Friday, 31 July 2015

Singapore GE 2015: Game Theory and the Freak Election

"Playing games with your votes: A Game-Theory Analysis for First Time Voters"

Singapore GE 2015 freak election results

Speculation is rife that Singapore will be holding its next General Election within 2015, as the nation celebrates its 50-year jubilee.  The upcoming elections reflect both past and future. It is at once a measure of the past success in bringing Singapore to its current state of strength and a signpost for what to expect in the coming years.

As with all past elections, there will be a group of first-time voters. These are made up mostly of citizens who reach 21 years of age, although there are also those who have recently become new citizens.

According to data from the department of statistics, there are approximately 240,000 Singaporeans in the 20-24 years age band. Having missed out on voting in GE2011, citizens within this age range will be voting for the first time. From 2012 to 2014, Singapore also took in approximately 61,500 new citizens. All in all, there will be approximately 300,000 first time voters in the upcoming elections.

These citizens have come of age or joined the Singapore story at a critical juncture of time. It is therefore important for them to understand the gravity of the upcoming elections.

The best way to do so is to reflect on the impacts of the last elections.

When we talk about GE2011, we think about the Workers’ Party’s (WP) spectacular win at Aljunied GRC - unprecedented loss for the PAP and a major turning point for Singapore’s opposition parties. More importantly, it exposed the weaknesses of GRCs, with the loss of key cabinet appointment holders.

After the elections, the WP formed the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) by merging the managing of the constituencies it had won. However, it was after the elections that problems emerged for the WP. Much ink has been spilt on the financial and governance lapses in AHPETC – while the situation is still murky now, suffices to say for now that all is far from well in AHPETC.

Now let’s delve a little deeper into the internal party dynamics. There are three lawyers and one veteran opposition leader in AHPETC, but this has not prevented the lapses that have arisen. Out of the three lawyers, one has proven to be less than reliable in court statements (Sylvia Lim), another has little to offer in terms of opinion (Chen Show Mao), while the third is remains idealistic and naive (Pritam Singh). Similarly in Punggol East and
Hougang, WP politicians either lack maturity or gumption in their roles.

This is most evident in their lackluster parliamentary speeches and debates. This leaves the WP’s role as check and balance squarely on the shoulders of its leader Low Thia Khiang (who, as his usual habit, has gone into hibernation in the run up to elections).

Is this what citizens who voted for the WP expected? Perhaps not. Many voted because they feel that a PAP-dominated Parliament is not good for Singapore. And they are right – indeed, much of the current largesse we see in social policies now could be the government responding to the electorate. The question is whether the WP we have seen since 2011, is the opposition we want.

What about the other opposition parties? The Singapore Democratic Alliance is relatively low key, and a few appear to be caught in a merry-go-round of personnel exchange (Reform Party, National Solidarity Party, Singapore People’s Party, Singapore First). But what about the Singapore Democratic Party?

With the return of Secretary General Dr Chee Soon Juan and the party’s shift towards more weighty policy discussions, will the SDP emerge as a credible opposition? This remains to be seen. However, its past record and the aggressive tactics of Dr Chee have not endeared them to voters. Voters who are considering placing their bets on the SDP will need to think carefully about whether the SDP can really perform, or will they backslide into fancy rhetoric and ideological naiveté?

As the case of AHPETC has shown, voting in the wrong people can have disastrous implications for residents. It is true that voting PAP is not foolproof.

It has made mistakes. From insufficient planning for Singapore’s growing population, public transport woes, to high cost of housing, among others, Singaporeans have rightfully pointed out that the PAP government has not been perfect. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged as much when he apologized for these mistakes in GE2011 and pledged to do better. Thus we have the Pioneer Generation Package, new additions to the rail network, and greater engagement by MPs and activists.

Setting up the Game

“According to game theory, voters will be better off selecting the party that has the highest probability of achieving these goals for citizens.”

There are clear measurable outcomes of our decisions at the polls, in terms of town council governance and contributions to parliamentary debate. This makes the elections a venue for rational decision-making by voters.

In political science, this is known as rational choice theory. In the parlance of game theory, we can think of the electoral process as a ‘rational multi-shot game’. Rational: we assume voters to prefer capable MPs to incompetent or dishonest MPs.  Multi-shot: elections are an iterative process over multiple cycles.

The outcome of such a game is the selection of the party that is best able to provide for the material well-being of citizens and establish the space for their non-material needs, such as religious diversity and multiculturalism, According to game theory, voters will be better off selecting the party that has the highest probability of achieving these goals for citizens. They have to access the “pay-off” from their decisions – whether an “accept/reject” decision for a certain party will improve their well-being.

