Monday, 30 January 2012

When convenience becomes liability: iPhone and high pay

My brother commented that there was a communication gap between two of us as I was not a smartphone user.  My sister even claimed that she could not imagine life without iPhone.  A relative with a family of four also proudly declared they had 4 iPhones and 4 iPads even the two kids were in primary schools.

Am I losing out something by not using a smartphone?
Am I going backward without the access of instant messages and information?  Even though I find myself OK but there is an increasing pressure for me to get a smartphone as soon as possible.  I don’t’ feel the communication gap but why others think so.

I am confused.  Is this another kind of social divide in the information age?  If there is a gap between those who can afford, then there is even a bigger gap between those who can afford and those who can’t afford.

When the PAP sets high pay for political positions, perhaps they only look at those who can afford to pay for either iPhone or high salary to ministers.  However, as PM Lee had said some joined politics not because of money. These are people who don’t see the gap with or without a smartphone.  They are willing to settle down with a normal phone or a normal salary. 

Hence, the bigger picture, that is missing, is the gap between those can afford and those cannot afford an iPhone.  The PAP has failed to realise there are people who cannot afford an iPhone and of course, cannot afford to pay high pay to the ministers.

Different social class of mobile users

We generally can tell who use the smartphones and who don’t.  In order not to be associated with the group of non-smartphone users, some may have to shift to smartphones just to avoid being misidentified. Is this necessary? Why should we have this social divide?

One will need a certain purchasing power to own an iPhone and its associated subscription fees.  In a low income family, owning smartphones will take up quite a big percentage of their income.  But it may not be the best option to spend a big sum of family income into smartphones or iPads. 

When iPhone was launched, it was for entertainment, fun, then information, then working tool, then……? However, there is a limit to growth, unless one day the small toy can replace human brain and functions smarter than a human being.

Will smartphone help you to think smarter? Will paying high salary to ministers help Singapore to think smarter? One has only 24 hours a day. If you spend more times playing with the smartphones, you will have less time to think and learn other things. If ministers are occupied by the task of justifying their high pay, then they will have less time to think for the country. Sometimes, fast may not necessary to be good. People are occupied by the smartphones in the meetings, in the train, in the bus, over lunch and dinner, even walking in the street.  Are they really smart thinking and acting rationally?  Thinking too fast and acting too quick can be dangerous – this is why we have cooling off day before elections.  Because you need to think carefully before choosing a right candidate!

There are pros and cons for iPhone and high salary. Because the smartphones are so convenient, so trendy, we nearly forget its disadvantages.  Just like plastic bags, bottles, and products, there are so easy to use and we only realise the environment problems many years later.

It is also easy and convenient to link political pays to top earners. However, we will know the consequence  later.  In fact, a warning sign, the voters had already given their answers last year.

Cheaper iPhone, cheaper housing

IPhone and iPad are expensive in China, especially to low income Chinese people.  An Apple product can cost more than a month of a worker’s salary. So when Steve Jobs passed away, a major Chinese property developer commented that to remember Jobs, Apple should come out with RMB 1000 iPhone or iPad so that more Chinese could own Apple iPhone or iPads.#  However, his comment draw a lot of criticisms in the social media. Netizens demanded the developer to come out with RMB 1000 per sq.m of flat in memory of his deathr.

When the developer suggested a lower price for iPhone, he thought he was doing a favour for the ordinary Chinese. But comparing an iPhone and a flat, housing is even a bigger and expensive item than a communication tool.

The developer could only see a small item like the iPhone but had failed to observe the bigger item like a flat which he has full knowledge about the high property price in China. 

So do the PAP.  When linking the political pay to top earners, the government only sees the affordability of the rich and forget the feelings of the poor.     

Thursday, 26 January 2012


山不在高,有仙则名。 水不在深,有龙则灵。 是否是可以这么解释:不用样样都争第一,争最高,只要有真心诚心的仙气自然就会出名。不用斤斤计较薪水要最深最厚,只要有股龙的运力,自然就会有国泰民安的灵气。



陋室铭 百度图片









Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Pay Of Top GLC Executives: Adjusting Upward Or Downward

This is an interesting question. When the masters receive less, the servants under them should get less accordingly.  However, if the pay of the masters is based on a certain calculation of their servants’ pay, then the more the servants get the more the masters will be getting – this is another uniquely Singapore!  

