Sunday, 24 June 2018

窄路相逢,不得不相煎!


在邻里走动,一定会遇到人车在窄路相逢。不论是什么人 - 小孩,大人,老弱残障。。。。不论是什么车 - 自行车,电动车,送货推车。。。。大家都似乎习惯了这样的游戏。有时,人车在互相争路权,有时,则是人与人,车与车,在比拼。

这算不算是一种相煎,同样是人,我们在互相争着使用同样的行人道,走廊,有盖走道。到底是谁侵犯了谁的使用权,又是谁破坏了原本相安无事的游戏规则? 而执政者,为何视若无睹,几十年来,没有及早纠正,反而让国人继续相煎下去。

这是社会问题,经济问题,还是经济发展演变而成的社会问题?

几十年前,自行车,摩多车,多数都是在马路上跑。现在,自行车把范围扩大,向邻里的发展。摩多车变形成了电动车,单轮车,双轮车,无奇不有,也打邻里的主意。这样一来,邻里的人行道,走廊,除了人之外,也成了人与车互相使用的空间。恶化演变的结果,当然就是人车相煎,人与人相煎。

自行车,电动车,斗不过马路上的汽车,巴士,货车,只好向邻里发展?还是邻里的走道,更加适合它们。因为,它们轻巧的车身,可以很方便的在邻里自由移动。至于,这样会不会造成行人的不便,行人的安全,那就是另外一回事了。我们想到自己的方便,又何必考虑这么多,反正,在行车时,遇到行人,就拉响铃一下,告诉、提醒行人注意,这么做可以说已经做到仁义。

这是经济发展下的仁义。而不是社会发展下的仁义。PAP的经济发展仁义是让人民在互相竞争下相煎。而正常的社会发展,却是鼓励相爱的仁义。

什么是经济发展下的仁义?自行车,电动车向邻里发展,他们考虑的问题是生产力,效率,方便。他们没有考虑与行人争路,争邻里路道的使用权,会有什么不对的地方。更加让他们据理力争的是,很多外劳也这么做,为何作为国人,我们不可以这么做。这是我们的邻里走道,我们更加有理由,有权利使用它。自行车和电动车使用者知道,他们在自由经济竞争下,不可能与马路上的大车争路权,不可能打败大车。因此,退而求其次,在邻里与行人竞争,具有一定的优势,自行车和电动车的机动性,肯定胜过行人。所以,我们只是看到自行车和电动车撞到人撞伤人,而没有看到自行车和电动车被行人撞倒。

这是国人,尤其是中下层国人面对的相煎问题。从邻里的走道,到医院,地铁,公积金,教育,为何国人渴求改善服务,减少相煎?最好,能够做到相亲相爱。而人民行动党政府,却一直用经济发展作为借口,有钱有办法,就使用公路和马路,住高级病房或者私人医院,最好不要动用公积金,手头松动,喜欢出国就出国受教育,不用政府操心。

所以,以前没有的相煎问题,现在却一一出现。狭路相逢,只不过是其中的一个例子。最新的一个相煎课题,竟然和语文有关。有些新加坡人认为服务员应该要会说英语,因为,这是因为新加坡 是一个发达的国际现代化城市。似乎,我们忘了四大官方语言,忘了在国会也可以用华语发言。我们太过在乎自己的权利,在邻里自由骑自行车,在商场使用英语,在一些小争论中讲自由,在迎新会学外人的放荡,而不敢在大是大非面前据理力争。这是PAP理想的新加坡--中下层人民相煎,在现实条件下,也只能做出不得不相煎的选择。因为,不相煎会吃亏的,比人慢半拍,比人效率低。

新加坡人就是搞不清楚,国人相煎的真正原因,反而,一而再再而三的迷失在行动党政府的经济发展的伟伦中。我们想一想,自行车和电动车走进邻里,行人可以走出邻里吗?走不出,自然就会面对相煎问题。同样是国人,大家最后只能在邻里相煎,在政府医院相煎,在地铁相煎,互相造成伤害。当然,如果经济条件好,就可以摆脱相煎的困境。这是少数幸运人的福气。不属于大多数新加坡人。

这不是相煎何太急的问题,曹丕最后没有相煎曹植,但是,新加坡人却不得不相煎,因为曹植可以被下放到其他地方,但是,在邻里,政府医院,地铁,就没有下放的机会。例如:已经进入C级病房,还可以再往下吗?当然,另外一个方法就是在家里等死。

自行车的响铃,电动车的喇叭,只能提醒国人小心,后面有车。但是,没有办法真正解决问题。响铃也好,喇叭也好,就是告诉行人,现在,自行车和电动车要使用走道了,即使行人有权利使用,也应该让路,不然后果自己负责。
相煎问题的发生是一个经济解决不了的社会问题。一个看不到问题所在,而认为相煎是唯一的解决方法,唯一的折中方法。这就是PAP的真正面目!

Sunday, 17 June 2018

HSR Negotiation: Reformasi vs. UNMO friendly; Open vs. Close; low pay vs. high pay; Institutional change and reform.


The Malaysian government will soon send three ministers to Singapore for the re-negotiation of the High Speed Rail project. The latest Malaysian status is the project is to be delayed rather than cancelled.  Anyway, a negotiation is needed and interestingly, Singapore will face a team of ‘reformasi’ ministers who are different from the usual UNMO friendly ministers.

In addition, the negotiation is to be conducted in a transparent, open and perhaps in equal terms.  Both Malaysia (under Najib) and Singapore governments need big projects to generate economic growth, regardless fair wealth distribution.  In particular, the former Malaysian prime minister like to use big project for election purpose and maybe also for personal gain.

A close and less transparent contract, likes the HSR, will certainly have less than perfect consideration, assessment  and evaluation. As shown in the recent election result in Malaysia, voters did not trust Najib, especially in urban areas and perhaps, hated him for all his wrong doings. If HSR is a value for money project and helps to create jobs, Malaysian voters will think twice before saying no to Najib, especially in states that HSR runs.  

A NEGOTIATION LED BY FUTURE LEADERS

Despite different ideological and political experience, one common thing between Malaysian and Singapore ministers is they are future leaders of both countries, for example, Lim Guan Eng, Azmin, Anthony Loke and our Heng Swee Keat, Chan Chun Seng etc.

We will then see how their performance is. This is a real test for both sides as we all know Najib Administration maintained a good working relationship with Singapore government. But few know new Malaysian ministers and a new working relationship needs times to build up.

Here are two examples showing how the new Malaysian ministers work:

I’m Malaysian, don’t see myself as Chinese

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-cwzza8vkw

Loke urges MOT staff to serve, not line up to greet ministers

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/426229

These ministers do not have our PA-style grassroots support but people support. Their political struggles are very different from our scholars-turned political leaders. Lim and Azmin have been jailed and in the eyes of 70% Singaporeans, they are not perfect.

IS PAY AN ISSUE?

The 3 Malaysian ministers are all first time ministers and draw low salary based on Singapore standard. With the recent 10% cut in pay, these Malaysian ministers are really poorly compensated.  

Will pay and low compensation affect their performance during negotiation?

Let’s recall the story of dignity and pay:

He (Lim Wee Kiak) had been quoted by the Chinese paper last week as saying, "If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communication and Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discuss policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister's ideas and proposals. Hence, a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity."
In his Facebook note, the MP said, "I withdraw those remarks and apologise for making them. Dignity cannot be and must not be measured purely in monetary terms."
https://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/reasonable-pay-help-maintain-bit-dignity-084833549.html

It is interesting to see how the low pay Malaysian ministers discuss and negotiate with our highly paid ministers and whether they have the dignity to protect the interest of Malaysia.

We will then see whether compensation is the key motivation for political appointments and ministers.  

The open and transparent HSR negotiation will also help Singaporeans to understand the meaning of openness, transparency and citizens-led democracy.  

INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE AND REFORM

The HSR negotiation is taking place under institutional change and reform in Malaysia. We have seen the resignation or removal of top judges, Attorney-general, central bank governor, MOF secretary-general, anti-corruption chairman, election commission chairman, registry of societies chairwoman, plus the heads of government-linked companies.

