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Signs of decline
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redbean



Joined: 07 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2007 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How to make more international enemies when you don't have to?

Do we make decisions at the spur of the moment? Or we make decisions because someone gives us a nudge? Or do we make important decisions after carefully thinking through the adverse consequences?

Making decisions that can incur the wrath of another country or a group of people is a very serious thing and must be thought over and over again. And with so many thinkers and brilliant talents in Singapore, hopefully we do not make decisions that will cause more anxiety and harrowing experiences down the road.

I am such wondering aloud. Not that we have done anything silly yet. But we can, with a little slip.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2007 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How to make more international enemies when you don't have to?

Do we make decisions at the spur of the moment? Or we make decisions because someone gives us a nudge? Or do we make important decisions after carefully thinking through the adverse consequences?

Making decisions that can incur the wrath of another country or a group of people is a very serious thing and must be thought over and over again. And with so many thinkers and brilliant talents in Singapore, hopefully we do not make decisions that will cause more anxiety and harrowing experiences down the road.

I am such wondering aloud. Not that we have done anything silly yet. But we can, with a little slip.
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PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2007 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Below is an interesting article I copied from www.littlespeck.com.

PAP
Is it the start of a decline?
Unless ruling party changes the way it governs it could lose power over time, and that would be a shame, says retired news editor. By Yeo Toon Joo. Comment follows.
May 4, 2007

Article and open letter to our government by an ex-journalist
Yeo Toon Joo, Peter, 61
Ex-news editor Straits Times
Ex-assistant editor New Nation
Ex-secretary general Singapore National Union of Journalists
Ex-owner of a public relations company and broadcast PR firm
Hon. Fellow, Institute of Public Relations of Singapore

If the People’s Action Party were to call a general election now, chances are it would lose a good number of seats to the opposition, that is, if you could find able candidates to join the opposition.

If certain changes do not take place in the ruling party’s style of government, in time to come the PAP could lose power. That would be a shame, a tragedy for Singapore.

But so strong has been the political backlash, and so great the people’s outrage, over the government’s widely unpopular decision and persistence to reward its cabinet ministers such handsome pay increases.

Dissenting and disapproving views over the latest round of ministerial pay hike have been eloquently articulated, often sneeringly so, but confined mainly to mass emailing and internet postings.

The latest salary revision will by next year nearly double each minister’s current remuneration, and bring it on average to nearly three times that of US President George Bush’s, five times in the case of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s.

Minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew had introduced in 1994 his formula of pegging ministerial salaries to 80 per cent of that of the top earners in six professions and businesses in Singapore.

It gives Singapore the unique status of having the world’s highest paid political leaders. Their individual salaries surpass by far those of leaders of the world’s largest and most successful economies.

MM Lee’s reasons were that unless he paid top dollar for the best brains he would not be able to attract good and talented people to serve as leaders of the country, retain their services, or keep them above corruption.

Problem is: he had been, for a long time now, looking for leaders in the wrong places, and following a policy that discourages emergence of potential ones.

Some who entered the political fray had come a cropper. Not a few have served long terms of incarceration for their political beliefs or activities, others have had to flee the country to live (or die) in exile abroad.

Someone had not so many years back said that the best way to corrupt a person is to feed him so well you enslave him (did MM Lee say that?).

Ironically then, in his effort to ensure that his leaders remain above corruption, he might have bought their souls.

From the relatively brief and muted parliament debate over this burning issue, there seems to be some cracks within the ruling party’s own ranks.

However mildly aired, there is, for sure, disquiet and differences of opinion among some PAP members of parliament.

Still, what man of sound mind in Singapore would argue against being given a personal pay rise that first jacks up his annual salary to around $1 million and soon to nearly $2 million?

Feed them so well, they will never rebel.

I love my Singapore, and am thankful for the remarkable progress and prosperity it has achieved through the efforts of a stable and good government.

I am immensely grateful, too, to the group of people who gave their all for the country in the pre-independence 1950s and our early days of nationhood.

I remain a loyal Singaporean who once had aspirations to serve our country, and did it initially (1960s and early 1970s) as a newspaper journalist, and through the Singapore National Union of Journalists and the National Trades Union Congress, of which SNUJ was affiliate.

I will carry to my grave, with great personal satisfaction, the memory of having been part of the team that pulled off the first successful workers’ strike against a penny-pinching, ill-managed, callous Straits Times Group of Newspapers.

That industrial action, over the Christmas period of 1971, resulted in a fairer deal for several thousands of its employees in Malaysia and Singapore. It was a time of baptism under fire for my SNUJ colleagues and me. Some of us could have lost our jobs with no prospect of working for another English language newspaper in Singapore as there was none other.

The late Mr C V Devan Nair, leader of the National Trades Union Congress and later President of Singapore, was one of my role models and idols then. He had encouraged me as a union leader by helping to open up and broaden my mind.

In one of our several intimate conversations he challenged me to join the PAP.

Later, someone suggested I joined an opposition party. But partisan politics was not my cup of tea, more so as I was mindful of the dangerous waters I would be plunging into. I also had little desire for such public prominence.

Also, and alas, any zeal for committing further to community or national leadership was quickly doused by a series of factors: one was my loss of faith in the Straits Times Group as an honest news organization.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew helped put paid to it by his public parading and glorification of people who were steeped in scholarship, and humiliation of those who were not.

MM Lee, in searching for a second and then third generation of leaders, started looking for them first in academia (we know how it failed) and then to those who were government scholars.

At the same time we saw the hasty and, perhaps, premature retirement of our earlier PAP political leaders who had fire in their bellies but no multiple mortar boards on their head.

The harsh treatment of those with dissenting views, and slapping down of those brazen enough to join battle with the PAP and MM Lee at the hustings, quickly scared off those who thought they had something to offer to the country, but not necessarily as part of the PAP political apparatus.

Those with divergent, though not necessarily subversive, views were unmercifully smacked down.

Others, seduced by the comforts and affluence their talents and training earned them in a prospering society (feed them so well they will never rebel), soon lost their idealism and passion for political sacrifice.

It made political engagement not only a perilous pursuit but a wanton risk of losing all they had amassed materially, plus their personal freedom.

A PAP apologist recently condemned me for criticizing the incredible pay hikes for our cabinet leaders that has no precedent or matching model anywhere in the world.

“You can only criticise, but what’s your solution?”

I believe I have something by way of solution, or at least an alternative view to what Mr Lee Kuan Yew insists is the only way to attract and nurture the right political leaders:

Look for our future leaders not just among our scholastically successful Singaporeans; academic excellence does not equate with effective leadership. This quality might even disqualify a person from leadership.

Look for people with a good and stout heart, undying love for Singapore and his/her fellowmen, and a burning desire to serve even at huge personal sacrifice – people with compassion, fire in their belly, grit in their gut, and steel in their back.

Look for those who possess and exhibit the many other qualities of leadership.

A yen for scholarship (at government’s expense) alone is a poor prerequisite of leadership.

Encouraging scholarship of our bright students through the lure of career and financial success could produce either more scholarship bond breakers or those who will work only for lucre (for those are the values you promote).

If you encourage our government scholars to cherish high income, in a society exhorted to worship financial success, you will have to pay big bucks to get them to join your PAP ministerial ranks – definitely not the people you need or want to lead our country and inspire our countrymen.

Rethink government policy, enunciated by MM Lee Kuan Yew, of encouraging potential leaders to chart their paths through the Armed Forces (with an SAF scholarship), then a stint in the civil service, a short spell in the private sector, and then to the PAP cabinet.

You produce less open minded people who might possess a one-dimensional perspective of the world, a common mind set.

