2015 New Year Message by PM Lee

1. 2014 has been an eventful year. We have seen rising nationalism lead to tensions in our part of the world, and even to conflict in Ukraine and the Crimea. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is still far from under control. Terrorism continues to loom large: ISIS in Syria and Iraq is a new breeding ground, and even smaller-scale, lone-wolf attacks like the hostage taking in Sydney can be very worrying.

2. We have also experienced several air tragedies close to home, most recently the loss of AirAsia flight #QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the loved ones of those on board.

3. As Singapore prepares to celebrate our 50th birthday, we are reminded that stability, safety and security are precious, and a pre-requisite for safeguarding what we have, and reaching for a better future. SG50 will be a time to look back, give thanks for what we have achieved, and look forward to the future with confidence. Read the rest of this entry »

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SPENDING TO ENHANCE CITIZEN’S WELLBEING IS POPULISM?

ST Opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong wrote a great common sense piece today!

A good government first needs to create the conditions for business to flourish. Then it needs to spend and redistribute the wealth created to maintain harmony and fairness in a society, to enhance citizens’ wellbeing. Doing the latter is not being populist.

Spending money to ensure universal health coverage is not populist – just the responsibility of any decent, humane government that has the wherewithal to do so.

Helping the jobless and underemployed get back into the job marketplace via wage subsidies and training is not populist – just good old common sense to get people back onto their feet.

Nor is spending on early childhood education to help poor children do well in school populist – just good investment in these kids’ futures.

If a government has rich state coffers, but its people feel stressed and anxious at every stage of their lives, it cannot be a good government.

A good government strikes a balance between collecting enough for a country’s future, and spending enough for the present.

It has to satisfy the elite generating most of the wealth, and the masses whose labour help sustain it. The 47 per cent, the ones who earn below US$1,800 a month.

Read more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/columns/story/gap-between-ruling-elite-and-masses-biggest-political-risk-the-pap-201410#xtor=CS1-10

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WHY KEEP ASKING WHAT ARE THE RETURNS SINCE INCEPTION?

1. Let us imagine in a simple hypothetical situation, that you have a pool of money in a fund which guarantees you annual returns of X% in interest rate regardless of good times or bad.

2. Overtime, if you were to believe that X% interest rate is too low due to factors such as inflation, then by all means suggest and request for a consideration of higher annual returns – and that means altering the initial understanding of how much you will get each year.

3. It is a plain act of mischief by harping over and again on how much are the fund’s returns since inception, or that of its managers (if any exist). The main issue should be as per the initial understanding of all parties involved, what are the guaranteed returns, and whether or not this obligation can be fulfilled – you ought to be relieved if these issues were addressed, and you can also ask questions on those fronts if you have further doubts. The initial agreement between parties is the key.

4. What is the big deal if the fund or its managers indeed has/have returns much higher than the X% of returns guaranteed to you annually regardless good or bad times, and bearing in mind that this is not even considering if the fund or its managers are managing some other assets other than your pool of money?

5. If you are truly concerned about the pool of money you have with the fund, the questions should be what are the annual rate of returns guaranteed to you, whether or not this can be fulfilled, and whether based on current circumstances, the guaranteed rate of returns is sufficient. If it is not sufficient, by all means suggest changing the initial understanding on the amount guaranteed returns.

6. So why the persistent harping on the issue of “returns since inception”? To open more fronts in order to confuse and to mislead?

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ACTS OF GROSS INDECENCY

1. I am wondering why acts of gross indecency (what defines such acts? Any clear boundary?) committed by heterosexual or female couples are considered fine under the law, while acts of gross indecency committed by male couples is a crime whether it is in the public or private space. So acts of gross indecency have different levels of acceptable grossness when performed by different groups?

2. On the matter of same-sex couples, are male couples inferior beings compared to female couples which therefore warrant such unequal treatment?

3. And is it not more valid if people decide if acts of gross indecency are acceptable or not as a whole, rather than applying it differently on different groups? What’s the justification(s) for such differences?

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SAY NO TO PULPING OF BOOKS!

1. As a book lover, I think it is too harsh for the NLB to pulp the few titles when it could actually put them up for sale or donate them as per other discarded books. The books shouldn’t also be that old or in such bad conditions that they have to be destroyed bearing in mind that a few were inducted into the collection fairly recently (two copies of ‘And Tango makes Three’, for instance, came in a few months ago, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/mobile/singapore/what-books-are-withdrawn/1252994.html?cid=FBSG).

2. Books are a great source of information and knowledge, and therefore there should be a variety of books available and none should be destroyed because a segment of the society disagrees with its contents.

3. With such a huge collection of books available currently, it is just impossible for anyone to finish reading or even browsing all the books. Therefore it is no doubt that readers do make decisions on what to read and otherwise, and to prioritize some titles over the others.

4. And therefore in this case, readers who disagree with the contents of the titles now banned by the NLB can just always refuse to borrow those books. There is no doubt that parents who are very concerned about the contents will make the decision for their kids for since they had chose to take the much radical step of getting the books banned in the public NLB libraries, they should have no issue banning their kids from borrowing the books in the first place!

5. This issue is one which all book lovers and readers regardless of their diverse backgrounds are following very closing, and it is no doubt that the NLB, as the most convenient one-stop resource bank for reading at no cost, is disappointing.

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THOUGHTS ON MINISTER YAACOB’S FB POST

1. Minister Yaacob Ibrahim wrote in a FB post (read it here: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/mobile/singapore/nlb-s-decision-to/1254672.html?cid=FBSG) that,

…NLB’s decision was guided by community norms. Public libraries serve the community and it is right that they give consideration to community norms. The prevailing norms, which the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans accept, support teaching children about conventional families, but not about alternative, non-traditional families, which is what the books in question are about. This approach is shared between all public agencies dealing with the education and care of young Singaporeans.

Like in other societies, there is considerable effort by some in Singapore to shift these norms, and equally strong pushback by those who don’t wish to see change. Societies are never static, and will change over time. But NLB’s approach is to reflect existing social norms, and not to challenge or seek to change them.

2. I think it is absolutely fine for public libraries to reflect existing (familial) norms, but I don’t think that by allowing books which include contents that mention about other familial forms is akin to diluting the reflection of existing norms by public libraries. Read the rest of this entry »

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NLB AND SOME STRANGE PARENTS?

1. Couples with kids will bring their kids (yes, I am referring to kids and not teenagers or adults) to the libraries to browse and borrow books, and many parents love the library environment and huge resources available in the libraries. These are quite apparent and clear from many of the letters written to the NLB and of which are circulating online.

2. The point is that in the library, the kids will choose books they are interested in, or that their parents will select a few for them. When they are home, it is highly probable that parents may read the books they had borrowed to their kids, or at least run parts of the stories with them as part of bedtime stories perhaps. Up till now does anyone believe that parents adopt a hands off approach to their kids’ reading journey?

3. It is also apparent in some of those letters that it is the duties and responsibilities of parents to inculcate the right values to their kids and to socialize their kids as they grow up. Interestingly this reason was also put forth by supporters of the NLB’s decision to take down those few titles whereby precisely as “concerned parents”, they have to support the move by the NLB to remove those titles because the contents are in contrary to some values that are dear to them. So can we say that even if some parents do not accompany their kids to the libraries, they will probably check up on what books their kids are reading precisely because they are concerned about the inculcation of the right values and so on?

4. Another point raised by those “concerned parents” is that kids being kids, they are easily influenced by what they had read or something along those lines. And that’s also the point put out by these “concerned parents” that books about murderous leaders like Pol Pot and Hitler shouldn’t be withdrawn (as sarcastically suggested by those who are against NLB’s move) because those aren’t books written for and to be read by kids. Read the rest of this entry »

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