Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MOM's reply about Jourgina Dagoplo's repatriation-Ball was in IBM Singapore's court

Dear Friends,

Ministry of Manpower(MOM) has replied to queries about ex-maid Jourgina's non-renewal of immigration status.

In summary, her employer IBM did not do enough to help her upgrade to an S-Pass eligible status ie pay her salary of $1800/mth or more. She was senior technician.

So ends the fairy tale... or will IBM or other employers take the challenge of employing Ms Dagoplo?

Please refer to my previous post here.


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Why ministry did not renew maid's work permit

WE REFER to the letters last Tuesday by Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan and Mr Kevin Kwek ('Ex-maid's dreams dashed').

We limit the number of years that work permit holders are allowed to work here, to ensure that employers do not become overdependent on low-cost foreign manpower and that lower-skilled foreign workers do not sink roots in Singapore.

Miss Jourgina Dagoplo's work permit was not renewed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) as she had reached the maximum employment period of 18 years.

For employees who qualify for higher work pass types such as the S Pass or Employment Pass, their employers may apply to upgrade them to such passes, which are not subject to the maximum employment period.

MOM had informed Miss Dagoplo's employer earlier that it could consider upgrading her to an S Pass provided that her salary meets the S Pass criteria. However, the employer had not done so when her work permit expired.

Farah Abdul Rahim (Ms)
Director, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Manpower

Friday, November 05, 2010

Tribute to Mr. Ong Ai Teik

Mr. Ong Ai Teik (1944-2010)

Words cannot express what Mr. Ong meant to the boys of my cohort (Sec 4- 1976).

To those in Boy’s Brigade and Gymnastics, his influence was understandable and obvious as he was the Captain of BB and the teacher who built a very competitive gym team from scratch.

However to the rest of us who were in neither, his stamp of authority is less easily explained.

Perhaps to many of us, he was the father figure that we hoped for, or the older brother we wished we had. Someone who leads from the front but is also waiting at the back to ensure none of us were left behind!

In the mid-70’s, ACS was in apparent decline and had suffered public humiliations when political leaders seemed to stand in line to castigate us and even labeled us as a “Snob” school. The hurt, though deep, was short-lived and Mr. Ong was there to galvanize us to believe in ourselves and to achieve what we did not know was possible.

Not all of us were academically inclined, but that was not important. We were ACSians.

We remember with fondness Mr. Ong’s innovative methods of punishments. I do not think MOE would have approved many of them… but they worked.

Mr. Ong Ai Teik, teacher,mentor,friend. Someone we respect and love.

Till we meet again.

The Best is Yet to Be!

Huang Shoou Chyuan
(on behalf of the 76’ers)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Maid Gina's fairy tale dashed by MOM's rigid bureaucracy

Hi Friends,

The Straits Times published my letter of appeal for Jourgina (Gina) Dagoplo to be allowed to come back to Singapore.

I know the social climate has become increasingly anti-immigration as a reaction to what many perceived as overly porous government policies, but I think Gina's case deserves a relook.

The original story can be found in the link here.

When I "Google(d)" Gina's name, I was surprised that in 2005, she was a "cause celebre"and was sort of a showcase of what a land of opportunity Singapore was and everyone in the official and alternative media was head over heals about her "rags to riches" story then.


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

The published letter to the ST Forum (2nd Nov 2010):

I WAS shocked to read about a former maid whose dreams were dashed on the rocks of a rigid bureaucracy ('Ex-maid with new job runs out of time'; last Saturday). It is like a fairy tale with an unhappy ending.

Miss Jourgina Dagoplo arrived on our shores as a maid in 1992. She studied hard on her days off (Sundays) and graduated in 2005 from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) with a certificate in electronics, and that landed her a job at IT giant IBM, where she was promoted to senior technician and earned $1,200 a month when she left.

Five years into her job, she was asked to go home by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), all because of a rule which stipulates that a skilled worker on a work permit pass can work here only for a maximum of 18 years - not a day longer, no matter what. Now she is back in the Philippines working as a maid for $5 a day.

IBM had found her to be a 'good performer' and after failing to renew her work permit, had appealed twice to MOM but to no avail.

The irony is that Miss Dagoplo was already doing a part-time diploma course which would have helped her case for staying on here.

Miss Dagoplo is the type of worker that we need more of in our economy - someone who is hungry, ready to take on challenges and not prepared to accept as fate what life dished out to her.

