Shock Therapy Is ‘Dangerous!’


In Taiwan, bus drivers are paid around NT$60,000 (S$2,570) a month – more than twice what some fresh university graduates get.Source: ST

It was announced recently that Singaporean bus drivers will get a 16% pay rise across the board! Starting pay for new bus drivers is now $1,600!

Before the pay rise, new bus drivers used to be paid only $1,200. With $1,100,000,000 ($1.1 billion) of taxpayer money pumped into the two major profit making private bus companies to purchase an additional 800 new buses to cope with the sudden increase of ridership which is partly due to the massive influx of foreigners.

With additional 800 new buses an additional 1,600 new drivers are required to operate them based on two drivers with two shifts per bus.

They may not want to admit it cuz if they admit it’s in line with Professor Lim CY’s “shock therapy”! With self admission, it becomes politically incorrect and they “malu!” Eminent Economics Professor Lim recommends 50% pay rise over three years for low income workers earning less than $2,000 monthly.


On Labour Day, we have the PM saying Professor Lim’s recommendation is “dangerous” and will lead to disastrous economic consequences. Productivity need to increase first rather than wage increase across the board. Professor Lim thinks otherwise. Increase the pay first to boost productivity. It’s a case of chicken and egg – whichever comes first? – chicken or egg?

From the above, it appears extremely contradictory. Has the productivity of our bus drivers suddenly shot up to warrant such a big pay hike of 16%? If not why then the sudden pay rise for bus drivers? The other workers are not productive. Only bus drivers are productive all of a sudden? Suka suka?

Union Chief instead of endorsing Professor Lim’s recommendation shot him down immediately. Is he representing the workers’ interests or employers’ bottom line? Indeed the ‘Union Chief’ is the only one in the world to act for employers and private enterprises against workers’ interests. This is uniquely Singapore. It only happens here. If it’s in other countries, that Union Chief would be booted out!

Even with the 16% pay hike, our new bus drivers are still paid about $1,000 less than the Taiwanese! Mind you, we are supposed to be the 3rd richest country in the world with first world economy. We are the best in everything except workers’ welfare and wages!

What about other sectors in the transport industry. I understand that new train drivers are paid only $1,200!

Two conclusions can be drawn from the above. The train drivers are not that productive as the bus drivers since there is now a big pay difference of $400!

The train drivers are less skilled, less productive and not so important as the bus drivers as reflected in their big pay differences.

We must remember that a train carries almost 2,000 passengers compared to a bus at only a hundred. Most bus drivers are foreigners compared to train drivers who are mainly locals. They prefer to pay foreigners more than locals?

If you compare our train driver with his counterpart in any other part of the world, he is paid only peanuts. In UK, a train driver only works 35 hrs per week and is paid at least £50,000 a year yet they still go on strike to demand for more pay. Our standard working hours is 44 hours per week. One joker insisted that this is our ‘Swiss standard’ of living. This is the biggest joke.

Our train drivers can’t go on strike here or they will arrested and put behind bars. It’s the kind of third world living conditions and workers’ rights even though we are acknowledged as a first world country.

If the Union Chief does not support better welfare and benefits for the workers, there is actually no recourse at all. The tripartite system rules out any industrial action which is uniquely Singapore. There is no sham in this even it’s a farce.

Just work like slaves we just pray hard to the union gods for whatever crumbs they throw at us macham beggars who ought to be grateful for such pittance! With inflation running at 5.2% and Professor Lim’s assertion that our workers are so much under-paid what productivity are talking about? Is there any productivity when the worker is grossly underpaid?

They just don’t get it or are they in a perpetual state of self-denial which is ‘dangerous’ for all stake holders.

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The Train System Falling Apart!


From iTODAY: We’re not trained to deal with emergency situations, train operators say

Sumita Sreedharan | 19 Apr, 2012 12:19

SINGAPORE – Both SMRT train operators that took the stand on the fourth day of the Committe of Inquiry said that they had not received training on how to deal with passengers in emergency situations.

