Thursday, August 29, 2013

Barriers are discriminating against the poor

Electronic Parking Barriers are popping up everywhere. New barriers are up everyday. For drivers, with their this may be good as they get "per minute parking" with a 10 minute grace, which means they can park for 30 mins and pay $0.25 for parking.

With the very high COE, some of these parking lots in Toa Payoh are parked with Ferraris, Jaguars and Mercedes Benz, instead of paying more for short term parking, electronic parking barriers allow them to pay less.

However, for the poor guy who cannot afford a car, and have the need to get around, these barriers increases their costs. I've been to Holland Village for lunch, and paid $0.65 for parking for 23 mins, and met a friend at Dorset Road with another electronic parking, and paid yet another $0.65 for less than 20 mins. My friend who is driving paid $0.30 in Holland Village and $0.27 at Dorset Road.

I could see this problem compound in the city areas where dispatch riders are being forced to park illegally or simply pay much more for say 15 minutes of parking. (As they have to change pass at security, wait for elevators, etc)

Why does it cost more for motorcycle parking? Why don't bikes get per minute parking as well?

Bikers have no voice and is not represented in politics.

-- Iron Bowl

Monday, August 26, 2013

Surverys show Singaporeans can give model answers for survey.

Singaporeans want a slower pace of life, but complain when the MRT train is 1 minute late and push their way into the trains.

Singaporeans put their parents into nursing home and their #1 value is filial piety.

Well, the surveys show that students can give top answers in exams, citizens can also give model answers to make them look good in surveys.

-- Iron Bowl

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Forget about the next big thing Singapore!

There is a big call for Singaporeans to be Entrepreneurs. The government set aside a lot of money to promote Entrepreneurship. Millions have be spent to run Start-Up Competitions (Even when grand Prize is $15,000) In most of these competitions, venue rental far exceeds the prizes paid out.

Besides the prize money, there are also start-up grants available. Youths can submit business plans and obtain $50,000 seed funding from various sources as well.

Some more funding info

So it is not hard to do a start-up in Singapore, however, on closer examination on the people managing the funds and investments, you can clearly realize that some of these people are life-long administrators, academics, or simply put -- "Not Entrepreneurs"

To Singapore, Entrepreneurship follows some form of formula. Have a good business plan, fudge some numbers, put some data and present it in a beautiful presentation which hits their funding criteria -- EUREKA -- you get funded.

So why do I not think that an company funded this way will be the next BIG thing like Facebook, Google or even anything Global?


Firstly, in my opinion, we need to face the facts, there are not many well know Global Companies that comes from Singapore. For sure, we have SIA, Singtel, and various other large companies that had ventured out of our shores, but they are government linked companies, with plenty of funding and support. When they fail, news will just go quiet and no one will know about it.

What about the Creative and the OSIM? Oh, I don't think they are doing too well.


From a view of these "Next big thing" as Disruptive technologies, I feel that the government and the administrators of the grants and funding, are still rather risk adverse. The Singapore education system will produce many great talents that can support sustaining technologies. So many of these start-ups copy an idea from other businesses, start-up competitions, and the ones that usually win in the competition is never a new idea. And looking at it, the ones that get funded are also not new ideas.

I do see a lot of product enhancements, creating products that competes in the same markets as other products and providing some new interesting features, and charging a premium price for the enhancements. I could see many of these companies succeed, but it is difficult to see them become big as most of the time, the local market is very small.

I feel that the support from Singaporeans and the local brand, "Made in Singapore" does not sell as there is no much of a National Support. I could see that even if Creative MP3 players are made in Singapore, many people will still buy an iPod over it. In many other countries however, their citizens do support local brands, my Korean friends will buy more Samsung / LG before they were popular, similarly, Taiwanese friends will prefer Asus products.

Beside not having a local market advantage, the government also do not support local companies, as I've seen many Singaporean brand of paints and various other products not used by the government in renovations and maintenance works. The government still will go through "tender" and pick the lowest cost for the massive amounts of infrastructure works. The government however has set up IE Singapore to help Singaporean brands go overseas, but without contacts there, and without a home base to build the brand, how are these brands going to succeed outside?

Most importantly, like major corporations, the government and funders will apply sustaining technology knowledge

A typical company will view a disruptive change as a technological one and apply the same methods, and apply technology change to suit know markets. But successful companies that have successfully commercialized disruptive technology see the challenge as a marketing one, to build or find a market for the new products and services.

It is hard to get funding from your traditional funders if there is no existing market, however, that is why there is a big risk, which may yield big rewards, but with management guidelines and KPIs setup, there may not be much room to fund them and channel funds in the right way, rather, funds will be channeled in the known way, and compete in the known markets.