Instead of asking her to leave, the authorities should have offered her a citizenship to reward her for her tenacity and to signal to others that we are a meritocratic society that looks beyond your background and so long as you can contribute to Singapore, you are in. The authorities should review her case and welcome her back to Singapore.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Electoral Boundaries Review Committee- Must be seen to be fair

Hi friends,
I believe in level playing fields.
I also believe that the referee and other match officials should be neutral and not be affiliated to any of the contending sports teams playing in any competition.
Hence my letter below.
Another futile attempt to extract fairness from the incumbent?
My philosophy has always been "You never know until you have tried"

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

The Letter to forum editor

Dear Editor,

Singapore must have the next general elections (GE) on or before February 2012.

Bone of contention: Boundaries of electoral wards

A major bone of contention in many of our past GE’s had been the manner in which the boundaries of constituencies were often awkwardly redrawn (eg Braddell Heights becoming part of Marine Parade GRC) and how these changes were then presented to the political parties and the electorate only a few days or weeks before nomination day.

This reshaping of electoral wards (known as gerrymandering if this is deemed to benefit incumbent parties) and the short time interval was said to disadvantage opposition political parties as this leaves them little time to work the ground effectively.

Incidentally, “gerrymandering” (click here) was coined after Governor Elbridge Gerry, a Massachusetts politician who in 1812, changed the electoral districts in the Boston area to benefit his own party. Unfortunately, he did not realise that the resultant shape of the districts looked like a lizard-like salamander. (see above Picture of Boston after gerrymandering)

Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC): not transparent enough

The perception on the ground is that the work of our Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC), whose Terms of Reference include recommending new constituencies and boundaries, taking into account significant demographic changes, is not transparent enough.

The EBRC reports directly to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and also consists mainly of civil servants or employees of state-related companies. Questions of whether there are “conflict of interest” issues in such an arrangement will always arise whenever boundary changes occur that seem to penalise the opposition, such as when two GRC’s which were close calls for the PAP ie Cheng San and Eunos, coincidentally vanished from electoral maps.

To reduce skepticism, may I suggest that the EBRC:
• include representations from political parties, as it was in 1958 when dissenting members were able to publish a minority report
• explain in detail why changes are made
• report to a non-political body eg the President or other prominent Singaporean

In this way, our future GE’s will not only be fair, but also seen to be fair.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Appeal for Minimum Wage- Tommy Koh & You & I

Letter to Newspaper Forum Editor (published 22.9.2010 here)

15 September, 2010

Dear editor,

I follow with interest the debate in the media about the pros and cons of implementing a minimum wage policy for Singapore’s workers. This is especially so as Professor Tommy Koh, who is revered by citizens from both sides of the political divide, has weighed in in favour of it “as it will improve the lot of Singaporeans in low-paying jobs”

In a media event, Professor Koh alluded to the lowest 20 per cent of our workers, whose median income-a recent study showed, has remained stagnant or even decreased over the last decade, partly due to the influx of cheap foreign labor.

Prof Koh also mentioned that the Gini coefficient ,named after Italian statistician Corrado Gini, and often used as gauge of the income gap as it measures the income distribution across a country, had regressed from 0.436 to 0.478 over the 20 years (0 implying perfect equality and 1 extreme inequality).

In fact, the United Nation Development Program published an unflattering report last year that ranked us second only to Hong Kong in terms of income inequality ( see . Now that Hong Kong has jumped onto the minimum wage band-wagon, I dread the day when Singapore would inherit the position as the economy with the most inequitable income distribution.

Many government leaders have mentioned that apart from policies affecting religion and race, there are few sacred cows.

Many feel that the present help-schemes such as the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme (WIS) are not sufficient. For example,the WIS distributes cash : CPF in ratio of 1:2.5 which may not be very useful for workers who are strapped for money.

Hence I hope that our leaders would not be so dogmatic and reject the minimum wage policy in a knee jerk fashion but consider if it is time to relook at this option again. Otherwise, our GDP growth rates would just be meaningless numbers to our urban poor who are beginning to think that the world is passing them by as they start to feel that they have become strangers in their own land.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Friday, August 27, 2010

Active Ageing Index and the plight of the elderly (Letter to Forum Page Editor)

Hi Friends,
The following was sent to the Forum Page Editor.
Awaiting publication ( if approved)

The Editor,
XXX Forum page

I refer to the article “Not-so-golden years for the elderly in Singapore”.

The report by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) academics confirmed what most of us had long suspected. Amongst the elderly surveyed those who scored high for active ageing ranged from a low 5 percent for those aged 65 to 69 and decreasing further to a dismal 1 percent for those aged 75 and above. One in five felt that they had insufficient income for living.

