Saturday, 22 April 2017

FROM ‘FREE ELECTION’ TO HIGH DRAMA: The FAS Saga


It supposes to be a ‘free election’ after the world football association’s (FIFA) new regulation on the running and management of local football associations. It is also an opportunity to show the world Singapore can have free election on non-political organisations, non-profit bodies or non-government organisations.

Unfortunately, it is now a high drama. The sage at Singapore Football Association election, whether the election is on or off at the end of April, will continue to make news headlines in years to come.

If you are not a football fan, you may not be interested on the saga at first. Now, it has become the coffee shop talks.

Is this political related? You make your own judgement.

However, some issues are interesting for discussions - corruptions, business models, and future options.

[$500,000 donation]

Is this a key concern? Is this implied a corruption?

Singapore is known for corruptions free and we always stress that we have zero tolerance for corruptions. When the FAS election campaign issue touches on the $500,000 donation, one will have to be alerted about the possibility of corruption. The thinking of corruptions, of course, will also lead to financial irregularities. To boost the case, highlighting, linking and imagining the multi-million income of jackpot machines to financial irregularities can easily catch the eyes of readers.  

Anti-corruptions are the key success factors for Singapore. The FAS election has touched this red line and the police ‘is now forced’ to investigate the matter after a complaint is reported.   

[Business models]

From the business innovation point of view, the Team Game Changers seems to come out with a workable model.

This model should be welcomed by the government. They even think of doing an Initial Public Offering (IPO) for FAS activities. The team has proved that they can successfully turn a profit-losing club to a profit-making club.

This is what Singapore wants. If every individual or company in Singapore has this mindset and innovation, then the government will not have to subsidy healthcare, worry about CPF minimum sum or medisave. Instead, the government can increase tax revenue from the profit-making businesses, be it jackpot machines or IPO.
  
There is no reason to kill this initiative - the golden egg. With money, FAS can develop local talents, import high quality foreign players, reduced government funding, promote football to a larger audience etc. Just like what Tote Board is doing through horse racing, big sweep and toto.   

[Out of control]

The government encourages social enterprises. They also want public services to generate revenue. They want all these activities to be self-sufficient or make profit. So SMRT goes into space re-design to generate income and neglecting maintenance. Religious bodies and NGOs like National Kidney Foundation come out with innovative ideas to generate revenue.  

This leads to MRT disruptions and many high profile court cases.

Football club and FAS making use of jackpot machines and IPO to generate income can be an innovative initiative but it also creates potential problems, conflict of interest.   

Is the government worrying about this development?

[Future options]

What can the government do? The past practice of appointing FAS President can ensure the matter will not go out of control. Just like the coming Presidential Election. Even there are problems, like the corruption case of Ang Mo Kio GRC Town Council’s general manager, they can just refer it to CPIB.

However, the past practice as shown will kill the entrepreneurship and innovation. A football club can generate income more than the total budget of FAS shows that there are many rooms for improvements.

However, if the government gives a free hand, many social enterprises , religious groups or NGOs will grow bigger and bigger. Will it end up like the banking industry in the US - too big to fail?

Will the development of social enterprises and NGOs even harder to control than the oppositions in Singapore?

Perhaps, from the wealth and income generated, many of them are bigger than the small and medium sized listed companies in Singapore.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

由上而下的小道政治容不下预己 - 新加坡是一个成功写照.


上一篇博文<接管市镇理事会的政治考量、政治代价>提到【反对苗头尽早杀】:
行动党自从立国以来,最有效的一招,就是当反对势力的苗头一出现,就马上给予消灭。从内安法开始,之后就是煽动罪,诽谤罪,破产等等,目的就是制止反对势力的扩张。这50多年,已经做到得心应手,无往不利的地步。


这里引用英国牛津大学 Professor Sir Paul Collier的论点进一步说明.Collier 教授分析人类从无政府状态到中央集权,再到包容性国家的过程中, 所面对的问题。他以经济学的从贫穷到繁荣角度来分析问题. 我们看到有些国家成功, 但是也有很多国家失败,甚至连中央集权都做不到(政令和政策无法下达到全国).

从无政府状态到中央集权,需要借助武力来达到目的。他认为中央集权国家(The centralised state)应该具备六个条件:政治上(精英)权力垄断,税收,司法,基础投资,富人(精英)间分享权力,(国家)具有借贷能力。

但是,中央集权还是无法顺利提高人民的所得和经济发展。而要通过包容性国家(Inclusive state)来取得财富和财富分配。理想的包容性国家所实行的政策,将顾及人民的需求和为所有的人制造平等机会。

通往包容性国家的道路有两条:小道和大道。(Minor Route and Major Route)

【小道的包容】

小道的包容是从上而下的精英政治。精英们掌握大权,以私人愿望在经济发展和财富分配上,实行对自己有利的政策。the elite are still in power and make selfishly-motivated choices between economic growth and the redistribution of wealth from the people to the elite.)



【大道的包容 -抗议的代价】

大道的包容则是从下而上的政治。下面的人民可以和精英分享权力。而在争取大道包容的过程中,我们必须了解抗议的经济学:奖励,回报和代价。(The major route to an inclusive state is through pressure from below to share power. To understand this route, we first need to understand the economics of protest: the incentives, rewards, and costs of protest.)



