Apr 29, 2007

The Problem With Error Messages

A reader recently commented that I was "picking bones" with Lee Kuan Yew's speech. The implication was that I was finding fault over small points.

Well, that is that reader's opinion. He's entitled to it. Personally, I think it's important for national leaders to say clearly what they mean. After all, whatever their true intentions may be, their words will simply be disseminated through the mass media into the minds of the general public.

And if the national leader uses inaccurate words, then the danger is that the general public will be infected by inaccurate thinking. Even intelligent people may start thinking inaccurate thoughts.

Here is one example. On the Young PAP blog, there is a post about foreign talent. In the comment section, the YPAP blogger writes as follows:
"Ours is a mere 4 million people state, remember. Our only resource is People. If our women are not producing enough babies to sustain our already depleting talent pool, we have to import them."
Sounds quite familiar, yes? You've definitely heard this reasoning before. For example, in his 2006 National Day Rally, PM Lee Hsien Loong said:
"Two years ago, we introduced major policy changes to encourage couples to have more babies. So far the results have been very modest. I understand why some Singaporeans do not want to have more children. But I have not given up hope and will continue to think of ways to encourage couples to have more babies.

Let me explain why we need new immigrants. To maintain a population of 4 million, Singapore needs at least 50,000 babies a year. Last year, we had 36,000 babies. This means that we are short by 14,000 babies. No matter how hard we try, it would be hard to produce another 14,000 babies. Hence we need to attract more immigrants."
Well, the reasoning is wrong. You see, adults are not babies. Babies are not adults. Before a baby can enter the workforce, it will have to spend 20 to 25 years growing up.

If the talent pool for our workforce is depleting today, it's not because our women are producing too few babies today. It's because our women were producing too few babies 30 years ago. Thanks to the Stop At Two policy in the 1970s implemented by you-know-who.

The YPAP blogger couldn't see that. Well, who can blame her. She probably got misled by PM Lee.

She probably also doesn't see that if today Singapore imports large numbers of foreigners in their 30s and 40s, this only worsens our aging population problem in the year 2030. After all, all those foreigners would be senior citizens in Singapore by then.

I find the aging population issue quite interesting because if you really stop to think it through, you'll see several complex angles to it. Unfortunately, if you only listened to the PAP (or the mainstream media reporting the PAP's views on this matter), you'd never realise that it was complex.

The picture we tend to get is a grossly simplified, straightforward doomsday scenario: "By year 2030, one in five Singaporeans will be over 65! How will our economy survive?! We're dying out!".

And the solutions offered are very blunt: "Import more foreigners! Make more babies!". Sometimes they add: "Your CPF money isn't enough! You'd better save more!"

Did it ever occur to you ......... that if one in five Singaporeans is really over 65 in the year 2030, this could be a perfectly okay situation for Singapore? In a future post, I will elaborate.


Anonymous said...

Foolish boy, PAP is always right, that's why they're in power. Long live PAP.

But on a more serious note, our government really lacks expertise. It lacks rational, clear headed people, capable of justifying their decisions, other than just saying, "oh population going down, NEED MORE ANG MOHS" And i doubt that's going to change anytime soon, given the massive brain drain they are encouraging, the worst part is their complacent attitude. I'm not sure where i got this from, but i vaguely remember the government dismissing brain drain altogether as a serious threat. Seriously, there are only two options left for Singaporeans. Either we migrate, or we assasinate some of the less intelligent PAP members. Actually assasinating one wouldnt help, you'll have to kill them all, and the PAP administration as well. But i doubt anything will change either, since everyone else left in singapore that is willing to take charge would probably be equally stupid. (note: i'm joking, don't blame me if you really take this seriously, and i don't mean that singaporean ministers are stupid, i'm just expressing it as a statement to justify my joke. AND SERIOUSLY, DONT SUE ME.)

family man said...

As the PM has said, the minister's bonus is dues in a large part to the amount of GNP produced year by year. As such all their policies are short sighted, with a view to increase the GNP from year to year. That is why we need foreign talent. That is also why we need to introduce means testing, to make the citizens pay and pay, that after Minister Khaw promised not to raise this issue in the last election. EVERYTHING IS BASED ON $, GNP. this is a money making incorporation, that is all. There is no nationhood to talk about - that is what the minister salary speech was about. Sad.

Ned Stark said...

Mr Wang,

with regards to the situation where 1 in 5 are aged, does the advantage come about in the sense that you have ard 60% or more younger people supporting a smaller percentage of elderly, rather than a situation where a small percentage of workers support a larger percentage of elderly people? This will also not cause that great a strain on Singapore's healthcare and all.

Anonymous said...

You can be 65, 75 or even 100. The govt is not supporting anybody at all. What is the point of calculating the ratio of young people supporting the aged in Singapore. The aged rely on their CPF (you own savings anyway and for some it would not be sufficient) and the goodwill of children (if any)during their retirement.

Just name one policy and I mean only one policy whereby the govt is doing anything out of the common pool of taxpayers' money to look after the aged.

Unlike in OZ and NZ, once you retire, the govt actually pays you a pension for the rest of your life. Obviously, they finance it from taxes. It's a form of social insurance.

Anonymous said...

You can be 65, 75 or even 100. The govt is not supporting anybody at all. What is the point of calculating the ratio of young people supporting the aged in Singapore.

Yep! That's right, I was going to point that out. No one is supporting anyone in S'pore. Besides your families you are on your own pretty much.

Another aspect of importing foreigners, adult version, is the fact that after some time if they have not gone on to greener pasteur they may import their own aged parents or relatives. Hence increasing the aged population. The whole scenario about ageing population is just to justify importing foreign workers indiscriminately.

Anonymous said...

