21 Apr 2006

Asia247 Pick of the Week




This week, we have the rare opportunity to talk to Executive Director of the Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia (ARDA), Ms Chee Siok Chin, to tell us about the democractic space and political opression in Singapore. Since, podcasting during the upcoming general election will be banned, we hope the voices of the suppressed could be heard via Asia247.


Get the podcast here.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

all of you singaporeans who ardently support this blog should be careful of biting the hand that feeds you. There are dangers of too much political freedom.

Look at the UK and its political disarray. There is no such thing as making everyone happy. You have to sacrifice the wants of some for the good of the nation.

You all make it sound like the PAP has deprived you of your basic human rights. Just be thankful, the ones of you who are chinese, that PAP managed to get Singapore out of Malaysia and spare all of you the racial discrimination that you would otherwise have to live with. Please, read blogs like Lim Kit Siang's and Jeff Ooi's. see what it's like there.

It is always so easy to point out the faults of other people. Surely we are not that comfortable and complacent that we have forgotten about the more fundamental things in our lives and choose to instead cast out a reliable and trustworthy government just so that we can give a 'chance' to untested and unexperienced team of opposition party members?

The PAP has done so much for Singapore. Let us not forget that. They still continue to put our interests at heart and they do not deserve this sort of disrespect from their citizens.

Would you blog about everything that you hate about your parents, for the world to read and for your parents not to be able to respond and defend themselves?

soci said...

"The PAP has done so much for Singapore. Let us not forget that. They still continue to put our interests at heart and they do not deserve this sort of disrespect from their citizens.

Would you blog about everything that you hate about your parents, for the world to read and for your parents not to be able to respond and defend themselves? "

The PAPpy argument at its best. Trying arguing your point above with the 250,000 Singaporeans out of 3.6m citizens who are earning less than S$1,000 ($625, €507, £350) a month.

Whose interests are at their heart? How much do the PAP members earn?

singaporetomato said...

Soci, if your justification for slandering the PAP is that there exists a social class 5 in Singapore's society and that the reason they exist is because of PAP's injustice towards them, then please give me an example of a country in the world that singapore can look to in esteem.

I see that you reside in the UK. You must be able to see the wide disparity in the social classes here too. True, there is a very large upper middle class and the average disposable income per family in the UK is one of the highest in the world. But there is still the problem of the group which live just above the relative poverty line. The UK solution to this has been to provide social welfare, unemployment benefits, free housing, unlimited healthcare. But how much of these measures have gone towards narrowing the income gap?

You can give a hungry man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will never be hungry.

Singapore did not get where it is today by surviving on handouts. It has never been the policy of Singapore to blindly placate sentiments on the ground. There have been so many initiatives to help the less fortunate citizens of Singapore. Edusave bursaries, ethnic self-help groups - CDAC, Mendaki, Sindha, look how much the ITEs have developed in the past 10 years.

What is important to the government is taking steps to give the lower income groups opportunities, not consolations.
What's the use of giving them handouts that will see them in the same condition year after year, that will lead to their children having the mentality that there will always be someone to help them get by. It's more important that they are given the opportunity to help themselves. And it's not about getting by, it's about getting out of the vicious cycle.

Whose interests do you think the PAP have at their heart? their politicians? what do politicians have to gain from being in parliament, besides the monthly allowance. Do you think Singapore politicians get money on the side and on the sly? lots of unofficial gifts? I'm sure you don't expect the singapore government, with all its rules on every conceivable matter, has no rules to govern the conduct of its MPs. Ministers don't even get an official car. That, by world politician standards, is abysmal.

the average MP earns an allowance of about 4500 right? considering they have to attend weekly meetings for the CCs, Residents' committees, have a weekly Meet the People's Session (which FYI lasts usually past midnight), not to mention resident's events at the weekends..EVERY WEEK and EVERY WEEKEND...it's an additional job, on top of their day jobs. You could say that they sacrifice their time for the extra 4500 a month. A lot of money right? would you do the same if you had to give up ALL your free time, your family time? Surely, for the MPs, it's not just about the money. Surely, it can't be BECAUSE of the money right? most of the PAP MPs are professionals in their own right. doctors, lecturers, CEOs. Do you think the extra cash each month is really the reason they chose to run for election?

Anonymous said...

singaporetomato- FYI the average pay of the ministers are a few hundred thousand p.a. Woundn't it be put to better use into the poor's pockets? Don't give that stupid hungry man analogy because it doesn't apply here. Probably supported the NKF scandal did you? "Teach the kidney patients how to work and make them pay the full amount", "Let Durai have all the money from donations."... hmm maybe that's what you think.

singaporetomato said...

Ministers are not lowly educated non-professionals who are doing what they do because of the lack of a better option. most of the Ministers in Singapore today have been headhunted by the PAP from their high paying jobs to be ministers. Mr Anon, I'm sure you know that our SM Goh used to work in Neptune Orient Lines before being asked to join PAP. And Vivian Balakrishnan - a private surgeon. these are but a few of the numerous examples.

many choose to take a pay cut, not of a few hundred but in the scale of tens of thousands to fulfill a civic duty that few of us can attest to ourselves. and yet we sit here and criticise them??

If you do not remunerate these top professionals for the service that they do to the country (and yes mr Anon, lest you say that they do not do a service to us, please, even if you hate them, afford them the dignity of having done their jobs decently. the country's trade agreements do not negotiate themselves, education policies do not materialise out of thin air), then how do you expect the PAP to attract individuals of the highest calibre?

it's a simple example of getting the talent in. watch the foreign talent video above. Prof. Phan explicitly states that to brign in the top man, you have to pay top dollar. Why should the ministers not be treated as top talent? among the last singapore cabinet, how many are scholars? how many had high-flying jobs? How many of them wouldn't make 2,3,4 time more in the private sector? Civic duty can only fuel a man's passion, but monetary remuneration is a fact of the world that idealism and patriotism cannot overcome.

The Durai scandal was, yes, a sad incident. It does show that there needs to be checks. But is this the most constructive way to ensure that our politicians stay honest?

And as I mentioned above, the average MP allowance (Member of parliament, NOT minister) is 4500 per month. Ministers get a different salary, as this is considered their full time job and they are not allowed to have any other employment while serving as a Minister of the cabinet.

Anonymous said...

Durai's pay is considered as "peanuts" but i'm sure ministers' pays may be equivalent, if not higher than durai's. Then our pay relative to theirs would certainly be a particle of sand or sawdust, ok.....

soci said...

singaporetomato might need to brush up on a few issues. The issue is not the self evident statement that every society has various percentiles earning different amounts, that's a statistical model. The importance of the statistical model is that it enables you to assess 'changes' between the various percentiles or quintiles over time. And the sad situation in Singapore is that not only does a recent government survey disclose that 250,000 of its 3.6m citizens were earning less than S$1,000 ($625, €507, £350) a month. [http://news.ft.com/cms/s/ff8718f4-d0d2-11da-b160-0000779e2340.html] but that the number of households with monthly incomes below S$3000 increased to 42% in 1999 up from 40% in 1998. The difference in income inequality between the top quintile and the bottom quintile increased to 20 in 2000, resulting in an income inequlity at a higher rate than that of the United States of America in 2000. The USA is considered an extreme outlayer in terms of income inequality, so where does that place Singapore.

The recent government survey merely confirms that this trend has continued undisturbed. The PAP is not the party of the 'heartlander' as the new speak calls the working class, but the party of BIG BUSINESS, and the top earners. Judge a political party by what it does between elections not the empty promises in the run up to an election.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review/message/1373

"The below table gives aproper perspective: (these are basic figures as of July
2000 and did not include last year's pay hikes or other benefits. Otherwise the
updated numbers may well be much larger)

1. Singapore Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year
Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to SGD1,458,040) a year

2. United States of America President: US$200,000 Vice President: US$181,400
Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000

3. United Kingdom Prime Minister: US$170,556 Ministers: US$146,299 Senior Civil
Servants: US$262,438

4. Australia Prime Minister: US$137,060 Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439
Treasurer: US$102,682

5. Hong Kong Chief Executive : US$416,615 Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
Financial Sec: US$315,077

Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000

In relative terms, less then 20% of Singaporeans here have take home salaries
exceeding SGD100,000/- A YEAR.

In stark contrast, BASIC SALARY FOR A MINISTER STARTS AT SGD1,166,844 A YEAR,OR
JUST UNDER SGD100,000 A MONTH.

What these ministers earns in just ONE MONTH exceeds the ANNUAL TAKE HOMEsalary of 80% of Singapore's income earning population. Lets not even begin to compare annual packages which will exceed SGD1 million easily."

Anonymous said...

Note that it is based on the year 2000. Now is 2006 - then it would be much higher than is shown above!!

No wonder "he" could not understand us and could say "he" doesn't know "why money not enough for us to spend??"

