Thursday, October 29, 2009

Press Freedom Index is pure rubbish


Ah Tan was nonchalantly eating his fried carrot cake and sipping his coffee at the table when Shan stormed into the pantry. Shanmugam hit the coffee dispenser buttons as though he was playing jackpot and waited impatiently for his coffee. Finally the small paper cup of coffee was ready and he snatched it from the slot, walked over to Ah Tan's table and sat down heavily.

SHAN (snarled): Damn those stupid reporters without any borders!
AH TAN (swallowing his fried carrot cake and staring at Shan): Erm... Good morning.
SHAN: Did you hear? Those insolent foreign press ranked us 133rd on their nonsensical Press Freedom Index!
AH TAN (sipping his coffee): Oh, that. Okay what. 133rd is an improvement right? I thought we were like 144th previously?

Shan took too large a gulp and choked on his coffee. He thought he might have burnt his tongue at the same time.

SHAN (raving): What are you talking about? What improvement? We're at 133rd my friend! Not third! In fact the third place is still an insult! We should be first on the top of the list! Like anything else! This stupid ranking that place Singapore so lowly on press freedom is so absurd and divorced from reality!

Meanwhile, Ah Tan put the last small piece of fried carrot cake into his mouth and closed the foam box.

AH TAN: Well, Shan, maybe we're pushed down because of those big developed countries like U.S. and Japan, you know?
SHAN: No, no, no! We are ranked even lower than some of those countries trying to progress! Bangladesh is 121st! Even Cambodia is 117th! That does not make sense! My point is not that we are in any way inherently superior to them - the question is whether a truly objective assessment will give us such a ranking!
AH TAN (eyes wide opened): Wow, even Cambodia is better than us?
SHAN: You know, Tan, I think I know why we are been ranked so low. Remember we have had tussels and won law suits against with several newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and Far Eastern Economic Review? These stupid foreign press are not used to this anywhere else in the world and they definitely don't like it one bit. So every Law suit is met with the same reaction - we are out to silence the press. That feeling has been pervasive and has coloured the general reporting on Singapore. This is not fair, man. This is not fair.

Shan shook his head and sipped his coffee. He then put down his coffee and continued.

SHAN: Actually our approach on press reporting is very simple. The press can criticize us, our policies. We do not seek to condemn that. But we demand the right of response, to be published in the journal that published the original article. We do not accept that they can decide whether to publish our response. That's all! Is that too much to ask for?
AH TAN: Huh? You mean the press can actually criticize our policies? Can disagree with what Boss says?
SHAN: Of course they can! But of course if they publish something stupid, and we rebuke them, then it is only fair that they also publish that right?
AH TAN (rubbing his chin): Hmm... so maybe that's why the press decided to filter their own content. So that there won't be too many articles of us scolding the journalists on the newspapers...
SHAN (ignoring what Ah Tan said): Anyway, the proof of our stability can be seen by the billions of dollars invested in Singapore annually by international organizations. Our main selling point is that there will be good value added when they invest here, their investments will be protected, and that we are a stable democracy. So we definitely deserve more than a dirty 133rd place!
AH TAN: Erm... But Shan, stability and foreign investment have nothing to do with press freedom...



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Must make sure all questions are appropriate!


Mr Teo walked into the room where Ah Tan, Ah Lim and Ali were already seated at the table. Sternly, he gave out stapled sheets of papers to the men. While Mr Teo made himself comfortable at the chairman seat, the three men quickly flipped through and attempted to speed read. However it appeared to be difficult as there were six sheets in each stapled set, printed on both sides.

MR TEO: Gentlemen, what you're holding now are the 180 questions that were submitted for Big Boss's ministerial forum at the university. The forum has been scheduled to be two weeks later and these questions were pre-submitted by the students. The purpose of this meeting is for you to assist me in filtering these questions.
AH TAN: Sir, let me split the work. Lim, why don't you take pages one and two, Ali, you take care of three and four, and I'll finish up five and six.

Ah Lim and Ali nodded and proceeded to read through the questions. Mr Teo stood up and walked towards the whiteboard. He began to write down a list of pointers as he spoke.

