Breaking the Poverty Cycle – Minimum Wage is not the Magic Bullet

In an affluent society like Singapore, it is hard to imagine that they are people who are still in poverty or that poverty trap does exist. Though we have both the PAP and the oppositions screaming the “nobody left behind” battle cry, the truth is many are left stranded and trapped in poverty. So what can we do better?

We have heard arguments from PAP and from Oppositions regarding the minimum wage scheme. However, if minimum wage is such an easy way to eradicate poverty, the world would have already adopted it. However, poverty still exists in most countries that have minimum wages in place. Minimum wages, if implemented properly, may have some positive effect on the economy by reducing sweat shops and exploitations. However, there are many side effects of minimum wages that require serious thoughts before it can be implemented.

Minimum wage could really increase unemployment if other policies are not put in place. It is a double edged sword. Whilst it is true that employers may not pay less than the minimum for the workers’ services, it is also true that workers may not offer any services less than the minimum. Using the SDP’s argument of $300 dollars a week argument, would a company hire a cleaner for $1200 monthly to sweep the floor when the equivalent sum could be used to get a trained clerical staff? It is very unlucky and companies may react by migrating the job scope to other staff. Using a domestic helper’s analogy, many Singaporeans would not mind spending $1000 per month to relieve them of some burden and hence enjoy a higher quality of life. However, if the price is prohibitive (uncompetitive in the industry), then they would redistribute the workload of the domestic helpers amongst the family members. Hence, if implemented blindly, these policies could hurt the quality of lives those who remained employed and reduce employability of the lower-skilled workers.

Secondly, minimum wage could also affect the overall wage across all levels. Even for the lower skilled workers, there is great disparity in terms of skills and the current wage has a range that commensurate with their responsibility and skills. If the wages of those who are at the minimum wage level or marginally higher is not adjusted, there would be widespread discontent. Why should a person go for clerical courses and take on additional responsibilities if the pay would be no difference from another who sweeps the floor without any stress? If the pay is adjusted upwards across all ranks, then surely inflation would erode any benefits of the minimum wage. Moreover, these would make people who are lowly skilled resistant to additional responsibilities or skills upgrades as there wouldn’t be any carrots to offer.

Next, minimum wage could also erode our human capital. Even in today’s society, we have heard of many schools students dropping out of school or seeking part time employment. With minimum wage implemented, these students would be tempted with the quick money available and may drop out of schools completely. Hence, we could see a drop in the number of skilled workers in the futures. If the minimum wage policy does not cover certain age group, company could offers incentives to lure students to work for them at wages that are attractive enough and are lower than the minimum wage to save cost. This would harm the employability of the people who really needs the money to support their family.

In short, minimum wage across the board would do no good to alleviate poverty. However, it could be implemented in certain industries (skilled jobs) to prevent the proliferation of sweat shops and exploitation or encourage employers to upgrade the skills of those workers to justify increase in pay. There are already many countries with successful implementation of minimum wage and we should learn from them and not use it as a magic bullet.

Ground Not So Sweet For PAP

The election result had probably left PAP leaders scratching their head. Out-going Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had remarked that the ground was not so sweet due to higher cost of living but they had hardly predicted that the groundswell of discontent was so huge that the ground was not sweet became the understatement of the year. So what had PAP done wrongly? To be fair to them, they had not changed much over the past 50 years in terms of performance or attitude. However, they had become victims of their own successes. While transforming Singapore, they have also transformed the mindset of people.

In the past, majority of the population were lowly educated immigrants and who did not mind a more high-handed management style. Unexposed to western democracy, most citizens were subdued and law fearing due to the cultural influences. History and Asian philosophy had taught many that the mandate to rule come from heaven and authorities must be respected. Moreover, with poor education, most of these people couldn’t fathom politics and voting back then was more a popularity contest rather than a contest of the brains for policy.

Singapore electorate in 1970
Exhibit 1: Singapore electorate in 1970

In the past, our electorate looked something like Exhibit 1 where majority of the people were the clueless mass. Top down approaches worked well as most of them could not comprehend the impact of the policies and discussions were often kept minimal. It was more like a stern father guiding a young child and the child trusted the father for his wisdom and experience to provide the best.

