Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bullshit Hits The Fan

Speaking to reporters on his way back from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, Father Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew told the press: “I do not believe the Chinese economy is immune to a US slowdown, nor is the Indian economy.” As for effect on Singapore’s economy, he said, “Our total trade is 300 per cent of our GDP (gross domestic product). So when the external trade goes down, you tell me how we buffer ourselves.”

Meanwhile at a breakfast meeting with 40 businessmen from the French Business Confederation as he wrapped up his 3-day official visit to Paris, Son Prime Minister Lee Hisen Loong is singing a different tune, claiming Singapore and Asia can weather the storm, should the US go into a recession. PM Lee also said the economies of China and India will continue to grow despite what happens in the US, adding: “…in Asia, I think we are stronger and better prepared and we will weather it.”

For the significant portion of the world’s economic movers, shakers and interpreters gathered in the Swiss mountain town of Davos for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum just as markets from Mumbai to Madrid were freaking out, the writing is already on the wall:
“The debate is not whether we’re going to have a soft landing or a hard landing in the U.S. but how hard the landing is going to be,” says Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University. He sees a sharp, possibly year-long U.S. recession and a global slowdown. Despite Asia’s torrid growth, consumers in China and India accounted for only $1.6 trillion of the world’s spending last year, a tiny fraction of the $9.5 trillion spent by Americans, according to Stephen Roach, head of Morgan Stanley’s business in Asia. It’s impossible to pull U.S. spending back without sending ripples through the rest of the world.

What has become evident is that globalization can’t insulate us from recessions. Or justify 21% increases for multi-million dollar “top talents.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

A History Of Bullying

When Parliament sits on Monday, Dr Lily Neo is not going to be content with the fast food pace at which the Speaker moves proceedings to make sure only 90 minutes are available for the 80+ Members of Parliament to deliberate on issues that affect the daily lives of ordinary citizens.
The MP for Jalan Besar GRC has filed a motion of adjournment so she has at least 20 minutes to go in depth into the bullying issue. Apparently one child had been kicked in the stomach while another was kicked in the chest and ribs, but the school principal had put it down to “thoughtless pranks.”
Then there was this principal who broke the hearts and spirit of students from one Secondary 5 class by telling them to GET OUT and apply for places in the ITE as they were unlikely to do well at the O levels, since she wants only 100% passes in her school. Instead of the rebuke expected by infuriated parents, Minister of State for Education Rear-Admiral Lui Tuck Yew claimed the “Principal’s ITE advice ‘had to be delivered.’”
MP Wee Siew Kim said just as much, “people cannot take the brutal truth,” in support of her daughter Wee Shu Min’s vitriolic attack on one innocent Derek Wee (WHY do all the idiots have my surname why?!) for taking pity on the lot of a cab driver, and telling him to “GET OUT of my elite uncaring face”. Hence Dr Neo says she is also concerned about cyber bullying, which takes place through the internet.
Actually the history goes back further when Teh Cheang Wan was Minister of National Development and threatened to withdraw HDB Emergency Lift Services from blocks which voted for the Opposition. Goh Chok Tong upped the ante by threatening to turn into slums those precincts who cast the wrong votes.
As for personal experience on the receiving end, Dr Neo sighed: “If I asked a question, I can only ask two or three sentences, and sometimes a topic deserves more.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Military Justice, Singapore Style

Mindef spokesperson Colonel Darius Lim said that only the most serious breaches of military conduct result in jail time. Last year, “less than 5 percent” of the people sentenced in court martials and summary trials ended up behind bars, he said.
So how did Private Marcus Ng end up being one of 150 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regulars, full-time national servicemen and operationally ready NSmen, hand-cuffed and incarcerated in the dehumanising cells of the SAF Detention Barracks in remote Kranji? Did he steal a rifle for Al Qaeda, hi-jack one of the general’s Mercedes for a joy ride, or disclose top secret data about the White Horse special treatment for kin of favoured elites? No, his crime was for SPEAKING AGGRESSIVELY to a 50-year-old female 2nd Warrant Officer K Saraswathi in the private confines of his unit’s Operations Room. By comparison, Chee Soon Juan got off easy for yelling loudly, “Where’s the money, Mr Goh” in a very public market place, while directing his query at then PM Goh Chok Tong about the billions promised to Suharto, when Indonesia was a bit cash strapped.
A busybody Master Warrant Officer Ger Ah Kee, a trained Commando, apparently saw the altercation, intervened, and actually laid his grubby hand on the private’s physical body. When Ng shrugged off the Master Warrant Officer’s offending limb, he was slapped with two more charges: one for insubordinate behaviour after the Operations Room argument, and another for improper conduct.
Ng’s defence lawyer, Mr Wendell Wong from Drew & Napier, said a jail term was “the harshest punishment I’ve ever seen for this sort of offence”. Further, the lawyer pointed out to the appeal court that the prosecution had failed to provide relevant documents or offer prosecution witnesses to Ng.
“Nothing undermines morale and discpline more than a widespread perception, rightly or wrongly, that military justice is unfair,” chimed in Dr Bernard Loo, assistant professor in war studies at the Nanyang Technological University.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Good Gracious!

A gracious Singapore? “Not in my lifetime,” was the reported reply from Lee Kuan Yew at a dialogue with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas) on Monday night. His idea of a gracious society include “where people are considerate to one another, where you don’t make more noise to upset your neigbour than you need to.” Commenting on Malaysia’s growth prospects, he had said: “I don’t see any economic hardship in Malaysia, but whether you have a happy people… happiness and economic growth are two different things.”
Some may postulate that conglomerate Fraser & Neave (F&N) was definitely gracious to scrap younger son Lee Hsien Yang’s workload as a business consultant and still give him the $1 million anyway as a paid director. Mr Lee joined the property, food & beverage and publishing conglomerate as its non-executive chairman in October 2007, replacing Dr Michael Fam. As a consultant, Mr Lee’s role was “to assist with the overall strategic planning for the group”, and paid the $1 million in addition to the $250,000 he also draws as a non-executive chairman. It was gracious of F&N as Mr Lee does not have the training, experience or track record in property, food & beverage or publishing. Well, he is the son of Lee Kuan Yew, brother of the prime minister, and brother-in-law of the Third Most Powerful Woman In The World. TODAY graciously added that “the company should be applauded for keeping a corporate talent in Singapore and not losing him to foreign shores”, in the same line of logic as certain ministers can earn more in the private sector, Yeo Cheow Tong excepted.
F&N announced that the consultancy agreement will be dissolved on Jan 31. The consultancy fee will be built into the directors’ fees. F&N also said the requirements of Mr Lee’s role remains the same.