24 March 2006

Possible New Ways For Parliament to Operate

Today the media has an article about the necessity (or otherwise) of having opposition MPs in Parliament. Since it's the Straits Times after all, you can probably guess the conclusion of the article, even without reading it.

ST March 24, 2006
Are opposition MPs a must-have?
By Lydia Lim
Senior Political Correspondent

I HAVE never been this excited over an electoral boundaries report.

While I have covered two previous polls in 1997 and 2001 as a journalist, I have yet to vote in a general election.

But three weeks ago, I discovered to my surprise that Serangoon Gardens, where I live and which used to be part of Marine Parade GRC, is now part of Aljunied GRC.

This means I get to vote!

Or rather, I will if there are no last-minute changes in the opposition's strategy and the Workers' Party (WP) goes ahead as planned to field its A team in Aljunied.

This team is likely to be led by WP chairman Sylvia Lim and will come up against a five-member People's Action Party (PAP) team led by Foreign Minister George Yeo.

My euphoria over the chance to cast my first ballot was, however, short-lived.

The one who brought me down to earth was a fellow long-time Serangoon Gardens resident who showed no interest at all in an outing to the polling station and asked me: 'Why do you want to vote? Anyway, you're going to vote PAP right?'

Kekeke. Who knows, maybe Lydia's neighbour also added, "I mean, you ARE a senior political correspondent for the Straits Times, after all. How else would you possibly vote?"

Anyway, Mr Wang will skip most of the article because as he had said earlier, it's rather predictable. The general drift is, "If voters think like THIS, they're stupid. If voters think like THAT, they're stupid. Any intelligent voter knows that the PAP is the right choice."

Go read the actual article for yourself, if you want to know whether Mr Wang has given a fair summary.

The part of the article that got Mr Wang thinking was this:

This is the issue now before voters in the two opposition wards of Potong Pasir and Hougang.

With Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong now tasked by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to win back these two wards, there is a good chance constituents will be offered carrots to return to the PAP fold.

What if most of them bite and both Mr Low and Mr Chiam lose their seats?

What if no other opposition candidate manages to win a majority in the upcoming polls?

How will it hurt Singapore, if at all?

Mr Wang shall not answer Lydia's hurtful question. However, Mr Wang IS interested in the idea of how Parliament could or should operate, if indeed the PAP won all seats.

Mr Wang means that seriously. The traditional Parliamentary model - with all its rules about who gets to speak, who gets to ask questions, who has to answer etc - is all built on the assumption that there are two or more political parties sitting in Parliament. If that basic assumption is false, why should Parliament continue to operate the way it does at all?

If the PAP wins all seats, Mr Wang thinks that Parliament could just close down. Debates are not necessary. The PAP could just hold ad-hoc meetings here and there, in the meeting rooms of government ministries, for ministers to meet MPs and discuss matters, at any time throughout the year. They could talk over things over a nice cup of coffee, have some cakes etc.

These wouldn't even need to be big meetings. For example, if the Health Minister wanted some views on health issues, he could just invite those MPs who are doctors. If the Finance Minister wanted some views on the economy, he could just invite those MPs who are businessmen or entrepreneurs or economists. And so on.

Maybe if the PM had a big issue every now and then, he could write a long paper, send it to all MPs by email, and they can respond by email, when they're free. After that, he can make up his mind, and send out an email and say, "Ok, guys, this is what I decided ... A, B, C etc."

Alternatively, maybe they could host Parliamentary sessions on a blog or a Internet forum, and MPs could just login and post views if they felt like it. It's more convenient. Imagine the alternative, ugh. You actually have to physically drive down to Parliament and appear in Parliament House and stand up to speak and then the Speaker says, "Oh, I allow you only five minutes to air your views, so be quick."

Voting is largely irrelevant. After all, in our Parliamentary model, if the party whip is not lifted (and historically, it almost never is), all MPs must vote along the same party lines. In other words, no PAP MP is allowed to say "No", if the others want to say "Yes". So the voting result is already known, for the next five years. The voting result will always be 84 to zero.

One solution would be for 43 PAP MPs to make PM Lee Hsien Loong their permanent voting proxy, in every Parliamentary matter where the party whip is not lifted. So only PM Lee needs to vote. He votes "Yes" or he votes "No", and that's the end of the matter. His vote represents 43 MPs. The other 41 MPs need not bother. They are the minority anyway.

Maybe for ceremonial purposes, the MPs could retain the voting system. But for efficiency, they could do it electronically, using SingPass. The electronic system can automatically lock out when it has received the first 43 votes from the first 43 MPs, since that constitutes a majority already. The other 41 MPs are irrelevant.

Hurray for Singapore! The world's most innovative Parliament.

22 March 2006

Faceless Bloggers vs Mainstream Media .... Again

In the on-&-off-&-on-again debate about bloggers vs mainstream media, Mr Wang always finds people like Mr Brown and Miyagi such interesting curiosities. Each is a prominent blogger, yet each is also a newspaper columnist, so what are the implications? If a newspaper makes rude remarks about bloggers as a class, does it not also insult its very own newspaper writers?

Anyway, here is Mr Miyagi's latest column in TODAY:

The 'faceless' up in arms
Bloggers riled about assertions that they are ignorant and lack creativity

Wednesday • March 22, 2006

OVER the weekend, some local newspapers took to highlighting blogs and the elections.

The Weekend Today ran a front page story about bloggers and whether "they know the rules" regarding the elections — complete with a cover photograph depicting bloggers as faceless people with paper bags over their heads.
The MSM's favourite attack on bloggers' credibility is to point to the bloggers' supposed anonymity. Anonymity, the MSM would have you believe, necessarily leads to irresponsibility, and irresponsibility means that bloggers shouldn't be trusted. A tiresome, flawed point, but let me offer you a new angle for looking at it.

The world has so many blogs that the vast majority of them must necessarily be obscure. Most will attract only a small audience, if they have an audience at all. In other words, whether the blogger goes by his real name - eg Tan Ah Beng - or by some funny moniker - eg Mugster - it really doesn't matter. No one cares anyway. Except maybe Ah Beng or Mugster himself.

What about the famous bloggers? The local MSM loves to harp on the anonymity issue, but it's a red herring if you ask me. The true identities of Singapore's prominent bloggers are hardly ever a secret anyway. Take for example the Big Three of the Singapore blogosphere - Mr Brown, Mr Miyagi and Xiaxue.

Each of them states their real names on their blogs. Mr Brown is Lee Kin Mun. Mr Miyagi is Benjamin Lee. Xiaxue is Wendy Cheng. Errr, so what? Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi are much more interesting than Kin Mun & Benjamin. "Xiaxue" definitely has more advertising and marketing value than "Wendy".

Think also about Agagooga, Yawning Bread, Legal Janitor, Cowboy Caleb, Popagandhi and Mr Wang, to name a few. Some of us mention our real names on our blogs, and some of us don't (others, like Mr Wang, get their real names mentioned on their blogs by their fan club members). The truth is that Singapore is such a small place that if you're really a prominent blogger, it's quite easy for people to put two and two together and find out who you really are. Cowboy Caleb apparently keeps his true identity a secret. But he also organises big parties and invites 100 bloggers for drinks. How secret do you think his identity is?