This top to bottom approach will help ministers to get more if their servants in government linked companies (GLCs) are getting more. While if it is bottom to top approach, the base is so big, it is difficult to move the average of the bottom to increase the pay of the ministers. So, the easier way out is to use the top to bottom approach and the government can use the GLCs to achieve this goal.  

We are watching after the pay cuts for political positions, will there be any pay adjustment for top executives in the GLCs in Singapore? Will there be an upward trend so that to push up the average of the top 1000 earners in Singapore or will there be a downward trend as the political masters are getting less so that they have to be compensated less accordingly?

Top GLC executives are top earners

Many of the top listed companies are owned by Singapore government through mainly Temasek Holdings, for example, listed companies like Singtel, DBS, SIA, Keppel, Sembawang, CapitaLand etc. We all know that these top executives are drawing millions dollars salaries and bonuses. Even SMRT, the troubled train operator, its CEO are having a pay cheque higher than a junior minister.

We don’t know how many of the top 1000 earners in Singapore are top GLC executives.  But it is not a small number and they can contribute to move the average compensation of the top 1000 earners in Singapore. An increase in their pay will help to increase the average of the top 1000 earners; this will ultimately increase the pay of the ministers.    

Through Temasek and GLCs, it is possible to move up or down the average pay of the top earners in Singapore. Of course, in the name of market forces, it can remain unchanged but it will create a wider gap between GLC top executives and their political masters. Like one PAP MP had commented last year, it may belittle the ministers, as ministers who draw less pay will not have the courage to look up at these top executives.  Ministers cannot hold themselves high due to a bigger pay gap.  Perhaps, this MP can have a follow-up on this issue.

We are spending too much on the issue of political pay and we will not get the correct answer until general election comes. 

Singapore is greater than PAP

This is a PAP problem - getting calibre candidates to join them, but it will have to be decided by the voters of Singapore. And we must always realise that Singapore is greater than the PAP – It must always be the case, especially in future. Otherwise, we will not have a breakthrough, new peak and new direction.  Do we want to continue to remain at the ‘super first world pay for ministers and third world wages for the workers’?

For selfish or survival reasons, the PAP will try all the ways to remain in power. However, they are running out of innovative strategies, wills and spirit to fight on, just like the debate on political pay. 

It will not end here.  Perhaps, it is just the beginning like the sad cases of the chiefs of SCDF and CNB in the start of the dragon year.           

Thursday, 19 January 2012
















Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Taiwan election, any lessons for Singapore? Below 50% of votes, KMT is still the parliament majority

Unless the PAP is not bale to come with enough candidates due to fear of losing and low pay, they will continue to be in power for quite a long time.

Judging from the recent election in Taiwan, although declining, the PAP will not lose its majority in the near term. It may not decline as fast as what we wanted it to be.  It is a downward trend but even it goes below to 50%, the PAP can still have a majority in parliament as experience in Taiwan.  Voters who want to see an alternative government will have to wait for few more elections. To be realistic, wining more GRCs are the best we can hope for.   

Last Saturday’s Taiwan election saw the re-election of Ma Ying-jeou with 51% of votes in the Presidential election.  Taiwan Election Commission also called for the election of legislators (members of parliament) on the same day.  They practice one constituency 2 votes system: one ballot paper for the directly elected MPs, another ballot paper for the Party votes.    The second ballot paper is to vote the party the voters prefer, i.e. a kind of proportional representation with at least 5% of the total votes to qualify for MP seats.   

Here are the results of the 2012 Taiwan Legislation Election:

Constituency votes (%)
Constituency MPs (seats)
Party  votes
MP seats based on  Party votes


KMT share



KMT: Kuomintang DPP: Democratic Progress Party TSU: Taiwan Solidarity Union PFP: People First

Taiwan parliament has only 113 MPs and the new parliament will have 64 KMT MPS.  This translates into 56.6% of the MP seats and gives the simple parliament majority to KMT. KMT now controls both the Presidential office and the parliament with reduced majority. 