Such ability is arguably a function of resources, competency of party members, and historical track record. In other words, voters should select an MP who is well-qualified (both academically and in terms of experience) to carry out his/her duties from a party that possesses a track record of good governance and transparency, and which possesses the manpower and material resources to support its MPs.

That this is not a one-shot game has different implications. The bad news is that we have to live with our decision for five years. The good news is that we have a chance to change our decisions in light of new information after each game.  But here’s the rub – we don’t start each game anew after five years – we can’t simply “reset” because a lot can change within five yearsDamage that cannot be undone -  perhaps for decades to come.

As we celebrate our 50-year jubilee and as we enter the upcoming elections, may be keep this important point in mind: the stakes of our votes are extremely high. Who we vote for determines not only the composition of parliament, but also the way in which our town councils (and hence living environment) are managed.

For the first-time voters who will surely be here at our 100-year jubilee, your votes will determine whether the next 50 years will be as successful as the past 50 years.  This is the first of at least 10 games.

For returning voters, there is a need for honest and objective reflection about whether their candidates have delivered on what they have promised. One of the most important characteristic in a multi-shot game is the ability
to change your mind.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

SG GE2015: Social Media Misinformation - Lan Jiao Whey #ljw

(Reader's Contribution) Lan Jiao Whey #ljw
Here we go again. Election time = gutter politics time. No one is taken in by super-white propaganda in Straits Times and MSM. But this blue-bird talk by opposition not doing us any favours either.   Why don’t you fucking grow up, both of you?
What opposition proxies do – twisting facts, telling half-truths to do max damage to PAP. Resharing old articles, stirring people’s emotions up.  Brand new colour, same old shit. 
1. Half-truths: Inderjit Singh didn’t quit the PAP. Online blue bird brigade juxtaposed retirement statement with earlier speech in Parliament. OK, Inderjit always criticise the PAP, but he is not another Tan Cheng Bock.
sg election 2015 inderjit ng eng hen

singapore ge2015 inderjit singh

2. Vomiting old news: OK, Lim Wee Kiat not so smart – he said some stupid things –a minister needs to be paid a lot because then he can talk to CEO of companies with a straight face. But he said this in 2011. Last week, it was circulating again.
singapore general elections 2015 opposition lies

3.       Temasek didn’t just lose $40 billion. That was in 2009.  But how come this story – with Ho Ching looking damn jia lat and malevolent – suddenly making rounds again?
sg ge2015 TOC misinformation

Brand new colour, same old shit.  Why don’t you fucking grow up, both of you?

Monday, 27 July 2015

SG General Elections 2015: Pritam Singh - Saint or Sinner?

Pritam Singh - Saint or Sinner?

GE2015 Pritam Singh Singapore
Abraham Lincoln once said, "you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." 
In a recent tea session hosted by Pritam Singh for residents of Eunos, Pritam was asked if AHPETC was bankrupt. Unable to refuse to answer his resident (as he had stated in Parliament that he would only answer to his residents), Pritam replied that "AHPETC was not bankrupt, but had an operating deficit caused by once-off big ticket expenditure like lift installation." Pritam then went on to say that "if AHPETC had done what MND had said they did, then he would be in jail already." Pritam told the resident that they should not being the media as they were biased in their reporting about the Workers' Party (WP). 
Once again, keeping in tune with the WP's approach to problems, Pritam lied by omission. What he failed to tell the resident is that firstly, once-off expenditure for lift installation would come from the sinking fund and not AHPETC's operating fund. Secondly, AHPETC's cash flow problem is due to their overpayment for services to their friends and their friends' companies. In one account, AHPETC's General Manager Ms How Weng Fun is understood to earn a monthly salary of $25,000 when GMs of other Town Councils earn only $9,000. And thirdly, the Court (which the Workers' Party has accepted as independent) has found that Ms Sylvia Lim, the Chairman of AHPETC, had lied to Parliament. It was only by the kindness of PM Lee Hsien Loong that he did not pursue the matter to have Sylvia Lim kicked out of Parliament. 
At the end of the day, Pritam Singh knows that there is little that can be done to him for lying to his constituents. He knows that he cannot do the same in Parliament and hence his now famous statement that "he does not need to answer to Parliament and that he will only answer to his residents." 
We acknowledge that there is a need for an opposition voice in Parliament. It is however important that the opposition voice be one of credibility, integrity and with heart for Singapore. Mr Pritam Singh, you are not that voice!

