07 September 2006

Rethinking NS - Part 1

Recently, I had lunch with a lawyer. A foreigner who has been working for some years in Singapore. He has PR status now and has been offered citizenship a few times. He also has a very young son, about three years old. During lunch, he asked me point-blank to explain the NS system and how he could avoid his son having to do NS. The man is looking 15 years down the road and calculating his options.

This would anger many Singaporeans. But I think that the anger is misdirected. Everyone wants to do the best thing for himself and his family. Given the choice, 99% of Singaporeans would avoid NS too. So the FTs aren't doing anything that you wouldn't do, if you could. If you feel angry, blaming the government seems more logical than blaming the FTs.

The state is not the individual. The individual is not the state. That seems too obvious to require stating. Yet the speeches of our politicians regularly conflate the two and confuse the masses. "This is for the good of Singapore," our leaders say, announcing some new awful policy. Three questions arise. One - if it's good for Singapore, does it mean it's good for you? Two - if it's good for Singapore but bad for you, shouldn't you be concerned? Three - what on earth is this abstract notion called Singapore, anyway?

Question 3 isn't a daft question. It's pretty profound, actually. Is a nation - any nation - worth loving? Today, however, I have no mood for existential meanderings and so I'll just leave you with a link - here. Back in 2002, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's children were probably too young to be dishonest.

Back to my lawyer friend. What was my reply? I said: "It's useless to think too much about it now. Between now and then, the government's NS policies will probably change again." Fifteen years, after all, is a long time. Last year alone, we saw two big changes in NS policy - full-time NS liability being reduced, and in-camp training also getting cut. Who knows what the future brings?

If I had to guess, I would say that NS liability will be further reduced in the future. But it won't vanish tomorrow. In the meantime, the government presses ahead with its foreign talent imports, and Singaporeans continue to be angry and disadvantaged. NS is the single largest cause of Singaporeans' anger with the government's FT policies (and for good reason). If I were the government (and actually cared), what would I do?

I would implement ideas and policies to reduce the disadvantages of NS. No, being Mr Wang, I wouldn't stop there. I would implement ideas and policies to make serving NS advantageous. This is the most direct way of managing Singaporeans' dissatisfaction with NS. It is certainly a more concrete and more sincere approach than just pulling the revered MM Lee out to make pretty speeches every now and then about the wonders of FT (see today's Straits Times, for example).

If the government can spare $1,000,000,000 to build two durians (the Esplanade) to make life in Singapore more interesting for foreign talents, I don't see why they can't afford to make NS a worthwhile experience for Singaporeans. In a subsequent post, I will make some concrete suggestions as to how this could be done.

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Anonymous said...

i will call this fantasy in the part of ruiling party.

what makes them think FT, who has quited from their own country, stays loyal to SG?

why would they want to send their kids to do NS and protect a country they need not necessary relate to?

this people are survivors, anytime the going gets too tough here (or the greener grass calls) they would uproot their family and move out.

they have already did it once...

Anonymous said...

Am just trying to bounce off some ideas here. Don't shoot me.

But has anyone thought of the feasibility of Singapore having a professional army? This would help to relieve male citizens of NS (or maybe reduced to a short 3-6 months BMT, personally I think its good to have basic knowledge to defend our country) and secondly we will have a dedicated armed force which does not have to bear the burden of continuous recruit cycling (well, reduced anyway).

Of course, the cost/benefit will have to be thoroughly evaluated.

friendly fire said...

Of course it is feasible to have a professional army. We already have the Gurkhas here! The reality is the PAP govt has gotten used to getting its own way with a docile population. NS is cheap labour pure and simple, and Sporean males are exploited through and through.

I will be going for reservist. What the fuck for? The real reason is to provide manpower for the IMF. To make the PAP look good. If a riot happens would I lift a finger against the protesters? No way! If SAF issue me live rounds, even better! I will first shoot the CO, OC etc and all those useless paper-trained officers... friendly fire mah. Honest mistake lor.

at82 said...

Professional army was the orginal proposal from Mr Goh Keng Swee, but MM Lee rejected the idea bcos he feels that a professional army is too costly and there won't be enuff ppl to deter the enemy.

MM Lee preferred a society that can be fully mobilised for war in a short notice. In fact he was in favour of following the Israelis by making women do NS too. Juz tat the idea wasn't taken up by the rest of his colleagues then.

I agree with MM that a professional would be insufficient for the defences of S'pore juz for the fact that there will only be so much ppl who will join the army given our small population.

However, I do feel that NS liability can be reduced to 18 months by fully professionalising the Officers and NCOs corp.

The current SAF regulars seem to be more concern about their next promotion and where they will be posted to next for their tour of duty while the NSF are either trying to smoke their way thru or simply not well trained enuff.

Given that many of our commanders do not have sufficient leadership quality, I believe that by fully professionalising the commanders corp we can further lengthen and instensify the training of our army commanders. This would definately improve the quality of our army significantly.

Anonymous said...

maybe like FREE healtcare for NSmen? my reason being if you need us to protect the nation don't you need us to be free from illness? it would be percieved as a +plus point being an NS slave imagine FREE healthcare forever...

Whispers from the heart said...

The reservist liability is also too long!

Tie a man down till 40 and expect him to conquer the global market?!

Even marriages don't last that many years nowadays ...

However, I forsee changes to this in the future. I have a hunch the issue is affordability.

Kelvin Tan said...

Stripped down to its very core, conscription or NS is a "tax" that all male Singaporeans are paying.

If we have voluntary NS, the amount that we have to pay for people to serve willingly would be much higher. The tax would be equals to the difference between the two amounts.

For example, suppose an NS conscript is paid an allowance of $7000 a year for doing NS. If he will be willing to serve voluntarily for a pay of $27 000 a year, this means that, by having conscription, he is being taxed an amount equals to $20,000

Thus, by having conscription instead of a professional army, we are merely shifting the tax from all Singaporeans to just male Singaporeans.

Whispers from the heart said...

So, can we pay upfront and forget about NS liability?

I won't mind paying for my son to avoid NS leh.

( though I thought the black market going rate is about $75,000? )

Anonymous said...

I think the Singapore government is rich enough to do away with conscription altogether (or at least cut down NS to 1 year with 0, 3 or max 5 years reservist) and invest in a full-time regular armed forces with the most sophisticated weaponry.

I mean, it's quite silly and hypocritical for the government to extol the virtues and necessity of NS, while at the same time only letting GURKHAS stand guard at their own residences and important installations. Isn't that so?

NS was, and still is about social control. Make young, hot blooded teenage males know hierarchy, conformity and personal restrictions.

The government may be unable to make NS disappear overnight. But it sure can do much much more to make it less disruptive.

P.S: Don't blame the Indian FT for wanting his son to 'siam' NS. I would too, if I could. You can't find fault with a father's love. I lost a few friends during full-time NS. It was heartbreaking to watch the grief on their parents' faces. All they got was a paltry sum of condolence money from Mindef in exchange for their son's life.

Anonymous said...

Full time army loyals to country.
Professional army loyals to money.
Reservist loyals to... ???

En & Hou said...

Don't forget, Singaporean women also don't have to serve NS, and in the recent years there has been just as much contention and anger between both parties over this as well.


nofearSingapore said...

Hi Mr. Wang,
I am genly pessimistic that major tweaking will occur as NS as an institution has been useful for the ruling establishment.
With SAF,
1.young impressionable yg men can be taught how to behave ( ie propaganga)
2.SAF overseas scholarships attractive and is a means of tieing down academic elites to the system (also keep them from mischief ie joining wrong side)
3.a sieving system to pick & choose political elite eg all the BG's in cabinet etc.
4.some deterrant effect (like Russians parading those missile thru Red Sq during cold war period)
5. useful symbol of nationhood.
I await your part 2 with bated breath.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of anger (esp. from most male Singaporeans) will be dissipated if SAF pays real salary instead of allowances. How much would that cost to Singapore?

Assuming there are 40,000 conscript soldiers at any one time (2 yr's intake of males), and SAF pays all of them about $30,000 per annum to make up for the guys' opportunity cost (on average, at least), it will only cost the country S$1.2 billion per year. That's less than 20% of Singapore's annual defence budget.

With real salaries, it will also "incentivise" SAF management to optimise the training program and further shorten the NS period. I always felt that if SAF is given "free" soldiers, the senior officers will continue to impose useless "training". It's high time the SAF pays for what they consume.

teck soon said...

I wish an economist or social scientist would calculate the impact of NS on Singapore's economy. We are effectively removing half of our population from productive labor during two years of their lives when they are most apt to learn and grow. How bigger would our GDP be if they were instead active members of the labor market?

I would wager that the cost to Singapore's economy is probably similar to the equivalent amount of money the government would have to pay to hire professional, volunteer Singaporean soldiers on the open market. You can imagine that the cost to do so would likely be huge. Therefore, NS can be thought of as a kind of tax - a tax on male members of the population, to give away two years of earnings and learning to the government.

The common argument against having a professional army is that "Singapore is small". I hate this argument because it is too simplistic and explains nothing. I really wish there could be an academic, fact-grounded discussion on whether national service is the best strategy for Singapore.

Anonymous said...

I'm a foreign talent turned first gen singaporean... I don't have to do ns, but I'm caught up in the hdb mortgage thingy.. (although I can sell at a moments notice anyway)..

if you think being singaporean is terrible, being malaysian is worse.

Anonymous said...

So speaks someone who has never known the physical and mental pain of NS.

Please, Mr Malaysian, try to understand - it's not for no reason that people kill themselves during NS.

Or does the Singapore company you work also have a counselling hotline for suicidal employees?

lee hsien tau said...

The best way to avoid NS is, when the foetus is found to be male (otherwise it would be a waste of effort), that the baby be delivered on a foreign registered ship in international waters or plane over international airspace.

HereInPlato'sRepublic said...

teck soon,
I fully agree. How much more 'labour' can we get by reducing NS and taking into account the opportunities our local boys missed by starting in the workforce later? Look around us. How many Senior Mgt are now Ladies. Is it due to the phenomenon called NS? Am sure the women were are there are capable but would it have been a male if he did not have to do NS?
Its a TAX. A life sentence really till 40.
I would suggest:
1. Reduce to 1 year.
2. Reduce Reservist liability(who says asset?)
3. Get FT's to perform some duties. Afterall its Total Defense is it not? Civil Defense can also right?

Chris said...

My Singaporean ex told me once that the only reason there is a Singaporean armed force at all is so that they can hold off any invader long enough for the Prime Minister to call Washington for help.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to Mr Wang's suggestions.

One important reason for Singapore establishing itself as an economic giant for its small geographic size is the ability to say, "We can stand up for our own, you investors can and should feel safe putting your money here for your businesses."

