Saturday, August 18, 2018

Is this what Mediocrity looks like?

Dear friends,

The recent debate about Minister’s pay and mediocrity ( ref GCT speech  has made me realise that our present social political system, if not tweaked, could have drastic consequences.

1.About National Day songs
We have not had any new songs for our National Day celebrations for the longest time. The songs of old like Dick Lee’s “Home” or Hugh Harrison's  “Stand up for Singapore" were memorable and iconic but why are new songs from new songwriters deemed not deserving of an airing on the national stage on our National Days? Is there a defeatist attitude by the organising committee who is  afraid that any new songs will not stand up to public scrutiny. When will this change?

2.About Microsoft and competition
Does anyone remember when Microsoft was a near monopoly and regulators were trying to make the playing field fairer? I was amongst many who were saying that  “Microsoft Office Suite” was already so good and affordable, why should we not it monopoly power? But after the regulators had done their jobs we were pleasantly surprised with a plethora of applications and software  eg Linux Open Office / Google etc, which were more innovative providing better communications for all.

3.About Grab and free market
If our regulators eg LTA was short sighted and disallowed “Grab” from entering the market, we would still be complaining about misbehaving taxi drivers instead of enjoying benefits of private rental cars . Of course, not everything is easy to control eg bicycle rental schemes. Frequent tweakings are often needed.

4. About Salaries and motivation
Has high salaries of public officials ( including politicians) ring fenced and allowed them to innovate, avoiding short term criticisms or has it ironically make such remuneration. an “iron rice bowl” so coveted that these talented officials will ( perhaps subconsciously) do what is safe to avoid perceptions of failure ?

Is this what Mediocrity looks like?


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Urgent solutions needed to rental bike problems

Dear Friends,
Straits Times Forum printed an edited version of this letter. Click here.
Dear Editor,
In urban planning “last mile” refers to the difficult problem of getting commuters from a transportation hub eg MRT station to their final destination eg home. “First mile” would be from starting location to the hub.
The Last Mile Connectivity is the “Holy Grail” that town planners, including  ours, aspire towards.
Bike sharing schemes fronted by 5 companies  namely GBikes, Mobike, oBike, ofo and  SG Bike,  - which have more than 30,000 bikes between them, could be a positive disruptive influence  by improving public transport accessibility leading to a more “car-lite” Singapore.
However, complaints are heard more than accolades.Why?
These complaints include how our  reputation of our “city within a garden”  has been tarnished by these haphazardly parked bikes found in even odd places eg road dividers or in flower beds.
Bikes also pose dangers by blocking walkways and emergency exits .
Andrew Delios from NUS Business School had alluded to  economic concepts of “negative externalities”  and “free-riding”. ( Bike-sharing: Time to crack down on free-riding? Straits Times 18 Oct 2017)
“Negative externalities” are hidden costs not borne by company owners but passed to others, namely Singapore tax payers, who not only bears with the eyesore where previously was pristine environment, he  now has to skirt around or move aside fallen bikes. It could be said that our red passport is diminishing in value.
“Free riding” concept is when rich owners ( eg Ofo‘s young billionaire CEO Dai Wei ) are taking advantage of a public good (eg parking space) without paying for it. Some countries insist docking stations be built at costs of millions.
I propose the following:
  1. Users who do not park at geo-fenced areas lose their deposits. Losing credits ( Mobike) is not deterrent enough.“No deposit” (Ofo) promotion not be allowed.
     2.“ Free first 15 minute” promotions (Mobike) not be allowed.  Bikes marooned on road dividers could be by riders who had run out of “free” time.
      3. Total number of bikes from each company be limited in each region and rebalancing of bikes assiduously done when they “bunch” in places.
4. Enough  geo-fenced lots  eg HDB void decks , outside condos and around private estates apart from transport hubs. Bike companies bear full cost of works.
Singapore is already very accessible and to walk few hundred metres is actually healthy.
To expect full door to hub connectivity is a tad too much.
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme: Changes needed

Dear Friends,
Now that the dust has started to settle after the dramatic GE2015, I have some thoughts on how the Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme can be improved to better reflect the aspirations of the electorate.
Click link here.

I do not think many will disagree that there is still a desire by the electorate for diversity of views in the parliament notwithstanding the convincing win by the ruling PAP.

To help ingrain the NCMP scheme so that it is not just perceived as a token to satisfy the wish of a segment of the electorate who clamour for multi-party democracy (ie to add legitimacy), I propose the following:
  1. NCMP’s should be allowed to vote on all matters including the following which they are presently denied :
Amendments to the Constitution.
Any motion pertaining to a bill to amend a supply bill, supplementary supply bill or final supply bill.
Any motion pertaining to a Bill to amend a money bill.

However in my opinion,the present last two exceptions of voting on motions of no confidence in the Government and removal of the President from office should still remain.

      2. As NCMP’s will now have full legislative duties and only differ from other MP’s by not having a community role (they do not have constituents to look after), their remuneration should be raised from the present 15% of a MP’s allowance ( which is rather derisory)  to at least 50%. (Note: Present annual allowances of NCMP  & MP are $28,900 and $192,500 respectively). They should have similar perks including funds to employ legislative assistants etc.  

       3. NCMP scheme might also be expanded to include not just opposition party MP’s but also ruling party MP’s. For example if up 18 seats are allocated for opposition party MP’s and NCMP’s (present parliament has 9 allocated seats) and opposition MP’s only won 12 seats outright by “First Past the Post” method, the next 6 highest candidates ( from any party) will be allocated NCMP seats. The house will benefit from the contributions of good quality NCMP’s from either side of the political aisle.

        4. Office-bearers should be allowed to be selected from NCMP’s hence giving more choice for the government of the day.
        5. All NCMP positions must be filled and not left vacant as the present scheme already ensures a minimum standard in that the present NCMP-elects must have garnered at least 15% of the total number of votes

With these improvements, Singaporeans will benefit from the contributions of NCMP’s in the current term of parliament and furthermore , the electorate can decide if they also want these NCMP’s to play a community role as their MP’s come the next General Election

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan