...

January 03, 2006 8:18 PM, Wolong:

welllll u being unable to vote is nt PAP fault (once agin sound like pap men horrr lol so be it!!!) if e opp cant attract ppl then wad? remember pap was in opp 2 y r they able to contest all 51 wards n win? out of 51 they got 43 seats solid lehhh lol wellll i dun deny they got 54.3% (if i dun remember wrongly) of the valid votes cast cos political competition was v stiff then (lol sound like historian) stop complaining things like high election deposits change of boundaries defamation suits if u r gd ppl will vote u in (c mr chiam 22 yrs in parl wad hv u got 2 say of cos sad 2 say nt many chiam c tongs ard my due respect to the longest serving opp MP) wahhh i credit him so much then tht side how lol cant be bothered i speak my mind top party leadership noe i was nvr a yes man til death i will nt lol e w barker toh chin chye tan cheng bock charles tan tan soo khoon loh meng all r nt yes men in fact @ times more critical than opp lol. remember tan soo khoon if he was in opp he will be sued 4 saying lhl misleading the public over bus fare hike (so pap is nvr a plc 4 yes men n nvr will it be unlike some parties nvr say who ar dun be so sensitive ar lol byeeee

January 03, 2006 8:27 PM, At82 (Me):

To wolong:

ehhh no la, I am not blaming anyone leh. I am unable to vote due to personal reasons.

And relac dude, nothing wrong wif supporting PAP just like there is nothing wrong with supporting the oppo. Everyone can support who they want, who is to say that is wrong? ;)

January 03, 2006 8:34 PM, Wolong:

wah seh at82 u online 2 lol y cant u vote? wad reason? care 2 share?

January 03, 2006 8:49 PM, Wolong:

wellllll throughout history there r ppl on each other sides zhugeliang on liubei side zhouyu on sunquan side sad 2 say born in tht era either u hv to choose 1 or remain neutral ( no denial i more of a pap man lol based on my postings i nvr attempt 2 convert my critics they r die hard opp supporters sad 2 say on the wrong side though lol but 2 my opp out there " we will meet in a closed alley onli 1 will emerge alive n chances r lol" sound like who? go n check it out lol btw where my opp? all hiding somewhere? lol i issue them a challenge call me a pap dog in public y hvnt i heard of them? no balls ar? or scare of my lawyers letters? lol ppl dare 2 defame but nt prepared 2 be x examine by my legal counsel in the witness box wad u call tht? cowards? lol

January 03, 2006 8:49 PM, At82 (Me):

To wolong:

so qiao! I will not be in Singapore for some time after Feb la.

Since PM Lee already set 28 Feb as the deadline, the elections should be in after Feb. So I probably cannot vote loh...

January 03, 2006 8:54 PM, Wolong:

at82 where u stay? which ward? mind 2 reveal? Thks

January 03, 2006 8:56 PM, Wolong:

btw who wld u vote sia? lol nvr mind if u nt saying afterall voting is secret

January 03, 2006 9:12 PM, At82 (Me):

To Wolong:

Errr... Sorry, I have to disagree with the notion of a death match in the back alley.

I would like to believe that, we Singaporeans, have reached a stage whereby our political differences can be settled by rational debates and democratic elections in an open manner without resorting to any violence. I also disagree with calling ppl "PAP dogs" or "oppo dogs" etc...

The beauty of the democratic system is that everyone has the right to support any political party they wished to, whatever their reason are. The leaders will be chosen thru open and fair elections. In this way the will of the majority will always be upheld.

January 03, 2006 9:24 PM, At82 (Me):

I currently live in ALJUNIED GRC. But given the propensity of changes in boundary, I dunno which GRC will be belong to in the next GE bcos I live on the edge of the GRC.

As for who I will vote... Lets just say although I am amused by the antics of SDP, it is not the best party I have in my mind... I will leave the rest to your imagination. ;)

January 03, 2006 9:43 PM, Wolong:

i nt resorting 2 violence u got me all wrong i'm simply quoting eg jun zi dong kou bu dong shou lol (my chn nt bad ar lol) wad i m saying theres onli 1 victor n i made sure u end up as r loser lol (all my opp out there beware i nt afraid of u neither i wan u 2 be afraid of me jus tell me which ward u will be going i shall meet u there lol of cos c me in white n white no doubt abt tht) wellllll u think u can toke 2 opp in a rational way 4get it as i said b4 e moment u sound like a pap man thts it? they will start calling u names 4get abt hving a rational discussion wellll george yeo wld welcome e WP send ur "A" team there we r nt afraid of u btw fill ur forms properly lol wld tht indian guy who dun put pedestrain interest as top pirority be fielded? we shall c eh once again dun be sensitive ar who is he? u noe i noe lol