Whispers from the heart said...

You are being sarcastic, right?

Stand up on our own? I thought we were small and vulnerable.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mr Wang, I'm a student who likes to read your blog. This is the first time I'm posting a comment.

I'm utterly shocked at the comments about NS.

Perhaps as I've yet to enter NS I can't understand the hard feelings the above people have against it.

But right now, as a student, I believe there are 3 compelling reasons why young men should still continue to serve NS:

1) The Singapore government has taken great care of our education, for most people, it'll be at least 10 years. Do you know without Edusave, we've to pay with our own pockets for enrichment courses etc? And the Edusave Bursary Award scheme, which I'm a recipient almost every year, rewards student with cash for good academic results. 2 years of NS are used to repay the taxpayers - not the government - since taxpayers are really the ones who fund the education system.

2) Bonding between different types of people. I believe in NS you can get to see different forms of personality, and in the process, learn about tolerance and interdependence. This is useful not only for social cohesion but for character-building as well.

3) Defence of the nation! As simple as that, isn't it? Which country in the world has no military?

Anonymous said...

Is that what they teach in the National Education series?

Look like Mr Wang must help the government to educate our young ...

Mr Wang Says So said...

Oh, okay.

Edusave, let's see. Let's say it comes to maybe $6,000 in total for all the school years. Now, if you ddn't do NS and you graduated 2 years sooner, you start earning a graduate's pay, maybe $30,000 a year or $60,000 in two years? Hmmm, that's about ten times more than Edusave. I guess you can afford to pay back your mum and dad for your own enrichment courses in school days then.

Soft factors of the NS experience - discipline, bonding, meeting people etc. Hmmm. Personally, if you feel strongly about it, I recommend joining the Boy Scouts; doing volunteer work; playing a sport competitively (dragon boat or water polo, if you like teamwork in a tough physical environment); or just going to university/poly two years early (if you get to skip your NS) so that you can immediately hang out not just Singaporeans but also foreigners from all sorts of countries - China, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, exchange students from US, UK, Sweden etc - so many of them on our local campuses these days. It's more fun.

Lesley said...

Hi anonymous student,

a lot of the resentment stem from the lack of fairness that while locals have to serve NS (not by choice), FTs get a "free ride" so to speak. Isn't an elected government supposed to be FOR the people, to take care of it's people? Yet we seem to have a situation here where FTs are welcomed with open arms to the detriment of Singaporeans.

Payback for edusave bursary? Bet you my bottom dollar that most males here will gladly payback in cash if required rather than 2.5 yrs of NS.

Anonymous said...

Same anon. student:

But Mr Wang, what if you're not a graduate? Not everyone go to Uni.

Well in any case I wish to thank your blog and the other comments for giving such a thoughful intrusion into my peaceful, well-defined world.

I look forward to your suggestions about making NS advantangeous to not only young men, but the country too.

lau mintsek said...

Anon of 2 rows up, I know you are young and all, but what you have said is somewhat...... narrow. And I do mean it in a polite way.

You said:

"1) .........2 years of NS are used to repay the taxpayers - not the government - since taxpayers are really the ones who fund the education system."

How does one begin?

(a)The OBJECTIVE of NS is for the defence of the country. Actually, it's primary aim is deterence. The objective is not, and never will be, for "repaying taxpayers" for contributing to the education system. The two are not related. If I don't use Edusave, can I then don't serve NS?

(b)Your argument is essentially a logical fallacy. A red herring, if you will. You have introduced something that is not in the equation. No one has ever tried to link these two together.

(c)Well..... let's say your point is logical. I would love to see ANY politician in Singapore go on stage and make this argument: "Serve NS because the taxpayers have given money to your school and education" without getting a scolding. Actually.... I would love to see ANY taxpayer make the same demand without looking stupid.

(d)Maybe you are trying to say we should repay the taxpayers for giving the young such a wonderful life. Why stop at Edusave? Why not say NS is there to thank taxpayers for providing funds for the MRT, for our public hospitals, for building roads, for the courtesy campaign, for building Changi Airport.......

You also said:
"2) Bonding between different types of people."

As mentioned, the OBJECTIVE of NS is the defence of the country. Any social glue and bonding is a welcomed side effect. In a way, NS does promote racial bonding. (And I personally view this point as a positive personal gain of my 2.5 years in NS.)

I am assuming that you are talking about racial bonding when you talk about "different people". I am sad to say that the military discriminates against "different people" such as homosexuals, people of certain religion such as Jehovan Witnesses, and even women (women can't serve in combat positions, a fact which limits their promotional prospects.).

Education background, economic and social classes are also seperated in the military but to a much less degree. Noticed how military officers tend to be well educated people with degrees? An officer without a degree is quite a rarity (but still possible) in our system.

If you want an organisation to promote racial bonding, there are many CHEAPER, LESS TIME CONSUMING, MORE APPROACHABLE, LESS EMOTIONALLY DRAINING, LESS LOSS OF OPPORTUNITY COST, LOWER POLITICAL COST methods than 2 years of NS.

Oh, if racial bonding is the primary aim, why are we leaving out the women? Only men need to bond is it?

One thing that all of us who went through NS knew, is that the military can be the most racially discriminating employer in Singapore. It was only a few years ago that Singapore reversed (fully?) the position that certain races should not be in "sensitive" position. And all of us have observed that certain units are devoid of minority races, while other "less sensitive" units are filled with certain minority races.

You try doing that in a company in Singapore and you will see the Forum pages flooded with letters.

If you are still keen on the idea of NS as a racial bonding exercise, google Malaysia's NS and read the various blogs and comments. Note that Malaysia's NS primary objective is NOT the defence of the country.

You said:
"3) ..........Which country in the world has no military?"

Puerto Rico.

Lau Min-tsek said...

Oh dear, but the time I finish typing, the anon student I was referring to is now 5 rows up.

OK. I hope the student take all the criticisms in a positive way. Once you are in NS, things will look much different, for better or worse.

harry said...

History - NS started out with true intentions due to urgent post-1965 needs. We could not trust our neighbours then. So NS (and the SAF) served as guardian and protector.
However, nowadays, I see NS as a political tool. The govt can mould common people, groom elite people (give them scenarios so that they can be promoted). It's a control box...

Ted said...

Actually, I think if they start to pay Market rates or maybe 2/3 of the market rates to what the regulars are getting, I postulate half of the anger directed at the government would dissipate quite easily.

It's not about paying people off to make them happy but rather, you recognise that what they do have a huge opportunity costs to their lives. I am ignoring all arguments about the greater good, because there are many dimensions to it, and I think if they (the government aka ruling elite) wants to argue, I would say that my sacrifice have enriched you immensely and a quid quo pro is in order (i.e. you take away my personal freedom for 2 years , not that I committed any crime othe rthan being a make in this place call Singapore, you should compensate me in real time and not 3 years down the road wit another ACCORD. Aafterall, who knows if I can survive the 2 years in NS with my body and mind intact.)

ted said...

Oo, my bad for not reading through the comments, anon @ 4.03pm made the same remark as me.

Student who have not served NS, haha, enjoy paying back to the taxpayers when your time is up. (sounds ominous doesn't it?)

sporescores said...

Mr Wang, great to have you around to provide the real education and the truth to ignorant folks like anonymous student. Good part 1. Sincerely looking forward to part 2.

kevin said...

For one thing, I think NS is what you make of it.
Given, everyone will have a different NS experience, and a different NS story to tell.

One can wallow in pessimism and live through 2 years with a bleak outlook; or you can look for the best in every situation, no matter how dismal a task you're assigned.

I think people have to realise that NS is not about themselves or their personal interest. Once you get past all that, you'll find meaning in the things you go through - be it cleaning your M16 with your bunkmates, moving jerry cans with your platoon etc.

Having said all that, I do agree with the original post - that money, time and thought should be invested in making NS a positive experience for everyone, keeping in mind the operational requirements of the SAF. I know of a late officer who saw value in such an investment, I hope there will be others who will continue where he left off.

Lobster said...

To kevin of one row up, it is indeed the focus of the orgranisation now to deliver 'positive experiences' whenever possible. At least this is the direction that has guided the NS policy now. But then again, it just started/ So I guess we need some time for the NSmen to see the effects.

The main issue here is why FT are taking a free ride while the rest of the population slogs and pays the 'tax' as so may had coined it. In my opinion, being a citizen who had completed his NS liability, I feel that they should pay back in some other ways, like what had been suggested that they contribute to Total Defence.

But then again, there's so much talk about the Singapore passport just being a stepping stone to the green card ...

Reason for NS said...

Lee Hsien Loong said very clearly before -- during his earlier political career stage, when he tend to reveal too much -- that the purpose of a 2-yr NS is:

1. We are not like switzerland, surrounded by mountains, such that when invaded, there is time to mobilise the soldiers.

2. Our country is small - the best defence is offence. We need to mount an attack first, on foreign soil, rather than in Singapore. (Hence we do not emphasise FIBUA - fighting in built-up area. We emphasise jungle warfare).

Pt 1 and 2 means we need a sizeable number of soldiers stationed in camp 2359, so that we can either defend ourselves or (more likely) launch an offensive asap when needed - which explains why military training (BMT etc) takes at most a few months, and yet we keep them in camp at night for 2 years!

P.S. I am not revealing any military secret, since this all come from the General himself, and reported in the Straits Times -- I think it's during early 1990s.

Reason for NS said...

If we were attacked, or if we choose to launch a **surprise ** offensive, who are our front-line soldiers?

Ans: Not NSmen. It is the NSF who have to book in nightly at our camps, dusk to dawn! So you people tell me -- without a 2 yr NS, how to have such sizeable number of "ever-ready" soldiers?

Therefore, unless our Doctrine of War is changed, we need NS. period.

(I assume everybody knows who our "imaginary enemy" is, right? Lee said that too, resulting in some diplomatic rows, some 10 yrs ago :)

Citizens no benefit said...

Citizens in any country should bear the responsibility of defending the country.

In return, citizens should have *significant* amount of rights and privileges that non-citizens do not have.

I think no one should have any quarrel with the above logic.

Indeed, numerous countries do precisely that. Take USA for eg:

On Education (since someone mentioned) - US govt (and many private foundations) give scholarships only to citizens, rarely to PR, and never to foreigners. (Contrast that with how Singapore pay foreigners to have free education from primary school all the way till unversity).

On Health care - US citizens have free medical care if they are poor. foreigners dont. (Again contrast with Singapore - easy to get PR, and all PR pay same low rate as citizens in polyclinics and hospitals).


If my dad treats other people's son better than his own son, then he cannot rightly expect me to look after him (analogous to serving NS) when he is old!

singaporean said...

