Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Singapore Budget 2015 - Older Workers Gained

Budget 2015: Wage Credit Scheme extension among moves to help businesses cope
Higher CPF for Older Workers
24 Feb 2015 09:55
TODAY reports:
SINGAPORE: The pain caused by Central Provident Fund (CPF) changes announced on Monday (Feb 23) will be soothed by help from the Government in other areas, such as the extension of the Wage Credit Scheme (WCS) and deferment of foreign worker levy hikes, businesses say.

The advance notice on the CPF changes, which include a higher salary ceiling and raised contribution rates for older workers from next year, will allow companies to adjust prices in preparation, they added.

Although the changes were "expected", Soup Spoon managing director Andrew Chan said firms have been struggling to cope with higher costs in other areas.

“The market has been getting increasingly competitive, especially in my trade,” he said, adding that rental, transport and food costs have been increasing with higher demand.

The raising of CPF contribution rates for older workers will affect Mr Chan because about one in five employees in his restaurant chain are aged 50 and above.

However, with the WCS being extended till 2017 and levy hikes for S Pass and Work Permit holders being held off, Mr Chan said these would alleviate the higher labour costs he would face.

The impact of higher CPF contributions will vary among industries and affect labour-intensive businesses the most, said Energycorp Global President and chief executive officer Michael Heng, who welcomes higher CPF contributions to help older workers meet retirement needs.

Due to the labour crunch, his two companies pay workers older than 50 above the market rate. Between the labour shortage and high labour costs, the former is a more serious problem confronting his companies, he noted.

“When you are not able to hire, it is a more serious problem. You cannot cope,” said Mr Heng. “When you have nobody, you cannot create. If you don’t create, you don’t earn anything.”

Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chief executive officer Ho Meng Kit said that while CPF changes would incur higher costs, companies would benefit in the long run after overcoming adjustment pains in the short term with the help of the supporting measures outlined in the Budget.

In addition, higher CPF contributions could help attract older workers back to the workforce to address the labour crunch, he added.

Meanwhile, the National Trades Union Congress welcomed the CPF changes, which it had lobbied for.

“We are heartened that the Government has heeded our call, which will help workers save more for retirement and healthcare expenditures, and bring about fairer wages for older workers, further boosting their retirement savings,” said its president Diana Chia.

While the higher contribution rates for older workers will translate to lower take-home pay for members aged 50 to 55, DBS economist Irvin Seah said the additional interest announced for the first S$30,000 in CPF accounts would be an incentive for retired Singaporeans to not make excessive lump-sum withdrawals - a change recommended by the advisory panel and which has been accepted by the Government.

Mr Seah added: “It will encourage those who have little CPF savings to defer the withdrawal and keep their savings for their future needs.”


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Best "Ang Pow" for Singaporeans for The Year of The Goat

Best 2015 Ang Pow for Singaporeans – Revoke 2015 Transport Fares Increases
And It Does NOT Cost Anyone A Single Cent!
In the Year of the Goat, the best “ang pow” for Singaporeans, especially for the millions who commute daily by public transport, is the revocation of the 2015 public transport fare increase announced to take effect from April 2015.  And the most innovative element of this “ang pow” is that not only would it not cost the government a single cent, it puts money back into the commuters’ pockets AND also saves public transport operators (PTO) the S$7.5 million needed to subsidise the needy in order to make the “affordable” new fares truly “affordable”.  This is nothing less than a win-win situation for the government, the commuting public and the PTOs.

The Case for no public transport fare increase is the strongest yet for 2015, the Year of The Benevolent and Compassionate Goat. 

Public Transport Companies are Highly Profitable and Economically Viable
Both PTOs, SMRT and ComfortDelgro, are expecting bumper windfall profits in their current closing financial year 2014-2015, and into the next financial year 2015-2016, according to DBS Bank and OCBC Bank analysts. 
Global oil prices have dropped by more than 50% in the last 6 months and would fall further in 2015 and not expected to recover much over the next few years. Gas prices have begun to follow the decline and the costs of grid electricity generation by our gas-fed power stations would reduce even further. Public transports especially buses and taxis would have their fuel bills greatly reduced. The fuel costs of MRT trains, mostly using grid electricity, should also fall according.

In end-January 2015, SMRT in fact announces its financial results for 3Q15 (Oct-Dec 2014), showing a 6.8% revenue increase to $313.2 million, and that all its business segments performed better than the previous year. Accordingly, SMRT net profit also increased by 58.4% $22.5 million, as staff costs, the largest expense component, remained flat and electricity and diesel costs decreased.

