Do we care for elderly? Obviously we do all the time.

Once again, I am borrowing this well written writeup in relation to the usualy question by the opposition “do we care about the elderly?”.

Immediately, the basic question for the opposition is that, since they are also Singaporeans, they probably have been living in Singapore for 10 or more years, depending on their age, and we can safely say that many of them must be 20 or more years old. They should know by now that Singapore has been so recognized and respected because we have a good government,  which ensures we receive education from young. Our government ensures adequate coverage for all citizens. Example, we don’t just build houses or HDB flats, we build homes. We don’t just create shelter for the majority Singaporeans, we build HDB flats that are in great living environment.

Opposition should do at least 1 thing, is that they should not politicize things or systems that are already generally working very well in Singapore. The more they dispute the good work that the government has done only reflects their shallow knowledge or shallow mind. Oppose for the sake of oppose. 

At the end of the day, what do we least expect from a good government? “Responsiveness” is important. Unless the opposition can share with Singaporeans what other governments are doing even a better job that what our current government has done to Singapore in 47 years,  Singaporeans know that all the talking and noises from the opposition are purely nothing more than just a political game they are playing all the time.

May 23, 2012. Wednesday.

What about the elderly?

Written by : Benjamin Chiang
The opposition says that many old people are “pressured” to continue working. The picture they paint is a bleak one: troops of our elderly are out in full force, working beyond their retirement years because they cannot afford to retire. Old ladies picking up cardboard boxes to sell.

Well, my friend told me that his grandma continues to work at McDonalds and if you dare ask her to stop working, you’ll get a tongue lashing. Same for some members in my family: they can work, they’re proud of it and they will verbally abuse you if you dare imply they should “retire”.

But here are other reasons why the elderly continue to work:

1.) They work because they want to work 

2.) Some use it to fill time

3.) Some have genuine need as they didn’t save enough and/or their children don’t look after them

What we’re most concerned about is the 3rd group. What sort of programs are in place to help them. And why doesn’t the state do more for all the elderly in general, so we can retire and play chess everyday in our gardens.

Here are the community programs already in place that our elderly needy could tap on:

– ComCare (Financial assistance)
– Public Assistance Scheme (Cash grants, medical, education and financial assistance)
– Short-Term Financial Assistance Scheme (via NTUC Fairprice Food Vouchers)
– HOPE (Homeownership Plus, incentives to low-income families)
– Hardship Assistance Fund
– Work Support Program
– Lease Buyback Scheme (for low income elderly in 3-room or smaller flast to cash out part of money locked up in HDB for their old age)
– MCYS Transport Subsidy for Users of Day Care Centres for Seniors
– Caregivers Training Grant
– Eldercare Trust
– Interim Disability Program for the Elderly
– Home Care Assist Program
– Handicap Cab Scheme (for taxis)

Actually, there are 81 pages worth of welfare programs that cater to every level of society, see this document from the National Council of Social Services. 

Here’s a question that must be asked: If Temasek Holdings and the Government Investment Company is making so much money, why doesn’t the state pay for more welfare?

Here’s the scoop:

a.) We have about $700b in our reserves, which is no small amount 

b.) About 1/3 of Singaporeans actually pay income taxes. To supplement national expenditure, the country dedicates an (estimated) $7b from profit acquired by their investments. The rest of it is used to back our currency and insurance. Now, you buy insurance to hedge against a major illness. What is the country’s version of a major illness? Our money is also used to insure ourselves against a whole host of illnesse. 

What are we so worried about? What are we insuring for? Here are some examples: 

  • Capital and labour is highly mobile today – can we guarantee we’ll always continue attracting the best and brightest to continue to attract companies to invest/setup here?
  • In 2061, our water agreement ends – how much will the price of water be then? Can we guarantee that it will always be this low? No doubt we have New Water today, but what is the cost of energy against the cost of refining New Water?
  • Food security – this country doesn’t produce enough food; how can we guarantee that worldwide inflation does not affect our food supply badly?

This are just a few of the reasons why our sizable reserve stays largely untouched.