You wont hate NS, or wont hate NS sufficiently until you complete the fulltime 2 years. Then you will realise:

1) How far the women and foreigners progressed in life with or without tertiary education. By the time you hit the work force, you will have to call your women/foreigner classmate, boss.

2) NS is not over. It will bug you for another 13 years, maybe more. For as long as 80 days in a calender year. It will bug you at the most inconvenient of times. You need a really understanding boss to not consciously/unconsciously discriminate against you over a woman or PR/foreigner in terms of promotions, incentives or even merely keeping you in a retrenchment exercise. Such understanding bosses are getting rare as they are increasingly women or foreigners and I wonder why.

3) You will need to keep fit for 13 years, maybe more, or risk losing another 8 weeks of your life to Remedial Training. It is one thing to be fit when young, but no joke as you get older. It also reminds you that your freedom is just an illusion: the army still owns your ass and prefer them to tight.

4) NS doesnt make you more mature. In fact it stunts your mental growth. Trust me, women your age will find you childish, about two years behind, maybe more. Trust me, for the next 5 years at least, you will keep talking about army life at every opportunity, because that is all you know.

5) There are incredibly few minority races in green. Overwhelming majority of the minority races are serving Police or Civil Defence NS. Which contradict the racial harmony argument, doesnt it?

6) Oh, and if you ever leave Singapore (other than West M'sia for less than 24 hours) and forget to inform MINDEF, you will be reminded yet again your freedom is just an illusion. Repeat offenders will require exit permits to just to leave Singapore.

7) And when you are old enough to have a son, who unfortunately is incredibly talented that needs to be developed early, like say Ike See, you will really really hate NS.

BTW, I know someone serving NS now who never received a single cent of edusave, because he was the 5th child. Anyway, the edusave sum is a joke. I wouldnt think for a second to pay SAF $6k if only to shorten my NS by 1 year. Believe me, no matter how incompetent you are, two years of your life is still worth far more than $6k.

Reason for NS (none!) said...

Why do you defend a country to death and give it 2 of your best years (and yearssss thereafter annually)?

Ans: because it is worth defending! It's your homeland..

..a place where you grow up, with familiar buildings that are never torn down,

...with a govt who will not abandon you even when you become disabled,

...a place where you will not be streamed into schols with (much) lesser funding just because you are stupid,

...an oasis where you pay tax during your younger days and your govt give you sufficient retirement benefits in old age etc etc.

Then, such a country is worth defending!

Singapore is not worth defending, because it is not even a country! It is a company. Read this sarcastic post, for eg

NATO (no action, talk only) said...

Doesnt anyone here knows that in some country, if your kids are born there, they become citizens of that country simply by virtue of the birth, even though both parents are foreigners?

United States is a prominent and good example of such a country!

Think about it: all you need it so fly over there to give birth during the last trimester of pregnancy. Then you can bring back your precious baby back to Singapore as "potential foreign talent" on a long-term social visit pass.
No more NS slavery!

Also, take a look at the official Australia Immigration webpage. It is not difficult to be an Australian PR at all!

And that brings me to the crux of my wandering thought: Why aren't a very *significant* number of people doing the above two things for their kids and themselves? (significant = you -- everybody who leave a comment complaining abt pap/govt here! :)

It begs one to question: Do you (anybody who complains a lot) *really* dislike pap/govt, or are you just complaining for the sake of complaining? :)

fuck SAF said...

Thanks for pointing out the NS liability or reservist as it was formerly called. This is the single biggest factor that is handicapping all male singaporeans, both in life and career. The working environment is more competitive than ever. Working hours are getting longer too. And in the midst of all this they call you up for in camp training. And worst they expect you to be combat fit. It is something at the back of your mind clicking away, not unlike the old chinese water torture. Just compare with female singaporeans and suddenly you see how good it is to be a female in Singapore. All that freedom, and i'm not even talking about freedom of speech and assembly here! Meanwhile the govt doesn't give a damn about it and continues to treat foreigners better than their own citizens. I don't even think there is a need to even discuss about the merits of NS! There simply isn't! And yes the elites doesn't even tust their own soldiers which is why they have mercenaries like the Gurkhas, to protect them from who i wonder?

Anonymous said...

anon student 7:41pm
3) Defence of the nation! As simple as that, isn't it? Which country in the world has no military?

To answer your above question, I believe that Costa Rica in Central America do not have a military to protect their country because it wants to be a neutral haven just like Switzerland.

singaporean said...

Did you know?

1) Singapore has about 77,000 active soldiers, a larger standing army than Australia, about 54,000? If you count the reserve, Singaporean soldiers overwhelmes Australia 6 to 1.

Source: Wikipedia

2) When Singapore fell to Japan in WW2, 80,000 Indian, Australian, British troops were overran in two weeks by merely 30,000 Japanese soldiers. If you believe the propaganda that these soldiers didnt fight as hard as it werent their homeland, remember that just a few years earlier, Australians fought nearly suicidally and 8 thousand perished in WW1 in Gallipoli, TURKEY, strategically nowhere near Australia, compared to Singapore.

3) Even today, the length of service of conscripts are still among the longest in the world and poorest paid?

Switzerland, sharing borders with some of the most war crazy nations of the world, with no meaningful military alliance, has shortened her military service to as little as 18 weeks for the lowest ranking soldiers.

Taiwan, which is constantly under threat of invasion by mighty China, has shortened her compulsory military service to merely 18 months now, to be shortened to 12 months by 2008 if sufficient numbers are met.

Source: Wikipedia

4) Albert Einstein was liable for military service in Switzerland, but was exempted on medical grounds (flat foot, varicose veins). A Singaporean vampire who will crumble into dust in sunlight will still need to serve NS somewhere in the shade to be fair to the other men. Funny, women and PRs do not need to do anything to be "fair" to the men.

Anonymous said...

I see that there are 2 issues here that you've raised:

1. Is NS necessary? Why cant we have a professional army?
2. Is it fair to let 1st Gen FTs skip NS? How do we force more of the 2nd Gen FTs to do NS?


With regards to Point 1 - I think this is quite clear-cut. IMHO, Singapore will not be able to have a professional army that is large enough by itself (even with the latest technology) to sufficiently deter aggressors. Others had alluded somewhat to the key points in earlier posts and perhaps I can highlight 2 of them again and the implications on military strategy:

a. Small size of country - as we have to take the fight to the enemy, we have to be oriented towards offensive operations. For attacks to succeed, even in this day and age, we need a 3:1 superiority. If an aggressor is 100K strong, we have to be 300k in order to take the fight to their turf and sufficiently far away so that they can't mess up our home with rockets and artillery fire. Even with the latest technology now, you need boots on the ground to carry a fight… Let’s not delude ourselves thinking that the wonderful air force we have can win a war all by itself.

b. Resources / Difficulty in maintaining a Standing Army - A large standing army would be a huge drain on our resources. Given that in a good economy, it is extremely difficult to recruit people into the armed forces. I've been to many countries and I can safely say that with the exception of the US Army, we do a hell lot of recruitment activities than many other countries which have standing armies - just to attract the regular force we have now. Imagine if the force has to be at least 3x as many... to pay for a professional army and equip them with the latest technology (so as to make up their smaller size) would be horrendous! Bear in mind that the current MINDEF budget is already a huge 20-30% of our entire govt spending... If we go all professional, we might be spending 50% of our annual govt budget on defence. How is this to be paid for? Higher taxes? Development Charge? More Sin taxes? GST?


Let’s get real about this… If we get all 1st Gen to do NS, are we going to get them to even consider sinking their roots in Singapore in the first place? Moreover, not all 1st Gen who come over to Singapore do so in their early 20s….

Most come over in their late 20s, 30s and even 40s… Imagine this… can we seriously about putting a bunch of 40 year-old men through basic training and SOC without killing half of them? Those who have not been through the rigors of jungle warfare may well have this na├»ve notion that war is about pointing a rifle and blazing away…

If we deter foreigners from working here with such policies, our economy will definitely collapse. Of my entire working career, almost 70% of my colleagues are from overseas…. I face more competition from FTs than most Singaporeans and driving them out is nonsense talk. We simply do not have sufficient Singaporeans to fill in many of the positions now…

As much as I believe we produce workers of superior intellect and work ethics, we simply do not have that many. Think about it… 3.2 million Singaporeans out of 4 million – that means 800,000 foreigners and their families… Discounting the fact that 160,000 are maids and another 340,000 are unskilled workers, we have 300,000 remaining… assuming that 150,000 are short term workers and their families – that leaves maybe 150,000… are there enough to plug this gap without disrupting the economy?

As for making sure their kids do NS… let’s again be pragmatic… if there is such a rule, again… it will result in the flight of PRs and may result in the same exodus and collapse.

The world is not fair – get used to it.

The choice is quite clear - Stay here and compete with FTs or Move overseas and compete with FTs on their own turf…

Anonymous said...

the anon above is really dumb... tsk tsk tsk

Anonymous said...

I have never met guys as whiny as some of the commenters here. How come so many guys take on NS with a sense of duty, and don't complain excessively when they go for reservist?

To those suggesting that women do NS, can you picture your mum, sis or gf doing NS? I might as well suggest that men be required to attach weights to their stomachs when their wives are pregnant.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I have not even posted my ideas yet. But I suspect that I am already getting misunderstood. So I must quickly issue clarifications, before this all goes offtrack. :)

1. Is NS necessary?

It has never been my intention to argue that NS is not necessary.

2. Forcing 1st Gen FTs to do NS.

No, that is not my idea.

3. Forcing 2nd Gen FTs to do NS.

If they are citizens, they would have to serve. But no, it is not my idea to force anyone to take up citizenship.

4. Professional army

No, it was not my intention to argue that we can replace our conscript army with a professional army. Although I think hiring another 10,000 Gurkhas would be useful. Foreign talent is good, remember?


My ideas .... Akan datang. Be patient. :)

Mr Wang Says So said...

Further clarifications:

5. No, I do not intend to suggest that women do NS as well.

6. As for NATO's comments, no, you are wrong. If Daddy is a Singaporean citizen, son will be Singapore citizen wherever he is born, and therefore becomes liable to do NS. If you wish to understand more, see my comment (Sunday, November 27, 2005 3:41:35 PM) on this old post of mine.

singaporean said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fox said...

Mr. Wang's point is that NS is a burden that falls only on a selected portion of the resident population in Singapore and that there ought to be more advantages/incentives/adequate compensation for that selected demographic group.

The NSS shares and tax breaks that NSmen receive are in no way adequate since the majority of Singaporeans don't even pay enough taxes.

