Paul Tambyah loves Tharman, and that’s perfectly logical.

Paul Tambyah today professed his love for DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam, describing DPM as the most brilliant out of Singapore’s current ministers.

He even went on to proudly share a ‘secret’ amongst the opposition parties:

“Many of us in the alternative parties hope that one day DPM Tharman will have a falling out with PM (Lee Hsien Loong) and will come out to lead a grand coalition of opposition parties – Pakatan Rakyat Singapura – to present a real alternative to the current PAP (People’s Action Party) government.”

Wow, that’s quite incredible. I wonder what Paul’s leader, Chee Soon Juan, thought of his suggestion. Afterall, as the leader of an opposition party, Paul’s suggestion would place Chee under the lead of DPM Tharman.

I don’t think Chee is the kind of man who would be pleased with someone else steering the ship, and Mr Chiam could probably attest to that.

But that aside I do agree with Paul Tambyah, DPM Tharman is indeed one hell of a minister. In fact, this is not the first time we sang praises for the man – we literally called him Tharman ‘Hood’ Shanmugaratnam after his performance at this year’s Budget!tharmanhood

And it is very easy to be more impressed when you look into DPM Tharman’s credentials. Cue drumroll.

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Not only is DPM Tharman in charge of Singapore’s finances and fiscal policy, the man was also selected as the chairman of International Monetary Fund’s International Monetary and Financial Committee.

In simple English, Tharman led the team that decided IMF’s policies. Yes, that IMF that works to reduce poverty around the world.

DPM Tharman was also selected by Euromoney as the Finance Minister of the Year in 2013. Nobody knows about this award (besides finance ministers perhaps), but Tharman’s won it for us.

And lastly, perhaps most impressively, DPM Tharman is part of the Group of Thirty. This is a prestigious group of 30 top economists and financiers specially set up to look at how economic and financial issues affect the world.

I’m not smart enough to know what it means, but looking at the list of people in that group I would say that DPM Tharman is in a pretty esteemed place.

On top of being world-renowned at his day job as the finance minister, DPM Tharman also has time to partake in all sorts of weird activities organized by his grassroot leaders.

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No wonder even the opposition admires him!

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My problems with the opposition parties

The opposition parties are out in force this time around – all 89 seats are contested, and most of their candidates seem to come from respectable backgrounds. Some of these candidates can even speak multiple languages, a fact that somehow always pleases the crowd at rallies!

But I’ve been thinking and observing over the past week’s campaigning, and some of the things these opposition parties say are starting to worry me.

angry girl

Uniquely Singaporean Parties

First and perhaps most obvious is the reluctance of opposition parties to try and form a government. Most of them are basing their campaign on blaming the PAP, and claiming that they will keep the PAP in check when they’re voted into parliament.

A rather odd logic, if you ask me. Perhaps it is another uniquely Singaporean trait – we have almost 10 opposition parties whose very point of existence is to provide diversity to the ruling party.

Singapore-political-parties-logos

Diversity is good?

Diversity seems to be another oft-repeated catchphrase for the opposition parties. Vote me in! So there’s diversity in the parliament!

Do we really want diversity, for diversity’s sake?

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And at the end of it all, what does political diversity actually mean? WP has been described as PAP-lite, so I suppose the only diversity there is the color of their shirts. Yet they’re asking for voters to grant them 28 seats in the parliament.

To what end?

28 seats would not allow the WP to block constitutional changes suggested by the PAP, and neither would their opinions actually make a difference in policies. The only difference would probably appear in the bank accounts of the extra 21 MPs.

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Policymaking can be scary

Perhaps to set themselves apart, the SDP put out a whole series of alternative policies on big issues like housing and healthcare. What do they say?

Free healthcare! Reduce housing prices! Implement minimum wage!

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Errr. Somebody’s gonna pay for all those right? Easy, the SDP says. Cut defence budget by 40%, increase corporate taxes, and increase tax on the rich. Sounds good, but what does that actually mean?

It means our armed forces will be weakened significantly, when our neighbouring countries are becoming more nationalistic.

It means that companies, already facing the crunch from the lesser availability of foreign labour and a possible minimum wage regime, would need to incur even more additional costs.

This must be why even their leader Chee Soon Juan is astutely avoiding any mention of SDP’s policies at their rallies, because they know that when Singaporeans really think about SDP’s policies, they would realise that the policies are not viable at all. So all they talk about is the good old days, when every Singaporean led a relaxing life.

Sigh.

I Also Want to be a Town Council Managing Agent

MND yesterday revealed that FMSS, AHPETC’s former managing agent, made a profit of more than $2 million in 2013/2014. Including the directors’ fees and secretariat fees, the four owners of FMSS were apparently paid about $800k each in a single year.