Interestingly, the MSM has interviewed (and sought to interview) Mr Wang on several occasions. In most of these dealings, Mr Wang has been quite open about his real name (It's a bit awkward to do a telephone interview and have the person keep addressing you as "Mr Wang Says So"). In other words, even the Straits Times itself knows who Mr Wang is. A few of these ST journalists have also been highly amused by Mr Wang's blog articles about their other colleagues.

Some time ago, the Institute of Policy Studies even invited Mr Wang to attend a meeting about blogging. The Singapore government wished, through IPS, to gain feedback from prominent bloggers so that it could understand this blogging phenomenon a bit better. Now, how can any blogger attend this meeting and still really keep his identity a secret from the government? That's a bit farfetched. (Oh and if you do not believe that this meeting was held, please ask Yawning Bread, Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi, who attended).

So I don't think it's fair at all for the MSM to keep harping on the point that bloggers are anonymous. They're not - at least, the prominent ones usually are not. Even if they do not use their real names on their blogs, it's relatively easy to find out. One common way is to ask them.

The rest of the article doesn't interest me much, but I reproduce it below for the sake of completeness.
And The Straits Times declared last week that only 1 per cent of the population found blogs "credible", as opposed to 60 per cent who found newspapers credible.

As you can imagine, this riled some bloggers. Blogger "Jeff Yen" (jeffyen.blogspot.com) pounced on this report, even suggesting his own headline.

"Even the survey commissioned by the newspaper found that 40 per cent of respondents don't find newspapers to be credible … I mean, wow! The title of this article shouldn't be about bloggers; it should really be: 'Almost Half Of This Newspaper's Readers Don't Find It Credible!'," he writes.

The blog "Brand New Malaysia" (brandmalaysia.com) commiserated with its Singaporean counterparts, disagreeing with the finding that people didn't find blogs credible.

"In my trips to the city-state, I see people reading blogs in shopping complexes, on mobile phones and over food and drinks. As I pass people in offices, I see them taking 'short-breaks' by surfing popular blogs — both for entertainment and news.

"I know a whole set of people — professionals and highly-placed corporate citizens — who sneer at the newspapers, and instead rely on news source from BBC and other online news organisations," writes its author, Mack Zuklifi.

He adds: "I know propaganda when I see it. Stay strong, Singapore bloggers. We know the truth of the matter."

The Void Deck (www.thevoiddeck.org) comments: "The Today report also makes it seem that bloggers are out of sync with the legalities going on … 'welcome to the real world, bloggers' is a cold-water rude wake-up call for us to accept that we'd better shut up and fade away."

Seksi Matashutyrmouf (sieteocho7-8.blogspot.com) says of traditional media: "They do not understand that the internet is like a city full of snipers, or an ant's nest. They used to have it their way. They used to be the police state, and used to watch our every move. Now the tables are turned … It is our turn to be Big Brother now.

He adds: "We will continue to ask questions, disseminate ideas, raise issues. We will still be able to influence public opinion, and at the end of the day that is the only thing that matters."

But to whether or not bloggers will actually get to do that, the Parliamentary Elections Act notwithstanding, this is something the pundits will be looking forward to observing come election time.

As Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma (commentarysingapore. blogspot.com) puts it, it isn't a matter of how bloggers talk about the elections — it may be a case of whether bloggers bother to do it in the first place.

"It would surprise many of my regular readers, but frankly I am not particularly interested in the upcoming elections. As far as I'm concerned, it will be an event with lots of excitement and fanfare, but even before the dust settles we all know who will win and does it really make any difference whether they have 77, 79 or 81 seats in Parliament?" he wrote in response to an email from a newspaper journalist.

Louise Veronica Ciccone.
Sometimes known as Madonna.

21 March 2006

"Of Course You Can't Vote. You're Not The Right Kind of Singaporean."

This ST Forum letter contains a rather major typo:
March 21, 2006
Physical distance should not decide right to vote

DURING his walkabout in Serangoon Gardens on Saturday, Foreign Minister George Yeo was asked about ongoing plans to let Singaporeans who are overseas vote.

He was quoted as saying that 'we must make sure that those who vote are ... familiar with the conditions in Singapore and do not, from a long distance, having lost track with what's happening here, affect the political process' as voting is 'a very serious business'. I cannot agree more.
She actually meant to say - "I cannot disagree more", as the rest of her letter shows. Funny, the things that ST sub-editors miss. Anyway, here's the rest of the letter:
According to a recent Straits Times survey, there are Singaporeans living in Singapore who have no idea which constituency they are in and who their MPs are. Are these Singaporeans any more in touch with what is happening in the country than a Singaporean living overseas, who keeps track of developments in Singapore via the Internet and other sources?

I think it is time we move away from the idea that physical distance from Singapore affects whether a Singaporean is in touch with the country or not, especially when Singapore is so wired.

Any Singaporean overseas who needs information about Singapore need only walk that short distance to the computer. Keeping in touch depends on a Singaporean's will, not his/her whereabouts.

Agnes Sng Hwee Lee (Ms)
Bucharest, Romania
Well, Agnes has made her point very clear, and Mr Wang would just like to add a little to that. The very idea that George Yeo is operating on is pretty scary. His idea is that some citizens should be allowed to vote, and some citizens should not.

Right now, in democracies around the world, the status of citizenship automatically confers the right to vote, with only one major qualification - you need to be an adult (21 years being the usual official age). One hundred years ago, another major qualification was very common - you need to be male - but that's fallen away; for it's now generally accepted that women are also worthy members of the human race.

But our BG George Yeo seems to be entertaining the idea of a new kind of qualification - you need to be familiar with the conditions in Singapore and you must not have lost track of what's happening here. The ramifications are awesome. Exercise your imagination a little - what is the meaning of "you need to be familiar with the conditions in Singapore"?

Will we see a day when lowly-educated Singaporeans are not allowed to vote, on the basis that they don't really understand what's happening in Singapore? Will there come a time when long-time residents in old folks homes are not allowed to vote, on the basis that they don't really get to see the conditions in the rest of Singapore? Can we imagine a day when any Singaporean who doesn't quite fit into mainstream society (because he's gay, a Jehovah's Witness, a Sayed Baba believer, an ex-convict, an activist, a conscientious objector, a political filmmaker, a Falungong practitioner or a political dissident) is also barred from voting?

Yeah, I'm daydreaming a little. Wandering into the realm of fiction. Just like Orwell, when he wrote his novel 1984. Still, it's interesting ... and scary ...

A Canadian citizen in prison exercising his right to vote,
in the 2004 Canadian federal elections.

19 March 2006

Singapore, Thailand, Thaksin and the Lees

As this Reuters article shows, the situation seems to be getting worse and worse:
Thai protesters burn images of Singapore PM
Fri Mar 17, 2006 4:07 AM ET

By Pracha Hararaspitak

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Protesters burned posters of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outside the city state's Bangkok embassy on Friday as a campaign to oust his Thai counterpart, Thaksin Shinawatra, took a nationalist twist.