SG General Election 2015: Opposition Manifesto and False Prophets

Opposition Meet to Divide Up Singapore

singapore opposition manifesto

It was reported that Singapore opposition parties will be meeting this Friday (31 July 2015) to discuss how to divide up Singapore at the General Election 2015.

I don’t know about you, but I find this meeting extremely discomforting.

From what I understand, a political party’s manifesto is its published declaration of their intentions, motives, or views and their own prescriptive notion for carrying out changes. So if there are multiple political parties, it is logical to assume that they should all have different manifestos.

If multiple manifestos exist, then a political party that does not believe enough in its own manifesto, and is willing to bargain with other political parties on where they can run, it can only mean that their manifesto is merely a false front to deceive voters. To these political parties, the prize is not the betterment of Singapore or the lives of Singaporeans, but a game of getting into Parliament to disrupt the Government.

Yes, Singaporeans want an opposition voice in Parliament. However, since not all political parties are genuine, Singaporeans should not vote blindly for the opposition. For Singapore to continue to prosper under any Government, the correct opposition must be voted into Parliament. The opposition voted into Parliament must be one that is credible and who has the interest of Singaporeans at heart.

The litmus test is to see which political party agrees to divide-up Singapore …

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Singapore GE2015: Help Stop The Lies!

The information environment has changed. In the past, organizations like newspapers and television stations were the primary source of important information. Guided by a code of ethics, information coming from these sources are credible, balanced and objective. With the advent of social media, the information environment is now dominated by citizen journalists. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the internet and the inability of any government to effectively hold people accountable, has given rise to a group of opposition supporters who wage guerrilla information warfare against the government.

singapore ge2015 social media campaign

Since GE 2011, the Government has acknowledged that it had lost control of the social media domain and has tried hard to regain some presence. Unfortunately, sites like the now defunct The Real Singapore, The Online Citizen and States Times Review had established a foothold that could not be dislodged. Run by anti-government supporters, these sites continuously distort statements by the Government, spread malicious rumors, create untruths, disseminate misinformation and smear the government. Anything and everything the Government does is against the interest of Singaporeans.

The upcoming Singapore General Election 2015 promises to be more of the same. The Singapore Government (and the ruling People's Action Party (PAP)) continue to lack presence in the social media domain and this will not only hinder their ability to communicate effectively and responsively to Singaporeans, but also hinder their ability to counter lies by the opposition and opposition supporters.

This is where you come in. At Singapore General Elections 2016, we believe that Singaporeans must make an informed choice. Like the PAP, we firmly believe that it is your right to vote for the party whom you think will best serve Singaporeans and Singapore even if it is the opposition. We just want you to vote with all the facts in hand. To help ensure that you are not deceived, we need you to challenge questionable information being circulated online by being SURE: (a) consider the source of the information; (b) seek to understand the facts; (c) research what you have read or heard; and (d) evaluate fairly.

Subsequently, if you believe that Singaporeans are being misled, we ask that you actively share the truth. This can be done via sharing contents from pro-Government sites and Facebook pages like Singapore General Elections 2016Yours Faithly SingaporeRise of the Strawberry NationLovely SingaporeSingapore MattersFabrications About the PAP and Talking Singapore on your social media platforms. If you are uncomfortable and do not want to be flamed, all you need to do is simply respond to false information by asking your friends to consider the source and to understand the facts before jumping to conclusions.

At the end of the day, come polling day in September 2015, Singaporeans will decide who will lead Singapore into the next 50 years. Whatever the outcome, we will need to live with our choice and the choices of our fellow Singaporeans. For the sake of our children's future, we hope that Singaporeans will vote wisely based on the facts and not the lies being spread by online. Only you can help your fellow Singaporeans choose wisely.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Singapore General Election 2015: Electoral Boundaries

The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee submitted its report on 24 July 2015 and it was accepted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. This is another step towards the calling of a General Election which is now nearly confirmed to happen in 2015. Our prediction?

electoral boundaries report singapore ge 2015

 While many political parties derided the changes, there was one that appeared to rise above the rest - Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).  Secretary-General of the DPP, Benjamin Pwee, said in a statement that the changes "are not as dramatic and extensive as we had expected." Mr Pwee also applauded the increase in the number of smaller 4-member GRCs to six from two in the last election".

The changes in electoral boundaries will see 89 MPs (an increase of 2) contest in Singapore GE 2015 for 13 SMCs (an increase of 1), 6 4-Member GRC (an increase of 4), 8 5-Member GRC (a decrease of 3), 2 6-Member GRC (unchanged) and the average number of MPs per GRC 4.75 (a decrease of 0.25). What is also significant is that Wards that are under opposition control or who had been under opposition control remained unchanged. In short, as the opposition parties had asked for, the Government has given them more SMCs, smaller GRCs and less changes. The playing field has been levelled.

Fairness as some opposition parties have clamored for is impossible. Why? Simply because changes in electoral boundaries are necessary due to population shifts and there is no way to redraw a boundary that will please everyone. What the Government can do, while it is not their duty, is to level the playing field. And this is what the Report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee 2015 has done.

The more important question ...

While many opposition parties will not like to hear this, it is nonetheless the reality. Regardless of electoral boundaries, if you are there serving residents on a daily basis, residents will know and this will translate into votes. Residents are not daft. They can tell if a political party is there to serve the resident, or whether they are there to merely win elections. The argument that you need to serve the residents that are your eventual voters only shows that your actions lack sincerity. Serve Sinaporeans first and the rest will take care of itself.

To me, and to many Singaporeans, while we may not fully agree with the way electoral boundaries are redrawn, it doeshelp to separate the real political parties from the fake. Political parties who do not serve Singaporeans residents first but want a place at the table are a dangerous lot as it reveals self-interest above Singaporeans.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Singapore GE 2015: Workers Party vs PAP

How many ways can you cry father cry mother? You can tell, besides MNC senior management, Opposition Parties also hate surprises, especially when it comes to election time.

In typical opposition fashion, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament on 13 July 2015 that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) has been formed for two months, opposition parties immediately cried foul. Cries of gerrymandering could be heard all over Singapore.

But they’ve clearly been ramping up their campaign for the upcoming General Elections since the start of 2015.

On Workers’ Party Facebook.

- 4 January 2015, spotted at Kaki Bukit selling Hammer.
wp vs pap

-  2 March 2015, Chong Pang Gardens in Nee Soon.
workers party vs pap

- 26 April 2015, Bishan-Toa Payoh on a morning.

workers party complaints about gerrymandering

You can view more photos over here. []

The truth is, WP has been walking grounds in several GRCs, and way before PM Lee made this announcement. The cries of gerrymandering are nothing more than political shenanigans designed to play on the emotions of voters.

Come on, even the SDP – not a single MP in Parliament drawing the $15K a month allowance, is also prepared. [].

SDP issued its manifesto and also announced their campaign slogan: “Your Voice in Parliament” on 10 January 2015.  Party chief Chee Soon Juan said he would run in the upcoming election, after sitting out the previous two elections as he was a bankrupt.

Remember last time SDP said they will divide up the work with WP? SDP do Parliament stuff and WP do town council stuff.

This time though, it looks as if they want to do TC themselves.

On 16 May 2015, SDP launched "A Promise to the Residents: The SDP Town Council Management Plan" - a town council management manifesto.

If the SDP is prepared, surely other opposition parties should not find any reasons to cry foul and claim that they have been caught off guard. Everyone knows that the General Elections has to be held before January 2017. Complain, complain, why not try some real work for a change?

Singapore: Anti-Government Sentiments Gone Wrong. Police Report Lodge Over Sengkang West SG50 Decorations

Singapore. 23 July 2015, Talking Singapore just reported on their Facebook page that an opposition supporter has lodged a police report against the SG50 decorations placed at Sengkang West. The report is over the "disrespectful" manner the Singapore flags were placed when they formed part of the number 50.

Reaction by netizens towards the report have been negative with many expressing anger over how anti-government sentiments have gone wrong. The decorations was meant as a way for Singaporeans (regardless of political affiliation) to celebrate the achievements of the nation. It is truly sad how opposition supporters cannot distinguish between Singapore and the PAP, or for the matter, between the Government and the PAP.

sengkang west sg50 decorations police report

Singapore GE2015: The Real Truth about Gerrymandering

As the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) sets about its work in preparation for Singapore GE 2015, opposition supporters and opposition parties have started to cast doubt on the work that the EBRC is doing by accusing the Committee of gerrymandering. MP for Eunos GRC Pritnam Singh even took a swipe at the EBRC on his FB page.

ebrc gerrymandering truth singapore ge 2015

In politics, gerrymandering, is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating electoral boundaries to create partisan advantaged districts.Gerrymandering is present in leading western democracies like Australia, Canada, the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. However, unlike gerrymandering in these countries, the redrawing of electoral boundaries in Singapore is necessitated by the completion of new housing estates that result in significant shifts our population. For example, the Single-Member Constituency (SMC) of Sengkang West has grown so much since 2011 that it now exceeds the last electoral boundaries committee's prescribed ratio of 20,000 to 36,000 voters per MP. Sengkang West’s voter numbers has swelled by 47 per cent from 26,882 in 2011 to 39,586 in the Elections Department's last count.

In fact, some political science research suggests that contrary to common belief, gerrymandering does not decrease electoral competition but in fact increases it. This is because rather than packing all the voters of their party into fewer wards, party leaders would spread their party's voters into more wards so that their party can win more seats. In situations where the ruling party is not decisively dominant, this “distribution” of voters in turn gives weaker opposition parties a fighting chance.

In short, opposition parties that clamour for Singapore to have a first world-democracy like the US and the UK should realise that we are indeed following in the foot-steps of these “leading” democracies. Gerrymandering is not a PAP-invented concept and it is a practice of first-world democracies. Additionally, gerrymandering does not necessarily benefit the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). Gerrymandering forces an equal distribution of voters and this will benefit the weaker opposition parties in Singapore.

So instead of crying foul, opposition parties should be thanking the PAP for giving them a chance.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Opposition Supporters Feign Anger to Disrupt National Day Celebrations

singapore flag sengkang macpherson

In recent days, opposition supporters have repeatedly targeted the efforts of every day Singaporeans to fly the Singapore flag in recognition of our Nation's 50th year of independence. These attacks have thus far focused on residents living in Sengkang West and MacPherson.
Opposition supporters have turned to social media to critize the way the flags are hung, where they are hung and even how the preparations were made for the flags to be hung. Quick to find fault and to give a sense of credibility to their complaints, opposition supporters have even cited Rule 4 of the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Rules in the Statutes and feint anger.
What is very ironic is that these same people who are supposedly angry that the Singapore flag has not been accorded its due respect, are the very ones who do not fly the Singapore flag on National Day. They are the very ones who will not sing the National Anthem or even recite the pledge. Their pseudo anger is merely a ploy to disrupt our Nation's efforts to celebrate our 50th year of independence.
To us, National Day is a day of unity. It is a day for all Singaporeans regardless of the party they support to come together as a Nation. Politicising 9 August is not patriotism. It is treason. If, as the opposition claim that the PAP is not Singapore, then isn't it right that 9th August be spared these petty rhetoric.

MND Rebuts TOC's Distortions on AGO Report

TOC Targets MND Over AGO Accounting Lapse

MND rebuts TOC AGO report

Andrew Loh's The Online Citizen (TOC), the defacto mouth-piece of the Worker's Party, has gone on over-drive to attack the Ministry of National Development (MND). This is because MND is the government agency that is taking the Worker's Party managed AHPETC to task over the alleged misappropriation of public S&CC grants.
In a 18 July 2015 article, TOC accused NParks of: (a) a series of serious accounting lapses of several years involving tens of millions of dollars for the Gardens by the Bay project; and (b) challenged MND's statement that the integrity of the procurement process has not being comprised.
True to their lack of journalistic integrity and hidden agenda to mislead Singaporeans, TOC has deliberately disseminated distortions and untruths. The truth of the matter is that:
a.    there was only one audit carried out by AGO. The observations cited by AGO came from the audit conducted between August 2013 to June 2014.
b.    MND verified that checks were carried out for the transactions in question, it AGO and MND were satisfied that payments made to suppliers were supported by purchase orders and approved. No exceptions were noted except for two overpayments to suppliers which had been recovered.
In short, unlike the situation with AHPETC, MND has been open on the matter and has held the officers involved accountable. Before TOC accuses MND, TOC should look at their own party. One must surely question TOC why they give so much credibility to an AGO report on MND, but dismiss AGO's report on AHPETC.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

SG General Elections: Employment. Whose responsibility?

The Straits Times today published an article on how a PME who used to earn $25,000 per month now struggles to get by on only $3,000 per month. The article alludes to the issue of it being the Government's job to ensure that this PME continues to earn the $25,000 per month.

But is this realistic? It is really the Government's job? Read this article by SG Leaks .... for an alternate perspective. We believe that Singaporeans can either sit-back, blame the Government or economy and do nothing, or take ownership for their own lives and seek continual training to remain employable. At the end of the day, no one owes you a living. 