In Singapore, it is hard for us to imagine so many key persons in the public administration and GLCs been removed and replaced. 70% of Singaporeans will think this will be the end of the country as the change of government will lead to no capable men and women running the country.

Is this true?

We will know the answer when the 3 Malaysian ministers visit Singapore.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

任人唯贤,人才回流,大马变天带给新加坡的另一个震撼。


『马来西亚变天,影响的不只是大马,它对新加坡的中期经济表现,财政政策,带来震撼性的反响。上文谈到吉隆坡-新加坡高铁项目的流产,对新加坡的中期财政政策带来巨大影响。人民行动党政府一直依靠大工程、大项目来推动经济,而高铁项目取消和裕廊一带的发展一定受到影响,PAP如何寻找替代的大项目?』

变天后的马来西亚,展现出依法治国,任人唯贤,能者上任的新气象。这和前朝的国阵政府很不一样。财政部长,总检察长,都不是土著,总检查长,甚至马来语不灵光。事实上,马来西亚的股市,经济并没有受到影响,反而,马来西亚人的信心回来,投资者对于新政府的公开,透明给予掌声。

如果,这是事实,这对新加坡来说,将是另一个外部震撼。短期内看不出什么来,中期过后,马来西亚的机会多了,马来西亚的人才、资金将回流本国,而新加坡的人力资源将会出现问题,市场也会因为高铁不建而出现腹地问题。马来西亚为新加坡提供的人才,还包括我们的国会议员呢!当然在资金方面,马哈迪很想谈一谈大马人在新加坡的公积金问题。

    2018年新加坡财政预算,提到中期财政政策时,就提出调高消费税到9%的问题。当时,并没有考虑到马来西亚变天,以及变天后可能影响我们中期表现的问题。一切的设想,都是纳吉继续执政。为此,新加坡政府有必要在年底前,为大马变天后出现的新的局面给新加坡人一个更新的经济评估。如果,还是一成不变,装聋作哑,没有交代,就是PAP的失职。半年的时间,马来西亚的短期和中期经济政策应该出来,而新加坡方面也应该做出相对的反应。

    马来西亚变天后,对新加坡经济的影响,远远超过政治上的影响。甚至,不需要等到中期,短期内就出现一些微妙的变化。新马股市的合作,需要重新检讨。一马大案会不会影响到新加坡的金融声誉?我们有没有涉及到纳吉和团伙的洗黑钱活动?马新官员已经开了两次一马案的会议,这很可能比高铁项目取消,还要严重。另外,马哈迪的第二次向东学习,对我们会产生什么影响?

    一向以来,马来西亚都以新加坡为学习对象。最新的一个,是大马人力部考虑学习我们的外劳政策。我们推出的一些政策,适用的,大马那边就会跟着推行。现在的情形,反而很可能会被马来西亚赶超。任人唯贤,法制建设,大学不再限制政治活动,反对党选区同样获得政府津贴,新闻自由,还有部长和高官减薪10%,必须申报财产,似乎讽刺我们在民主、自由、公开透明、法制上的相对落后。

【新加坡中期信心在哪里?】

    新加坡现在出现一个非常不自然的发展。在政治上,李显龙交不交出政权,PAP第四代领导,敢不敢接受挑战,成了中期政治稳定的大问题。即使交给PAP第四代领导管理,新加坡人,似乎呈现出缺乏信心。这里面有李显龙为何不愿交棒的考虑。与此同时,纳吉的败选,人们也对李显龙没有信心。这是一个,人民对PAP信心动摇的时间点。

    (相对于马来西亚的政治,就以民主行动党DAP来说,根本没有出现我们PAP的问题。他们有年轻的接班人,可以完成中期,甚至中长期的政治任务。当马哈迪委任林冠英为财政部长的时候,DAP就出动了三个部长级人选(所谓的左剑桥右牛津)来做这项工作。其中2个人还是义务无薪金的帮忙国家半年。试问PAP有人愿意做出这样的牺牲吗?有部长不做,还要倒贴免费服务。)

    在经济上,同样也出现问题。中期计划中的消费税提高,未必能够说服人心。大项目,大工程的推出,是否能够做到公开透明,同样的,公积金,国库储备和主权基金的善用和透明公开,一直是一个大问题。马来西亚变天,是否会连带人们想象PAP在管理国家的经济上,单方面要求人民要相信PAP,无需质疑PAP?的做法。纳吉在选前,不也说着同样的话?