Such a policy deprives you the services and creativity swimming so abundantly in the vast reservoir of talents out there in the real world. The military promotes obedience, viz. “Charge of the Light Brigade”.

You could end up with people paid well enough and sufficiently smart either to not charge with you – or charge blindly even when good sense tells them they should not.

By all means encourage elitism but do not ridicule those who have interests and talents that are not skewed towards pursuit of a PhD.

I cite one example of how MM Lee a few elections ago disparagingly compared the not as impressive academic achievements of our loyal opposition member, Mr Chiam See Tong, to those of his bright young submissive scholars.

Do not intimidate or beat down all dissenters or those with alternative views, but judge them on their integrity, and do not swamp and swallow up those with potential for leadership into the PAP and high ministerial salaries.

You end up with many ‘yes’ men.

Open up the minds of Singaporeans by not controlling so rigidly the flow of information about their own country, whatever its flaws and foibles.

Put in place committed, honest, mature and trained journalists over your mass media organisations, people with a feel for the ground and popular feeling, people trained in journalism (not just in academia) and bold enough to launch investigative journalistic enquiry that aid thinking and intelligent decision making by Singapore’s people.

If you find them do not stifle them.

NOTE: such control of the press deprives you of an essential source of accurate feedback, and surrounds you with sycophantic counsel akin to that of the king with no clothes.

The current mass media situation has encouraged a flourishing of emailing and postings on cyber space; they contain useful information as well as misinformation and disinformation, including ranting by irresponsible people.

Let MM Lee’s quest for self-renewal verily proceed. He should let the people he personally chose or vetted, take over fully.

Let them err, let them rule (when is the appropriate time for this to happen?).

MM Lee did not have a mentor to minister to him and his colleagues in the tumultuous days of pre- and early post-independence – and did not flounder.

I am no political scientist, nor your scholastic type. But I have not been disabled from seeing another view to tackling our problem: there is no lack of leaders, only a lack of desire. Perhaps, there is a hesitation prompted by what is called fear.

We, in our immensely successful Singapore, owe much to MM Lee and his colleagues. There are many Singaporeans who want to cherish his legacy.

If the current controversy fuels more of the dangerous and divergent views and anti-government sentiments (even hatred) that have surfaced among our Singapore population, our remarkable success as a country could prove ephemeral.

Singapore, especially with the Government’s now liberal approach to matters of morality, could be another sad story of the decline and fall of a fledgling civilization.

If that happens, we would, as the late Mr G G Thompson, director of the Singapore Political Study Centre once said, cause merely a small yawn in the world. We need not let that happen.
Yeo Toon Joo

Comment:

Dear Mr Seah,
It is certainly refreshing to read the letter by retired journalist Mr Yeo Toon Joo Peter, on the view that the current policies of the ruling party could be the start of a decline.
I agree with the writer that there is no shortage of talented people to seek political office to serve Singapore, but the harsh treatment given to those with dissenting views scare them off.
Then there are those, as the writer has pointed out, seduced by the comforts and affluence in a prospering society lose their idealism and passion for political sacrifice.
On the whole, a very good observance by a retired journalist. Regards
SW
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redbean



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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gordon Brown is taking over the Premiership of UK from Blair. And his top agenda is to transfer power from 10 Downing Street to Parliament in the matter of making war. Parliament will now have the power instead of the Prime Minister to wage war, a move to prevent another PM making a unilateral decision on war.

This decision will make a tremendous change to the power of the British Premiership. The Parliamentarians will have a good debate and make the decision. Transfer this to our Parliament, everyone hearing this will give a big yawn. What's the dif? Parliament to decide or PM to decide, is there a difference here? The answer is obvious if we look at the debate in Parliament and how decisions were made. Were decisions made in Parliament or made even before a debate in Parliament?

Where do we go into the future? Balji this morning explore the great challenge of a new PM for Singapore. The underlying assumption is that decisions, or the future of Singapore shall be decided by one man, the PM, and not Parliament.

