Like Singapore in the 1970s, China was concerned about overpopulation. Way back in 1996 when I travelled to China, I still saw a slogan painted on a wall in a village in Gansu Province encouraging even the exempted couples to have fewer children. But the former Communists finally figured out that low fertility doesn’t do an expanding economy much good. After decades of a strict one-child policy, the ruling Communist Party said on Thursday that China will allow all families the freedom to have two children. Is “freedom” good enough? Do they also need incentives? Well, I believe the Vietnamese bride business in Guangxi will continue thriving for a while, but I suspect our mainland cousins probably need far less help than the pandas. For sure, they won’t need any baby bonus scheme to get going. With only rural Han women and minorities exempted from the one-child policy, Chinese women (in China) were already doing 1.66 births per woman. In Singapore, in spite of all the incentives, we are only doing 1.29 births per woman; comparable with overcrowded Hongkong at 1.28. Even rapidly aging Japan is doing 1.41. Go figure that one out.
“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.”
― Kenneth E. Boulding
Nothing can be more straightforward and telling that the numbers you have in your bank account or your CPF statement. But numbers elsewhere like GDP growth and floating mortgage rate can be a bit more difficult to interpret if not downright misleading. Our government may not have told us this, but GDP growth is very much dependent on population growth – the size and productivity of the workforce. More growth? We are testing the limits and capacity of our tiny island and it’s impossible not to suffer consequences. One perennial problem is our over-stretched public transport system. As Kishore Mahbubani suggests (after several proposals made by opposition parties in the past), our government should probably run the public transport system, but then again, as long as the folks running our trains don’t find maintenance “sexy”, it’s not going to make much of a difference.
On Monday 26th Oct 2015, my 13-year-old son called me from Punggol MRT station telling me that the NEL was down. He panicked as he knew he was going to be late for school and asked me for help. I told him to calm down and the teachers would not punish him. If I were to go down to the MRT station, I too would be stuck in the quagmire of the kampung mayhem with everyone fighting for buses, taxis or even just to get out of the MRT station. I told him to get instructions from the staff there. He successfully took the bridging services to Serangoon. I emailed his teacher to explain why he was late.
For some “good news”, three more train stations – Keppel, Cantonment and Prince Edward – will be added to the Circle Line (CCL) by 2025, closing the loop for the orbital line. These stations will be located along a 4km stretch connecting the existing CCL HarbourFront station to Marina Bay station. If we remember that the Circle Line first opened in 2010 and the last three stations will be added in 2025, we’d also be scratching our heads like Ms Josephine Teo. Are they depending on volunteers and their kampung spirit to build 4km of “closing loop”?
But judging from the lack of response to this on social media, one can only conclude that most Singaporeans are childish people only keen on letting information that put people to shame for occupying the “reserved seat” go viral. The shamed and the shamer have their supporters, just like the folks at City Harvest Church.
The six City Harvest Church leaders have finally been convicted on 21st Oct 2015 for fraud in a trial that started since 2013. As you may already know, Kong Hee, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, former CHC finance managers 1)Serina Wee, 2)Sharon Tan, and former CHC finance committee member John Lam were accused of misappropriating $24 million in church funds, funnelling them into bogus investments that funded the singing career of the pastor’s wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun. Later, a further $26 million was used to cover their tracks.
The six faced varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts. A maximum cumulative sentence of 20 years can be imposed on the accused, in addition to a fine. Alas, I don’t think we’ll see very much of Serina Wee in public after this.
Kong and Lam were found guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust. Tan Ye Peng, Chew and Wee were convicted of six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsifying accounts. Sharon Tan was found guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsifying accounts. Their loyal church members have been praying hard and we are still waiting for the sentences.
Meanwhile, former police officer Iskandar Rahmat is defending himself against charges of murdering father-and-son duo Tan Boon Sin, 67, and Tan Chee Heong, 42. He is alleged to have robbed and killed the two. Immediately after Iskandar was named a suspect and fugitive who had fled to Johor, a press conference was held and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee broke the news about his identity at a sombre press conference. I remember them reassuring the public that they would take appropriate action and not shield the accused in any way. I’ve never doubted that. All his past achievements in the force have been swiftly erased from various websites. But that’s not the point. If Iskandar were my colleague and if he turned from model cop to robber/murderer because of a $65,000 debt, then I would feel guilty for not being able to help. Imagine if 65 people came up with $100 each, the tragedy would have been averted and Singapore would not have lost a good cop.
Anyway, Iskandar’s murder trial began on 20th Oct 2015, about two years after the former model police officer was arrested. The prosecution closed its case on 29th Oct 2015. I guess it takes a lot less time to find someone guilty of murder.
There are other instances where numbers don’t seem to make sense. Let’s go back to GE2015 results and campaign spendings.
According to CNA:
The People’s Action Party (PAP) allocated S$1,678,544.03 on advertising and printing of promotional materials, accounting for 76.9 per cent of the party’s total budget. The total budget expenditure was S$2,181,361.89. More than a million dollars went to the printing of its manifesto.
There was also substantial investment in new media technology by the ruling party. About S$35,600 went into the development of PAP’s mobile app as well as website development and support, while another S$1,500 went to influencer engagement. More than S$2,700 was spent on Facebook ads and Twitter engagement.
The Singapore Democratic Alliance meanwhile, budgeted the least for a GRC at S$3,711 for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
This is actually very impressive. For all the gibes and mockery directed at Desmond Lim, his party actually got the best bang for their buck. A friend of mine worked out a far more useful interpretation.
SDA: For the $3711 they spent, they pulled in 46,508 votes in Pasir Ris Punggol GRC. That’s 12.5 votes for every dollar spent.
PAP: For MacPherson SMC, PAP pulled in 17,227 votes for $81,165 spent. That’s 0.21 vote for each dollar.
Let’s not forget the pre-election goodies. So what does all this mean? To me, it means that as long as we stand by those with the “track record”, we’ll never know how cost effective another party can be if they were given the chance to govern.
Will our government spend less on the next election since they have won by such a wide margin and they’re going to win again? Will they risk a narrower margin and spend less? We are constantly reminded who is the egg and who is the stone and the stone is always very well-protected from the egg.
© Chan Joon Yee