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  1. Now this is an interesting sight. As we have mentioned before in previous blog posts, the COVD-19 pandemic has somewhat influenced many who are forced to stay home to start working out as an excuse to head out. Hence, when we went into Phrase 2, there was a noticeable increase in traffic at our parks as many still continued to enjoy exercising, leading to some to come up with new ideas to move away from the overcrowding in parks. Check out this clip which has been shared by SG Road Vigilante, whereby the camera car chanced upon this public outdoor carpark at Fort Canning on the 9th of September which has been 'converted' into an outdoor gym. With the carpark almost full, we bet the sight of those using the carpark as a workout area annoyed the camera car driver. What do you guys reckon? Cool or not cool? Let us know!
  2. This is very interesting. There were two incidents that convinced me how to vote in the next election, the way our president was elected and the fake news law. What is our government going to do if facebook decide against the correction? Are they going to hurt our economy by going hard against facebook? Singapore as a small country needs to be as open as possible. To me, the government can always publish their rebuttals but to force the other party to shut up is way too much. It reminds me of china... I remember their justification for the fake news law was that sometimes it is time sensitive to prevent news from going viral, people getting hurt. Is this instance really the right way to use the new law? It is just stupid trying to force a showdown with facebook over this states times review which I never heard off until our government try to shut it down. To me, these two incidents, president elections and fake news law, are the clearest incidents where I feel the good of the country is sacrificed for political needs. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/states-times-review-fake-news-pofma-facebook-correction-12136996
  3. Carbon82