As pointed out by Mr. Gerard Ee, chairman for the Council for Third Age, the plight of our elderly is worse than our neighbors’ as Singapore does not have a country-side for our elderly to escape to and they have to contend with the rising cost of living like the rest of us.

How many times have we said to ourselves when we see an elderly sweeping the condominium grounds or wiping the table at the food court that it is just not right that in “First world” Singapore, the elderly are not benefiting from nor sharing the fruits of Singapore’s prosperity.

How can our welfare safety nets be so porous that so many of these elderly- who had helped build up the economy, are falling through them in droves and are now left to fend for themselves?

I feel that not enough is being done for our elderly poor. I would not be unhappy if funds presently allocated to big-ticket items like the YOG had been channeled to alleviate the plights of this increasing underclass. Real help is needed – not tokenisms.

Only when our elderly have an opportunity to experience truly “golden years” can we say that we have arrived as a nation.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Singapore Healthcare- Collective response from some Gleneagles specialists

Hi Friends,

The letter below was written after a group of Gleneagles specialist doctors felt that what Dr Lee Wei Ling ( yes she is MM's daughter but she usually still has a mind of her own) wrote  in the previous week's column made a lot of sense (Training GP's to be family physicians) . And as usual, they turned to me and said, " SC, can you write to the papers and say that we support her on this" and like they say- the rest was history.

It was almost like drafting a UN resolution- some contentious items were left out and the final  result was agreeable to most ( but some had cold feet- but that's another story).

I did not expect anyone to read the letter as it was only on the online edition. But the miracle of the internet meant that obscure stuff does get picked but by some and  apparently, angrydoc did just that but  unfortunately he ( or she) is negative and cynical about any government intervention ( he calls it subsidy).  Read his blog post here : Subsidy and other pre-occupations

From the tone of angrydoc- I guess the 27 ( and some others who did not get to sign it as I was rushing it to the editor) will be considered "Old School" ( or even anachronistic) doctors who believe that Medicine is about healing the sick ( and not just pandering to some who wish to look younger or cannot accept what Nature has provided). 

Of even more concern to us is the crass commercialization that has seeped into most aspects of Medicine in Singapore.

I guess if this bit of activism does not achieve anything- we can console ourselves that we did not just stand idly by and behaved like so many sad accounts of how Singaporeans just sat immobile whilst some poor girl was being assaulted on a crowded bus or how some flat dwellers said that , yes, they heard violent noises of someone being killed but they wanted to just mind their own business. 

My 27 Gleneagles friends are not like that- we feel things can be better and that our opinions do  matter.


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

The letter that was published in the online forum page (12 May 2010)

Get GPs back on track

WE ARE doctors specialising in various fields at Gleneagles Medical Centre and we support Dr Lee Wei Ling's gallant attempts to bring medicine in Singapore back to its noble roots ('Train GPs to be family physicians'; April 21).

We suggest the following:

Invasive aesthetic procedures should be carried out only by doctors who have had adequate surgical training. Only then will the practitioner be able to recognise the early signs of complications. Complications happen even in the best surgeon's hands, but it is often how soon these are detected and the course of action taken that determine the fate of the patient. Aesthetic medicine is here to stay and the Ministry of Health (MOH) should organise properly sanctioned courses for all doctors who are keen to carry out invasive aesthetic procedures. The bar must not be set too low, and being allowed to carry out such dangerous procedures after attending dubious one- to two-day courses should be a thing of the past.

General practitioners (GPs) are the vanguards of our health-care system. We want each GP to take his proper place as a 'specialist in taking care of the entire patient'. All of them have undergone training at great expense to the state or their families. MOH should make available rotation positions at various hospital departments for all GPs before they start work and at regular intervals after that, to provide opportunities for 'refreshers' to those who feel they need updates or have gaps in their knowledge of certain specialities. National service 'reservist-style' make-up pay is innovative and workable for this.

• Government subventions for GPs to treat subsidised cases is a win-win for all. GPs get more income and hence will be less likely to go for the more lucrative 'aesthetic medicine' route, and the already overcrowded polyclinics will be able to perform even better. In the same vein, many private specialists are also keen to help by treating subsidised patients who are presently referred to overcrowded specialist clinics at public hospitals.