Waving placards saying "Thailand Not for Sale, Get Out", several hundred protesters urged a boycott of all things Singaporean in answer to the takeover of telecoms giant Shin Corp by its state investment arm, Temasek, from Thaksin's family.

"If Singaporeans faced the same situation as we do now, we believe Singaporeans would also rise up to do what we are doing," said Somsak Kosaisuk, a key member of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is trying to kick Thaksin from office.

They also torched models of Singapore Airlines planes, its "merlion" national mascot and pictures of Lee's wife, Ho Ching, the Temasek boss.

The political crisis has already caused the Thai stock market and baht to wobble and is now raising long-term economic concerns, with ratings agencies looking at growth forecasts and companies delaying public flotations or investment projects.

The anti-Singapore sentiment, which stems from outrage at Thaksin's family paying no tax in January's $1.9 billion Shin Corp deal, now appears to be hurting business.

According to Chainid Ngow-Sirimanee, head of builder Property Perfect PCL, Singapore firms have delayed decisions on potential Thai property investments worth $256 million.

DBS Group Holdings, which had been thought keen on raising its stake in Thailand's TMB Bank PCL, had yet to make up its mind on whether to go ahead, a spokesman said. Analysts attributed the delay to politics.
Initially, my sympathies were with Thaksin, who seemed to me to be in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of situation. That is, if Thaksin had hung onto Shin Corp, his opponents would have attacked him for doing that; but if he had sold off Shin Corp (as he's now done), his opponents would also have attacked him just as much anyway.

But I've never really followed Thailand's politics and business matters with that much attention, and there are probably other relevant aspects that I'm not aware of. My view about Thaksin's current problem is probably not a particularly informed one.

On the Singapore end, and yes I'm aware that I'm speaking with the benefit of 6/6 hindsight, I suppose we should have handled things differently. The Singapore government's initial response had simply been to say that "Oh, it was a pure business deal - what Temasek does has nothing to do with me." That's pretty lame; I think it probably irritated a large number of Thai people.

Yes, we know that in terms of legal structure, Temasek is separate and distinct from the Singapore government. But we're not talking legal structure - we're talking practical reality here. We know who runs Temasek, and who runs the Singapore government, so how can you REALLY say that there's no connection?

"Honey, I can't sleep. Can we talk about
the Shin Corp deal now?"

18 March 2006

Bear Arrested in Singapore

I found this on Bobafett81's blog, via Tomorrow. The bear was campaigning for ethical treatment of animals. It was questioned by Singapore police officers, and then arrested and escorted into a police van and taken away.

God save the bears, indeed. Especially the nice, kindly ones with a sense of humour, which are just trying to speak up to make the world a slightly better place for all animals.

Possible criminal charges faced by the bear - being a nuisance in a public place; providing public entertainment without a licence; and attempted criminal intimidation of the President (the bear was standing outside the gates of the Istana; the President was nowhere around, but hey this is Singapore, so the charge might work anyway).

16 March 2006

Sigh. Reading This Forum Letter Gives Me A Headache

March 16, 2006
Thank goodness, S'pore isn't South Africa

SHE was the embodiment of passion, of music, of poetry, of charm, of grace and of life itself. She, Miriam Makeba, gave a splendid performance on Tuesday night. Her songs were lilting, full of vigour and enthusiasm. But it was what she said that prompted me to write.

She spoke to us of apartheid in South Africa, of freedom, of oppression. She thanked the children who protested with placards and the women who raised their voices for the freedom which her people today enjoy. She thanked her leaders for their work and for teaching her people forgiveness. She spoke of the difficulty of developing her nation after obtaining freedom.

We, the citizens of Singapore, can be grateful that we have not had to struggle with racial and religious issues and oppression. We live as one nation, one people, in peace and harmony. We feel no constraints and inhibitions at attending each other's religious and cultural events.

In any one week, I could find myself singing a hymn in church, attending a Hindu wedding in a temple, sitting on the floor and saying prayers at an Islamic home and participating in the tea ceremony of somebody's wedding. Last Saturday, I danced to my favourite Mandarin song in the early part of the evening and, in the later part, grooved to Bhangra music at a Bhangra party.

We sometimes take things for granted and we forget that the peace and harmony which we enjoy today are the result of careful planning, brilliant thinking and good management. The Pledge, the countless campaigns and what may seem like engineered processes have all contributed to this peace.

We have our founding fathers and mothers (for there were women in the initial team that helped to establish this nation) to thank for this. In particular, we must thank Mr Lee Kuan Yew for his vision, his energy and his determination to provide us with a great nation, one that has many comforts and one that we are all so proud to be citizens of.

The Singapore of 2006 is a beautiful, clean and green nation. At Jurong East two
weeks ago, I was impressed by the architectural designs of the apartment blocks
and of the many attractive gardens that seem to link the blocks together.

On Sunday, as I enjoyed the wonderful ambience, the beautiful decor and the lights in the Fullerton Hotel, I could not help but think what a splendid restoration this building had undergone, particularly if, like me, you can remember that it was dark and grey when it was a post office.

In education, our young today have so many choices in terms of courses and subjects. We have a sports school and soon we will have an arts school. Our schools, educational institutes, polytechnics and universities have splendid facilities, state-of-the-art equipment and great teachers. There are many more
interesting jobs for people today and research activities abound in all fields.

We are fortunate to have good theatres and there is much to enjoy in terms of culture and the arts. The future augurs well for Singapore and we can look forward to more of the best in lifestyle, in activities, in community and health services, in the economy, in banking and finance.

To the people at the Esplanade, thank you for bringing in great artistes like Miriam Makeba. Please continue to give us stimulating shows that will enhance the cultural life of our nation.

To the Government of Singapore, thank you for giving us a peaceful country, of cultural and racial tolerance and religious harmony. Thank you for making me what I am today: a true Singaporean.

Zaibun Siraj(Ms)

And we shall all bow down and give thanks to Lee Kuan Yew and live happily ever after on Singapore, the world's greatest nation. Amen.

Okay, okay. I will rein in my cynicism since this woman Zaibun Siraj seems to sincerely believe in what she was saying. I'll just confine myself to offering a few, yes, just a few, of my thoughts on the contents of her letter.

Firstly, I'm somewhat amazed that Zaibun gets satisfaction from a thought like "thank goodness, Singapore isn't South Africa." If she can get satisfaction in this fashion, I suppose she would jump for joy if she had thoughts such as "thank goodness, Singapore isn't Rwanda" or "thank goodness, Singapore isn't North Korea".

Still I hope that the average Singaporean is more ambitious than that. It's really very pathetic if you're happy just because your country compares favourably to some of the world's most backward or troubled or repressed countries. Can we set our standards a bit higher, please. I mean, we DO pay our leaders the world's highest ministerial salaries, after all.

I agree fully with Zaibun that the kind of repression we speak of in Singapore is very trivial compared to what went on in South Africa during the apartheid years. Still when Zaibun wrote about the oppression in South Africa and in contrast, the lack of oppression in Singapore, a very specific thought instantly popped into my mind. Did it pop into yours too?