The April 2015 transport fare increase would have added another $27 million to SMRT revenue without any quid pro quo benefits to commuters by way of significant improvements in train punctuality, over-crowdedness, lesser breakdowns and customer service.  Of critical importance is the fact that even WITHOUT the fare increase, SMRT would still enjoy unprecedented economic viability and profitability.     

The other PTO, ComfortDelgro, also enjoys similar increases in ridership and oil price reductions, among other variables, to make it one of the most profitable public transport company on the Singapore Stock Exchange, never mind that two-third of its revenue come from its overseas units.

2015 Inflation Good News
According to a report by DBS, inflation forecast for 2015 has been cut sharply to 0.4% from a previous expectation of 1.7%.   Public transportation is weighted at 3.66% among the “basket of goods and services” considered by the inflation computation formula.   It means that without the April 2015 public transport fare hike of 2.8%, the already low expected inflation rate of 0.4% could be driven even lower to 0.38%!  This is a further bonus to Singaporeans across the board throughout the economy.

Would the Year of the Goat usher Singaporeans into a new epoch of bliss and prosperity with a win-win “ang pow” by revoking the 2015 public transport fare hike?  

It would take the wisdom and courage in the great Servant Leadership personality of the Goat (or Sheep) to give the people the enhanced economic satisfaction in this revocation act without having to spent a single cent of public fund while doing it.    

See also:

Monday, 9 February 2015

More Death Threats Against Singaporeans

Death Threats against Singaporeans Embolden
One Month after Edz Ello, Death Threats against PM Lee

The curtain of silence over the earlier death threats against Singapore and Singaporeans appears to have emboldened others to do the same. This time, death threats are directed at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.  It was reported that the Singapore Police have started investigating after Facebook posts showing photographs of bullets were addressed to PM Lee.  No further details were provided by the Police.

It has been just over 1 month after a Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) nurse posted inflammatory threats to “kick out Singaporeans” and “prayed for Singaporean deaths” on his Facebook on 3 Jan 2015. Also discovered was the pattern of derogatory anti-Singapore and anti-Singaporean remarks on the TTSH nurse’s Facebook [ID: Edz Ello] after the expose of his inflammatory death threats against Singaporeans.

After the hospital had wrongly placed the nurse on administrative duties, pending purported police investigations of the death threats instead of the standard HRM practice of suspending the Staff during the police investigations as well as an Internal Inquiry, TTSH changed its mind and decided to dismiss the nurse on 9 Jan 2015. 

The current status of the nurse, who is a foreigner, whether he is remanded in Police custody for his own safety (and Singaporeans’), or still at large in Singapore, is unknown. The Singapore Police has not reported the outcome of its purported investigations into Edz Ello’s death threats against Singaporeans.  

No information is available at this point as to whether the latest death threats against PM Lee are related or associated directly or indirectly with the earlier ones on Singaporeans by Edz Ello, and whether his friends or accomplices or co-conspirators are involved.

No death threats should be trivialized or given cursory dismissal.  Neither should they be “laugh away” as a Singapore politician had suggested. The politician scolded the more than 2,000 Singaporeans who reacted angrily to Edz Ello’s post and chided them as “petty”, “insecure”, “thin-skin”, too sensitive and “easily offended”.   

Would Mr Calvin Cheng, who was a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) from 2009-2011, now also accuse PM Lee of being “petty”, “insecure”, “thin-skin”, too sensitive and “easily offended” and advise PM Lee to “just laugh it off” the latest death threats instead of wasting Police resources to investigate them?

A month ago, a bartender was indicted on a charge of threatening to kill United States House Speaker John Boehner, possibly by poisoning his drink.  The bartender formerly worked in the same country club as the Speaker.

Investigations into the 2 Tsarneav brothers who set off two bombs that killed 3 and injured 260 more people, of different nationalities, at the Boston Marathon on 15 April 2013 also found notes threatening the deaths of Americans.

Our collective national response to any death threats to our country, our leaders or any Singaporeans must be resolute, unambiguous, decisive and categorical.  In these times of social media, it may seem stupid that our “enemies” would want to announce its threats so openly and ubiquitously; but it takes a clever and extremely intelligent adversary to proclaim its intention loudly in the hope that we would not take him (them) seriously, especially on a social media as petty and inessential as Facebook.  

Choose wisely, people.  Our earlier silent and dismissive response to Edz Ello may have sent the wrong message of weakness, indifference and indolence.  Our new message in response to fresh death threats against PM Lee must not make the same mistakes. 