January 03, 2006 9:47 PM, Wolong:

wahhhhhh u live on the edge u know 2 wahhhhhh sehhhhhh damn politically consious gd 2 hv u some ppl dun even noe which ward they live in nt 2 mention who their MP is sad 2 say (wellllll opp sure say cos pap depoliticised a whole generation lol y r u ppl nt ? c how opp ans when they cant outtalk say ppl childish when they cant win say this say tht but nvr look @ their own weaknesses always blaming others this their attitude lol)

January 03, 2006 10:47 PM, At82 (Me):

To wolong:

If i am not politically consicious, I won't be surfing this site right ;).

Anyway, if the oppo are really as bad as u say, then there is not need for PAP to worry at all. They will just self-destruct when they present their platform during the GE.

However I suspect that oppos of some quality are emerging. Perhaps they might not be of the minister caliber, but they probably are good enough to be MPs. This is when the PAP have to be careful. Nevertheless, I hope to see that a more levelled playing field this time round.

Mr wolong, i think even u cannot deny that for past few elections, the oppos were not given a fair amount time to present their platforms during the campiagning periods.(the sensiblity of their platform is another matter)

January 03, 2006 11:03 PM, Wolong:

ehhhhh i did say u politically consious leh when did i nt read properly leh when i say opp bad u nvr read i always praise mr chaim n steve chia 2 (u must be selective who u wan i think even u agree tht chee is out rite) as i said pap was in opp 2 were there no obstacles in their path? if u compare theirs with e opp 2day its a far cry man lol

January 03, 2006 11:20 PM, Wolong:

wellllll name me any gd opp guy n i will tell u y they r no gd (well of cos some i shall nt comment lol u noe i noe) jbj gd? chee gd? ppl who support them gd? dun tel me jbj dunno defamation law? lol legally trained in london even lky has 2 appear b4 him. some opp will take every opportunity tht present itself 2 whack pap draw similarities here n there luckily we still hv ppl like u n Thrasymachus who toke reason if nt i shall nt bothered coming here @ all u shld noe by nw i was nvr afraid of the pap openly crediting certain opp figures here (no denial i held mr chiam in HIGHEST respect u think i scare if sitoh read this i dun giv a damn !!! lol )

January 03, 2006 11:43 PM, Wolong:

u think tht lady lawyer from WP who help jbj finacially gd? does jbj deserve help? maybe once or twice yes forever lol tht indian guy caught 4 drunk driving gd? any political aspirant pls be responsible those formerly from tc gd? whole day long press freedom speech freedom u wan speech freedom if 2day i say a chn force a pc of pork down a malay mouth n the journalist without verifying anyhow write u noe wad e consequences? u noe i noe remember racial riots 64/69 u ppl 2 young la brought up in an era of peace n prosperity dunno anything dun blame u u wan chn go around hacking malays n retaliation no rite? toke is great but in reality can u do it? i think u ppl being highly educated noe the ans thks gd nite going 4 supper wana join me no la youngster v health consious lol byeeeeeee

January 03, 2006 10:47 PM, At82 (Me):

To wolong:

No, pls dun be mistaken. I think u are reading to much into what I am saying.

I din say that u condemn all oppos, I am just refering to your previous statements, which u said that u can't talk to the oppos in a rational way and that they always blame others without looking at their own weakness.

I said that if oppos are as bad u said then PAP can relac, bcos no 1 will support the them and they will self-destruct bcos their platform cannot stand the scrutiny of the public. Gd eg is SDP, there is an even a debate over the internet on the policies that he advocate and most are not convince.

However, wat troubles me is that the oppos are not given a reasonable amount of time to tell us their platforms.

U might think that wat is the point if the oppos' platforms are of poor quality anyway? My ans is that, yes, they might be of poor quality today but it may not be so in the future.

Anyway if PAP is the best, there is nothing for them to worry abt anyway, real gold not scare of fire rite? So why the rush (only 9 days for campiagning)? Why only declare the new boundary so near to GEs?

I dun think these actions are healthy for Singapore.

