Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Truth about GRCs

Not too long ago, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew took pains to try to convince some 30 year olds that the GRC system was necessary to ensure minorities were represented in parliament. He blamed it on "viscereal" motivations on the part of the electorate.

Straits Times June 27, 2006
GRCs make it easier to find top talent: SM

Without good chance of winning at polls, they might not be willing to risk careers for politics

By Li Xueying

SENIOR Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday gave a new take on the role of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) in Singapore politics.

Their role is not just to ensure minorities are adequately represented in Parliament, he said. They also contribute to Singapore's political stability, by 'helping us to recruit younger and capable candidates with the potential to become ministers'.

'Without some assurance of a good chance of winning at least their first election, many able and successful young Singaporeans may not risk their careers to join politics,' Mr Goh said at an event marking the appointment of members to the South East Community Development Council (CDC).

'Why should they when they are on the way up in the civil service, the SAF, and in the professions or the corporate world?

'But he was quick to add that GRCs themselves do not guarantee victory.

'A minister wins only because he has won the people's trust and the Government has delivered good results for the people. If a minister performed poorly, it could result in his losing the GRC to an opposing team with a strong leader,' he said, in what appears to be an oblique reference to comments made against GRCs in the general election held this May.

Since GRCs were introduced in 1988, critics and the opposition have attacked them, saying they allow rookie People's Action Party (PAP) candidates to get into Parliament on the coat tails of heavyweight candidates in their team.

Also, they do not lend themselves to a level playing field, they add, as the opposition struggles to find the specified minority-race candidates.

Mr Goh carried four new faces into Parliament in the six-man Marine Parade GRC team, which was unchallenged at the 2006 polls.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Bad Omen

Fengshui masters think the Marina Bay Casino's design is a disaster.

The casino-resort at Marina Bay, which will be built on a 50.9-acre waterfront site near the financial district, is likely to cost more than 5 billion Singapore dollars ($3.16 billion), Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar told a news conference on Friday 26 May 2006. Las Vegas Sands Corp., owner of The Venetian in Nevada, won a hotly contested license to build Singapore's first casino, which could be the world's costliest casino resort project by the time it opens in 2009. Currently, the world's most expensive casino is the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas that was completed late last year.

Marina Bay CasinoThe design of the Marina Bay integrated resort is a talking point - especially the 50-storey-high sky park.

The 1ha sky park, larger than two football fields, is one of the most prominent features of the $5 billion resort, which Las Vegas Sands won the bid to build. Linking the tops of three 50-storey hotel towers, the park overlooks the museum, retail and convention spaces and boasts a 360-degree view of the city and the Singapore Strait.

United States-based architect Moshe Safdie designed the resort. He said the greenery at the summit fits Singapore's image as a 'garden city'. The Sands claimed they consulted a fengshui master, but said he was out of town and could not be contacted for comment.

But those interviewed by the local press were not enthusiastic about the design.

Geomancer Victor Li, who has worked with The Raffles Hotel and The Grand Hyatt Singapore, said: "On their own, the three tall buildings look like three ancestral tablets and, with the sky garden, it looks like a broken flyover, with 'neither head nor tail'." He said the Mandarin phrase 'neither head nor tail' has a negative connotation, usually used to describe things that are incomplete and imperfect.

The flatness of the rooftop is another problem.

Master Tan Khoon Yong of Way Onnet Group said it resembles a blade that will affect all buildings surrounding the IR, especially the Swissotel Stamford. "Also, because the rooftop is flat, it restricts the development and growth for the IR," he said.

While geomancer Adelina Pang has no problem with the flat roof, she warned that the garden should not have ponds or water features, because this would symbolise a drowning building.

Out of the 40 people interviewed by The Sunday Times, 22 were impressed by the design, while 18 disliked it.

Ms Loke Mei En, 33, a hedge fund manager, said: "It looks embarrassing. The design is haphazardly put together. It's an aberration on our waterfront."

Others liken the towers to 'joss-sticks' and a 'glorified factory'.

Geomancer Gwee Kim Woon says the buildings are positioned in a shape of a bat. The Mandarin word for 'bat' sounds similar to the Mandarin word for luck, so bats are often associated with luck.

