[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

[Rising Food and Fuel Prices ]
1. The No 1 issue today is rising food and energy prices. Although everyone is hit, poorer Singaporeans are affected much more. At our dialogue session in Karimun, one grassroots leader asked what Government is doing about this problem.

2. For poorer Singaporeans, we help them directly through Workfare, Comcare, food vouchers, bursaries for their kids, hampers and ang pows at festive seasons, and so on. Every week at MPS, I attend to a few such cases. If anyone knows of families in trouble, please direct them to me. We can't solve all their problems but we can ameliorate some of them. One lady who owed Singapore Power $2000 asked why we should be helping victims of the Sichuan earthquake and the Myanmar Cyclone instead of helping her pay off her debt.

3. For middle class Singaporeans, higher food, petrol and electricity prices have increased the cost of living. Switching to generics help. Some drive less. But it is painful watching the dial turn at the petrol kiosk and receiving monthly electricity bills. From the beginning, the Government has made it a matter of principle not to subsidise food and fuel. Countries which have done so are now in trouble. In Indonesia, the recent 30% increase caused widespread demonstrations. In Malaysia, many people are upset with the sudden raising of pump prices. But the subsidies, over US$10b in each country, can no longer be sustained. In the Philippines, fuel prices are not subsdised but rice is. The Philippine Ambassador said that they are praying for a good harvest this year. But so many typhoons hit them and they just can't be sure.

4. At times like this, profiteering has to be curbed. When there was panic about rice supply some weeks ago, MTI stepped in to calm public fears. Our anti-profiteering council and CASE are on high alert although it is not always easy to distinguish normal market adjustments from profiteering.

5. The worldwide increase in food and energy prices is causing havoc around the world. In many countries, there will be civil unrest. The global system will come under strain. It will become much harder to conclude the Doha Round now even though keeping markets open when supply is short is really the best solution. Anger against OPEC will grow as and gas-rich countries accumulate all this wealth. What is causing all this to happen? The main reason is of course the growth in the middle classes of countries like China and India, which is a good thing. They are now consuming more food, more meat, and using more oil and electricity. As cities grow and link up, all kinds of raw material are now in short supply driving up commodity prices. Those who can't afford the new prices will suffer. Many countries in Africa will be badly hit.

6. These trends will persist for a while. We are only beginning to feel the effects. It is as if we have received reports of heavy rain having fallen in the mountains and now waiting for the water to flow down the valleys.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about rising Ministers' salaries?

Thursday, June 12, 2008 2:47:00 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yah lah.

When times are good you guys claim all the credit and jack up your pay.