Mr Mohamad Alwi Bin Sirat, whose train stalled between City Hall and Dhoby Ghaut, and Mr Hardy Bin Afandie, whose train stalled before Orchard station, took the stand this morning.

The two men had vastly different approaches to dealing with pasengers when their trains stalled with Mr Mohamad Alwi walking through his train to check on passengers and even allowing a passenger who was asthmatic to rest in his cabin while Mr Hardy stayed in his driver’s cabin to wait for further instructions from the OCC. Mr Hardy said he had done so “for security reasons”.

The men also had contrasting experiences with Mr Hardy not hearing any sounds or experiencing unusual jerks as he travelled between the City Hall and Dhoby Ghaut. In contrast, Mr Mohamah Alwi had heard a sound that sounded like plastic was being dragged but he had been unable to check as he could not look out of the windows when he passed this stretch.Source

TODAYonline | Singapore | Of failed devices and questionable decisions…

Of failed devices and questionable decisions…

SINGAPORE – A faulty train was used as a rescue train, right after it had evacuated commuters on board.

The faulty train then broke down before it reached the train it was supposed to assist. Communication equipment on at least two trains also failed to work.

These were some of the missteps during the major train disruptions in December that surfaced yesterday during the third day of the public inquiry.

It also heard that the SMRT had not checked the trains thoroughly after the first breakdown on Dec 15, leading to a second disruption two days later.

Two drivers who operated the stalled trains during the disruptions were called as witnesses yesterday.

One of them, Mr Muhammad Yassin Yazid, told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) that on Dec 15, he was nervous as he was driving a train alone for the first time. He had joined the SMRT in January last year.

Mr Muhammad Yassin said he saw sparks on the underside of his southbound train as it was heading towards Dhoby Ghaut Station. He did not report his observations as sparks are normally seen when a train enters a high-speed ramp from a low-speed one, he said.

According to his statement, he was experiencing intermittent problems with his train on Dec 15, with several fault light indicators lit.

Nevertheless, the faults were rectified once the system was reset, he said.

Mr Muhammad Yassin said he reset the system at least twice, until the train started to slow down and eventually stalled at Braddell station.

According to him, the hand-held portable radio set – which he could have used to communicate with the station or the Operations Control Centre – did not work because of a damaged LCD screen.

Responding to COI member Soh Wai Wah on what was wrong with the device and whether Mr Muhammad Yassin had checked it when it was handed over to him, Mr Muhammad Yassin said he had not, and only found out it was not working when he tried to use it.

The Land Transport Authority’s lawyer, Mr Andrew Yeo, then questioned Mr Muhammad Yassin’s training and whether he knew what to do, for instance, in terms of communication procedures when the train loses power.

The train driver had a single answer: He had been instructed to “contact the Train Service Controller for further instruction” when any situation arises.

The second train driver, Mr Zainal Rahmat, told the COI that the train he was manning was re-designated to become a rescue train, even though he had informed the Operations Control Centre on several occasions that his train’s fault indicator lights were lit.

Mr Zainal, who has worked with the SMRT since 1989, said after he had been told to stop his train at Toa Payoh station to allow all the commuters to alight, he thought his train would be asked to head back to the depot.

Instead, he was “surprised” to get the instruction to drive his train to provide assistance to Mr Muhammad Yassin’s stalled train. Mr Zainal’s train barely made its way out of Toa Payoh station before it, too, stalled.

According to Mr Zainal, his train was in “emergency state” and he had informed the Operations Control Centre of this, using the hand-held communication device.

The battery was flat in his train’s radio communication set, he said.

The COI also heard that the SMRT only conducted visual checks on its trains after the disruption on Dec 15. Even then, not all trains were checked – only those at the depots.

Responding to COI member Lim Mong King’s queries, the SMRT’s lawyer, Mr Cavinder Bull, said after the first disruption, the SMRT’s priority was to repair the damaged trains.

Even though it had planned to check all trains, the transport operator did not have sufficient time to do it, he said.