The medical profession should do regular soul-searching, and if we find that we have deviated from our intended paths, we should have the courage to take remedial actions to rectify this.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan 

NB: The Straits Times Editor chose to ignore the fact that the letter above was signed by 27 specialists of Gleneagles Medical Centre

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Singaporeans' Medisave Money for Malaysian hospitals

Hi Friends,

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

May we not just have material blessings but also good health so that we can live meaningful lives amongst our kinfolks, friends and community.

My largely unedited letter has been published in the Straits Times Forum today.

I am disturbed that MOH –which had backed down earlier about setting up Old Folks’ Homes in Malaysia after an uproar, has now introduced it again, albeit in a different skin.

Healthcare initiatives- Old Folks’ Homes and now this
The Old Folks’ Home initiative and now the Medisave for Malaysia move is an admission that certain Singaporeans have been priced out of their own homeland.

To some,it seems a logical solution,” If Singaporeans cannot afford to live their remaining days in Singapore- why not just let them do it in Malaysia”. Now it is –“ If Singaporeans cannot afford to have quality healthcare on our own shores- maybe Malaysia boleh (can) ( with a little help from Medisave)”

But others will ask questions like "Why is it that the MOH feels that in our multi-strata healthcare system, which range from C class beds in public hospitals to the super-duper suites in our private hospitals (that even regional royalties feel comfortable in), cannot meet the needs of Singaporeans? Shouldn’t we try to meet the demands and aspirations of Singaporeans within our system instead of sending them up north? Did we not pay tax so that our system can help us when we are sick and old?

MOH should try harder to improve the system so that Singaporeans feel they get more “bang for their dollars" . I do not recall all major stakeholders being consulted about this.

Impact for tourism industry

What about our national plan to make Singapore a regional centre of excellence for Medical Tourism? Each medical tourist comes typically with at least 2-3 family members. This is a huge spin-off with a multiplying effect for hotels, F&B and shopping centres. In one stroke, the MOH has just leaked out a family secret ( and I am not agreeing to this) that Malaysian hospitals are cheap and just as good!

Malaysia has just got a very un-expected Lunar Near Year Hong Bao from MOH! No amount of publicity nor advertisements by Malaysia’s tourism board can compare with such an ringing endorsement from none other than Malaysia’s erstwhile competitor.

Read this space- there will soon be insurance policies which are priced below our present premiums, but with a catch- “Co-payment if treated in Singapore hospitals, but, full reimbursements if treated in Malaysia”

I guess this populist move will win the minister many votes for the coming elections. Why worry about our healthcare system?


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Will it come back to haunt us later? (16 Feb 2010 ST Forum)

I REFER to last Thursday's report, 'Medisave can be used in 12 Malaysian hospitals'. The move by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to allow Medisave deduction for hospitalisation in Malaysian hospitals is, in my view, like scoring an own goal in a soccer match.

To say the least, it sends a confusing signal. It is as though MOH is admitting that it has failed in its mission to cater to all Singaporeans in our own often-lauded health-care system.

Is the claim that even the poorest Singaporean will be looked after in our health-care facilities - with its subsidies and special funding such as Medifund - just an empty boast now?

MOH is in fact using national resources - Medisave infrastructure - to build up a competitor's capabilities. Is MOH still serious about helping Singapore become a medical tourism centre of excellence?

This populist measure may seem to placate short-term demands - only to come back to haunt us later when our own health-care and tourism industries are hollowed out in the medium to long term.

By then, any new measure will be futile and like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Friday, January 22, 2010

World Cup 2010: Singapore's MDA has duty to fulfil responsibility to Singapore's public

Hi Friends,

The letter below was published in the Straits Times Forum page (22.1.10) ( albeit in a truncated version).

The letter:

Dear Editor,

The Media Development Authority (MDA) should take decisive action now to ensure that key World Cup 2010 matches, including Opening match, semi-finals and final matches are telecast over the free-to-air channels, regardless of what cable content providers do for the following reasons:

1. MDA collects license fee of $110 per year from each household with a television set and the paying public expects MDA to telecast content which the public deems as basic infotainment. With increased affluence, these key World Cup matches would easily qualify as a must-have item in any given menu just as key events in the recent Olympic games were.

2. There are still many households in Singapore who cannot afford cable subscriptions. Hence MDA should never abrogate its basic responsibilities to cable content providers such as Starhub or Singtel. Of course, if these cable providers had bought the rights (which they had not) and wanted to telecast all the matches to cater to die-hard football fans, they are just meeting their commercial obligations.

It is time MDA or other relevant government bodies step in to do the right thing.

The public expects no less!

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan