Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Increase is small but ....

Well, fares are up.

From October, adult EZ-link fares for buses and trains will increase by 1 to 3 cents, which amounts to an overall fare hike of 1.7 percent. On the surface, it doesn't account to much, however please do remember it is per trip and it does add up.

Any normal commuter would take at least 2 trips a day, and with a good percentage taking 4 trips. If we made a rough esitmate of 10 cents increase per day, an average person would had to fork out around $3 more per month.

In my opinion, the increase isn't much. But is the increase fair?

The mainstream media had gone on the offensive, highlighting the 1.7% percent and 1-3 cents increase but they had totally skipped around the question if the fare increases is justisfied in the first place.

The Public Transport Council (PTC) says that given the positive economic outlook, it assessed that there were no "extenuating circumstances" to vary or reject the proposal. However, I would also say that there were no "extenuating circumstances" to submit the proposal in the first place.

Simply take a peek at the dividend yield of SMRT and SBS Transit.

SMRT Corp's total gross dividend for the financial year ended March of 7 cents per share — S$84.6 million net — represents 81.6 per cent of its S$103.6million net profit.

For SBS Transit, it pays even better. 19 per cent dividend per share and "1 Year Total Return" of 71 per cent.

Both companies seems to be more interested in "increasing shareholders' value" then to invest some of the profits back into their business. Why is so?

It is because they can ask for regular fare increase and never had to justisfy for it.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Transport Hikes : Followups from CASE.

I had been trying to write a followup on the open letter to CASE on the subject of public transport hikes. I had receive some sort of reply from them a couple of weeks ago but I kept putting it off. Why? Simply because there is nothing to report.

Well, I shall not put up the correspondences in full due to privacy issues and frankly they are very boring indeed.

Let me put up at timeline of the events.

26 July 2006
I had sent my open letter to CASE, cc: PTC, Strait Times, Today and Newpaper as well as SMRT.

27 July 2006
I had recieved a prompt and polite acknowledgment from Consumer Relations Officer, Katherine Lee (Ms)of CASE.

06 August 2006
I sent CASE a polite reminder, asking for their stand.

10 August 2006
A more senior officer gave me the courtesy of a reply. In her email, Ang Yiying, Executive (Marketing & Communications) of CASE had refered me to PTC and went on to describe the council and its functions, which is almost totally taken word for word from the PTC website. She had very politely but plainly told me to appeal to PTC instead of CASE.

11 August 2006
Being thick skinned, I persisted. I asked why CASE had been so silent on this round of price hikes while they seems be very vocal and prompt on the proposed transport hikes in 2005. I further asked for CASE's stand in this round of transport hikes.

14 August 2006
Ms Ang don't have any answers to my first question but she did state CASE's stand in the matter. I would like to quote her directly in full here.
Our position is that the PTC is the appropriate independent body to deliberate and subsequently comment on the fare hike applications. As the PTC has got various independent representations, we believe that commuters' interests would be taken into account in their deliberations. We also expect the PTC to give its reasons for its decision subsequently when it reaches its conclusion.

We note that you are aware of the functions of the Public Transport Council and that you have sent your feedback to them. As the deliberation on the applications for fare adjustment is on going, we advise that you wait for PTC's announcement.

We hope this clarifies our position on the matter.
To summarise, CASE has no views other than the views (which are not announced as yet) of the PTC on the subject matter and urged me to share the same view as they do. I notice CASE have this unshakeable faith in the PTC, so much as that CASE's stand is totally dependant on the independent PTC's views. Whatever PTC decided is good, PTC is infallible.

I also find it a little strange why CASE had this sudden surge of faith in the PTC. Isn't the PTC just as independent and appropriate body in 2005? Moreover, she is telling as politely as she can, not to bother CASE further on this issue. Maybe their hands are tied or they are truthfully independently dependent on PTC.

For the benefit of the readers, I would put up a link to the members of Public Transport Council so that maybe you might see something that explains the confidence CASE had on them.

To be fair, CASE had been very prompt in replying. At the very least, they did bother to reply and state their stand, something which none of the other organisations I email did.

Lastly, I would like to apologise for the lateness of this update. In my defence, I am waiting in hope of a late reply and secondly there isn't really much to report.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Apple made a Creative Truce

Apple Computers and Creative Technology had amicably settled their differences. Apple will pay $100 million to license Creative's technology and use it in its iPods, with the opportunity to get back a portion of the fees if Creative is able to license that technology to other companies.

In addition, Creative would start making accessories like headphones, speakers for the iPod as a member of Apple's "Made for iPod" program.

Win or Loss? For Apple, I think it is just some pocket change to get rid of a pesky compeititor and get them to make products for you. US$100m is a drop in the ocean compared to the US$1.5 billion that iPod had generated. With other lawsuits regarding iTunes in Europe and the challenge of the Microsoft upcoming Zune player and its music service, Apple would be glad to settle this cloud over their head and put their energies elsewhere.