A better compensation could be:
1. a gratuity to be paid into the CPF account of male citizens/PRs who have completed NS.
2. subsidized/free public medical care for people who have served.
3. financial compensation and free/subsidized medical care for the families with sons serving in the SAF since they would have lost a wage-earner in the family.

Of course, this will cost money and it will have to come from tax revenue. So, we'll raise taxes - maybe a national defence tax. The point is, the burden of NS is spread across the entire tax-paying population rather than a selected demographic group. For those who cannot contribute directly, they have to do their part financially. The tax could be based on the basis of Singapore-held assets as well as income. After all, one justification of having a military force is to protect our prosperity.

Of course, I predict that there is no way that the present SG govt will implement such a tax or revamp the compensation system for current NSmen simply because it goes against the myth that it is the patriotic duty for male Singaporeans to sacrifice two years of their time for the nation.

nato said...

> If Daddy is a Singaporean citizen, son will be Singapore citizen wherever he is born

No. If Daddy (mommy too, after May 2004's amendment to the constitution) is singaporean, son CAN become a "Singapore Citizen by Descent" (as opposed to by registration/ naturalisation - Citizenship by descent is equivalent to "by birth" - cannot be revoked by govt. Citienship by registration can be revoked upon commitment of grave crimes or if in the view of the govt, it is "against public interest of singapore" for that person to continue to be a citizen).

In any case, it requires registering the birth at ICA = i.e. entirely optional.
(This registration requirement is part of the Constitution (see ref below)).

Therefore, if parents have babies overseas (i.e. in a country which confers citizenship to whoever is born in that country regardless of parents' citizenship -- an excellent eg of which is USA) and CHOOSE not to apply for the abovementioned citizenship, son is not singapore citizen and does not need to serve NS.

1. ICA

2. Constitution Part X 122(2)(a)

(btw, my "nato" comment is meant as a general statement, wondering why "you" (singaporeans in general) complain abt NS but do nothing for "your" kids. The "you" is not a personal attack on you (mr. wang). I know you (mr. wang) probably understand, but I had better clarify in case it cause unhappiness :)

Lau Min-tsek said...

I am going off tangent here, but I made a factual error:

Puerto Rico may not qualify as a demilitarized country. It should be considered as a demilitarized territory in the same vein as Monaco, a French protectorate. It basically gave its rights in military matters and foreign affairs to the US when it became a commonwealth of the US. (This is despite the fact that many refer to Puerto Rico as a country.)

However, 2 countries have removed their military and enshrined it in their constitution: Costa Rico and Panama. Although the history and motivations behind them do not apply to Singapore, it may be worth noting that both are small countries surrounded by larger countries in a region prone to civil wars, revolutions and all sorts of military adventurism. Doesn't that sound familiar?

One benefit for these countries and territories is that by not having a military, a considerable amount of resources will be freed up for social programmes, the poor, education, health etc, ie, things that actually build a nation. They are not rich, so every cent counts.

I remember Paul Kennedy made the point that the military is basically a consumer of resources and generates zero GNP in return. In short, the military is wasteful in economic terms. As such, nations who overspend on its military will waste too much of its resources that could be used for other more productive things and hence will decline.

There may yet be something we can learn from these countries and territories if we adopt a very different perspective of our security.

I am tempted to link what I have written back to the topic under discussion, in particular, how to prevent the use of our NS manpower resources from becoming a source of liability, but I shall leave it for now.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

nato said...

Mr. Wang, you wrote a comment in your old post (which you linked above) : "if you happen to born a male Singaporean, the laws effectively impose an NS obligation even if you had left Singapore at the age of 1 month and your parents had never brought you back.."

Not true lah. If a singaporean leave the country permanently before 11 years old, mindef will allow that person to defer his NS till 21, whereupon he will be allowed to renounce his citizenship *without* having to serve NS first -- 11 years old being the magic number

1. "Generally, those who left Singapore after the age of 11 will be deemed to have enjoyed the socio-economic benefits of Singapore. They will not be allowed to renounce their Singapore citizenship without fulfilling NS obligations" -- This is from an MFA website referenced by one of the commentators on this page. Interestingly, that MFA website can no longer be found :)

2. This is how the American Embassy advises its citizens who has dual citizenship.

(I happen to know a lot abt such things because, keke, I think a lot abt the NS liability of my (future) kids and all the pros and cons of where to give birth :)

John Riemann Soong said...

We can call them "conscripts" ... but IMO, I've always preferred a democratic citizen's defence force over a mercantile military.

Well of course that goes along with the Catalonian fantasy (which came true once) of an egalitarian army.

Perhaps a volunteer program; but heavy stigma if one opts out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang,

In your circle, Foriegn Talent may actually mean foreign talent. Foreign lawyers who have experience in international taxation or patent law, for example.

However for myself and many others (I have noticed) in the IT industry. It is simply Foreign Cheap (maybe) Talent.

Put simply, in my job area, Singaporeans are the minority. I am normally the only Singaporean in a sea of Indians, Chinese (nationals), Phillipinos, Malaysians, Indonesians, Thais and Burmese. They all come for lower cost contries where they are able to find work and thus gain experience before comeing to Singapore for a (for them) higher paying job.

Furthermore, they all live in a rental near their workplace. Unfortunately, I did the Singaporean thing and bought. (The HDB policy forces most Singaporeans to buy once the get married).

Having talked to some of the Indians whom I had befriended, they all plan to go back to India after about 5 to 10 years and buy a big piece of land back home. Meanwhile I can only dream of paying the mortgage after 20 years, maybe.

On the question of talent (read experience), these foreigners have an advantage that Singaporeans could never hope to accumulate. They are able to gain experience back home before coming to Singapore.

I have the same or better qualifications then most of all these so called foreign talent. I have studied and taken 12 exams over 4 years to receive 3 major and several minor certifications/diploma. Yet Singapore companies are so geared to hire these "foreign talent" that it has become difficult for Singaporeans to compete.

My biggest gripe? That the government calls these people foreign talent and do not protect Singaporeans enough.

Cheap Labour said...

Mr wang talked about making NS experience "more worthwhile". He is expecting too much from the government :)

"Here, Luggage and Transport Liaison Officers -
staffed by National Servicemen -will make sure the (IMF/World Bank) VIPs claim their bags and then set off for their hotels in waiting limousines".

So we enlist in the army, not to defend our country, but to be cheap labourers - in this case, porters!

I also know of NS Physical Training Instructors who were assigned to teach PE in our secondary schools!!!

And every year's NDP make use of NSF to do the logistics - packers (of those ndp goodies that each spectator gets) etc.

So yes, by all means, please make NS experience "more worthwhile". But let's start from the basics - make it "less worthless" first!

Start with: do not use us as cheap labour to do non-military related jobs!

John Riemann Soong said...

Uh, that sounds like a waste actually. The military is capable of doing lots of non-warfare related things.

Consider relief forces who build bridges, provide medical aid, who yes, effectively labour as engineers in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

John, you are talking about a small percentage of men in USA who has joined the army voluntarily and paid commensurating salary.

We are talking about entire country's 18 yr old male forced into cheap labour.

Can you see that we are talking apples and you are talking oranges? :)

Anonymous said...

It's becoming very obvious that schisms and contradictions are developing in our NS policy. Let's call NS for what it is: conscription.

And one reason for conscription is to build up troop strength rapidly, particularly during Singapore's early days of independence. It always look good in Jane's defence weekly and to unsophisticated investors that Singapore has the largest citizen army in Southeast Asia. The untested assumption: more numbers = more deterrence.

But warfare and battle strategies have changed. Look at Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq. Firepower is now air and naval power - your ground troops are for mop-ups.

In fact, I would counter-argue that too much of our resources are spent in maintaining a citizens' army. A whole bureaucracy called Mindef has grown to administer this citizens' army who at the same time feels that both the bureaucracy and FTs are taking them for a ride.

Let's face it. Most of our regulars are not 'real' soldiers in the military sense but administrators and peacetime trainers. Hence the oft-comment that our BGs are paper soldiers. It would really be an eye-opener to see one of our BGs lead a small tactical force in a UN operation and drawing enemey sniper fire. If he dies in the process, he deserves a state burial.

Most advanced countries have now opted for the route of a technologically-advanced rapid deployment regular armed forces assisted by a VOLUNTEER army at home.

For these countries, there are all sorts of incentives to encourage men and women to become volunteers. These volunteers aspire to be as good as their regular comrades but know that at the end od the day, the regulars are taking the first line of defence (or offence). Their battle-tested regulars provide good role models which unfortunately is not the case with Singapore's citizen army. Our regular officers/NCOs are more often viewed as 'tekaners' whom our NS man tries to please during his 2 years of conscription.

Can we modify a sacred cow like NS? Unfortunately, as with any long standing institution, rent-seeking behaviour will ensure that the things remain the same.

yh said...

a national defence tax of 5% x annual income for everyone who did not go through NS.
Money collected will be distributed among those who did.

Anonymous said...

I'm speaking from the point of a foreigner turned PR turned citizen. My dad took up citizenship for practical reasons - Singapore has a sound economy coupled with (superficial) racial and religious harmony. My brother is hearing impaired so I am assuming he does not have to do NS. I don't know if my dad would have applied for my brother's citizenship had he been of normal physical status.

As I lived as a PR for 7 years, I did not feel any different from Singaporeans. The difference in prices, like school fees, rubbish disposal services seemed like a mere pittance. So, frankly, I saw no point in becoming a Singaporean. But there was the tuition grant in univeristy so I finally applied for citizenship.

Frankly, I don't feel Singaporean. I know you locals are going to be all up in arms over this declaration of mine. But I have been a nomad all my life. I feel no connection even with my birth country. I'd like to think of myself as a global citizen who will flit from one place to another. Of course, that is not fair to people who have no choice to leave their country. But like Mr. Wang said, I have a choice so I compare the costs and benefits. I have to agree with the first anon - "what makes them think FT, who has quited from their own country, stays loyal to SG?" So, I totally understand this backlash against foreigners.

Anonymous said...

Dear All,

I am neutral, & hope to remain so.

I fully agree that that life is not fair & will never be. I've long accepted that.

