The awakening of the silent majority and remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Our dearest founding father Lee Kuan Yew passed away peacefully on Monday morning. Many of us and I greatly mourn the loss of our former leader.

My politically apathetic and PAP-supporting friends who were afraid of voicing their opinions for fear of being labelled as uncool or a bootlicker have been more vocal. Many have been changing their profile pictures to the black ribbon made my MP Alex Yam. Tribute photos, videos and blog postings from pro-establishment sites like the PAP Facebook page, Fabrications About the PAP and former NMP Calvin Cheng. I’m amused by a previous TRS article that linked me to Calvin Cheng but I’m obviously not him. I do read his work and admire his tenacity to voice his honest opinions against the tide of anti-PAP sentiment online.

I thoroughly despise the few bloggers and online commentators for using this mourning period as an opportunity to spew negativity and doubt about his policies or saying you are not saddened by it. If you are not saddened by it, you have no heart for Singapore.

It has come to my attention that a youtuber Amos Yee has uploaded a video “Lee Kuan Yew is finally dead”. I could barely watch one minute before shutting it off. I’m thankful for the online presence who have gone at length to criticise him. This is why we need greater controls in the new media. We have to stop a**h***s like Amos Yee from desecrating his funeral.

Opposition chief Low Thia Kiang sneakily used his tribute speech to score political points. It started out good but when he went about how Lee Kuan Yew was a controversial figure and some Singaporeans were sacrificed, I was disgusted. Lee Kuan Yew is controversial figure only to those who cannot understand the good he meant for Singapore. Policies such as land appropriation, meritocracy, bilingualism, national service, press controls and clean government were unpopular but was proven right in time.

Lee Kuan Yew was not a perfect politician. His actions has to be seen in the context of other politicians in the region then. His incorruptible character is golden. Much more valuable that the natural resources of our Asian neighbours. Communists were incarcerated in Operation Coldstore and some opposition members were sued and jailed. It is very simple for those influenced by Western liberalism to quote law and order and human rights. If one wants to go by the book, we would not have those educated Singaporeans today to be influenced by those liberal nonsense. Lee Kuan Yew did what he felt was right in those days and he delivered. What have those keyboard warriors done for Singapore?

He has been in power for many decades and enacted many policies and made many decisions, obviously the absolute number of mistakes he has made will be high, but so are the number of his positive policies. The simple test of his capability is to weigh all his great policies and his not-so-great ones. You will realise that the scale is tilted firmly to one side. That my friends, is what we should be looking at and remembering him for.

My foreign friends in university all say “You Singaporeans are very lucky to have Lee Kuan Yew.  I want him in my country”. Even India is having a day of mourning tomorrow. Countries from all around the world will send representatives and we even have ex-US president Bill Clinton flying in for the funeral. This speaks volumes about his international reputation. No leader from any other small country ever gets accorded such respect.

Sometimes, it takes a death to unite all of us. There has been speculation that a snap election may be called very soon after his funeral. I hope with his passing, Singaporeans will still remember his contribution and legacy that many have forgotten so easily just because a charismatic few make good rally speeches. Remember how far we have come, who brought us here, and who will bring us further. It is easy for some politicians to promise the heaven and earth on websites and election rallies, but who pays for it?

Finally, the best thing that ever happened to us is that the political narrative online is no longer dominated by anti-PAP sentiments. Keyboard warriors who used to have a field day criticising our leaders have now cowardly retreated back to their shell or resorted to anonymous posts and comments. Who truly has Singapore’s interests at heart?

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The foreigners in our universities is a non-issue

Over the Chinese New Year visitations today, many of my relatives who just graduated from JCs last year are worried about their A-Level results that will be released soon. Those who are already in the universities complain about the intense competition they face from foreigners and the scholarships they receive.

I personally graduated from last year from a very reputable JC and am now studying in the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. What is this misinformation that foreigners take away scholarships and university places away from Singaporeans?Our Professors have a high number of foreigners I give you that but students? I don’t buy it.

The majority of scholarships are taken by Singaporeans. At least 80% of university places are taken by Singaporeans, what is the issue?  I certainly do not see that many scholars or foreigners in NUS implying the 20% figure is true.

In fact I argue that we need to have foreigners in our universities. Four reasons

a. Student diversity

Need I explain the benefit of this? In our tutorials, local students hardly speak up. I can easily say that at least 50% class participation is contributed by the vocal foreign students despite their numbers being less than 20%.