Singapore electorate today
Exhibit 2: Singapore electorate today

As we can see from Exhibit 2, the electorate had changed due to PAP’s own successes. We have an electorate that is more articulate and knowledgeable. This created three new groups of people that the PAP were unaccustomed to.

For the “blind leaders”, PAP had to focus more on providing explanation and education. This is solely lacking in the past as there were never huge groups of articulate people around. Vocal dissidents were far and few and were quickly quashed by PAP. However, as the number grows for this group, it is no longer effective or feasible to silence the group. Lack of information in the public domain for many of the matter relating to our politics and policies, these group tend to spin their own stories which may be half-truths or blatantly false. However, when stories are repeated, the perception that the government had failed would strengthen. Perception is reality in politics.

The outspoken advocates are the difficult people for the PAP to deal with. Those people demand respect and would actively engage the PAP on various issues. In the past, all the intellectual elites were either in the civil services, academia or in PAP and hence the tone and manner which PAP spoke to critics could be condescending at times. In today’s world, where there are many qualified people in private sectors, such comments would be dissected, analysed and torn to shreds by these group. The condescending tone that was once condoned is now viewed as sheer arrogance or even hubris.

Lastly, the PAP had underestimated the importance to engage a large group of seemingly passive silent influencers. These people are knowledgeable and often analytical. As they are normally passive and silent, this group posed no issues in the past election. However, with the advent of social media, these intellects wield great influence on the results of the election. Highly respected by their peers, they could shift opinions with their arguments. The internet amplified these voices, which are inaudible in the past, to such an extent that they could make or break a party. PAP’s control of the mainstream media which served them well in the past had shown signs of cracks during the election as overwhelming damnation drowned out most of the voices for support for PAP. The clueless mass, which formed a huge part of the electorate are influenced by all the messaging that they hear. As PAP is slow in engaging the silent influencers and winning them over, these people’s views would tend to be negative as they perceive PAP to be arrogant. These people greatly influence the voters belonging to the internet age.

How Many Foreigners Are Enough?

I have always pride myself for being a Singaporean in the past. There is such a diverse culture and the multi-racial society and colonial past has made us very tolerant of immigrants. Being racially prejudiced in some countries, I am even more determined to extend my hospitality (part of Asian culture) to foreigners. These values that we all take for granted are now under threat. The liberal immigration stance taken by our government had unwittingly bred a whole new generation that appeared to be xenophobic. The comments on the social media sometimes made me cringe. We should not adopt an anti-immigration policy but we should really do some soul searching and ask ourselves how many foreigners are enough.

In the pursuit of economic growth, our government had unfortunately ignored the rest of the social indicators. Perhaps the GDP growth was such an important KPI, linked to their bonuses (read my views on GDP Bonus here), that it was pursued at the expense of others. To fuel the GDP growth, we require more and more workers and hence the huge influx of foreigners. But is the growth really necessary? What is the marginal benefit to Singapore for the additional growth? Below are some points that I would like to raise.

  1. GDP Per Capita
  2. Singapore already has one of the highest GDP per capita in the world. Increasing the amount of workers simply to raise GDP without raising the GDP per capita doesn’t make sense as it would mean the average goods and services produced per person has decreased. Having a bigger pie is always good but if there are now more people sharing the pie, the increase in size may not be justifiable.

  3. Social and Welfare Indicators
  4. We must be mindful that we do not sacrifice the welfare of our residents for economic growth. Social and Welfare Indicators must be monitored so that it does not fall below acceptable range when we are increasing the amount of foreigners. We have limited resources such as public transport, amenities and even human resources (counsellors, doctors, nurses etc) and we must make sure that the ratio of residents to our resources are in the healthy range.

  5. Employment Rate and Household Income
  6. The government also need to monitor the employment rate and household income. No doubt that foreign investments along with the foreign workers are necessary for the economy and jobs creation, we still have to study their impact. Do those new jobs created increase the average salary of Singaporeans? Do the new investments lower the unemployment rate? We would be surprised sometimes when we analyse the results.