Mr Bull added that a thorough check – which took 28 days – was done only after the second incident on Dec 17. Source

Day04 of the COI which is scheduled to last for 6 weeks is on going at the Subordinate Courts. Based on the above two newspaper reports, it seems that all the cobwebs are slowly unravelling from the cupboard!

The trains drivers are not trained to handle passengers in an emergency! The COI should ask if the train drivers are trained to perform CPR or render First Aid? My gut feelings tell me they can’t do these basics.

Almost 2,000 passengers packed like sardines on peak hours inside the train with an untrained train driver? So much for our government boasting about being the transport hub, heavy investment on infra structure and world class transport yada yada!

This COI drama is not only watched locally but also internationally. Some of our neighbors must be laughing all way to the toilet due to diarrhea cuz they just can’t stop laughing.

Our train system so vital to our economy is falling apart. Equipment and system failure are happening on a daily basis. Even as the COI is in progress, 3 or 4 broken down trains within a week need to coupled up and pulled away. Witnesses taking trains to attend the COI were late due to train delay when ironically the COI is about train inquiry!

The COI chief is a District Judge taking train to work. Hopefully the chief won’t be caught in a stalled train whilst on his way to chair the COI! If that happens, it will be the biggest joke of the year!

The 4 train drivers giving oral evidence under oath in the stand seem confused and unsure of their job descriptions. After their performance in court will the public have full confidence on our train system. Are the trains operated by professionals or monkeys cuz they are only paid peanuts at $1,200 starting pay?

With that kind of pay what do you expect? Underpaid staff to operate the billions of dollars system in a professional manner? Must be a pipe dream.

Only 4 days into the 6 weeks COI drama and some shocking truths are revealed. We can expect more juicy details like the never ending soap opera. Never in our 47 yrs of nation building that such proportion and magnitude of national shame and gross incompetency is publicly paraded for all the whole world to see!

Our trademark efficiency, professionalism and safety simply vanish overnight and go down the drain.

I will bet to my last dollar that at the end of the 6 week COI, the idea of NATIONALISATION may not be a bad idea after all.

The profit driven model of a public transport company just doesn’t make sense when conflicts of profits & share dividends at the expense of costly maintenance and the fare paying public simply cannot be reconciled. When will they ever learn this simple truth?

PTOs will always try to maximize profits and trim bottom line for share holders at the expense of cost cutting measures and minimize costly maintenance. Any CEO will behave and function accordingly like a profit driven private enterprise.

As it is as obvious as the mid day sun, the public transport system is crumpling and falling apart. The signs and symptoms are just too obvious that even the blind can see! But they can’t or still pretending nothing amiss?

Are we waiting for the total disintegration of the public transport system beyond redemption then only nationalization sets in?

We will have to wait for more skeletons falling out of the cabinet on the days and weeks ahead before we can see the truth in it. In the meantime just stay tuned for more COI updates!


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The Great Divide in Wages


Read this article.

Read this article also.

“Professor Lim Chong Yah responded on Thursday to critics who have dismissed his radical wage reform plan as unworkable.

He gave a stout defence of his ideas, which have sparked a debate in the business, economics and trade union circles.”

‘We need people to support that we need restructuring if we want a better society. If we want a society where we depend on our neighbours for cheap labour, well… some people like it. I don’t like it.’


Let’s round off our population figures. We have about 3 million citizens with about 2 million foreigners – PRs or FTs. In other words nearly half of our population are foreigners.

We are just a little piece of rock 700 sq km with no hinterland but surrounded by third world developing countries. There is abundance of cheap foreign labour to feed our economy.

We may be one of the world’s most expensive city to live in the league of London, New York or Tokyo but the locals do not command that kind of pay in those places. We have the highest gini coefficient income disparity in the developed countries – second only to Hong Kong.

We may have GDP growing at 14% last year but did it bring any real benefits in terms of wage increase? In fact our pay remains stagnant.

Speaking for myself, I did not have any pay increase since year 2000. It’s almost 12 years without any pay increase yet we are made to work longer hours, multi-tasked and reduced CPF at one time due to SARs.