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Japan Learns from ISIS

Asia – ISIS Moral Lessons for Japan
The lasting legacy of Yukawa and Goto
Japan society remains shaken over the last 2 weeks in unprecedented shock over the beheading of its 2 citizens, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, within a week of each another, by the Islamic ISIS Group in Syria.  Goto, a respected journalist working mostly in the war zones, reportedly went to Syria in October 2014 reportedly to try to secure Yukawa's release.

There is no justification whatsoever for ISIS actions. And no senseless deaths of civilians could ever be condoned by any decent human being in the world. Nothing in this Post is therefore intended to demean or devalue the life of Yukawa and Goto, as well as the many others who have fallen victims to ISIS-like inhuman and evil acts throughout the centuries.

It must surely be Deja Vu for many in the older generations in Japan. The thought and video of cold-blooded beheadings must surely evoke national memories kept hidden for nearly 70 years since the end of World War 2 (WW2). Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemns the latest inexplicable killing, and calls it a "heinous act", sharing deep anger and commiseration with his fellow Japanese amidst understandable grief, sympathy and sorrows.  
Such “heinous” acts are not strange to the Japanese, of all people.
Former Japanese WW2 soldiers should have no difficulty seeing the similarity between ISIS standing over Goto and Yukawa just before their respective beheading and a Japanese military officer standing with drawn Samurai sword over one of the 300,000 Chinese in Nanjing and several Chinese cities mostly beheaded (see picture) in a similar manner. Even babies and little children were not spared by the Imperial Japanese.

Older Singaporeans will also remember the beheading of nearly 70,000-90,000 Singaporean Chinese during Operation Sook Ching by the Japanese Occupation from 1942-45. Younger Singaporeans should visit the exhibition galleries in the Old Ford Motor Factory at Bukit Timah, the former factory site where the British surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 to see and hear the memories of those who survived that tragedy.

The Japanese national position has been to deny that the Nanjing Massacre, and other wartime atrocities ever took place under its benevolent Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere campaign in China and South East Asia from 1935-1945. It has refused stubbornly to apologise for what never took place!

Even Japanese history books are re-written to de-emphasise such “heinous” conduct of the Japanese during WW2.  The denial of WW2 atrocity is the key mission of the influential revisionist organization Nippon Kaigi. It is reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is among its 35,000 members, as well as 15 of his 18 key members of the government following the 2014 reshuffle.  Japanese Prime Ministers and other Key Japanese politicians also regularly visit the Yasukuni Shinto Shrine where Japanese had enshrined its top 14 leading WW2 war criminals among the 1,068 other WW2 war criminals who committed “heinous” atrocities, to show their respect and reverence.

Imagine if ISIS were to follow the Japanese Model in remembrance of ISIS members who commit “heinous” acts of evil and decide to build a shrine to include the cold-blooded murderers of Yukawa and Goto? Imagine also that ISIS leaders regularly undertake a pilgrimage to this Shrine to honour and revere especially those who did the beheading of the 2 Japanese citizens?  Imagine further that ISIS dismisses any “allegations”, even withdraws its own video, of its beheading that never took place?  Imagine after all these, ISIS tells an astonished Japan that there is really nothing to apologise for since the beheadings never took place?   

And if someone were to suggest dropping a nuclear bomb on ISIS, assuming ISIS can be so targeted, it should be remembered that not one but 2 atomic bombs merely end the Japanese War, but did little to make her feel remorseful or penitent to seek forgiveness and repentance.

This week, having been confronted by evil as great or greater than herself, Japan should begin nation-wide honest conversations over its own “heinous” past acts. Yukawa and Goto’s contribution to Japan social development may be to inspire his countrymen to confront historical truths and facts squarely and to recognize its own culpability in the prolonged pain and suffering in her victims as a result of her denial and recalcitrance.

The scars of Yukawa and Goto tragic deaths may never heal until Japanese takes active concrete steps to heal the wounds and painful memories of those whom she has inflicted much deeper wounds and pain. The lasting legacy of Yukawa and Goto lies in bringing the Truth of Japanese war atrocities into the living room, classrooms and social conversations. 

Ironically, ISIS’ only moral but greatest lessons in Yukawa and Goto may well be to finally bring a remorseful and recalcitrant Japan onto its knees in deep contrite and regrets to owe up to its own similar beheading spree of innocence and other evil deeds 70 years ago in the Asia Pacific.