Singapore could well be over-populated now in our blind pursuit of GDP growth (strangely the Public Service is rewarded based on this criterion). If the government doesn’t watch it, xenophobia may grow. If left unchecked, it could become the platform for some far-rightist to make a stake. To curb this, we must re-visit all our indicators to make sure that the basic welfare of our residents are not compromised.

To sum it up, Singapore must reassess her priority. We are already an affluent country by all measures and economic growth should no longer be the top priority. After all, people chase money to buy a better standard of living. It doesn’t make sense to earn more but decrease the quality of our lives. I would end by quoting Mr. Robert Kennedy: “Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” Increasing foreign workers simply to increase our GDP serves no purpose to the ordinary Singaporeans.

The Truth about GDP Growth and GDP Bonus

Singapore has a unique way of rewarding ministers and top civil servants called the GDP bonus. Essentially, their bonus would be tied to the GDP growth. If the GDP growth falls below 2%, there would be no bonuses. Once the GDP is above 2%, they would be rewarded with bonuses linked to the growth rate. But, is GDP growth a true indicator of successful policies?

Let us examine what is GDP actually. GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is a measurement of the economy developed by Simon Kuznets. GDP is a measurement of all the final goods and services produced in a country for a given period (in this case the given year). There are several ways to calculate the GDP but all of them would lead to the same result. Economics students would recall in their studies that GDP (Y) = C + I + G + (X – M)
Where

  • C is consumption by end consumers such as buying food, medication or paying for a movie ticket;
  • I is the overall investment such as buying new machineries for companies or buying a new house for end consumers;
  • G is total government spending such as salary, purchasing military weapons or investments;
  • X is value of total export and M is value of total input.

I am not about to begin a economic lecture but merely stating how the GDP is calculated and hence, explain why certain policies are put in place. I always believe that “what gets measured gets done”. Hence, GDP growth which is measured (a KPI), would be tracked and policies would be made to maximise GDP.

  1. Population Growth
  2. One may ask why is our government is so keen to increase the population of Singapore. Recently, Minister Mentor remarked that another 900, 000 foreign workers are required in Singapore. The sad truth is that population increase would lead to an increase of GDP. The C and I of the components of GDP are very much determined by the population size. More people would mean more consumption and the requirement for companies and residents alike to invest in equipments or houses to sustain the population.

    Population growth comes at an expense. The services and commodities available (resources) would become scarce and inflation would increase. Quality of life would suffer as a result. However, inflation is actually inflates the GDP as the value of goods and services would increase as a result of inflation and hence inflates the GDP. Remember that the performance bonuses of the policy makers are linked to actual GDP growth rate and not adjusted rate (adjusting for inflation), policy makers would rather allow the inflation rate be as high as what is tolerable.

  3. GDP Bonuses
  4. GDP bonus is also another negative feedback loop. If you look closely at the calculation of GDP, government spending is a component. Government spending includes the salary of public servants. Hence, the GDP bonuses paid out to public servants such as Ministers and top civil servants actually becomes components of the GDP. This inflates the GDP and justifies higher bonuses the following year and push up the GDP even more and so on. Though one may argue that the GDP bonus is only a tiny fraction of the total government expenditure (only a few char kuay tiao per resident as claimed), the negative feedback loop shows that this rewarding structure is flawed.

  5. Employer-Friendly Policies
  6. Many of us recalled that the employers used to match the CPF contribution for the employees. CPF is meant to replace pension and employers and employees have equal responsibility to make sure that we have sufficient savings when we are in our twilight years. However, during the time of recession, the government introduced measures to cut the employers’ contribution to retain foreign companies. Though our economy had rebounded, they are slow to reinstate the employers’ contribution. Sadly, this has a severe impact on us. In the past, it is the onus of the company to provide for pension for people who had loyally served them. With the cut in employers’ contribution, the burden is shifted back to the employee.

    The reason why the government introduced these employer-friendly policies is to increase the GDP growth of Singapore. With more companies, the total output would be greater and hence the growth would increase.

