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Posts Tagged ‘Singapore affairs

Rethinking civil service scholarships and the entrepreneurial spirit

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Pritam Singh has written an interesting post here. He brings up statistics from the Public Service Commission website to show that for much of the last decade the overwhelming recipients of PSC scholarships are Chinese students. Since 2002, minority recipients of the PSC scholarship has always comprised less than 10% of total scholarships awarded. In comparison, non-Chinese races make up some 25% of the population, which implies minorities are vastly under-represented in PSC scholars.

For non-Singaporeans, PSC scholarships are often considered prestigious because they guarantee a job in civil service which is often regarded as an iron rice bowl; a secured salaried job which usually pays better than most of the jobs in the private sector. As Pritam explains:

Singapore government scholarships are amongst the most sought after as they systematically groom young Singaporeans to take up leadership positions in government, such as permanent secretaries of government ministries, to CEOs of statutory boards such as Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the Central Provident Fund (CPF), amongst others.

This is certainly cause for concern, especially since  these scholarships determine how much racial representation an ethnic group gets in government. While Pritam did not explicitly call for an affirmative action programme to ensure greater minority representation in PSC scholars, some who commented on TOC’s Facebook link to his post did so, as did those who commented on TOC’s reproduction of his post here. Others have argued that doing so would undermine meritocracy in Singapore, which judges individuals’ calibre based on their academic merits and achievements rather than by the colour of their skin.

But does one really have to choose between maintaining the status quo or introducing affirmative action? I argue that no one should have to do so if one is willing reform the scholarship system and practice of appointing top scholars to policy-making positions.

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Written by defennder

February 6, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Posted in Singapore affairs

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TOC’s inadequate response to PMO and MDA

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Those following The Online Citizen saga are aware that as of yesterday, TOC finally issued a formal press release (which I personally felt was unnecessarily lengthy) and an official reply to its readers regarding both the Prime Minister’s Office indication to gazette it as a political association under the Political Donations Act (PDA) as well as MDA’s notification to register both in 14 days.

I personally believe TOC should not have to be gazetted under the PDA and registered under some MDA license act. Indeed, why should any website have to do so and subject themselves to possible restrictions and greater regulation by a partisan government body? But at the same time that does not mean that there is no legal basis for gazetting. Let’s take a look at their official replies found here.

Disclaimer: I am no law student and may have erroneously mis-interpreted the statutes. Kindly point out any mistakes I have made in the comments below, thank you.

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Written by defennder

January 15, 2011 at 8:41 PM

Posted in Singapore affairs

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Why being based overseas does not matter

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Note: The following is an edited version of a letter sent to The Temasek Review.

With the recent outcry in Singapore’s blogosphere and political scene over the news that The Online Citizen has been gazetted and demanded by the MDA to register within 14 days, attention has turned to the Temasek Review, a Singapore opinionated news blog whose web traffic in Singapore exceeds TOC (at least by Alexa’s ranking). While the local papers and media did not appear to discuss why TR was not gazetted as well, it is understood by most to have evaded the requirement because they are largely based overseas. As TR puts it in a press release today:

Temasek Review is indeed technically “funded” by foreigners and we are not hiding that fact. The server lease is paid by us (editors) and most of us have obtained foreign citizenship although we used to be Singaporean. The present server lease was paid in full for a year by a Chinese lady whom we sold the domain to following the Temasek Holdings fiasco.  The Chinese lady has no editorial or administrative control over our site and has agreed to allow us to continue using the domain until she decides to sell it or use it personally for her own venture.

Of the 7 editors in our team, 4 are now “foreigners” with 3 pending. 95% of contributions (authors and contributors) are received from Singaporeans (we do check) and all our moderators are Singaporeans. The remaining 5% are editorial pieces from us.

Predictably, the reaction from some online quarters have been furious. On the comments page of that TR article carrying the announcement some of the reactions includes charges that TR does not represent Singaporeans or cannot do so because of where they are based or due to the composition of their editorial board. Yet for many reasons such a claim remain unfounded.

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Written by defennder

January 13, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Posted in Singapore affairs

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3.3% inflation due to population increase?

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Note: I have not been able to update this blog as of late due to increasing work commitments. Loyal readers (and I personally thank you for that) should check this blog much less often for updates. Reader comments may be unaddressed for some time.This is likely to be the last post you see for a long time (I will be coming back eventually).  A big thank you to those who have been reading this blog.

It was reported recently that the year-on-year inflation rate in Aug 2010 was 3.3%. At first glance this may not seem unusual.  After all, Singapore is projected to achieve double-digit GDP growth for this year; some 20% growth is not out of question. It is perhaps with this in mind that the government has argued that letting in more foreign workers is crucial to prevent the economy from overheating.  Singaporeans are told that unless more foreigners (whom are willing to work for lower pay) are allowed in, inflation will climb even more sharply higher.  But a more in-depth analysis of the factors behind this inflation appears to undermine that argument.

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Written by defennder

October 3, 2010 at 3:56 PM

GIC essay competition

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I saw that GIC is looking for recommendations.

The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) is pleased to invite entries for the GIC Essay Prize 2010/2011, administered by the Center for Asset Management Research & Investments (CAMRI) at NUS Business School, National University of Singapore.

The title of the Essay is “Post-financial crisis: key lessons, opportunities and recommendations for Asia’s institutional investors”.