When times are bad, you blame it on external circumstances beyond your control.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 6:18:00 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't play any blame game any more.We citizens can't trust you ministers talking!!Unless in this difficult times, you can show eg. by cutting 20% of your pay!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008 2:15:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Minster Mr Yeo,
Indeed the rising fuel prices is a rising cause of concern all over the world, not just in Singapore alone. In America, the price of oil has hit the $4 per gallon, sending ripples throughout the American economy by rising prices or levying subcharges on top of the original price.
For this Singaporean lady who complained of her $2000 debt, I say this. Consider yourself lucky because the Chinese and Myanmar nationals in the affected areas are living it 100 times worse than you.
Even in a big and developed country like America, hurricanes, tornadoes , earthquakes and typhoons are destroying people's lives. The Bush administration's FEMA made such a big mismanagement of the disaster relief that quite a number of Americans are still living in disaster relief camps, according from what I gathered from a friend whose hometown is New Orleans. One of the preceding reasons for Bush's falling popularity. Some even called for stripping FEMA out of it autonomy.
Looking at this anonymous guy, this is another case of another disgruntled Singaporean becoming cynical. Yes, he or she has the right to be dissatisfied as a person.
Last night, I was having dinner with my fellow Singaporeans. We are talking about the world, USA and Singapore. My friend's friend has stayed in the States for 2 years - one year after graduation for optional practical training. I asked her why she stayed here in the States when she got numerous rejections from US companies. She stayed here because of her boyfriend. She also voiced dissatisfaction about the rich-poor divide in Singapore. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. I looked at her, thinking to myself "Here she is babbling about this while she is living like a bummer depending on her parents' money. What makes you qualified to say this ? "
If more and more Singaporeans become more disgruntled like this anonymous, I say to them " why not you leave and see the world out there if u are unhappy?" Nowadays, you can go elsewhere to live your life. See what happens. Do you dare to do it like our forefathers from China and India ? Or are you too sheltered in Singapore or too used to the lifestyle in Singapore ? But please be prepared to take rejection well when you are in foreign land like this friend's friend of mine. At least she learned now that it is a tough world outside of Singapore. Like my older cousins who moved to Australia, they are facing a lot of difficulties but they are taking it well. Personally for me after staying in USA and interacting with other people (fellow international students and talking to people in the street during some of my travels along the East coast), I am no longer the frog in the well. I am mesmerized by the interesting diversity here and the level of freedom allowed here. At the same time, I do feel under-prepared to undertake the additional individual responsibility for myself.
Hence I say this to anonymous. Yes, I am a YPAP general branch member who helped out in MPS for a few months. I have seen some cases like you who only know how to complain and ask MPs for assistance. This is really pathetic. Rely on govt for help. You should look to reduce reliance on the govt so that the govt would have lesser leverage of control on you. What good will it do to reduce the Minister's salaries ? make you feel good for a while ? I see that this is the bad thing of the common Singaporeans' mentality. We somehow have the psyche that the govt is a all powerful infallible thing. Yet we complain about it. What a contradicting irony ! Hey if you are really unhappy, go emigrate elsewhere la ! Really, if I am not happy about Singapore, I will quit. Right now, I am conducting a 10 year comprehensive and rigorous independent study about Singapore to see for myself whether should I stay or go. I will look at everything, leaving no stone unturned. Loyalty to country is not blind loyalty. And I am not a PAP dog ! mind you !
To Minister Mr Yeo, I say this. For now, I am still slightly more in favor to the government. In this, I declare my inclinations to you. At the same time, I also tell you that I always seek to be fair, objective and impartial in my observations and conclusions. If the govt fumbles like the mas selmaat escape, I will say as it is and not deny the blame to the govt. For this issue of rising food and fuel prices, I say that it not the govt's fault. Like in the case of Youth Olympics 2010, I applauded the govt for clinching the deal. Same thing for bringing on the integrated resorts and F1 etc to bring more buzz to Singapore. Indeed, I am still 56% in favor of the govt in terms of my personal rating index, the same 56% you got from your ward. rare concidence ! Well, I put higher standards for Singapore for more intensive testing - much more than I put for other countries in my independent evaluation. Because I want to personally see how Singapore measure up.
See you back in Singapore, Hope to have a good talk with you and ephraim, hopefully in a more frank manner.

Friday, June 13, 2008 1:16:00 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rising food prices not their fault.
But wage depression by the importation of cheap foreign labour is their fault.

They always talk about competing with the rest of the world on price but that is not a sustainable solution.

All our multi-million dollar ministers know what to do is reduce wages, cut CPF each time there is a financial problem.. almost sound like a broken record.

Why pay them so much money if thats the only answer they can give. Frankly that solution is not worth the peanuts they get.

PS: Some of us have already left long ago. Like you, I went overseas to study (both Europe and US) but unlike you I decided to stay here. I am much happier here than I ever was in singapore.

I don't feel like a 2nd class citizen here but I felt like a second class citizen while I was in Singapore.

Despite that I occasionally follow singapore news which never fail to make my blood boil....