Prices of everything have gone up. Coffee was $0.60 now it’s $0.90 per cup. A bowl of mee now costs $3 or $3.50 which used to be $2 or $2.50. Water bill used to be less than $100 now it’s easily $150. Every year electricity tariffs and transport costs keep going up. School fees also go up. I can go on and go to tell you why my stagnant pay is not catching up with rising costs.

A majority of Singaporeans are feeling the pain of rising costs. The govt just pay lip service and trying to downplay everything in the guise of globalisation.

This vicious cycle of depressing wages coupled with rising costs is really the result of opening up the floodgates to cheap foreign labour easily available in our neighboring countries.

The government wants low-cost labour to support the real-estate industry amongst others. The real-estate industry in Singapore employs a huge proportion of foreign labour: the Banglas, China workers etc. The real estate tycoons in Capitaland, Mapletree, DBS Land, AsiaMall etc – are Temasek or GLCs. So, cheap foreign labour is good for real estate developers, but terrible for wages and social safety and social cohesion.

Unskilled foreign workforce is the main reason to depress the lower income workers.

Productivity went backward as stated by Professor Lim i.e. Petrol stations re-introduce LOW skilled HAND car wash service & manual petrol fill are typical examples. Whereas we still had auto car wash & self service petrol service stations a decade ago!

This is living proof of wrong policy encourages WRONG business practices.

Our local economy is almost totally dominated by GLCs, NTUCs or statutory boards. Every where be it PSA, Changi airport, neighourhood malls or supermarkets, transport operators, construction and even re-structured hospitals or polyclinics they are all staffed with FTs.

This government is so dependent on cheap foreign workers that they keep importing more to feed all sectors of the economy to grow the GDP without benefiting the citizens. In fact the locals are marginalized by those FTs.

It’s a happy situation for the government and those GICs. The former rakes in more revenues with levies whilst the latter got cheap labour to run their businesses!

It’s good for the businesses and government but at the expense of citizens’ misery. So much social problems as a consequent resulting in our social infrastructure breaking down. Already we are one of the highest population density in the world surpassing even Hong Kong only behind Macau.

Corporate greed and a government blinded to more levies, revenue and GDP growth without really benefiting the citizens. That is the crux of the matter.

Professor Lim is a renowned economic academic. Is he talking rubbish? Is he scoring any political point? Why should he? He can just be politically correct by shutting up!

He is in his mid 70s and from the establishment. He is just one of those intellectuals whose conscience is pricked. He is coming out to the open to tell this government that something is not right. As a concerned citizen he is pointing it out to them just like Ngiam Tong Dow and Professor Tommy Koh that the current state of affairs will create social instability and upheaval.

The ruling regime is still in a state of euphoria greatly addicted to cheap abundant labour without realizing its folly and consequences!

We are indeed in deep shit and in a big mess. We are falling into the abyss. Ngiam may be right to say that we may be too late if those elites are still in their stupor on denial mood!

We have lost precious time in creating our own core of native skilled craftsmen and homegrown enterprises in the likes of Taiwanese HTCs, Acer, Asus or Korean Samsung, LG and Hyundai.

We started in the early 70s in the same league as Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. They didn’t open the floodgates to cheap foreign labour yet they surpassed us in all sectors even in the areas of human rights and dignity. Their people got more space for expressions than us.

They did not social engineer and structure their society into an elitist society of paper generals and scholars discouraging their brilliant young men and women into private ventures and enterprises.

Our whole society is programmed to beat the exams system to get straight As so that they could end up with a top government or GLC post. The rest of their working life will be secured with an iron rice bowl. That is the mindset of our brilliant minds. Their brilliance is used to conjure up more schemes in the like of COEs, ERPs, Tariffs such as half tank rule etc which cannot be found elsewhere but only here in Sg!

As a people, we are never innovative. We never produce our own home grown world class brands or products even though we are amongst the third richest country in the world. We pale in comparison to others even as we boast of our number of straight As students.