Bloody hell! These people are better paid than PAPpies like Sim Ann, Maliki Osman and Teo Ser Luck! No wonder Maliki had to moonlight as a dancer.

According to the benchmark at Salary.sg, $800k a year means that the FMSS owners earn more than 99.3% of people in Singapore.

That’s a lot of money that the WeePies are giving to FMSS, and the WeePies believe that such payments are completely aboveboard and legit. For some reason though, FMSS no longer manages the WeePies’ towns – despite the fact that they’re so well-paid and that the WeePies are happy to pay such sums.

throwing-money-away

And this is why I’ve decided that I want to be a managing agent for the WeePies. Think about it – the WeePies need a managing agent, and I need a lot of money. We’re perfect for each other!

Plus, I have the qualifications that WeePies require:

As you can see, I possess the exact same qualifications that inspired the WeePies to hire FMSS back in 2011. Heck, I’d even offer a discount – I don’t need $3 million, pay me $2.5 million can already!

So WeePies, don’t wait already. Email me at zhunbosg@gmail.com after you win your GRC okay?

I’ll be checking my email on 12 September.

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Ng Chee Meng is a Camel: 5 Interesting Facts About the Outgoing CDF

So the cat is out of the bag.

Outgoing Defence Chief, Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng,  has announced his intention to enter politics. Nobody knows where he will be contesting in, but given his background as a fighter pilot we expect a lot of parachute jokes when his next battleground is confirmed.

In the meantime, here are 5 little-known facts that may interest you about the latest high profile PAPpie:

1) His pilot call sign is ‘Camel’

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According to Wikipedia, a callsign is a nickname usually given to military pilots. These nicknames often play on the pilot’s surname, personalities, references to historical figures or past exploits.

None of the above reasons seem to apply to LG Ng. So why is he the camel?

Perhaps he could fly for long hours without drinking any water? Maybe because he ‘carries’ a lot of responsibilities for the SAF?

There are many possible reasons, but we like to think that it is a reference to LG Ng’s humps.

2) He commandeered the 144 Squadron at RSAF

LG Ng started his career as a fighter pilot with the 144 Squadron before rising to command the squadron. Based out of the Paya Lebar Air Base, the 144 Squadron is considered to be the best fighter squadron in the RSAF and handpicks top pilot graduates to join their ranks.

3) His family is full of stars

ng family

LG Ng’s oldest brother, Ng Chee Khern, was previously a two star general with the RSAF. His younger brother, Ng Chee Peng, also wore two stars on his epaulets as the Chief of Navy.

Combined with the three stars that LG Ng has, the Ng family has a total of 7 stars within the family.

Curiously enough, LG Ng Chee Meng is the only one out of the three brothers to not receive the President’s Scholarship, yet is the one who rose the highest in his military career.

4) One of his past jobs was Military Private Secretary to the Defence Minister

He was the Military Private Secretary to the Defence Minister back in 1995/1996. The Defence Minister back then? Current President Tony Tan.

We can’t seem to find any information on what a Military Private Secretary actually does, but we came across this article where another Navy guy described his experience. He didn’t say much, except that the experience gave him a glimpse of the vast scope of important responsibilities our Cabinet Ministers hold.

Okayyyyyy.

5) His current children will not need to serve NS

Keep your tinfoil hats, conspiracy theorists.

The reason why LG Ng’s children would not need to serve NS is not because their father was the head honcho of the SAF. Both his kids would not need to serve NS simply because they’re both girls – Sara Ng and Elisabeth Ng.

Of course, both of them can always volunteer after the Committee of NS (which LG Ng led) suggested the addition of the SAF Volunteer Corps…

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Tharman, Sylvia Lim, and a metaphorical house

DPM Tharman had a feisty exchange with the WeePies MPs in Parliament today over their financial (mis)management in AHPETC.

A video of this exchange can be seen here.

It is quite a lengthy video, so its forgivable if you decide against watching it. Basically, WeePie/AHPETC chairwoman Sylvia Lim proclaims that the AHPETC‘s latest financial report only has 3 unresolved problems, as opposed to the 13 problems highlighted in the previous year’s report.

Just 3 problems, no big deal here! Because you know, 13 problems is okay, 3 problems is excellent, and 0 problem is simply a pipe dream.

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Of course, someone with a mind as sharp as DPM Tharman’s would disagree with that logic.

tharman bullshit

Describing AHPETC as a structurally unsound house, DPM Tharman ask that the WeePies put in the hard work needed to fix the problems, and not to simply whitewash everything. He added that the problems at AHPETC are fundamental and basic issues that need to be looked at, and said that the WeePies have had a long time to fix these issues.

Oh, and DPM Tharman revealed that the problems at AHPETC are so bad that even MND’s $7 million grant would not be enough to solve the issues.

Ouch.