I always remind myself a few things though,
1) I can't choose to be born in singapore. It has happened. Too bad
2)Do I want to be in Lebanon's helpless position who can only cry mummy & daddy in face of an onslaughter from Israel?
3) Do I want to be part of Malaysia's amaetuerish NS system instead of SAF?
4) Do I want my child to be called up by SAF or MAF?
5) If I have a lucrative offer to work & take up citizenship in Israel as a FT, will I still go if I am obliged to perform their NS duties as well? I might not even consider going because of their violatile environment, let alone now that I have to fulfil their NS obligation
6) In fact, will I even consider migrating to any country who is going to enforce military commitment as a trade off for their citizenship? Is the world really so small that I have no other better place than to come to Singapore?
7) What do I usually consider when I decide to migrate to another country? Usually what the country & system can offer me, my children, my asset, my medical care, my lodging etc. It is usually ALL ABOUT ME ME ME & ME. Nobody decide to migrate to GIVE. It's all about receiving.
8) what if Malaysia or Indonesia see that we are a bunch of weak folks who is not capable of protecting ourselves & decide to play dirty politics with us... (which is already happening anyway). like threatened to cut off our water supply or decide on a divisonal exercise off our coast on our national day...
9) what are your feelings when people accuse us for being calculative, not showing respect & threatened to play the water card when we are merely trying to be fair? to survive?
10) what do you think Bush will do if we are under attack? Are we so strategic that Bush will come to our rescue? Do we have a lot of American interest that they can't afford to lose, like oil? Or the british will do a better job with their princess of wales or the fortress of the east?
11) We are living in a snake den & we know we can't be an elephant. we can try to be a rodent & hope for the best or we try to be a porcupine. we are just trying to survive

We have only stability, but not security

We have only racial tolerance but not harmony

If you are a in NY during 9-11, do you book the first flight out of NY or stay to clear the rummble?

I will run away from NY, because my wife will say that she will be worried for me if I stay in NY. The same will go for the FTs in singapore.

klimmer said...

A large standing army is by no means a sure deterrent.

This has been proven many times over in history. Hence it is my opinion that the concept of NS is archaic.

I believe that NS was not really created to deter anyone but rather give Singaporeans some semblence of faith and confidence in our own independance.

All that talk about Swiss neutrality and fighting to the last man are all rubbish and myths.

Whispers from the heart said...

So much to justify the FTs running away ...

I thought ALL singaporeans accept it (except the elite ruling party)?
They are trying to patronise us instead.

I don't begrudge the FTs for doing so, can't people tell we, singaporeans, want to do the same thing too, if we can. I don't mind downgrading my son to PR, for example. Let him choose whether to stay or go and not blame me for it.

I really hope they can name their price for downgrading. In Singapore, everything has a price (A citizen's vote is 600 dollars or so)

While I hope Mr Wang can propose wonderful solutions to make NS more worthwhile, my free spirit tells me nothing is going to worth 20 years of freedom (NS plus ICT).

klimmer said...

And I wish people would stop making unsubstantitated, sweeping assumptions like

"If they have 100K we need 300K...." France out-numbered Germany in WW2.

" ... like Israel/ Palestine/ Switzerland/ fill in the country name etc."
Singapore is not (fill in the country).

"Offense is the best defense."
I would add, only if you win.

"Singapore has no depth."
You dont need depth in mordern warfare.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I've brainstormed and jotted down about 18 ideas of my own so far (some obviously less useful than others); but I might as well as open the floor -

"What would make YOU feel happy and willing to serve NS?".

No, no. Mr Wang is more adventurous than that. Try this one:

"Imagine that NS is voluntary. What would make you opt to do NS?"

That should get your brainjuices flowing.

Anonymous said...

"Imagine that NS is voluntary. What would make you opt to do NS?"

This is a no brainer. The answer is NOTHING.

Disillusioned undergrad said...

Before being enlisted, I used to think that NS is about serving the nation, repaying the country for what have done, blah blah blah

Well, seriously, after 2 years of conscription, can I say that I've learned something useful, or had I contributed something significant to the country imho. No.

If anything, it has been much a waste especially when we spend most of the time doing manning the camp(with fellow battalion mates) and doing nothing but saikang, and being deployed as cheap labour for other government events.

Seriously, the SAF dont't even require so much manpower nowadays. Not all Singapore males who serve NS went to army. A significant portion actually went to other areas like police and SCDF doing redundant work and simply being exploited with doing ineffective and redundant work with low pay, not because they are needed but more because they have to be there due to NS liability. And of those in army, many of a battalion's jobscope are being made obsolete by new technology (like my unit), further reducing the demand for manpower.

Yes, considering the amount of cheap, inefficient(poorly paid and poorly acknowledged for contributions) but redundant manpower in the NS thing, it's entirely possible to shorten NS timeframe significantly or even do away with it altogether and form a professional army.

I simply foresee more and more Singaporeans(especially those in the higher-income bracket) will choose to leave the country, like it or not.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"This is a no brainer. The answer is NOTHING."

Haha. Be creative, my friend. Some of my brainstormed ideas which I am still thinking about include (1) pegging NSFs salaries to market rates of what they could earn outside (eg fresh poly grad's salary); (2) allowing NSFs to indicate preference for particular vocations (subject of course to SAF operational requirements); (3) MINDEF pays for life and medical insurance and the cover continues every year until the serviceman is no longer called up for ICT, then he has option to discontinue or continue using his own money; (4) SMU, NUS, NTU etc to be pushed to consider NS experience as a positive factor in university admission (since sports, music and other CCA are already being considered in the university admissions exercise); (5) increased income tax rebates for NSmen; (6) priority admission to primary schools for children of male Singaporean citizens who have done NS (as opposed to once-foreign male Singapore citizens who have not); (7) exemption from ICT for NSmen who father two children; (8) assorted little benefits like MINDEF subsidising fees for NSmen who want to join gyms / fitness club; (9) reworkings of SAF vocational training especially for poorly-educated NSFs such that SAF vocational training can be converted into useful working skills; (10) option to do university before full-time NS, for selected courses where knowledge gained during studies could be useful in the SAF (like currently for doctors); (11) essentially, priority in the allocation of various public resources for citizens who have served NS - eg in balloting for COEs; application for HDB flats; (12) NS defence tax as mentioned by some others earlier; (13) list goes on .......

Anonymous said...

{ yh said...

a national defence tax of 5% x annual income for everyone who did not go through NS.
Money collected will be distributed among those who did. }

I assure you, when/if that happens, the money collected will just be used for lining the pockets of the paper scholar generals (such as that Kim Jong Il lookalike piece of lard called the CDF of Singapore), increasing the superscale salaries of the SAF top brass, and more purchase of fanciful military toys (especially the yesterday junk of USA) to please the merchants in the defence industry.

It will make NKF seem all too pious in comparison.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, I like what I see. I can imagine it would be very feasible if the powers that be are able to get the smaller ones going first.

Anonymous of Thursday, September 07, 2006 5:26:04 PM

recruit ong said...

"Imagine that NS is voluntary. What would make you opt to do NS?"

Isn't this the question that those regulars (especially female ones) would ask themselves when they decide to join SAF as a career? There is your answer. It is all about money and opportunity cost. Which goes back to the point about a professional army and why gahment won't go for it, $$$$! Therefore male sg citizenship is cheap and worthless.

Mr Wang Says So said...


"Imagine that NS is voluntary, and full-time NS is 2 years. What would make you opt to do NS?"

In other words, it is not a career option (at least not for more than 2 years). What would make you opt to do it?

No Brainer said...

This is no brainer again.

I would not do it for money. So option #1 (pegging NSFs salaries to market rates of what they could earn outside (eg fresh poly grad's salary)) is not applicable to me. If I need to get better pay, I might as well study first and have a two year headstart against those who opted for NS.

If I have not opted for #1, then #7 (exemption from ICT for NSmen who father two children) is also out as there will be no ICT for me. Hence, no need to have 2 children to siam ICT.

What would make me do NS voluntarily? I have to think about this... be creative... hmm...

btw Mr Wang, when I opt for 2 year NS, do I also get the privilege of doing a 13 year cycle of ICT? Can opt for 2 year NS with no ICT?

yh said...

i doubt the government will do anything. PM mentioned in his speech that they recognize that some people are not happy. Their solution? People should be more big hearted!

The problem is more than just general unhappiness. A fresh graduate has to compete with someone with 2 years more experience or 2 years younger with no NS liability; in a competitive global job market, a 2 years age handicap is enormous.

Of course, there is the opportunity cost that NS man pays for the 2(1/2) years of slavery. 30 mths x $3000! taking $90000 away from a 23 years old not only decreases the amt he gets to spend now, it also seriously affects the size of his retirement fund. And we have ourselves to blame for not having enough to retire on!

Any solution to the problem is going to cost the government a huge sum of money. Why would they do it? It's not as if we can vote them out or anything. Much easier to wave their hand and imagine the problem does not exist.

Better stop grumbling and go training for my IPPT.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Suppose a poly grad commences his NS. The government pays him a salary pegged to what a poly grad in the job market could earn. Yes, this costs the government a lot of money. However, it does not create a new loss. It merely transfers the loss from the individual to the state. This is the exact same loss that the NSF actually does suffer, by virtue of having to do NS, instead of work. Thus when we peg NSFs' salaries to market rates, we merely transfer the loss such that it is borne by the government (and all taxpayers) rather than by the particular individuals. Which seems like more equitable, since the benefits of NS (security) are enjoyed by Singapore as a whole.

Pegging an NSF's pay to, say, the average salary of a fresh poly grad is actually a lot more sensible and defensible than ministers pegging their salaries to top private sector salaries.

Mr Wang Says So said...

" A fresh graduate has to compete with someone with 2 years more experience or 2 years younger with no NS liability; in a competitive global job market, a 2 years age handicap is enormous."

This is true because NS experience is generally not considered working experience. However, it is neither inevitable nor always true that NS experience is not considered working experience. See here for an example where Chicago GSB treated someone's 2-year NS as 2 years of working experience. Click here for more thoughts on why NS should be treated as working experience. The question is whether we can actually do anything to (a) change the NS experience, or (b) change employers' perceptions, such that on a more widespread basis, employers will regard NS as working experience? The civil service already officially does so - males who have done NS are two annual increments ahead of the females who start work at the same time - is it possible to extend this beyond the civil service? Perhaps we can begin with a gentle nudge of the GLCs ...? SIA; SPH; Keppel; Sembawang Group; DBS; SingPower; PSA; ComfortDelgro; Temasek; ...? That's quite a lot of employers. Is this unfair? Only if you believe that NSFs really learn nothing of value during NS. A questionable belief, and even if true, can we proceed to modify the NS experience such that they actually learn something of value in the working world, and therefore deserve their increment?

I think someone in a previous post mentioned that apparently in the US, if you volunteer for the National Guard or something like that (40 weeks of training) - you will be entitled to financial aid for your subsequent university studies? There is something in the above scheme that we can also possibly extract, for our own NS boys. For example, we could have some kind of system where, say, if you have completed your NS; and your average household income is below $X; and you wish to do your university studies; you will be entitled to financial aid of up to $Y for each year of study. Can you see now how NS system could be modified such that people want to do NS?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, you're .... scary. Your brain operates like a super-powerful policy-calculating machine.

If BG Yeo blogged like you, I would have more confidence in the future of S'pore.

yh said...