MR TEO: Okay gentlemen, as usual, these are the things to take note of. Most importantly, no political questions. Take out all questions that refer to or even remotely implying the opposition parties.
AH LIM: Sir, I've got one here that asked "Is the formation of GRCs really effective in managing the estates, or is it just a critical strategy to ensure the result of election? Will there be any regrouping of the GRCs again before the next election then?".
MR TEO (berated): That is audacious! How can a mere university student ask such question? Take it out immediately! How we group the GRCs is none of these students' or any citizens' business! It is a political strategy that they will never understand!

Ah Lim nodded and struck off the question with his pen. Ah Tan and Ali flipped through the papers and struck off some questions as well.

MR TEO: Take out those questions that present doubts on our policies. For example, all those questions on whether the Job Credits scheme really works? Take those out.
AH TAN: Sir, this one is kind of tricky. "The income gap in Singapore appears to be widening. Is the government going to do anything about narrowing it?"

Mr Teo rubbed his chin and looked up to the ceiling. A few seconds later, he walked back to the table.

MR TEO: Tan, do a research on the income gap of other developed countries. Countries like Japan, US, etc. If you can't find any other country with a income gap widening problem, take this question off. If you can, jot down the numbers for Big Boss.
AH TAN (taking down notes on the paper): Okay, will do.
MR TEO: Hmm... write this down as well. That if we set a minimum wage for the market, jobs will be cut. Employers who are forced to deal with higher staff costs would simply find ways to hire less people. This is one argument that Big Boss can use. In fact, we should even consider lowering the wages of those low income workers so that we can have a cheaper, better, faster workforce!

Ah Tan tried to scribble as fast as possible while Mr Teo continued.

MR TEO: Oh yes! And make sure you strike off all questions about Temasek's investments.

All three men hastily flipped through and struck off some questions. Mr Teo walked back to the white board to continue writing.

MR TEO: Take out those questions about why are we letting so many new immigrants into the country and why are we giving out PRs freely, blah blah blah. Boss has already told them that we'll scale down the number of new immigrants coming in, so I don't think Big Boss has to entertain any more of such questions.
ALI: Sir, I've got this question here. "With the influx of new immigrants, how does HDB plan to ensure the availability and affordability of HDB flats to Singaporeans?".

Mr Teo made a deep sigh at the question and shook his head.

MR TEO: I thought we have been through these trivial HDB issues already? I thought Mah has already chided these people not to be ridiculous about not able to get a new flat? I heard that he has even magically made it possible for HDB to suddenly release more than 7,000 flats on sale as soon as the next three months!
AH TAN: But Sir, I did an analysis on this public housing problem awhile back, and this is what I found. A new four-room flat in 2000 cost about $150,000. Today, a new four-roomer averages $265,000, based on HDB figures. The price increase is roughly 77 per cent. In comparison, the Department of Statistics put the median income for a resident household at $3,640 in 2000. Last year, this was $4,950, roughly a 36 per cent increase. So perhaps our flats are indeed getting less affordable for the people?
MR TEO: Well, that's true... but don't forget that these people are also receiving housing grants and other subsidies! Anyway, why should these students be even asking about HDB flats? It's not like they're planning to get married in the near future! Strike off those HDB questions!

The three men flipped through their papers and struck off some more questions.

MR TEO: So how many questions are we left with now?
AH TAN: I've got eight.
AH LIM: Twelve on my side.
ALI: I've ten questions here.
MR TEO: Great! Tan, compile these questions into a single sheet and hand it to me later!



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's the branding, Chee!

This is an interesting piece of writing on Chee Soon Juan, by Tan Kin Lian, ex-CEO of NTUC Income.
"I met Chee Soon Juan two years ago at a barbeque organised by The Online Citizen in East Coast Park. He brought his wife and three daughters with him. I had a friendly chat with him.

I met him on a few subsequent occasions. I gave some puzzles, quizzes and my books to him to give to his daughters. I have always wondered about how difficult life must be for his daughers in school.

I have spoken to Chee Soon Juan spoke on a few occasions and heard him speak at public meetings. He came across as being a sensible person and has some views about what is good for Singapore. I agree with his views on the need to have to promote democracy and to have a government that reflects the aspirations of the people and is accountable to the people.