With below 50% of total legislative votes: 48.18% of constituency votes and 44.55% of party votes, KMT is still holding on the power.  

In Singapore, it is hard to expect the PAP’s votes to go below 55%, or 50%, or the unlikely below 50% in the distance future. Unless the economy is very badly managed in the next decade, or the PAP leadership is in big trouble - unable to find enough candidates, it is fair to say that the PAP government will be here with us for quite some times.  The oppositions’ best hope is to knock down more ministers but not all the ministers. And hopefully, those second rate ministers remain and those calibre ones left like Aljunied GRC.

Other observations from the Taiwan election are:

Quality of candidates:
Ma is re-elected as compared to DPP candidate because he seems to be a better choice in terms of quality, reliability, delivery, and perhaps even integrity. This attracts the middle ground voters.

Voters have become more mature and rational and if oppositions want to win the election, they have to come out with better quality candidates.

Counting of votes and announcement of results:
Vote counting in Taiwan
For this election, there are 3 types of votes needed to be counted: President, direct votes for constituency MPs and Party votes.  Each will have more than 18 million votes. Compared to our elections last year, I think their productivity in votes counting is certainly higher than us.  If you look at how they counted their votes, we can’t claim we are first world country.

Furthermore the announcement of results is another embarrassment for Singapore.  The Taiwan Poll closed at 4 pm and candidates could go to bed at 10 pm. Many know their results 3 hours after the poll closed.

Furthermore, they certainly didn’t plan and time the announcement of election result in favour of the ruling party. Perhaps, this is the reason why our Election Department in not independent and under PMO. In such an arrangement, the department has forgotten the right of the voters to know the results as soon as possible.

Sitting of parliament: 
Parliament is the most important institution that represents the wishes of the people and voters. The new Taiwan Parliament will sit in February after less than 1 month of election.  In Singapore, our parliament takes more than 5 months to have the first sitting. 

Funding for party
This is a special feature for the Taiwan election. As an encouragement, candidates and parties will be awarded with an incentive for the votes they get in the election.

For example, the party votes, parties that get more than 5% will receive an incentive for each vote.  In order to favour smaller parties, the incentive limit has lowered to 3% so that more parties can receive the funding.

It is really out of imagination that the PAP will be so kind to small political parties. 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

无心, 哪来减薪不减心。
















孩子们真的好无心啊! 他们竟然把总统这么神圣的高贵的职位,当成是一份领高薪,不做事的优差。不要介意,这是孩子的戏言,无心的。







Thursday, 12 January 2012

Departure of Saw and Ng is a surprise yet not so surprise when comes to money and shareholdings

The resignation of Saw Phaik Hwa as CEO of SMRT and the ousting of Ng Ser Miang as Chairman of WBL have no relation except one is making good money and the other is not making enough money for their companies respectively.

Either making more money or not making enough money both have to go.  SMRT is making too much money but the larger population is not happy. WBL is not making enough money so the shareholders are not happy, even though Ng has a strong political connection in Singapore.

The greater surprise is Ng due also to his international standing as the Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) while Saw’s resignation is expected and her leaving is only a question of timing.

For profit maximization and return on investment principles, the ousting of Ng is correct as the Company Board is responsible for the business performance to the shareholders.  If the shareholders are not happy, not making enough money, not getting better returns, even how strong your political connection is, you will have to go.

In this way, Saw is lucky or perhaps her political connection is even more ‘powerful’ than Ng and she can take her own time to resign and not to be ousted by the Board or shareholders but by the general public.

SMRT vs. WBL: Different structure of shareholding

When we look further to the share structure of the 2 companies we will see the difference. One is under the control of the government and the other is private owned and managed. 

SMRT is in fact a GLC that Temasek is the biggest shareholder; indirectly this is a government controlled company.  If the government is happy with your performance, you can keep your job, especially the ROI is good and there is good reason to keep the CEO.

