Monday, February 16, 2009

A cynical view of the government's rescue efforts

There is a Chinese saying : "In adversity one sees true friendship." It applies equally to the present economic adversity as one sees the true countenance of the so-called benefactors.

Of course one cannot be oblivious to the massive activity put in by every member of the government with the noble objective of giving succour to the people worst affected by the recession. The government deserves the accolades that go with such an outstanding display of humanitarian service to these people who are acutely affected by the present economic crisis.

Without attempting to splash any cold water on the government's over-hyped rescue efforts and detract from the government's excellent motives by any unintended cynicism, there is a possibility that some of those who have been badly affected might have missed the rescue net. Conversely, it appears that a number of business concerns have received rather generous largesse from the government when they were in no danger of business contraction. In fact, they have even been contemplating staff retrenchment when they had no need of it.

The Prime Minister is reported to have said at a grassroots gathering that in the present recession he and the government ministers are suffering together with the people who are badly affected. It escapes our comprehension to know what the PM and his ministers are suffering from. Certainly not from the recession! Even with the insignificant self-imposed pay cut, the PM and his ministers are filthy rich with their astronomical salaries of close to two million dollars for the ministers and over three million dollars for the PM each year! Like the businessmen who received largesse when they had no need for it, the ministers were given hefty increases when they were already overpaid. It would be the height of irony if they had to tighten their belts like the suffering plebeians badly affected by the recession.

The plight of the government pensioners of the early seventies period in the last century is not a public attention-grabbing topic in this economic crisis and is not even given lowest priority in the government's consideration. Their attitude towards this group of ex-loyal civil servants; some of whose contributions to the security and prosperity of Singapore were no less significant than some of the past and present eminent ministers; is nothing short of pathetic. And whether the government's aloofness to their plight is an indictment of their callousness is left to the conscience of the PM and his ministers.

It is more than thirty years since their retirement and the barely surviving pensioners are expected to weather through this crisis with a pension fixed more than thirty years ago. A Malay police pensioner wrote in the Berita Harian forum that he was receiving a pension of $300 a month, a sum even less than that paid to those on public assistance!

It brings to mind a Chinese parable which says that whilst the ministers tuck in to delicacies of "big fish and meat" for each meal, the poor plebeians and destitutes subsist on a starvation diet of just "plain rice with soya sauce".

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Seng Han Thong Conundrum

Any right-thinking Singaporean will sympathise with the burn sufferings endured by Mr. Seng Han Thong, arising out of his unfortunate fiery attack by an assailant.

From the government's standpoint, Senior Minister of State Lui Tuck Yew quite rightly condemned in Parliament what he described as adverse postings on Mr. Seng, calling them outrages. But he omitted, for probably some ethical reason, to give details of some of the so-called outraged postings which leave some independent-minded Singaporeans wondering if there was not substance to some of these postings.

If there had been only one or two postings, one could have safely dismissed them as ill-intentioned. But when you have a massive number of critics, is it not proper to look further into it? Also in the Chinese radio programmes where questions were invited from listeners, one could detect some rumblings about Mr. Seng's character.

In fairness to Mr. Seng, there is no doubt that he is an exemplary MP but there may have been some moments in his dealings with his constituents which may not have passed muster. There is a saying that to err is human, to forgive divine. It is not too late to re-examine and re-evaluate if there is any public relations problem in order to serve the constituents better.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Political Shadow-play

The late US President Abraham Lincoln once said :"You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Whether this saying is relevant in this case is for the informed Singaporeans to decide.

The Ho Ching saga has been the subject of speculation for politically-conscious Singaporeans since she was appointed as chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings more than six years ago. Although it was strongly speculated at the time that it was a political appointment (due to the fact that she was the wife of the then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong), Mr. Dhanabalan, Temasek's Chairman, vehemently denied it and maintained that she was appointed solely on her merits. The debatable question is would she have been appointed over other equally or more qualified candidates if she had not been the wife of DPM (now PM) Lee Hsien Loong?

Of course, Mr. Dhanabalan had such singular foresight of character and Ms. Ho Ching subsequently proved to be so efficient that she incurred losses of hundred of millions of dollars for Temasek, which has been well recorded. It was obvious that there could not have been any official inquisition for these losses. And so were they written off and was it taxpayers money?

Now after a prolonged period of honeymoon, there now seems to exist a change of heart. Ms Ho Ching has suddenly decided that she has rendered more than sufficient meritorious service to Temasek and is content to find someone to inherit the depleted Temasek portfolio. The lucky successor and the man of the hour is none other an American,a Mr. Charles W. Goodyear (not a fall guy), who is a former CEO of BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining and resources company based in Melbourne and London. He will take over officially on October 1.

Ms Ho Ching has not indicated any future plan but said she felt relieved, which is quite understandable considering her distinguished career. We wish her equally eminent success in any future endeavour.