berthahenson

Posts Tagged ‘AIM’

Staying safe in Punggol East

In News Reports, Politics on January 22, 2013 at 7:18 am

First, a confession. I am relying mainly on MSM news reports and my FB feeds to get news of the by-election. I read so much about the candidates offering practically their lives to get elected. I know so much about their backgrounds. I know what they want to do for those lucky Punggol East people. I suppose this is what a by-election is about.

But I wonder about why no one is talking about the big stuff or impending big stuff. I don’t mean the usual complaints about high transport, health and housing costs but the stuff that people are talking about and want to hear about. And I don’t mean general stuff like whether we need more opposition voices in Parliament. (BTW, I thought SDA’s Desmond Lim paid a huge tribute to the Workers’ Party by calling it a dominant party. He wants to be the third voice in a two-voice Parliament. Diversity of views, I suppose.)

Anyway, here is my own list of “missing’’ issues:

a. Why is no one talking about AIM, that PAP-run company that does the town councils’ books? Is everyone waiting for the National Development ministry to finish its report – and then comment? Is it the worry about incomplete information which might get them into trouble? I know WP withdrew its motion and I praised the move. But you know, I think any political party can speak about the subject at a time of election – especially whether town councils are “political’’ associations. And give its own take about the “fundamental nature’’ of town councils which even the PM wants studied.

b. No one is really getting into Palmergate, at least not the way Yaw Shin Leong’s character was dissected in the Hougang BE. Maybe because he’s too popular with residents to be raised as an issue? Then what about the more general qualities expected of a political representative? I mean, the seat fell vacant because of his indiscretion. So how come there’s no comment on it?

c. The immigrant issue. I suppose more childcare centres, covered linkways and bus services are “safe’’ topics. But what about this nagging, niggling problem we have about the foreigners in our midst? Companies say they are suffering because of the squeeze on foreign labour, NGOs think that the G doesn’t treat foreign workers right. And some of the comments being heard are outright xenophobic or racist. We still need foriegners, never mind the $2billion Population package announced yesterday that won’t have us replacing ourselves any time soon. So where do the parties stand on the immigration issue? Too hot a topic?

d. Then there are the constitutional challenges coming up pretty soon, such as on the PM’s right to call or not call a by-election, which must surely be something parties can take a stand on? Or is it because they think they might run foul of the court? Surely, this is something that also falls within the political arena?

e. Now, there’s a row between pro-Section 377a and anti-Section 377a on the criminalisation of homosexual acts. I hope the politicians are not so busy campaigning that they do not notice the heightened tensions and some hysteria online. Religion is getting political. What a dangerous mix which I thought the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act was designed to separate…or am I wrong? Questions are coming up on freedom of expression – both pro-gay and anti-gay. Politicians are being courted to take sides. So many issues here …or is this considered too explosive a mix to bring to the public’s attention? Maybe, again, everyone is waiting again for the court to rule.

Anyway, that’s just my one cent worth. Maybe what the voters really really want to know is exactly when (give exact date please) Rivervale Plaza will be fully ready.

He hath spoken

In News Reports, Politics on January 9, 2013 at 12:30 am

I feel sorry for the Prime Minister.

It’s been one thing after another in recent months. Strike-gate, Palmergate and now town councils. We shouldn’t forget the EC issue as well – you know those big penthouses meant for the sandwiched class? All taking place in an economy that’s slowing down, a labour crunch, poor productivity scores…and escalating COE prices.

Nevertheless, he hath spoken on town councils – and none too soon. I’ve often wondered why as head of the People’s Action Party, he hasn’t reined in his MPs. Instead, they are offering all sorts of explanations on the town council-AIM transaction and how the issue should be looked at. I guess even the PAP isn’t immune to the Facebook phenomenon, with trigger happy MPs and Ministers deciding to let fly in the name of engagement. Where’s the party whip? WHO is the party whip anyway?
But that’s looking at it from the PAP point of view. From the point of view of a reader and a Singaporean, it’s been interesting politics. You get to know a person better when their views are not controlled…

So now the PM has ordered a review of the town council-AIM transaction. By MND, the governing ministry. I guess there will be some unhappiness with that. You can just expect calls for an independent review. After all, if there was anything untoward in the transaction, shouldn’t MND have spotted it in the first place? It’s like telling MND to go through self-criticism.

What’s more interesting is how he wants a review of the “fundamental nature’’ of town councils. I wish the PM expanded on this point. Is he talking about the separation of political and public service aspects of town councils? Does he think the whole Town Council Act should be gone over with a fine-tooth comb? And if we’re looking at the “fundamental nature’’ of town councils, shouldn’t more people be involved in this exercise? Instead, he’s given a deadline of a month or two… How come? So the issue will be settled before he calls for the Punggol East by-election?

Alert: I am going to start meandering from here…

a. On politics and business
The PM has focused attention on town councils. Now what about shining a spotlight on the PAP’s own policies and practices? A small light? Like what sort of companies it has, for what purpose etc. You know, basic stuff…I keep wondering if the PM himself had been kept in the loop about AIM and its aims. Surely MND Minister Khaw Boon Wan knows more?

b. On ECs
Mr Khaw’s focus seems to be on ECs, like getting his ministry to review this gambit developers have of selling off free open spaces for profit. You know, it’s time he called for a review of the “fundamental nature’’ of ECs as well. Clearly developers aren’t listening to his exhortations to keep to the core of the EC policy: subsidised housing for the sandwiched class. He had better do it fast too because a whole lot of land has been allocated to the building of ECs in the coming couple of years.
You know, I’d really like to hear from these developers of EC skysuites. Get them to account for why they fly in the face of policy. Instead, the media is hyping up the sales, bringing more and more people to these EC showrooms. Heck, I want a sky suite too!!!!

c. On the possible PAP candidate
Wow! Did you see those credentials of Dr Koh Poh Koon? Looks like the PAP has ditched Ong Ye Kung or he’s ditched the PAP for a good private sector life in Keppel…

Town councils as political organisations

In News Reports, Politics, Society on January 7, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Here’s an interesting twist to the AIM tale: town councils are political organisations, not public organisations. That’s Baey Yam Keng’s take on how the whole saga should be viewed. The issue has been unnecessarily politicised, he said. Town councils aren’t government agencies, not run by civil servants – which I take to mean that they shouldn’t be subject to civil service norms or expectations.

He also said in Today that the question should be whether Action Information Management failed in its commitment to town councils and whether its fees are reasonable.

His answers are in response to former PAP backbencher Tan Cheng Bock’s comments that the town councils had used public monies to develop the system, which was sold to AIM. “This software is developed using public funds by town councils. Is it right for the TCs to give up ownership in this manner?” he asked in his FB posting. “So did the town councils as public institutions do the right thing, selling to a company owned by a political party with its own agenda?”

I suppose Mr Baey’s position is rooted in the way town councils are actually forms of local government, run by politicians elected by the people living in the ward. So if the composition of the town council changes, then a political organisation – and its partners – pulling out of the management is really something to be expected.

I wonder if he realises that he’s opening up a can of worms.

You can’t help asking then if AIM is then the ONLY PAP-owned outfit that works with town councils. What if the PAP had set up a cleaning service unknown to us all? Or it went into lift repairs? The PAP isn’t saying what other companies it owns. It should. Because when I elect a representative, I want to know exactly what is on offer. I want to know how local government will change if I choose to throw out the incumbents. That it isn’t just the heads that will roll, but arms and legs will get chopped off too. Fair, no?

Just think. What if the PAP decides that its PCF kindergartens shouldn’t operate in opposition wards and closes down what it now has? I doubt it wants to antagonise residents like that but, hey, it’s a political party and if it wants to inflict pain on the people who turned their backs on it, it can.

Come to think of it. Wasn’t lift upgrading also a political issue? Go to the back of the queue if you vote opposition? And that’s not even a political party imperative but a G initiative explained away as the right of the party in power to decide who gets rewarded first. But that’s in the past.

Back to AIM. I really think politicians should stop telling us how to think. I read on Sunday that Ms Grace Fu said that we’ve all got hold of the wrong end of the stick and should remember how the issue arose – the Workers’ Party’s Aljunied-Hougang town council’s poor showing in the corporate governance category. Focus on that, she said.

Then there was this ding-dong about who terminated the agreement first. It was like a schoolyard fight: You did it first! No, you did it! You! You! It was framed like an integrity question: who came clean, who didn’t, what’s hidden etc.
Frankly, I’m not sure I care who wins that fight.
Seems to me there are far bigger issues here that the PAP should address that goes beyond the handing over an information system to a company it owns. And Mr Baey has just started a big one: Is the town council a political organisation? If so, what does it MEAN?

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