The mainstream media has painted a negative picture of Chee Soon Juan. Many Singaporeans perceive him in a negative light, which I believe is a wrong perception. I hope that they will have the chance to meet him and listen to him, or read his views in this blog.

I met a friend at a coffee shop this morning. I told him about my views of Chee Soon Juan and his family. He agreed with me. He had heard a story that Soon Juan's daughter had to speak up in class and tell her classmates, "My father did not commit any crime". He was emotional; tears came down from his eyes when he said, "I wonder how any parent would feel if our own daughter had to face this kind of difficulty in the class".

I like to wish Chee Soon Juan, his wife and three daughters all the best as they face the difficulty of life in Singapore. I hope that more Singaporeans will come forward to express their support to him and his family."

It is interesting that while Chee's views on the need to promote democracy and to have a government that reflects the aspirations of the people and is accountable to the people are admirable, these views are not apparent to most of the public. Why? Because the public is too busy reading up negative news about him from the mainstream media.

So, now we know. Chee needs to work on his personal branding.

Why is branding important for a politician like Chee? Imagine that you have received two boxes of mooncakes from the last Mid-Autumn festival. One from a five-stars hotel and the other from a neighbourhood bakery. Even before biting into the mooncakes, you would have already decided that the one from the hotel is definitely going to taste better. But now, imagine this. A couple of weeks before you receive the mooncakes, friends around you have been talking about how this neighbourhood bakery bakes great mooncakes. The newspapers gave not-to-be-missed comments about those mooncakes and even food blogs blogged about them. Which one are you most likely to bite into now?

Chee could really be a good-old-honest politician who has "views about what is good for Singapore". But like what Andy Lau told Tony Leung on the rooftop in Internal Affairs, "Who knows?". He needs to stop shouting at other politicians and getting himself sued. He needs to stop demonstrating pointlessly in the public and getting himself arrested. He needs to learn to be Obama.

Chee has to get out of that negative image that the mainstream media has brainwashed us with. And quick (before the next election!).

He needs to do what the other party is doing half-heartedly. Listen and interact with the people. Stop asking where are the CPF monies (sorry Chee, that's already old news because we've already given up on our CPF even before CPF Life is launched). Instead, ask where are the affordable HDB flats? Where are the jobs if the new immigrants are not here to take them away?

He needs to embed his voice into the Internet. Forget about pathetic small scale demonstrations in the public. Instead, he should share his vision in a Facebook fan page, tweet out loud his opinions, and record his passionate speeches in Youtube videos! Social media is the way to reach out now, not standing in the middle of nowhere and blocking people going to the nearest MRT station!

He needs to get a new message to market himself. Get rid of the "Where are our money?" tagline. Get a better Marketing Message like "Hope" or "Change we can believe in". But please. Do not come up with some cheesy song like "Upturn the Downturn".

So Chee, please let us see a better branded you in the next election. And in better shirts.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

National Service is exclusive for Singapore men only, new immigrants not invited


Ah Tan was reading newspaper while nonchalantly sipping his coffee at the corner table. Ali and Ah Lim walked into the pantry and each dispensed a cup of coffee before making their way to the table. Just when their butts barely touched their seats, Mr Teo stormed into the pantry with a tight face and even tighter fists. He sat down at the table heavily and abruptly. The other three men held their breath and stared at Mr Teo.

AH TAN (cautiously and slowly): Sir, what's wrong?
MR TEO (irately): Stupid god damn PRC bitch!

The other three men took a deep breath and dared not exhale. Suddenly, as if remembering something, their eyes scanned around the pantry.

AH TAN (even more cautiously and slowly): Er... Sir, you do remember that we're not supposed to talk bad about the new immigrants?

Mr Teo folded his arms, sat back and took a deep breath himself.

