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Archive for the ‘Citizen Speak’ Category

Government should use free software

Posted by theonlinecitizen on April 24, 2007

By Koh Choon Lin

The Government is increasingly dependent on computer software to operate. Singaporeans access important services like SingPass via the Internet, leading the makers of software exerting substantial control over how the Government operates.

Most software currently used by the Government is like a black box. It is proprietary, which means that the Government is not allowed to look inside to see how it works. Proprietary software comes with restrictions preventing it from being copied without permission.

The Government placed its fate in the hands of a few entities when it accepts these restrictions on the technology Singaporeans depend on for everything from social services to our CPF savings. Government needs to serve the public interest and has an obligation to remain independent of such control.

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Posted in Citizen Speak | 6 Comments »

Danish citizen responds to MM Lee’s “mediocre government” comment

Posted by theonlinecitizen on April 23, 2007

A Danish citizen, Mr. Gregory Glen, responds to MM Lee’s remarks that Denmark, Finland and Switzerland can afford mediocrity in the remuneration of their ministers. This is an extract from the blog, This Lush Garden Within.

I read with interest Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s remark in Singapore’s Parliament that Denmark, Finland and Switzerland can afford mediocrity in the remuneration of their ministers.

I shall restrict my observations to Denmark and Finland.

These 2 Nordic countries reward their leaders, in both the private and public sectors, somewhat less handsomely than Singapore. Despite this, I would suggest that both countries’ governments are by no means mediocre, and neither have they evinced any indication of being able to afford it.

Finland has managed to weather the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90s, a market for 20% of its exports, in no small part due to its successful transformation from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy. Its leading multinational, Nokia, is the market leader in the mobile telecommunications industry, with a global market share of 36% in the manufacture of mobile phones (Q42006) and revenues of €41.121 billion (2006). While most of the credit for this success story can be attributed to the Finnish private sector, Finland’s government had a significant role to play in creating the optimal framework for the flourishing of the technology sector.

Please click here to read full article.

Posted in Citizen Speak, Current Affairs | 1 Comment »

Danger when simplistic benchmarks influence the wrong behaviours

Posted by theonlinecitizen on April 12, 2007

This is filed under “Letters to TOC”.

From “boboshooter”

I would like to add to the discussions and debates regarding the latest round of ministerial and civil service pay increases.

Firstly I applaud our Prime Minister for taking the lead and donating his increments to charity. I hope the other ministers will follow suit. However, even if they do so, what they do only masks the symptoms but do not solve the root cause of the problem that caused the public’s anger in the first place.

Benchmarks are supposed to be external indicators which people measure themselves against. They are supposed to be independent and immovable numbers that people (at least individually) cannot influence or change. Hence when a law firm pays a top lawyer a remuneration package based on law industry benchmarks, the lawyer is just a “taker” – he cannot engineer changes in the industry to increase the benchmark so he gets a higher pay.

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Posted in Citizen Speak, Current Affairs | 2 Comments »

Ministers’ Salaries – is the government losing touch?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on April 9, 2007

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the increase in ministerial pay.

Before the increase, political appointment holders take home $ 46 million in total a year, which is only 0.13 per cent of total Government expenditure, or 0.022 per cent of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product.

As to not having a sense of proportion in quarreling about $74 million, after the 60 per cent increase by the end of next year after the 3-step salary revision announced in Parliament on April 9, from a proportional perspective, it is 151 per cent of the total amount of donations received by the Community Chest in 2006.

For the 1st to 10th decile of non-retiree households surviving on only $160 average monthly income from work per household member (Department of Statistics’ “Key Household Income Trends 2006), which I estimate to be about 324,000 Singaporeans living in about 90,000 households, this sum can increase their income of $ 160 by 143 per cent to $ 388.

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Posted in Citizen Speak, Current Affairs, Leong Sze Hian | 17 Comments »

Be mindful of the affective gap

Posted by theonlinecitizen on April 5, 2007

From The Straits Times, April 5th, 2007

By Catherine Lim

I HAVE followed with intense interest the current debate on increasing ministerial salaries to match those of the highest earners in the private sector. And I have noted the impassioned arguments from both sides: the Government insisting on its necessity if top talent is to be recruited to ensure good leadership, and the public expressing its reservations, doubts and unhappiness.

I would like to go beyond the emotion and the rhetoric, and see the issue in the larger context of the PAP model of governance, in particular its special brand of pragmatism in solving problems. It is a hard-boiled pragmatism which even the severest critic will concede has contributed greatly to the Singapore success story. And one which, paradoxically, even the strongest supporter will concede is liable to harden into inflexibility.

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Posted in Citizen Speak, Current Affairs | 10 Comments »

SMA’s guidelines withdrawal – patients now have less protection

Posted by theonlinecitizen on April 3, 2007

Extracts from Dr Huang’s blog No Fear Singapore

Singapore, April 2, 2007 – The Singapore Medical Association (SMA) announced at its Annual General Meeting on April 1, 2007 that the Association is withdrawing its Guideline of Fees (GOF) with immediate effect.”

Self-regulators are usually appointed by or encouraged by the authorities to keep its members in line so that there is no profiteering nor exploitation of the public who do not know better.

The SMA’s Guideline of Fees was formulated for this very purpose.

From now on, when asked about charges, doctors can tell their patients with a straight face (and with hand on heart) that there is no guideline.Period.