Disruptive technologies also tend to be simpler, cheaper and more reliable than established technologies, however, it is difficult with the "Kiasu-mentality" NOT to over the first products with functionality and features.

There are no "best strategies" and the "best business plans" rarely work out as working businesses. It is totally up to the entrepreneurs to overcome obstacles and adapt their companies and plot their own paths to success.

Forget about the next big thing Singapore, its time to support our local start-ups and collaborate together for our chance to success. Running a business is not like our education system where we compete to get into the limited places in the various institutions, rather, its a community that we should build to support each other, and help one another to reach our goals.

-- Iron Bowl

Friday, August 09, 2013

Where's the Clean and Green Singapore?

 Reclaiming land in the distance, the water does not seem so clear as well.

Plastic bottles and styrofoam is seen on closer look on the coastline, and they are everywhere!

I remember a time where Singapore is much cleaner, perhaps in the late 1980s and 1990s.

-- Ironbowl

Thursday, August 08, 2013

National Day Speech - Singapore

My fellow Singaporeans,

I am speaking to you from the new SAFRA clubhouse in Toa Payoh. This is where SAFRA built its very first clubhouse in 1975. We have just rebuilt it with better facilities for NSmen and your families. It is a small gesture to thank you for your many contributions and sacrifices. (Thank you for your cheap labor, even cheaper than the foreign works we bring in, and for the vochers, we give you.. sucks to be you if they are wet or somehow damaged or expired.) It is also an example of how we are upgrading our amenities and environment as Singapore develops, year by year. (Constant unnecessary upgrades are important for our contractor friends who support us to get jobs and help burn our budget.)

We have made steady progress this past year. We have cleared the queue for HDB flats, stabilised BTO prices and tightened up on property speculation and excessive borrowing. (Well if you don't consider singles to be people, and forget about the record high prices. Still for a minister's salary, its very affordable -- See, even the PRs can afford.) We have added more buses and increased the number of bus routes. We are trying out free early morning MRT rides into the city. We will add more trains to the existing lines. (Breakdowns? Delays? Trains running slower? Did it happen? Since I NEVER ride public transportation, I would not know would I?) Phase One of the downtown Line will open in December, and more MRT lines after that. We also celebrated several successes in the arts and sports, including our LionsXII team winning the Malaysian Super League. (Thanks to our Foreign Talents, which did not win any medals other than table tennis, but its simply millions well spent. Faster than having own talent isn't it?)

We are tackling longer term issues too, especially marriage and parenthood, as well as population. (Yup, say no to LGBTs because we don't consider them people.) The White Paper on Population in January provoked strong reactions, but the debate helped us to understand the issues better. (Still carrying ahead with importing more people and telling the citizens 6.9 million is an estimate and they simply forget it soon... we hope.) We face difficult choices: We need foreign workers to serve our economy and Singaporeans’ needs, and immigrants to make up for our shortfallof babies. But we also worry about crowding and congestion, and maintaining our Singaporean identity. (Since Singaporeans are the minority now, there are always new suckers citizens to vote for us to keep us in power) So we are feeling our way forward carefully, conscious both of our needs and our limits, and seeking the best outcome for Singaporeans. 

Our economy is holding steady amidst global uncertainties. We are attracting more quality investments. Unemployment remains low. We grew by 2.0% in the first half of 2013, and expect to grow by 2.5-3.5% this year, higher than previously expected. (Please forget about the increasing rents, inflation, increasing food prices, ERP costs, etc. We can't increase salaries because well, how are we going to pay ourselves fat bonuses -- by telling everyone we are not making enough profits of course.) Even as we tighten up on foreign workers and immigration, we must maintain investor confidence and keep Singapore open for business. (Tighten... a good word for still importing more, but perhaps not as fast... Why? Because the government earns on levies -- that's why, and so what about the stagnating wages? Not the minister's stagnating wages.)

The world is changing rapidly and unpredictably. Technology is transforming our lives. Societies everywhere feel under pressure: Jobs have become less secure, wages are rising more slowly or even stagnating, families are working harder, and parents worry whether their children will do better than themselves. (Don't blame the foreigners for taking your jobs, they are cheaper faster and better)

Singapore is changing too. The economy is maturing and our population is ageing. Different groups in society now have more diverse and even conflicting interests. (Some even dare to answer back even with the control we have in media. Look sedition on comic artist!) Older Singaporeans worry about healthcare and costs of living. (And they cannot take out CPF!) Younger ones aspire to wider education opportunities and more affordable homes. (Affordable? pay off by working for the rest of their lives affordable)

Our road ahead will be different from the road we have travelled. (Road will no doubt be more congested, even with higher COEs and ERPs) So we must reassess our position, review our direction, and refresh our strategies to thrive in this new world. 

In my Message last year, I said that Singapore should always be our best Home, with Heart and Hope. We launched Our Singapore Conversation to define our shared future together. (We have our own people represent the whole of Singapore to say things we want to hear. Social Media? Its cowboy town, how can we even trust them?) Many have participated actively and passionately. We heard many valuable suggestions. Thank you for taking part in this effort. (Those that complain on non-govenment sites? Well, you are just noise and not part of Singapore)

Our Singapore Conversation has helped us crystallise what we aspire to: A Singapore which gives its citizens opportunities to succeed and live fulfilling lives. A nation which defines success in many ways, and offers multiple paths to many peaks. (Unless you are of a certain race, where we place arbitrary ceilings.) A society with safety nets that give people peace of mind. (Hand me downs, begging positions available, if you are not rich, its your own fault) A community where the disadvantaged get help, and those who have done well in turn do more to help others. (Community helps, but not the government)

We will set goals and work out plans to realise these aspirations. We must match these aspirations against the world we live in – our competition, our opportunities, and our potential as a people. (Not everyone should go to universities, even though the salary disparity is great, there are good people, and there will always be better people.)

Today Singapore stands tall internationally. Many countries admire us. (Except for press freedom, which we don't really care.) Developed countries and emerging economies want to pick up ideas from us. Every citizen gains from our strong Singapore brand – our workers enjoy a premium in wages, and our people studying and working abroad are welcomed and respected. (And that's because Singapore employs foreigners, so Singaporeans have to go abroad for jobs, which hopefully pay more than Singapore)

At the same time, other countries are rapidly progressing and catching up. We must stay ahead of the competition, and maintain our standing in the world. (Well our position of shipping and logistics are getting fucked because of the train line through Myanmar into China)

To succeed under changed circumstances, we must adapt our basic approach to nation building. We must strike a new balance between the roles of the individual, the community and the State. (if you are not a leader, shut the hell up, and just listen like the sheep you used to be... that is your role)

We must strengthen our sense of community. We need to give greater mutual support to one another – helping the less fortunate in big ways and small; volunteering for causes that we care about; organising ourselves to work for the common good. (Only official grassroots and PA of course. Opposition don't count. We are also going to discredit the ground up organizations who support GBLT or human rights.)

We already do this, especially during crises. When dengue and the haze threatened us, we stood together and took care of one another. (Remember the N95 masks.... not for you! Dengue... its your fault to have mosquitoes at home because mosquitoes don't breed in the forests) That is Singapore – not just separate individuals, but a community with a shared purpose and a sense of collective responsibility, taking the initiative to help one another in good times and bad. We need to strengthen this spirit of togetherness. (And we need to increase support for PAP)

The Government will also play a bigger role to build a fair and just society. We will do more to enable every Singaporean to succeed, through education and lifelong learning. (So we can charge and earn more $$$) We will keep avenues to rise wide open to all. We will help those from families with less get off to a good start in life, beginning from pre-school. (But some people will benefit more because they are more equal than others.) We will tackle the cost of living, for example healthcare costs, especially for the elderly. (Insurance for elderly is $3k a year or more, and increase every year because we don't control insurance here, we just own them) We will foster a more equal society, by helping every family afford their own HDB flat, and giving low income workers a better deal through Workfare. (Workfare, a program that helps the people running the companies that trains people.) In Singapore, everyone will always have a stake in this country, and ample chances to make good in life. (all because you can NEVER draw out your CPF, and you can dream of a good life)

But remember: Each one of us must still do our best, and be self-reliant and resourceful. Because Singapore can only succeed if each one of us contributes his part. (Self reliant because you cannot rely on the government for anything)

At the same time, all this is only possible if we are one united people, and not divided by race, social class, or political faction. (Not possible if PAP is not in power) We must always have able, honest and committed leaders, who can be trusted to serve Singaporeans. (Please forget about the highly paid civil servants that are caught cheating the public millions, they are not paid enough, and those that are paid higher can be trusted) We need a good Government that thinks and plans ahead, and more importantly feels for our concerns and hopes. (We listen but reject ideas from the public because they are not smart enough, they are not scholars) That is the way to build a better Singapore – together.

We have come a long way, but our best years are ahead of us. We have the power to shape our destiny and write a new chapter in the Singapore story. (We can try to milk as much money as possible using GIC, Temasek holdings and the other Government Linked companies, while we are in power ) Let us stand together, and dedicate ourselves to building in Singapore a brighter future for all.

Happy National Day!Lee Hsien Loong 

(Ironbowl's interpretation.)