Even then, the foreign students are usually more articulate, contribute better points and smoke less. I cannot say the same for the Singaporean students including myself.

The foreigners coming from different backgrounds have different ideas on certain questions whereas Singaporeans only know how to blindly regurgitate standard answers. The foreign students punch above their weight.

b. Keep Singaporeans on our toes and face the realities of globalization

Foreigners are hungrier. Our former PM Lee Kuan Yew once said “If native Singaporeans are falling behind because “the spurs are not stuck into the hide,” that is their problem.” Although what he said offended many people, but as usual, the truth hurts.

The foreigners I met are usually more high-achieving, hardworking and probably more well-read than the average Singaporean Uni student. With the bell-curve system, it ensures that Singaporean students like myself have to work just as hard as them to get good grades.

Many of my better local friends also admit it is this foreign competition that has “spurred” them to work harder. We need better competition not less. We are an open and globalized economy. Our competition comes from every corner of the globe. I rather our students and myself face the bitter reality of the working world earlier than later.

c. Better to have them compete on our side than against Singapore from the outside

I believe our scholarship system is very stringent and only the very best can get to study in NUS and the other local universities. They have to maintain their CAP at at least second-upper every semester to keep their scholarship and most do. Majority of Singaporeans do not. After graduating, they have to work in Singapore for some years. Based on anecdotal evidence, majority will choose to stay after their bond.

I put it to you all, is it better to have this smart students on our side or against us?

4. Maintain our world-class university ranking and standards

I hear battle cries that we should give more Singaporean university places if they want it. Where is the issue of standards? Our Unis cannot just accept more students if they like it. Basic economics tell you that increasing the supply of a good will lower its price. Just like a good, arbitrarily increasing the student population will LOWER the minimum standard of incoming students and by extension the quality of results produced. It will also raise the standard for foreign students.

We should give our Unis the right to demand only the best can enter them. A very good example is Malaysia. We can see the bumiputra policy of favouring a certain racial group has resulted in low standards in their universities. Their top university Universiti Malaya is not even in the top-100. NUS and NTU are in top 50.

The top universities are mostly from US and Europe where their liberal and struct university admission standards have accepted top students from all around the world. Look at their research capabilities, social science concepts and the scientific breakthroughs they produced, many of them do not even have Western-sounding names.

In order for our local Unis to improve, we need to further attract top talent. Many anti-government bloggers like to pontificate about equality for this and that. When it comes to equality of university admission foreign or local, they are strangely silent.

Wrapping up

Let us look at the big picture shall we. There is a war on attracting talent worldwide whether it is the best workers or smartest students, this is something we cannot afford to let up now. Human resource is the only natural resource we have unlike our neighbors who afford to favor certain races and still make survive.

We have to ensure the future of Singapore by attracting the very best to work and study here, even better if they make Singapore their home. We have to make some sacrifices for the greater good and economic strength of this country.

The WP has been a huge disappointment

Worker’s Party MP in Aljunied GRC Pritam Singh had the gall to say this in Parliament

“I fully believe when I do my house visits this Saturday, some of these questions (on AHPETC’s lapses) will come up. Likewise, they will come up for my fellow WP MPs. We will answer all of them. Why? Because of a duty to the residents. We will answer to them. Well, minister (Shanmugam), if you were a resident, I’ll answer your question. Thank you.” Source

Well Mr Singh, I’m a resident of Aljunied, will you answer to me? Why has the WP mismanaged and turned the finances of Aljunied from a surplus into a deficit?  Based on how he and the rest of the WP MPs have carried themselves in Parliament, I seriously doubt they will ever give a satisfactory answer.

When this saga first broke out, WP chairman Sylvia Lim claimed the WP will address this issue in Parliament and in the meantime “look beyond the headlines and the summaries” and pore through the details of the AGO’s report to “have a better understanding of the issues”. Source

Well Ms Lim, in Parliament, your colleague Mr Singh refused to address this issue and instead pushed it to his residents like myself, I have no choice but to heed your advice to read the AGO report itself.

Going through the entire report, I read of lapses, lack of oversight, poor internal controls, poor compliance to regulations, conflicts of interests and mismanagement of sinking funds.

Millions of dollars are channeled to FMSS, a WP-linked organisation due to fees higher than other PAP estates. They then claim FMSS was the only one who answered the tender. I find that hard to believe. Nearly 40% of Singaporeans voted for the opposition, you tell me none of them want to work with the WP? Or has the WP set the tender criteria so strict that no one else felt it was a reasonable to submit a bid. It reminds me of the Brompton bikes case.