May I add too that since ours is not a welfare state, an increasing ageing population does not impact the state as much compared to other countries with a comprehensive welfare and assistance system.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled at the ackwarded, simplistic and idiotic logic that pap ministers used to argue their cases. Another e.g. Teo Chee Hian -cannot compared Singapore Ministers' salary with that of other countries because Singapore Ministers cannot become politicians in those countries. In this days and age, when Singaporeans are taking on high positions in UN and other international organisation and this rubbish ? It just goes to prove my contention that the controlled media is doing great damages to the minds of Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

I am prettty curious about how the government does population planning. I am sure they have a whole bunch of economists, urban planners, academics that come together and work out a strategy for this matter. Don't they consider the issues raised in the earlier posts before implementing it? Is importing foreign talent the most viable solution?

Val said...

The reason why MM is the hot topic now because he has been rather active , making several speeches recently. It's our freedom to express our point of view..But unlike us, political leaders must be extremely mindful over what they'd said, like what Mr Wang mentioned,or it may create wrong implications to the pool of readers.
Err...can i say they are taking short cut by importing babies since they have failed in getting people to procreate? But are they importing babies or importing women who can make babies? hahaha
The trend now is to outsource, hence babies also must outsource...And... what's the reason to outsource?hehe

Anonymous said...

We need to import because our girls are married to ang moh, once give birth, the baby holds dual citizenship and will one day leave Singapore before 18 years old.

So we need to import chinese women because they are more than happy to marry into singapore and give birth to numerous babies, so that they can demand more maintenance fee from local husband.

Local husband in order to give more maintenance fee, have to work very hard, go for courses conducted by Productivity board.

His hard working contributes to local economy.

I'm for importing of foreign talents.

Anonymous said...

Importing foreigners? Hey, hell yeah. Haven't you noticed how ugly Singaporeans are? And how many of Spores kids are short sighted and short??? You need to improve the gene pool a bit, don't you reckon? Otherwise you'd end up being inbreed like dogs. Not healthy man.

Anyhow don't worry. Foreigners don't want to stayin your miserable little island. There's so many other better places to live after we retire.

George Chen said...

great post Wang, the stop at two is by who huh?

simplesandra said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't we moved away from labour-intensive industries and to more high-valued ones? So why this urgent need to expand the population on this tiny island -moreover, by importing foreigners en masse - when resources should be better spent on preparing the locals we have to take on the new economy?

Oh, cynical me. But I seem to get this niggling feeling that this importing of foreign workers has as more to do with another four letter word (starts with a 'v') than babies. :-)

Anonymous said...

Foreign talents are brought in to counter the increasing sceptical local born< to keep you occupied with the Issue and to tell you directly that you can be replaced< You! no big deal understand?

Anonymous said...

Very simply, the politicans cannot handle the truth. They fear, for themselves, for their lives. Imagine that all these years, all the rosy pictures are the biggest pack of lies in the world. The million dollars did stop material corruption but did not stop the corruption of the heart.

The heart is blacken or simply disappeared. Or maybe they already reached this state.

Yeah, they can sleep at night because the peace will not come.

Just Wondering around said...

True. I stand strongly on the ground that what is done cannot be undone. So, lets do not dig up past events and pin point this and that. We shoud debate on what we should do to solve the problem. Life has to go on.

About the "Stop at two policy", looks like is growing and slowly moving to its “full blown" stage. There might become a disaster to future Singapore and Singaporeans in the next 10 to 20 years where human resource starts to “wear off”.
This is a problem which I think the government foresees and trying to solve. From what I observe, true they are drawing in more foreign talents into Singapore to fuel the growing industry. Insufficient human resource kept foreign investors away from Singapore, thus hindering the progress of economic expansion and directly affecting employment. (I believe).

If what I viewed is true, I would not object foreign infiltration into Singapore but I totally disagree to put this at the expanse of the local Singaporean. There should be a system to govern the whole process and should not undermine Singaporeans’ opportunity when looking for a job in Singapore. I cannot agree to foreigners’ infiltration into all levels of job however, I welcome them to take over position which no Singaporeans are capable to cover up. This would prevent employers to take this chance to slash the income of Singaporeans due with cheap foreign talent.
Leaders should put in good policies to help its people and should not make comments (which I seen as excuse to certain extent) such as over dependent. In fact, isn’t this, what the government should do? Isn’t that looking after Singaporeans’ interest, the duty of our leaders?

From what I observe, the policies taken up by the leader is just a short term solutions to the problem. Like what Mr. Wong says the problem is: babies. The only medicine to the current problem is to put in more effort into creating babies for a better future of Singapore. France, this country (if you were to read this piece of news in Straits Times a couple of days ago. Guys if you can locate the link to this piece of news put comment it.) is cooler in babies’ policies.

30 years down the road, more people will be at the government disposal. There should not be any issue about the National Service, Fts, jobs and Singaporean more unlikely to be quitters (branded by elites). Investors would be more than happy to invest in Singapore although there still might be some problem looking for top people. However, more brains to choose from means less efforts on head hunting. Leaders can still turn to Fts to occupy top positions.

This might seem too ideal but it worth a try. More baby policies please!!!

Isn’t all these should be done to cover up the “stop at two policy”?

I wish to end with, OMG, 6M population was planned and I feel that the social foundation of Singapore, in term of unity starts to shake pretty well. God gracious please bless my next generation well.

Anonymous said...

"The Problem with Error Messages" has been made worse by the liberal use of defamation law by PAP to silence the critics.

So Half Truth also becomes Truth not lies.

A good example was Durai TT (ex-CEO of old NKF) took First Class when on "business" trips. He sued the person who let the cat out of the bag for defamation and won without a fight. Every Singaporeans thought the "the person" was a troublemaker until the Truth broke out.

As a result, every Singaporeans were hurt badly and deeply by the Truth.

hugewhaleshark said...