Now the Opposition keeps saying “Government got money, why don’t give out more? Subsidize more!” In a political point of view, it would be so easy to win an election just by giving out lots of subsidies, lots of freebies – the Singapore government indeed has the ability to do this for many elections to come. But is this a responsible thing to do?

We have been so successful as a nation because our politics is not normal. We’ve had the luxury of planning very, very far into the future. Most countries just plan for the next few years until their next election because they know they have a limited career and there is no guarantee they’ll be voted back in. They do not dare to make an electorate angry with unpopular policies.

I hope this sheds more light as to why we see the elderly working beyond their retirement years.

 
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What do we know about our national flag – 5 stars and a moon ?

How many Singaporeans really understand the meaning of the 5 stars and a moon which we see on our national flag?

How much do we know why we created the 5 stars and a moon?

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18, 2012

What does 5 stars and a moon mean to you
Was at a National Day Observance Ceremony, and heard this speech made by Mr Ong Ye Kung, guest-of-honour of the event. He needs no introduction to most people who knows GE2011.

In his speech he outlined his own thoughts about what our national flag represents. We all know that the crimson red stands for universal brotherhood, white for purity and virtue, crescent moon signifies a young nation, and the five stars stand for our five values of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

Quoting from his speech: “What red and white stands for continue to be the everlasting fundamental ethos of our society.  But the crescent moon and five stars may take on contemporary meanings and new aspirations.”

While we may no longer be the youngest nation around at 47 years old, he said he hopes that Singapore will “always stay young at heart, and fill our nation with a youthful energy and dynamism that cuts across all ages”

Our nation is indeed growing old, with low birth-rates and increasing median ages, but our spirit should not therefore grow old and cynical. I met a 70yr old farmer yesterday, still full of zest and energy. He said, there are many old people around, retired, children all grown up, lots of money lying around, can travel the world, but basically dunno what to do with their lives. Some start to waste away, and soon drop dead in no time. 

This farmer said he therefore hopes to rent out small plots of land in his farm at low cost, for old people to grow vegetables. He said when one is old, to nurture living things and watch them grow organically brings a certain joy and happiness to them.

Contrasting that to the online culture today where bitterness and cynicism prevails, and everyone seems eager to drag down and destroy everything positive about life. There is so much about life we can celebrate, and social media, internet are great tools for us to build on mankind’s successes and create greater things. Yet, look at what we’ve used them for. The generation pounding away at the keyboards may be young in skin. But their souls are shriveling up.

Back to the Mr Ong’s speeach. He said this about the 5 stars –

1) Democracy – no longer just means we can choose our Government through the ballot box, but now also represent the desire of our people for a more vibrant and healthy democracy, that will embrace more diverse views, and have more debate on how we shape the nation.

2) Peace – not just signifies harmony between our various communities, but peace between people with different views as well. Also peace with our heritage and environment.

3) Progress – not just means economic and material progress, but also progress in social consciousness, public spirit and cohesion.  

4) Justice – still a country governed by the rule of law.  But at the same time, we want to see social justice, where the more well off will help out with the disadvantaged.  

5) Equality – not just applicable to Singaporeans of different communities, between men and women, between old and new citizens.
While some faction of society tries to over-sell the notion of democracy to justify their irresponsible comments online, masquerading as alternative views, they ignored all the other values dear to us. 

We forgot to uphold peaceful conversation and dialogue. We forgot to progress in terms of social sophistication to treat others with respect and consideration. We condone injustice in the way people bully one another using rude language and insults. We start to discriminate people and propagate hatred towards selected groups of people.

Mr Ong reminded me to reflect what the Singapore flag means to me. Hope online readers can also take a moment to think about what these things mean to you. The online community is no longer just a faceless community, separate from our daily lives. It is an integral part of us, an integral part of the nation. We cannot create a happy Singapore with so much negativity. It speaks of a nation’s character and identity. 

Perhaps we can start a movement for this. Help to spread the values of our national flag into the online space. We can do our part to nurture a Singapore online community we can be proud of. One that is vibrant with youthful spirit, based on the 5 values of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. Share this along if you agree.

Borrowing this meaningful article from :  http://fivestarsandamoon.blogspot.sg/2012/08/what-does-5-stars-and-moon-mean-to-you.html?m=1

Another wake up call.