I would like to take this further to explore the viability of Singapore in the future. I see dark clouds if we are foolish enough to ignore the dangers we are treading. I see a new diaspora of Singaporeans being displaced in their homeland. And unlike the Chinese or Indian diaspora, the Singaporean diaspora will not last one generation. Too little to mean anything, just like the dying baba culture.

I will deal with this more specifically come Sunday morning.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2007 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Legalise insider trading

A letter from a Charles Tan in the Today paper suggested that insider trading should be legalised. There is nothing for me say when people cannot see what this will lead to.

But this is another brutal truth. When one is in a position of power or authority and accessible to sensitve information, connections etc, it is ok to take advantage of the situation to fatten one's pocket. Are we ready for the Singapore of the future?
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redbean



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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A new buzz, a fiasco

There is a new kind of buzz in town, one that is being repeated quite often these days and would tarnish the Singapore brand. We are reputed as a country where all things work. Once we put up something, we can sleep in peace that it will be successful.

The University of NSW closed down after only two months and with 148 students, Singaporeans and foreigners, stranded. It would not happen if it was a Singapore run university. We don't do this kind of things. But even if it is an Australian university, it happens in our land and we will somehow be linked to it. Our Singapore brand cannot keep getting this kind of bashing.

And the students were only told after the decision to close was made and announced. Well, only 148. No big deal. Anyway, they should expect such things can happen to a new set up that does not have a Singapore brand. It is caveat emptor. They went in with their eyes open and knew the risk.

In a way it is also a kind of progress for Singapore. It shows that we are taking more risk and even risky projects that were not well thought through and with insufficient finances. This is good for Singapore as we will become a riskier country that encourages everyone to be more cautious and risk aware.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Who is responsible?

The UNSW staff held a meeting with the students and parents affected by the closure at Trader's Hotel yesterday and were bombed by the parents. It is hardly imaginable for a highly regarded institution and academics to do such a thing. Unbelieveable! The classes should not have started at all and the students need not waste their time and resources to go through such a slipshod arrangement.

Where is the duty and due diligence done to take in the students only to close the university barely 3 months after classes started?

The parents cannot be faulted for having trust in the UNSW which is a reputable university run by reputable professionals. But the situation is definitely unjustifiable and they should sue them for compensation.

Singapore should also sue them for damaging our image as an education hub.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The students are fighting back. That is the spirit needed when the big boys washed their hands and packed up to go. The UNSW students met to demand that UNSW honours its commitment to them and keep the campus running, at least till they complete their courses. There is a contract, a social and business obligation once they admitted the students to a degree course. And they cannot walk away and offer whatever half bake measures and expecting the students to accept them. The legal route is an option.

Where is the professionalism, the integrity, the honour and responsibility to see through a commitment? An university is always highly regarded by the people as an icon of all the virtues of human endeavours. How could UNSW possibly get away with the fiasco by a shock pullout like this and think that its reputation will not be affected?

I do not know how much is our side's involvement and responsibility to the mess. But we cannot get away without some shit sticking to us. We will also smell as bad as UNSW. We may say and think that we are going ahead full steam to achieve our goal as an education hub. But will future students and their parents buy it after what had happened? To think that we have nothing to do with it and that our gleaming reputation is untarnished is like putting blinkers on.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The legal professions going cuckoo?

Recently we have been hearing very strange things coming from the legal fraternity. Some said making a lot of money is not important. They were talking about service to the people, and making money is not the end all of becoming lawyers.

Now the Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong said, 'Ethics is what matters most.' When has ethics been an issue among our learned friends? The profession has always been in the thick of things, at the forefront of all important events in the island, and with many distinguished members becoming leaders of the nation. They are the cream of the society, earning big bucks and delivering justice for the wronged citizens.