You know what they say about statistics and lies... Is 25% over 65 necessarily that bad? I haven't done the research, but it doesn't sound so bad to me. By simply saying it like it is a God-given truth, the govt obviously expects the populace to take it at face value and not question further.

Another example: The govt says, the list of top earners in Singapore is not as volatile as people think. 40% of those who appear on the list one year actually reappear the next year. What?! Did I hear right? That if you appear on the list, there is a 60% chance that you will NOT appear next year. Let's see the ministers take THAT roll of the dice.

Another one: the govt says, higher GST impacts the rich more. The bulk of GST is paid by the rich. Huh?! Shouldn't you be looking at GST paid vs the proportion of take-home pay? I which case I think the rich will surely be better off?

Say it like it is the God-given truth. Common trick.

Anonymous said...

"The implication was that I was finding fault over small points."

Isn't that the modus operandi of most Singapore blogs, including your own venerable establishment?

"I think it's important for national leaders to say clearly what they mean."

I don't.

"And if the national leader uses inaccurate words, then the danger is that the general public will be infected by inaccurate thinking. Even intelligent people may start thinking inaccurate thoughts."

I think it suffices to say that they're not as "intelligent" as you say if they are so easily misled by a type of people – ie, politicians – not so well known for being honest.

"Unfortunately, if you only listened to the PAP (or the mainstream media reporting the PAP's views on this matter), you'd never realise that it was complex."

It's interesting how you come to this conclusion considering that, as one presumes, you discovered several new threads of thought independently. Surely you are not saying that others couldn't do the same.

Incidentally your views on being misled by the pro-government juggernaut are every bit as simplistic as the immigration views you are criticising.

I'm not saying you're wrong on either issue. In fact I broadly support the mainstream media's tendency to simplify, because local politics isn't actually that complex. A few more threads of thought like the ones you contribute don't make this nonsense immigration issue a great deal more complex.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Oh ... Are you that YPAP blogger? Heheh.

Anonymous said...

XCS says:

You are quite right.

Singapore ministers are perhaps the only political leaders in the 1st world who may say what pleases them at any moment to suit their agenda of the moment.

There can do this because we don't have a mass media who would play the role of the citizens' watchdog because the mass media is in the govt's pocket and functions effectively as part of its popaganda machinery. So effectively, any and every pap politician, esp the senior ones, has his backside watched automatically on his behalf. Accountability for one's words is the exclusive bane of opposition politicians, naysayers and dissenters.

Someone here jests about assasinating politicians, I think it would be more to the point to joke about ridding (by fair means, of course) this place of self-serving, cowardly, sycophantic and ingratiating journalists and news editors! They are a total disgrace to the profession. By their actions and inactions they have caused/allowed the pap govt to prevail over citizens' many wishes and legitimate demands and aspirations.
Any newsman of integrity and courage of conviction would have deserted the ranks of the SPH portfolio of news publications. Not so, the current lot of kia soo, kia see and tharn chiak pretenders.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say this, Sphinx, but you're not coming across as a very rational or objective person. Your comment just sounds spiteful and malicious.

I actually have a lot of respect for LKY and PAP (they're not perfect, but they've done a lot of good things over the years). I wish that someone could launch a more eloquent and convincing defence on their part (assuming of course that there IS such a defence available).

That wouldn't be you, though.

Maybe you're very clever, and you already saw through PM's message long ago, but frankly I didn't until Mr Wang pointed it out. I don't think I'm that stupid, after all, that YPAP blogger didn't see it as well, and I think YPAP probably would only let their "smarter" members blog on their public blog.

Anonymous said...

Aiyah, PM Lee is not that stupid. The fellow has 1st Class Hons in Mathematics from Cambridge, of course he can count.

What he was relying on is that Singaporeans are stupid. If he wasn't relying on that, he wouldn't have said such a thing in his NATIONAL DAY rally speech, which is broadcast to the entire nation and extensively reported in the papers. He's trying to sell the whole FT idea again.

Too bad, unfortunately, I think that many Singaporeans ARE stupid and will buy it.

Anonymous said...

To all Singaporean who wants the Truth, ask yourself whether you have the following:

1) Ample $$ for defamation suits against you for asking the Truth.

2) Prepare yourself mentally and physcially to handle the Truth because it is going to hurt you deeply and badly.

3) So what you have the Truth? What can you do? A good example was the recent obsence increase in Minister pays?

My 2 cents worth of advice to Singaporeans who seek the Truth:

Ignorance is always bliss. See no evil and hear no evil. PAP knows what is best for Singaporeans. Every policies PAP implements are Good for Singaporeans.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"I think it suffices to say that they're not as "intelligent" as you say if they are so easily misled

Oh dear, I wish you wouldn't be so rude.

When I said "intelligent", I was trying to be polite to that YPAP blogger. She does write quite well and I read in the comment section that she's a Mensa member too.

I do not think that she was being dishonest when she made that comment. I -do- think that she was misled by the kind of messages that our ministers have been putting out.

What about you, Sphinx? Do you think that this Elaina person was dishonest or just (to quote you) "not as intelligent as [Mr Wang] says"? Or do you think, as I do, that quite intelligent S'poreans can also be misled by those words of PM Lee mentioned in my post? Or do you have any other conclusions, views etc?

simplesandra said...

sphinx wrote: "I think it suffices to say that they're not as "intelligent" as you say if they are so easily misled by a type of people – ie, politicians – not so well known for being honest."

People form their opinions on things from the information that's available to them; and in the case of local policies and issues, the kind of news the media bombards them with. Intelligence is secondary, and as history has shown, even the most "intelligent" will champion for the wrong causes with enough "conditioning" (for instance, during the Third Reich).

I broadly support the mainstream media's tendency to simplify, because local politics isn't actually that complex.