Yes, I was thinking of South African Mr Nelson Mandela and our very own Chia Thye Poh. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years essentially for his political beliefs and activities, and holds the world record for having been the longest-serving political prisoner. Singaporean Chia Thye Poh, detained under Singapore's Internal Security Act, was detained for 23 years and is the 2nd longest-serving political prisoner.

Oh darn it. Singapore just missed out narrowly on another world no. 1.

One difference is that Mr Nelson Mandela actually had his day in court. He was convicted after a full, open (and very public) trial in the courts of South Africa. In contrast, Chia Thye Poh never got to step into a courtroom at all. The ISD stepped into the picture, arrested him and basically just whisked him away from the rest of the world.

So we do have a world record after all. Chia was the world's longest-serving political prisoner to have been detained without any trial at all.

What has this wild boar got to do with Chia Thye Poh?
Click here to find out.

Moving on ....

Zaibun Siraj painted a very happy picture of our education system. Well, I guess we're all entitled to our own views. Here's a different kind of view on our education system. And here's another. I also just learned today from Singabloodypore that youth suicide is a big problem in Singapore and "study stress" is one of the two main reasons for this. Well, if this keeps up, we might soon have another world record on our hands.

There's a lot more that I could say, but it's getting late and I'm getting sleepy. So I'll just make two more points. Firstly, about the Esplanade. Many local theatre and music groups are still angry about it. We spent $660 million building the two big durians and in the process sucked the local theatre and music groups dry of sponsorship money. Then when the durians were ready, we brought in foreigners like Miriam Makeba (wonderful though she undoubtedly is) and once again, the struggling Singaporean artistes don't get a chance.

Secondly, take a look at this:
The future augurs well for Singapore and we can look forward to more of the best in lifestyle, in activities, in community and health services, in the economy, in banking and finance.
This Zaibun woman actually asserts that here in Singapore, we enjoy the best in:

1. lifestyle,
2. activities
3. community services
4. health services
5. the economy; AND
6. banking and finance.

Wow. We're world no. 1 again, in six broad areas. According to Zaibun, I guess we just defeated Geneva, and Zurich, and Sydney, and Melbourne, and Tokyo, and London, and Hong Kong, and Vancouver, and Helsinki, and Copenhagen and _____ .

Doesn't that just remind you of what I recently wrote about Singapore's unhealthy culture of unfounded self-praise?

Sigh. Click here to see where Singapore really stands in the world.

"Well, if nothing else, I have a good chance
of setting a new record for the world's longest nose."

15 March 2006

Politics and Potshots

A few of Mr Wang's fan club members informed Mr Wang that ex-journalist Ms Tan Sai Siong had taken a potshot at him in a recent media article. After poking around the Internet, Mr Wang found it! It's in the TODAY newspaper:

Tip: click on image to see bigger version.

Aiyah. That wasn't much of a potshot at all. In case you didn't even spot it, the reference to Mr Wang is in the last paragraph of the article.

Actually, I found this to be one of Sai Siong's better articles. Certainly better than this old one by her, anyway - click here. (Well done, Sai Siong, you're improving). In the present article, Sai Siong even managed to make quite a few astute observations:
1. Election signals have been in the air for some time, so the opposition has no excuses to say that it didn't have time to prepare;

2. The official campaign season need not be that long, since Singapore is a small, compact place and election candidates don't have to travel a lot to meet the people(unlike the case in big countries);

3. The opposition's real challenge is actually in getting people to join them and run for election.

So where did Sai Siong go wrong this time? Well, she forgot to mention that Point 3 isn't a problem just for the opposition. The PAP also has major difficulties in getting people to join them and run for election. Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong have been talking about this particular problem for years.

In fact, the PAP's recruitment problem was one of its two main justifications for raising our ministers' salaries to world-class levels. Remember?

"I warn you, dear citizens. If you don't raise my salary,
I'll become corrupt, abuse my public position and start taking bribes!"

- political strategies that would surely fail elsewhere.

Sai Siong's article criticises people who have views to express but won't enter politics. Aha, she must be referring to me. Personally Mr Wang has many views and, yes, at this time is totally disinterested in the idea of entering politics. Whether on the PAP side or the opposition side (and even assuming that any party would have him). In fact Mr Wang isn't even really interested in following the upcoming elections.

Right now, I'm quite happy just to be writing actively about current affairs and social issues which interest me. I'm not doing anything more than that. In other words, I'm behaving just like Tan Sai Siong herself.

(Of course, my articles are generally more intelligent. If I do say so myself. Ahem!)

14 March 2006

"Heart of Asia". Heheh.

Today I came across this article:

Business Times - 14 Mar 2006
S'pore has key role to play in Asia's rise, say IT leaders
Republic should aim to be region's hub for innovation, export and security

SINGAPORE is known to be the 'heart of Asia', and there is no reason why it cannot continue to play that role even as China and India expand rapidly.

These were some of the comments from world information technology business leaders after a meeting of the Infocomm International Advisory Panel (IAP) here yesterday.

The IAP is an initiative of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. It is a high-level panel of strategic advisers, comprising leaders and visionaries of the infocomm industry, tasked with giving feedback and new ideas for Singapore to capitalise on growth opportunities in the global marketplace.

Speaking to reporters, William Green, CEO of Accenture and a member of the panel, said Singapore has had the 'heart of Asia' reputation for many years and there is no reason why it cannot continue to be that and even expand its role.
.... and the question that popped into my head was:

Since when was Singapore ever known as the "heart of Asia"?

Type words like "heart of asia" and "where is the heart of asia" into Google and Yahoo! search engines and you will see what I mean. The results will be quite varied and include match-making agencies, books about the Himalayas, photos of China, conferences for cardiologists in Asia, CDs with Asian music ...... but after viewing pages and pages of search results, I still find nothing which connects Singapore with "heart of Asia".

On a few other occasions, I have come across congratulatory (or self-congratulatory) words of praise generated within Singapore (usually uttered by our dear leaders or their bureaucrats), which upon further investigation appear to have little real justification. The next time I come across such cases again, I'll point them out to you.

The danger of such apparently harmless (if vain) utterances of admiration is that this country may begin to delude itself, in some ways at least, into believing that it is something we are not. The best place to start climbing towards success is right where you are - not where you imagine yourself to be.

By the way, does anyone remember the "Swiss standard of living" that the Singapore government informed us that we had already attained in the year 2000?

According to Google's image search engine,
the "heart of asia" is .... Afghanistan.

12 March 2006

Special Island For Singaporeans and Their Indonesian Sex Partners

Mr Wang does not really have a lot to say about the article below. Mr Wang is posting it here just so that he can refer to it in future - when anyone starts talking about how AIDS is mainly due to gay Singaporeans' promiscuous activity; or how young Singaporeans are so very lacking in moral values today. Then Mr Wang can point to the straight Singaporean uncles and ah peks below and offer the ill-informed some food for thought.
Sunday Times, March 12, 2006
Mistress island
Welcome to Pulau Amat Belanda, second home to many Singapore men who visit their 'weekend wives' there

By Arlina Arshad
THERE is an island near Batam that receives, almost exclusively, male Singaporean visitors.