Read the full article on Dr Huang’s blog here.

Posted in Citizen Speak | 4 Comments »

Abusing maids – again

Posted by theonlinecitizen on April 1, 2007

The report in the Straits Times (31 march, 2007) titled “Some maids found to be under-fed by employers” is troubling. It leaves one wondering why and how anyone could do this to a fellow human being.  

In the report, it says that some maids get only a slice of bread and a bowl of porridge in a day. It also reports how one maid was beaten to death in 2002, after she was caught stealing apple juice and porridge from the employers’ children. 

It would seem that employers are adopting a new tactic to punish their maids – perhaps avoiding physical abuse like in the past. This may be because of tougher sentences that were meted out to employers who physically abused their maids. 

Are we, therefore, seeing starvation of maids as the new method employers are using?

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Posted in Citizen Speak | 5 Comments »

PAP and the people: A return of disaffection? – Revisited

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 28, 2007

Extract of Catherine Lim’s article titled “PAP and the people: A return of disaffection?” Ms Lim touched on the issue of ministerial salaries in this article.

This was published in the Straits Times, Aug 26, 2000

FIVE years ago, I wrote an article called “The Great Affective Divide”, published in The Straits Times, in which I described what I felt was a serious problem in Singapore, namely, an emotional estrangement between the Government and the people.

I had identified the chief cause of the estrangement as a general resentment by the people of what they perceived as an arrogant, high-handed and authoritarian government style that cared little for their feelings, so that, despite the good life created for them by the Government’s efficiency and hard work, they felt justified to express this resentment freely through whatever channels were available, such as coffeeshop and cocktail-party talk, and the casting of votes in the elections.

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Posted in Citizen Speak, Current Affairs | 5 Comments »

Proud to be Singaporean?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 20, 2007

From New Sintercom

The government has been attracting foreign workers, especially the highly skilled ones, to work and settle in Singapore. It has also urged Singaporeans to accept these foreigners as one of them. The given reasons being needs these workers to keep the economy growing and to stay competitive in a globalized world. Very valid reasons but the government seems to have overlooked the other part of the equation.

In this globalized era, the world is competing on human resources and talent. The government should, therefore, not only try to attract foreign talents to its shores but also nurture and retain its own talents. SM Goh had recently admitted that Singapore is losing its best and finest. If nothing is being done, the trend is likely to continue as a recent survey showed that half of the youths interviewed wanted to migrate to other countries.

Read the full article in New Sintercom.

Posted in Citizen Speak, Current Affairs | 4 Comments »

A closer look at Budget 2007

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 6, 2007

By Edmund

The budget statement debate concluded last Thursday. This article ponders over some issues raised as well as those which were not.

How is the government financing the budget deficit?

In my previous article I mentioned that given the constitutional bar against the current government dipping into the surpluses built up by previous government, the new government would be motivated to run a budget surplus at the start of its term to build up a fiscal buffer for the remaining years of its term.

I was wrong, going by the projection for the overall budget position for FY2007. The PAP government is running an estimated budget deficit of $0.69 billion for the coming fiscal year.

It is true that the “deficit” is in “accounting only” – as the government do not include in its overall budget position capital receipts, mainly from land sales, and at least 50% of the net investment income. In fact only $2.02 billion of the estimated $7.75 billion investment income was budgeted. The expected capital receipts of $3.19 billion and the remaining $5.73 billion of the investment income will go directly to the reserves.

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Posted in Citizen Speak, Current Affairs, Edmund | 4 Comments »

The language of our forefathers – are we missing something?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on February 28, 2007

By Zyberzitizen

It’s been decades since we were urged to “Speak Mandarin” by the government, instead of speaking our dialects. I’ve never agreed with this policy. This is because I find our dialects fascinating and beautiful. But more than that, my dialect reflect my ‘origin’. It’s a bridge to where my parents and my grandparents came from.

Teochew has a special place in my heart. I remember when I was just a child, Dad would tell us stories in this dialect. The many idioms and phrases and folk songs which are peculiar to the Teochews always made me smile – and even cry.

My uncles are the ones who have really ‘mastered’ the language. Mom calls theirs ‘Pure Teochew’, which to me can be quite indiscernible because they are “so cheem”. But that is why it fascinates me. There is a certain melody or flow to the language and sometimes you do not really have to understand the words to get what is being said.

It is the same with the other dialects in our country – be it Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, or Hainanese.

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Posted in Citizen Speak, Community | 22 Comments »

Global City – Reviving the Singapore Spirit

Posted by theonlinecitizen on February 24, 2007

By Eddie Choo

The Integrated Resorts in Marina Bay and Sentosa, 7% GST, Baby Bonus, parades, charades, CPF adjustments, so on…

The list isn’t exhaustive, and it grows with every year, as the government implements new measures ‘to adjust to the challenges of globalisation’ – or so we’re told.

All of these sound like a desperate attempt by the government to ensure that Singapore survives in the future. Of course, it’s all nice and everything, but as much as the Singapore government has its hands full coming up with all these things, gobbling up PSC scholars for the benefit of 4 million Singaporeans, it’s still not enough. In some sense, it can never be enough. Because the future will change ceaselessly, so the policy-makers will always have to keep up in a never-ending race to stay in the ‘same place’.

Now, will they come up with a meta-strategy of sorts to make their job and our job easier?

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Posted in Citizen Speak, Eddie Choo | 3 Comments »