Zainal Abidin is a new name to me. Upon googling, I was surprised to learn that he's been a Minister of State for the past five years. In that period of time, I wrote about 800 articles about Singapore's current affairs. The fact that Zainal managed to entirely escape my notice for that long suggests to me that in that time, he had done .... NOTHING .... that was noteworthy to me.
Lim Hwee Hua has been in charge of public transport. Sorry, Hwee Hua, that means you get an instant black mark in my book. Public transport standards in Singapore have fallen drastically in the past five years. The trains and buses are way too crowded, the MRT stations are slowly rotting away and leaking rainwater, and I even have the photos to prove it. What happened to your quality controls?
Ong Ye Kung is a relative newcomer to the political scene. He is a unionist from NTUC. In some other countries, being a unionist is a badge of honor and it would be fair to assume that the person is committed to defending the rights of ordinary workers. In Singapore, things are very different and it has been largely impossible, since the events in 1968, to make such an assumption. So Ong has nothing in his CV that makes me want to vote for him.
Last and possibly least, we have Cynthia Phua. This name I recognise, and back in May 2008, I also blogged about a Straits Times article which quoted her. Alas, the ST article contains nothing that would make me regard her more positively. On the contrary, re-reading that ST article now just makes me feel wary about what clever new ideas the PAP might come up with, to extract more money from Aljunied residents.
I reproduce below my blog post from 2008 - it's entitled Aljunied Town Council and A Matter of Principle.
Those interested in the full story from 2008 should click on the earlier link and read all the comments too (plus the my related post dated 12 May 2008).ST May 5, 2008Would it be right, as a matter of principle, for Aljunied Town Council to raise conservancy charges in the manner proposed above? Let's discuss.
Aljunied trash index aims to wipe out litterbugs
Conservancy fees may be tied to index, with dirtiest precincts paying more
By Alfred Siew
TIRED of hardcore litterbugs, Aljunied GRC plans to start measuring the cleanliness of its precincts under a new litter index to be introduced in October.
Officials also said they will consider raising the conservancy charges for the dirtiest precincts to cover the extra work that goes into maintaining them.
The index, the first of its kind in Singapore, was unveiled on Saturday by the GRC's Members of Parliament. They said that it was designed to encourage residents to change their attitudes towards tossing trash.
Aljunied Town Council chairman Cynthia Phua said that the index would be based on the cleanliness of lifts, the condition of public property and how large pieces of rubbish are disposed.
She told The Straits Times yesterday that the council would tie conservancy charges to the index only if it found an objective measure of cleanliness. The plan is under consideration and would not be confirmed until next year, she said.
The most obvious objection is that all the residents in the dirty precincts would have to pay higher conservancy charges, even though the large majority of them may be civic-minded residents who do not litter.
Once again, it would be a case of innocent Singaporeans being punished for a wrong they did not commit and could not personally prevent.
It is one thing to catch a litterbug and impose a fine on him. It is quite another thing to impose a fine (or a higher conservancy charge) on a resident, just because he happens to live in an area with more litterbugs around.
All the residents are already paying their usual conservancy charges. The amount they currently pay is already more than enough to maintain the cleanliness of the Aljunied GRC area. Check out the Aljunied Town Council's financial statements yourself.
In the 2006/2007 financial year, the Aljunied town council collected $31,955,492 in conservancy and service fees. They spent only $4,237,162 on cleaning works.
Their accumulated surplus for the year, as at 31 March 2007, was $4,964,022. Which means that in 2006/2007, they could have spent DOUBLE the amount they actually did, on cleaning works, and still have money left over.
Just as a side point, what about their gigantic sinking funds? Check out the Aljunied Town Council's balance sheet. They have more than $90,000,000 in surpluses accumulated over the years. And yes, the bulk of which would have come from the conservancy and service fees paid by Aljunied residents.
Of that amount, $36,270,609 is reported to be sitting in the bank as fixed deposits. Another $44,045,035 is reported as being held for "trading investments". What's that? On further inspection, we see that it means $12,587,775 invested in stocks; $21,082,590 invested in bonds; and $11,981,315 invested in unit trusts.
Does the Aljunied Town Council sound poor to you?
(The sinking funds can't be used for general cleaning works, but their enormous size raises other sorts of questions, which I'll discuss in a future post).