The above examples are just a few to illustrate how the GDP bonus affects the way our policies are formulated. If the GDP is a good measurement of the welfare, then it would make sense to reward the policy makers for improving our country and our lives. However, the GDP is not meant to be used as a measurement of welfare and using it alone is a flawed measurement of the success of our policies. Here are a few reasons why we cannot use GDP as an indication of our success.

  1. GDP Per Capita is not used
  2. As we discussed earlier, GDP is the total value of the goods and services produced in the country. This does not take into account the total number of inhabitants in the country. Hence, if the population growth is greater than the GDP growth, it could mean the total goods and services produced in the country is lower per person. Understanding this, GDP growth could be achieved by increasing foreigners even at the expense of GDP per capita.

  3. Gross National Product is not a KPI for GDP Bonus
  4. Gross National Product (GNP) is a different way of calculating the total goods and services taking into account of ownership of enterprises (Singapore owned or foreign owned). GDP growth could also be achieved at the expense of Singapore companies. Huge MNCs often drive local SMCs out of business and yet contribute massively to our GDP. Yet, the money earned belongs to foreigners and may not be retained in our economy and do not benefit Singaporeans.

  5. Real GDP is not used (Inflation adjusted)*
  6. As mentioned earlier, inflation can artificially inflate the GDP. For example, if the value of money is halved, the prices of all goods and services produced would be doubled. Even if no additional goods and services are produced, the GDP would have increased.
    Hence, I propose that the government look at other indicators for performance bonuses rather than using GDP growth. Other factors such as median household income, lower quartile income, welfare indicators should be used instead. The government is successful only if the lives of the citizens improved and not because the GDP has grown.

Disclaimers:
*Assumption as there is little information regarding the calculation of GDP bonus in the public domain.
The author is not an economist nor had any formal training in economics. If any of the mentioned points are inaccurate, please feel free to comment on them.

Mushrooms, Trees and the National Team

During the days of the campaigns for Singapore’s Parliamentary General Election 2011, we have heard numerous analogies from drivers and co-drivers, to mushrooms, trees and the national football team. Let us take a closer look at our political scene and strategy using the same analogies and see what we can learn.

WP’s candidate Chen Show Mao’s cheeky rebuttal of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s analogy of the national team brought about some laughter. The national team is the team that “wears red and white and not white and white”. Laughter and jokes aside, let us take a closer look at our national team.

I went to take a look at the current composition of the national team and I noticed that they came from very diverse clubs. I saw Tampines Rovers, Arema Malang, Medan Chiefs, SAFRA etc. I went in and take a look at the past results of S-League and I saw that the Singapore Armed Forces FC were the winner for the past few years except 2010 when Etoile FC topped the league. The result is typical of any football league. In football, everyone knows that track record counts for nothing. A successful management in the past would most likely give you an edge but without proper recruitment and succession plan, the decline could be swift and brutal. Liverpool FC had been the most decorated club in English Football history but that counted for nothing against the likes of Manchester United or even Chelsea or Arsenal now. Succession planning and recruitment is paramount to keeping a team at the top.

Using the same analogy, would we have sent the winning team as the national team? The answer lies before our eyes. No national team coaches would even dream of doing that. Would we also advocate putting all the best players into a single “dream team’ and shut the rest of the teams? The answer would be obvious. Without the competition and worthy opponent to spar, the national team’s standard would just steadily decline. Hence, to ensure that the National Team is the best, we have to invest and give every clubs a chance. A single team system would never be ideal.

The next story is given by Minister Lui Tuck Yew on special trees that provide shelter to a village. However, some colourful mushrooms grow every five years and the villagers are tempted by the mushrooms and even suggested that they should get rid of some trees to allow the mushrooms to grow.

The mushrooms and trees analogy sort of backfire as some citizens rightly pointed out that the mushrooms are indication of a tree’s health. Mushrooms are in fact fungi that feed on rotting and decaying things. Hence, the presence of mushrooms signaled that perhaps the roots of the trees are rotting. As a gardener, the obvious thing to do whenever your trees or plants are rotting is to start pruning and get rid of the decaying part so that the fungi do not spread. Though trimming the roots, cutting away rotting branches may seem cruel, it is absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of the tree.