Funny thing about why some of the people moan about how pathetic they live in Singapore. It is really hard to believe that. Strange but it is not difficult to understand.

Firstly, it is human weakness as human beings tend to be attracted to bad news and human beings tend to be negative in nature. Secondly, in the earlier decades of Singapore when we were going through the development stages before becoming a world’s prosperous city like what we are today, Singaporeans were less distracted to other things, their focus was to build Singapore from zero. Then, Singaporeans work hard and bring up their families. People in community are united. We treasure family value and social bonding. With the great leadership of PAP government, together Singapore has achieve a lot in a short time.

Singapore is still considered as a young nation with just 47 years of nation building. Singaporeans were contended and happy with what they owned. During the many hardship years of Singapore, Singaporeans are grateful as being Singaporeans like they are so blessed. Singaporeans put their act together ensuring social harmony. Nation first, and that is the mentality of Singaporeans.

What is happening now? The appearance of the alternate political groups, who are applying hooligan style in their political games, the rise of social media usage with increase of unhealthy influence from the irresponsible social media bloggers, who are rebellious and provoking social unrest, they are pushing Singapore towards a paranoid society, a society with hatred and panic, what is happening now is little little things people become annoyed easily. Community tolerance may become weak over time.

We are seeing a deterioration of value in the society over the last few years. We cannot let that erodes our community bonding, which we have built to such a success after 40 over years. This is another wake up call.

Humanity and respect.

A lot of the times we hear people going oversea for mission trip, whether adults or even school children, whether for charity work or social service, helping the poor people in other countries. This is something so great Singaporeans are regarded. What is the primary objective of mission trip or social service, whether domestic or oversea? It is “humanity”. It is about we Singapore as a rich nation want to extend our help to people around to make their life a little better.

While we are excited and keep doing that, what about within our big community in Singapore? We have over the past months seeing some Singaporeans writing disgusting things about other nationals who work in Singapore. What happens? We forget the fact that it is something basic within our community we have to learn to accept one and other, respect for one and other, especially when other nationals are contributing to the economy of Singapore. They are part of our big community. Many Singaporeans have a history of being immigrants before, a part of Singapore history has included many forefathers of Singapore. In fact, a big part of Singapore success is because of the immigrants from other areas around Singapore in the 40’s and 50’s or even 60’s. Many Singaporeans today have benefited because of the presence of the other nationals, who work really hard in many economic activities. Don’t we say thanks to them? Don’t we treat them as friends? “Humanity” is all about respect for one and other.  If we don’t want others to treat us unfairly, we better learn to treat others fairly.

 

Singaporeans to wake up.

The opposition political groups continue their drive to gain more power. This is alarming for Singaporeans. When they look as if they are fighting to provide alternate voice for Singaporeans in parliament, what they been providing so far is nothing constructive, merely noises. Do they know what is really on around the world when they keep influencing Singaporeans to believe that else where we could live a better life? If people believe in them, it is worrying.

Are these opposition political people not aware of what really is happening around the world, especially the critical financial situations in the western world? Do they really have no idea there is no better place than Singapore? Our roots are here. We are unique. There is no another Singapore. We don’t want to look like another country. We are Singapore. We have our own cultural background and we have built Singapore together for a few decades, under the leadership of PAP government. The oppositions know exactly how much PAP government has done for Singaporeans. But they continue to provoke Singaporeans to dislike PAP government, for what? It is all about politics. It only makes sense for us to believe all that the opposition people are doing is not to tell Singaporeans what they really know. Their objective is to hide the truths about the world from Singaporeans, who do not read into the details. It is another wake-up call for Singaporeans who believe the oppositions have national interest at heart.

Mr Baey-nice work but not appreciated

It is really annoying when we hear things like some people commented MP Mr Baey was wayang showing off the photo of him carrying a baby during his block visit. It was a gracious act by a great community leader, yet people said bad things about it.

This is not just a concern about an unthoughtful comment, while we accept different opinion, it does not mean people simply write without thinking, or appreciating the value of what MP Mr Baey was doing during his block visit.

 

About Floods.

