Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gambling as a form of Tax

I was at the coffeeshop when Aunty Nancy came by to have her lunch. She had recently been to a tour on the operations of Singapore Pools, Singapore's largest legal lottery operator. She shared that members of the public can witness the makings of the winning numbers at Paradiz Centre. Also, Singapore Pools allocate a percentage of its earnings to charitable causes.

With that said, she commented that gambling is actually a form of tax in Singapore. When one gambles, a portion of that gamble goes to good causes. If you win, you get a tax refund. If you lose, you are just paying your day-to-day tax.

Gambling has surfaced as a very hot topic ever since the Singapore government decided to allow the building of casinos in the city state. There have been so much debates about the decision such that it is meaningless for me to reiterate them in this blog.

I have seen how gambling destroyed people's careers and family. I had seen the destructive experiences that gambling could impose. But there is also the happy face of gambling.

If the monetary component in gambling makes it a form of tax, then the psychological factor would make it a form of spiritual tax. Gambling provides the "feel-good" factor, just like any other addiction. It also provides a hope for the middle and low income group - the one chance to strike it big and live a luxurious life.

In the end of the day, gambling like tax will just suck your money into a black hole. And as taxpayer, you don't directly enjoy the benefits of your contribution. So if gambling is a form of tax, then why bother gambling?

Monday, August 18, 2008

National Day Rally 2008

17 August 2008

After missing National Day Rally 2007, I told myself I will not miss National Day Rally 2008. Participants were to reach at 5.45pm for refreshments. I reached at 5.30pm. There were already a crowd at the University Cultural Centre @ National University of Singapore (NUS). I caught up with Zul and had some nice refreshments catered from Meritus Mandarin Hotel.

According to a veteran RC member, it's wise to arrive early and queue early to enter the Auditorium. Those that came later would be designated to proceed to levels 2 and 3. Those even later would enter a theatrette to view the Rally from a screen.


As were waiting for the Rally to commence, we looked as the MPs and various VIPs enter from the front side door. It was great to see Mr Chiam See Tong, though he staggered a little, probably due to his recent stroke. As one Grassroots Leader puts it, "The Heart of Singapore is Here!"

In National Day Rally 2008, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong employed the use of IT to illustrate his points. For the first time, there were English subtitles of his speech in Malay and Mandarin on a slideshow. He would later used graphs and other images to bring across his points with the powerpoint slideshow.

PM Lee's speech covered economic issues (specifically inflation and ERP concerns), raising happy families, gracious society, cyber society and writing our Singapore story together.

For economic issues, the audience clapped thunderously when PM Lee revealed that the Government would be dishing out 50% more dividends in October. 3-room flat dwellers would be getting about S$5,000 worth of support from the Government this year. With graphics, PM Lee convinced us that the ERP did not make the average car user worse off than a few years ago. Instead the lowering of other taxes brought in lower net revenue to the Government.

Expressing concern over the low Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of Singapore, PM Lee hinted a possible merger of Social Development Unit (SDU) and Social Development Service (SDS) to cater to a wider group. I thought this was a change that should have been done long ago. At present, SDU focuses on matchmaking graduates while SDS focuses on matchmaking non-graduates. This elitist policy is finally scrapped. The Prime Minister also suggested having a SDU Trust Accreditation for dating agencies so that single Singaporeans can be assured of the quality.

To encourage couples to give birth to more babies, PM Lee called for an extension of Child care leave from 2 days to 6 days. Maternity leave is also extended to 16 weeks! Furthermore, benefits would also extend to the 5th and subsequent child, instead to only 4.

Highlighting the importance of the Government to pay attention to cyber society, PM Lee wowed the audience when he used his mobile phone Quik application to instantly capture us in a video on screen. He quipped, "Here's our first non-political video." After the table tennis match, PM Lee surprised us when he instantly connected to Team Singapore at Beijing and started a web chat.

For politics, the Speaker's Corner would now have the Nparks in charge, instead of the police. Demonstrations and strikes would be allowed within the premise, as hinted by DPM Wong Kan Seng some few months ago.

The overall experience was good. I would rate this National Day Rally as among the best I have heard over the years. Not only has PM Lee delivered his agenda and concerns to Singaporeans, he impressed many of us with his use of digital media and dispelled myths with convincing data to show that the Government is doing its part to help the poor.

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Update on 21 August 2008: Reflections

Since I was interviewed by Today Newspaper [ http://www.todayonline.com/articles/271664.asp], there were some comments and concerns from readers. In this section, I'll seek to address these concerns.

A reader left a comment stating that it is a matter of "integrity" whether or not one should reveal the details of the Rally. I feel that this is too exaggerated. The PM only mentioned not to share his jokes, so technically there wasn't any instructions not to share the information in blogs. The local media can be controlled but not bloggers [participatory journalism]. Besides this is the cyber society that the PM was focusing on. As long as the information is accurate and factual, there should be no qualms about sharing information. Of course, if there were clear instructions to keep the details to ourselves, then I wouldn't be blogging about the Rally prior to the telecast.

First-time readers could read up my featured posts (see right column) to find out the events that I have written on and some "business opportunities" that I exposed.

I would like to also thank some of the readers who sent me compliments.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Maiden Visit to the Parliament Gallery

25 February 2008

During my National Service, I had been to the Parliament House for security duties. Each time I was there, I was mesmerised by the majestic and supreme aura of the entity. Since then, I always wanted to visit the Parliament Gallery to listen to debates. Today I fulfilled my desire.

After the first security check, I exchanged my identity card with the security pass. Then, another round of security check and I placed my belongings with mobile phone with the counter and proceeded to the 3rd floor. Prior to entering the Gallery, there was yet another round of security check.

I was accompanied by a staff who asked if it was my first time here. She was helpful and brought me into the Gallery, bowing with me to the Speaker Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, before taking my seat. The seat armrest had a compartment for the earphones used when there is a need for translation.

The Gallery was filled with students, Government officials, Parliament staff and the Police Security Command personnels. That said, there were only a handful of members of the public. There were flat-screen Sharp Aquos televisions that show a close-up of the MP giving the speech.

Most of the Cabinet members were present. Managed to see MM Lee, SM Goh, PM Lee, DPM Prof Jayakumar, DPM Wong, Leader of the House Mah Bow Tan, Whip Lim Swee Say, Dr Yaacob, BG George Yeo.

The Nominated MPs presented their points well in the debate.

During the recess, I met Hafiz who had signed on with the Singapore Police Force. Getting married in June, Sgt Hafiz and I had a long chat before I returned to the Gallery.

I was intrigued by the ceremonial procedures when the Leader of the House proposed to the Speaker for adjournment of the debate. Members of the House then replied to the Speaker's question by a "nye" or a "no".

Later, went to dine with Jerry and friends. Was surprised, yet thrilled to receive a call from Ruth. Then went into the cinema to watch L - Change the World.

...You alone cannot change the world...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Chinese New Year Dinners

17 February 2008

Today the Istana was open to all Grassroots leaders for a Chinese New Year Garden Party in conjunction with Chinese New Year (of course). Faizah's Father gave us a ride to the Istana, since we both live in the same block.

Traffic police lined the road leading to the Istana. We were fortunate to be allowed to drop off there since it's double-zigzagged yellow lined road. We came early as we had a RC dinner later in the evening. However, we were not allowed entry since our MPs wouldn't be here yet. Anyhow, we went to Plaza Singapura for a cup of Mocha Frappucino at Starbucks.

We chatted for a while with most part talking about her life teaching in Bedok North Secondary School. When time came, we queued up at Istana for security clearance and then boarded the shuttle bus.

A symphonic Chinese Orchestra was performing for the crowd. Chinese Calligraphic Society members were writing for free. Other cultural groups were offering their services as well. Food was laid buffet style and waitresses were serving drinks to the crowd.

Ministers and MPs were scattered around and mingled with the crowd. Most were tied up with people wanting to take photographs with them. Managed to get a shot of Madam Ho Ching, wife of PM Lee.



Me in front of Istana Building with a messy hair.



Assoc. Prof Jayakumar!



After wishing our Mayor Zainul, we went back in Mr Yap's car to rush back for our RC event.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mayor's Dialogue on Aging Population and GST

The Mayor of North East CDC, Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed gave the Grassroots Leaders (GRLs) an insight into the government's view on aging population and the reasons behind the GST hike. It was a very easy-to-understand kind of presentation and it enabled the GRLs to have a clearer picture of the current situation.

Upon registration, I sat with some YEC members at the registration table for some chit-chats. All of the GRLs that I met were friendly and returned smiles and greetings. Overall, it was a warm feeling that they exude.

Soon, the mayor arrived and he then get the people at the registration table to actually introduce ourselves. He arrived on time. And then we went in to grab a seat.

The mayor signalled us to sit in the front row, where it was reserved for himself and some other senior GRLs. When I went to the front, he extended his hand out again and clarified my name with him. His effort in getting my name right impressed me. He could have simply thought he knew me and carried on his speech.

The Q&A went on after his speech. At 10.35pm, instead of asking for the last question, he requested for 3 more questions. This, I believe, is a very tactful way of managing the time issue. At the end of the dialogue, he stayed back for further queries.

This is an interesting Mayor.