However, WBL is very different.  The shareholders are private companies that they are keen to have higher returns. According to The Business Times (BT), while fund managers Third Avenue Management LLC and Aberdeen Asset Management voted against Ng, WBL's largest shareholders OCBC and its subsidiary Great Eastern supported him. At the end, Ng was ousted out by 54.64% of the shareholders.

It is not clear why SMRT wants to keep Saw even after major disruptions and delays of SMRT trains. Perhaps, Temasek sees it as a small matter in view of the profit that Saw has generated in the past few years. The more profit SMRT makes, the more Temasek will have the share of the profit.   It seems to be a cash cow for Temasek as its other investments can not guarantee such a stable and good return. 

However, this is a very short-sighed decision.  Train disruptions and delays will affect SMRT performance as it is the core business of the company.  In the longer run, SMRT will have to come out with higher maintenance cost, penalty, damages or even claims of liability. 

<A few shops here, a bazaar there and, in 2008, the first mini mall in an MRT station outside the city opened up. By the close of FY2011, SMRT posted almost $57 million in operating profit from rental income, up from an insignificant amount before 2003.>

No matter how good is the sale of the retail space, it is always a non-core business unless SMRT wants to go into property development with the help of Temasek, CapitaLand etc. Then it should not be awarded the licence to operate the train services.  

Value of political connected persons

For the WBL case, it seems that the private businesses are looking at performance. You keep your post if you keep up with the company expectation demanded by the shareholders. 

<In a recent interview, Straits Trading's executive chairman Ms Chew told The Straits Times: “WBL’s business is not a bad business but it could do much better."
WBL's key businesses span technology, automotive, property, and engineering & distribution. In Singapore, it distributes upmarket car brands such as Bentley, Bugatti, Jaguar, Land Rover, McLaren, Renault, Volvo. It has a substantial landbank in China with its business consisting of property development, property management and property investment.
It reported a 10.6 per cent decline in full-year net earnings to $89.1 million in its last financial year ending Sept 30.>

We used to have a lot of PAP MPs sit in the Board of Directors in SGX listed companies.  It is time to judge these MPs by performance rather than their PAP connection.  Their usefulness is limited and may only be applicable to GLC controlled companies but in private business it is better to practice the business way.   

Further to the high pay of ministers, these MPs are also over paid in their director’s fees.  Companies should judge the performance of these MPs like what the shareholders of WBL did to Ng.

It does make a difference whether it is a GLC or private business. It helps us to see the difference.

Sunday, 8 January 2012






慌了, 行动党开始慌了,国会辩论地铁事件前,先叫地铁总裁走路,做个替死鬼,然后,部长可以大论一番,地铁事故的来龙去脉。堂堂一个总裁,上个月还说不辞职的,现在却不得不下野了。说到底,她是一个中了数字毒手的可怜人,她一心追求利润,最终还不是败在数字中吗? 她的高薪,不也是顺着行动党的游戏规则进行吗?何错之有。



先说,枯鱼之肆 - 干鱼的故事。这是一个很多人都知道的寓言故事。庄子没钱开饭,就向当官的朋友借钱,朋友要他等到明年等有收成时才借钱给庄子。庄子就说了这个干鱼的故事。一只快要渴死的鱼,要求人们帮忙给些水解渴,那人却说让他找人开一条河过来。鱼说,到时他就成了一条干鱼,只有到市场上才找到它这条咸鱼了。

行动党政府在下层人民最需要帮助的 时候,是否有伸出援手,还是只是照规矩办事。比照同样的道理,来衡量工人党毕丹星的说法:救济人民是政府的责任,不应由议员来承担。他说:我们不希望陷入得自行推出福利计划的局面,因为这将让国人不去关注政府为什么没有帮助穷人,这也会把照顾穷人的责任放在反对党手中,那是不对的。碰到前来寻求经济援助的居民,这名负责友诺士区的议员会请他们到友诺士民众俱乐部,向那里的社区发展理会职员申请援助。