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The WeePies have not responded to this latest salvo, but we expect that any statement from AHPETC would simply say that they would be submitting their financial report in due course.

If we’re lucky, the AHPETC or WeePies would once again lament the life as an opposition town council, chide DPM Tharman for politicising the issue, and complain that MND is withholding the grants.

Because, you know, complaining about problems is much easier than actually fixing them.

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Looking into Sylvia’s oyster omelette

From PM Lee’s infamous gaffe with his ‘mee siam mai hum, to uproar over Baey Yam Keng’s $2.50 nasi padangand the recent interest over Vivian’s relationship with fishballs – food and politics seem to always find each other in Singapore.

And now WeePie Sylvia Lim seems to have taken a leaf out of the PAPpies playbook – her first Instagram post featured the WeePies chairwoman enjoying a plate of orh lua (oyster omelette) at the Fengshan hawker centre.

The taste of Fengshan – heavenly! #reasonstowin

A post shared by Sylvia Lim (@sylvialim65) on

 

Our local media, ever so hungry for every morsel of election-speculative news, dug in with much relish.

Both The Straits Times and TODAY ran stories speculating that Sylvia Lim might be leaving her Aljunied GRC, and branching out into the new Fengshan SMC. This suspicion, according to both papers, was supported by Sylvia Lim’s cryptic hashtag ‘#reasonstowin’.

escalated

Calm down, people.

First, the WeePies have already committed to running in Fengshan SMC. And since her party has already committed to that SMC, shouldn’t Sylvia head over and lend their candidate some support? She’s one of the most recognisable opposition politicians in Singapore afterall.

In any case, she is still the chairman of the AHPETC. Sylvia Lim’s face was the one that represented AHPETC throughout their entire exchange with the government over AHPETC’s financial situation, and it be irresponsible of her if she were to leave her colleagues in the lurch.

Lastly, this is just someone going out to enjoy a plate of orh lua. Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into it, and let her enjoy her dinner.

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In Lui Tuck Yew’s defence

Sigh, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has announced that he is stepping down after the coming election. No reasons given, but it sounded like the transport portfolio has finally taken its toll on the man.

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The reaction online were mixed – many acknowledged his effort and contributions towards solving the transport problems, while some people online were of course glad to see the back of Lui.

Ministers and MPs – from both the PAPpies and WeePies camp – also spoke up and paid tribute to Lui. While most of them shared their different experiences and encounters with Lui, one common theme seem to emerge – that Lui is an honest, earnest and determined man who tried his hardest to solve difficult transport problems.

Yes, there were breakdowns, but should we really pin all the blame on one man? Oh, and make fun of his name in the process?

I’m not too sure about that.

Afterall, this is a guy who identified two big issues with our public transport back in 2011 – overcrowding and old infrastructure – and set about fixing them.

On overcrowding, Lui pushed the government to invest more than $1 billion in buying buses for the public. He also imported more trains for the MRT system, while breaking the ground for entire new lines like the Downtown Line and Thomson Line. The Downtown Line even overcame the bankruptcy of a major contractor to open in time later this year.

Infrastructural problems are difficult to solve, and it seemed like these were the ones which caused the major breakdowns. Unlike other politicians overseas, Lui never seemed to shy from the trouble and always visited the affected stations to observe the situation.

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And he’s not just an observer. Have you heard the constant announcements that trains are moving slower now because of track renewal works? That’s his team trying to fix the infrastructure problems. Things take time, and he has started work on it a long time ago.

Unfortunately, personal abuse never stopped and we’ve now lost a full minister. Our impatience has a price tag – an honest, earnest and determined man who tried his best to solve a difficult problem.

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Infatuation with the West

What is up with the recent infatuation with the West?

No, this is not about the usual invasion of Hollywood movies or American television shows on our screens – this is about the sudden infatuation with the old Chinese legend Journey to the West.

Yes, that classic Chinese story about how a monkey god, a pig and a former heavenly general worked together with a monk, overcame many obstacles and traveled to the West to fetch scriptures.

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It is a very old tale from the 16th century, and remains extremely popular even today. I mean, most kids would immediately know what we’re talking about when ‘Journey to the West’ is brought up right?

Perhaps in an effort to ride on this five-hundred year coat-tail, the government roped in some getai singers, a marquee director in the form of Royston Tan, and a PR agency to produce this abomination of a video:

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Yes, that is just a screencap of the actress looking embarrassed, probably because the video is that bad.

Here’s a summary of the video, so you won’t have to watch it – an old lady portrayed by a getai singer has health problems and is worried about healthcare costs. Another getai singer appears to explain that she need not worry because there’s the Pioneer Generation card now, while performing fake somersaults amidst unnecessary tacky animated clouds.

The government is not alone in trying to steal concepts from this classic tale.

