Monday, November 24, 2008

A Pseudo Democracy? Real Choices? Or the choice to return to the DARK side?

Sunday evening prime time news on 5 can be quite a shocker.

Parents to decide what to do with school sessions? The choice is in their hands?

Residents to decide on how to invest Town Council sinking [would have been an excellent pun here] funds? With a veiled threat that if residents choose to invest in Fixed Deposits the funds could diminish in value due to inflation?

WOW! The sudden surge of the push of responsibility and decision making to the general public is GREAT!

I've been calling for it for the longest time. And now its finally beginning to happen.

Now Singaporeans old and young will have to start thinking critically!

This is an opportunity to make democracy work in the community. Or is it?

[As an aside, in the corporate world, when a sale is occuring it signifies only 2 things. One, there is nothing left to make and the market is dry. Two, the impending losses will be unbearable for the selling company thus the urge to hive off the business. There is no such thing as 'strategic posturing' or 'market consolidation.' Its all business school manure they've shovelled down students' throats for 4 years in the prime of their lives.]

Let's take a quick look AGAIN.

Why, why would the Ministry of Education now place the choice of school sessions in the hands of parents? The question for me is how big is that piece of turd that is going to float up in the next few years ...... could be be related to costing? Population explosion / implosion? Not enough or too many foreign students coming? Very interesting puzzle.

Why would Town Councils now allow residents to decide on which funds to invest their excess collections in? Well ... this piece of turd has already floated so. But is there more turd? AND IF residents do make the decisions then do we still need to keep the Town Council chiefs on the payroll? Would the axing of the TC chiefs yield a better return on investment (ROI) as well as return on assets (ROTA) since the chiefs now appear to be neither investments nor assets? And where do the MPs on these Town Councils stand on this issue? Is there some scapegoating going on?

Curious how the freedom to make decisions lead to more questions doesn't it?

The lack of answers is actually more telling!

Will the PAP then proclaim in the coming election that Singapore is even MORE democratic now that we have 'choices' when it comes to some facets of Education as well as the investment of Town Council funds? Is this truly democracy or pseudo democracy?

For me, the process is by far the more important. Thanks to whatever is happening behind the scenes to push these two pseudo democratic practices we will be forced to start making real decisions that will ultimately impact all of us collectively.

And while I feel a twinge of apology for those not accustomed to thinking critically or those who think 'politics are for those who have nothing better to do' I do believe this pain of learning - and there will be some horrendous mistakes along the way - will yield a better and stronger Singapore in the long run. If we don't collectively run back to the nanny's arms the first few times we fall down that is.

Or perhaps that is the strategy after all? Who knows?

Civil Service Pay Cuts!!!

Never thought I'd see this headline. But here it is!

In all fairness. This is an excellent move by the government. Now I wonder why no one is clamouring for pay increases since they are doing a swell job of (going to) leading us out of this impending time of gloom. I would! Our glorious PAP ministers should be paid much more since they are going all out to help Singaporeans to ensure that 'every child is taken care of!'

[I think if any other political party were to say this it would be slammed as WELFARISM straight out. And the public would support that statement too!]

Back two articles/ravings ago on where the money should be spent we can see again that there is some nonsense and political posturing going on.

Ministerial and high level civil servant pay cuts make the headlines because us ordinary mortals have no way in hell of reaching those levels (or do we?). But what is more catching for me is that the bonusses and the salary (AVC / MVC ... whatever) for the rank and file civil servants will also be slashed.

Perhaps it is impolitic for the government to keep civil servant salaries and bonusses intact but once again, our economic model is premised on consumer spending! There I've spelt it out, don't have to read between the lines anymore. Talk about a party making the hard choices. Really? Not pandering to populist pressures eh?

Cutting a $2M salary to $1M hardly boosts consumer spending by much since all right minded staticians and economists know that the $1M cut is actually more hurting on the ego then on the wallet. But cutting 10% of the pay off about 40% of Singapore's workforce (the civil service hires directly and indirectly about 40% of Singaporeans and PRs - they can't tell the difference) with an average household income of $3,700 (2006 GHSS mumbo numbo) will be far more devastating!

Let's try with the numbers
10% pay cut off 2006 GHSS survey (to be generous about it): $370
Population: 4 million
Number of Working Adults: 25% (assumed number of working adults since the DOS keeps changing the damed target)

Total estimated drain on the economy from this 10% wage cut on ordinary civil servants = $370 x 1M. Only $370M. Do we have 370 ministers from which to cut $1M each? (We could get there - 370 ministers - with the current voting patterns and levels of interest in critical thinking and politics.)