When the men get off the boat, they pay 25,000 rupiah (about $5) to register with the security men. Their passports are checked, and details such as their names, IC numbers and Singapore addresses noted.

Then they head to the homes of their 'weekend wives', rooms rented in stilted wooden houses.
This is Pulau Amat Belanda, 30 minutes by boat from Sekupang port in Batam, an island that is a red-light district all on its own.

Almost every male visitor to the Indonesian island has an 'exclusive' relationship with a woman there, to whom they give a cash allowance of between two million and five million rupiah ($350 to $900) every month to keep them from straying.

Of the 35 'guaranteed' Indonesian women there, 15 are married to Singaporeans - middle-aged Chinese bachelors, widowers or divorcees.

The wedding is a simple ceremony involving 'paperwork with police and immigration department, and fees of several million rupiahs', said Mr Yusran Zabaruddin, 26, secretary to the island's village headman.

'It's a quiet affair, without the typical wedding parades and beating of kompangs (hand-drums). Official Indonesian marriage books are then issued to the couples.'

The rest of the women simply have a long-term relationship with the men, some of whom have wives back home.

Other men visiting the island are barred from getting close to them, or risk being kicked out by the security men.

It was on Pulau Amat Belanda that the first HIV case in Batam was discovered.

In 1993, a Javanese sex worker and a Singaporean man tested positive there for HIV, the virus which causes Aids.

The island is more popularly known to locals as Pulau Babi, or Pig Island. History has it that local Chinese used to rear pigs there in the 1970s and supply them to Singapore via wooden sampans.

The island consists of a mere 3ha of land and 2ha of beach and sea area, on which there are 56 wooden houses on stilts.

Johan (not his real name), a Singaporean in his 40s, likes the laid-back lifestyle there.

First, there is no way the women can cheat, as 'the only way to get in and out of this island is by boat so the girls can't run anywhere', he said.

Then there are the 'security men', appointed by the local authorities to look after the welfare of both the women and visitors.

Besides the weekend wives, there are also about 100 'freelancers' living on the island.

Women The Sunday Times spoke to hail from other parts of the country. A portion of what they earn is sent to their families in Java and Sumatra.

Many have told their families and children that they work in shops and factories in Batam.

They would not mention working on the infamous Pulau Amat Belanda, which was named after its 'big-sized, fair-skinned and sharp-nosed' Malaysian owner Ahmad, who resembled an Orang Belanda, or Dutchman.

Some of the couples buy the cheap houses on the island and rent out rooms to 'freelancers' for 250,000 to 300,000 rupiah a month, and to visitors for 30,000 rupiah a day.

Madam Kokom, 28, and her Singaporean shopkeeper husband bought a house there for $7,000 after they tied the knot five years ago.

She earns more than $200 a month from renting out six rooms, which covers food and utility bills.

'My husband visits twice or thrice a month and he will bring rice and other groceries,' she said.

Madam Kokom, who has a young son in Sumatra from a previous marriage, said she is selling the house so she can move to Belakang Padang island, a five-minute boat ride away.

One of the 34 villages on Belakang Padang is called Kampung Tanjung, where she said other weekend wives of Singaporeans live.

'I have a family in Sumatra to support and I can't depend on the rental income forever. Maybe I can earn more if I open a shop in the villages,' she added.

On a visit to the island last Saturday, The Sunday Times saw four elderly Singaporean men flirting with their wives over a dinner of rice and seafood at one of the island's five restaurants.

One balding man proclaimed his love for his partner aloud, saying: 'Saya cinta awak', which means 'I love you' in Malay.

The security register logged 21 Singaporean men that day.

Said village headman Amir Das Pasiribu, 68: 'Singaporean men who come here are old and lonely.

'Over here, the women do not discriminate against them even if they are old or blue-collar workers.

'They are respectful and perhaps that's why many Singaporean men are drawn here.'

Many of the 'freelancers' are not too happy to serve the older men, who they say are sexually insatiable, but they are still hoping to settle down with a Singaporean one day.

As 20-year-old Ningsih said: 'It is not easy servicing different men; better to just stick with one.'

11 March 2006

The Meaning of Life

All this recent talk on this blog about pursuing dreams makes Mr Wang reflect on the meaning of life. And when Mr Wang reflects on the meaning of life, he can't help but remember the amazing wisdoms of Osho, a character whom Mr Wang has previously mentioned on this blog.

Mr Wang would like to describe Osho to you in a nutshell, but the words are hard to come by. Osho is wild, radical, dangerous, dishonest, infinitely wise, filled with love, supernatural, full of light and darkness, a mad gamble against the precise chaos of the universe - that's Osho.

Okay, I give up. Here's something from Osho, in his own words:

Is life really meaningless?

Osho, From Bondage to Freedom,Chapter 40

MEANING CAN BE understood in two ways. There is meaning that is somewhere far away, you have to reach to it. It is extrinsic.

Life is not meaningful in this first sense. And it is good that life is not meaningful in that sense, because then life becomes only a means to reach to the faraway goal, the faraway star. Then life loses its autonomous beauty. It is just a way; the real thing is tomorrow.

Meaning has another category too: intrinsic. Life is tremendously meaningful in the second sense. Then meaning is not separate, somewhere else; then meaning is in the very living itself.

You don't ask, has love any meaning? You know love is itself meaningful, it is not a means to some end. You do not ask if the beauty of a rose is meaningful. The beauty itself is enough; it does not lead anywhere, it contains its meaning within itself.

In existence everything that is really valuable is always intrinsically meaningful. And life is equivalent to existence. Life has meaning. If you just change the word "life" into "living," you will be able to understand more easily. Living has meaning -- each moment -- because living is not something dead like "life." The word "life" is dead -- all nouns are dead. But the language is created by dead people.

Some day the new man is going to create a language which consists only of verbs, because that will be authentic to existence. In existence there is no noun. Have you seen "life"? Have you met "life" anywhere? All that you meet, experience, is living.

Sipping a cup of tea, going for a morning walk, doing your work -- all these small activities make up your living. And each part, each moment of living, is meaningful. You just have to be there; otherwise, who is going to experience the meaning?

People go on drinking tea, but they never are there; their minds are wandering all over the world. People are making love, but they are not there. It is a very strange world that we have created. In one bedroom there are at least four people. Already the bedrooms are so small, too difficult for two people; and in the bed there are four people, or even more. These two people who are making love are not there: the man is thinking of some Hollywood actress, the woman is thinking of Muhammad Ali. So there are four people. Who is making love to whom? These two people are simply going through the gestures of love -- they are not present -- mechanical gestures of love. And then they ask, "Is there any meaning in life?"

You go on losing every moment by your absence.

WHEN I WAS A STUDENT, my principal in the high school was continuously troubled by my absence from the school. My family was troubled. I would start going to school, but never reach there. Life was so much, and so many things were happening on the way... and the school was almost one mile away from the house.