Creative? Maybe, it is a graceful way to exit from the lawsuits and get something out of it. Creative had made a loss of US$118m loss last year, and the settlement would happily wiped it off. I do wonder if making accessories for iPod would hurt the sales and development of Creative's own Zen music players. However, iPod does have a overwhelming lead in market share, and it may signal that Creative might end their own line of music players and put their bets on the accessories business.

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Read ST Forums for laughs

In the aftermath of the National Day Rally, there are quite a number of interesting letters to the ST. In fact, almost all of the letters refered to the rally speech.

Most of them are fairly well thought out and have valid points. While ST is not noted for its sense of humor, the forum section shows that Singaporeans are ingenious jokers. One of them deserved even more of a mention than the last funny one.
Aug 23, 2006
S'poreans have to pay a price for not heeding govt's plea for more babies

I missed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally Speech on television last Sunday.

When I read about it in The Straits Times the next day, a sudden sadness overwhelmed me.

The Singapore government has decided to be more aggressive in attracting immigrants with talents of all kinds to Singapore with the offer of Singapore permanent residence status, once purportedly aimed at graduates, professionals, bankers, lawyers and the like.

What a huge price Singaporeans have to pay for not heeding the government's persistent plea for higher birth rates among its people, and to be less picky about jobs.

I am for the Singapore government's move to import foreign talents to fill the gap and boost the economy by creating job opportunities as entrepreneurs.

But I shrug at the thought that some native Singaporeans, especially the young and educated of marrying age, do not think it their duty to marry and procreate as part of nation-building, and the unemployed who still fuss over jobs, choosing to remain jobless rather than accepting a job below their expectations.

Singaporeans should not be complacent. Nation-building is our utmost duty and responsibility.

Lee Pai Ping (Ms)

I am speechless on reading this wonderful letter.

All I can say that if it is a joke, it is another good one. And wow, Singaporeans are finally developing their sense of hurmor, I must that I am the most impressed.

I wished Ms Lee all the best in her future procreation and may she singlehandedly save Singapore from ruin.


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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mee Siam Mai Hum

Our dearest PM had made a goof during his National Day Rally Speech. Much had been said on his now (in)famous Mee Siam Mai Hum.
Mee siam is a local Singapore dish, basically it's vermicelli served in spicy soup with other ingredients.

Hum means cockles in Hokkien. Mai Hum simply means "No cockies please".

"Mee Siam Mai Hum" would simply refer to ordering a bowl of mee siam without cockles.
Our PM mentioned the phrase as an exmaple on how he can "connect" with Singapore heartlanders just as easily as mr brown's (a local blogger) bak chor mee (another local dish) man.

So what is so funny? Well, unfortunately mee siam DO NOT go with cockies in the first place. The phrase "mee siam mai hum" is kinda of similar to "no durian in my steak please" Thus, our PM's effort in showing how "connected" he is totally backfired.

What to make of this? Surely it is unintended mistake on our dear PM's part. I think he was meant to say "mee siam mai hiam", which means "mee siam with no chilli please". However, his poor command of basic singlish let him down. Well, maybe it is partly because his English is so perfect, so Standard Queen English that he would have grave difficulties in understanding the local slang. Our PM has to speak to international leaders and foreign talents (in proper English!) regularly and so it is not strange for him to find such local slangs very foreign.

Beside, a lowly dish like mee siam would not consist of any part of his regular diet and so his unfamilarity with the local dish is understandable. Our PM has to provide valuable leadership to all Singaporeans day in, day out. He has to eat the most nutritious food for the benefits of all Singaporeans, otherwise Singapore might just disintegrated, with riots etc.

YET yet....Our PM made the effort to "connect" with ordinary Singaporeans. Such a noble effect should be rightly praised and clapped upon. I hope fellow Singaporeans can focus on the kind intentions that our PM has and moved on from this honest mistake.

Despite the mistake, we are allowed to enjoy the podcast and the ringtone. So enjoy!

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Zune First Looks

Gizmodo had scored the first exclusive photo of MS Zune player a couple of days ago. Just slipped my mind to post it. Read More here...

Zune is also confirmed to have video, check out the video at Zune Insider.

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Lee Kuan Yew : I'll be there, I will stand with 2011

I nearly choked when I read this while having dinner.
In 2011, Lee Kuan Yew will be 88 and still no one can replaced him? I find that it's hard to imagine how he could take on another five year term. He would 93 at the end of that term.

But oh well, I don't think it makes much difference if he stays on or not. LKY don't look like the type to fade away gracefully once he steps down. Even if he leaves the government, he is bound to be a "Mahathir" and hounded those who don't follow his son's orders. After all, he did promise to raise from his grave if he feels Singapore is not moving in the right his direction.