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Singapore GE 2015: We predict WP to contest more GRCs for self-survival

Singapore General Election 2015.  When it comes to GE 2015, besides the date of the election, the next question on Singaporean's mind is whether the Worker's Party will be content to remain in Aljunied GRC, or make a bold move to contest another one or even two GRCs.

Singapore ge 2015 workers party manifesto

The WP's historic win of the Aljunied GRC in 2011 has certainly swelled its ranks with supporters and in turn a pool of potential candidates. Unfortunately, the Worker's Party is run much like a fiefdom by Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim and even the mighty international corporate lawyer Chen Show Mao has been stifled to the extent that he is non-existent.
According to our analysis, the Worker's Party will definitely seek to contest outside Aljunied GRC. In fact, we believe that Low Thia Khiang will be selling a grand vision of denying the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) the two-third majority in Parliament. Unfortunately, this grand vision is not driven in the interest of democracy, but self-survival.
While the AHPETC debacle is still pending in the Court, one thing is certain, AHPETC is near bankruptcy and the only way they can avoid it is to win another GRC and co-mingle the funds. This, in our analysis, was the same reason that Low Thia Khiang ventured outside Hougang to contest the Aljunied GRC in 2011. Back then, Low Thia Khiang was lucky. The much talked about freak election result occurred. The PAP would have comfortably retained Aljunied GRC if not for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's now infamous statement that residents of Aljunied would live to repent their decision if they voted in the WP.
With AHPETC raising questions about government grants being misappropriated, over-payment of contractors and dubious dealings with their managing agent, it makes us wonder whether residents of Aljunied (and Singaporeans as a whole) still believe that the Worker's Party has the moral character and values to "co-drive" Singapore's Parliament. While Singaporeans want an alternative voice in Parliament, it is also important to have the correct alternative voice. Singapore needs an opposition that is honest and of good personal characters. We cannot afford to have an opposition that champions transparency and accountability, but refuses to be open and accountable themselves.
In short, we believe that the Singapore General Election 2015 will see the Worker's Party contesting a few GRCs with Low Thia Khiang himself leading the charge. Whether the Worker's Party will be able to win more GRCs, or even keep Aljunied, will depend on whether Singaporeans can see past the rhetoric and vote not only for an opposition, but vote for an opposition that is honest, proven and of good moral character to co-drive Singapore.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

AGO Finds Lapses in PA's Financial Management System

Yes, it is true! The independent Auditor-General Office (AGO) found lapses in People's Assocation's (PA) financial management of funds. This is the same AGO who after auditing AHPETC, found that "there can be no assurance that AHPETC’s accounts are accurate and reliable, or that public funds are properly spent, accounted for and managed."

difference between PA and AHPETC AGO

As expected, opposition supporters were quick to jump on the bandwagon to draw similarities between the PA and AHPETC. While there are some similarities, what they fail to acknowledge is that there is a significant difference in how the lapses are being handled. Organizations of respectable sizes are bound to have lapses. It is impossible not to have them as the large numbers of people and transactions make it a mathematical certainty that it will happen. What is more important, and this alludes to the character and value of the organization and its management, is how the lapses are handled.
In the case of AHPETC, the Worker's Party continued to hide, lie and mislead the public. Instead of being open and transparent, they continue to keep crucial information and records from even their own appointed auditors. Even after their promise in Parliament to submit an unqualified audited statement by July 2015, this has not happened. WP MPs have continued to dodge the issue and those running AHPETC have stayed silent. Pritam Singh even went to extent to tell Singaporeans that they do not need to answer to Parliament. In the case of AHPETC, no investigation, no accountability, no responsibility, no transparency.
Compare this to how the People's Action party responded to the lapses. The PA took the lapses seriously, immediately convened an investigation, accepted responsibility for the lapses and the Chairman of the Citizen's Consultative Committee (CCC) resigned from his position even before wrong-doing (if any) was confirmed.
Thus while we are disappointed in what has happened to the PA (and the other Government agencies named in the AGO's audit report), we are confident that, where the Government is concerned, things will always be open and transparent.
I hope that through this incident, Singaporeans will be able to see through the smoke and mirrors of the Worker's Party and realise the true character and values of opposition leaders like Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and gang. For the sake of Singapore, we must indeed vote wisely!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Who will win Singapore GE 2015 ...