One of the newest political parties in Singapore, the obviously non-xenophobic Singaporeans First Party, described their election plans as a ‘journey to the West’ that starts from Tanjong Pagar GRC. Which is okay, because it is technically a journey to the West.

Then they surprised everyone today by putting up this article and saying how they’ve learnt to govern from this classic tale about a pilgrimage.

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Yep, they learned to govern from a tale about a team of four who went to the West, picked up some scriptures then went home.

That’s a really weird plan for politicians. Afterall, most people would want their MPs to stick around after getting elected!

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Low could be Prime Minister

Five Stars and a Moon asked a really interesting question last week – can Mr Low Thia Khiang be Prime Minister of Singapore?

Mr Low, as they rightly pointed out, is the leader of the WeePies and that means that he would likely become the Prime Minister if the WeePies wins the majority in Parliament. We now know that the WeePies will not win the majority, since they will only be running for 28 seats.

What if, however, the WeePies win their 28 seats and the other opposition parties pull their weight and take another 17? The opposition parties could form a coalition government with 45 seats and remove PAP from power for the first time since Singapore’s independence!

Would Mr Low, as de facto leader of the opposition, then become the Prime Minister of Singapore? What would that be like?

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Five Stars and a Moon suggested that Mr Low would not be a good Prime Minister, because he is a for-profit businessman and is not eloquent enough to represent Singapore. Instead of Mr Low, they suggested that either Ms Sylvia Lim or Mr Chen Show Mao would be more suitable as Prime Minister.

We disagree.

While Mr Low is definitely not as well-spoken as Ms Lim or Mr Chen, he’s not had the dishonor of running a Town Council to the ground. Perhaps his expertise in running a for-profit business helped when he was running Hougang SMC, where he was MP for 20 years before leaving for Aljunied GRC in 2011. This financial acumen would be sorely needed in a scenario where WP and another opposition party rules Singapore, because PAP’s financial guru Tharman would likely be gone, and we wouldn’t want Singapore to be bankrupt.

Eloquence is not all that matters when running a country. Ms Lim’s time with Aljunied has showed us that she needs more experience.

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And please forget about Mr Chen Show Mao – that is assuming that you haven’t forgotten about him of course. Even though it seems like he has more scholarships than the entire civil service combined, Mr Chen has a natural knack of not delivering at key debates. Perhaps he can run for the President, where his talent for reading prepared speeches would be put to good use.

Of course, the other opposition parties would have to agree to Mr Low being Prime Minister. It is a coalition government afterall. Would they nominate their own leaders? SDP’s Chee Soon Juan, RP’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam and whoever is leading NSP when the elections come around – we may have a by-election for Prime Minister!

Do you think Mr Low is the ideal Prime Minister amongst the opposition party leaders? Let us know what you think at zhunbosg@gmail.com!

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Did the PAPpies goof it up with the new boundaries?

The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) released their report today, and there are a few major changes:

1) GRCs are now smaller with more 4-member GRCs around;

2) More SMCs, including Tin Pei Ling’s own Macpherson;

3) No more Joo Chiat, which was the most tightly-contested constituency in 2011; and

4) Two new GRCs – Jalan Besar (formed largely by the previous Moulmein-Kallang GRC) and Yew Tee-Marsiling.

electoral boundaries

So what do these changes mean? For all parties, PAPpies included, the changes mean that they would have to reshuffle their teams. For example, its unlikely for Lui Tuck Yew and Yaacob to continue co-leading the new Jalan Besar GRC. Same goes for opposition parties, with the WeePie Mr Yee Jenn Jong expressing his extreme sadness today in reaction to the report.

Such reshuffles are common though, and should come as no surprise.

What really surprised us was the odd re-drawing of boundaries. You see, people are always accusing the PAPpies of re-drawing boundaries to benefit themselves by either breaking up opposition strongholds, or drawing boundaries such that it is difficult for opposition parties to compete.

Today, they did neither.

Smaller GRCs and more SMCs mean that it would be easier for opposition parties to compete because they can now form smaller teams for the smaller GRCs or send one individual to fight in an SMC. One of these SMCs, Macpherson, is also likely to be contested by PAPpie Tin Pei Ling, who wasn’t very popular last time round. The opposition parties must surely clamor to compete in this new SMC.

Aljunied GRC, Hougang and Punggol-East were left completely untouched, giving WeePies the chance to stay there and consolidate their support. We wouldn’t be surprised if the senior WeePies like Mr Low Thia Khiang and Ms Sylvia Lim stay there, and send their now-experienced colleagues like Mr Chen Show Mao and Mr Pritam Singh to lead their own GRC teams.

time to run

Yes, the new boundaries essentially mean that WeePies can strengthen their current constituencies while competing in new areas.

If the PAPpies were really trying to give themselves an advantage with the new boundaries, they may have goofed it up.

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