Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lee Hsien Loong's 'Answers' to TOC's Open Letter

An Open Letter was sent to Mr.Lee Hsien Loong by a TOC reader today. The full letter is here . Mr.Lee, contrary to expectations, has promptly responded and answered most of the questions. However he has mistakenly sent his responses, to us. We therefore feel it our duty to publish his remarkably honest replies (which are in italics), together with the original questions, as follows:

Financial crisis: What were the exact losses suffered by Temasek Holdings (Temasek) and the Government Investment Corporation (GIC) between 2008 and 2009 owing to the global financial crisis? How much of the losses were recovered in 2010?

We cannot provide you this information as it is not in the interest of national security. Besides, it would make us look bad!

Shin Corporation, ABC Learning etc: How much has Singapore lost on its investments in these and similar companies over the past five years?

We can't tell you how much because it's a state secret. What would you do with it, anyway? Let bygones be bygones.

Has anyone been held accountable for the losses? (We are specifically interested in the second question).

No, she has not. It is not her fault anyway, she just invested in those companies, she didn't manage them. Are you trying to cause friction between me and my wife? How would you like it if somebody interfered in your family affairs?

Myanmar: How much of Singapore’s public money is invested in Myanmar? Did Singapore sell arms to the military junta and is it continuing to do military deals with the government in that country? Why does Singapore continue to have relations with this repressive regime at all?

We have no choice as we too are oppressors. If they fall, and Singaporeans see that authoritarian governments can be defeated, it may give them ideas. It's bad enough what's happening in the Middle East! Order and a strong government like Egypt's and Libya's replaced by a rabble? We can't have that!

Failed SGX-ASX merger: We understand the Australian government has rejected the proposed merger of the Singapore and Australian Stock Exchanges owing to its strongly negative perception of the government’s holdings in the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) through Temasek. Would you care to comment on why Temasek’s interests in SGX should be viewed negatively?

The Australians are biased against us because we are Asians.

Could it be because of excessive government control of business and industry in Singapore?

No, it's because they're jealous of our success.

Would you say it has something to do with the opaque manner in which the government operates its businesses and its tendency to monopolise certain sectors of the economy?

We are not opaque. If we don't give you information, it's for your own good or because it's a matter of national security.

Road traffic: .... The people would like to know whether your government and specifically, your talented cabinet, has a similar culture of accountability and acceptance of responsibility?

No, we obviously don't! duh!

However, we agree with you that we are talented and would like to add that we are the best of the best and the cream of the crop. We are also fully deserving of our enormous remunerations. If you try to cut our salaries, we will immediately leave and join the private sector. And then where would you be?

Median wages: The median income for all households in Singapore rose by barely 1.6% per year in real terms over the past decade[ii]. Income for the bottom third of households increased by much less. During this time, Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 86% from $162.6 b to $303.7 b[iii]. Your Ministers have, of course, rewarded themselves handsomely based on the growth of the economy.
Would you care to explain why wages have not kept pace with the growth of the economy?

No clue. It may be because you're not putting enough effort. My wages, for your information have outperformed the economy. It is because I work hard. And because I decide on my own salary.

Would you agree that your single KPI, GDP growth, is hopelessly misaligned with the interests of Singaporeans as a whole?

Yes, I would agree.

 Shouldn’t the main KPI for senior civil servants and ministers be median wages rather than the GDP?

We can't do that. We wouldn't make any money!

Other indicators: Shouldn’t non-material indicators such as work-life balance of Singaporeans, working hours and leisure time, flexible working hours for young parents, our carbon footprint, population density and so on also be included in the KPI of senior officers in your government?

If you're interested in quality of life, please migrate to Austalia or something. Others have, without complaining like you!
What's a carbon footprint?
Our KPI's are based on real facts, like how much we can make. They are not based on the arty-farty, fancy-pancy stuff you have suggested.

We have already touched upon the stagnant wages of the bottom third of society. There have been many stories in the media concerning the elderly and the homeless in Singapore. Why is it that despite Singapore’s phenomenal economic growth, we continue to have an underclass of desperately poor people? Could it be because your government’s mindless pursuit of economic growth has been divorced from all concerns of whether or not the growth benefits all segments of society?

Yes, we cannot be concerned with these people. They are lazy fellows. Many foreigners are doing very well here. Be more like them.

2. The number of hospital beds in Singapore has been stagnant over the past decade. In fairness to you, several new hospitals are coming on-stream over the next few years. Nevertheless, we hear that large sections of the people are not covered under the Medishield programme for various categories of serious illnesses, such as cancer, as has been highlighted on this blog recently. Why is it that Singapore, with a per capita GDP approaching $60,000[iv] cannot provide a basic safety-net for the poorest or the stricken in our society, in keeping with those in other countries at a similar level of development?

If they exercised and followed a proper diet, they wouldn't get sick and we wouldn't have this problem. It is their own fault that they are sick. If you want cheap medical care, go to Malaysia.

Would you agree with the charge that your government’s liberal foreign worker policy has disadvantaged and impoverished our people?

No, I would not agree. We have never been liberals. The people are not impoverished. They are fine. Don't cause trouble.

Would you agree that a country can have a high GDP per head while maintaining a low population density and a high quality of life (eg Luxembourg)? Do you not agree that the business model pursued by your government has resulted in a congested and environmentally degraded city? Has this overcrowding not resulted in public housing (HDB) prices rising by over 60% in the past three years?

That's a good thing because your house is worth more. If you don't yet have a house, work harder. Please don't talk about the environment. It is fine. Are you one of those forign greenpeace types? We don't need people like you radicalising our pliable citizens.

After almost half a century since independence and the end of the Malayan Insurgency and Konfrontasi, and 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, why are Singapore citizens still not allowed to freely:
  • Assemble
  • Because you will block traffic and disrupt business and bring attention to our incompetencies.
  • Speak in public
  • Why not just speak in private. Are you looking for attention?
  • Demonstrate peacefully
  • How do we know you will be peaceful? You will more likely break windows and burn cars. If that happens we will have a national security crisis and may be invaded by Malaysia. What is your address?
  • Publish newspapers
  • Why would you want to publish newspapers? There are already many newspapers being published. You would not make any money. Don't you want to make money? Please focus on making money. The future of all Singaporeans depends on it.
  • Broadcast on television and the Internet?
  • What do you want to broadcast? We will have to approve it first. Please submit to us in triplicate together with 6 photos of yourself. No nudity, spitting, chewing-gum or making fun of us.
Why do we need a law that allows detention without trial? Surely your government can produce a proper anti-terrorism law that allows those charged the benefit of a fair trial? Why are we still stuck in the past with retrograde, repressive laws?

So that you will be intimidated and frightened of us. So that we may continue to run the country, uninterrupted, and pay ourselves whatever we wish!

We hope it is not too much to expect an answer from you to these questions?

It is too much. I am a busy man with many responsibilities and cannot be bothered to account myself to ordinary people like you.

With a salary approaching $4 million a year for yourself, three full ministers assisting you and a budget for the Prime Minister’s Office of close to $348 million per year we pray these questions will not burden you too much.

How did you get this information? And besides, my salary is not approaching $4 Million a year. It is only $3.4 Million. If you round it up to the closest million, I can only be said to be earning $3 Million. Please don't exaggerate!

The people look forward to your reply to this brief report card so they can decide whether or not to give you and your government a clean bill of health in the coming General Election.

The people don't get to decide such things. We will decide for them. They only need to do, and vote, as they're told!

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

You're welcome.

Yours sincerely,
A Concerned Singaporean

PS: We know you will be overwhelmed with questions at the Q&A session on Channel NewsAsia “live” on Tuesday and that the editors will have a hard time picking the questions for you to answer. I am sure there is no truth to the rumour that they will pick the ones that show your government in the best light.

Of course they pick the ones that show us in the best light. If there are none, they write it themselves.

 In any case, we hope the written questions above will give you time to ponder over them at your leisure and reply at your convenience. Singaporeans await your reply with bated breath.

We have answered. You don't need to hold your breath anymore!


  1. I missed him saying 'let's move on' leh ...

  2. HA HA HA! You know them inside out, don't you?!

  3. Hi Owl, it is still not too late for PM Lee to hire you as his 1st choice principal private secretary. the other bloke can still keep his job as 2nd choice. you see, this PM likes to surround himself with many handlers, MM, 2SM, 2DPM, 4inPMO and HC. LOL

  4. So MM didn't do his proper job of mentoring the PM, no ? Or was he interested in the pay only ?

    And the mentoring was and is a con job by itself ?

  5. Your entry is nothing but childish. If you want to criticise, at least learn to be constructive. Doesnt help at all by whining and complaining.
    Get a life

  6. Hilarious, I split my sides reading this!

    You forgot his eight-month bonus, which is on top of the $3.4m salary. Besides, with the President's salary having recently been bumped up by $800k to $4.2m, its a matter of time before the rest move up, close to this figure.

    Government expenditure is on the MOF website, 2011 budget.

  7. Ha, Ha, it is good to have a laugh about ourselves ever now and then. Looks like his scriptwriters goofed up AGAIN, judging from the replies. Or maybe it is AGAIN simply the vehicle of delivery fault.

    Ehh, would this site be gazetted too? Locked up and key thrown away?

  8. There is a dearth of good political humour in this country, in the tradition of Punch and Private Eye (and, of course, Yes Minister).

    Look forward to more such pieces from The Owl.