    Emerging Fault Lines in Singapore

    By mean of fault lines, I am not referring to NSL, EWL, NEL, CCL, DTL, etc. (we are seeing less service disruption lately right?) Neither am I referring to any new geographical discovery that might put us at risk of natural disasters such as earthquake or volcano eruption, but... Majority now aware of race, religious issues, but study flags new fault lines A large majority of Singaporeans are aware of the seriousness of race and religious issues, and feel the Government has done enough to manage these divisions. But fault lines have emerged on class, immigration and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, where more Singaporeans, especially younger ones, want to see greater state involvement and public discourse. These emerging issues, if mismanaged, are also seen to affect Singaporeans' trust in the Government the most, compared with race and religion. These and other findings from a study of public opinion on fault lines in Singapore, carried out by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), were released yesterday. Besides Dr Mathews, the other researchers were IPS research associate Melvin Tay and research assistant Shanthini Selvarajan. Based on a survey of about 4,000 citizens and permanent residents last year, the study noted that about a third of the respondents identified race and religion as having the potential to result in violence in Singapore if not managed properly - significantly more so than class, immigration and LGBT issues. Yet only about a quarter tied race and religion to trust in the state and politicians, compared with almost 40 per cent who said trust levels in the Government would likely fall if class and immigration issues are mismanaged. Close to half of both younger and older respondents felt there should be more state involvement in immigration, reflecting possible higher levels of xenophobia and job insecurity in recent times, regardless of age, said the researchers. These results could mean that citizens now accord the Government more responsibility to do more to manage class differences and immigration issues, they added. "People may feel that the Government already has clear policies and frameworks that are fairly robust when it comes to race and religion. But perhaps for immigration, socio-economic status and LGBT issues, people might want the state to be more involved in managing those issues," said IPS senior research fellow Mathew Mathews. This is unlike in the early years after independence, when the focus was on surviving communal politics. YOUTH LESS KEEN ON MORE GOVT INTERVENTION ON RACE AND RELIGION Just over a fifth of young people aged between 18 and 25 surveyed wanted more state involvement in race issues, compared with one-third of those aged above 65. Similar results were observed for religion. This could be due to the lived experiences of the older generation, who experienced the Maria Hertogh and 1964 race riots, said researchers. The former took place in 1950, after a court decided that a child who had been raised by Muslims should be returned to her Catholic biological parents. In 1964, clashes took place between the Malays and Chinese amid rising ethnic and political tensions. For older Singaporeans, these events drove home the need for a robust state apparatus to intervene and keep the peace, added the researchers. Significantly more Malays and Indians (about 40 per cent each) wanted greater state involvement in race issues than Chinese (24 per cent) - a sign that ethnic minorities are more likely to perceive or experience discrimination than the majority. A similar trend was seen for religion. In addition, people of minority races with a university degree and above desired more state intervention than their less-educated counterparts, showing that increased education results in greater awareness of, and desire to resolve, racial and religious issues, said the study. MINORITY RACES, YOUTH MORE LIKELY TO PROBE POTENTIAL DISCRIMINATION When asked how they would respond after getting an e-mail or phone message that a business had refused to serve people from a certain race or religion, nearly half of both Malays and Indians said they were likely to investigate the issue, compared with 37 per cent of Chinese. About 30 per cent each of Malays and Indians were also more likely to take the allegation seriously by reporting it to the authorities, compared with 13 per cent of Chinese. Younger Singaporeans would also be more proactive in tracing the source of such a message, with two-thirds saying they would check with their friend who sent it, compared with only half of respondents aged 65 and above. This could be because younger people aged 18 to 25 are more sensitive and concerned about discrimination. Being digital natives, they are likely to investigate matters further, said the study. Overall, the study showed that an overwhelming 92 per cent of respondents believed the Government had done well to improve racial and religious harmony. An example of vigorous state intervention to combat social divides, it said, can be seen in the area of religion - where a range of hard and soft legislation like the Internal Security Act, Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, and the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles has prevented potential discord and wider conflict. But while seven in 10 aged above 65 agreed that the Government is responsible for racial and religious harmony in Singapore, only half of respondents aged 18 to 25 felt this way, it added. The researchers said this shows older Singaporeans may attribute greater responsibility to the state, or believe these fault lines are most effectively managed by strong government intervention. But going forward, younger generations could prefer a more community-driven approach to race and religion. Aiyah, why waste time and $$$ to conduct such survey, just sit at neighborhood coffee shop, food court, or even surfing HWZ, MCF, etc. will get you the same results. May I add that this is a typical example of people at the top loosing touch with people on the ground...
  4. If you’ve ever wanted to work at the Istana, now might be your chance. The official residence and office of the President of Singapore has put up a job advertisement on the Careers @ Gov portal. The opening? A butler position. Responsibilities Under the title “Assistant Senior Butler/ Butler”, the advert says that the responsibilities include providing hospitality services, along with food and beverages to guests at the Istana. Butlers will also have to perform housekeeping duties such as readying the Istana for events, setting up ceremonial props or tables, and helping in various places such as the kitchen, linen room or floral arrangement room. There is even an opportunity for applicants with relevant past working experience to be appointed at a higher level, leading a team of butlers and performing other administrative and logistical duties. In order to apply, applicants must be Singapore citizens, and if successful, will be offered a one or two year contract in the first instance. Butlers will also have to perform housekeeping duties such as readying the Istana for events, setting up ceremonial props or tables, and helping in various places such as the kitchen, linen room or floral arrangement room. There is even an opportunity for applicants with relevant past working experience to be appointed at a higher level, leading a team of butlers and performing other administrative and logistical duties. In order to apply, applicants must be Singapore citizens, and if successful, will be offered a one or two year contract in the first instance. https://mothership.sg/2019/07/istana-butler-job/
  5. Ownself check ownself 2019 edition Auditor-General finds lapses in procurement, contracts and IT controls in public agencies Mata involved! Police reports made after AGO highlights lapses Police begin probe over irregular quotations received by MND and URA after AGO report
  6. Adrianli

    SG Bonus 2018

    Woohoo, government giving bonus. Coming soon, just nice for Christmas.
  7. https://www.aic.sg/sites/aicassets/AssetGallery/Forum/Keynote_Prof%20Michael%20Porter.pdf It’s not easy but I really think that is the way forward. Every time I see a specialist I always wonder, do the doctor really want to make me healthy or does he just want to operate on me.... what’s in it for him to keep me healthier as that means I don’t need him and he will be out of work. He needs to pay for all the expensive overheads, u can’t blame him for trying to sell expensive ops. The current volume based healthcare is so fundamentally wrong.
  8. Aventador

    Singapore to Fail without PAP?