As for freedom of speech, I dun think free speech shd be equate with irresponsible speech. For eg in Germany, speeches that deny holocaust are illegal. But most ppl won't say that there is no freedom of speech in Germany. I also support the punishing of the 2 bloggers who posted racist remarks on the net.

Although it might sound a tad too idealistic, I would like to believe that we can have freedom of speech without it degenerating into irresponsible speech.

u can read more abt debate here:

Have a nice day!

Added on Jan 5th:

January 04, 2006 9:21 PM, Wolong:

thts y i say glad 2 hv ppl like u n Thrasymachus v gd n reasonable we may nt agree on everyting but @ least we can discuss unlike ............

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Latest News: Pm Lee has ordered The Elections Department to update the Registers of Electors!

Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 03 January 2006 1256 hrs

Elections Department to revise registers of electors by Feb 28
By S. Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : The Elections Department on Tuesday announced the updating of the Registers of Electors.

The Prime Minister has directed the Registration Officer to revise the registers of electors and complete the work on or before February 28 this year.

The registers will contain the names of all Singapore citizens who are qualified to vote as of January 1 this year.

Under the Parliamentary Elections Act, they must not be less than 21 years of age.

During the updating, the registers will include all new electors who are qualified and also transfer electors to their latest residential addresses as found in the records maintained by the Commissioner of National Registration.

Once the revision is completed, they will be open for public inspection.

According to the Singapore Elections website, the registers of electors are updated from time to time.

The last revision was done in September 2004.

Singapore's General Election is not due till the middle of 2007, but Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong indicated recently that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong would likely hold elections "earlier rather than later." - CNA/de

The GEs is really coming! Probably after the 2006 budget is revealed. But it is of high possiblity that I won't be able to vote this time round as I would not be in Singapore for some time after Feb. Sianz...

Monday, January 02, 2006


Multi-Level Marketing, or MLM in short…… does that ring a bell? It should, because if it doesn’t you must have been taking a real long nap on Planet Mars.
Probably the most annoying thing that you will encounter is a MLM distributor who, on the pretext of “investing” a little amount of your money and time to participate in their “business venture”, bombards you with tons of information on how to get rich, quickly and easily, in no time at all, through the distributor’s multi-level marketing scheme. So just what is it about these MLM companies that enables them to make such brazen claims to the general public?

For starters, MLM is basically a concept whereby a company attempts to entice one to strike it out in what is claimed to be a business partnership without one having to fork out a huge start-up capital. All that is required of an average Joe is to fork out a small token sum of money to purchase a distributor license, fork out a certain sum of money to purchase company products (in some cases in the form of vouchers that is purchased by the distributor and can be used to exchange for company products), and the newly-fledged distributor will then be allowed to entice other average Joes to join in the scheme exactly the same manner the previous distributor (known as the up-line) did. The newly-converted distributors of the up-line will then be classified as the down-lines. Money from the down-lines’ purchases is channelled to the up-lines, with each level entitled to a certain commission all the way to the top. In short, the more down-lines you build, the more commission you earn.

This enticement goes on and on, until a few levels are formed into a huge network of distributors cum customers. To illustrate an example, say for instance the distributor is required to recruit three persons to join the scheme, while purchasing MLM products at the same. So these three will need to load up themselves with the products as well, and at the same time find another three, and so on. In theory, this would result in a exponential snowballing of distributors under the first up-line. Money from the bottom of the network is thus channeled upwards through the network, as all the distributors below the up-line will be obliged to purchase the products from the MLM in question. The money from the respective down-lines is then channeled upwards through the network all the way to the bigwigs in the MLM company.

On paper, this sounds like a perfectly legitimate business plan and a great way to earn loads of money for yourself, if you decide to participate, that is. The more levels you form, the more revenue you accumulate for yourself, as each down-line will inevitably contribute interest to your MLM account. What the MLM distributors will have you believe is that, through minimal investment of financial purchases of company products and spending a little bit of your time to participate in MLM prep talks to learn about the MLM methodology of recruiting potential down-lines, you will be able to inherit a lucrative residual income for the rest of your life! Sounds like a real windfall on the cards? Well……