The competition is open to all undergraduate students (pursuing Bachelor’s degrees) studying in Singapore and all Singaporean/Singapore PR undergraduate students (pursuing Bachelor’s degrees) studying abroad.

Let me propose a simple one:

People who are terrible in forecasting shouldn’t run institutional investment funds.

Written by defennder

August 11, 2010 at 1:17 AM

Posted in Singapore affairs

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Housing inflation in Singapore’s CPI

with 5 comments

Housing prices have always been a hot topic for discussion amongst Singaporeans. Both academics and netizens have written extensively on the relentless rising cost of living due to housing price inflation. In a footnote to a 2008 paper on Singapore’s policy responses to ageing and retirement, Prof Mukul Asher cites a 2007 Citi memo (which I have unfortunately not been able to unearth) authored by Dr Chua Hak Bin arguing that Singapore’s inflation rate was severely understated primarily due to the way housing inflation was calculated:

Chua (2007b) has argued that the inflation rate in Singapore, as measured by the consumer price index, is significantly understated, primarily because of the way the housing component is incorporated.

One of the bigger mysteries in Singapore is that although public housing prices have gone through the roof, inflation has not. Why should this be so, especially since home-ownership rates in Singapore is one of the highest in the world (88.8% as of 2009). What determines how housing prices in Singapore affects the inflation rate? To answer this question, we must examine how housing prices are factored in the consumer price index (CPI). This may come as a surprise to some, but housing prices in Singapore are not reflected in the CPI.

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Written by defennder

August 9, 2010 at 4:54 PM

Putting Singapore’s GDP in perspective

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Supporters of the ruling party and status quo are fond of citing Singapore’s GDP per capita, one of the highest in the world as evidence that its government has done well. Measuring economic success by GDP has many disadvantages as various other netizens have elaborated. I don’t intend to add to those, but in this post I will endeavour to show how this metric is flawed even without disputing that GXP (where ‘X’ refers to any of various national income accounting measures) measures the economic well-being a country’s people.

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Written by defennder

August 6, 2010 at 11:35 PM

The dual economy of Singapore

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In early 2007, economist Dr Chua Hak Bin published an essay titled Singapore Economy: The New and the Dual. For many who remember 2007, it was a year of strong economic growth, as well as a year when Singapore’s ministers argued that robust economic growth justified their own outrageous salary hikes. But that would not be the focus of this post, instead it would be on thesis/theory of the dual economy.

What is the dual economy thesis? Why does it matter? In this post, I will argue that the best way to reconcile Singapore’s recent and startling growth with the perceived lack of “trickle-down” effect to the general population would be to accept some form of this theory.

Anyone who has been following the news recently might have been shocked at the rate of economic growth Singapore is projected to achieve for the year. On July 15th, the headlines of the ST screamed the following at its readers:

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Written by defennder

July 29, 2010 at 2:22 AM

Who really benefits from rising HDB housing prices?

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This post was originally supposed to be titled “Do HDB home owners benefit in any way from property price hikes?” and was in response to a conversation I had with a friend on whether Singaporean home-owners can be said to benefit from rising property prices.  Since then, however, I have decided to expand upon it to include other considerations.

Qn: Does anyone benefit from relentlessly rising HDB flat prices?

In light of recent news that HDB resale prices have increased again this quarter, such a development should certainly give Singaporeans pause for concern, if only because rising prices sometimes do portend a growing housing bubble. However the subject of this post would not be whether the current housing price increases is indicative of a speculative bubble, as I’m not in the business nor possess the expertise to discern one in advance.  Home seekers for sure are disadvantaged by rising prices. But really, can fast growing home prices be beneficial to anyone?

The simplest answer, and the most obvious one would be HDB home owners, as my friend has said.  These folks whom are either fully-paid owners or in the process of paying off their mortgages have “locked-in” a fixed price for their houses, and any price appreciation would only mean that their total wealth is increasing. But this answer ignores a few important points. How exactly can a home owner tap increasing housing equity?

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Written by defennder

July 14, 2010 at 4:08 PM

Are extravagant ministerial salaries screwing Singaporeans?

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What accounts for the tendency of Singapore’s ministers of the ruling People’s Action Party to thumb their noses at ordinary Singaporean citizens?

Here are some examples of such quotes (thanks TOC):

I don’t want whining Singapore boys. They are not mature even though they have done national service and are over 22 years old when they take up undergraduate studies.
PHILIP YEO, EX-CHAIRMAN, A-STAR (Straits Times, 2005)

[A] well-educated university graduate who works for a multinational company should not be bemoaning about the Government and get on with the challenges in life.
MP FOR ANG MO KIO GRC, WEE SIEW KIM (Straits Times, 2005)

Singaporeans are champion grumblers.
MM LEE KUAN YEW, (National Geographic, Jan 2010)

The problem of choosy workers is still with us.
THEN-MINISTER OF STATE FOR MANPOWER, NG ENG HEN (MOM, 2003)

Why is this behaviour amongst the ruling party leaders becoming more widespread? Why are Singaporeans forever told to work more efficiently for lower pay? For a long time most people, chiefly netizens, have fingered high ministerial salaries (the highest in the world)  and a sheltered life with little threat of political opposition, coupled with extremely low tolerance for criticism (“thin-skinned”) necessary for a healthy democracy to function as probable causes. A recent paper highlighted by Harvard Business Review appears to confirm such a belief.

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Written by defennder

July 8, 2010 at 5:00 PM

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