    After seeing the change of government in Malaysia after 60 years, obviously many people have talked about could it happen in Singapore? And the way some of the younger leaders talk and handle issues leave me feeling disappointed with the situation. Josephine Teo comes across very arrogant, Ng chee meng too. Now Ong ye kung says teachers must have self discipline and pay parking... Singapore is being run as a business, with annual price increases to maximise profits everywhere. And i disagree with it Anyway this topic is not to bash the government, there are enough threads on this. What i hope to see is your views on what will happen if there was a change in government in the next 1-2 elections. How will it affect Singapore. Will we fail as a country? Will our women become maids in other countries as LKY once claimed? Give your analysis of what you think will happen if the PAP is no longer the government. Ideally put the worse case scenario of how bad things will be. Can we survive it? Or do you think that it won't mean the end of Singapore as the PAP likes to claim
  9. kdash

    New agency SFA

    AVA to be dissolved, new agency SFA to be set up... New Singapore Food Agency to oversee food safety regulations and related matters from next April https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/new-singapore-food-agency-oversee-food-safety-regulations-food-related-matters-april-next
  10. Wind30

    Tackling inequality?

    How ah?
  11. I read our minister say how much money our saf save.... but my experience with my reservist unit feels the exact opposite. It feels like they have to spend their Budget else it will be cut next year kind of feeling. I am curios is it like a widespread kind of thing or it’s just my unit? My unit is not conbat fit so maybe it is different from mainstream saf.
  12. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/government-to-conduct-trial-of-mobile-app-for-parking-charges-8848624 Government to conduct trial of mobile app for parking charges File photo of a carpark in Singapore (Photo: Francine Lim) 15 May 2017 04:51PM(Updated: 15 May 2017 05:10PM) Share this content SINGAPORE: The Government will be conducting a trial of a mobile application that will allow motorists to pay for their parking charges using their mobile devices. For a start, the app will be tested among public sector officers in May and June, at selected public car parks in the city area that still require paper coupons, announced the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) in a joint news release on Monday (May 15). The car parks include those in Amoy Street, Circular Road, Emerald Hill Road and Duxton Road. "The mobile app will provide more convenience for motorists as they need not return to their vehicles to add more coupons to extend their parking session," said the agencies. All motorists have to do is key their vehicle number into the app, select the car park, indicate their parking duration and start parking. According to the agencies, the app automatically calculates the charges that motorists have to pay based on their parking duration on a per minute basis. A refund will be given if they choose to leave the carpark earlier than the duration that was keyed in. Likewise, motorists can extend the duration of their parking session without having to return to the vehicle. Among the issues authorities said they will be testing is the payment module, "to be confident of its robustness before we extend the trial to the general public." They added that the plan is to extend the trial to members of the public later this year. Source: CNA/am
  13. An article by Chen Show Mao:- SERVICE: THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT Now, let me talk about service as a role of the government. As I see it, our government's central task to serve Singaporeans. You may say, "Yes, of course." But I am not sure if we always remember to use that yardstick to measure the success of our government policies. To me service means putting at the center of things the object of our service. The question is simple, it is a matter of perspective, who will be at the center of things, that is all. Is it the people of Singapore, or some measure of gross development or growth, that has over time been taken as a proxy for what's good for Singapore. For instance, when the economy grew by 14%, as it did last year, but median household income grew only 3%, or 0% after you adjust for inflation, then we need to ask "who is all this growth for?" Who is at the center of all this economic growth if most Singaporean households barely kept pace? I have come to meet many more Singaporeans in this situation since my return. It has got to be: all this economic growth will go to benefit MOST Singaporeans, in the long run if not necessarily in the short run. But is that the case? SERVANT LEADERSHIP In his National Day dinner speech in Ang Mo Kio, the Prime Minister said that we've got to
  14. Showster

    Of Governments, Bots and Trolls

    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/more-governments-manipulate-media-with-bots-trolls-study-9405134 Very interesting read on how governments influence via bots and paid trolls. Enjoy!
  15. Joseph22

    Keyboard warrior upgrading course

    WAH Swee... now government also giving us keyboard warrior upgrading course. We can argue better after the course. Who want to join.
  16. Government, judges cannot be sued for judicial decisions: Apex court http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/courts-crime/story/govt-judges-cannot-be-sued-judicial-decisions-apex-court-20150625#xtor=CS1-10 I find it apt to use this picture to describe the whole situation
  17. PM Lee urges citizens to stand against hackers Referring to the recent hacking incidents, which also affected Singapore’s government sites, he noted that the suspects have been arrested by the Police. It is not a prank when someone hacks websites and intrudes into computer systems, but a criminal act, said Mr Lee. He added that such acts inconvenience the public but also resulted in graver consequences which could endanger lives. For instance, this will be a serious problem when hospital management systems are affected, he said. Mr Lee told the audience that the courts will deal with culprits to the full extent of the law but also urged citizens to speak up against these actions and to stand against the culprits. I raise up both hands and feet to support PM Lee in pushing for a strong deterrent sentence to those hackers that have been caught.
  18. Power lah! People's Power? Thai protesters occupy Finance Ministry in bid to oust government http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/25/us-thailand-politics-idUSBRE9AO03R20131125 (Reuters) - Anti-government protesters forced their way inside Thailand's Finance Ministry and burst through the gates of the Foreign Ministry compound on Monday, in an escalating bid to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The seizing of government buildings by protesters,led by the opposition Democrat Party, plunges Thailand into its deepest political uncertainty since it was convulsed three years ago by the bloodiest political unrest in a generation. The protesters' actions "threaten the stability of the government," Yingluck said in a brief televised address. The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a puppet for her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and convicted two years later of graft - charges he denies. Thaksin lives in self-imposed exile but exerts enormous influence over his sister's government. About 1,000 protesters swarmed the Finance Ministry, filling its cavernous marble-floored halls and occupying six other buildings. Many gathered in first-floor meeting rooms, blowing whistles and laying out plastic mats for resting and eating. Occupying its grounds is symbolic, they said, of targeting the money at the heart of the "Thaksin regime". Staff left, moving into a parking lot before leaving. "I invite protesters to stay here overnight at the Finance Ministry," protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told the crowd. "Our only objective is to rid the country of the Thaksin regime," added Suthep, a former deputy prime minister under the previous Democrat-led government. Yingluck, 46, was defiant, saying she would not step down. Her broad support in Thailand's vote-rich north and northeast - rural regions that are among the country's poorest - helped her win a 2011 election by a landslide, making her Thailand's first woman prime minister. That election was seen as a defeat for the traditional Bangkok elite of generals, royal advisers, middle-class bureaucrats and business leaders - a group that backs the Democrats and deeply mistrusts Thaksin and his sister. After two years of relative calm, tension between those factions is rising quickly, reviving memories of a tumultuous 2008 when anti-Thaksin "yellow shirt" protesters shut Bangkok's airports and held crippling rallies against two Thaksin-backed governments, which were eventually disbanded by a court. Although Thaksin or his allies have won every election in the past decade, the judiciary often undercuts him, illustrating how the billionaire former telecommunications tycoon and populist hero remains one of the most polarizing figures in modern Thai history. Since the 2006 coup, court rulings have removed two prime ministers, disbanded four parties, jailed three election commissioners and banned 220 politicians. The military will be watched closely. A major force in politics since Thailand became a democracy in 1932, the military has staged 18 coups - some successful, some not - and made several discreet interventions in forming coalition governments, almost all with the tacit backing of the royalist establishment that now reviles Thaksin. Yingluck said an Internal Security Act would be extended in Bangkok and some surrounding areas including in Samut Prakarn province, in which Bangkok's main airport is located. But she said the government would not use force on protesters occupying government buildings. The act allows troops to impose curfews, operate checkpoints and restrict movements of protesters. "GET OUT" There were almost no police at the Finance Ministry when the protesters swarmed in, witnesses said. "The government cannot use force at this juncture. If they do, they will lose immediately," said Boonyakiat Karavekphan, a political analyst at Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok. "The government's only option now is to let the occupations happen and to refrain from touching the protesters." Suthep said the Finance Ministry would be a "second stage" in a protest that began on October 31 and had been mostly confined to Bangkok's historic quarter, where about 100,000 people gathered on Sunday. That was the largest demonstration since April-May 2010, when Thaksin's mostly rural "red shirt" supporters tried to bring down a Democrat-led government. Those protests were eventually quelled by a military crackdown in which 91 people, most of them Thaksin supporters, were killed. On Monday, the protesters