'Can you see now how NS system could be modified such that people want to do NS?'

I'm sure it can. My point is nothing that doesn't cost a huge amt of money is going to work. Why would the government implement a policy that will significantly reduce the amount of money they get to work with? With a reduced budget, the other ministries will have to work harder! To please singaporeans? That, i'm sure, has never been high up their agenda. Look at how much they give out during vote buying as a 'reward' for NSmen.

Maybe Chicago GSB has no idea what goes on during NS? The nature of most of the work in NS ensures that a large number of NSmen will ORD with no worthwhile experience. I cannot see how that can be changed significantly; someone has to dig the trenches or drive the tanks.

Anonymous said...

"...be entitled to financial aid for your subsequent university studies"

You know, this sounds so much better than SAFRA, Chevrons or whatever it's called now. For the money spent, I wonder how many NSmen feel the impact it really makes.

Fox said...

Mr. Wang:

"Suppose a poly grad commences his NS. The government pays him a salary pegged to what a poly grad in the job market could earn. Yes, this costs the government a lot of money. However, it does not create a new loss. It merely transfers the loss from the individual to the state. This is the exact same loss that the NSF actually does suffer, by virtue of having to do NS, instead of work. Thus when we peg NSFs' salaries to market rates, we merely transfer the loss such that it is borne by the government (and all taxpayers) rather than by the particular individuals."

One problem with pegging NSFs' salaries to that of the market rate is that you'll have to raise the salaries of the regulars to entice them to sign on. If you start paying NSFs like you pay the regulars, very few people will consider signing on In order to recruit regulars, one must always provide additional financial incentives. Many people sign on because of their family's financial needs.

This is why I suggested paying a gratuity into the CPF account of NSman rather than a 'fair' wage. The incentives for regulars to sign on will remain but NSFs will be compensated more fairly.

The government can also make additional contributions to active NSmen. For example, if Mr. Wang is called up for ICT this year, the government will make an additional 5 percent contribution (on top of the 10 percent and 20 percent contributions by the employer and employee) to Mr. Wang's CPF account for the financial year.

Realistically speaking, no Singapore government will ever do any of the above for obvious reasons.

Why? Well, these payments will have to come from additional taxes and taxes are business-unfriendly.

ted said...

I think fox have to do better than just simply assert that to pay market rate to NSF would entail an increase in tax. It does not flow even though it sounds right on the surface.

At any rate, in an attempt to resolve the so call arguements against the better pay for NSFs, this is why I propose to substantially increase the NSF pay up til a maximum of, say, a maximum of 70 percent of a similarly ranked regular.

By way of this, it emcompasses the recognition of

1) Opportunity costs all male Singaporeans have to go through regardless of what they have already attain in terms of formal qualification.

2) That serving NS is still a form of obligation to the male Singaporean (here you can insert whatever nationalistic or airy fairy emotional appeals that you/one likes)

3) Paying more for NS should not be a problem for ALL OTHER denizens (non-male Singaporeans and foreigners) since part of the emotional appeals arguement for Male Singaporeans to sacrifice their lives for the so called national security of them, thus the obligation for the rest to finance the NSF's increment shoudl not be an issue.

Fox said...


I have nothing against raising taxes to pay NSF conscripts more fairly. The problem is that, if you know the current government well enough, it is not going to raise taxes just to relieve the tax burden (in the form of NS) of male Singaporeans, of whom I am one.

As for the necessity of raising taxes if there were to be fairer compensation for NS, let us first make a rough estimate of the cost of higher compensation (gratuities, wages or other benefits to be decided) just for conscripts.

As you know, about 36000 babies are born in Singapore every year, so that gives us 18000 conscripts. Suppose the state gives to each conscript an additional $1500 in compensation per month or $36000 over 24 months of NS.

This works out to be about 650 million SGD of additional defence spending just to pay our consripts better. Given that Singapore had a labour force of 2.3 million in 2005, you end up with roughly $280 of additional defence spending per annum per working person.

Someone has to pay for this additional spending if we decide on fairer compensation. Hence, higher taxes will be in order.

Now, I'm not against higher taxes. I'm just saying that higher compensation will entail it. Given the mindset of the current government, I won't be hopeful.

CWC said...

Someone mentioned that pegging the NSF pay to the market rate is infeasible as it would result in having to introduce higher regular pay to entice regulars.

The root of the problem here, is the under-utilisation of NSFs. Effectively, underemployment. By pegging NSF pay to a market rate, the expectation for the NSF must to be hold jobs/tasks that entail greater responsibility.

Sadly, most NSFs only do saikang. Doing saikang and getting market rate pay is not economical.

Can these NSFs not do saikang, but hold important (or at least meaningful) responsibilities consummerate with market rate pay?

No. Simply because we do not have so many positions of responsibility to fill. Most of the NSFs will join the large pool of "men" who do not have to think much, just follow what your superior orders.

How should we rectify this then? I say shortening NSF time for non-appointment holders further will make sense. Just like below LCP serve shorter terms, why not make other ranks server terms as accordance to their appointment level, and pay those who do hold responsibilities market rate to justify their longer commitment?

Will this shrink our NSF pool size? Yes. But we don't really need so many NSFs to pack National Day goodies bags, do we?

As for Mr Wang's proposition on what would make me want to serve NS, I would say his suggestion of financial aid for higher education is very tempting. In fact, if it was the policy, I would have taken it; seeing the fact that my parents have to scrimp and save to help with the finances during my uni years, while all around me, FTs study for free. And no, not FTs are Ts, but they get the scholarships all the same.

Anonymous said...

If Mr. Wang does publish this (and not drop replies out sometimes like the ST Forum)...

I was the one posted the comments which another anon remarked that i'm really dumb...

Guess I am at fault here as I had been replying in response to all the previous comments beforehand and not just at Mr. Wang's original post - hence the divergence of topic...

So, with regards to issues regarding military strategy and need for a large mobilized army, we can take this up in another occasion and focus on what is now the key issue of the article... incentivising NS so much so as to make up for the difference in treatment against FTs...

To that, I do not have the answers but i have questions...

1. To bring it to level in which NS is on par with the benefit received by FTs of having to skip doing NS and yet whom 'benefit' from the opportunities afforded by being in Singapore... How can this be balanced? How does one measure benefit? How does one measure the compensation to even this benefit? Do you take the 'benefits accrued' by a 'cheap IT worker' OR a FT Lawyer / Banker / Doctor? What about variables such as length of stay in Singapore, originating country, etc?...

So, my question to those (including Mr Wang) who want to 'even out' this 'disparity' between poor old Singaporean men who have to do NS and darn FTs who get to skip NS and benefit from being in Singapore, at what level would Singaporean men be satisfied that NS is not disadvantageous? Or... what the heck, let's not care about balancing 'benefit' and 'compensation', let's just make it plain advantageous to be a Singaporean and do NS!? Should that be case? Would there be any side-effects if this is so? Hmmm...

2. If we set a benchmark for 'fairness', would it stop at just 'increase pay such that it be equivalent to a poly workers' pay'? OR gravitate towards the pay of a professional soldier? If so, would that not mean that we will end up with a large professionally-paid but conscript army? If so, how much would that cost? How much taxes would need to be raised to pay for this? If the assumption is not to raise taxes, should we then cease buying all those expensive military toys and hardware (just equip all our soldiers with the good old M-16 each)?

A side agrument I would add is this - for those who are saying that NS should compensate fairly... then surely you would have no issue in agreeing that govt ministers / high-ranking civil servants should also be compensated high salaries comparable to the private sector too?

I conclude my rambling with this... I would be wary of the person who cries about the 'lack of fairness'... from the times of Lenin and Mao, this has always been a seductive war-cry... Please note that life is not inherently fair to begin with. Compete with the FTs on your own merit as opposed to waiting for the NS system to change to one's benefit.

ted said...

Hoho, only 650 million bucks more per year?

What's that compared to protecting the golden goose that lays a S$123.4 Billion GDP a year?


The last anon: Quid quo Pro, they want to take they should give some too.

sporescores said...

Mr Wang, I applaud you for brainstorming the incentives to make NS attractive. However, they are simply going to cost too much. Furthermore, if you give me a choice, I would rather lose out on the incentives and use the 2 years to gain actual working experience to advance my career, especially if the proposed NS pay is only going to be market rate for poly grads for the 2 years.

The more important issue is how NS is conducted. We can look at two areas: first, the nature of the work and second, the leadership and HR management.

In terms of the work nature, I believe that while the content can't be changed because you definitely need soldiers to carry out menial tasks in war and some regimental rituals are necessary (though we should focus more on the discipline aspect and less on doing it for the sake of putting up a show), the SAF should make the processes more efficient so that NS is more productive and we might even be able to reduce the manpower needed and therefore length of NS further.

In terms of leadership and HR management, the SAF should make the improvement of this area the top priority. How many of the leaders are those that the soldiers can truly respect and look up to? How many of the leaders practise what they preach and lead by example? How many of the leaders demonstrate care for their men? How many of the leaders really seek to motivate (beyond a pep talk session) instead of taking the shortcut of using the stick approach? How many of the leaders demonstrate proficiency and knowledge and are therefore able to guide and mentor their men beyond simply delegating the responsibilities totally? How many of the leaders treat their men as soldiers instead of servant boys required to perform personal errands for them sometimes? And how many of the leaders do all of the above? And how many of the leaders treat their men as slaves just because they are bound by law to serve the NS and therefore take them for granted? The SAF itself should look at how it sees National SERVICE, whether it sees the Singaporeans as doing this country a SERVICE, or whether the Singaporeans are simply SERVANTS to the country.

I believe that besides the opportunity cost of NS, a key issue for Singaporean men is improving the SAF's culture, which Singaporeans serving NS have no choice but to experience.

sporescores said...

Latest anon,
you said: "Please note that life is not inherently fair to begin with."

We don't need people like you stating the obvious. What is more constructive is how to improve the fairness.

chrischoo said...

Some GLCs already offer 2 pay increments automatically for males who have served NS. PSA is one such company.

Also, NS liability for all servicemen was recently reduced from 2.5 years to 2 years across the board (circa 2004?). There is no longer this inequality based on the educational level attained by NSFs.

Finally, Mindef recently increased the allowance for NSFs (circa 2002?). 2LT and LTAs are paid close to $1,000 while CPLs are paid around $500-$600.

Essentially, some of the ideas offered here are already in place. It's just that we think that overall the package is still insufficient to compensate male Singaporeans for the time they've spent.

Could this be a case where Mindef is just too slow for our comfort when it comes to increasing the incentives for NSmen? It's clear to me that they know what's going on and they have an inkling of what people expect them to do. Perhaps it's just a fear of the unknown, or a fear of increasing the incentives too quickly that the rest of the NSmen who've ORDed will cry foul?