    马来西亚的变天对于新加坡来说是一个思想上的转弯。或许,PAP和国人没有觉察出来。

    以往,我们一直认为在东南亚,我们是领先的。我们只要维持本身的信誉,国际中心地位,那么,临近国家那些利用他们国家资源致富的政客和商人,就会把钱存在新加坡。带动我们的房产,出入口生意,金融,医药和服务业等。因为,这些国家出现贪污,不透明不公开,不稳定的政治经济局势。

    今天,这个局面已经改变了。菲律宾,印尼,到现在的马来西亚,他们其实不希望他们国家的人把钱放在新加坡。因此,他们努力改进他们的司法制度,采取更加公开透明的治国方针。而新加坡似乎在原地踏步,这就是别人前进,我们不进步,反而落后而不自知的地方。

    新加坡不可能永远停留在过去的风光。就像特兰普-金正恩在新加坡开会见面,这是一时的光荣和对国际社会的义务。我们有必要踏出转换跑道的勇气。至于这是PAP内部自我转变,还是变天,现在言之过早。

    还有,我们不能一直希望处于贫穷邻居间,才显现自己的富有。时代已经改变了,我们的邻国已经开始民主,政治,经济觉醒了。他们会继续经济发展的步伐。我们应该希望他们更加民主,公开,透明,更加富有,这样我们在新的时代才能有所作为。瑞士如果没有富有的德国,法国,北欧国家,北意大利地区,它能够这么富有吗?

    问题在于,我们是否能够跟上邻国的步伐?这不是PAP的问题,而是国人应该思考的问题。也不是PAP是否继续执政的问题,而是,谁能够跟着时代的步伐,跟进邻国的发展。

Sunday, 3 June 2018

HSR, External Shocks and the Medium-term Fiscal Policy Challenges



Singapore is now waiting for the official notification of the cancellation of Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) from Malaysia.  This big item project, as part of Singapore’s medium-term fiscal policy, has now become an external shock. Do we have a Plan B? Are we going to find another bigger project or speed up our existing projects?    

The People’s Action Party government likes big projects. They believes big projects can generate economic growth and jobs, like the two casino projects.
Besides HSR, they plan to build Terminal 5, seaport, developments in Jurong area, more metro lines, and continue the existing projects like housing and health care facilities.

Singaporeans seldom ask why or the cost/benefit analysis.  According to Malaysian reasoning, HSR is too costly to build and to maintain.   

Guan Eng on HSR: 'You can get something... for half the price.'
https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/06/02/guan-eng-on-hsr-you-can-get-something-for-half-the-price/#MR07VAdqFcRqHTVU.99    
We believe Lee Hsien Loong’s explanation (as he claims) just like Malaysians, especially rural Malaysians, believe Najib’s explanation on the necessity of big projects until 9 May 2018.   

Tharman’s calling

{Policymakers must look past the strategies of the second half of the 20th century if they are to deal with the challenges of the 21st, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Wednesday (May 30).
He warned of an "ebbing of hope and optimism" and the loss of faith in market-based meritocracy in advanced economies.
“Loss of faith in market-based meritocracy” can happen in Singapore too. In fact, it is happening. We have seen conflict of interest in our GLCs, Temasek, GIC while the PAP still insists it is based on meritocracy.  
By calling Advanced economies to think of progressive strategies, I wonder why Tharman did not mention his own country - Singapore. We, too, face the same challenges or even worse than them in term of Gini index and inequality.