Similarly, when a tree has rotted beyond the gardener’s ability to save, it is only wise that the tree is removed so that it does not pose a threat to the villagers. Rotting trees are easily uprooted during storms and falling branches can also pose a risk to the villagers. When we look at our estates which are beautifully maintained by N-Park, there are often time when the trees are removed. And when those trees are removed, N-Park does not drop a seed to plant a new tree. Instead, they plant a young tree from a nursery. Planting a seed when the tree is removed is too late.

It is very surprising that we are so meticulous when it comes to planning for contingency for our sports and even the basic tree planting exercise. However, when it comes to politics, we seem to ignore all the wisdom of having insurance. If we do not nurture a young sapling in the nursery and hoping that the trees would serve us forever, we would be left scrambling for solution when the trees die.

Electronic Road Pricing – A Real Solution to Ease Traffic Jam?

In 1998, the Land Transport Authority of Singapore introduced the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) which is effectively an electronic toll collection. The rational of implementing the ERP is to manage congestion so that it reduces the cost of business (due to time saved).

Opposition parties had claimed that the government has used the ERP system as a revenue generating tool rather than to serve its primary purpose to control traffic congestion. Are there any truths in the claim?

The government claimed that when there is no congestion, there will be no ERP. ERP rate is measured by the amount of traffic that passes the gantry any given time. However, despite implementing the ERP, the amount of toll had steadily increased over the years. It would signal that the amount of traffic had in fact, steadily increased despite the ERP. So why did the ERP fail to accomplish its goal? I plotted the rate of infrastructure improvement (using lane-kilometres as a gauge) and the vehicle population (cars population measure in 100s).

Infrastructure and Car Population
Exhibit 1: The growth of Infrastructure and car population. Note: No statistics are available before 2002 for car population.

We can see very clearly that our infrastructure increases very gradually in a straight line. However, the car population increases in a very steep curve in the recent years. If Singapore maintains a policy of steady growth rate for car population, the growth would be exponential. It suffices to say that our infrastructure is not keeping up with the growth of car population. Hence, the argument that the ERP would be lowered and waived is not meaningful at all as we can see that it would never happen if prevailing policies are unchanged.

The government insists that the business cost of traffic congestions is bad for the economy. However, with the ever increasing ERP pricing, the amount of traffic has not reduced and the time lost for travelling is still significant. The reason behind the lack of control is simply due to the inevitable use of the roads. Nobody would go to Shenton Way to have breakfast during the peak hours because they feel like it. For the thousands who are working in central business district(CBD), they do not have any choices. They need to be there for work and no matter how much the ERP has increased, they would still have to bite the bullet. Hence, the ERP is not only ineffective to manage congestion, it burdens Singaporeans by reducing the total disposable income.

Next, the ERP hours had been extended till 8pm at nights in city area and 1030pm for traffic exiting business districts. Moreover, Saturdays ERPs had been introduced several years ago. Singaporeans cheekily called it “shopping tax’ or ‘food and entertainment tax’. However, the tolls obviously contradict the objectives of ERP to manage traffic congestions to reduce the cost of business. This is the primary reason why Singaporeans feel that the ERP system has been abused to generate revenue for the government. Moreover, the ERP during those hours caused many drivers to go back home late or make excessive detours. I would argue that the cost to the economy is greater as there are more pollution and energy loss associated to the longer roads planned by the drivers to avoid ERP. The ERP reduced the disposable income and reduced the amount that Singaporean spent on the economy reducing the multiplier effect of money. And finally, by encouraging the people to go back later, the government increases the level of fatigue and lowers the quality of life for Singaporeans.

I suggest that we re-look at the ERP policy and effectively use it to control traffic congestions as it how it was originally planned.