Others like to cite the AIM example. Need I say an MND report has exonerated any wrongdoings on the part of the PAP. Even if we put that aside for a second, what is $140 000 compared to the $6 400 000 of allegedly corrupted funds by the WP?

WP MP Png Heng Huat then went on the offensive claiming that government ministries also had lapses. Excuse me MP of Hougang, the topic of they day in Parliament is about the failures of the Aljunied administration and not about the ministerial oversights. You are going off-tangent here. Anti-government bloggers like to complain that the PAP likes to side-track issues. I don’t hear any similar comments on the WP this time. Why the double-standard this time?

Besides, those mistakes were committed by civil servants, not by PAP people. The mistakes such as conflicts of interests are directly related to YOUR party. In the end, we have to take things in context. No one can run a perfect country and ensure there are ZERO lapses. The lapses you cite have to be seen in the context of running a multi-billion dollar civil service and economy. The WP has made so many mistakes just by running a GRC a fraction the size of Singapore, imagine if they scale up?

Some have questioned the political motivations behind the AGO. The fact that MP Png’s “evidence” of ministerial failures themselves come from the AGO proves its impartiality. Anti-government bloggers, please check your facts before you accuse a government agency.

Bottom line: If the WP “A” team cannot even manage a GRC properly, I shudder to think what will happen if they win even more areas in the next election. I don’t even dare imagine the day they run Singapore.

Finally, I will still wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year! After all, this may be the last time I have the opportunity to do so.

Freedom of speech has its limits

The prolific anti-government blogger Roy Ngerng was recently served legal letters from our PM Lee Hsien Loong. He was alleged to have defamed our PM with allegations that he has misappropriated the hard earned CPF funds of Singaporeans.

Freedom of speech is a phrase bandied about by many people critical of the PAP government and in many less-than-democratic nations. I support freedom of speech in principle but, there is always a big but, within reasonable limits. Freedom of speech neither give you the right to shout “Fire” in a crowded theatre nor shout molest just because an ugly guy bumps into you accidentally on the bus.

Freedom of speech in this case is about criticizing a politician with solid facts and figures not baseless allegations. Freedom of speech is about taking responsibility of your words and have the balls to fight it out in court if you think you are right. Past bloggers who dutifully took down their posts have shown that they are willing to claim the world but decide to retreat back into their shell when push comes to shove. How can I respect bloggers who refuse to stand by their words?

Coming back to Mr Ngerng, a young age of 25 has defended by many anti-government supporters is not an excuse. People as young as 24 years old have contested in elections. Even if PM Lee is double his age does not mean he has to show magnanimity, silence means consent. Politicians have the right to sue for defamation for not doing so implies the allegations are true. It is a slippery slope of allegations are left unanswered. Look at what happened in the US when many Americans still believe Obama is Muslim or born in Kenya because some opposing senators still continue to play up those untruths.

If opposition politicians like Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Kiang have never been sued for defamation, why can’t Roy follow their examples and not exercise his keyboard warrior skills to the limit. In fact Chiam sued a restaurant once for misusing his fame, defamation suits are not the sole domain of PAP politicians.

Criticize on policies if you must, but never criticize a public figure unless you have solid evidence. My question is, where is the evidence that our hardworking PM Lee or anyone else in the PAP Cabinet for that matter, is corrupt? We are rated highly in anti-corruption index by independent international organisations, it is highly doubtful that that rank fell from the sky.

One must always be prepared to defend what they say online or offline. Mr Ngerng and the scores of other anti-government bloggers before him have clearly shown they do not. Paying the legal fees and damages is a justified deterrence against such unsubstantiated behavior in future. Roy, you are perhaps a testosterone filled young man. Like the many young guys I know at my age, they are generally prone to rash behavior. Studies have shown that young men have the highest non-natural mortality rate. Please reconsider your words before you open your mouth against a honest and hardworking government official who has Singapore’s best interests at heart.

Measures against income inequality should not be taken

After looking at so many articles and comments online about closing the income gap, I feel a short balancing article is in order in the Singapore cyberspace. I shall argue that income inequality is actually all right and any supposed remedial action we take actually does more harm than good.