MR TEO: Thanks for the reminder, Tan. But I believe Boss could forgive me this time. Do you know that this ungrateful PRC woman actually flashed her blue IC on China national TV while declaring her undivided loyalty to China?
AH TAN, ALI and AH LIM (exclaiming together): What the hell?!
MR TEO: Yap, this unappreciative woman came to Singapore to study, got her blue IC, got a job in a MNC, and now she's back to China. After all that we had provided her.
ALI: Apa ini?
AH LIM: Wah lao! With all the knowledge and working experience she learn here, some more must have also learn English! Must be making big bucks in China lah!

Mr Teo shook his head in dismay.

AH TAN: Hang on... Mr Teo, where did you get this piece of info from? Is the public aware of this?
MR TEO (sighed): I believe so. I got it from my friend's email. It was broadcast on CCTV, but I've already warned our TV stations to ensure that they do not screen it. I've also instructed the press to bring the article down from their online website. The only problem is that, we can't stop it from spreading among the netizens.
ALI: Sir, you don't have to worry about those netizens! They're just a minority anyway!
MR TEO: Well, that's true... but guys, we need to be careful, you know? The people are becoming very edgy these days, with the latest incidents like that birdbrained electronics firm that advertised that they were looking for preferably non-Singaporean engineer, and that harebrained movie company that gave free movie tickets to China citizens only on China National Day in Singapore!
AH TAN: But Sir, seriously, I think the gap between Singaporeans and the new immigrants is getting wider, even wider than that between the greater and lesser mortals.
AH LIM: Yah loh, Sir, more and more people are complaining that there are too many foreigners here to snatch their jobs, their hawker center tables and their MRT seats!
MR TEO: Yes, guys, I know exactly what you mean. That's why it's essential for Boss to convince the people that Singaporeans have still got other privileges.

The three men nodded in agreement.

MR TEO: Oh, and on that topic, can you guys help to brainstorm on what are the benefits of being a Singaporean? I need to put together some pointers for Boss's next speech.
AH LIM: Cheaper school fees!
ALI: But foreigners are also eligible for our tuition fee loan of up to 90% of course fees in our universities like Duke-Nus Graduate Medical School.
AH LIM (cleared throat): I mean primary and secondary schools lah!

The three men sat back, tilted their heads backwards, folded their arms and went into deep thought. Suddenly, Ah Lim opened his eyes.

AH LIM: I know there's this thing that only Singaporeans have and foreigners don't have!
ALL: What?
AH LIM (grinning): NS loh! Because Boss scared NS will scare those new immigrants away mah, so even their kids also don't need to serve NS! See! NS is only exclusively for Singapore guys! Not Singaporean, don't have NS for you!



Monday, October 5, 2009

10 reasons why we had no problem integrating with the Malaysians

With Singapore's population grown to almost 5 million but with a quarter of that total been contributed by foreign workers, no wonder the government is spending 10 million on the big 'I' - Integration.

But why is there such a big gap between the locals and new immigrants? Singapore is definitely not new to foreigners coming into the country to join the workforce. With Singapore being the region headquarters for a large number of MNCs, from banks to electronic firms, expats have been coming into Singapore and some even settled down as Singapore citizens. Since the industralisation of Jurong, Malaysians have also been crossing the causeway to fill up job positions here.

If we had no problem integrating with the expats and Malaysians, then why are we having so much issues with the new immigrants now? Perhaps before dumping the 10 million dollars, the government could take a look at what worked with the Malaysians and learn from it?

Let us take a look at 10 reasons why we had no problem integrating with the Malaysians:
  • They think "I'm grateful to be working here". Not "You should be grateful that I'm working here".

  • They think "My country is big, but it's better here". Not "My country is bigger and better".

  • They take the effort to mingle with other Singaporeans. Not just with that little circle of their own countrymen.

  • When they do get Singapore citizenship, they genuinely settle down for good. Not keeping an eye on US or Europe while taking Singapore as a stepping stone.

  • They take buses and MRT trains like the rest of us. Not cycle dangerously on the roads and pavements as if they are still in their country.

  • They speak only as loud as us. Not loud enough to be heard a few blocks away.

  • They have the same hygiene standard as us. They know that toilet bowls are to be sat on, not squatted on.

  • We will not think of them when the word "back-stab" pops up.

  • They do not become newspapers headlines when a group of them receive citizenship.

  • They don't come into Singapore to be hookers.