You can simplfy the way you present an issue, but you can't simplfy the analytical process. And besides, politics IS complex, local or not. If it were that simple, what are we paying millions for our ministers for? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Given the concentration of brains in government, especially in the elite admin service, it is highly unlikely that most national policies before adoption have not been studied and analysed through and through.Two problems result however. First, with the current system ( now made even more durable with its golden handcuffs remuneration structure ) there is every disincentive to avoid policy recommendations which do not jive with the political masters'inclinations even when these are manifestly less than appropriate( contrary to what we are told to believe - many do not have the most brilliant minds or are sufficiently independent of thought and bold enough to go against God ). I have heard of a few instances when certain policy changes were canned at the last minute simply because GOD objected. Of course many others get filtered out long before they even make it to Cabinet for discussion. Two, once adopted, the machinery on how to get these conveyed to the public is cranked up.The MSM is "instructed " to give coverage via stories which "substantiate" or "illustrate" the "correctness" of the policies. In their ingratiating attempt to do so, they will simplify the rationale for such policies into newsbyte thought to be more easily assimilated by those less informed, analytical and sceptical. Hence, the incompleteness or worse " distortion". What is sad and disappointing is the assumption that everyone except those in power are simpletons and requires dumbing down arguments. I worry for our children's future, especiilly those not as well equipped to leave for greener pastures...

simplesandra said...

Oops, forgot to mention this.

Let's take the previous election, for instance, when PM Lee said his now famous words on buying votes and fixing the opposition.

The media elsewhere would've jumped on him and ask for a clarification on what he meant by that. Instead, the Straits Times (was it Chua Mui Hoong?) corrected his words and presented a more politically-correct version in their story.

Is that kind of reporting what you mean by "simplifying" the news?

Anonymous said...

You are a terrible person, picking on the things our minister say. Hallo. If not for them, do u think u hav the LIFE and chance now to login to ur blog and write all these? Terrible. Please rem ur origins lah ok. Stop picking on all these things. It is really unnecessary. Damn wu liao.

Anonymous said...

There are 71 million blogs in the world.

And this stupid Anon guy thinks that we have to get down on our knees and thank the PAP for our chance to blog.

Gaaaaah. Singaporeans ARE stupid.

Anonymous said...

prolly some young pap supporter punk. cannot think for himself. sad.

anyway i read the original article. very long. very eloquent. but at the end i was asking myself: what exactly is the author trying to say?

coz at the end, i don't know leh.

Anonymous said...

To some extend GOD does want or need a happy citizenry< they do work very hard at it> Unfortunately they want to be paid first for the jobs and wanted more to be recognised for the jobs to have some fames and likely posterities in history books! The wants for fames come naturally to Chinese descendants whose forefathers used to exhort "have your name remembered though you are no more"> Indeed< I see some working very hard towards that! even to the extend of building "something for memories" for each others! These self actuations do result in some memories usually from their own offsprings but unrelated citizens may remember them for contrary reasons< like the way Hitler is remembered by! Nevertheless< anyone wanting to be paid and recognised first and want to show authority< power and lord over his citizens will not be noble much less benevolent!

Anonymous said...

Ok, you guys have to stop equating degrees with intelligence. First class honours does not always guarantee intelligence; on the other hand it simply means that you're well educated and...that you were diligent about your homework.

I've met quite a few first classers who've never had an independent thought in their lives.

I urge you therefore to consider Kant's injunction that enlightenment (which is a sign of intelligence) is "man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity" where "(i)mmaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another."

Very often we S'poreans adopt an uncritical disposition towards our politicians bcos for one thing, our lives are such a rush and/or we're distracted by this spectacle called modernity that we simply have neither the time nor the inclination to stop and think through complex issues. In this way, our political thinking and our attitudes towards politics very often is guided only by what out politicians say and that, as Wang points out, tends to lead to some very fallacious reasoning and specious conclusions.

At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong even if you agree with the PAP, just so long as you've independently reviewed the arguments and formed your own conclusions. Don't let your thoughts be in the words of Oscar Wilde, "someone else's opinions".

This is the minimum standard for political engagement.

Anonymous said...

Well written articles. We just need more of such intelligent people who think beyond surface value

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, I think that you are doing a great job of opening up our minds further. I believe that our system of education is used to create half educated Singaporeans, in that although they max out in terms of academic results, subjects that require critical thinking, thinking out of the box and voicing opinions are not encouraged. NS is also used to nueter the men (PY said our NSmen our whimps remember!), to follow orders without question. As a system, it has failed Singaporeans especially when we need to compete overseas.

Ned Stark said...

"You are a terrible person, picking on the things our minister say. Hallo. If not for them, do u think u hav the LIFE and chance now to login to ur blog and write all these? Terrible. Please rem ur origins lah ok. Stop picking on all these things. It is really unnecessary. Damn wu liao. "

To that i shall add this:
"When he failed to convince the colonialists to relinquish control to him, he kept his promise to the people and resigned in protest, leaving the seats of power to be filled by more modest men.
By then, he had fired the imagination of a whole generation of post-war nationalists. In his inimitable, innocent and enthusiastic way, he was a populist politician who, more than anyone else in the early 1950s, aroused the interest of the common man in elections. He could mesmerise a crowd with his magnificent oratory -- the commanding, authoritative tone, the measured cadences, the well-chosen words -- or send them into paroxysms of laughter. "

The "he" in question refers to David Marshall, the founder of Worker's party.

"But even though he failed to follow through on the numerous good ideas he spawned, many were subsequently embellished and translated into policies by the People's Action Party that took over the reins of government in 1959, such as the creed of multi-lingualism and multi-racialism, an education policy for nation-building, meet-the-people sessions and the Central Provident Fund."

So dear mr Anon, before you go on praising to sky heaven, please take a look at your history. Unless of course you are not interested in debate then thats another matter entirely.

Anonymous said...

Ned Stark....Churchill once said that the best argument against democracy is 5 minutes with the average voter. Whoever you were quoting back there definitely proves it. :p

Oh and Josh, didnt know you read this page too...hehezw

Anonymous said...