Why the middle ground must remain rational for the sake of our children's future
The upcoming Singapore General Election 2015 is going to be a hard-fought battle.
The opposition Worker's Party (WP) had pulled off an unprecedented feat of winning a GRC and the win would have encouraged many educated Singaporeans to join the fight against the People's Action Party (PAP). The WP's bench, in terms of depth and strength, is now within striking range of the PAP's. The main thing working against the WP is the legal, financial and moral issues surrounding AHPETC. Unaccounted monies, favoritism to friends and cronies, and blatant lies to Parliament. All this shake the confidence of the electorate so unless the WP comes clean, these doubts will hurt the party at the General Elections.
The incumbent PAP on the other hand goes into the battle with a perceived upper hand, but with two clear Achilles heels - their refusal to trade short-term populist policies for the long-term survival of Singapore and their absence on social media.
Policy Trade-Offs. The new generation of voters, especially those who did not experience the growing pains of a young nation, have come to expect the good life. The Singaporeans of today are no longer happy to have a roof above their heads. They now want a roof which is nice, a roof that is free, and a roof that appreciates in value. The angst over the CPF is a classic example which activists like Roy Ngerng and political wannabe like Tan Jee Say exploit. Roy and Jee Say are telling Singaporeans that they deserve the good life. There is nothing wrong with this. Aspirations are good. But what Roy and Jee Say do not tell Singaporeans is that they need to work for it. Instead, they tell Singaporeans that it is the Government's responsibility to give the good life to every Singaporean. And, if they want it, vote them into Parliament and they will get it. 
Social Media. With an electorate that no longer relies on main stream media for news and information, the PAP's absence on social media means that they will no longer be able to "communicate" effectively with Singaporeans. Alternative sites that are anti-PAP thrive and, given that the contributors are not bound by a journalist code of ethics to be truthful and objective, good and well-intentioned government policies are distorted to suit the political agendas of the opposition. Social media also allows the opposition to fight a guerilla war against the Government by spreading untruths via the fabrication and sensationalization of news to portray an uncaring government and a government that has lost touch with the electorate. Without a social media presence, the PAP lacks the ability to counter these lies.
Looking at the election landscape, I often describe it via a bell-curve. Generally, 30% of the electorate is assessed to be pro-PAP with another 30% being anti-PAP. The balance 40% are considered the crucial middle-ground who have not decided. It is important to highlight that I did not describe the 30% as pro-opposition, but as anti-PAP. This is an important distinction as this segment hates the PAP so much that it does not matter who the opposition is. As long as they oppose the PAP, this segment will vote for them.
Given this landscape, the only election strategy that any of the political parties can adopt is to fight for and win the swing votes. Assuming you already have 30% in the pocket, all you need is another 21% to win. Broadly speaking, the 30% in the bell curve are too emotional. For the anti-PAP camp, nothing the PAP does is ever right. If it is good, then there must be a catch. This is similar for the pro-PAP camp. As such, there is no easy way to convert the votes of these two segments. This then leaves the middle-ground. The middle-ground is assessed to be the rational voters. These voters are those that would consider the pros and cons, the cost and benefit and the consequences or advantage of the choices presented. Unfortunately, this segment while rational, are also human and they are prone to being manipulated by their emotions.
For the PAP, the true danger of the middle-ground is the fear that they want the PAP in government, but want to signal their unhappiness of the PAP's policies. As one cannot control who votes for whom, a miscalculation could end up with a freak election result where the PAP is voted out of government. In my assessment, the loss of Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election was a freak election result. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's statement that the residents of Aljunied would live to repent their choice pushed many to vote WP to signal their unhappiness over Mr Lee's statement. And as things are unfolding now, the residents of Aljunied GRC are suffering for their choice.
General Elections in Singapore, be it for 2015 or even the next two, will not be about choosing a more capable political party. In the foreseeable future, the dominance of the PAP is unquestionable. For General Election 2015, the true determining factor of who will win, will be on how voters choose to signal their unhappiness over the PAP's reluctance to mortgage our future for short-term gains. In short, if voters miscalculate, a freak election result will be the outcome and the best party to govern Singapore will have lost.

singapore ge 2015

While unorthodox, voters have a third option. If voters truly believe that the opposition is not capable, but they want the PAP to know their unhappiness and to work harder for them, voters should signal by spoiling their vote. The percentage of spoil votes has remained largely in the 5-6% range. Any spike in these numbers will be a clear indication to the PAP that the electorate is unhappy. Spoiling a vote minimizes the risk of a freak election result. For the sake of our children's future, please do not throw the baby out with the water

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Date of Singapore's next General Election: GE 2015 or GE 2016

Stoked by netizens and political coverage by the main stream media, the number one topic of conversation around dinner tables this month is the date of Singapore's next General Election.