We are a nation of kiasu, kiasi and self centered people as a result of this government’s revenue generating addiction. Imagine using your own CPF money to pay for your own medical bills also need to pay for admin charges? That is an example of a brilliant government’s skill in squeezing it’s people from all angles and corners! Without real production with just a piece of paper this government could even make much more money than the car manufacturers having invested in years of R&D by just issuing paper COEs! No other place in the world can you find this except here.

I merely speak the facts. You judge for yourself. The more I reveal the more that this government seems incompetent and NOT worth the millions we are paying them.

We pay them to exploit us by depressing our wages to third world standards when we are considered first world economy recognized as the third richest country in the world? That is the kind of wretched life the commoners are living in this prosperous country.

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Kith or Kin; Kin or Kith? Does it Matter?

Sometimes you expect friends to stand by you but you’ll end up disappointed. But that’s kinda normal. But what is not normal is when your own sibling turns against you! Read this email from a friend:

One moment it was about getting in touch with her inner self, the next was her desire to reach a certain level of consciousness, then it was meditation in monasteries and convents overseas and next it was about gaining enlightenment – you know the type, lonely, discombobulated, unfulfilled, unmarried, vacant woman spouting new-agey shit. As a friend I supported her, stood by her, sent her off at airports and received her back countless times. I was there when her trysts with some ang moh ended on a sad note, I was there by her side as she flirted with and jumped from one harebrained scheme to yet another, saw her went through her emo, irrational states, witnessed her losing it, agonized as I observed her made a fool of herself.

Then after a long silence a SMS came out of the blue. Ah, I told myself, she probably needs me for something or other again.

True enough, the SMS was followed by an email the next day introducing some stranger she called “friend.” For good measure she added that my sister was their mutual friend. Someone once said that kindness is this: you take home an injured dog, nurse it back to health and feed it. It disappears without a word of thanks. Then months later you hear something at your door. You look and lo and behold, the dog is back, with another injured dog. Ingrate!

So her friend emailed me. He wanted to sell a leadership training program to the market and he wanted to buy me coffee. Ok another one of those. If people need you, they sure know how to find you.

I replied saying I’m unable to assist, perhaps to try SIM, MDIS?

The response back was brusque, rude and made me wonder who the hell this guy thought he was, behaving as if the world owes him a living. That son-of-bitch acted as if it was my duty and obligation to assist him. With an attitude like that, no one would really. I had thought that she and my sis would be more discerning in deciding whom they call “friend.” Shared that with her and with my sis, not surprisingly the response was expected. Being the ever-loving sibling that she was my sis fired the first salvo. Her email to me was blank but the message was on the subject line: “I don’t choose friends according to YOUR standards.”

This was followed by “I don’t need, nor WANT to know how ‘disappointed’ you are about my friends” among other rhetoric.

Yup this from my very own sister, my only sibling. And they say blood is thicker than water? Well, it doesn’t apply to some people apparently.

After that assault from my sis, the protagonist followed suit with: “You are behaving like a bastard and I agree with your sister – I don’t choose my friends and acquaintances using your framework.”

Well and good. Friends can be sacked. Relatives can be disowned. There’s such a thing called “expiry date.”

Beware of lonely, discombobulated, unfulfilled, unmarried, vacant women. They can take years off your life.

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China Bus Drivers: Licence to drive or “kill?”

An unknown Singapore bus company recruited more than 100 PRC drivers from the city of Xi’an, Shaanxi province last year. Happy Recruitment Group Photo!

That photo above shows only 100 over China drivers and we have got so many accidents and wrongly driven bus routes. Imagine 1,000 over of them coming here to exacerbate our current headaches! I leave it to your imagination.

Photo from Temasek Times.

The government in its recent budget statement has announced $1.1 billion handout to the two major profit making transport operators. This is to purchase extra 800 more buses.

Let’s not go into the details of using taxpayers’ money for the duopoly transport operators. It’s been decided and the budget has been allocated. So no point harping over it.

It’s the consequence of this policy that matters. About 1,600 bus drivers are needed to run the 800 buses. Two drivers per bus on two shifts. As it is the two giant PTOs are already facing problems in recruiting and retaining bus drivers. The extra 1,600 drivers will add to more manpower woes.