In order to actually form a sustainable network to simply break even (i.e neither a profit nor a loss), a average distributor has to overcome numerous obstacles. Not only must he ensure that his down-line is constantly on the hunt for new-fledged distributors, he must ensure that the down-lines are actually purchasing the MLM products. Not to mention that there will be numerous disgruntled distributors who chose to leave the MLM scheme (a wise decision, definitely) because they had not been earning the huge profits they have been promised in a unrealistic short amount of time, instead inheriting nothing but MLM products, literature and in some cases, debts incurred just to sustain the MLM scheme. Not only does a average MLM distributor spend a huge amount of money to purchase a lot of MLM products which he or she doesn’t need (This purchase of products en-mass is also dubbed “front-loading“), the distributor will have to spend long hours recruiting down-lines, attending MLM “motivational” meetings and counseling disgruntled down-lines threatening to quit the MLM network. Not to mention the endless seminars, motivational talks in posh hotels, which provides the MLM companies a perfect opportunity to charge exorbitant prices for the attending distributors.

There are also cases whereby distributors who have made it to a certain status with their respective MLM companies (these people can usually be seen wearing useless title name tags such as :Star Performer”, “Achiever” etc) are coerced to purchase luxury cars on a hire purchase basis. These “lucky” distributors will be lulled into believing that their cars can actually act as a magnet to dub potential MLM distributors that they too, can achieve it if they join the network. But alas, such distributors often bear the blunt of most MLM tragedies, as monthly repayment of loans and money investments in the MLM business will doom them into a life of debt and potential bankruptcy. Whatever money they have managed to squeeze out of their down-lines barely covers their expenses, let alone make them rich. As the saying goes, there is only so much one can do to fool people; beyond that, one becomes a fool himself.

With all these seemingly insurmountable obstacles standing in the way of MLM distributors, are there any distributors who actually succeed in the MLM enterprise? The answer is a definite yes, only for the privileged and lucky few that is. Only those at the very top hierarchy of a MLM network will ever stand to reap huge financial rewards from get-rich MLM schemes at the expense of down-lines, who are the ones bearing the financial blunt of MLM schemes.

The MLM model shares a lot of characteristics with the pyramid scheme, which is illegal in Singapore and most countries, including the United States of America. The only difference between the two schemes is simply legalistic in nature. The products sold by MLM companies are akin to a man wearing clothes; without the products the whole nature of the MLM scheme will be exposed as nothing more than a pyramid selling scheme.

My personal opinion of MLM companies is this: Their existence depends on their ability to sell people a dream; a dream of a quick buck, to make tons of easy money. The products they sell are but feeble attempts to masquerade as legal retail companies, lest they become accused of conducting illegal pyramid sales. The MLM companies will promise their distributors a quick way out of the proverbial rat race, and then place them in another race of money-spending to achieve an almost unattainable dream. I won’t say it doesn’t work though, because I know they do, but out of the thousands that join, probably not more than 10 will eventually make a real killing out of the scheme.

Without dwelling on the moral (or immoral) implications of MLM schemes, a typical dialogue session with a agent would be the best guide to the psychological insight of a MLM distributor.

The following is a typical dialogue between myself and a distributor/agent of a MLM company. I had barely warmed up my seat in a food court before this gentleman, a short bespectacled lad with dyed blond hair spotting typical office wear came to me to make a nuisance of himself during lunch time. I intend to make this dialogue one which he will not forget in a hurry.
(Agent approaches Beast, who is reading a newspaper)

Agent: Good day, Sir, my name’s Peter, and how should I address you?

Beast: You may call me Beast. That's my middle name (Sticking middle finger).

Agent (looking a little sheepish): Oh I see, it seems you are a little offended by my intrusion, In that case I shall not overstay my welcome (Prepares to leave)

Beast (Pretending to look slightly aback): Oh no no....please stay my man. I was only joking, dude. You come all this way to my place, all sweating and all, surely you are not about to leave? In any case, you spoke to me over the phone, saying you have a great business opportunity for poor peasants like me…… Low start-up course, high returns. You don't expect me to turn down such a tempting offer, do you?

Agent (Looking a little relieved): Oh yeah, sure man. This is the attitude I am looking forward to, not that (points a middle finger, laughs like a fool). Ok, Before I continue, let me ask you a question. Mr Beast, are you currently employed or are you self-employed?

Beast: Employed, of course.

Agent: Ok, Let's just say, if you do not work tomorrow, or the day after, will you be getting paid?

Beast: Definitely not! Who do you think I am, the Prime Minister? Or the CEO of the money printing press?

Agent (Laughs): That's right. You work, you get paid, am I right to say that?