The principal called me one day and said, "You are almost always absent." I said, "That's where you are wrong." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "I am always present wherever I am. To be absent is not my style of life. And what can I do? -- this one mile between the school and my house.... A magician was doing his tricks on the street, and I became present there. It was far more interesting than your teachers, and I learned more than I could have learned here -- because whatever your teacher is saying I can read in the book, but I will never meet that magician again. And he did such beautiful tricks that when he was finished I followed him to his tent outside the city.

"He asked me, 'Son, why are you following me?' I said, 'You are getting old. Don't you want your tricks to live on even when you are gone?' He said, 'That seems to be meaningful! -- you can come in. Many people have asked me to teach them the tricks, but not in this way.' So I have been with the magician. "Life is a bigger school than your school. And I am, each moment, present wherever I am. To be absent is not my style of life, so you please take your words back."

He said, "In that case I will have to see your father." I said, "You can see anybody you like, but remember that my father knows me perfectly well. Just let me be informed when you are coming so I can also be present there. You both will be absent -- because my father is continuously busy with his business, and you are busy with who is absent, who is present. At least let somebody into that meeting who is present!" I told him, "Be honest and sincere and tell me: Are you present right now?" He said, "My God, perhaps you are right. I was thinking of my buffalo -- she has not returned for two days." I said, "You need not be worried, I know where she is. That's the beauty of being present everywhere! I have seen her just by the side of the tent of the magician. Now what do you say: Was it more worthwhile my coming to the class, or finding your lost buffalo? You can go and catch hold of her."

People are not there where they seem to be. This is why they go on missing the meaning of life. Just remain present to any small act you are doing. It does not matter -- you don't have to do great acts, become a world conqueror, go to the moon, or stand on top of Everest; it does not matter what you do.

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing -- or not doing -- be present, and the meaning of life will start unfolding. It is tremendously blissful.

But don't seek it somewhere else -- in a church, in a temple, in a holy book. You will not find it. Even if you come across God -- who, by the way, does not exist -- but even if you come across God, you will not be present. You may be thinking of your buffalo. It is good that God is not there; otherwise, he would be so embarrassed by all these saints of all the religions, because none of them is present to the moment. They are living a life somewhere else in the tomorrows -- and today goes on slipping by, and the tomorrow never comes. Finally comes death, not tomorrow.

Life is today! Tomorrow is death. So when you come across death, it is a great shock that life has gone by and you have not been able to find any meaning in it. And now there is no tomorrow left, and you are accustomed to search for meaning in the tomorrows. But you have been told about, taught about, prepared for, tomorrows.

If you understand me... I want you always to be present wherever you are. It does not matter where you are; just be totally present, and every small act, by your presence, will become lighted up, and you will know that your whole life becomes just a caravan of lights. That's the meaning. Death comes and goes, but the caravan continues.

10 March 2006

Mr Wang is Proud to Work for an Ethical Employer

Mr Wang works for one of the larger banks in the world. This morning Mr Wang just discovered that the bank has a high-level policy about any financial transactions involving military equipment. In deciding whether to get involved, the bank will consider, among other things, the attitude of the relevant country towards democracy and human rights.

Furthermore the bank takes an outright "NO" position to getting involved in any financial transaction involving the manufacture, sale or distribution of antipersonnel landmines.

Today I feel a little prouder about my employer, and a little more ashamed of my country.

A young victim of the kind of things
that Singapore makes money from.

Sports Cars Belong to the Rich. Sometimes.

"Next year, I want a Ferrari!"

Here's a hilarious post by Moomooman (although he may not have intended it as such). I reproduce it here because it does reflect something about what I wrote about Singaporeans and the five C's. Moomooman writes about his brother-in-law's quest to drive fast cars and own pedigree dogs:
Year 2002.

My younger brother-in-law after just started work, bought a Honday Integra Type R for about $120000. For the uninitiated, it's just a 2-door Honda. For the initiated, Type R is probably an engine variation that only available via parrallel import.

However, back then my brother in law only earns about $2500 gross. After deducting for CPF, he took home about $2000. But his loan for the car was $1500. His annual insurance was about $5000.

His loan to the bank was rejected back then. And he actually ask me to help by being his GUARANTOR.

Nabeh. I myself drive a normal car and I must be the guarantor for someone else sports car.

I remember back then he basically skip meals and only eat at home. And he takes the MRT to work. YES... I repeat TAKES THE MRT TO WORK.

Of course, the then girlfriend was also helping with the car financing.

Year 2006

Late last year, he bought a new dog. It's one of those expensive looking dogs imported from Australia. I dunno the pedigree of the dog. To me, Dog is Dog. Just like vegetables are vegetables. He claimed to spend about $4000 to bring in the dog. It's one of those dogs that people will walk them around estates in Bukit Timah to show off.

Of course, again he ask me to help as under HDB laws, he is not supposed to keep that kind of dog. Bo bian lor, lend him my address to register.

He even named him after one super branded luxurious car. Not only that, he often sent him to dog competition, hopefully to win some top dog prize.

I guess my brother in law must be doing well lah. I mean every dog has his day.And so, he recently exported his Honda. With car prices plunging lately, he decided that it makes dollar sense to change his car, like what everyone else is doing.

So he recently placed a booking for a SUBARA WRX for $100,000. Over the weekend, he was still choosing a nice number for his car, thus paying $1000 to bid for it. Well, that is what rich people do sometimes. Buy a performance car and bid for unique number.

My father in law was questioning him about he need to buy such cars.

He replied in Hokkien, something along the line of "What to do, want a "ZAO CHIA" (running car), have to pay that kind of money".

I jokingly tell him that he should then buy a Nissan Sunny. Can also "ZAO" what, about 80km/hour. Somemore, he can buy 2 of them. One "Zao" on Saturday, rest on Sunday, the other one "zao" on Sunday. Or better still, both him and his wife can "zao" together.

Of course, such wisecracks are often not every popular with ah Beng. But that's me. My nephews in law hate me. And I dislike them to the core.

Anyway, yesterday my younger brother in law call me. I only just about received 2 calls from him in the last 4 years. Both on the same topic.

NABEH. His loan is rejected and he need me to be the guarantor.

08 March 2006

The Lovers, the Dreamers and .... Mr Wang

Some responses to my two recent posts "The 5 C's Reexamined" and "The Pursuit of Dreams":
"....I do not really agree that it is the society's expectations of you. Rather, most of the time it comes from the parents. Not so much from your teachers or peers. Sometimes I look back and wonder if what I was doing all along (prior to Grad School) is because of what my parents want me to do, and not because of what I myself want to do ...." - by Tak Chek, Living Your Parents' Dream.

"I have seen many young and brilliant Singaporeans in the UK. Yet, to date, I have not seen young Singaporeans dreaming of winning the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize or even put their passion so that they will be placed on the map against the top guns from the west. The reason is that they are not confident about themselves ..." - by BL, It Takes A Dream.

"Even as you work out your goals and your dreams, I hope you would pause for a while and ask yourself if, on the road to achieving your dream(s), whether you would end up a mindless ant, or are you going to be a soul-searcher, poet and visionary." - by teacher Madam Sng, A Dreamer or an Ant?, (a post addressed to her students).
Personally, Mr Wang does not really have any single big dream that inspires his whole life. However, he finds life to be endlessly interesting because ever since he was a kid, he has always had many wide-ranging interests which he pursues with a lot of gusto.