Let us look at a simple fact; it is true our income inequality is higher than our independence during 1965. However, Singapore as a whole has grown leaps and bounds since then. It is common for even the poorest 20% these days own a TV set, basic computer and a cell phone, luxuries for the majority in 1965. I know because a few friends who used to be on financial support in JC own this stuff too . What is the issue?

Take a look at this video debate between the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her leftist socialist opponents.

As Thatcher puts it to thunderous applause, income inequality is fine as long as everybody is better off. Are all income levels better off than 40 years ago? I doubt anyone will argue otherwise.

Let us look at the some policies suggested by those who wish to close the income gap and my counter arguments.

1. Increase income and corporate taxes

It is common knowledge that majority of Singaporeans don’t pay income/estate taxes. This means raising those taxes to fund social welfare will disproportionately target the rich who already pays the most taxes. This is similar to corporate taxes.

Taxing the rich and companies more will only take money away from the people who will invest them to expand their companies or hire more people. The result is higher economic growth and lower unemployment. If income and corporate taxes are not an issue, why do countries around the world fight to lower them year after year? Hong Kong usually competes with Singapore to see who has the lower corporate tax.

A tax discourages certain behaviour. Like cigarette and liquor taxes serve to deter their consumption, increasing income taxes only deters the work ethic. After all, what is the point of working so hard if the government takes most of it away? This is made worse by income brackets. Imagine if you are worker, if working hard means entering the next income bracket and be taxed more, why work harder?

The rich and MNCs can be very fickle minded. Keeping our taxes low and competitive will ensure they stay in Singapore to create jobs everybody. Raising those taxes is like killing the goose which lays the golden eggs.

2. Lower GST or GST-free goods

I do not disagree with the view that GST on its own is a regressive tax. However, that is a very simplistic view. Look at the big picture.  The rich pay more GST due to their higher consumption habits. This GST is then used to fund social benefits like GST vouchers and the like which more than compensate for the regressiveness of the GST.

Of course, critics will say why not implement GST brackets where some goods or service are taxed more than others and some basic necessities are not taxed at all. I put it to the critics, how are you going to determine which good or service is in which bracket or should not be taxed at all.

Take the example of rice, there is the low cost NTUC housebrand rice, and there is the expensive Thai Fragrant rice. Should rice be taxed because it is a basic necessity? If yes, how much for which brand? There are simply too many items in the free market to determine their tax levels.

This is just rice; imagine stuff like cooking oil, soya sauce, canned food. Then we will have arguments like hawker food should not be taxed.Or restaurant food should be taxed because it is a luxury. This never ends. There are plenty of loopholes and government enforcement will be tough. The current flat tax regime is good enough.

Unlike income taxes, GST is a consumption tax. How much tax you pay is solely determined by how much you consume.

3. Increase general social welfare and subsidies

A subsidy is an opposite of a tax, it encourages a behaviour instead of discouraging it. I agree that education should be subsidised as it increases social mobility but it should end there. Potential subsides as suggested by critics are unemployment benefits.  A politician once said, “a hand-out once given, can never be taken back”. Once we hand out unemployment benefits, all we do is to encourage people stay unemployed.

I can guess what critics will say next; just limit the length of these benefits to say 6 months. As European nations have shown, once you set a given length, the next politician that comes in will increase to one year to gain votes.  The politician after him will promise higher benefits to gain power.

European nations and the US are now on the way to reduce unemployment and other benefits and subsidies as they know its impact on their budgets and the work ethic of their people. It confounds me that critics of the government refuse to learn from their mistakes.

Another example is the fuel subsidy in Indonesia. The subsidy is now burning a huge hole in Indonesia’s budget. Successive governments who have tried to remove or even just reduce this subsidy are met with fierce strikes and riots. The Indonesians are now too addicted to subsidies. We can never let them happen in Singapore.

I can go on and on like the National Health Service in Britain but you all do get my point.

 4. Implement a minimum wage.

This argument is done to the death. I shall let the Nobel Prize winning, the late Milton Friedman argue it succinctly in just four minutes.

Paying a minimum age is akin to paying someone more than what they would get otherwise in a free labour market. It is true some workers will get paid more but it overlooks the fact that many workers will be laid off as employers cannot afford the same number of workers at higher pay. How much will they get? You are right, a big fat ZERO dollars. It is doubtful 4 waiters after the minimum wage can do the work of 7 before the minimum wage law. A bus driver cannot drive 2 buses simultaneously. Total productivity as defined as total work done per unit time will only decrease. It may even lead to companies leaving due to higher costs which will lead to mass retrenchment.

Put it simply, there is no minimum wage for the unemployed. Couple that with the proposal to give unemployment benefits like those in the manifestos of opposition parties and we will soon have a huge bunch of lazy parasites living off the work of others.

Even if some companies are willing to pay the minimum wage, who will pay for it? That’s right, people like you and I. Bus fares will increase, hawker food prices will increase. A general price increase will only make the minimum wage futile at that level leading to calls to further increases and the cycle goes on.

Closing the income gap through the measures suggested by critics is tantamount to Robin Hood. The government has to either exercise redistributive policies or company-destroying policies like the minimum wage. My stand is clear and simple; a rising tide lifts all boats. Better to let the invisible hand do its economic work than try to intervene like the collapsed socialist nations of the past-half century. We should in fact lower income taxes to the minimum necessary for government functions and let the free market work.

Why we have to maintain our defense spending

On August 9 1991, during Singapore’s 26th National Day, Malaysia and Indonesia conducted their largest joint military exercise in Malaysia. The military exercise codenamed Malindo Darsasa 3AB involved many paratroopers dropping at the closest area to Singapore, Johore, just a few kilometers north of our shores. Malaysia and Indonesia knew that with SAF resources tied up celebrating our National Day, Singapore would likely be vulnerable and they wanted to test our reaction. No matter, our well-trained and well-funded SAF was equipped enough to place its forces on alert despite multitasking in the National Day. The Singapore military has once again proved itself to be capable and prepared to handle any form of threat.

Indonesia recently named it’s new warship with the names of one of it’s terrorists who bombed, killed and maimed many Singaporeans during the Confrontasi period. Calling a terrorist a hero in your country is not fine, but something Singaporeans can live with. Naming a warship after him ensures his name will continue to be repeated and reminded in times to come. It is the same as wanting to antagonise the families and by extension the people of Singapore who lived through that period. Sovereign rights is not an excuse for a failure in morality.

The above my friends, are just all but 2 examples showing that our own neighbors view us as nothing as more than a Little Red Dot that can be extinguished and cowed into submission whenever they please, if only they had the means to do so.

Through sifting through many sites in cyberspace, I have seen vehement, articulate and if I may agree, passionate articles asking for defense spending to be reduced and the funds be allocated to toxic, slippery slope welfare spending. When Singapore spent millions for buy the F-15 fighter jets to protect us, there were arguments against them, saying why can’t we spend it on healthcare, or education, or workfare blah blah. When these jets took to the skies for the first time to commemorate our 2010 National Day, I saw many people including my anti-defense spending friends ooh and aahing the flypast, what hypocrisy.

When our government recently announced its intention to get the  F-35, I see the same rehashed arguments once more. These F-35s specifically the B-variant are one of the latest 5-generation stealth fighter jets in the world, second only to the F-22. In fact, the B-variant can do what the F-22 cannot, take off and land vertically. This ability is very useful in land-scarce Singapore and in case our limited runways get bombed to oblivion. We can hide our F-35s anywhere and hit the enemy before their own jets can take off. This is a fighter jet that suits Singapore.

To purchase such amazing weaponry to obtain an edge over our potential adversaries, we have to keep our defense spending up. If it means that slightly less money has to be spent on toxic welfare, then so be it.

Let me now take care of my critics arguments. The first issue is a contribution to a regional arms race. I do not disagree with that observation. Late last year, Indonesia purchased Leopard tanks from Germany, probably in response to our own purchase in 2006. For those who say we should not up the ante again, let me tell you, you are idealistic fools. The military planners of other nations are not going to sit still even if we decide to rest on our laurels. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is still alive and well even if humans are the dominant species. The theory of evolution is now extended to the international arena where countries are the species. Continuously evolve or be wiped out.

We cannot put a cost to a nation’s security. Today we may say, let’s cut the defense budget by half to about SG$5 billion so our people can live more comfortable lives and have more holidays like the high-unemployment French. Tomorrow, we may have no Singapore left to enjoy that 5 billion saving. The Japanese took over Singapore in weeks in WW2. Without our expensive and vital aircraft, navy ships, tanks and artillery deterring our potential enemies, we may not have this peace to have this conversation. So save that 5 billion and lose that peace or make it worth it, your choice.