Beast: Spot on.

Agent: If your boss closes his operations for a day, does he earn any income?

Beast: I wouldn‘t bet on it. In fact, he may still have to incur losses for any lost time, or when the plant is not in operation.

Agent: Precisely. Now I shall explain to you the definition of active income. You are the employee, and your boss, the employer. Am I correct to say that?

Beast: Yes, yes...go on.

Agent: Ok, as an employee, you contribute a input to your company, through your time and effort spent in the company. As an employer, your boss contributes money to pay for the expenses essential to the smooth running of the company. As a employee, your continuous efforts ensures that you have your paycheck every month. In short, no input, no output. This is active income. Do you understand me so far?

Beast: Absolutely. Now you are making me feel like some lowdown outcast slave, with no future already! (Laughs)

Agent (laughs): Oh well, this is the fate of the working class. It's a never-ending rat race.

Beast: Ok, I understand, so you must have an alternative plan, then?

Agent: Which is why I am approaching you in the first place. Now, let me ask you a question: how does a singer earn so much money?

Beast: Simple. Singers sign up contracts with recording companies, who record their songs and sell them to the masses via CDs and other recording media. And occasionally they open concerts. (Smiles) Now you are not suggesting that I embark on a singing career, do you?

Agent (smiles): Well, no, but something much simpler. What I mean to explain to you is, singers make money because they are earning passive incomes.

Beast (Looking slightly puzzled): Passive incomes? Explain.

Agent: The definition of passive income is the complete opposite of active income. Let me explain to you with the singer's analogy. The singer's income is directly related with the sales of his or her CDs and the tickets of his concerts. Concerts aside, the direct sales of the CDs will be where his rice bowl is. The more CDs sold, the more money the singer makes through commissions and royalties which are directly connected to the sales, and also radio stations which pay a certain sum of money in the form of royalties for playing their songs. You catch me so far?

Beast: A little...please, do continue.

Agent: Ok, which means if the singer decides to retire, he or she will still be able to obtain revenue from the sales and loyalties derived from his or efforts. And when the singer dies, the royalties will continue to be bankrolled to his or her children. This is passive income. Basically, it involves a initial capital, which will subsequently generate continuous, passive income. What I am about to present to you is a very effective business strategy which requires a minimal effort and some financial investment from you, which will also generate this passive income for you.
Would you be interested?

Beast: That will have to depend on the feasibility of your business strategy.

Agent (takes out some brochures): First of all, let me explain to you about our company. I represent ABC International, which is a reputable multi-national company. We due with products ranging from cosmetics to....

Beast (pretending to look slightly aback): Wait a minute, this is odd. You told me earlier that you are presenting to me a business strategy. Now you want to sell products to me?

Agent: Ok, let me finish my explanation. Yes. Our company specializes in the sales of these products. However, let me assure you that you will not be only a mere customer, nor will you be a company salesman. Now, I want you, yes, you, to be our business partner. We want you to sign up with us as a distributor for these products.

Beast: Hmm.....So do I get paid as a distributor? And how should I go about selling?

Agent: Well you do get paid on a commission basis. And no, you don't need to sell anything. All you need to do is find three persons to join our business plan, and then each of your three friends must find another three friends, and so on. You get a commission based on the number of levels you have acquired in your network. Its really easy, believe me.

Beast: Now I am beginning to see the bigger picture... let me see....what the newspapers used to harp about....pyramid sales?
Agent: No, no, no! This is not pyramid sales. With pyramid sales there are no products involved. We are what is defined as "multi-level" marketing. We have the best cosmetic products, as well as very excellent health products. If you can take a look here…

Beast: Ok, hold your horses for a moment, Mr Peter. I have a question for you at this point of time. So you are saying, I need to find three friends and they each find another three so that I can set up a network, is it not?

Agent: Yes, it is that easy, is it not? Finding three friends, make sure they do the same. Isn't that very simple? You do have friends right? I am sure you have. And then every month, you and your friends each will purchase $200.00 worth of our products every month, and a commission shall be sent to you every month via check. All you need to do is buy our products, get three friends and ensure they carry on the search for new distributors, as well as contributing the $200,00 monthly fee to purchase our products. Simple right?

Beast (acts puzzled): You didn’t say anything about purchasing any products earlier , now did you?

Agent (surprised): Glad to know that you are very observant. At least you have been listening.

Beast (laughs): Of course I am. This is a interesting scheme, you know.