MM has told us, in no uncertain terms, to stop being foolish when the Ministers' salaries is only "peanuts" compared to the country's GDP. If I am not mistaken, our Mrs Peanuts also said the same thing before TT Durai was exposed.

Come to think of it, is there any real difference if we compare what our ministers are being paid to what TT Durai was paying himself when NKF's was having a field day collecting funds from the unsuspecting public.

The only difference that I can think is one is free from persecution while the other is not. Poor TT Durai must be regretting now for not becoming a Minister!!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion going on. I never thought about these issues before, perhaps I belong to the majority of Singaporeans that are just apathetic. Or could it be possible that life in Singapore is structured in such a way that you would be too bogged down by your daily life that you hardly have time to think of such issues. What the heck about all this if you don't even have enough time to study so that you don't lose out to others, to work hard and get caught up in the rat race so that you can earn a living, or your family life. Is this a tactic to make you make you constantly engaged at each phase of your life so that you do not have the time to cause dissent?

visceral said...

the expedient choice would be to leave if you are no longer able to benefit from the status Quo. Given that no one is willing to rock the boat at his own expense, its best to pretend the emperor is wearing some clothes

Anonymous said...

It's impt i think, to realize that this is a regime that combines quite perfectly the juridical model of power with a neoliberal market logic. Its counter intuitive but somehow the PAP has managed to combine perfectly both our law with its anti-liberal disposition and neoliberal economics which shifts the responsibility for self-care back to the individual,as rational tools of domination.

On the one hand, the law is used as a "big stick" to psychologically reinforce OB markers where it needs only be used "once, twice, against big people…the rest will take notice” (Lee Kuan Yew)while on the other hand the, neoliberal capitalism reconstructs individuals as rational, calculating creatures whose moral autonomy is measured by their capacity to provide for their own needs and service their own ambitions. In other words, those who are unable to achieve material success in their lives are simply written off for being lazy or lacking initiative (and should therefore get out of the uncaring faces of the elite).

There are many dangers of extending the logic of the market to all areas of life but what is obvious immediately is that decision making tends to become coldly logical and lacking any tinge of humanity. For example, you will hear suggestions like shipping off the aged to some offshore island bcos its more cost-effective.

And on that note, even though the suggestion was dismissed yesterday, its no guarantee that it wont resurface tomorrow as the commonsense thing to do. Recall if you will that 30 years ago, casinos were 'immoral'. But today we cannot afford to get left behind by not having one. The suggestion alone is proof that at some level Khaw Boon Wan is willing to go down that road.

Anonymous said...

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) stands in solidarity with the workers in Singapore. We are strongly of the view that each and every Singapore workers has contributed tremendously and significantly to the building of this nation. We lament however the lack of sincere treatment by the PAP government towards the hands which toiled to keep Singapore afloat.

The clearest testimony of that affront is illustrated in the PAP government’s unabashed claim that the nation owes its billions in GDP to the “extraordinary” leadership of the PAP, and as such the PAP must necessarily be compensated with “extraordinary” escalating wages. While the GDP of Singapore has grown over the years, the salaries of many Singapore workers have proportionately stagnated, seen tokenish improvement, or sadly even regressed.

Singapore workers have been mercilessly pounded by salvoes of undignified government measures such as non-negotiable hikes in GST, property tax, utility charges, public transport fares, postage cost, medical fees, education costs, and even PAP town councils fees. The PAP government does not pause for an empathising moment from inflicting punishing measures on the workers.

We are painfully concerned that many workers are now unable to accumulate sufficient savings to contemplate a decent retirement at old age, or to meet their medical expenditures. We are equally disturbed that the PAP’s more liberal policy on foreign workers has seen a collapse in salary floor for the lower-income workers. This trend is now rapidly infecting the middle-income workers caught in a hard squeeze of facing cheaper foreign competition and higher cost of living while receiving lesser state subsidies.

It is all the more deplorable that the PAP government now decides to prescribe the “bitter medicine” of urging workers to “work for as long as he can”, and to completely forgo the concept of retirement. It is also painful to see workers, especially those who have lost their jobs through the sordid government policies, literally begging for an increase in state assistance, only to be seen as a liability by the PAP government who wastes no time dismissing the pleas as one stemming from a “crutch mentality”.

The NSP is disappointed that Singapore workers are unable to enjoy the fruit of their 40-years of labour, needing to practically ‘work to their graves’. And to aggravate matters, the workers’ unions in Singapore have evolved from one amplifying the muffled cries of concerns of the workers, to one serving as a mere communication-bridge to disseminate and persuade workers to accept debatable government labour policies.

Nevertheless, the NSP is optimistic that Singapore workers will be steadfast in their quest to seek a fairer alternative for themselves and their future generations. We are hopeful that the Singapore workers will one day regain the sense of respectability and purpose that is enshrined in the original spirit of Labour Day.

We wish all Singapore workers peace and hope.

Central Executive Council
National Solidarity Party

Anonymous said...

Hey, they can recruit unemployed females to be surrogate mothers using donated sperms. It brings down unemployment figures, generates business, increases population, etc.
All the babies will be taken care of by the state.

Maybe they can even genetically engineer babies who can be super soldiers, brilliant scientists, great businessmen etc. or even clone MM Lee.

Anonymous said...

Well, I stand by my remarks, Mr Wang... people are smart in different ways. There were plenty of IQ geniuses, like Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer (no prizes guessing what my hobbies are...) who suffered, or are suffering, from their naivete.

I don't believe in using free, unearned, possibly inaccurate compliments as a matter of courtesy. My courtesy is "please", "may i", "thank you" and "sorry". And I am sorry about sounding too mean spirited. But there's a lot to be depressed about in Singapore, so don't blame me.

Simplesandra said "People form their opinions on things from the information that's available to them."

True. Before the turn of the millennium it would be reasonable to defer responsibility when one is misled by the government. All you had then was government-affiliated institution after another.

These days we've got the tools at our disposal to do that. The internet airs everybody's views: the middleman's, local academics', the government's, hippy pinko bloggers', and bitter political pariahs' like Francis Seow's. It's actually possible to do without the Straits Times these days. The point here is that you could be misled by anybody – so why square the blame on the government?

I can see from the phrasing that Mr Wang's views incorporate the internet age. That is a matter of getting Singaporeans to adjust the importance and trust they put on various sources of information. It is unthinkable in the US, say, that students the age of Elaina consider White House correspondence to be the be all and end all. We're surprisingly happy that this is the norm here.

In the end there's nothing much anybody can do but wait. Singapore lacks the sheer volume of authoritative independent sources (not being able to depend on your national newspaper is considered a triumph), but that, like patiently waiting for our leaders to be more honest, is a matter of time. But I know which will come first.

If it were that simple, what are we paying millions for our ministers for?

For the wayang I'd rather not watch. You don't even need to look at Singapore to know that the most brutally simple political regimes have "simple" politics – try North Korea, Myanmar, or Zimbabwe. Their top brass are very well paid, too, last I heard.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the post by anonymous (at April 29, 2007 7:18 PM), ANG MOHS are not the problem. In fact, the government should encourage caucasians to move to Singapore, because they will not stay. They will not become the elderly and the Singapore government won't need to take care of them. They'll just stay a short time and then go back to their first world countries. Seriously, what ANG MOH would want to stay in such a hell hole as Singapore when they can go back to countries that will take care of them when they get old? But NOOOO, Singapore actually imports mainland Chinese, or people from the third world to become Singapore citizens, and then pretend that ang mohs are moving to singapore as "foreign talent". How many ANG MOHS actually ever became Singapore citizens? If ang mohs are not becoming Singapore citizens, then why do you think they are the problem, you ra***t f***.

Anonymous said...


I mean no disrespect but I'm having difficulty trying to decipher your overall meaning. But lets consider a couple of things you say that are clear enough.

First, you said:

"These days we've got the tools at our disposal to do that. The internet airs everybody's views: the middleman's, local academics', the government's, hippy pinko bloggers', and bitter political pariahs' like Francis Seow's. It's actually possible to do without the Straits Times these days. The point here is that you could be misled by anybody – so why square the blame on the government?"

Well this is certainly true. The paradox of having so much information is that its easier to hide misinformation between what seem as facts. But nvr forget that a govt always derives its legitimacy from the claim it makes to moral authority. And because of this moral authority that the govt exudes, most pple have a tendency to take it at its word. As such putting too much of a 'spin' on things; propangandizing with an intention to deceive and mislead is an egregious thing i think. And the fact that the White House engages in such politics is also no excuse for it.

Next, you said:

"In the end there's nothing much anybody can do but wait. Singapore lacks the sheer volume of authoritative independent sources (not being able to depend on your national newspaper is considered a triumph), but that, like patiently waiting for our leaders to be more honest, is a matter of time. But I know which will come first."

Well tomorrow's always a day away isn't it? Democratic politics is not abt sitting and waiting; it's about acting. Democracy entails active participation not armchair citizenship. Active participation however does not always entail picketing in public (though sometimes it calls for it). Rather, at minimum it means that if you have an opinion, you also have a responsibility of trying to convince others through debate and discussion. This discursive process will challenge and discredit poor ideas and opinions while giving credence to superior ones.

Only thru persuasion and habituation can we hope to democratize a nation. This is what Tocqueville referred to as the "slow and quiet action of society upon itself".f

Sleepless in Singapore said...

I think Mr Wang gives too much credit to the govt when he says that the baby shortage problem we face today is due to the success of the 1970's Stop at Two policy. Isn't this a problem faced by most of the developed economies?

Anonymous said...

That reader who made a comment about Mr Wang's shaming of LKY's booboo was most likely a fanboy (fangirl?) of the Old Man himself. Bought all memoirs? Had them all autographed? You know that kind of individual.

'Picking bones'? Personally I don't pick bones at all... no... I take it a step further.

I find LKY's continued EXISTENCE on the planet loathesome, a waste of resources (especially taxpayers' money) and an EYESORE.

The sooner he dies, the sooner he shuts up for good, consequently the better for us all. Leave the mourning to the running dogs and those deceived by 'National Education'.


Anonymous said...

Sam: I was about to call Mr Wang to arms. Use your clout and your intelligence to help Singaporeans to exercise their own responsibilities! But then that is more or less what he is doing now, and if I have to say so myself, with negligible effect.

I was going to say that was a damn sight better than waiting for your leaders to become more honest. Turns out you have no choice.

nvr forget that a govt always derives its legitimacy from the claim it makes to moral authority

There are Singaporeans who respect the government's moral authority, but even when you do (I certainly don't) it's no excuse to take them for their word always. That is idiocy.

And because of this moral authority that the govt exudes, most pple have a tendency to take it at its word.

That's wrong, or, if you want to put it this way, your way of looking at things dates back to de Tocqueville. Whether you want it or not, politics will always be a business of dishonesty, so why hold on to those ideals?

I accept Mr Wang's version, that people may be partially influenced into making inaccurate opinions by the government. But it would be foolish for anyone to take politicians at their word. Enough has gone on here and elsewhere for people to note that point well.

Only thru persuasion and habituation can we hope to democratize a nation.

Rather, at minimum it means that if you have an opinion, you also have a responsibility of trying to convince others through debate and discussion.

I don't believe in such a constructive viewpoint. There are many Singaporean bloggers who do, but to me they just dirge off into long and rather pointless discussions much like this one. I have a blog (any of you seen it around?), too – but it's got a crudely Hobbesian, "I-told-you-so" attitude.

In practice you seldom actually learn anything just by being told so. Since you're talking about democracy here, there have been precious few regime changes to (or from) democracy that didn't involve bloodshed.

That's because you can't just turn democratic with words. You fight. You earn democracy with violence and bloodshed. I think Lee Kuan Yew himself said it best that if there ever was a "freak" election result, he wouldn't hesitate in using the army to intervene. He means it, of course.

At this point you begin to ask yourself if it's just better to give up. It is. Stop bothering. Leave (as I am). Or just wait for the next of a million false dawns. This is perhaps the one thing in Singapore politics where you are genuinely free to choose among options.

Anonymous said...

sleepless in singapore, you must be ignorant. most developed countries face this problem of declining births when they become developed countries. singapore has not even reached developed status when it already faces this problem. understand??

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Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr Wang for your blog. In my opinion you bring an impartial view to the social and political issues in Singapore, inviting the reader to form his own opinions.

I have pointed several friends to your blog too.

This is what having proper sociopolitical discourse is all about!

Anonymous said...

“The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.”

"If you keep on telling the same lies,you will end up believing it yourself."

“How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think”

simplesandra said...

still loving gertrude: "I wish EOC et. al. would be more discerning and critical in their thinking... Than sprout nonsense like lemmings."

The YPAP doesn't always pick its people for their political awareness and social astuteness. A conversation with some of them will reveal that they're more interested in business talk. :-)

Anonymous said...

"As the PM has said, the minister's bonus is dues in a large part to the amount of GNP produced year by year."

GDP. They based it on GDP, not GNP. They will cry if they base their bonus on GNP, coz Singaporeans' worth have and will continue to shrink.

Anonymous said...


Like that how to have 'both head and heart'?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, so many things are distorted already in the papers. As discussed earlier, the opening up of accepting doctor degrees (mbbs) from overseas. It's obviously a planning error by the MOH, resulting in many bright young singaporeans (including GCT's daughter I heard) having to go overseas or give up their dreams of being a doctor.

Then LTA and their COE fracas. Now cutting back, due to forecasting error.

Makes you wonder how many forecasting errors are in the system at the moment. Top talents yes?

Let's just migrate lah.

Anonymous said...

Like that how to have 'both head and heart'?

Not to worry.

'When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.'

family man said...

As a father to 3 sons - I too want my sons to believe in the Singapore system. To love the govt, and to know that the ministers have the well being of her people. Soon, I am not sure when, I will ne to start tearing down this illusion I had, this illusion that Singapore is safe, and their cares and concerns are taken care of. Sad - but soon, I will have to tell them that Santa does not really exist - that what Yue Fei had on his back (filial to country or something) was just a legend. That hurts me - but it has gotta be done - soon. well, unless the minister tell me MM Lee was a goondu and they have decided the Ministers pay rise was a bad idea and yes, they do it cos they love the country - not the money. Jeeze - I mean - create your own pay check? I think we should hammer home this point at every national day....

Anonymous said...

I came across this article on GDP and was really struck by the implications of using GDP as a KPI.

Take a read and make your own conclusions on how it should be used as a key performance indicator for the powers above.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gdp

The limits of GDP (or GNP, a slightly different notion) can be summed up in the words of two critics. Robert Kennedy said[1]:

The gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. GNP includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm, and missiles and nuclear warheads... it does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, or the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous on April 30, 2007 2:39 PM said...
((((Hallo. If not for them, do u think u hav the LIFE and chance now to login to ur blog and write all these? Terrible.))))

Hallo! What makes you Mr Wang, or any one of us, wouldnt be having "the LIFE and chance" that he and others like him now have??? What makes you think we wouldnt be having an EVEN beter life? Perhaps, you are so lacking in your own ability that only someone like you would need to depend on the govt for YOUR life. Our govt has this habit of putting down America; LKY himself once said "I admire America from afar, but not otherwise". Inspite of their supposedly inferior govt, there are more billioniare-millionaires than anywhere else on earth. And they dont even have to bend over backwards to attract foreign talent! Hallo! Your crutch is the PAP gahmen.

Anonymous said...

The message is loud and clear this Labour Day< Work till you drop man and woman! My understanding of the message is that retirement is no more henceforth> Working hard has always being the characteristic of Singaporeans or rather typical of them since their forefathers migrated here. Many enjoyed family joys though living was hard, today what joy does one get from anything? Many slog whole life to get peanuts while some are paid millions per year! If one did not die of poverty, one may die of envy and misery. I would sincerely urge Singaporeans to seriously understand the May Day Messages carefully and make good ones' own future> Listen to others but decide for yourself as you should know by now how much help one gets from those who run your life!

Anonymous said...

'When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.'

Like that not head and not heart wat, coz the orientation to the uppities and not to the people.

Unknown said...

Let's go back to the original blog. Mr Wang's view point is that the arguement of solving lowering birth rates is to increase immigration into Singapore.

If you look at the issue from the view point of running a company, this is the most logical solution. What I can't do efficiently I outsource. Problems arising from past decision can be resolve with short term patch work.

The purpose of a company is to take the money of investors and generate profits on their investments.

From this view point, if Singaporeans invest in the current government in terms of money (taxes), it should gain from these investments as the goernment generate profits. Question is, are we? Given the measurement for ROI ought to be say 10% year-on-year, are Singaporeans getting such returns? Personally I don't think so.

If so, how on earth can the government justify their pay increase? There is no logical way to tie their performance to the growth in Singaporeans' wealth. And it is not GDP. The closest thing would be GNP.

Anonymous said...

GDP-GNP, try this argument:


I quote Minister Teo Chee Hean in the need to "compare apples to apples" in the Ministerial salary debate. Currently, the Minister's salary is pegged to the top earners in Singapore, while their bonus is pegged to the GDP of Singapore.

GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the value of goods and service produced within an inanimate geographical boundary does not sit well with the pegged to real life persons of the Ministers' salaries. Moreover, Singapore has an extremely small agriculture and natural produce base to significantly justify the use of GDP in calculating the value-add of the Ministers' work.

We should peg the Ministers' bonus to the Gross National Product (GNP), which measures the income of all Singaporeans. This will ensure that the denominator of real persons' incomes for both the salary and bonus of the Ministers are common. Minister Mentor has on many occasions impressed on everyone, that Singapore sole most valuable resource is our people. The peg to GNP will validate this fact.

Making Singaporean's income the performance indicator of our public office holders will assure all Singaporeans that Mr Maliki's "by the people, for the people" Government interview given to an Indonesian reporter earlier is, beyond doubt. This also sends an affirmative signal that the public office holders are not in only for the money, but are keen to serve the nation through the key responsibility of increasing Singaporeans' annual value.

It will also put to rest the debate that Government favours foreigners over Singaporeans in their policy making.

I believe Prime Minister Lee, who has proven the these points correct by donating his increment for the next 5 years, is the best attestment for the implementation of this peg.

Anonymous said...

The GNP of Singapore is only very slightly smaller than its GDP. In fact, that the gap is so small can be seen as another achievement -- i.e. that we have indeed grown an external wing.

In contrast, some high-growth economy like Ireland has GDP that is 20% higher.

However, the international norm appears to be using GDP rather than GNP nowadays.

Anonymous said...

"The GNP of Singapore is only very slightly smaller than its GDP."

Prove it.

Anonymous said...

However, the international norm appears to be using GDP rather than GNP nowadays.

Singapore Minister pay is not international norm mah.

No other country in the world is so unique like Singapore got almost no agriculture mah.

Minister say Singapore's media is for Singapore's unique circumstances also mah.

Where you get the "international norm" statement? Heh prove pls.

Anonymous said...

"The GNP of Singapore is only very slightly smaller than its GDP."

Prove it.

Just go and google. http://www.singstat.gov.sg/keystats/economy.html#gdp

In fact, this is a basic knowledge about Singapore's economy.

Sorry if I am not clear. When I say 'international norm', I mean nowadays it is more common to use GDP to measure the size of an economy, rather than GNP.

Nothing about ministers' pays.

Anonymous said...

Why increase the population number? All I know is when I play my Romance of the 3 Kingdom, I need to secure land with more people so that I can collect more tax. In the present context, income tax, GST, other taxes and of course health care. Health care can suck alot of money. :P

Anonymous said...


And it's all GDP!
Where's the GNP data? And pls do NOT include SPRs in the GNP calculation.

Did the papers not report that the mid and low income groups suffered pay loses? So did GNP go up or down, given it's a measure of CITIZEN income?

You just don't get it do you?

Try harder.

Anonymous said...


You can check this site too: http://www.finfacts.com/biz10/globalworldincomepercapita.htm

Anonymous said...

You should try harder to understand.


Can see this site too: http://www.finfacts.com/biz10/globalworldincomepercapita.htm

Anonymous said...

Ya, but read properly.

He said not to include SPRs in GNP. You got check the gahmen site got add SPR or not?

Anonymous said...

been missing out on your blogs as my notebook was down.

this is an interesting blog, something that strikes a chord with every Singaporean worker.

As much as I hate the govt's importing of 'talent' to beef up the workforce, I tend to think that it seems the most logical solution.

I agree with your point that the situation today is a result of birth control decisions made back then. However, leaving a population to rely heavily on the next generation for a comfortable life is not exactly the best thing to do.

Moreover, it makes perfect sense for a developing nation to control its population

-The country's resources does not drain exponentially

- resources can be focused on improving first hunger then quality of life

- The result? the nation progresses and prospers and the people are happy.

We can see that despite numerous historical examples in developed nations, illustrating that birth control policies tend to lead to an ageing population later on, developing nations still choose to proceed in this direction.

In fact, China is at this stage right now.

Perhaps no one has found a better solution to this problem.

Coming back to the aftermath, the population declines.

Govt policies are to blame for the sudden drop in population but so is EDUCATION

The educated person knows that to ensure a comfortable life for his/her family, one cannot afford to have too many children. Or in some cases, preferably none at all.

In fact, if Singapore had progressed at a pace where birth control policies had not interfered in its course, say, if only education was imparted to the population, I think that we will still arrive at this junction, but maybe later.

Looking from the govt's perspective, it seems the most logical way to solve a series of impending problems.

- by importing foreigners and offering them PR or citizenship, they settle and bring in their children, their families. This solves the immediate human resource issue and paves way for the long term as well.

- growing the population to a self-sustainable size. Should exports dwindle as we become more expensive/less competitive due to uncontrollable factors at least there is still demand from within.

Other solutions? devaluation of currency? - that's out of the question.

Develop industries that are not labour-intensive? - i think they are doing that right now by growing the financial and arts sector.. Tourism is in the pipeline

Where they are coming from, it's apparent that the government is not taking chances to see if the coaxing of Singaporeans to make babies will take effect eventually as they understand that there are other factors at play too.

Anonymous said...

In all honesty, whats the point of attacking PAP year in and year out, when nothing's going to change. Our government is competent because it can effectively capture the votes of the rich AND the poor. Did i say the wrong thing by mentioning the "poor"? No, because year in and year out, the few hundred dollars they give out always keeps them happy. The media always reports in favor of the government, so if you're a cleaner earning $1200 and your television tells you your local minister keeps telling you that its a global trend, not their fault,and has done a lot to help you, that extra 400 dollars GST package simply buys them over. oh please, whichever politician is reading this, please don't sue me. You can always sue me for defamation too, since you hold all the information, whatever i say will always be defamatory because i can never dig up all that information you withhold to back me up.