The famous American diplomat Henry Kissinger once said, “there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests”. That neatly sums up regional and international relations. Kuwait was saved by the US only because it had oil. Russia was allowed to march unopposed into Georgia because the NATO nations saw no value in it’s protection. Singapore has no oil or natural resources, so if we are not responsible and defend ourselves, who will, the US? Don’t kid yourself and bury your heads in your idealistic sand. Singapore can vanish in a heartbeat and the rest of the world will barely blink.

I can bet, those naysayers who criticized the future F-35 purchase will ooh and ahh again when these aircraft perform in it’s first National Day. I can already envision its maiden performance, these aircraft will taxi in front of the crowds, perform a thunderous vertical takeoff, turn and nod at the crowds like the Apache attack helicopter, make a flyby around the Marina Bay Sands and land beautifully back in front of their eyes like a graceful swan. I will say, see I told you so, hypocrites!

Let me leave you with an article and a quote by former Lieutenant General Winston Choo.

“If we do not have a strong and capable SAF, we leave ourselves open to being cowed, intimidated and vulnerable to pressures from larger states.”

Yours faithfully

Michelle Lee

Why the PAP should continue to govern (Part 1: High Minister Salaries)

Good day to all,

It was uncool to be a PAP supporter in JC. Whenever I declare my support for the ruling party, I get ridiculed, accused of being a bootlicker or cannot think independently from what our textbooks teach us.

Seriously, what is wrong with youths this days? In Mandarin, we have this proverb 饮水思源, translated to mean when you drink water, remember the source. The PAP brought Singapore from nothing to something other people from other countries admire in less than 50 years. I can hear the naysayers saying the PAP did not do that, the people did. I agree that Singaporeans did the hard work but I put it to you, without the PAP leading the way, would you have put in the hard work?

One famous phrase in comments is “I do not hate ____ but ____”. I also hear anti-PAP supporters and pro-opposition supporters say, “I do not hate the PAP but ____”

Fill in the blanks with

  1. High Minister salaries
  2. High foreign worker intake
  3. Detaining and lawsuits against the opposition
  4. GRCs
  5. Low healthcare expenditure
  6. Crowded trains that break down
  7. Discrimination because of NS
  8. High Defense spending

Seriously, Singaporeans are a bunch of complainers who do not appreciate what they have. All the problems above are actually small issues compared to other nations. Look at the corruption in Philippines over the aid issue, starvation and piracy in African nations and threat of war in the Korean peninsular. All are much bigger issues that we as Singaporeans don’t have to face.

Nevertheless, let me blow up the above issues and say why we are actually lucky the PAP government has already made the problem small enough. They could have been much worse.

In part 1 of this series, I will discuss why we need to pay top-dollar for our ministers.

I do not doubt the facts that our PM and his Cabinet are paid many times more than second or third on the leadership pay-scale list. I also acknowledge the fact that many Singaporeans are unhappy with these facts.

Our ministers’ salaries are largely pegged to the top earners in the private sector with a variable bonus scheme. These top-earners are usually top bankers, businessmen, engineers, doctors and lawyers. A “discount” is then applied to reflect the sacrifice of public office.

I argue that we are actually underpaying our ministers and other countries are in fact wrong. If CEOs running multi-million dollar corporations get paid a certain amount, I do not see why our leaders running a multi-billion dollar economy should be paid any less.

I can predict what detractors are going to say. Serving the people is a privilege and sacrifices have to be made to enter public office. What idealism!

You pay for what you get. Ever heard of, “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. You pay peanuts to office-holders, you can bet Singapore will fall down the corruption list. First, high salaries deter corruption. This example is clearly seen in developing countries like some of our neighbors where civil servants and politicians sometimes take bribes to supplement their meager incomes.

I would prefer a businessman, banker, lawyer, doctors or any other highly qualified people to run Singapore then any Tom, Dick and Harry.  These people have managed thousand-employee corporations for years, know our legal system inside out or have the brain capacity to get what they are today. Would you want somebody who wears slippers to register for elections to run the country? Even an opposition politician with a certain PhD was caught lying when he drank glucose water on his hunger strike.

We need to pay to get highly-qualified, honest, capable men and women who have proven their worth in the public, military or private sector to come and lead Singapore. Not people who can only open their mouths to spout human-rights ideas and write fanciful proposals. We need people of action, not paper tigers.

The hidden factor

In my previous article, I wrote about the fact that US President Obama is entitled to use 2 Boeing 747 Air Force One jets at his personal disposal. Let my give further examples, White House maintenance, Camp David, his Secret Service escorts, Marine One helicopters etc. Anyone wanna tabulate how much these benefits costs?