Not forgetting that travelling expenses & allowances, big feasts, gifts, etc are also on the "house"

We spend every cent we earn, in contrast they save every cent they earn. Poor becomes poorer, rich becomes richer. Logically, the gap b/w rich and poor is wider and wider.

It was also reported quite some time back, lowest pay in sg relative to M'sian's is still lower, despite alot of jobs have been created though

Anonymous said...

This is certainly BREAD & BUTTER issue!!

Mr Bread and Butter said...

Actually, it is still okay to live with such inequality. However, the image of Singapore that the media is trying to portray seems otherwise. This could imply that the facts that people know, could actually be stories being made up. Which means that people's thoughts are probably being controlled and manipulated.

Anonymous said...

singaporetomato the government dog, what do you have to say to soci's argument now?

singaporetomato said...

firstly, i would appreciate if there was no name calling. We all have our points of view. you are defending yours and I am defending mine.

On paper, it looks staggering that the singapore PM earns probably the highest in the world. I willbe honest and say that I have not done my full research and do not know what the other heads of state earn in unofficial benefits exactly. or how much they are taxed on their income.

But this I know for sure about the Singapore politicians. They are taxed 22% of their income. They are NOT allowed any housing allowance (like US president or UK PM). NO ministers are given a cars for use (but they have a security police office with them at all time). All gifts to any members of parliament must be declared to the PAP.

I will present facts to you when I find them. At the very least this is something I can agree with soci on, that it is difficult to find information about the government.

I am not a government dog. I am merely a singaporean citizen who is thankful that out of all the countries in southeast asia, i happen to live in the most progressive one. I have a good education, should i choose to take full advantage of it. I have clean running water and electricity. I have subsidised housing. I have good dependable public transport. I have the opportunity to do well in my job if i want to wokr hard, and i don't have to worry that i will be discriminated against. I have a government that has worked with their people, my grandparents, my neighbours, my friends, to build singapore up into what it is today. That is why I acknowledge the PAP the recognition they deserve.

Of course, many of you who read this are going to scorn and laugh at me. PAP propaganda at its best..but this is how i really feel. We are all Singaporeans. We should be working constructively together to solve our problems.

Anonymous said...

Talking about money assuming that is a basis of discussion.

Canada PM pay is obscene - its about 250,000 Cad (x1.4 for Sg) a year. This component is taxable. He also gets about 24,000 tax fre allowance. That makes it 250,000 (about minus 26 percent) + 24,000 Cad. The PM walks aways with quite an excellent pension scheme making him a relatively rich person.

Hoever the New Brunwick minimum wage earner takes 13,104 CAD on a 40-hour week (tax free). The average Canadian salary is about 56,000 CAD with an average bonus of about 3500 Canadian.
That is about 69,000 Canadian dollars. There are also many welfare benefits which costs the government about 8000 to 15000 CAD per individual every year. There is also in theory a universal comprehensive health care system, and public transport is well sponsered if you fall withint the right cateogory.

Now you observe Singapore.

You already know how much our PM, MM, SM earns. You also have an internet connection. You can read how much Singaporeans earn here: remember this is household income - not individuals.

http://www.singstat.gov.sg/ssn/feat/sep2005/pg1-7.pdf

Why don't you do the maths?

The difference in ratio of PM pay to the average citizen's salary is....well, i rest my case.

You are glad that you are not in other SEA nations. The PAP government has done a lot for us. The thing is - they many Singaporeans are left behind in this "prosperity".

On the issue of money alone - the ministers are themselves being paid relatively quite a lot. The question is should this be the case? If it is about attracting talent in a "small" nation like ours, i will like to remind you that Canada has about 40 million people, 13 provincial governments, 1 federal government and its
total geographical size is 9,984,670 sq km of which 91% is land and 9% is water. Canada is the world's second largest country in geographical size.

IT has only 40 million people (little relative to its size and no. of governments). Should it not pay more for better and "Trustworthy" talent - based on your logic?

Singapore has about 4 million people, 1 government, and its geographical size is 683 sq km.

You can say that Canada is different. So are other SEA nations.

You can say that there is no racial discrimination in Singapore. I will say that rights are better protected in Canada. The question is - lets have ONE consistent comparison.

Why does the ST when they are comparing Costs of living compare it with first world countries, wages with the developing world?