The Chief Justice was giving a lecture on ethics which is normally taught in primary schools to children. We should expect adults and professionals to live ethics as their second nature. The Chief Justice was talking about setting high morals and building trusts with clients. But more surprising is that he was telling them that making money is secondary to leading a straight and narrow path.

What is happening or what has happened for the Chief Justice to have to lecture them on ethics and morals? Is the message to the young lawyers a reminder that our society has gone to the dogs and that they should not follow the same slippery path, of just grabbing money at all cost, without a care to their conscience or propriety?
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redbean



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PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

UNSW
Too hasty a decision
University's governing body had 30 seconds to decide on Singapore. Sydney Morning Herald.
May 26, 2006

By Harriet Alexander
The University of NSW rushed through plans for its now collapsed Singapore campus so quickly that the university's governing body was given just 30 seconds to scrutinise the proposal, a senior academic says.

One former member of the governing body said he was so disgusted by the decision in early 2004 that he decided not to stand again for his position on the University of NSW council.

Yesterday the university announced it was abandoning the university's Asia operation in Singapore after losing millions of dollars on the venture.

Fewer than 150 students had enrolled in the offshore campus this year, far short of plans to have it expand to 15,000 students over the next two decades.

It is the latest hitch in the Australian university sector's troubled attempts to exploit the lucrative international student market by setting up offshore campuses.


I extracted the above bits from littlespeck.com.

This is what will happen when the original objective of education is hijacked into a money making enterprise. It is now all about money.

The noble objective of education, the responsibility of educating and training a productive population is discarded and forgotten. Now it is whether there is money to be made. If not, simply close it down, cut your losses, and look for another more lucrative business.

Is there anything to learn from this?
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redbean



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PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When altruism is dead

When setting up schools is to make money

When setting up hospitals is to make money

When standing for election is to make money

When public service is to make money

When setting up a charity is to make money

When recognition of an individual's worthiness is about making money

That is, when altruism is dead.
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Green Peas



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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 4:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That reminds me of one of ABBA's songs, i.e.

"MONEY, MONEY, MONEY! IT MAKES THE WORLD GOES ROUND ..... "

I think those money-obssessed minitoots must have been fans of ABBA.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The audacity of Siew Kum Hong

How could Siew Kum Hong questioned the role of EDB in the UNSW fiasco? EDB has came out openly to say that they are not responsible and UNSW is ultimately responsible for the mess. Period. Can we not accept this clear cut position? And the reasons for not disclosing how much public money were lost were logical and for the good of the country. They cannot disclose it as it will compromise our position in future negotiations. Very reasonably put forth. Certain information are best keep undisclosed in the interest of the country. Transparency must have its limits and things of national interest cannot be divulged casually.

According to the Financial Times, $80 million of public money were involved. This is only speculation and cannot be proven as no official figure has been given. Anyway it is small change. Money seems to be an issue in the article as Siew Kum Hong said that with world class pay, the public should demand a higher standard of disclosure, transparency and quality from govt employees.

Though I take a different position from Siew Kum Hong, I strongly encouraged everyone to read his article in the Today paper today. He makes a lot of sense. And I am proud of him and Today for printing it. It will be better if Siew Kum Hong raises the same issues in Parliament.
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redbean



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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Singapore is 6th most stressful country

We are now ranked as more stressful than Hongkong, according to Grant Thornton International Business Report. Can you beat that?

I know one sure reason why Singaporeans are feeling stressed. When you are earning $20k a year and queuing to strike toto every week but in vain, but you are told that many people are earning an equivalent of a toto win every 6 months or every 2 months, sure you get stressed.

How not to when all the queuing for the next 30 years may not even strike one toto prize?
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redbean



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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 10:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Faces of anguish

Everyday the papers and the TV flashed faces of anguish of distraught students from UNSW and their parents. It is truly distressing.

A very sad episode to put so many innocent people in such a state of uncertainty with their hopes totally smashed. Crying or Very sad
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