Those smart scholars in the two PTOs incidentally owned by GLCs (major shareholders) had it thought out. So they go to China to recruit more cheap drivers.

As simple as that!

No locals want to take the job right, there are lots of them in China. Keep on importing more cheap drivers to drive those state of art huge Bentley buses.

Those smart corporate scholars only know about bottom line and cost cutting measures to maximize returns. Locals may not want to take up the driver job at $1,200 but lots of China workers clamoring for it. Even Malaysians used to drive our buses are now quite reluctant to take up the job.

They don’t bother about the suitability of those foreign drivers. They may be qualified to drive but are they suitable or accustomed to local conditions? Don’t forget also they are ‘left hand’ drivers! Their driving orientation system and ours are totally different. They drive on the opposite side of the road.

You try driving a ‘left hand drive’ vehicle in the states. Then you will understand the dire danger I’m warning about. Our road signs are in English and we have one of the world’s highest vehicle population density here. After a short orientation they expect those China drivers to drive like a professional? Pipe dream or figment of their wild imagination? They just don’t care or bother at all as long as they put monkeys there to operate the buses by paying them peanuts!

The GIC based PTOs are satisfied so is the MOM cuz the latter got more levies coming in to government coffers! The more FTs the more levies they rake in. Locals don’t earn them levies. That is the mentality in our society. They are addicted to cheap FTs and levies. Cheap solution to this perennial transport problem at the expense of citizens.

If I were to drive to Malaysia even though conditions are quite similar to Singapore, I also lack the full confidence. I got to be extra alert and careful. Most of the road signs in Malaysia are in Malay. I’m not driving a public bus but on my own personal ‘bone shaker.’ That is the difference. I could afford to take my time and no tight schedule or public safety to consider.

Those Chinese drivers have never been here before. Many of them are leaving their hometown for the first time to work here at a much lower pay – company got to pay levy per head – than our locals. They will be here on short term contracts. They will treat Singapore roads like “gold mine” and work the maximum hours of overtime.

Just like those smart management staff in PTOs, China drivers will also want to maximize their time here going all out to work like bulls! After a short orientation of route learning & familiarization, they are put on our public roads to drive those big public buses. Licence to drive or “kill?”

Old lady killed by China bus driver in Sengkang.

Another bus accident. School boy got knocked down by bus.

The above scenario is frighteningly true if only we just pause to think deeper. The 800 new super buses with the 1,600 China drivers are not here yet. But then some of their compatriots are already here – having been recruited earlier.

Within a short time, there are already 2 major accidents involving current China drivers. Is this not a warning of more portends to come? Are we not importing “terrors” on our public roads with those China drivers treating our public roads as “gold mine?” Do the PTOs and government care about other road users’ safety or the passengers taking those buses?

I have colleagues from the north who harbour the same mentality of treating this 700 sq km place as a gold mine only to retire back home comfortably with tons of money to buy land, house or set up a small business. I do not see any difference between our northern neighbors and those China drivers.

We will have to minimize using our public roads or be extra careful of those run away terrors! Good luck to all of you sharing public road space with them.

Govt, Transport Minister and LTA just don’t get it!

The blogger in the above link has written a very incisive article on our present transport woes. Why not let private mini buses ply our roads on a similar basis like Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is similar in size and population density to us. We could study how well they manage their transport system. Why must the government pump in $1.1 billion of public money to prop up two major GIC PTOs in a duopoly market leading to so much hue and cry from the public?

What’s wrong with the government and LTA mindset? They suffer from this group think mentality. They just can’t get out of the box when it comes to solving our transport woes. So many Transport Ministers come and go yet the problem gets worse and worse until they resorted to pump in billions and recruiting even more cheap China drivers leaving our own citizens jobless by depressing the wages further!

Will it solve the problem? I doubt so. I’m not alone. Many are skeptical including that blogger telling the Transport Minister and LTA to wake up their idea!








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