Forewords: Another meaningful article from a good blog.
So check it out now !

http://fivestarsandamoon.blogspot.sg/2012/06/floods.html

 

 

 

About Internal Security Act

Cross reference to the following site:

http://somethingaboutsingapore.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/why-the-isa-internal-security-act/

 

Meet-The-People-Session

Forewords: This certainly is another really useful information about the successful “Meet-the-people-session” (MPS) which is unique in Singapore.

Many a times the opposition parties in Singapore charge the PAP government for not doing enough for the people. While they have their right to voice out if there are things that PAP government should improve, they ( the opposition parties ) first have to understand what is already available on the ground, and they first have to give credit to PAP government for the effective and consistent tools, like MPS, that the government is already having to connect with their people. 

It (MPS) is like a feedback process, whereby it is not only a means for people on the ground to ask for help, it is also providing the governing body (PAP) the relevant information for improvement or changes in their policies going forward. MPS has been around for a long time. While we do not want to speculate that Singapore is the only country in the world having MPS, we can be sure MPS is one of the effective tools that PAP government implemented long ago with a foresight the value of it in the larger population today.

 

FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2012

Meet The People Session

Written by : Benjamin Chiang
For obvious reasons, I will not be quoting real names, branches and MPs when I quote MPS cases in this article. 

Most of us have heard of the Meet-The-People’s sessions. Some of us have benefited from MP assistance. Some say “No use one lah…go also no use”, however many have also experienced real help delivered by the political parties – even in “impossible” situations.

Here are some examples: 

“David” had problems paying his parking fines which amounted to the tens of thousands of dollars. He had requested to have his parents (below 50 years) CPF released to assist him to pay. Appeal was successful.

“Siti” required assistance to have her daughter get placement into a secondary school nearer to her home. She currently has to send her daughter too far away to attend her studies. Appeal was successful.

“Sohail” had been trying to get a BTO. He already is married, has children and currently living with 5 other family members in a cramped apartment. but was not successful in his first attempt. He managed to get it on the second attempt, but was not sure if it was because of his appeal that got him a better chance.

“Tan” is a taxi driver, he already has very few points and recently run a red light, causing him to lose all his driving license. He says that driving is his only rice bowl and appeals for help. His appeal was not successful.


What is an MPS?
In Singapore, every elected Member of Parliament is required by protocol to attend a weekly “Meet The Peoples” session. Residents of a constituency (or constituents) can meet up with the MP and writers will draft a petition letter on their behalf. These are then sent to Government bodies, corporations or registered groups. The only caveat is that no MP is supposed to write directly to the Court or any Judge – this is because our system of justice cannot be subject to “influence” (You can however, ask for an appeal to the prosecutor).

The PAP requires all their MPs to attend the MPS (schedule willing). This program helps them to interact with the bottom 20% of society, understand their hardships and when crafting their policies, have these people in mind. They are required to stay late into the night if necessary (it is not uncommon that MPs, and their writers) work into the wee hours, even as late as 3am.

Key appointment holders such as the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Senior Minister,  Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and (we cannot confirm) ESM Goh Chock Tong, usually appoint a “Second Adviser”.  The reason for this is that letters sent out from their constituency will not carry special privileges for the resident or add extra pressure to the receiver. This prevents the Government, it’s civil servants or even private companies to act contrary to usual practice or legal ways just because they receive a letter by a very heavyweight personality. 

What happens during MPS?
Each MP will conduct his/her session differently. Some will have their appeal heard first by a writer, before meeting the MP. Some MPs will go from table to table to attend to each resident and writer. Smaller sessions will see the residents meeting the MP directly.

Here’s an overview of the process: 

1) Resident will register and take a queue number 
2) Resident will meet with petition writer who will take the case
3) Resident will then proceed to meet the MP to discuss problems
4) MP will then assist the resident to make an appeal via the petition letter. Urgent cases will be faxed out the next day, otherwise all letters will be mailed
5.) After the appeal, give about two weeks for a reply

What is the Success Rate?
Many factors. Genuine cases of financial hardship, bread and butter issues, maybe even cut utility bills arising from monetary difficulties can have high chances. (However, it is difficult to assess if a resident is genuinely needs help…it is not up to the MP or writer to judge. These cases are often referred to the Community Development Council (CDC) for evaluation). If they are found to be in trouble, financial assistance, emergency utility reinstatement funds and ComCare funds, free healthcare from government clinics etc can be rendered immediately by the CDC (not the MPS). Some branches practice the handing out of food vouchers and EZ link cards, however this is at the digression of the MP and there are very limited numbers.

Then there are immigration cases. Oftentimes, these are from Singaporeans who marry foreign spouses. ICA never tells you the reason for rejection (this is because if they put something in black and white, chances are you can find loopholes and work around it). It is hard to tell the success rate of these – especially with anti-forigner sentiment so high in the country.

There is also appeal for reduction/waiver in traffic fines. Usually the resident will already know in his/her heart what the chances are. However, for any court cases concerning traffic (or any other criminal offense actually), no political party including the PAP, has the right to write to the Judge or the Court. Thus, MPS session will not accept any court cases. For help in this area, there are legal clinics (available in some constituencies) and they can refer you to Legal Aid if you are in financial difficulty. As mentioned earlier, the MP can also appeal to the Prosecutor (TP, LTA etc) not to pursue the case and for leniency.


What happens after appeal?
All letters (including opposition MPs) written in to Government departments, Ministries and Stat Boards require a reply: even it if is merely a “yes, we have received your letter and are considering the case”. 

Private companies (banks, telcos etc), are not obliged to respond to MP letters. Theirs is a private agenda and sometimes they do reply and assist out of courtesy, but they are not compelled to take any action. But you never know, it depends also on the personal relationships that the politicians have with these private companies… it is after all humans that respond to letters.
  


Here is some practical advice you can use:

– If you have matters that are very urgent or you know will result in a court case, utility termination or overstay in the country, please, please, please do not wait until the last minute. Prepare well in advance, months in advance if possible

– Be prepared to wait at least 2 weeks or more: you’ll be writing to bureaucracy and your appeal will have to pass many eyes to be properly considered

– You can meet the MP for any problem. Job placement, appeal for getting HDB, financial hardship, defects in your HDB property, crime (although i’d advice you to go to the police first), NS deferment, highlight your views on inflation, COE, foreigners etc, all sorts of private problems. All of these problems are then documented for later study

– If there are problems in your estate; upgrades, defects, crime etc, you are encouraged to bring these up to the MP and their team of writers. As the Town Council is run by the MP of the area, he or she would have direct interest in getting these local problems fixed promptly

– MPS is not a government department 

– There is no law that prevents opposition parties in running their own form of MPS or to build an office at the void deck to conduct their businesses

– Petition writers are volunteers and almost always a Party activist

In a nutshell: MPS is a political tool for both the residents and their parties to use. It is a regular avenue for residents to reach their MPs easily for assistance and/or communication

Additional Information: 

To find out who your MP is, click here: http://www.parliament.gov.sg/list-constituencies

To find out addresses for MPS sessions for PAP MPs, click here:http://www.pap.org.sg/contact.php

To find out addreses for MPS sessions for WP MPs, click here:http://wp.sg/2011/05/aljunied-grc-commencement-of-meet-the-people-sessions/

 
Reference to the following blog :
 
 
 

COE or alternatives, any?

Good read from the suggested blog, http://fivestarsandamoon.blogspot.sg/   .

We often hear people complain about everything in life. Sometimes we wonder why do we have to be bothered about them, since “complain” is just one of their many habits.

“COE” is just one of the things some of the people nag all the time.  Do we understand the primary reasons why we need COE? Yes, high COE prices over the years, but are there effective alternatives?  While people want to own a car, there others say no. To balance it, there is no 1 single formula to achieve it, COE is just one the ways to help control the number of cars on the road, the other things that government is doing is to provide more road space for public transportation and of course for people who drive. There is only so much space on this small red-dot country we can use now and future. Creating more road space means we may be limiting ourselves in terms of the areas for residential and other public facilities. It is one very challenging subject, and if people around think it is a simple mathematical process to manage that, then it is really a problem that we are not solving the problem together, we should be better in terms of working together and finding some reasonable or practical solutions.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

COE: Problems and Thoughts

Written by :
COE is very high. We won’t argue with that.