However, I remain uncomfortable with the additional benefits the government is dishing out to foreigners. It seems that these people are getting goodies at a faster rate relative to the increase in compensation benefits for NSmen.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

You asked "Imagine that NS is voluntary, and full-time NS is 2 years. What would make you opt to do NS?"

My answer: "A love for the country."

However, how can Singaporeans ever love this country when they are always afraid of the government? Except for this short time since after GE 2006, very few people dared speak out against any PAP policy?

People still say, "better not vote opposition, government can track who you voted for by serial number" People see the bankrupcy of opposition members.

How can Singaporeans love the country when they don't feel a sense of belonging? When they feel that the sons of the privillage get special treatment in the Army?

All the incentives that you propose will only work if the fundamental issue of belonging are addressed.

Anonymous said...

They might say

"Now we have a few people like Mr Wang who want to twerk the NS system. If we have 10X, 20X or 30X more NSF who demand better compensation, I would have to spend all my time thinking what is the right way to FIX them and to buy the rest's "votes", how can I deal with challenges of terrorism then?"


lee hsien tau said...

The situation is now very much worse. Election is just over. The garhmen even dare to come clean.

The academics were right when they said the majority of jobs created went to foreigners. Just dig up last Friday's newspaper (7 Sep 2006) front page, LKY's address to NTUC. The data provided by MOM says it all.

CPF already disadvantages locals. Now NS will really put locals behind. We run empty handed while protecting foreigners' ricebowl.

And you remember what K said. Because of the Bumi policy, it doesn't justify struggling against other non-Bumis for their small pie.

But then the idiots over the causeway is bending over backwards inviting us to steal their lunch.

Anonymous said...

Someone earlier said that at least in the civil service, you're given two increments for serving NS and that your NS and ongoing reservist experience counts in your staff evaluation and promotions.

The 1st part is correct. The 2nd part is pure bull****. I am a reservist officer but my colleague in the department, who started as a PR, didn't do NS and have no reservist obligations, got a much faster promotion and was seconded to the Admin service. Performance-wise, I honestly say we are about equal. And the irony was my colleague's promotion was at the largesse of the head of department who was an ex-BG.

Okay, I accept this is just anecdotal and a sour grapes entry. But my point is even in the civil service, locally-born Singaporeans who have served NS and doing ICT have no career advantages whatsoever against FTs who join the public service.

Anonymous said...

Someone should start a blog on just this one topic alone. I think it's important enough and there are sufficient numbers of interested people in this topic to keep it going.

We can have views of soon-to-enlists, current NSF, and reservists (is it called NSMen now or something like that?)

Perhaps a brave political entity would take it up as part of their manifesto - to change this embarrasing and painful Singaporean anachronism?

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Mr. Wang,
This topic of NS is so impt that I will be rechanneling eyeballs to your post from my blog.
Could I suggest that the comments ( with suitable editing) be collated and forwarded to Mindef for their consideration. It is a long shot but maybe something good will come of this exercise?

Mr Wang Says So said...

I think that an "overall package" approach is important. We all recognise that the current situation is inequitable; the government should move towards correcting that. Exact mechanics can be worked out along the way; policy changes need not also happen all at that same time.

Some say, for example, that pegging NSFs to fresh poly grads' pay is too high. Well, it's a peg. Ministers salaries are pegged to 2/3 of the top-earning individuals in the private sector. NSFs salaries can be pegged to, say, 3/4 or 2/3 or some other proportion (x%) of fresh poly grads' pay. Bear in mind also that poly grads' pay will also vary according to what course they studied. Key idea is that we adjust NSFs pay to reflect at least partially the idea that NSFs are suffering loss - financial loss of the actual money they would be earning if not for NS - and that the state should bear some of those losses.

A defence tax on PRs seems quite sensible to me, as well. Note that Singapore's income tax rates are already much lower compared to most other countries. If you bump it up by 0.5% and 1% with a "defence & security" tax on those FTs, they will still think that Singapore's tax is a great discount from what tax was, in their original home countries. The 0.5% or 1% tax would comfortably cover, I think, the increases in NSFs salaries.

I also think that if SAF pays higher salaries for NSFs, it will utilise them more efficiently. The SAF would work towards streamlining its training processes & syllabi, and I can even foresee a system where NSFs in certain SAF units could be discharged early (leading to overall reduction in NSF salary expenditure).

Two years' service is standard for all NSFs, but it is hardly believable that all types of SAF units need the same period of time - 2 years - to train NSFs for all the different vocations etc. It has already been pointed that Taiwan's service period is 18 months and they are trying to move it down to 12 months; Switzerland's NS is just 18 weeks for the lowest-ranking soldiers (I imagine that they do a BMT and then they get out). So I can imagine a system where certain SAF units can streamline their training and release their NSFs early (eg by 20 months or 15 months, instead of the current 24 months).

Finally (for now), I subscribe to the school of humanistic psychology, and personally I had an NS experience which overall I enjoyed very much. This leads me to the idea that either at the pre-enlistment stage or in the early phase of NS, NSFs should be allowed to rank their preferred choice of vocation in the SAF - so that there is a higher chance that they get a vocation they like, or a vocation that they hate less. Obviously this is heavily subject to operational requirements - hardly anyone, I imagine, would elect for certain types of gruelling yet unglamourous vocations, yet those vocations need to be filled. But I imagine that out of 18,000 recruits a year, if even one 1/9 of them (or 2,000) could be channelled to their preferred vocations, then that is a significant achievement; the SAF may benefit from better performance, and overall NSFs will be happpier.

To give you an example, most combat-fit NSFs (say, 95%) would hate to go to Hendon Camp, Commmandos unit or Navy Diving Unit; yet a tiny minority (say, 5%) of NSFs would love the chance - these are the adventurous, rugged types. In the current system, no one gets to choose; after the medical classification, it all seems like a rather random process. Why not attempt to match individual preferences to system needs?

I had a friend who was Pes C - severe myopia with the risk of retinal detachment - a former President's Scout and track & field star, he would have become a clerk in NS. Instead he and his parents wrote appeal letters to MINDEF and to their MP and fought a tremendous bureaucratic battle before he was eventually allowed to go to OCS. He ended up winning the OCS Sword of Honour and I think overall he found his NS experience vey fulfilling.

Obviously these people are a minority, but as I said, if even 2,000 out of 18,000 NSFs get to go where they want to go, this is a significant achievement and on an overall basis will probably significantly cut down Singaporeans' dissatisfaction with NS.

nofearSingapore said...

I'll make it short&sharp:
1.Keep compulsory Initial Fulltime NS to 4-6 months ( enough for BMT & short vocational training). This will allow all to finish with NS before starting Uni.The balance of the NSFulltime liability can be either fulfilled immediately following this or during long Uni vacation ( for undergrads). This flexible arrangement is just a matter of logistics ( which our powderful computers and scholars should be adept at).

2. Those selected or volunteered for OfficerCadetSch would probably require longer initial NS, say 9-12 months. Officers and Sr. non-commissioned officers's allowance should be commensurate with this extra sacrifice of time/commitment.

3. More controversially, Local Uni's should provide some subsidy ( or discount) for officers to reflect appreciation of service to the nation.
Just my 2-cents,

Anonymous said...

Mr. wang,
your PES C friend who was allowed to go OCS upon his parents' appeal, is a selfish fella!

His severe myopia means he cannot see well enough (from a military operation pt of view) at night.

Therefore, either he will be allowed to lead men in combat at night thereby endangering his entire platoon, or else he will not be allowed in combat dispite the OCS training thereby wasting resources and tax-payer's money to train him.

Either way, he and his family's action is not a commendable one. It is nothing short of pure selfishness - endangering fellow soliders or wasting countries resource. period.

Anonymous said...

Myopia is not nyctalopia (night blindness), and in any case, those who know the SAF medical classification system, know how arbitrary the system is.

Some years there are more recruits and some years there are fewer. If you have a certain medical condition, how you are classified (Pes) is not merely a reflection of the severity of your condition, but also a reflection of how much the SAF needs new people in any given year.

Long ago, it used to be that Commandos, for example, only accepted people with 6/6 vision .... I hear that this has changed. Did the operational requirements alter such that Commandos have less need of good vision nowadays? No, of course not. It has more to do with the fact that Singapore has the world's highest rates of myopia and people with 6/6 vision are just getting scarcer and scarcer these days. :)

Anonymous said...

Hahaha ... Boy, I wish I had a serious medical condition. I could excuse myself from combat duties. At the same time I can also pat myself on the back for being noble and unselfish. (A) for not consuming MINDEF's resources in training me to be a combat soldier, and (B) for not endangering my fellow soldiers' lives.

Hahaha, cannot stop smiling about this.

John Riemann Soong said...

to the anon who replied to my last post:

It's hardly a small percentage. The US Armed Forces is several million strong, perhaps double that logistically, which is a sizeable chunk of their population.

Singapore's reserve forces (900,000) isn't far off in percentage, considering the total population of 4.3 million.

It's hardly a small percentage again - some anti-war people are horrified at the idea of military recruiters being allowed to recruit in schools, because they see the military establishment as seducers of young men into their deaths, under the guise of financial aid.

Anonymous said...

To the anon who "cant help smiling" at his wish to have a serious medical condition:

High myopia for eg is a relatively serious medical condition that has a very high risk of retinal detachment and can lead to blindness.

Your parents, spouse and children will all "cant help crying" for you, if you can somehow choose whether to have such serious medical condition or to serve NS in combat post, and you chose the fomer!

So dont try to be sarcastic abt pple with serious medical condition. It's not funny. It's lame!

Anonymous said...

john, USA's military is a small percentage of its population because it is voluntary and the majority of the population is not in the military!!!!!

Singapore's is a large percentage of the population because it is compulsory for every male.

Now, what is so difficult for you to understand this commonsense?

Do we have to resort to raw figures before you can see the difference -- (a) small % who (b) join voluntarily and (c) paid commensurate salary, versus (a) hugh % who are (b) forced into (c) cheap labour?

People talk apple, you want to talk orange. Sigh

Anonymous said...

john, US has several hundred million people. "several millions" (according to you) in the military, is a small percentage. Single digit, in fact, if you know your mathematics.

All Singapore's male have to serve NS. That's 50% of all adults. Can you tell the diff?

Anonymous said...

John, why are u telling us abt USA military recruiter "seducing" people in campus.

That there is "seduction" means it is voluntary. That's like ORANGE.

We are talking about compulsory military service in Singapore. That's like APPLE.

Why are you using your ORANGE to support our APPLE?

Any semblance between the two?

Anonymous said...

someone said that the medical classification system is arbitrary and cited commandos' requirement as an eg.

The eg simply show that we have *compromised* our medical requirements from 6/6 vision to non-6/6, because, as the writer correctly, pointed out, we have no chioce: more singaporeans do not having 6/6 vision, AND we need enough commandos. So, boh pian lor. no fish, prawn also good!

Now, in the OCS case of Mr. Wang's friend, SAF could have avoided compromising its medical requirements:

High myopia (esp when coupled with astimagtism) = cannot see as well at night (eg. spotting enemies in dark forest, aiming and shooting at said enemy etc) compared to non-high myopia. That's a medical fact. Wat is there to argue abt?

It's a matter of how much we want to compromise, and if we can afford not to compromise (i.e. we have enough low myopia pple to go OCS such that a high myopia person can be classified pes C), why compromise and endanger troops in the jungle, just because of some "fool"'s need for self-gratification? :)

Anonymous said...

Today, we put Mr. Wang's high myopia friend through OCS at the request of some MP, even though he is initially PES C.

Tomorrow, when this high myopia fellow has his spectacles shattered or his contact lens popped out due to dryness, as is probable during war condition, and cannot see anything beyond X metres without vision corrections (nevermind daytime or nighttime, but bearing in mind that vision requirement in combat is much higher than, say, driving in peacetime), and therefore give wrong commands to his men in the jungle, resulting in the eradication of his entire platoon (or worse, company) at the enemies hand...

tell me, who is responsible for telling the entire platoon's grieving fathers and mothers that the demise of their sons is due to the SAF giving in to the demands of a "selfish" young man?

In fact, this is a clear cut eg of a govt body bending its rule to accomdate the “rich and powerful" -- in this case, someone who knows a member of parliament who is willing to lobby his agenda!

Govt agency should not give in to those in the "insider's track". Isn't that what we have always been saying, when it comes to scholarships, to civil servants appts etc?

Mr. Wang's friend's case is a negative eg, not a postive one, in my opinion :)

Anonymous said...

if you have the flu and decided to go to work, against the policy of your company (who doesnt want other employees infected by you), are you a good example of a noble employee?

If you further try to lobby everybody, from boss to doctors, to make an exception for you with regard to this company's policy, does that makes you even more noble?

This is the same analogy when it comes to Mr. Wang's Pes C friend who insist on going to OCS and lobbying "powerful forces" (MP) against SAF Medical Classification Centre.

concerned parent said...

> I had a friend who was Pes C - severe myopia with the risk of retinal detachment

I am no doctor, but isn't retinal detachment something that can occur with a hard blow to the eye area, especially when the retina is very thin and "weak" due to high myopia?

And isn't such hard blow very likely during a combat operation?

> fought a tremendous bureaucratic battle before he was eventually allowed to go to OCS. He ended up winning the OCS Sword of Honour and I think overall he found his NS experience vey fulfilling.

Unfortunately, it is not as fulfilling to me, a parent of a non-officer teenager, that my son is going to be led into battle by an officer who may very likely get retinal detachment upon a blow to his eye areas!

Why is SAF regarding the fulfillment of another person's son, more important than the life of my son (and the sons of 10+ other people)!

Mr Wang Says So said...

I don't feel compelled to defend this particular decision. I cite it merely as an example of the possibility giving individuals what they want, in NS.

But I do think that some of the comments about how this officer will endanger others' lives in a wartime situation are quite silly.

Say there was a real war. Do you think Singapore would be better off with one more man in combat, or one less? Myopia, eczema, asthma, mitral valve prolapse, hairline fracture of the shin, diabetes, partial deafness, whatever -

in an actual war situation, as long as the guy can hold a gun and shoot and run and fight, I think we are better off having one extra soldier, than one less.

That is the reality of war, my friends. In a battle of life and death, you cannot say, "Oh dear, if I jump too much, my retina/shoulder/toenail may be hurt. Please can I find a nice, safe, peaceful corner place to hide in?""

Mr Wang Says So said...

And of course, in case you did not know, most of those extremely fit and strong athletes from JC days - especially the rugby players - would be classified non-combat fit.

Now that you remind me, I actually had a classmate like that - everything was fine with him except that his arm would fall out of his shoulder socket every now and then, and he would have to shove it back into place by slamming himself into a wall. :)

He also elected (after the bureaucratic battle) for a combat vocation. In BMT, he did 7:30 min for SOC, for in his first-ever SOC. :)

Yes, in war, I want him by my side. Never mind about his shoulder socket.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, this is getting off-track, but I can't resist adding my 2 cents worth that in a real war, having a soldier that is medically-compromised to perform his role, is a liability and not an asset to Singapore!

A soldier assigned to perform a critical task, but has his shoulder dislocated at the most inconvenient moment, can easily cause the death of many of his fellow soldiers! The entire group may indeed be better off one man less! (or in a more realistic scenario, with sufficient manpower to go around, the group will be assigned someone whose shoulder has no such problem).

And we aren't even talking abt leadership situation as is the case with OCS.

I think that is the reality of war - one's own myopia, asthma, partial deafness etc is going to not just affect oneself, but could drag down the entire team! Isn't that what we learn in NS - our individual action will affect the entire team?

Anonymous said...

Aiyah, please lah, people. Why doesn't the SAF want some people (with medical conditions) to be in combat vocations? Is it really because they are soooooo scared that oooooh, the safety of other NSmen are going to be compromised during wartime?

No lah, stupid! The real reason is that the SAF is scared the NSF's medical condition will flare up or aggravate or make him sick during peacetime training ... and then the NSF's parents will sue the SAF, write to MP, complain to Minister, threaten to sue etc etc!

People like Mr Wang's friend are not that uncommon. I was in SAF CPC, saw a few such cases myself. They are very gung-ho, they want to do combat roles, ok ...! In the end, the main thing is that they have to sign a disclaimer to say that if they die or their retina drops out or their eardrum bursts or whatever else, then they will NOT hold the SAF responsible. Simple as that.

Endanger the lives of platoon mates? Waaaah, so scary. Donch worry lah, peacetime no need to worry. Aiyah, and if war really comes, quickly go and see the M.O lor! And say, "Sorry, har, please downgrade me because my retina gonna drop out!"

If the SAF is really concerned about your platoon mates' safety, then no problem what. Sure they downgrade you then! No problem!

Of course, if their real concern is that you DON'T sue them for your medical condition in peacetime training, then in wartime you screw yourself lah! Even Pes C, Pes E, all also go frontline if you have to, lah. NSmen, 45 years old, high blood pressure, wear spectacles, myopia, fat like pig, backache, whatever shit, also go frontline lah!

Anonymous said...

What makes you think I am so stupid to listen to my 'blind' OC when he commands me to charge into a clearing full of enemy soldiers?

He may be suffering from severe myopia but I am not. And I will question his orders.

Anonymous said...

history has shown us that in war times we dun need 1 more man, or 1 more soldier, or whatever. We could do with more language translators! if u know wat i mean, hehehe.. and emerge with great leaders!

John Riemann Soong said...

To the anon who replied to me: seduction without informed consent .... is arguably non-consensual.

After all, that is the argument for any rape case, no?

Anonymous said...

Approximately 1.4 million personnel are currently on active duty in the military with an additional 860,000 personnel in the seven reserve components (456,000 of which are in the Army and Air National Guard).[3] There is currently no conscription. Women are allowed to serve in non-combat positions, although due to the realities of war many of these positions see combat regularly.

2million of america's population of 297million is "Big" percentage. And definately nowhere near 800,000 of 4million from the figures you have given. I'm unsure if this is due to your failing educational system giving rise to your inability to compute and compare percentages, the numbers above show alot in itself. 'nuff said

Anonymous said...

Two years spent in ns is also not very good for a country that has its people so called "up to date" with new skills. More often than not, after graduating you would be forced to do NS. While not only suffering the lack of a decent pay as compared to what you could be getting outside, or the opportunity to further your studies, there is also a time lag between your completion of whatever level of education to whatever you choose to do next. Now, for alot of people in these 2 years many things can happen. Depending on the industry you're in standards can totally change, and you may find the skills you have obtained in the polytechnic out of date. Or if you were in a JC, whatever you have learnt to help you get those flying grades in your alevels after spending hours and hours of effort into practice and memorisation, all lost simply due to the inability to have any means of maintaining it. Continuing studies would mean that these would have to be relearnt or refreshed, which makes the whole NS thing counterproductive and also makes our crazed educational system even less useful. This is, a much greater loss as it can mean much more, than just the amount of compensation you could get in monetary forms from the government. Like it is often said... Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. The skills lost/ time instead of gaining work experience / furthering studies may have an extremely lasting effect on the potential NSF. After all, 2 years is no laughing matter, especially when you're right smack in the middle of an important period of your education.

Mahesh said...


I am an Indian, Singapore PR. I have worked in the Europe, Australia and now am making Singapore as my home.

I am surprised to see that people are 'angry' over NS !!!. Also, I am surprised at the high no. of Singaporeans that leave to Australia or Europe.
Probably, these Singaporeans do not 'know' what they have and are not 'thankful' for it.

Maslov's theory is impacting in full extent.

Ok, I think by working in the 1st,2nd and the 3rd world, I have 'earned' the right to say that LKY is probably the greatest genius man after the 2nd world war and Singapore had been lucky to have such a genius - who turned Singapore from 3rd world to 1st.

May be, people born and brought up here look at NS as unnecessary - but let me tell you folks - This is one of the reasons for the 'discipline' that is a part of the Singapore character.

Look at any metropolitan city in the world - New York, Johannesberg, London, New Delhi, Tokyo, Melbourne - the crime rates are so high - you can never be sure whether you will escape the crime.

Johannesberg has a consistent average of 15 murders a day !!!!

Delhi alone had 7000+ murder, violence and rape cases last year..........London, New York - the tally goes on and on....

This is something which Singaporeans take for granted and expect the same in other countries.

I met a gentleman in Australia who had migrated from Singapore - and whose son was deeply injured by hoodlums just because he reported an accident. The police also did not protect them properly because of 'race' factors.

I would rather suggest Indian Govt. ( whether they pay a heed or not ) - to have NS.

NS builds a guy's character and they evolve as 'men' rather than being 'docile', 'vulnerable' - "always have been under mother's protection" boys.

Please try to understand that you are lucky to have such a good system.

Ok, this is Internet age - you all have access to information. Compare the systems being followed by other governments - Please do not make unnecessary assumptions.

The Singapore government is doing a very good job (probably the best, comparing with contemporaries). Please do not underrate their achievement by making irrational comments; for logic's sake.

I believe that if we have NS system in India - then the crime problem would be solved to a large extent.

This is a model that has proved itself and should not be challenged.

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