THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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Pulling a Fast One

Posted by inspir3d on August 25, 2006

High impact2Is Mr Wang done with PM Lee’s rally speech yet? Almost. First, let’s recap two major trends/policies for Singapore:

(1) Singapore faces the challenge of an ageing population (or so we’re told). Current projections show that one in five Singaporeans will be over the age of 65 by 2030. The government therefore wants to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies.

(2) Singapore’s economy lacks skilled manpower (or so we’re told). The government wants to import huge numbers of foreign talents, to keep the economy going strong.”

…more (Mr Wang)

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35 Responses to “Pulling a Fast One”

  1. darkness said

    “I see his attempt to tie the lack of babies to the immediate need for foreigners as just another sales strategy to convince the Singaporean public about his foreign talent schemes.”

    Mr Wang, it’s a straight line computation with zero margin for approximations.

    PM spoke in simple English, which part of it do you not understand?

    What the PM was trying to convey (to me at least) was simply this:

    We have a deficit in the population and there is a need to augment it by actively encouraging a policy of selective immigration , otherwise in the future we will face a demographic nightmare in the shape and form of the law of minimum.

    “Selling” is hardly the appropriate word to use here. It implies spinning and political sleight of hand.

    As a lawyer you should know better than to use such words without regard to their hidden meanings.

    He was simply laying down the decision making nexus and any suggestion he did otherwise is simply closer to your imagination than to reality.

    You people try too hard.

    Yes, I am sure if you choose to winnow his speech further, you may eventually even come across more ambiguities to suggest they are perhaps oblique references to something other than what was actually said.

    Once a man cultivates such a bent, it is easy to search out the incongruities of life everywhere – wheelchairs r truly superior to limbs, but all cripples eventually see how fragile their beliefs when they are confronted with a flight of stairs.

    The art of reasoning on the basis of fractional minutiae – where the aggregates are themselves the sum of all and more, if only the rest of the world can see it as clearly as all of us. Lol.

    Before some of you shoot me dead and suggest I am a PAP supporter, please be clear on this – I am not, but I do subscribe to a set of values which I feel the need to impose upon you this afternoon for reasons I choose to keep private:

    Every man (and that man may even be you or for that matter anyone else) must be given a fair chance to prove his worth, if you deny him this right, then it could be said, you have committed the supreme act of discourtesy to none other but yourself by being the lesser of the two even if he manages to prove you right by being a failure.

    Every brother knows this, the ninth rule of Omertan code of the brotherhood. It applies universally, doesnt matter whether a brother sees a stranger being beaten up by ten men in cyberspace or the real world, he steps in and does the right thing. (I am disappointed none in the brotherhood took issue with you on this point and so I must. Perhaps discipline has even broken down in the brotherhood since my absence of 2 yrs!)

    Btw your calculations on babies vs FT’s and the rest of your homespun economic theories are utterly ludicrous and I haven’t even begun to comment on your assumptions yet – if you want me to rebut them on a point by point basis with refereed references, do feel free to come on down here. Don’t say, I never gave you a right of reply.

    Here u go a snippet of the error of your calculations.

    Hint: The math of diminishing returns.

    The story goes like this and please don’t say, I am cryptic sort of fellow. I am not, I am simply deploying a reasoned way to put my point across like you lawyers typically do with the doctrine of precedent.

    When the old soviet authorities measured the productivity of their glass factories in metric tons, they made glass that was too thick. When they measured them according to surface area / square meters, they made it too thin. What should they do ideally?

    the moral of the story…….that I will leave to you. Remember as we always say,

    straight line computation with zero margin for approximations…..no doubt abt it….you were wrong.

    If only you knew the math behind the reason for the decision….if only you knew of the doomsday report they called the bell curve.

  2. inspir3d said

    “if you want me to rebut them on a point by point basis with refereed references, do feel free to come on down here.”

    darkness – why wait? please do so anyway. i would love to publish such a rebuttal.