Even the Ministry of Transport and Minister Lui Tuck Yew is worried, and for good reason. They fear Singaporeans will never be able to afford the widely touted “C”(as in the 4 Cs of the Singaporean Dream).

We did ground work, questioned people, read online comments and came face to face with Facebook chats to have a look at the ideas from everyday citizens.

But before we continue, let us agree on a few things:

a.) EVERYBODY wants a car

Everybody. It is no use telling us that public transport is cheaper and more convenient. We all want four wheels…to flaunt, for convenience, for necessity, for security, for more girlfriends…

 (…because if you want to date them…)
 
 (…this will make it so much easier.)

b.) Singapore does not have enough space for so many cars

We only have some 500 square kilometers. “Sway” lor.

c.) If you WANT something badly, you will find ways to get it


This means you will try to beat the system. So whatever policies you have in place, you have to guard against loopholes.

So now that we have an accord (pun intended), let’s have a look at those ideas on how to curb car use.




Grant COE first cheaply to those who need it.

Who needs it? Business people? Sales people? Those in wheelchairs? The blind? Families of those in wheelchairs and are blind? Those with children? Those with old people? Women and children? We face a moral problem here – which Government department (or politician) wants to be in-charge of determining who needs a car?

The Loophole: Could there be a situation where those that usually don’t need a car (such as many wheelchair bound), suddenly rush to buy a car, just because its so cheap? Will their family members use their status to acquire one for their own use?

What if a black market forms from this policy loophole?

Verdict: Not good idea.

Taxis: They are the culprits. Split taxi COEs to a new category
We do not have data (yet) about how true this is, but let’s assume it is anyway.

Who determines how many taxis are needed? If we keep a free market system, and a “taxi COE” was implemented, more new taxis will go on the road. Maybe taxi COEs could even be $1 (since there are only so many taxi companies). Taxi companies will benefit.

The Loophole: More will want to be “part time taxi drivers” just to use a car. In fact, already there are so many that use the taxi for their own transportation, sending their kid to school and coming home to sleep…. selling insurance and ferrying real estate clients (*wink wink, you know who you are*) These people don’t need passengers, they pick up a passenger or two when they’re in the mood.

Verdict: Not a good idea. Come to think of it, could this be the reason why Hong Kong has sooo many taxis?

(Hong Kong: Taxis during mating season)

Increase COE prices for families (200-500%) with more then one car
This came from one who was unhappy with richer families owning more then one car. But arguably, only one person can drive one car at a time.

There are also families with multiple kids, or parents living with them etc. Are we unfairly penalizing families with more children (And hence sabotaging procreation).

The Loophole: “My dad has a car, stays with me and now when I have to buy a new car, I have to pay 5 times more, sorry dad, COE is more important, you gotta go”.

or:

“Hey, I don’t have a car – why don’t you pay me to use my quota?”

Verdict: Not a good idea.

Ballot system
Otherwise known as: “tikam”. A set number of COEs goes into the market and people will ballot for a chance to own one. So, what about those who “need it”? This would create difficult barriers for them.

The Loophole: If we have a ballot system, would this encourage people to try their luck? This could also create a black market – those who get the ballot could mark-up and sell to those who don’t.

Verdict: Not a good idea.
 

Moving Average COE system
COE prices are determined on the moving average of prices of the past X months; making it affordable, yet with quota, there won’t be a burst of vehicles.

Hmmm. I still cannot understand this to be honest. The COE operates on a mechanism of bid. If we use the average of 5 months worth of data and artificially determine the 6th, how would that work out for the 7th, 8th, 9th etc ?

The Loophole: We don’t understand this as yet and cannot comment.

Verdict: This requires more thinking.

Remove COEs and let the market buy freely: let the inconvenience control usage
With all due respect, this has by far been the most absurd idea.

The Loophole: There isn’t one because it’s so absurd.

Verdict: Mad.

The COE system is not perfect, like everything in life. But so far its the most sound solution.

If you have any ideas, please do write in and let us know: we’ll be glad to publish those that are worthy of debate and consideration!