The part on PAP losing power in the forseeable future is errr...a scaremonger's tale. I don't think we would have more than 10-15 non PAP MPs in the parliament 2-3 elections from now. In Singapore, the State is PAP and PAP is the State. It is something that would take either a long time or a total collapse to change.

As for the "buzz", it usually refer to something that is new and hot, something that is youthful and everchanging. In a way, it can be said that LKY himself is the greatest obstacle to "buzzilness". To reinvent himself and become "buzzy" with tourists, we can pick up a hint from our "socialist brothers".

It had been proven that mausoleums do attract lots of tourists and it would be certainly unique in South East Asia. It is a great way for all the great leaders to maintain their "buzziness" forever.

Afterthought: The CNA report had totally missed out on the first bold quote in the Malaysian article. Kind of strange....

hush....quiet! Better hope that malaysia don't kick the bucket jump the gun first.

The Bernma article via Little Speck.

SINGAPORE, Aug 19 (Bernama) -- Age may be catching up on modern Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew, but he is not about to give up politics yet.

Lee told a gathering here last night that if he was fit and capable, he will contest in his Tanjong Pagar GRC stronghold.

"If I am still fit and capable of making another speech like this, I'll be there, I will stand with you," Lee was quoted by The Straits Times as telling a National Day Dinner here.

One of Asia's iconic and influential figure, Lee, 83, won unopposed the Tanjong Pagar GRC in the general elecion on May 6 this year. The next general election is due by 2011.

He cautioned Singaporeans not to take for granted that the People's Action Party (PAP) will always form the government.

"The trouble now is that Singaporeans believe we'll always have a PAP government... one day they'll wake up and they'll find the opposition is the government, a miscalculation," he said in the report.

Lee, Singapore prime minister from 1959 to 1990, remained an influential figure in Singapore politics after stepping down from the post.

In the cabinet of successor Goh Chok Tong, he was appointed as the Senior Minister. He is now the Minister Mentor under the cabinet of Lee Hsien Loong, his eldest son.

Lee told Singaporeans that the island state needed to move ahead and compete.

"We must have a different kind of Singapore," he said, adding that Singapore's "orderly, very wholesome, very clean" image was no longer enough.

Singapore must become a city with a "buzz" to attract tourists, he said.

"If you want to compete beaches on beaches, forests, lakes, seaside, you lose. You can't beat Thailand, you can't beat Malaysia, you can't beat Indonesia and you can't beat Philippines, but we can become the Paris in Southeast Asia."


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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Yet Another Forum Letter

I saw another forum letter which is highly amusing.
Aug 17, 2006
With the PAP in charge, who needs opposition parties?

I find it amazing that many people can be so pissed off with the Singapore Government. What for?

I am no politician but a working man. I do not have many facts but I know what I want and what I need.

We have many jobs in Singapore and unemployment is not a major problem. We have good housing. Our economy may not be super but it's good enough in that our Sing dollar is stronger than some other currencies.

We have a low crime rate. At least I know that I don't fear walking down the street with the thought of being killed or stabbed. So there's no problem with jobs, housing, getting food on the table.

It's a pretty safe place to live in; no problem in getting big foreign investors to invest and create jobs in our country. So what is the problem?

Many people say that Singapore is not democratic enough. But which country in the world is truly democratic? I don't think there is one because it's impossible.

The USA? UK? Many Americans and British opposed the idea of going to war in Iraq. Not all opposed it, but almost half the population did. Opinions were split, at least in the UK.

Yet what did Tony Blair and George Bush do? They did not wait for another round of UN inspections and talks, etc. They invaded Iraq the moment they could.

Correct me if I'm wrong. Isn't democracy supposed to be when the majority or everyone is for the idea, and action is taken? That's the whole reason for consulting the public in the first place. Otherwise what's the use of it?

So if it's not the case of making Singapore a super, truly democratic country, what's the problem? Getting more opposition into parliament? But why? Is the PAP doing something wrong?

I cannot honestly see what's wrong. All I can see is that the need for jobs, food, housing and security are all met.

So what is the PAP doing wrong? Do we want to get more opposition into the parliament for the sake of it? So that the PAP will not be the dominant party? But why?

Will the opposition really do anything different that I want? I cannot imagine having any more needs other than jobs, food, housing and security. And I find the PAP is doing a good job at them. So why would I want anything different?

Why spoil something that's already working? If one day the PAP starts to get things wrong and there are no more jobs, housing becomes amazingly expensive or there is none at all, or if I cannot walk down the street without peace of mind, I would then say that the PAP is finished.

We should change things. That is when I would want a good opposition that can change things to be in the parliament and make a difference to Singapore.

But for now, do we need that?