再补充一下庄子的见利忘危的故事 - 庄子的另一个精彩寓言螳螂捕蝉 黄雀在后。苏碧华看到地铁公司盈利大增,见利忘危,不知道背后有个人民在监视着她,几年来,她看着业绩报告,心里算着股东红利是多少,本身分红又有多少,这些数目字,越算越开心,开心到不知道自己有多危险都不知道。最后,只有一条路可以选择辞职。说的白一点,是人民主人要她走路。



部长薪金检讨报告前天出炉后,傅海燕在面簿上发表有关部长薪金检讨报告的意见时表示薪金多寡并不是她在六年前考虑是否从政的主要因素。她说:失去个人隐私、自己和家人受到公众的监视和失去个人时间,以及从政会如何影响我的事业发展才是重要考量。  她也指出,若薪金平衡点继续倾向一个方向,将让往后考虑担任政治职务者面对更艰难的决定。



Friday, 6 January 2012

Pay Cuts: The Beginning Of The Decline Of The PAP

Money is always the secret of success for the PAP. Now, they have partly given away this secret weapon, where else, can they find another replacement?  For too long, the willingness to serve in politics is linked to money so that the PAP can attract calibre people to join the government.

This in fact is the story of the PAP. We should not look at this old normal. The other side of the picture is the new normal that we will see more and more committed and calibre opposition candidates willing to step forward for the country, for Singaporeans.

With a minus for the PAP and a plus for the oppositions, this is the meaning of the decline of the PAP. With this decline, we will see the decline of the PAP associated political organisations and activities, like the NTUC (members voting against the PAP), PA (for example the replacement of George Yeo) and the main stream media (losing their influence to social media).

In addition, the PAP is also losing its influence to the youth and young voters.  

What concerns most Singaporeans are their
HDB flats. The ministerial salary even after the “huge’ cut with the million dollars salary, this big sum of money can still buy them at least 2 or 3 or even more HDB flats within a year.

With the humble income, the average Singaporeans will take 10, 20, and even 30 years to own a HDB flat. And majority of Singaporeans are HDB residents. Hence, is the “Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries” doing the right thing and using the right benchmark?  Indirectly, the Committee is part of the machinery to help the decline of the PAP.   

Shall we say a word of thank to the Committee?

MP as career option

If my recall is correct (correct me if I am wrong), Dr. Toh Chin Chye had once encouraged the young to contest in the general election as even the MP allowance is attractive enough. Yes, if you imagine the starting pay of a fresh graduate.  How can a fresh graduate get nearly $20,000 monthly salary in today’s Singapore? (of course, you have to factor in the donation to party and community expenses).

Young people in Singapore should consider this career option as according to the report on “Salaries for A Capable and Committed Government”, by serving only 1 term, this young elected MP will be able to own a HDB flat.  If he or she serves another term, he may be able to upgrade to a condo.

Not to mention, if you are PAP MPs, there are directorship waiting for you to make extra money.

PM Lee has just mentioned about ‘give and take’. Now, the government has accepted the proposal of benchmarking top 1000 Singapore earners. And in return, the people should take it – anther top to bottom approach.

Paper Talent Is Not Talent: More Troubles Ahead For PAP.

The Committee has considered the issue of attracting talents for the PAP government. They believe the new and proposed structure is competitive. 

But, the big question is the definition of talent? For this, the Committee is still in the old normal: people score good academic results, from top junior colleges, scholars, and top civil servants.

Just like the above mentioned case of HDB, the Committee is only looking at the talent pool of the top and fails to consider the majority – people from neighbour schools, ITE and even polytechnics.

They have failed to realise that talents can also come from ordinary people. A hero emerges and changes the situation. 《英雄造时势》 In ancient Chinese history, people who overthrow an old dynasty are usually from the grassroots and have less education. Definitely, they are not talents in the eyes of the old rulers.

What the Committee is doing is building an environment so that they can help to find a hero 《时势造英雄》.  They may be right because with a peaceful and planned environment, heroes do appear.

Which way it will go, the Singapore voters have the final say.