As for the lotus-shaped Art- Science museum, people from both camps supported the idea of a bloom along the waterfront. Architect John Ting said: "To us in Asia, the lotus is providential and if you know how to capitalise on the concept of a lotus, it can be iconic."

But architect Tay Kheng Soon feels the project might be too striking for its own good. "Because it is so outstanding, it is likely to be mistaken as the icon of Singapore. No self-respecting city has a casino as its icon."

Master Chong Swan Lek, 66, commenting on the negative remarks, said it is not a geomancer's job "to tell the architect what to do". His input to the Sands project, however, had the designers splitting one original hotel block into three to let the qi (wind) through. Asked if geomancy could reduce gambling's social ills, he said "You would have to tighten the law".

On the gaps, which critics say are wind tunnels that bring bad luck to the financial district:
Master Chong: We split them so that the qi (wind) could pass through. The Swissotel does not even face the IR. It faces Maybank, the mouth of the Singapore River, not the lagoon. The IR actually becomes the kao san (backer). They got it wrong.

The pools in the garden:
Master Chong: The garden has water and plants, like a mountain. We have water, and the water flows to the MICE (meetings, incentive travel, conventions, exhibitions) business.

50-storey Sky Park critics claim looks like a broken flyover and a blade cutting into the fortune of surrounding buildings:
Master Chong: It's like a scholar's hat, meaning the IR will bring new learning to Singapore.

The three hotel towers that look like three ancestral tablets:
Master Chong: You look properly, they are three warriors standing a foot apart. They are guarding the gaeway to Singapore. Tablets are are straight up, these are curved.

On the three domes:
Master Chong: They are like three coins. In fengshui, when a household has problems, you give them three coins. They ward off evil and bring prosperity.

Lotus shaped ArtScience Museum:
Master Chong: Its five fingers complements the Esplanade. Water flows in and is recycled. Money flows into the casino and back to Singapore, so it won't flow out into Batam and Bintan.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Minister Salaries in Perspective

Lee Hsien Loong burned in effigy over Thaksin dealHefty pay raises awarded in July 2000 to what were already some of the highest-paid government officials in the world sparked a rare display of public indignation, with Singaporeans criticizing the move on the Internet and even in the pro-government media.

Under the new pay scale, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong saw his annual salary increase 14% to 1.94 million Singapore dollars from S$1.69 million (US$1.1 million from US$971,264), while the salary for the most junior minister increased 12% to S$968,000, putting Singapore's ministers well ahead of their counterparts in the U.S., the United Kingdom and many other countries in the salary league tables.

As of June 12, 2004, the President of the United States of America draws an annual salary of US$400,000; the vice president's salary is US$181,400.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair - about US$262,000 annually,
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi - about US$307,000
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad - about US$65,000
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - about $32,188
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo - about US$24,000

According to Asiaweek Mar 16, 2000, the monthly Singapore salary figures then were:

Head of Government $43,365 (S$76,322)
Finance Minister $35,886 (S$63,159)
Member of Parliament $5,346 (S$9,409)
Government Clerk (Entry-level) $503 (S$885)

Bank Manager $4,145 (S$7,295)
Architect $3,216 (S$5,660)
Civil Engineer $3,184 (S$6,660)
Doctor $4,386 (S$7,719)
Lawyer $4,053 (S$7,133)
News Reporter $2,047 (S$3,603)
State Professor $4,921 (S$8,661)

CEO $11,131 (S$19,590)
Controller $6,667 (S$11,734)
Human Resources Director $5,190 (S$(9,154)
Systems Director $5,190 (S$9,134)
Manufacturing Director $6,740 (S$11,862)
Sales Director $4,186 (S$7,367)
Factory/Plant Manager $4,639 (S$8,165)
Sales Manager $3,962 (S$6,973)
Accountant $2,290 (S$4,040)
Systems Engineer $2,290 (S$4,036)
Software Developer $2,792 (S$4,914)
Field Services Engineer $2,008 (S$3,535)
Production Supervisor $1,847 (S$3,251)
Executive Secretary $1,701 (S$2,994)
Secretary $1,326 (S$2,334)
Chauffeur $975 (S$1,716)