Purposes of fiscal policy

Annual budget and medium-term fiscal framework have three purposes:
  • Stabilization of economy, reducing internal and external shocks
  • Efficient use of resources, including human resources
  • Equal distribution of growth, reducing poverty and inequality

International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other international bodies are helping the world to maintain economic stability, especially when countries facing internal (e.g. high debt, deficit) and external shocks (fluctuation of commodity and oil price).

They also provide assistance on the use of resources and distribution of income. One key recommendation to achieve the target is Citizen Engagement. Without the support of the citizens, successful implementation of fiscal policy will be in doubt. The first 50 years of Singapore after independence is one such example. However, since Lee Hsien Loong became the prime minister, “Loss of faith in market-based meritocracy” appears.

The recent Malaysian example shows voters have no confidence in Najib’s fiscal policies. His economic policies have failed to achieve equal distribution of wealth to Malaysians, especially rural Malaysians. People care more about cost of living rather than Najib’s corruption. This is another example of “Loss of faith in market-based meritocracy” .
Why WP rejects Budget 2018?

Singapore Budget 2018 was rejected by the Workers’ Party. It is related to GST.

[The Workers’ Party MPs voted “no” to the motion that Parliament “approves the financial policy of the Government for the financial year 1st April 2018 to 31st March 2019” for the sole reason that WP is unable to support the announcement of a GST hike from 7% to 9% in 2021-2025 at this point in time.
We support the Government’s budget strategy and measures for the coming Financial Year, as presented to Parliament. However, the future GST hike is an announcement and not a budget measure. We are unable to support the announcement for three reasons:
1. the lack of clarity on long-term projected Government income and spending;
2. the lack of consideration of alternative revenue streams and whether there is scope for the reserves to better support and invest in Singaporeans;
3. the lack in details on the effect of the future GST hike on low-income and middle-income Singaporeans and the Government’s permanent GST offset packages.
In our parliament system, a vote of NO to annual budget is a vote of no confidence to the government.

WP’s reasoning is related to our medium-term budget framework and fiscal policy.    
It is related to future income and expenditures, as well as Plan B.  It seems the PAP government has failed to provide a detailed fiscal risk statement to the parliament.

Few Singaporeans notice the NO vote. Even fewer are asking why. Anyway, the Budget 2018 has passed. Life is back to normal. Is this so simple? Should we expect and demand a transparent PAP government?  

What are the fiscal risks
 
The Malaysian example shows the contingent liabilities that do not appear in the budget or fiscal framework. Najib Adminstration only considers federal debt as government liabilities (RM 686.8 billion).

Malaysia's 1 Trillion Ringgit Government Debt Explained

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-24/malaysia-s-1-trillion-ringgit-government-debt-explained   

Fiscal risks can be explicit contingent liabilities, like 1MDB. When the company is not able to serve the interest or principal payment, the government as a guarantor has to pay.  (RM199.1 billion)

There are also implicit contingent liabilities, like major banks, too big to fail state owned enterprises, where investors and citizens believe the government will step in to help. Just imagine our Temasek, GIC, or GLCs, Singaporeans and foreigners believe the government will bail out these companies if they get into troubles.  

Bigger and bigger SOEs and fiscal risks

When Singapore economy grows, so do the GLCs, GIC and Temasek. Today’s Singapore SOEs are the major listed companies in the stock exchange. They also expand their reach all over the world. By definition, SOEs are part of the public sector and so should subject to parliament’s questioning.   

In rejecting Budget 2018, WP said there is “the lack of clarity on long-term projected Government income and spending.” Indeed, few in Singapore know about the accounts of these SOEs.  Even listed in Stock Exchange, companies like Keppel can still involve in corruption cases in Brazil.   
All these are potential fiscal risks for Singapore. What happens in Malaysia can happen in Singapore too. Najib claimed Malaysian debt is only 50% of the GDP while the new government increased it to 80%. However, Singapore’s debt to GDP ratio is nearly to 120%. Many of these borrowings are from CPF members so there is no worry for the government? Think again! CPF contribution is your money not the wealth distribution from the government.
Think again why is Najib withdrawing his 1MDB court cases in Malaysia?