British MPs have hidden housing subsidies. Furthermore, the revolving door system is at work in the US and Europe where politicians enter the private sector after crafting legislation that favours the very companies they will retire in. Google Donald Rumsfeld for a start. US presidents are known to give speeches and write books that net them millions after they leave office.  Do you see that happening in Singapore?

I admit Lee Kuan Yew has wrote a few books but I doubt he gets millions in proceeds from them. Do you see our former leaders entering the private sector working for corporations against the people? Our politicians simply fade away for they well-deserved retirement.

The fact is Western politicians have many hidden benefits in office that make their pay seem lower in comparison. Many get cushy jobs after retirement from public office. Who knows, what corrupted legislation they have crafted? Do we want that system in Singapore?

In my concluding remarks, I have shown why the salary comparison that many anti-high-salary supporters used are in fact flawed for they fail to include all the hidden benefits that western politicians have. 

Singapore is regularly ranked one of the best places for immigrants to work in or stay. We have safety, our banks respect your privacy and we have a stable political system. All because we have qualified people to steer Singapore to this very point where other citizens from other nations admire us. I put it to you, would you prefer to be born in Singapore or in any other ASEAN country? If you do not want Singapore, I’m sure there are millions who will die for a chance to trade places with you. That is the extent of our success that the 40% do not realise. I urge all of you, don’t kill the chicken that lays the golden eggs.

Thus my stand is that our PM and his cabinet deserve every cent they get. My only gripe is that they aren’t paid more. Look out for my next article.

Yours faithfully

Michelle Lee

A balance to the anti-PAP sentiment online

(This article was first posted on The Real Singapore on 16 November)

Dear The Real Singapore,

I recently came across these articles shared by my Facebook friends by two 16 year old guys [Link]  (Terrence) and [Link] (Arrifin)

As an 18 year old girl from by society’s standards, a top JC, I’m not much older than them. Before I begin, let me say I’m born from a family that is neither pro-PAP nor pro-Opposition. They are what we typically call middle-class but politically apathetic. Nevertheless, from what I have experienced so far, I’m more inclined to agree with the Terrence than Arrifin. I’m not a regular reader of TRS but from what I have seen, most of the articles are filled with complaints of this and that and are anti-government in nature. Let me bring some balance in cyberspace.

Arrifin’s rebuttal and the whole horde of netizens who vigorously castigated Terrence for his immaturity spurred me to write this article to provide some balance to this otherwise unregulated online community.

From the comments I have read, Terrence was accused of being immature, ignorant of the affairs of the world, quoting irrelevant books, unaware of people who were detained during Lee Kuan Yew’s administration etc.

Arrifin brought up opposition leaders and some defiant PAP members who have supposedly done good things for us. Yes, I know they may have done something. However, our textbooks have so limited space and curriculum time is short. If we include contributions from every Tom Dick and Harry, our teachers will be so stressed out. We have to leave out some people. No matter who we leave out, there will always be unsatisfied people. I agree Ong Teng Cheong has done much for Singapore and he deserves greater mention. I do not see what significant things the troublemakers Chia Thye Poh, J B Jeyaratanem and Chee Soon Juan have done that deserve academic mention.

Staying on this point, Lee was quoted to have said if we have to lock certain people up to maintain order in society, he will do it. I agree with it. As much as many disagree with the ISA, it has served us well. Imagine if Lee Kuan Yew had not used the ISA to detain the communists, we would not be one of the richest countries in the world today. Our flag will probably have a hammer and sickle in it which is suspiciously like the logo of an opposition party.  If we have to sacrifice the rights of few to improve the majority, it is something society has to do.

At the tender age of 16, we should applaud his intellectual curiosity for reading so many books. Most of my friends at that age myself included can’t be bothered with books unless they are forced down our throats by the schools. One comment says these books are irrelevant as they were written in the olden days. He suggested books from Francis Seow.

I have not read any of those books in question. I disagree with comments that those books are useless. Those were written by renowned authors. Although fictional, it is often said that fictional ideas of authors come from the reflection of society. If there is no law and order of society, society descends into anarchy and very soon, it is a slippery slope to ruin and self-destruction. It is often said Lee Kuan Yew ruled with an iron fist. It is all to bring Singapore to what it is today. Now the youngsters and readers and most writers to TRS take it for granted and want to dismantle this order that has brought Singapore to its success today.