began the day chanting "Get Out!" against the government as they fanned out to state offices, military and naval bases and state television channels. The tension condemned the baht currency to an 11-week low, down 0.4 percent to 31.97 to the dollar. Thailand's benchmark stock index lost 0.5 percent to its lowest since September 6, taking its year-to-date loss to 2.8 percent. The protests were sparked last month by a government-backed amnesty bill that could have allowed Thaksin to return without facing jail time for a 2008 corruption sentence. Although the bill has been dropped, the demonstrations have expanded into an all-out call for the ouster of Yingluck, who faces a no-confidence debate on Tuesday that she'll likely pass easily given her Puea Thai Party's parliamentary majority. She said the protests could hurt tourism and investor confidence and she would not dissolve the house. Suthep exhorted the crowd to also seize the government's Public Relations Department, a few blocks from the Finance Ministry. By afternoon, about 500 protesters were inside the grounds but not inside the building, which is controlled by the office of the Prime Minister. By early evening, they had also overrun the Foreign Ministry's compound. Thaksin won elections in 2001 and 2005 by landslides but corruption scandals steadily eroded his popularity among Bangkok's middle class. Yingluck's party received a blow last week when the Constitutional Court rejected proposals to make the Senate fully elected - a move that could have strengthened her government. Supporters of Thaksin and Yingluck gathered in a stadium at the opposite end of the city, about 15 km (9 miles) away. They say the court verdict is the latest attempt by anti-Thaksin forces to thwart the legislative process. (Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak, Aukkarapon Niyomyat, Viparat Jantraprap and Kittiphong Thaichareon. Writing by Jason Szep. Editing by Robert Birsel)
  19. Govt to explore simpler cab fare structure Jermyn Chow | The Straits Times | Friday, Nov 15, 2013 The Government will look into simplifying the current taxi fare structure to make it less confusing for commuters, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo. Among the issues under review are the extra surcharges levied on commuters who ride in premium taxi models like Mercedes-Benz, or hail a taxi in the city area. Acknowledging that the current taxi fare structure is "complex and confusing", Mrs Teo told Parliament on Tuesday that the Land Transport Authority will work with the Public Transport Council and cab operators to study "if and how" to simplify the fare structure. The aim is to allow for easy fare comparison across the six cab companies, she said. Currently, there are close to 10 different flagdown fares, three different metered fare structures, and more than 10 different types of surcharges. On ensuring enough taxis ply the roads during peak hours, Mrs Teo said different surcharges have been imposed to better match taxi supply with demand by giving incentives to cabbies to serve locations where demand is high. Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who is also an adviser to the National Taxi Association (NTA), asked Mrs Teo if the Government can look into simplifying the rental fees paid by cabbies. Mrs Teo said the Government wants to be careful about getting involved in discussions between cab operators and cabbies about the fees. She explained that it is for the taxi drivers to compare which rental scheme best meets their requirements. Mrs Teo added that the NTA could take up the issue. - See more at: http://ride.asiaone.com/news/general/story/govt-explore-simpler-cab-fare-structure#sthash.bLbFL5fY.dpuf
  20. ok people, the day is here... let's prepare for a closed shop US govt, and some crashed stock markets time to pick up bargains on the cheap
  21. Even though most of the infrastructure plans outlined in the latest Land Transport Masterplan were announced in the run-up to the Punggol by-election in January, the document is admirable for the way it maps out methodically what Singapore needs to do to keep its population moving up to 2030. But a masterplan requires more than just hardware. It needs to spell out more qualitative targets, rather than focus on quantitative ones such as the length of rail network and number of buses. It needs to get to the crux of what leaves commuters satisfied: service quality. While the plan spells out issues such as service frequency and reliability, as well as walking distance to and from a train station or bus stop, the proof of the pudding goes beyond that. There is a need to look at how crowded it can get, the quality of air-conditioning, train speed (which has been patchy of late), station dwell time, dependability of services such as lifts and escalators, and even noise level on trains. The plan needs to deliver that lofty promise touted famously by a leading airline - "making sure you arrive in the best possible shape" - if public transport is to have any chance at all competing against the car. Here, the goal is to make public transport a choice mode, rather than a mode of no choice. To do that, there needs to be a slight shift away from an engineering-centric way of meeting an objective and measuring how successful we have been doing so. But that does not mean diminishing the importance of engineering. In that respect, the quality of infrastructure needs to be nailed down, since this will eventually determine its reliability and longevity. In light of recent rail breakdowns, it appears that there are still struggles with water leakage in tunnels - an issue faced by builders since the Central Expressway opened more than 20 years ago, despite improvements in construction material and technology. These leaks appear to be the root cause of many MRT incidents, including at least two tunnel fires and tracks that corroded barely three years after a