There is one difference. I suggest you stay and work in a country like Canada for an extended period and you tell me how and why that country ticks/sucks. There are legtimate problems in Canada but you know at least that the government is fair, aims at equity, where money is not everything - that judges will speak like an equal to you on the streets, where discrimination is severely frowned upon at every level, where the rights of minorities are at least leagally protected and enhanced, where the poor are given various chances, and even criminals are seen as requiring rehabilition. It has a lot of problems too - and much of this welfare is funded by the natural wealth canada possess but my point is in the attitude.

Then you come back to Singapore and you tell me what the difference is.

oh and yes, did i say i prolly earn more than you yet - not that it matters - i love my job - oh and yes, the senior citizens here can board the bus on their wheel chairs, can access buildings in them too - oh yes, and they are provided free.. of course i pay crazy taxes but whenever i see that - i dun feel the pinch that much.

and oh yes, canada is the second lowest cost country to invest in after Singapore.. (becoz the employers dun pay for healthcare insurance remember? - but i digress)

Happy in Canada, =)
Hard to migrate here though ...
darn...
I oso heard its easy to migrate to Singapore (=))

We wonder why.

singaporetomato said...

I don't live in Singapore at the moment. In fact I live in UK. And I have been living in UK for the past four years.

But the rest of my family lives in Singapore. And I still keep up. some things are better in the UK. but i cite a crude example, the National health system (UK) which has gone into millions of pounds of debt and the government has the problem of controlling the utilisation of its people. How to combat it? can't outwardly up the income tax, so introduce levies and other texes here and there, inconspicuous but present. Singaporeans already complain about 5% GST but here VAT is 17.5%.

most of what you say about canada is probably true. In fact a lot of it is relevant in the UK too. But singapore is such a young country. We have to follow our political life cycle and eventually we will reach that level too.

but my personal opinion still stands that for what we have achieved in 35 years, we have done well.

The manifesto this election for the PAP at least shows that they have intentions of putting the poor, old and sick at the epicentre of their concerns. in the face of growing political awareness in singapore, i doubt that the PAP will be so foolish to make empty promises.

Anonymous said...

"They are NOT allowed any housing allowance (like US president or UK PM). NO ministers are given a cars for use (but they have a security police office with them at all time). All gifts to any members of parliament must be declared to the PAP."

Surely, their pay is already so high, still want to get housing allowance?? Then, all of us have slogged like slaves for the economy but to sleep in the streets.

These elite' lives are especially precious but the citizens and others' lives can't be compared to them, so others' lives can be executed.

All expenses on gifts must be declared. How about the gifts they receive, where do they go to?

Anyway, rich will be richer, the poor will be poorer.

Anonymous said...

That is what's wrong with most Sngaporeans! Having all their necessities covered, they don't care about politics. So long as their ricebowl is still in tact. But for how long? Especially with the PAP now. They are living off the fats Singapore has earned in the 1970s-80s. The economy is not doing very well and the PAP is covering it up very well with fake statistics. A-political Singaporeans just fear change, especially in the government. And to think we still talk about becoming a first-world country. Joke of the century!

singaporetomato said...

Yes, yes...hmmm singapore is very lucky to have such politically astute citizens like all of you...in fact, let the 50, 60 70% of us who support PAP (ie the politically ignorant) live in our delusional states. At least we live happy full lives! :)

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with the economy, your job, your expensive HDB flats...

It has alot to do with freedom of expression and the rights of every Singaporean.

Are you prepared to trade it just because you have a bit of money in your bank account ad an expensive roof over your head?

If you are, my friends, you all have alot to learn about individual rights and freedom of expression!

This kind of system in our country will never survive in any intelligent society.

lee hsien tau said...

"The manifesto this election for the PAP at least shows that they have intentions of putting the poor, old and sick at the epicentre of their concerns. in the face of growing political awareness in singapore, i doubt that the PAP will be so foolish to make empty promises."

They took 2 years to come up with this crap. Intentions, but no concrete black-and-white writing. A picture book? I'm still waiting for my swiss standard of living, but the only job available to me seems to be cleaner or dish-washer - african standard, and my leg is tiah kah kau peh. I need to commit suicide after observing the election. Cannot wait for intentions anymore. If you only believe what they want you to believe from what you see on TV, go and die lah. Canada won't have me because I cannot even clock one year's experience.

Anonymous said...

"This kind of system in our country will never survive in any intelligent society."

Exactly! We're NOT at all a very intelligent society.

Anonymous said...

As reported, Sg's present economy growth is partly attributed by the economic growth in Japan, India and China.