  1. Increase the toll rate for the most direct roads to CBD area but decrease or waive the ERP for minor roads leading into CBD. This would make certain roads premium roads for people who needs to urgently go to CBD to conduct business and hence reduce the cost of business due to traffic congestions. However, by reducing or waiving the tolls on other less popular roads, it would encourage other users to detour. Presently, the ERP rate is uniform across all the roads leading in the CBD and hence there is no incentive for users to divert and use other roads.
  2. Waive the ERP at night at some areas of CBD. This would encourage people to dine in the CBD area and hence decrease the congestions to other popular spots such as Orchard Road. This effectively spread out the masses as they would be given more choices.
  3. Waive ERP on outbound roads at night. This would encourage Singaporeans to go home earlier and spend quality time with their family. The ERP had shown that it is ineffective to control traffic congestion during after work hours and it should not be used as an excuse to raise revenue for the government.
  4. Waive ERP for public transport. This would reduce the operating cost of public transport and hence pass the savings to the commuters.

Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) – Does It Really Safeguard the Interests of Minority Group?

Singapore introduced the GRC to ensure that the minority group is represented in Parliament. The argument is that without GRC, it would be very difficult for minority groups (Malay, Indian and Eurasian) to compete against Chinese for popular votes and risk not represented in Parliament.

This argument is flawed as minority has always been proportionately represented in the parliament even prior to the establishment of GRC. If we look into the current and previous cabinet, we can see that even at its highest level, the minority races are represented. This policy is, in fact, an insult to the minority groups as it suggests that people of their races would not be able to enter the Parliament through their own merits.

I strongly believe that good leaders, regardless of their races, would be able to make informed and sound policies without prejudicing any races. After all, a Chinese MP would be able to hear and address the concerns of other races as well as an Indian or Malay MP. Moreover, the Parliament makes decisions by voting. Even with the introduction of GRC, the minority groups would still be outnumbered should there be any voting required for policies that cross the racial line. As such, we are still dependent on the goodwill of the majority to vote sensibly after hearing the views of minority groups. As such, GRC does not safeguard the interests of minority groups.

To safeguard the views of minority, we can propose that the committee appointed by the President to elect their own Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP) to represent the views of minority groups. Currently, the committee determines if the candidates for the election belongs to any minority groups. These NMPs should be given veto power if any policy proposed by the Parliament is prejudiced against the minority groups. The said policy would then require Presidential Endorsement which would act as another layer of safeguard. These NMPs would be the best people to serve the needs of the minority groups as they are not under the Party Whip and do not have vested political interests.

Abolishing the GRC would bring about many benefits:

1. Each candidate would contest based on individual merits
2. Allowing independent candidates or smaller political parties to compete fairly
3. Prevent bigger parties to sneak in below par candidates into the team

The merits of abolishing the GRC outweigh the objective of the GRC. We have established that GRC is not required to maintain a minority presence and additional safeguards could be achieved through a more effective NMP scheme.

Nicole Seah: Messiah or False Prophet?

Judging from the number of likes and the comments on her Facebook profile, she seems more like the former. In fact, there is even ridiculous call for WP or SPP to reject their NCMP seats in favour of her.  But, is she really the messiah? Will getting her into parliament solve all the problems that Singaporeans are facing?

I would think that a person joins a political party because of the ideals and their manifestos. I took a closer look at the NSP manifestos and there are some points that Nicole’s thongs of worshippers should be aware of. Voting her in parliament means that you agree with the manifesto and want those policies implemented. You cannot thus say that you like the person in parliament but reject her policies. Politics unfortunately does not work that way. Here are a few selected policies that I wish to highlight:

  • Employment pass (with no quota imposed) be applied to jobs with a salary of at least $4000 per month.

The NSP argued that since 72% of Singaporeans earn below this pay, it is thus fine for us to have unlimited foreign talents to fill this gap. So do NSP want to increase the capability of Singaporeans so that the median household income increases or are they happy for foreigners to take those highly skilled jobs away from Singaporeans (note: no quota). The current average starting salary for university students is approximately $3000 and it would be a matter of time before they hit the $4000 range. As for the rest of our residents, it is important that skills are upgraded for the polytechnics and A-levels holders so that in time to come, they may draw this salary. Allowing this policy is lacking foresight and very soon, our university graduates would be stagnant in their career as more and more foreigners would be competing in the upper range.