new line was opened. If leaks are indeed unavoidable - as claimed by the Land Transport Authority - then it must be made sure that water is channelled safely away from all operating parts such as rails and cables. And if such parts cannot be placed out of the path of water, then at least ensure that they are water-resistant. There is little point stating that Singapore's infrastructure specifications meet international standards - each geographical region poses its own set of challenges. So engineers here should specify standards that are suitable for local conditions - just as car makers 'tropicalise' models meant for hot and humid markets. It is true that it is the responsibility of operators to ensure operating assets are well-maintained and flaws are fixed quickly. But that responsibility becomes much more onerous if an infrastructure is prone to one form of failure or another in the first place. Singapore pays top dollar for its infrastructure. So it is reasonable to expect a high level of robustness. Another area that needs overhauling is a transport framework that suffers from the tension arising from profit-oriented operators providing a public service. It is now clear that publicly listed operators face opposing values of satisfying shareholders and commuters. While it is in their commercial interest to keep operating assets in good running order, they may be tempted to delay repairs and upgrades for as long as possible. Or do the barest minimum. 'Softer' measures of service quality, such as crowdedness or efficiency of air-conditioning, matter even less. So Singapore needs to move swiftly to a regime where the Government takes ownership of all operating and fixed assets, and, preferably, assumes revenue risk. The operator would then be tasked with focusing solely on meeting a clearly laid out set of service standards - without worrying about the bottom line, because their profit margins would already have been fixed. An effective carrot-and-stick regulatory system will then ensure that the welfare of commuters is prioritised. Any masterplan also needs to be stuck to. One way to ensure this is to have longer stints for ministers and permanent secretaries. Former Transport Ministers Mah Bow Tan and Yeo Cheow Tong outlined ambitious rail projects during their terms. Mr Yeo told Parliament in 2000 that Singapore would have 540km of rail lines by 2030. But only now are some of these projects being built; and we will have only 360km of rail by 2030. A plan in 1997 to upgrade the signalling system of the North-South and East-West MRT lines - which would have allowed trains to run at closer intervals - will be completed only in 2018. If those original plans were adhered to, our transport infrastructure would have kept pace with the population boom. As it is, the rail expansion programme listed in the Land Transport Masterplan 2013 may be merely playing catch-up, as Singapore continues to grow. It does not help that some of the new lines are three- or four-car systems - unlike the six-car models in the country's older lines, and eight-car or scalable systems found in some cities. Finally, this may be time to re-examine two even more fundamental assumptions about transport - that public transport is good and private transport is bad; and there is a need to keep increasing supply to meet demand. To start, we can stop demonising cars, which play a crucial role in any land transport landscape. With fast-emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, they might even become more efficient than public transport. With an average occupancy of 20 percent today, a bus may not be more efficient than a car during off-peak hours. Especially when a bus consumes far more fuel and far more road space. The second assumption of building more and more to meet demand is fallacious too. Consider how Singapore's population has grown 110 percent since 1981 but the number of trips (excluding cycling and walking) has spiked by more than 360 percent to 12.5 million a day. Since people commute primarily because they have to, and not so much because they want to, this exponential growth in trips is a tad worrying. If the trend continues at the same pace, it may not be sustainable - economically or environmentally - to keep building more infrastructure to cater to demand. We need to find a better way. And that may require urban and transport planners sitting down together to improve accessibility, and not just mobility. The way we live, work and play on this little red dot also needs tweaking if Singapore wants to avoid the maladies of a mega- city. And that will involve more mixed-use developments, flexi- hours, tele-commuting, walking and cycling. Picture credit: ST Photo - Ashleigh Sim
  22. The government shutdown in the United States is into its second week with no end in sight. Whether a civil servant forced into no-pay leave, a war veteran missing his monthly disability cheque, or a patient with cancer on a state-funded clinical trial, the refusal of Congress to open the federal purse has had far-reaching effect in the lives of ordinary Americans. From across the Pacific, what is unfolding in the US may seem like the sort of hellish political dysfunction that would never touch our sunny shores. But a Singapore Government shutdown is - though extremely unlikely - not impossible. In fact, imagining it illuminates the quirks of this little red dot’s system of government: most schoolchildren would have to stay home, for example, but not researchers. The Housing Board hotline would be closed, but not the Town Council’s. Construction of the new MRT lines would screech to a halt, but the trains would keep running as they are operated by publicly-listed companies. The scenario in which the Singapore Government could shut down would begin with Parliament refusing to pass the Supply Bill, which is the Government’s planned expenditure for the year. This is exceedingly rare