Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Some topics raised by President Nathan at the opening of the second session of the eleventh Parliament

President Nathan says govt's immediate priority is to see S'pore through crisis
Source: Channelnewsasia.com

"Opening the second session of the eleventh Parliament on Monday evening, he said the best strategy is still to help companies to stay viable and continue employing workers."

How to help companies stay viable? Give them more money like the highly-rated Job Credits scheme? Reduce their CPF contributions for their employees further? And by adding dollars to the companies they will continue employing workers instead of retrenching them?
Extract from G.M. Seeks More Imports From Low-Wage Regions
Source: The New York Times

General Motors is engaged in negotiating a reorganization that could increase vehicle imports from its plants in Mexico and Asia while closing factories and cutting the work force in the United States.

That approach drew a sharp rebuke from the United Automobile Workers union on Friday. In a letter to each member of Congress, the U.A.W., which represents G.M. factory workers, argued that to qualify for more government assistance, the auto giant should be required “to maintain the maximum number of jobs in the United States.”

The administration, however, appears to accept the proposition that to return to profitability as quickly as possible, G.M. must import a significant percentage of cars from its plants in low-wage countries, like Mexico and China, or low-cost countries, like Japan.

G.M. already imports a third of the vehicles that go to showrooms in this country. That percentage would not change in the plan that G.M. is preparing to submit to the administration to justify billions of dollars in new loans to stave off collapse. G.M. would emerge a smaller company, with fewer employees and less output in this country and abroad. But imports would rise from low-cost countries, particularly Mexico and China, and that would be offset by fewer imports from Canada and Europe.

G.M. is asking Washington for billions of dollars more in federal loans to survive, on top of the $15.4 billion already borrowed. In a presentation to Congress, the company laid out the plan for the shifts in production to lower-cost countries. In the United States, G.M. would close 16 of its remaining 47 plants and eliminate an additional 21,000 jobs. The company also announced on Friday that 1,100 dealers would be eliminated from its American network by the fall of next year.

"Singapore must also keep up the effort to up-skill and re-skill workers to become more employable and productive in a changing economy."

For these trainings to be really effective in helping our workers, I would assume these two essential prerequisites are inevitable: Firstly, the workers are still holding a job and getting paid so that they and their families do not get starved to death first. Secondly, the companies do not hire foreign workers to fill up the positions while the locals are happily receivng training. So who is there to ensure that these prerequisite are met?

"President Nathan said for lower-skilled, less-educated workers, the government will continue to help them and their families. They will be trained, while their children will get every opportunity to reach their full potential in education."

And perhaps we could start by making the Meet-the-People Session (MPS) more friendly? And if possible, at the same time, the MPs could learn to be more empathetic?
Teen arrested for violence at MP's office
Source: Asiaone.com

A YOUTH with low IQ has been arrested by police after flying into a rage at a Meet-the-People Session (MPS), upset at what he felt was his MP's cold-shoulder treatment of his mother's financial plight.

The 17-year-old boy hoisted an aluminium foldable chair over his head and slammed it against a glass door seconds after walking out of MP Cynthia Phua's Serangoon North office with his mother.

The boy, who has been released on bail, has been told to report back to the police on 12 May, where he may be charged with committing a rash act.

The offence carries a jail term of up to six months and a fine of up to $2,500.

This is the third incident in recent months involving MPs and their constituents.

The boy and his mother, 53, are familiar faces to the grassroots volunteers at the MPS.

The unwed mother with Primary 6 education gets by on a $400 monthly salary as a part-time cleaner.

He attended a special school and suffers from thalassemia, a blood disorder that renders him weak and sickly.

The mother said that things went from bad to worse in November 2004 when the boy's father disappeared and stopped paying the $300 monthly maintenance due to her.

As a result, she visited the MPS about once a month for the past few years to request for various kinds of financial aid.

January this year saw a crisis unfold in their lives, when the mother broke her wrist after falling off a chair while cleaning a fan. She hasn't worked since.

She said the HDB was then in the middle of repossessing her flat and giving her a rental unit, but she was unable to pay the $138 in rental deposit and stamp duty.

So last Monday, she went to the office at Block 125, Serangoon North Ave 1, where MP Lim Hwee Hua holds her MPS, hoping to have her sign an appeal letter for HDB.

But that day, Mrs Lim, who is also a minister in the Prime Minister's Office, was abroad. Fellow Aljunied GRC MP Cynthia Phua stood in for her.

The mother's request was granted - Madam Phua signed the letter - but mother and son left fuming, claiming that Madam Phua had put them down.

She claimed that shortly after they had entered the office, Madam Phua asked her son a series of questions:

'She asked him, 'Who are you? What are you doing? Why aren't you working?' she claimed.

The mother said she wanted to explain her son's condition, but wasn't given a chance.

'I felt like we were being scolded,' she said.

The meeting ended after two or three minutes, she said.

During the one week after the incident, the mother pondered what to do.

Two days ago, she returned to the MPS again alone and clutching a handwritten letter of apology from her son.

'Please fodgive me for what I dad I am sinelely truely I'm sorry (sic),' the teenager had written in big, neat handwriting.

The apology, however, was not acceptable to Mrs Lim, who was back chairing the MPS after returning from abroad.

'I made it very clear to (the mother) that this is unacceptable behaviour. It is not justifiable in any circumstance. There's no excuse to be violent,' Mrs Lim told The New Paper.

She also explained that she was not in a position to excuse or forgive the boy.

'I was not present and the police are investigating into the matter. I believe the police will take into consideration the mitigating factors,' said Mrs Lim.

'From what I understand, Madam Phua was being very motherly and very helpful inside the room with them.'

Mrs Lim's response surprised the mother, who had spoken fondly of her throughout the interview with The New Paper just a day before.

"Two new institutions will be created. The first will be a new institute which will partner foreign universities that offer degree courses to open more direct routes for polytechnic graduates to obtain degrees. The second will be a new university, which will be set up in close partnership with one leading university each from the US and China."

Instead of opening yet another two new institutions in addition to SMU, why not just increase the number of seats in NUS and NTU opened to polytechnic graduates? It has always baffled me on why is it so much easier for JC and Pre-U students to get into our local universities than those from the polytechnics. Even foreign students with dubious academic level are more welcomed.

And what after graduation from these two new institutions? With most statboards and GLCs still holding the bigotry that only graduates from NUS and NTU are "real" university graduates worth employing, while degrees from any other universities, even far more well-known ones in UK or Australia, are dubious, will the graduates from these two new institutes then have the guarantee of fair competition?


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