Agent (looking jubilant): Good that you can think positively. With regards to the 200 dollars, yes, I missed that one just now, my apologies.

Beast (waves a hand): No apologies required. We are all humans, eh? It is fine to err, but at least be honest about it, so no problems from me on this count.

Agent (Heaves a huge sigh of relief): Thank you. So what is your opinion of my business strategy?

Beast: Let me tell you, your business strategy doesn't work at all.

Agent (Slightly taken aback): And why not?

Beast: First of all, how many levels in the network do I need to earn at least, say a comfortable $2,000.00 a month?

Agent: Easy. Forth level. You can do that in months...

Beast: Ok. First level, 3. Second level, 3+9. Third level, 3+9+81. Forth level, 3+9+27+84. By the forth level, I will need at least...(Checks with calculator) 114 people! Phew! That is a lot of people to look for in three months, man!

Agent (Taken aback): Yes, I understand what you mean, but our products are simply the best....

Beast: Ah yes.... all you MLM agents say the same things. Great products, great sales plan. Now let me analyze with you, or rather give you a blow-by-blow account of MLM's inherent problems. Yes, it seems easy, hunting for three people. But how would you ensure that those way down the network will follow suit? What if somewhere along the way, a distributor decides to quit the scheme, or fails to purchase the necessary $200.00 worth of company products? And can you ensure that those at the bottom of the network will continue to seek out new potential distributors? What's the saturation market point of your products? Does your company carry out any in-depth surveys on the potential market saturation point of the products? There's only so much people in town for you to sign up, not to mention competition from other MLM companies. And the most important question of all, where's my stand in the huge network of yours? Am I at the bottom, the middle or at the top?

Agent: Bottom, of course. All distributors start from the bottom.

Beast: So how deep would the bottom be?

Agent (Pauses): That would be difficult to gauge.

Beast: Assuming I am at the very bottom, there would be many up-lines above me. All my hard work will probably just be benefiting the big wigs “upstairs”, and I will be running around like a headless chicken begging people to join useless schemes and buying products I do not require in such bulk. Who do you think I am? A dull-witted rich kid?

Agent (Confused): I don’t get it. Where did you get all your information from?
Beast (Laughs): Not everyone’s a country bumpkin, Mr Peter. As a matter of fact, you are neither the first, nor will you be the last, to approach me with such dubious business opportunities.

Agent: I assure you, Mr Beast, that our business plan is far superior to others out there in the market. Sure, there will always be a few black sheep out there; they just come in and cheat people, you know, get people to buy and buy and refuse to release the commissions as promised, or others simply mouth off empty promises, and ultimately fail to live up to their promises. But we from ABC international will ensure that you, the distributor will gain access to our top-of-the-range cosmetic and other daily products. Think about it, these are products you will buy anyway in supermarkets, why not buy from us and reap the benefits of a sound business plan? Is that not killing two birds with one stone? If you accept my business plan, or rather ABC International’s business model, I assure you this will be the best and last MLM deal you will ever need. If you decide to join my scheme, I will become your up-line and your mentor. Your ability to succeed will definitely become my concern. Your success will be intertwined with mine. You will not have to worry about your stand in the network scheme, for the market is big enough for you to recruit many more potential distributors, and I am not even talking about many down-lines here. All you need is three potential distributors, that’s all. And 200 bucks a month is certainly a small sum of money to invest every month, which will go to supermarkets and stores anyway. Won’t it be great if this money you use to buy everyday products provide you a perfect business opportunity? A little money contribution, a little bit of your time to recruit just three distributors and attending our weekly meetings, isn’t that a fantastic deal? Wait no longer, my friend! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to make big money. You have nothing to lose anyway!

Beast (wears a fake, comprehensive look): You sound convincing, dude. But you are looking at a guy who can’t afford that kind of money for everyday groceries. (Takes a look at brochure) Washing detergents, toothbrush, soap, stuff like that, do you really think that I need to fork out that kind of money every month, 200 bucks, to buy stuff like that? And the cosmetics… (laughs hysterically)

Agent: Don’t you have a mum, a sister, a girlfriend? You can buy the cosmetics for them.