Coincidentally, Mr Wang has recently been attempting to master "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit the Frog, on his guitar. Rather apt, because the song is all about chasing your dreams ....

"Eighteen chords with minor sevenths and suspended major 7ths,
AND a transposition from the key of G to G#.
Don't underestimate my song!"

07 March 2006

Identity Cards

In Singapore, NRICs are a routine part of everyday life, but look what happened in the UK.

ST March 7, 2006
UK Lords reject govt ID card Bill

LONDON - Tony Blair's government was defeated by the House of Lords on Monday over the controversial issue of national identity cards.

The peers voted by a majority of 61 to overturn the government's plan and make the cards voluntary. The Bill will now return to the House of Commons for further debate.

Both houses must reach agreement for the measure to become law.

Under government proposals, the cards would not be compulsory initially. But anyone applying for or renewing a passport would have to pay for an identity card as well from 2008.

The opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers said this would introduce the cards by stealth and go back on Labour's original plan which was to have voluntary ID cards.

'The Government should now look for compromise and go forward with the voluntary scheme they promised,' Conservative Leader in the Lords, Lord Strathclyde, said in a statement.

'The issues of personal freedom involved are too important to be foisted on the public by half truths and deception.'

I was instantly reminded of a short little poem by blogger-poet Gilbert Koh, about the lack of privacy and data protection in Singapore. Click here to see.

06 March 2006

The Pursuit of Dreams

Commenting on Mr Wang's preceding post, a reader said:
"... you say that people no longer aspire to those 5Cs listed, but I wonder what you think people now really aspire to? Very interested to hear what you have to say about this."
Well, actually, Mr Wang thinks that for many Singaporeans, this is exactly the crux of the problem. They simply don't have genuinely personal aspirations of their own. They haven't poked around in their own heads and hearts enough to discover themselves, and their own dreams.

What happens when you don't have any dreams of your own? Well, you end up adopting the dreams which society has chosen for you. You end up doing what you think society expects of you, pursuing the goals which society tells you are the "right" goals to pursue. In Singapore, that means you'll probably end up chasing the 5 C's.

If you really don't know what your own dreams are, then it is not necessarily a bad thing to pursue the goals that society has chosen for you. It may even be a very good thing. After all, what would you do otherwise?

Things start to break down only when the costs of the pursuit get too high. For example, you may find yourself slaving away at a job you hate, so that you can attain the 5 C's. If the 5 C's are what you want, you wouldn't mind the slavery. But if the 5 C's are not what you really want, deep down inside, then you get the uneasy feeling that "your" dream of 5 C's has somehow gone wrong somewhere. Is this what you've been working so hard for?

A reverse kind of problem afflicts some other Singaporeans. Utterly lacking dreams of their own, their heads are completely overrun by society's programming. "We MUST have a car," they think to themselves. "We MUST have a condo." Must they? Of course not. But the idea is so deeply ingrained in them that they end up purchasing material things that they can't quite afford. Or sacrificing family/personal time for the corporate rat race. Consequences? Excessive debt, unhappy families and a lot of stress.

How do you know what your true dreams are? Well, that is a pretty tricky question. Still we must not over-exaggerate the problem. The dreamers and the poets, the soul-searchers and the visionaries, they are always a minority. Many other people can be quite content living like mindless ants scurrying about their busy little lives. They may not think of themselves as ants, but that's what they are. If by nature, you're a happy little mindless ant, then just be a happy little mindless ant. There are worse fates, Mr Wang assures you.

As for the minority dreamers and the poets, the soul-searchers and the visionaries, hey, you don't know it, but half the fun is in the struggle, in the process of working it all out. If you knew exactly how to make your dreams come true, they wouldn't be dreams - they would be more like household chores.

"Personally, I hope to save the whales,
end world poverty, and star in a Hollywood production."

The 5 C's Reexamined

Over at Tomorrow, this page provides a link to Singapore Dreaming, where Colin Goh and Jocelyn Woo have reproduced an old article about their thoughts on leaving Singapore to pursue their respective dreams in New York. Mr Wang remembers reading the article years ago, but it remains quite thought-provoking, so you may want to read it too.

Mr Wang does feel, however, that in a few ways the article has become somewhat out-of-date. Here Colin and Jocelyn talk about the distinction between the Singapore Dream and the Singapore Plan:
"You wake up everyday and work from Monday to Friday, and often, Saturday too. If you finish work early, you and your partner go to your parents’ place for dinner and see your child for a few hours. If you work late, you buy a packet of char kway teow from the hawker centre but eat it at home because it’s too warm to eat there. You’re not crazy about the job but you know that if you keep at it, you can afford a car in 3 years’ time, and in 5 years’ time, buy a condo close to the primary school you want to send your kid to. Your conversations with people are either for the purpose of networking, work, or for familial obligations you cannot avoid. On weekends, you play golf with your friends at your country club or watch a movie with your partner. Once a year, you go on a ten day vacation to New York, London, or Paris, and when your children are big enough, Disneyland.

Alternatively, you wake up and you have no idea what is going to happen today, tomorrow, 6 months or a year later. Ironically, because of this uncertainty, all possibilities exist for you. You can be the Prime Minister of Singapore, you can make a movie, you can cook a meal you have never cooked before, eat at a place you have never eaten before, you can color your hair red, you can skip instead of walk, you can volunteer at the school you have always wanted to volunteer at, you can write a book, or you can have a baby even though you don’t have a maid. You have conversations with people who set your heart palpitating and your mind on fire. Your weekday is not so different from your weekend because everyday you are thinking, creating, and more important, imagining.

Most of us recognize the first story and its pursuit of the 5 Cs of “cash, condo, car, country club, credit card.” It is the Plan, which imposes a conclusion on you, and you work in order to make all the pieces fit. A bus stop advertisement I saw recently said it best: "We spend all our youth chasing money, and when we attain it, we spend all our money chasing youth."

A Dream, on the other hand, carries you on its wings to worlds that your heart and mind have never known.
Why does Mr Wang say that this article has become somewhat outdated? Because Mr Wang feels that at the time the article was written, the 5 C's still epitomised what it means to be successful in Singapore, in other words, to have "arrived". However, this doesn't seem that true anymore. These days, the popularity of 5 C's as worthy goals to strive for has already taken a severe beating.

By that, Mr Wang does not merely mean to refer to the many, many Singaporeans who, due to unemployment, retrenchment etc in recent years, no longer see the 5 C's as attainable. No, Mr Wang also refers to the ever-increasing number of Singaporeans who have come to realise that the 5 C's are not even necessarily worthwhile goals to strive for, even if you could.

Yes, they are still a minority. But then the wise are always a minority in society. They see first what the others will only realise later. And so you can expect the thoughts of the wise today to become conventional wisdom someday in the future. But not so soon.

And now Mr Wang turns to each of the 5 C's, to show you why all that glitters may not be gold:
Country Club Memberships: Please see Mr Wang's old post on this. It has become a rather odd idea, quaint and old-fashioned, to desire a country club membership. Club prices have in fact plummeted over the years. Not fashionable any more lah.