I’m very skeptical with books from Francis Seow. I read up a little about Francis Seow as it was the first time I heard about him. From the little I have read, He did not have the balls to face up to government lawsuits and fled Singapore. He with the likes of people like Gopalan Nair who was arrested have no stake in Singapore. They can write whatever they want with no consequences. How can I believe what they write is real? How real is the “real” in “The Real Singapore”?

Just like the voting slip I will get when I am 21, either you appreciate or vote for the PAP or you do not. Arrifin puts it so simply that he loves the founding leaders but dislikes the current crop. At the same time, he criticises Lee Kuan Yew. Isn’t he contradicting himself?

The issue of gay marriage is a thorny one. I admit I’m a devout Christian but that does not imply I hate gays because some people think my religion says so. A marriage is between man and woman. A marriage forms the basic unit of society. Any tampering with this definition is a slippery slope to the ruin of society. Sex between men is sometimes known as unnatural sex. Why unnatural, because it is just weird and unhygienic. As a female, I can’t understand how something like this is done and even the very thought of imagining how that is possible gives me goose bumps. Section 377A ensures that the moral fabric of society remains. The only thing I disagree with 377A is that applies to men only which is biased. I wouldn’t mind that law being gender neutral.

Arrifin seems to hate the use of the “repent” word by Lee. Come on Arifin, don’t you already know politicians say things in the heat of the moment. Have the maturity to take things with a pinch of salt. Just make sure what you say has substance and you can defend them in the court of law. If everybody hates the “repent” word, you can sue Lee Kuan Yew. I don’t see anyone suing him.

Income inequality was brought up. Arrifin, you probably have not taken JC-level economics but I have. Let me enlighten you that income inequality is normal in the context of a free-market capitalist economy like Singapore. Income inequality incentivises people to work harder to earn more. You desire equal incomes; a socialist country is the one you want, look at what happened to the Soviet Union or North Korea. The Singapore government gives out so much hand-outs and education subsidies for the young and working adults. If people do not want to make use of them to upgrade themselves, it is their fault for not earning enough. Don’t demean the hard work of others. Besides, income inequality is a growing trend in the world, not the fault of the PAP.

I am all for the high salaries paid to our ministers as long as they are transparent. People like to compare to Obama who earns only US$400k per year. I shake my head and tell them Obama has this Boeing 747 jumbo jet known as Air Force One at his beck and call. I can bet the cost of maintaining these planes* exceed that of all our ministers’ salaries combined. Do you want to start including his White House privileges? Our ministers’ pay may seem astronomical because they are transparent. Once the US and European nations start including all their benefits, then we talk about whether our ministers’ pay are justified. High but transparent or low but hidden, your choice.

*I read that there are in fact, two Boeing 747s used for Air Force One”

Nevertheless, have you heard “You pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. You want the best people for the job, you pay through the nose for them. This is just economic sense. If you dislike our leaders, the elections are open to you to replace them if you get enough votes. The majority of people voted for the PAP since independence, this proves the majority are satisfied with the PAP and that the typical complainers are just in the minority.

What we take for granted in Singapore today is safety. You can drop your purse and almost guaranteed to find it back hours later there or at the police station. My boyfriend does not always need to accompany me back home when I need to go home late. I can jog at 3am in proper sportswear without needing to cover up unnecessarily or fear of being pulled to a corner and raped. Our strict gun laws mean we don’t need to fear about shootings or high murder rates. We take it for granted that it is these very strict law and order rules that are keeping us safe.

PAP like every other political party is never perfect. What we have to do is choose the party that is best with least shortcomings. The issues and complaints we face now are not limited to Singapore. Japan has the crowded trains issue and the US has the gay rights and income inequality just to name a few.

Finally, let me say that I do agree mostly if not all of what Terence has written. His writing skills may need some polish. However, do remember that people like him who support the PAP do exist. I used to be part of the silent majority until now.

I can guess the responses I get from the typical TRS commenters. I urge all of you, before you criticise me like Terrence, think. Without the PAP, without its high-handed policies, there will be no Singapore, or shall I say, no Singapore like it is today, no high GDP per capita, no good jobs for you, no computer for you to type your rebuttals to me. Every time you complain, ask yourself, do you wish to be in Singapore or some country in Africa or in Afghanistan. The issues we face are first world problems and are nothing compared to the problems of others.

Please, don’t bite the hand that feeds you just because that hand may give you something you dislike sometimes.

Yours faithfully

Michelle Lee