Beast (points to Agent’s head): You must be terribly sick in your head! I can hardly make ends meet as it is! My mama hardly, if ever, uses cosmetics. Even if I do have a girlfriend, I don’t think she would have wanted me to turn her home into one gigantic store room for cosmetics she can’t finish using anyway. Besides that, the amount of time I need to persuade three boys and girls to join me in a hopeless quest, and then making sure they buy and continue recruitment, I don’t think I will have any time for my meals and toilet breaks, let alone keep my permanent job.

Agent: You won’t need to worry about spending a lot of time on your business, my friend. Your up-lines, including myself will assist you in your tasks. Just find three potential down-lines, and we will do the talking for you. Of course as you participate in our weekly motivational meetings our leaders will teach you effective methods for you to succeed in our highly lucrative scheme. We have leaders who earn as much as $10,000 US dollars a month. They will conduct seminars to fellow distributors once every month to share the secrets of their success, and these seminars cost as little as $15.00 per person. All you will need is spend a few hours of your time managing this business, I guarantee you in a year’s time or maybe even less if you work hard, you will make more than enough money for you to quit your day job.

Beast (Shakes head, emphatically): Are you very certain of this? A few hours each week? Doesn’t seem that way to me.

Agent: That’s what I said. Believe me.

Beast: I am not convinced, unless you furnish me actual documentation of how much time you actually spend talking to complete strangers like myself (not to mention someone who is wacky enough to call himself the beast) talking about business plans. And the meetings, hell I am a corporate personnel. Meetings require a lot of time investment.

Agent (sad look on his face): I do not catalogue my time spent, and even if I did, I doubt you will be convinced.

Beast (Gives a wry smile): Maybe so, but at least I may be a little touched by your gestures?
Agent: Really? (Smiles reluctantly) Perhaps I might take that into consideration.
Beast (Brightens up suddenly): Ah! Why don’t you make a record of the money spent on purchasing products which you do not need in bulk as well? And those seminars, they cost money too!

Agent: Uh huh……

Beast: And try visualizing this: All those up-lines above you doing nothing but talking and collecting cash incentives, and all those down-lines left with nothing but products and a dream of someday being up there with the rest of them. Am I right to say that?

Agent (Shocked look on his face): You seem to harbor a terrible prejudice against MLM schemes. Pray, tell me, have you been burned by other MLM companies before?

Beast: No, I have not been burned, so to speak. But I have personally witnessed friends who fall for MLM schemes, splurged huge chunks of their entire savings on MLM products, motivational tapes, books and seminars, with little earnings, if at all, to show for it. They end up losing a lot of time and money to chase impossible dreams promised to them by their MLM companies and up-lines.

Agent: Just because there is but a few black sheep in our industry does not mean we should all be branded as such.

Beast: That may be true, and I deem you an honest fellow. But I regard the MLM model as a intrinsically unstable business model, based on the silly assumption that the market has a infinite supply of people for MLM companies to con and expand their network. This attitude usually results in either one of two scenarios: The network will either die a natural death when everyone at the bottom decides to quit, or someone decides to sue the respective MLM companies for fraud and other legal discrepancies.

Agent (Shocked): Multi-level marketing is a perfectly legal business model! We are not breaking any laws when we conduct our recruiting.

Beast: Yes. MLM is legal, only because the law states that MLM companies must conduct retail sales in conjunction with recruiting in order to maintain its legal status. As it is I don’t think your MLM company conducts any retail sales outside of your marketing network, am I correct to say?
(At this point Mr Agent apparently came to the realization that he had just wasted his time barking up the wrong tree. Poor dude. I wished I could lend him my shoulders to cry on…… sobs……)

Agent (looks disappointed): Well, looks like you are not interested with my business plan.

Beast (In a consolatory tone) : Look, Peter, I respect you as a man, that you have the balls to come up to me with such a difficult preposition. But it does not interest me. If I have the financial means perhaps I can give this scheme a second look. But nice try though. Perhaps the next guy you hitch may just get you the commission to stay alive…… and who knows? You might just make it up there (Points finger to the sky)…… but hell, you can never beat your up-line, can you?

Agent (looks displeased): Well, Mr Beast, I have another appointment coming up, now if you will excuse me……

Beast (gives a fake, broad smile): Oh of course! Be my guest! (Shakes Agent’s hand) Nice to meet you. I am sorry I can’t be of much help to your cause.

Agent: Its ok. Thank you, Sir, for your time. Goodbye.

Beast: Goodbye……… Wish you better luck next time round.
(Agent walks away, approaches a couple nearby. Better luck next time, Mr Peter. Tsk tsk)

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