NSP instead argued for a restricted quota for people who earns below $4000. Basically, this move will downgrade Singaporeans to take jobs below the $4000. Since companies can easily hire foreigners to take the higher paying jobs and has lack of candidates for the low paying range, the easiest decision is not to promote Singaporeans and hire people above them.

  •  Discounts to be given to first time buyers of new HDB flats so that they pay slightly above the cost of building the flats plus a discounted land price.

NSP proposed that the first time applicants should not be paying anymore more than the cost of building the flats plus a discounted land price. The solution is akin to throwing a freezing man into a fire to solve his problem. If we wish to instantly crash the property market and bring about a recession, we can surely adopt this policy. There are more people with a property now versus people without properties. Imagine the price of a HDB 5-room flat dropping instantly to $100, 000. A hurrah for those who are waiting to buy a flat but all the rest of the households would suddenly have a negative equity.

Financial institutions and the government would be suddenly burdened as people default on their loans due to negative equity. For fully paid houses, the drop in prices would eat into their retirement funds. We would have successfully ushered in the dark ages.

  •  To downsize the Army and build up Navy and Air Force to defend Singapore.

While NSP acknowledged that terrorism (such as Mas Selamat’s escape as quoted) and transnational crimes are important issues and the armed forces must be well equipped to handle these, they recommended downsizing the army. May I ask NSP how would they propose using the Navy and Air Force to help Singaporeans combat those crimes?

Lest most of us had grown old and had forgotten our history, let us be reminded that we have Navy and cannons pointing to the sea while the Japanese took a stroll into town. The only way our Air Force and Navy could defend us against any ground forces would result in heavy collateral damages.

Moreover, reduction in the duration for national service heavily contradicts the aim to build a technologically advance armed forces. To have a technological edge, the duration of national service should not be reduced to a mere 15 months as that would be grossly insufficient to train soldiers besides the basic disciplines. Moreover, it would be naïve to expect that officers could be trained within a short period of six months. Having a half baked defence would put our country in peril.

Personally, I believe that the popularity of Nicole Seah probably stemmed from the unpopularity of PAP’s MP-elect Tin Pei Ling. There is no doubt that Nicole perform better in articulating her thoughts and demonstrated better maturity than Tin Pei Ling, she is still not the messiah that we can hope for. When contacted regarding the Tin Pei Ling’s alleged canvassing on the eve of polling day, Nicole replied that it would be an uphill battle and hence she would not pursue the incident. However, politics would be always an uphill battle. In fact, after elected, the hill would become steeper. Would she quit when the hill is too steep? The answer she gave suggested that she would.

Recently, Nicole also posted a link to support the petition for a by-election for Mr. Chiam. Though she did not comment on the link, it is (and rightly pointed out by people commenting) a form of endorsement for the petition. As someone who had chosen to pursue a political career, such disrespect for the democratic process or the statutes is really unbecoming. Mr. Chiam himself had been very gracious at defeat and distanced himself from the petition.  Her irresponsible sharing of the link indirectly told her supporters that she had endorsed it and encouraged them to sign the petitions.

There is even a petition to Worker’s Party to decline the NCMP seats that it had won to allow Nicole Seah a chance in parliament. This proposal showed how immature her fans are. People enter parliament either as independent or through their political parties to push for their own political agendas. Worker’s Party’s agenda is of course very different from NSP. In fact, by giving up the seat, Worker’s Party would have betrayed their voters who believe in their manifesto. Please remember that ‘oppositions’ is just a terminology for politicians who are not in the ruling party. They should not oppose for the sake of opposing. By sacrificing their NCMP seat for Nicole would signal that their manifesto does not matter and they are interested in getting people to oppose the government.

I do believe that we that we need to be adequately represented in parliament. However, we do not need more voices. There are already 87 elected voices and many more including the NMPs and NCMPs. What we need is alternate policy and alternate strategy to run our country. Would Nicole be able to provide alternative strategy or policy? The NSP manifesto clearly tells me that she is not ready for that role.