And this $370 M is in the hands of the spending public. The nett trickle down effect could well be over $1B after the money has changed hands a little over two times and if we don't whack the 7% GST on top of it which only serves to slow down economic growth in these harsh times.

Oh, and to the numbers people out there reading this and scrutinising the numbers. Don't even think about pointing out 'errors.' It must be error free since this is the same type of logic applied in Parliament last I checked. If the best and brightest are doing it this way it MUST BE RIGHT for all of us.


Let your votes do the talking when the time comes.

State Ownership or State Receivership?

Last week or the week before a Straits Times writer inked about the perils of states going the communist way with a plea to maintain the free market economic model.

Fast foward to this week. The US is bailing out banks and automakers for 'public ownership' stakes ..... communist sounding? There should be a public slap on the face somewhere for someone(s).

We may live in a country that was never meant to exist but sometimes I think our writers (and senior writers) who wield much influence with their keystrokes live in a fantasy far more outrageous. And the effects of their fantasizing are more deletrious on our society then any Marxist or Communist efforts or conspiracy!

[Greed is good for all of us {but especially me since I'm a shareholder in so many companies and/or it will uphold the value of my property} and will keep the economy going!]

Today's crisis is a nett result of greed. The same greed which is once touted as so good by current SM Goh Chok Tong. But this greed also allowed for the accumulation and amassing of wealth, in rather limited hands I think, which has further promoted growth.

What happened to this wealth?

How is it that, in an economic model where growth is supposed to be an ever upward inflationary spiral, all this wealth can be wiped out and lost? As far as an unsavvy investor like me who is a financial know-nothing knows there must be willing buyers for sellers. Yes, prices may drop without buyers and in fact it should but this just goes to demonstrate that wealth is once again an illusory pipe dream. Built on nothing but hot air and mumblings secured by orders placed in black and white to buy or sell.

Can such an economic model sustain the world into the future?

Is it not far better to go a semi-socialist route where public goods are handled and owned by the state though this promotes lower rates of economic (sic) growth (double sic)?

And while the US is scrambling to save companies and banks with tons of strings attached the Singapore goverment is scrambling to issue 'bonds' and 'loans' (intentional inverted commas) which may never materialise since they are premised upon banks first making the move to loan these monies out - a proposal guaranteed to fail since banks are highly risk averse creatures by definition.

But perhaps a more important question is: should those who have made the wealth all these 'invisible' transactions pay a price for this degradation in economic conditions for humanity? Or will the argument that these multi-salaried honchos create jobs and thus wealth once again stay the course?

Singapore on the other hand has gone the route of privatisation for most of its essential services. There appears to be no risk of collapse of say Singapore Power or Singapore Telecoms for instance. Why and how is this so given that other similar companies all around the world are struggling?

Could it be that Singaporeans have been paying SO MUCH that firms such as Singapore Power and Singapore Telecoms will not only weather this storm easily but still have funds to buy up foreign entities? I imagine when I pay my electricity and water bills that a good chunk of it is going to buying some foreign company for which I will have no share holdings in much less any dividends or returns.

Where then does this greed end and what price are Singaporeans willing to pay? Especially in light of the fact that there will be more homeless on the streets now since HDB also privatised and has started farming out its loan activities to private banks (who have refused to divulge the number of forced re-possessions of HDB flats to my knowledge). Will the HDB go into practices where Singaporeans, eventually, as a nation could possibly go into national receivership (bankruptcy proceedings)? While the formerly government services but now privatised companies make a killing buying over half the world?

Who is making whose money anyway and aren't we all Singaporeans?

Say what you want about having enough reserves to tide us till Armageddon but for this practice to filter down to Town Councils, Power companies, other formerly State Owned companies forces Singaporeans (a captive market) to pay far beyond true market value for goods and services.

And market value is based on fair competition, which our writers and senior writers conveniently ignore when blurting out their feelings about how the economic situation should be 'handled.' And why is this so? Because our market is so small it does not make sense to have competition?

Then nationalise the services and provide it at a fair price with real accounting for inflation instead of some mumbo jumbo numbers which cannot be compared year on year due to the apparent lack of data collected by the Department of Statistics - who the hell is the chief statistician anyway who allows this sort of rubbish where apples are measured against oranges against mangoes and durians followed by gap years of data?