Han Fook Kwang
Liverpool, United Kingdom
Oh well, is the author trying to do a satire? I am not too sure but if he is...Lucky Tan got some serious competition.

Reasons why Mr Han might be a closeted satirist.

Let me give more background on Mr Han, without whom there will be no ST on our breakfast table.

Han Fook Kwang, 53, was from the Singapore administrative service. He started his career in The Straits Times as a senior leader/feature writer in 1989. He was promoted to associate political editor in 1992 and became the political editor in 1995. Promoted to his current post as Editor in 2002.

He co wrote with Warren Fernandez and Sumiko Tan, Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas.

He is also in the Executive Committee of the Land Transport Authority. (LTA)

This is only what a simple google search dig up in 5 seconds. I am not surprised if Mr Han holds other important appointments in our society. I wished Mr Han the best of luck in his new founded interest in satire . Hopefully he will be do even better than Mr Lionel De Souza and Mr Khoo Lih-Han.

For the very curious, here is a photo of our new funny man at the lauch of STOMP. Foreground, second from left.

Updated : Suddenly, it occurs to me there might be another Mr Han Fook Kwang writing in from UK. If so, I must apologise to the "real" Mr Han Fook Kwang of ST for the mistaken identity.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Chiam and Sitoh

Just this week, there is a public spat in Potong Pasir over some broken lights. I will start off by recalling the facts of this case.
I find it's strange that such a small and simple matter of repairing lights can escalate to such a degree. It is a simple and straight forward job of calling a contractor and getting it fixed. But why? Well, politics. This is a classic case whereby politics is played at the expense of the public welfare. (think upgrading)

For Mr Sitoh, his enthusiasm for serving the residents of Potong Pasir had markly ebbed after the election. Almost immediately after the election, Mr Sitoh, along with Mr Eirc Low cancelled most services they had provided in the two opposition-held wards. It's simple, no votes, no help. The lease for the land only ends in October, thus strictly speaking they are under the responsiblity of Mr Sitoh. If he isn't even responsible enough to fix the lights which is bulit by him on the property leased to him, I don't have the confidence that if elected, he would be responsible for other public areas.

One can only wonder if he is more enthusiastic in winning the election or serving the people of Potong Pasir. On the same measure, he could as easily cancelled the services even if he had won the election.

I don't know Mr Sitoh personally, so I think it's harsh to pass such judgement on him. Maybe he is just following his party strategy to do the minimal. Furthermore, the past defeated PAP candidates in non PAP held wards like Mr Andy Gan and Mr Heng Chee How were "transfered" to a GRC in the next election, so it's hard to blame Mr Sitoh for being less "enthusiastic" in Potong Pasir and planning for his "new hunting ground".

As for Mr Chaim, I think he is slow in addressing the concerns of residents. But at least he had belately addressed their problem.
Aug 11, 2006
Spotlight put up and link way planned

I REFER to the article, 'Mah: Chiam should focus on residents' (ST, Aug 9).

Mr Mah Bow Tan, as a minister of over 15 years, should know that I, as the MP for Potong Pasir for 22 years, have been serving the residents there faithfully.

As regards the dispute concerning the solar lamps, I would like to inform the minister that my town council immediately installed alternative lighting once it learnt that six of the solar lamps were spoilt. The footpath between the MRT station and Block 147 is now brightly lit with a powerful spotlight.

Mr Mah may also like to know that whereas the PAP members are only planning to carry out improvement works, we in Potong Pasir have already awarded contracts for repair-and-redecoration works for 31 blocks and work will commence soon.

A covered linkway will be built at the said footpath once permission is granted. Other projects are being planned.

The solar lamps were installed by Mr Sitoh Yih Pin and the Citizens' Consultative Committee along the footpath without the town council's knowledge. Now, Mr Mah and Mr Lim Boon Heng are of the opinion that I, as the elected Member of Parliament, should bear responsibility for the mistake made by Mr Sitoh and the CCC. If the PAP indeed holds this view, it does not augur well for the future of PAP politics.

Chiam See Tong
MP-elect for Potong Pasir
I do not know Mr Chaim personally too, so I can't be sure if he isn't trying to pass the buck. What I know is that at least Mr Chaim care enough about the residents to do something. My hope is for both of them and other MPs to remember: they are to serve the residents. Please do not pass the residents' welfare to each other as a political smashball.

One had to jump through hoops to serve the people, the other jumped ship.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to be authorative or clever in any way. It was based on rambling of a half crazed creature, so treat it as such and let it be! I was asked to keep my dangerous thoughts and unbalanced views all in one safe place , and so I did. Objectivity, Accuracy, Responsiblity and any High Standards are certainly not part of this blog's features. However, I must stress that I do not strive to mislead people, confuse people, and much less undermine our national strategy.