Archive for the 'politics and government' Category

Let’s see who’s T rex now

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Are we supposed to feel all patriotic and outraged that China seized nine of our armoured troop carriers?

I don’t know anyone who feels that way. I think many in my circle are taking a ringside view with no particular investment in either side’s fight. They may not be typical, but then, the government’s Reach website, which invites comment and discussion on various topics, has only four comments on this matter after five days. None of the comments displayed strong feelings.

In most countries, the defence minister would have bowed his head in disgrace and resigned for losing military equipment through carelessness. But not here. Continue reading ‘Let’s see who’s T rex now’

Did we get more economic growth by giving up our freedoms?

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“The Singapore economy outperformed expectations,” reported the Straits Times on 5 January 2017. The economy was said to have expanded by “1.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016 from a year earlier, putting growth for the whole of 2016 at 1.8 per cent, according to advance estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry…”

Without questioning how earlier forecasts were developed, the newspaper wrote, “Growth last year was well above MTI’s earlier announced forecast of 1.0 to 1.5 per cent.” I couldn’t but suspect that the ministry had long ago prepared for this day by massaging expectations downwards. I think they do that year after year; it’s getting old.  Continue reading ‘Did we get more economic growth by giving up our freedoms?’

Auxiliary thoughts about auxiliary police

A Certis Cisco auxiliary policeman and two neighbourhood vigilantes shooing away foreign workers

A Certis Cisco auxiliary policeman and two neighbourhood vigilantes shooing away foreign workers

The news this week is that Certis Cisco — a fully-owned subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings — is hiring Taiwanese for its auxiliary police force. Here are four thoughts that I had, leading on from this key news point. They are: (1) What are the implications of hiring Taiwanese? (2) Why must they be graduates? (3) What are the powers of auxiliary police? (4) Another example of rentier economy?  Continue reading ‘Auxiliary thoughts about auxiliary police’

Rebuilding from the rubble of 2016 voter-quakes

Pic from BoredPanda/EFE

Pic from BoredPanda/EFE

2016 will be remembered as one of those break-point years when an old order started falling apart. The worrying thing is that there is no sign that any better new order will be born.

Still, 2016 had its uses. The series of victories by what had been unlikely personalities and movements — Rodrigo Duterte winning the Filipino presidency, Brexit, and of course, the Donald Trump victory, have been cathartic. Some good commentary in various media have followed as a result, full of soul-searching and self-criticism. Continue reading ‘Rebuilding from the rubble of 2016 voter-quakes’

Zika erupts in Singapore: how we made it worse than it might otherwise have been

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‘Cover up!’ screamed the immediate reaction I noticed on social media. The Health ministry had just announced that they have found 41 cases of Zika infection, barely 24 hours after they said that there was one confirmed case (on Saturday 27 August 2016). How can the number jump so fast without them knowing about these other cases earlier — was the implication behind the shouting headlines. They must be hiding facts from the public! Continue reading ‘Zika erupts in Singapore: how we made it worse than it might otherwise have been’

Big bank, big government, but the similarity ends there

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At my request, the teller brought the branch manager to see me. I began: “I have no intention to take ‘no’ for an answer.” Then I explained what I was here at the bank for. On behalf of the charity organisation I volunteer at, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), I needed a letter from the bank confirming our bank account number and account name. Continue reading ‘Big bank, big government, but the similarity ends there’

Hushed tracks

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This photo was taken on 22 March 2016. I didn’t know it then but it was when two families lost their beloved sons. A train ran into two trainee technicians as they were on a track. It must have been a moment of unfathomable grief. The enquiry that followed concluded that it was mostly human error. Specifically, negligence in observing safety rules on the part of the seniors in the work crew was the chief cause of the tragedy. See a brief statement from SMRT here. Continue reading ‘Hushed tracks’

When the powerful plead fragility, we’re done for

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Bear with me, I will talk about Donald Trump further down.

Just as the Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill was passed by our legislators — not that there was ever any doubt that it would be — a tiny social media post crossed my line of sight. It was a news snippet about how some small shopkeepers in Kota Baru, Malaysia, were ordered to remove all advertising posters that featured women whose heads were not covered with a scarf. There would be fines for disobeying the order.  Continue reading ‘When the powerful plead fragility, we’re done for’

The sickening sound of sucking up

Close-up of a billboard in Bukit Batok

Close-up of a billboard in Bukit Batok

Sometimes timber houses can look very solid from the outside, but a sharp eye may spot signs of rot in the wood. The excessive adulation of Lee Kuan Yew, on the first anniversary of his death, may be a sign of decay in the state apparatus.

Throughout last week, when social media collectively vomited in disgust at what looked like state-organised worship, I tried to check myself. Maybe it’s only the people active on social media who are feeling disgusted, I suggested to myself. Maybe there are indeed huge numbers of Singaporeans who think it entirely appropriate to prostrate themselves, light joss-sticks, perhaps even ululate in the streets (if they knew how), to mark the anniversary. Continue reading ‘The sickening sound of sucking up’

Signs of yes-men

pic_201603_16It struck many people as mindless: the notice banning the playing of chess in common areas of public housing at Block 11 Haig Road. How could playing chess in public areas be such a nuisance that it merits a heavy-handed ban? In any case, isn’t the sight of retirees playing chess in void decks a common sight all over Singapore? If they have never posed any problem, why now? Continue reading ‘Signs of yes-men’