Credit Cards: These are death traps to the spendthrifts. They are status symbols only to the foolish - how much status can there be in a product where the bank's salesmen hang around in public places and chase after you with brochures and free gifts, beseeching you to sign up?

Sensible people like Mr Wang regard credit cards as merely convenient payment tools, and in this sense, not that different from a NETS card.

Do you REALLY think that the waitress or the salesman would respect you more, just because you pull a Visa card out from your wallet? They probably wish you would pay by cash or NETS instead, so that their establishment can avoid the bank charges involved whenever a customer pays by credit card.

Condominiums: Now that the property market has been in the doldrums for years and years, I think that people are pretty much aware that condos aren't necessarily a good thing to aspire to. In fact, condos tend to have rather poor resale value.

The other consideration, gleaned from actual experience over the past 10 years since the 1997 Asian crisis, is that it is probably a smarter move to live down, rather than live up, because you really don't know when you might be retrenched in the future. Better to own a property which you can more easily afford. The days are long gone when unemployment was a problem that plagued only the lowly-skilled and the lowly-educated. Read also Mr Wang's old post about owning an executive condo (among other things).

Cars: I think that they are still viewed as desirable. But people are more aware that owning a car in Singapore can really bleed your money, not just because of the cost of buying the car, but also because of road tax, ERP, COE, petrol etc. Frankly, the public transport system is pretty good, if you happen to live next to an MRT and also get used to booking taxis regularly. That would be a lot cheaper than owning a car.

Cash: The only C that still makes sense to Mr Wang. Except that if you're still young, you DON'T really want to sit on too much cash. That would be very dumb for your long-term financial health. You need to park a good chunk of it in equities. Or at least bonds. Or at the very least, money market instruments. With your conventional savings account interest rates at 0.2%, it's slow death to sit on too much cash.
Does Mr Wang personally practise what he preaches? Certainly. Mr and Mrs Wang are both fairly senior lawyers, commanding considerably higher salaries than the average Singaporean. But:
1. They don't own a car. They don't intend to. Mr Wang doesn't even have a valid driving licence right now.

2. They live in a HDB, even though they can afford a condo. In fact, years ago, when they first applied for the HDB flat, their combined income was already too high to disqualify for the $40,000 government grant for living near Mr Wang's parents. Mrs Wang quickly resigned from her job so that the Wangs could pocket their $40,000. (A month later, Mrs Wang resumed work at a new organisation).

3. They pay all their credit cards right on time by GIRO. Mr Wang thinks that credit cards are a nuisance because the banks keep sending you so much junk mail and promotional materials.

4. They do have a country club membership, but that was all due to Mrs Wang's foolishness. Mr Wang still feels irritated about it.
The other part of Colin's and Jocelyn's article deals with the pursuit of dreams. More on this, another time. Mr Wang needs to attend a meeting now.

05 March 2006

Mr Wang is in the Substation Magazine

Just noticed from Tomorrow that Mr Wang's Good Karma blog has been featured in The Substation Magazine. Right next to the Big Three of the Singapore Blogosphere - namely, Xiaxue, Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi. Heheh, I must be getting famous!

"Not fair. He didn't even have to pose
or anything like that."

03 March 2006

What's in Mr Wang's Inbox?

A journalist from mainstream media wrote to me:
Dear Mr Wang

Hi, I'm XXXXXX, a journalist from The Straits Times.

I am writing because I'm pursuing an angle about the upcoming Singapore elections and the blogosphere.

I understand from your blog that you are interested in this as a topic and have the occasional post on it. I'm hoping to work on a piece about how the alternative media and the virtual world are also gearing up for the elections and what people like yourself hope to achieve by generating such discussion, as well as what people on the ground who are reading might be interested in.

I was sincerely hoping to hear from you, to perhaps get an interview on your thoughts.

Would greatly appreciate it if you'd write or call me.

Thanks very much and best regards
Mr Wang replied as follows:


It would surprise many of my regular readers but frankly I am not particularly interested in the upcoming elections. As far as I'm concerned, it will be an event with lots of excitement and fanfare, but even before the dust settles we all know who will win and does it really make any difference whether they have 77, 79 or 81 seats in Parliament?

If I write about the upcoming elections at all, it is because I write about Singapore's current affairs in general, and that is why you will see from my blog that I have posts about, say, Rajaratnam's death; local universities' admission criteria; healthcare costs in Singapore; capital punishment etc.

I am certainly not "gearing up" for the elections. You would be better off interviewing other bloggers - there are some who seem quite intent about covering election news.

Mr Wang
Mr Wang also briefly contemplated adding a few comments about the Parliamentary Election Act. Naaaah.

"Things could be worse. I could be an opposition member
in the Parliament of Singapore." - Neo, Matrix Reloaded.

01 March 2006

Extreme Tracking

Mr Wang uses Extreme Tracking to monitor his blog traffic (see little button at the end of the sidebar). Among other things, ET monitors the people who come to Mr Wang's blog via search engines like Google and Yahoo!. ET also reveals the most frequently-used words that these people type into Google & Yahoo search engines, en route to this blog.

For obvious reasons, some of the most frequently-used words so far have been "wang", "bakes", "good", "karma", "singapore" and "commentarysingapore". However, thanks to the recent obsession with Tammy just in the past week or so, the top keywords now include "sex", "video", "nanyang", "tammy", "student", "poly" and "polytechnic".

      All Keywords Unique Visitors

      1492 6.44% singapore
      507 2.19% sex
      456 1.97% wang
      363 1.57% video

      275 1.19% the
      272 1.17% nanyang
      249 1.08% and
      188 0.81% tan
      187 0.81% for
      187 0.81% karma
      185 0.80% good
      184 0.79% tammy
      170 0.73% student
      165 0.71% blog
      139 0.60% poly
      131 0.57% why
      131 0.57% commentarysingapore
      127 0.55% melvyn
      126 0.54% van
      123 0.53% bakes
      118 0.51% polytechnic
      109 0.47% nguyen
What's wrong with you people? There's porn all over the Internet. Why so much interest in a girl who REALLY didn't intend to make her sex life public?

The next day in school, Tammy felt compelled
to use a rather extreme form of disguise.

Just A Little Bit Naive, Wouldn't You Say?

March 1, 2006
Honour founding fathers while they are alive

HONOUR Singapore's founding fathers while they are still alive, said Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) yesterday.

Tap a palpable desire among Singaporeans to do so, and have a committee involving them on how to remember these men who sacrificed so much for the country, she suggested.

Many Singaporeans mourned the passing of Mr S. Rajaratnam, Singapore's first foreign minister and former deputy prime minister, who died last Wednesday of heart failure at the age of 90.

'But why is it that we praise and recognise leaders only after they pass on?' she asked.

Mr Wang will tell you why, Irene. It's because while a founding father is still alive, you can never be 100% sure that he won't suddenly change his mind and start publicly expressing views contrary to what the Ruling Powers would like to hear. Remember ex-President Devan Nair?

"Dark side, bright side, ahhh, all nonsense.
All politicians are sneaky bastards."