了解了抗议经济学中的代价问题,我们就可以明白为何人民行动党要处处对付反对党,要不择手段的把【反对苗头尽早杀】。当有新加坡人为了理想,站出来反对行动党,他们的代价是很高的,但是为了理想,他们愿意成为领头羊,牺牲者。可惜,一个,两个是成不了气候,第三,第四个有理想的人,就考虑代价。

抗议的代价.png

从上面的抗议代价表中,很明显的第三个(群)抗议者在衡量了理想的回报和代价后,得出一个负价值。这就印证了行动党为何一定要先下手为强的道理。行动党政府通过各种手段,都要阻止,制止反对势力的扩大。由此我们不难想象为什么,行动党要通过修改法令,更改政治的游戏规矩来达到小道包容的政治目的。

【大道的包容 - 对付社交媒体】

由于科技的发展,社交媒体的兴起,这对垄断传统媒体的行动党造成威胁。中东的茉莉花运动,提醒小道治国的精英集团要注意和管制新媒体和社交媒体的发展。我们从最近行动党部长的一系列对付假新闻的动作中,修改新闻条例,管制社交媒体中可以看到这种趋势。



【行动党拥抱小道包容】

行动党政府一直拒绝以大道包容治国,处处维护由上而下的精英治国政策。对于威胁行动党的反对势力,是见一个杀一个,而没有威胁力的反对势力则宽容对待。

因此,短期内,行动党的最大敌人,就成了它自己。在小道包容,从上而下的行动党精英政治下,又要照顾个人的私愿(如高薪和自我提升),又要分配经济发展的利益,如何做到公平,公正,让人信服?

尤其是在利益和政治权力分配的过程中,如何塑造国家认同(本地和外地人),如何让人觉得权力的分配公平(总统选举的游戏规则更改),如何在贫富悬殊下做到照顾人民。

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Price Puzzle or Cartel?


same item big price difference.jpg


I am surprise to learn about the big difference in price for a simple medical skin cream as shown above.  It is by chance I find out the cheapest price (so far) at SGH pharmacy. If I am not visiting a friend at SGH, I will never find out the price difference.  

We know government hospitals are not subsidizing medicines, not to mention hospital pharmacies that cater for public.

So even at $3.82 per tube (including GST), SGH (Singapore General Hospital) pharmacy is still making profit!  Does this mean pharmacies outside SGH are having unreasonable huge profits?   

Is this a ‘one-off’ special case or a common practice?

I regular buy this skin cream at a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) shop. Last year, it was $5 per tube. However, recently, the price changes a lot from $5 to $8. It forces me to check the price at Guardian and NTUC pharmacy. They offer even higher price than the TCM shop. I think I may have to get cheaper and similar skin cream from Johor Bahru until I find out the cheaper price at SGH.

I wonder why the price increase so much outside SGH pharmacy. From $5 to $8, this is a 60% increase. We know electricity and water prices are going to increase, so hawkers and coffee shops also increase their prices. But I don’t think they increase their coffee or food price by 60%.

[Lack of Information]

We really don’t have perfect information and the market is also not in perfect competition.

We need to compare price. Even I shop at TCM shop, I can still manage to save 90 cents to $1 per tube. Actually, I bought 6 tubes at SGH pharmacy, you can imagine my savings. ($48-$22.90 = $25.10)    

Comparing TCM shop, Guardian and NTUC pharmacy, TCM shops are less likely to enjoy ‘economy of scale’ in their purchase. But how can they offer cheaper than the big boys?  Is this an advantage or disadvantage of small and medium size enterprise?

How can we protect the interest of consumers under an imperfect information environment? Oh! Some one may suggest we have CASE (The Consumers Association of Singapore)?

[Selective Reporting]

Under the imperfect information environment, we can also do selective reporting. The government can claim government hospitals do not make profit just look at the skin cream we are charging, so much lower than outside.

This is a ‘feel good’ reporting. Outside the government hospitals, whether you are able to get the same price or higher price, the selective reporting does not concern so much.  The report’s duty is just to project the good image of the government.

When the government announces that water and electricity price is going to increase, or transport fares are going to adjust, they always refer to ‘market price’. In this case, they are referring prices in the market (TCM shops, NTUC or Guardian).      

When they price the HDB (Housing and Development Board) flat and fees for university education, the government also uses the market price. However, when they calculate National Service pay, the government refers it as NS allowance. Allowance, of course, is different from market compensation.

Selective reporting can be bias and for political purpose. In Singapore, we can see this in not only in news reporting but also in radio, broadcasting and social media.  



For the purpose of illustration, the above report can also base on sentence reduction in term of percentage. Here, we can select and rank percentage reduction for all of them. And obviously, we will see the difference - who get more cut and who get less!   

Punishment Reduction in Percentage

Original
After Appeal
% Reduction
Kong Hee
8 years
3 years 6 months
56.25%
Chew Eng Han
6 years
3 years 4 months
44.44%
Tan Ye Peng
5 years 6 months
3 years 2 months
42.42%
Serina wee
5 years
2 years 6 months
50.00%
John Lam
3 years
1 year 6 months
50.00%
Sharon Tan
1 year 9 months
7 months
66.67%


[Is selective reporting Fake News?]

Recently, we talk a lot about fake news and the government is thinking very hard to catch and punish the ‘fake news’ reporters.

This makes one wonder can selective reporting, bias reporting, brainwashing reporting, propaganda reporting also be a kind of fake news?