Jobs for foreigners, NS for locals!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008 8:52:00 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for u, anonymous if you feel happier and being treated better outside of Singapore. If that is the case for you, Congrats.
For me, I am coming back to Singapore for family reason, My sister is graduating and my bro taking 'O' Levels. I want to be there for them. Well, the family factor is gonna be most biggest factor for me to stay in Singapore in any case.
Second, the USA economic slowdown as we all know it. enough said.
I looked at the US and their ways. America also have imported foreign talent from all over the world. But I must say that they have higher standards in allowing foreigners to live and work in America. The H1 visa and green card are so coveted and hard to get without employer sponsorship. Indeed, Singapore is now more relaxed in immigration visa regulation.
Yes, I must say that this is a big plus point for Singapore to attract talent. Some even admitted that Singapore is just their 2nd choice . I don't blame them. After all, Singapore has a lot of god-given constraints in terms of land and resources.
Hey even some Americans also feel threatened by the influx of foreigners. By a recent report, the whites will end up as minority by 2050.
Let me tell u my personal story on how my thinking of Singapore evolved.
I am actually for National service ,by the way. I used to think of it as a waste of time after I couldn't make it to officer or sgt. You see, I did badly in my first attempt of 'O' levels, lost self-confidence, went to Informatics, private school for retaking 'O' and taking 'A' Levels. I was thinking that my future is very bleak in Singapore where qualifications matters a lot.
Luckily, I managed to get into a American university with the combined grades I got. I am seeing how the Americans take a more comprehensive and diversified view on education, got more interested in sociology, politics and economics surrounding the business field. I take it as my on-going journey to know more about the world and Singapore. After all, it is globalization, either u go with the flow or get left behind.
Yes indeed, sometimes I also feel kinda left out of Singapore due to my unconventional educational route that I had taken , forced by circumstances.
Take for instance, the million dollar salaries, God knows that I do agree to some extent that the Ministers are too overly paid as compared to other world leaders. But hey the other world leaders get other perks such as official residence, car and even a holiday retreat (US president). The Singapore Ministers only has official car for official use and bodyguards. no residence or holiday camp. Yes, I admit that I do feel that this is being overly elitist to some extent. Oh well, this is still better than taking it under the table which happens in other countries. Even every US President receive money from their lobby action backers to run for office.
To put it simply, Money is the universal language in this real world.
I discussed things about Singapore with my fellow Singaporeans. True, some opportunities are better in Singapore and Some are better available abroad. My Indonesian Chinese friends who stayed in Singapore, come together with me to study in America. They want to stay in US because they think it is better opportunity for them. I argue that USA has higher tax rates than in Singapore. But they still think otherwise, despite the economic slowdown.
I surmise that it is not just money alone that is the pulling factor. The same goes for politics.
Hey I want to hear more from you if you really have overseas experience. I always leave open for my ears to hear the other side of the story, although I will take it with a pinch of salt till I find out for myself. Here is my email address,sgmilmansg@yahoo.com.sg You will be treated with the strictest confidence for your input and identity. As long as you got meaningful input, I welcome it. I am open if you can give constructive comments about what have you seen the world outside of Singapore especially Europe which I have no experience.

Sunday, June 15, 2008 2:54:00 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yes before I forget, I actually have to thank national Service for turning me into a more mature man from a young boy unable to handle failure in the face of obstacles. I now have the emotional capability to handle stress more easily. Even if I fail, I will get up again and fight again. I thanked all my comrades and superiors, be it good or bad. I managed to get myself up on my feet again, able to fight on in life to where I am today.
Hence, I am here trying to see what can I do for Singapore for the next 10 years to the best of my ability. In a way, I am giving myself and my country a chance and repaying back to society to the best I can. Then again, I also realize that I received not very much from the country cos I was once a 'casualty' from the competitive Singapore system. I learned from my failure in 'O' Levels that it is survival of the fittest aka meritocracy. But I don't blame Singapore because it is what we must do to survive as a nation.
Therefore, this 10 year evaluation is to see and decide whether Singapore is still for me as a home. Whether Singapore still wants me ? If I feel alienated and find better opportunities elsewhere like you, I will leave. If I still feel a sense of belonging and opportunities in Singapore, I will stay on. I shall see in a fair and objective manner, looking at everything.

Sunday, June 15, 2008 7:44:00 am

Blogger Ephraim Loy 黎传志 said...

Thanks for all the long debates and thoughts. They are insightful. I think the most important thing in order to understand Singapore politics is to be part of the whole process. One could serve in the grassroots organisations to fully understand the operational aspects of grassroots activism/mobilisation in Singapore. Another is to serve in the PAP to know about how government policy affects the ordinary citizens. But it is important to observe the fine line between both.

I wrote a paper on grassroots and politics last term and it has a lot of personal insights on power structures. In fact, many countries have grassroots-led initiatives which do far better than government-led ones.

I would probably share some of these when the time is right.

Sunday, June 15, 2008 2:55:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Ephraim, this is precisely why I started by observing the previous GE, then attending s few General branch meetings and PAP information sessions and later helping out in MPS to witness the Singaporeans' psyche and also do my fair bit of giving back to Society by volunteering for community service work.
Really, I thanked my fellow PAP tampines branch members for teaching the ropes to me- a greenhorn in this where we play an intermediary for the MP and para-counsellor for the resident. Really an eye-opener for me to know what is going on in Singapore !
In America, I know that the US representative has their own permanent staff. I visited Washington DC and stayed in student hostel where I found out that many university students are doing internship attachments to the senators and congress reps. Even high school students can serve as congressional page.
I wonder if our Parliament can do such a thing to allow our younger generation to see for themselves and experience first-hand about Singapore politics.Right now, it is on a entirely ad-hoc unofficial basis. Maybe Singapore is too small . The existing ad hoc basis can do enough. We have a good talk about this and that when I come back.
Hi Anonymous, I have yet to hear from you about your overseas experience ! Or is it that you are boasting ? Come show me what you got, I wait and see. I enjoy debating so that I can find out more myself.

Monday, June 16, 2008 11:50:00 pm


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