Pundits and political observers have pointed out that what was to have been a Singapore General Election 2016 (GE 2016), is now highly likely to be a GE 2015 instead. Many reasons have been given to support this theory. Chief amongst them is that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) needs to ride on the positive sentiments the passing of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, generated to be re-elected.

This is what the opposition want Singaporeans to think. Which is far from the truth.

Singapore opposition parties want the rational (but all important) middle-ground to think that the PAP is no longer the Government of choice. Singapore opposition parties want the middle-ground to think that the PAP's days are numbered with the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. And Singapore opposition parties want the middle-ground to think that the PAP of today is not as capable as the PAP under Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Thankfully unlike other Asian countries, where founding leaders cannot let go, the PAP has instituted a systematic and robust leadership renewal process. Since Mr Lee Kuan Yew stepped-down in 1990, while he did remain in Government for several more years, he no longer made the decisions. This can be seen from the policies that subsequent Cabinets implemented which had, among them, policies that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had publicly opposed when he was Prime Minister. To me, this makes it clear that it was the PAP and not Mr Lee Kuan Yew that has been leading Singapore 1990s. If they could do it since then, there is no doubt that the PAP has the ability to lead Singapore into the future.

As such, if PM Lee Hsien Loong decides that Singapore should have its 17th Parliamentary General Election in 2015, it will not be due to the inability of the PAP to lead Singapore with the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. PM Lee's decision would likely be based on when is the appropriate time for him to seek the mandate of Singaporeans for the next generation of leaders. If you ask me, given the developing challenging global economic environment, a GE 2015 will put Singapore in a better position to weather the coming storm.

As a betting man, my money is on a GE 2015 and, if we believe the political analysts in the Chinese press and TR Emeritus, it will be on 12 September 2015.

Singapore GE 2015 date prediction

Friday, 10 July 2015

AHPETC Saga - Low Thia Khiang's Silence is worrying

Sylvia Lim Should Step-Down ….  

As a political observer, I cannot help but wonder what went wrong with AHPETC. A successful AHPETC would have been a big boost to the credibility of opposition parties in Singapore.

ahpetc sylvia lim resignation

The Worker’s Party (WP) cannot be so daft as not to know that their every action would be under intense scrutiny. So why would otherwise intelligent people like Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Chen Show Mao create a system that is essentially illegal. Surely, they would know that it would only be a matter of time before the truth is unveiled.

I dare say that the WP won the Aljunied GRC primarily because of Low Thia Khiang. Having successfully held on to the Single Member Constituency of Hougang since 1991, and having personal built the de facto opposition party to the dominant People’s Action Party, residents of Aljunied felt they could trust Mr Low. So when Low Thia Khiang introduced his “A Team” and urged residents to make them co-drivers, residents of Aljunied voted WP believing that Mr Low and his team would deliver.

Sadly, that trust has been misplaced.

Since Sylvia Lim assumed the role of Chairman of AHPETC, things have not been as promised by Low Thia Khiang. AHPETC is in a mess. Not only financially, but also legally. Specifically …

a. statement of accounts are not only overdue, but submitted with qualifiers by AHPETC’s own auditors making the contents suspect for accuracy
b. despite promises to get AHPETC in order, nothing significant has been done 
c. there have been overpayment for services and management fees with the General Manager of AHPETC earning 3 times the salary of GMs of other Town Councils 
d. lucrative contracts have been awarded to the GM’s own company
e. government S&CC grants (in the millions) have not been properly accounted for 
f. legal requirements to transfer S&CC collected to the sinking fund has not been done
g. transfer of sinking fund to Florence Regency took place late and after threats of legal actions
h. summons to attend Court to refund residents’ S&CC fees collected
i. …. and the list goes on

Given Low Thia Khiang’s track record of managing Hougang as an MP without incident, one can safely assume that AHPETC’s financial and legal troubles is caused by Sylvia Lim – the Chairman of AHPETC. In my mind, Sylvia Lim has proven herself to be incompetent and she should step-down for the sake of all opposition parties. In fact, I would even call on Low Thia Khiang to do the right thing and push for Sylvia Lim to step-down. Residents of Aljunied voted for Sylvia Lim on the basis of Low Thia Khiang’s endorsement. It is therefore the right thing for Low Thia Khiang to take responsibility for his mistake. 

WP’s manifesto says that they are for rational, responsible and respectable politics. Let’s see if WP takes responsibility for the debacle that AHPETC has become. How the WP deals with AHPETC will demonstrate how respectable the WP and its leaders are.