in Westminster systems as the majority party in Parliament forms the Cabinet, unlike in the US. It is even more unlikely in a unicameral system like Singapore’s - as there is no Upper House or Second Chamber to block legislation. But a backbench revolt or a split in the ruling party could occur, or, one partner in a coalition government could refuse to support the Spending Bill. These might give opponents enough votes to defeat the Government’s Budget. The People’s Action Party’s is currently so dominant that the prospect of a coalition government is almost fantasy, and the last time there was a split in the ruling party was back in 1961. But the Constitution has laid out rules for every eventuality. It states that if Parliament does not pass a Supply Bill, the Finance Minister may take money from the Government’s Consolidated Fund, where all its revenue accrues. It is currently at $206 billion. But he can take only up to a quarter of the previous year’s Budget. Essentially, the government can keep going for only three more months. This is designed to tide the country through a General Election. The failure to pass a Supply Bill is by convention equated to a vote of no-confidence in the Government. That is, the Prime Minister should get the hint and advise the President to dissolve Parliament for elections to be held. If he remains intransigent and refuses to do so, the President can actually unilaterally declare the seat of the Prime Minister vacant, and appoint someone else in his place who would call for elections. This would be a way out of the impasse. It would only be in an uncanny string of events - Parliament defeats the Budget, the Prime Minister refuses to resign, the President does not act, and this stand-off goes on for more than three months - that a Singapore government shutdown occurs. Implausible and incredible, perhaps, but not impossible. So what of ordinary Singaporeans faced with a shutdown? The good news is that the national life may actually be disrupted less severely than expected. Yes, tens of thousands of civil servants would be furloughed, which is to be essentially forced into no-pay leave. But due to two entrenched quirks of the Singapore system - decentralisation and endowment funds - much will keep running. Take the Town Councils, which were established in 1989 for HDB towns to be managed locally. They are largely funded from service and conservancy charges paid by residents, and maintain their own finances and operations. The Government gives the Town Councils a yearly grant of 15 per cent of their total incomes each year. Chua Chu Kang town council chairman Zaqy Mohamad says that this is not a big enough sum to affect daily operations in the event of a state shutdown that would hold back the money. So, the trash will still be collected, the void decks still washed and the blown lightbulbs still replaced. What may be put on hold would be longer-term projects like lift upgrading and re-roofing. Even then, each Town Council can vote to tap into their reserves, known as sinking funds. Given that these are in the tens of millions, crises should be averted. Such decentralisation is also entrenched in institutions that the Government supports like public hospitals. It gives them a lump sum every year - an estimated $2.8 billion this financial year - to subsidise the treatment of lower-income patients. But otherwise, the hospitals are run like private institutions, collecting fees from unsubsidised patients and paying doctors and nurses themselves. They also have private patrons and endowments funds which would likely be tapped on in the event of a cutback in government transfers. This is also the case for Independent schools, which means that not all children would be stuck at home in the case of a shutdown. Still, their operations would have to be rolled back, and staff may have to work for no or less pay. But there are several areas of Government spending that would literally not be impacted by a shutdown at all, thanks to the creation of endowment funds. Much has been made in the US of state-funded clinical trials having to turn away kids with cancer due to the lack of funding. This would not happen in Singapore: The Cancer Science Institute of Singapore is one of five research centres funded by the $3.4 billion National Research Fund, which would be unaffected by Parliament’s failure to pass a Spending Bill. Other people to escape unscathed: low-income families getting cash assistance from the $1.3 billion Comcare fund, senior citizens re-skilling through the $3.8 billion Lifelong Learning Fund, and every holder of a Singapore Government bond, known as Singapore Government Securities (SGS). A debt ceiling crisis of the sort looming over the US would literally never happen here, because Singapore doesn’t rely on borrowing to fund its spending. But it doubly could never happen here because of the $389 billion Government Securities Fund that has been squirrelled away. That is, if every SGS holder wanted to encash his bond today, the cash to pay them all is in this fund. Singapore is a country that always pays her debt. All of these safeguards may add up to surprising upside to a government shutdown. The glaringly-obvious bad news? Such a scenario would put Singapore in a tiny group of countries which have failed to govern themselves. Among developed countries, this group numbers two: the US, and Australia in 1975. Investor confidence would disappear overnight and the whole economy could well enter a downward spiral. Even if some of daily life were to go on as this thought experiment has shown, the signal would be that Singapore “cannot get its act together” - as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said of the US on Tuesday. And that would be a devastating, near-fatal, blow. Source: http://www.singapolitics.sg/views/what-if-singapore-government-shut-down
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