  3. OrnateGhost said

    I would love to see a point-by-point rebuttal from darkness. Rather than have this chap hide behind some mumbo jumbo about brotherhoods, Omertan code, diminishing returns, straight line computation with zero margin nonsenses. Not to mention a old soviet glass-making story.

    And you (darkness) do this over so many words when you could have just spent the same bandwidth on a proper rebuttal.

    “You people try too hard”

    On the contrary, you don’t try hard enough. Not hard enough to read the message, see the logical disconnect but instead chose to smoke-out with your mumbo jumbo.

    No, you’re not close to being a PAP supporter. You’re too naive to be one.

  4. inspir3d said

    hmm can we refrain from the personal attacks please. thanks

  5. JDAM said

    why dont you all fight him like a real man? – where is your much lauded freedom of speech now when you come across a cold blade of steel. I wonder la? pls do make my day, bc I do so enjoy seeing a good fight. Besides who are you all to ask for a point by point, dont tell me none of you know the protocal of duelling. Only the respondent is permitted the right to a first shot, bro darkness is yet to even “let loose”. if he does, it would be like the navigators say, straight line computation with zero margin for approximations, no doubt abt it. The arrow will find it’s mark.

    I am not going to get personal here bc of respect for our host.

    We are waiting for ah wang. He likes to take shots at ppl who he knows will never ever reply to him.

    So there you go, a challenge was made, the challenger waits and the challenged cabut. Cut and dried.

  6. JDAM said

    “But babies can’t work. They don’t contribute to the economy. They’re not research scientists, engineers, bankers or teachers. That would take another 20 to 25 years to happen.

    Meanwhile, we import foreign talent. Let’s say A*STAR finds a 40-year-old stem research scientist in the US and imports him into Singapore. He settles here, and because of his valuable skills, immediately starts contributing to the economy. However, he is not a baby.”

    straight line computation with zero margin for approximations, no doubt abt it Mr Wang, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking abt.

    Do you have any idea how much money it takes to raise a child to adulthood in singapore? And where does all that money go? Again I wonder la.

    Can you imagine a national defense force comprising of only FT’s. I know la we have the gurkha contigent, but do you know why they remain a contingent and not a batallion? I wonder again la.

    “because of his valuable skills, immediately starts contributing to the economy” – you really believe return on investment in research and development is that simple. Go and take a deeper look at the John Hopskin case study, I mean dont just look at it superficially, but really examine it and you will find something which we in the brotherhood all know only too well, appearances can be very deceptive – it’s a chimera.

    I look forward to your reply ah wang.

  7. Hi there said

    Heheh … okay lor, you go and approximate a one-year-old baby to a 40-year-old working adult. If you believe that such an approximation makes sense, ah well, I think we do not have much else to discuss.

  8. Mr Wang said

    Heheh … okay lor, you go and approximate a one-year-old baby to a 40-year-old working adult. If you believe that such an approximation makes sense, ah well, I think we do not have much else to discuss.

    I have explained my position in very simple terms. You’re not able to explain yours. You know why? Heheh.

  9. harphoon said

    what r u doing here another mr brown hor? Cite the case lah. A matter has been placed before u is this yr best? State yr attribution mr lawyer or are you one of those who feel, you dont need too bc of freedom of speech. He has challenged you and the best u can come up with is “You’re not able to explain yours. You know why?” you mean to say this is the way you conduct your brief?

  10. The KTM thinks that Mr Wang is smoking some weed. The KTM will write a real commentary on this foreign talent/immigration/babies issue when the KTM is more free. It’s a very complex situation. Akan datang. 😛

  11. Curious said

    “In 20 or 25 years’ time, he will be 60 or 65 years old and would have become one extra member in the senior citizen population for the Singapore government to worry about. In fact, the more we import foreign talent in their 30s and 40s, the greater our future “aging population” problem will become!”

    Would be nice to see how Mr Wang rationalizes his assumption that these foreign talents will remain permanently and add to the aging population problem.

  12. Mr Wang said

    KTM: it is indeed a complex issue. I became more interested in the aging population issue after the Institute of Policy Studies cited my blog post on retirement age (when they held their forum on global aging issues). I definitely intend to write more about the aging population in future.

    Curious: The government’s intention, certainly, is that as many of them as possible should stay. It’s interesting to note the number of foreigners who were granted Singapore citizenships last year (this was recently reported in the press). The number corresponds very closely to the figure that PM Lee quoted as being our baby shortfall last year.

    Even then, my assumption is rather secondary, and non-essential to my more-fundamental point that babies are not adults, and adults are not babies. The lack of babies since 2004 did not cause the lack of skilled manpower in 2006; the intake of FT will not address the aging population issue in the way that Singapore having more babies would. If Singapore does not successfully retain its FTs, then in any case PM Lee would have failed in the implementation of his FT ideas anyway. Failure is not his intention – what do you think?

    Harpoon: Out of curiosity, which part of my post do you actually disagree with it? I would like to know. I actually welcome disagreements with my opinions, if these disagreements are actually articulated in some way intended to make a real point.

    JDAM: Boosting retail consumption however is clearly not the intention of PM Lee’s baby-making incentives. Feel free to prove me wrong, and find me any speech of his where he says something like this: “Singaporeans should have more babies, so that parents will buy diapers, milk bottles, toys, clothes and pay for school fees and thereby contribute to the economy.” Please be considerate – this is a serious discussion.

  13. Darkness said

    By saying babies do not have an economic value it is like using only one performance indicator, the GNP as a measure to determine economic progress – sure that country may have an impressive balance sheet, but perhaps this was accomplished at a cost to the environment which destroyed it’s capacity to sustain it’s renewable resources – short term gain at the expense of long term advantage.

    That’s the problem when you use one measure and disregard the rest. You end up seeing only a small part instead of the whole picture.

    You can even say the whole construct of the debate Mr Wang framed is essentially flawed. The whole idea of attempting to reduce FT’s and babies to one simple unit of measurement and attempting to calculate their wealth generating potential is simply not what the science of economics was designed to accomplish.

    Boil down economics to it’s essentials and what do you have? The proposition all humans will usually take advantage of opportunities. While this may be a sensible tool to explain the supply and demand for goods and services, it doesn’t even have the scope to address the complexities associated with nation building.

    Firstly, all the jugular issues comprising of nation building can’t be measured. Love, loyalty, happiness, devotion, reputation, relationships, patriotism, beliefs, values are just not susceptible to numerical manipulations, and the more you try to reduce them into understandable aggregates, the more they will slip through your hands.

    The Nazi’s tried it with a mix of econometrics and eugenics and we all know where that great experiment ended up – 6 million innocent Jews were systematically eradicated because they simply didn’t have enough points to qualify as Aryans, they fell short of the required 3 metric points! But that didn’t prevent Einstein from rubbishing their isometric tables as to what constituted human value.

    Before them, F.Taylor who P.Drucker hailed as the first knowledge worker, but not before exposing his fatal flaw – he too tried very hard to ascribe a quantitative valuation on a human worth by using one simple, measurable part of the worker –their brute strength – while ignoring their imagination and initiative.

    Any sensible person who has an appreciation of the sciences understands the limits of statistical tools. This naturally leads to me to question whether it is sensible to even propose a debate to determine the relative utility of a FT against babies in the wider scope of benefit or advantage to a ageing population.

    In my view Mr Wang, you simply used the wrong tools and your approach is lacks coherency – don’t take my word for it, go and ask any economist or anyone who has a grasp of numbers and they will tell you, your assumptions lacks the requisite quality of intellectual breadth – it cannot even be taken seriously.

  14. Darkness said

    con’t

    If you are wondering why it takes 9 months for a baby to come out into the world, it is the same reason why every nation, not only Singapore requires a sustainable output of babies to replace it’s population. This process of regeneration is key if a nation aspires to perpetuate it’s history, identity, culture and state of being.

    To suggest for one moment, any leader, not only LSL is prepared to trade this long term advantage (babies) for short term economic benefit (FT’s), demonstrates your lack of grasp of the what it really takes to build a nation and it gives me no pleasure to correct you.

    I apologize if I came across in my earlier post as caustic and I hope this will not diminish your regard for me as I for you. As I have always considered your articles for the most part thought provoking and insightful. Darkness.

    End.

  15. JDAM said

    Ah Wang ah, you ppl keep saying gahmen spoonfed u and now that they actually try to empower you with the power of connect the dots u complain again. I wonder why la again.

    You really expect them to tell you the A and Z, I thought you proponents of freedom of speech were a enlightened lot, now u r complaining why the gahmen never bothered to explain the obvious.

    My car doesn’t come with a health warning telling me not to drive over the cliff. My microwave also never come with a warning telling me not to stick my head into it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I should and shouldnt do.

    Learn la to read btw the lines. You have no idea how hard, I am try to be polit

  16. Concerned Singaporean said

    Where can I find a comprehensive study of why the magic 4 million is required?

    How the increase in population is to be managed regards to the following:

    1 land resources

    2 foreign investments (translating to job growth)

    3 any impact on our current social compact in terms of saftey net

    As a singaporean, I hope that such issues can be addressed adequately. I remembered when the government pushed through the Stop at Two policy, the slogan was “the more we have, the less they get” or “生育越多,分享越少”.

    I am not confident that we will be able to attract many companies here who are able to offer many jobs. Even the IRs’ spin off of 30,000 jobs is a one-time thingy? You can’t keep adding more IRs every year. High end research industries also don’t employ many workers, they are not like low-end manufacturers.

    Are we attracting research firms here so we can employ scientists from elsewhere so that 1 or 2 singaporeans can be employed as the clerk and tea lady?

    If so, it is really a problem of skills mis-match.

    I’m not quite the intelligent singaporean but I hope someone point me to some authoritive studies to better convince me why PM’s solution is right…

    We have been bringing in foreign talents for a good many years .. it’s not just yesterday that he had this brainchild. There must be some concrete results that he can quote???

    Thanks.

  17. kathy said

    future cannot be predicted!!! so where do we go from here?

    Soviet glass factory? U havent answered the question – what is yr point?

    Understood.Somethings cannot be reduced into numerics so what is the alternative?

    I am not an economist, but I have an avid interest in this area.

  18. kathy said

    I also wish to know what is your view concerning the strategy of the govt to pursue high tech research in Singapore?

  19. flameoftheforest said

    Neither has he elaborated on the issue of diminishing returns. Infact, he has quite skilfully side stepped the issue.

    I think the root of the problem lies in the front end, instead of the back end. The gahmen says they have given out baby incentives without results. Perhaps they simply havent tried enough.

    I for one would like to know what they have really done.

    None the less the brotherhood continues to speak with great luminosity on virtually every topic of interest, though it is unfortunate, this is all they can ever do considering the way they have choosen to remain indifferent to the causes of the displaced and unfortunate.

    I guess, it’s all talk.

    http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2006/08/a_nation_in_con.html#comments

    How very tragic.

  20. Harphoon said

    Concerned,

    “Where can I find a comprehensive study of why the magic 4 million is required?”

    You cannot and even if you managed to get yr hand on a comprehensive study, it wouldn’t amount to very much.

    On a macro scale such a study has little value beyond the academic.

    On a micro level i.e ministry or dept scale, much of what you term the magic 4 million is essentially based on the science of resource planning.

    Linear programming is the primary engine used for determining resource allocation – essentially the goal is resource optimization to a given set of attributions to ensure equilibrium in infrastructure, housing needs, education, salaries, job opportunities etc.

    1 land resources (see above)

    2 foreign investments (translating to job growth)- (see above)

    3 any impact on our current social compact in terms of saftey net

    (personally, I believe the government has recognized a need to nurture the service industry further. There is still considerable scope for growth in this area. Hence the proposition of the IR model.

    Implicit within this strategy is the recognition jobs in the service industry display less fluctuations since they are country specific.

    Hence less likely to migrate to other countries.

    On high end research & development – there appears to be a overwhelming concerntration on bio-science.

    I dont understand your question.

  21. Harphoon said

    future cannot be predicted!!! so where do we go from here?

    (I don’t believe darkness ever mentioned the future cannot be predicted.

    He merely emphasized a caveat associated with the use of predictive tools.

    It is well known darkness isn’t a great fan of the statistical school of thought, simply because he is an expert in the subject matter and knows it’s inherent limitations.

    All he is advocating is a holistic approach which takes stock of not only the quantitative but also the qualitative.

    His proposition is hardly original, the idea of departing from the traditional stat school of thought was first mooted in the Sorbonne by a few obscure academics in 1999. You may wish to pursue this line of enquiry to seek further clarification on the debate.)

    Soviet glass factory? U havent answered the question – what is yr point?

    (I am sorry Kathy, this is an internal joke meant exclusively for the brotherhood.

    The case in point is well documented and actually transpired during the 50’s in the glass manufacturing factory in Kiev, USSR.

    It is based on a relatively unknown scholarly work by a certain Goodhart who proposed the theory,

    “Any attempt to control the output of people by statistical methods is doomed to failure. People cannot reduced into numbers”

    Within this dictum is the recognition, people will always work their way around problems and the solution is never in the hands of experts or the scientific community.

    The conundrum of how to resolve the problem was once a matter of great consternation to soviet planners – who responded by even recruiting rocket scientist from the Yuri Gagarin institute and though they tried to resolve the problem with reams and reams of math – they still failed – glass still broke during shipment.

    The great conundrum was eventually resolved in quite an unexpected manner one winters morning in 1955, when the central exchange bureau in Moscow ran out of local currency – to substitute remuneration, the factory managers paid the workers with glass goblets.

    No one knows what happened to these glass goblets, they were definitely bartered for other goods and services.

    Perhaps even circulating in the local community, some were even shipped to other parts of the USSR by middle men in the black market.

    Eventually based on feedback from the wife’s of these glass workers – they themselves derived the optimum wall thickness for the glass – the conundrum simply resolved it’self – proving conclusively the solution is never in the hands of experts. Power to the people.

    Understood.Somethings cannot be reduced into numerics so what is the alternative?

    Pls see above.

    I am not an economist, but I have an avid interest in this area.

    We understand.

  22. Harphoon said

    Neither has he elaborated on the issue of diminishing returns. Infact, he has quite skilfully side stepped the issue.

    (Ouch! Disagree. Darkness didn’t feel the need to go the full measure with Mr Wang.

    He felt a flesh wound was sufficient to bring his point to fruition – we in the brotherhood do not believe in war without first pursuing politics to resolve our differences –

    If you press him on the issue. I am certain he would elaborate further.

    On this you can have my complete confidence – the man isn’t to be trifled with – any man who can stand in liberation square and field a barrage of questions from the council is a man who understands the enterprise of waging war.)

    I think the root of the problem lies in the front end, instead of the back end. The gahmen says they have given out baby incentives without results. Perhaps they simply havent tried enough.

    (Well spotted, agreed.)

    I for one would like to know what they have really done.
    None the less the brotherhood continues to speak with great luminosity on virtually every topic of interest, though it is unfortunate, this is all they can ever do considering the way they have choosen to remain indifferent to the causes of the displaced and unfortunate.

    I guess, it’s all talk.
    http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2006/08/a_nation_in_con.html#comments
    How very tragic.

    (Double Ouch! This time I heard something break. You presume too much.

    For one we see no compelling reason to visit Mr Brown’s site, so your post did not even register in our scanners.

    Now that we know, we will have to respond accordingly. I cannot see how we can possibly respond otherwise, since you ladies have checkmated us (again I might add)

    I will make my recommendations, please bear with us.

    Darkness has always harbored the deepest respect and admiration for the press club. He reads many of your articles avidly and has mentioned on numerous occasions, the importance of nurturing the class of literati in our society to perpetuate the art of clear thinking – he encourages many of you to further develop your skills to greater heights.

    Do allow us time to make the necessary arrangements – he has pressing issues in Liberation Square which demands his complete attention –

    Ladies, there is the threat of civil war if negotiations breaks down in the strangelands.

    We the brotherhood will always make good ladies. You all know this deep in your hearts – do bear with us and I shan’t apologize.

    As I said, the matter wasn’t communicated to us.

    Protofightclub proceed to make the arrangements.

  23. Mr Wang said

    Heheh. Sorry but in my opinion, I think you are simply trying to obscure the issues using lots of vague terms to sound clever. Ironically, your criticisms of my post actually make more sense if we imagine that you were criticising PM Lee’s speech instead. For example, imagine if the following amendment were made to your sentence:

    “You can even say the whole construct of the debate Mr Wang PM Lee framed is essentially flawed. The whole idea of attempting to reduce FT’s and babies to one simple unit of measurement and attempting to calculate their wealth generating potential is simply not what the science of economics was designed to accomplish.”

    Yes, babies are not adults, and adults are not babies. You cannot replace babies with foreign talents. That is what I’ve been telling you.

  24. Harphoon said

    Mr Wang dont make a fool of yourself. What you say or what I say is insignificant.

    There is populace here and I am sure they will decide accordingly.

    Trust me.

  25. Mr Wang said

    “I think the root of the problem lies in the front end, instead of the back end. The gahmen says they have given out baby incentives without results. Perhaps they simply havent tried enough. I for one would like to know what they have really done.”

    Oh, I can tell you. He introduced a bunch of baby-making incentives around the end of August 2004. Let’s bullishly assume that some Singaporean couples then got very enthusiastic about having a baby, and the men and women were highly fecund and immediately managed to conceive in the next quarter (Oct – Dec 2004). These incentive-inspired babies would only start arriving from around July onwards, in 2005

    In other words, babies delivered in the 1st half of 2005 could not have been inspired by PM Lee’s incentives. Only babies delivered in the 2nd half might have been. One imagines that to see if the baby-making incentives are working or not, it is only logical to wait another year or two.

    However, in 2006, PM Lee pounces on the 2005 figure for total no. of babies delivered; declares it to be low; announces that his incentives have failed; and then says, “Oh therefore we must import more foreigners.”

    No time to lose! Anything to justify importing more foreigners immediately, immediately, immediately.

  26. Mr Wang said

    Harpoon:

    Oh yes, the brotherhood has stood in liberation square, diminishing its returns. The flesh wound of the press club has fielded a barrage of questions and will understand the populace’s enterprise of waging war. You speak with such great luminosity that the class of literati must think Mr Wang is the fool, not you. Heheh, you’re funny.

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  31. observer said

    Why it will be tough for a Singaporean to beat the Jews at the Nobel Prize? « What Others Say? Says:
    October 13th, 2007 at 1:21 pm
    […] Why it will be tough for a Singaporean to beat the Jews at the Nobel Prize? […]

  32. observer said

    Darkness wants all the archive in the SA to be stored by the Brotherhood Press.

    Pls see to it chronicler. One down, two to go.

  33. Chronicler said

    By your command. Done!

  34. KOHO said

    I don’t think darkness is even bothered abt them any longer. If they do come back, we will give one more round of goodies lah.

  35. KOHO said

    Besides with a production rate of one article per month, come or go also same lah. Makes no difference, not even a bit.

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