When the End justified the Means – Baloney and Crap

“The problem (remote gambling) exists today, with or without this managed space. Even with our bans and blocks, people find ways to go around it. We will continue to endeavour to continue to increase the friction, but we know that that overall space is just growing and given the profile of internet penetration in Singapore, there is a very real risk that people who really do desire to be online to game will find alternatives, despite everything that we have done. So, having a managed space allows us at least to provide a safer alternative.” Minister Tan Chuan-Jin as reported in the msm.

To cut out all the politically correct crap – this simply means – If you can’t beat them, join them.

After so many years I am still amazed at the talent that our scholars have in coming up with such creative spin to back the wishes of their political master.

Take the amendment to the Elected Presidential Act. Only the arse licking, boot sucking people will fail to see what it was for. The rest of the country knew why there is this big rush to push through the amendments. Was there a big hue and cry from the Malay community to have their race represented as President of Singapore? If the gahmen is sincere and truthful that the changes are not to prevent Dr Tan Cheng Bock from contesting the upcoming election, then it should kiv the implementation until after the 2017 election. But of course we all know it won’t be the case although I will be very happy to be proven wrong.

The justification for the exemption of Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club from the Remote Gambling Act is so weak that I am really amazed that they can come out with it and explain it with a straight face. Admittedly online gambling is ever present but not everybody in Singapore know how to access it or trust the operators of these mostly shady websites. By allowing Singapore Pools and Turf Club to run their own sites, it is making it easy for the rest of the population to go online gambling with a trusted and known institution. The real reason I suspect is not so much “managed control” but to earn a slice of the pie which according to their own admission is growing at 6 – 8 % annually.

And this is not without precedent. Just look back at the justification for the 2 casinos.

“Tourism is booming in Asia-Pacific and either Singapore stands still and doesn’t take full advantage of this growth, or we join everybody else and compete for part of this growth … if you want to compete for part of this growth, then Singapore must offer new attractions, new ways to attract people to Singapore. … Singapore, which is considering a casino as part of a resort that will include hotels, convention centers and an entertainment complex, is aiming to double annual tourist arrivals to 17 million and triple tourism revenue to S$30 billion ($18 billion) by 2015. – Minister Lim Hng Kiang 2005.

So at the end, for the Remote Gambling and the “Integrated Resort”, it is about revenue. Maybe the gahmen can argue job creation as well. I don’t see why not? But like the Elected Presidential Act, what the gahmen wants, the gahmen gets. By whatever justification.

Going Going and ……

Most people know Singapore as a concrete city yet everywhere we looks there are greenery. Most estates have a small neighbour park and almost every town has at least 1 major park. In fact if one see Singapore from space, what one see is a fairly green island not just the tower and tower of building. But I believe our beloved gahmen that knows what best for us is soon going to change that. In a matter of years, it will be just all concrete grey and nothing else. No more green.

Sure we have nature reserve but those are good in name only. Even the Central Catchment Reserve is not untouchable as a mrt line is going under it and the Mandai jungle area get turns into an eco hub. Anything that brings in $$$$ is good. Nevermind the forest or the creatures that inhabits it. We can always build a few replicate of the Garden by the Bay which can meet the same purpose of greening and best of all  brings in the crowd, not those dirty hot creepy crawlies infested forests that have no facilities and is so inaccessible!

This place here is a place in Tampines not some countryside in Australia or New Zealand. Adjoining it is a quarry. Very peaceful and beautiful but I must admit infested with mozzies. It will soon be redeveloped to make way for a nice nature park which to me will brings cut down all the trees, plant some new saplings, put in some tracks and facilities and a beautiful manicured park much like the Springleaf Nature Park – boring and devoid of any soul.

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This next photo is that of a place in Yishun. Just a few years ago there wee many green forests like that in Yishun. This is now one of a very small pockets remaining with the rest making ways for condominiums and industrial buildings. When will this piece follows? The gahmen seems in a extraordinary hurry to clear all the forests in Yishun so my guess will be within the next couple of years.DSC_1391

Over in Jurong which used to be a swamp, hardly any more green area is left so I was surprised to see this small patch of untamed land there. But with all the surrounding already developed I guess this place will soon go the way of the dodo bird!DSC_1443

One place that I been meaning to visit for some time but is now too late is this little piece of land in Lentor. For this place, earthwork has started and its no longer a matter of when but gone. To make way for more condominiums and other development!DSC_1462

I don’t know what the gahmen is thinking. Almost everyone I spoke to, be it the general public, the SME or the bankers – everybody know there is an oversupply of houses and industrial spaces. Yet the gahmen continues to release lands to profit driven greedy developers to build and build, nevermind that right now there is already such a big glut. Despite all that talks about being environmentally friendly blah blah blah, the gahmen is doing a double head snake. Me think the gahmen’s greed for money – capitalism they call it – has blind them to the fact that sometimes we need to slow things down a bit. One day when all the forests are gone and our already high temperature shoots up another 1 – 2 degrees, will the scholars sitting in their ivory towers then realise their mistakes or wait probably not – these people could easily just migrate to another country while we the poor folks stay here and bake!

About the Olympics Live Telecast

So it has finally happened. Singapore has decided not to be blackmail by the media company and choose not to pay the paltry US$6m that Dentsu, the Olympics tv rights owner is demanding. And so for Rio 2016 when Singapore is sending its biggest contingent to date and has the best chance of winning a medal in an event other than table tennis, Singapore will not be able to see it all live! I kinda expect something like this to happen since the Premier League fiasco a few years ago. It was just a matter of time. With the exorbitant prices that the sports owners are asking for nowadays, sooner or later, something has to give. And for Singapore with a small population base, it just does not make commercial sense for the media companies to pay so much.

Frankly I am not really surprised that there hasn’t been much of a hullabaloo on social media. Apart from the main stream media who has been talking about it, social media and the alternate media has been rather quiet with the occasional grumbling from some sports related blogs. And I can understand why.

Firstly, unlike say soccer, the Olympics is a series of events and does not attract the type of mass audience that soccer and rugby does. And while Singapore is hopeful that our athletes will return with something, the truth is, nobody is holding their breathe for it. Probably Joseph Schooling has the best chance to grab a medal. But his 2 swim events are likely to be in the early morning where most of Singapore are going to be at work with no access to television. For track and field, let me honest. Timothy is only going there for the exposure. He is not going to make it past the heats. Marathon? In which live telecast of marathon do they show the last few runners? And that where I expect our representative to be. Not belittling her or the other athletes, but their chances are practically nil and so even if there is live coverage, he camera won’t be train on them. About the only other events we have a good chance is table tennis and sailing. But sailing is and has never been a spectator sport and I doubt many will want to stay up and watch the whole session.

And I think it is precisely for this reason that the media and the gahmen has decided it is not worth the money.  Forking out US$6m is one thing. There are still lot of incidental costs that will be incurred in bringing the games live. Due to the timing of the event and the limited appeal, sponsors will be hard to come up. And if there are no sponsors, Mediacorp, Starhub and Singtel will not be able to justify to their shareholders how they are incurring so much when the ratings is not there.

So no live telecast of the Olympics. No big deal. I live without live football for the past years until this year when I finally decided to pay for one of those Android TV box. And I got my Euro fix plus channels after channels of cable tv and movies of all languages. So I think I will be able to watch the entire Olympics on tv be it live or otherwise. But having said that, I still not going to wake up in the middle of the night to catch 5 minutes of swim actions or some foreign talent playing ping pong. So for those who really want to catch some Rio actions, try your luck with some live streaming or better still, head on down to Sim Lim or one of those places selling the android tv box. You won’t regret that decision.

More ado over Parking Charges

Just last week the HDB and URA announced increases in car parking charges for public car parks effective from December this year.

Expectantly there was an immediate public outcry on social media with the anti-PAP camp blaming the 70% who voted them in the last round. So many people were decrying the increase and talking as it it was the worst thing to happen in their lives. Which leaves me rather perplexed. As far as I know, even though it seems our roads are filled with vehicles, the truth is that there are only about 950000 vehicles on the road (LTA link here) and this covers the whole gamut from bikes to trucks and public transport. As the increase does not affect bikes, that leaves roughly about 800000 vehicles that will be impacted by the increase. So since the increase is going to affect only a small portion of the population and presumably the better off people who can afford to own cars, why the hue and cry?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t support the increase and I don’t buy the idea that just because charges have not increase since 2002, then there must be an increase now. I also don’t buy the reason that costs have gone up necessitating the price increase. The HDB and URA are government organisations and there is no reason that they have to recover cost. There is no reason for them that they cannot make less or even a loss if it is for the greater good of the public.

But I am taking the increase in its stride. For the record, I am one of those who will be impacted since I have a car and lives in a HDB flat.  After all, it is just $0.10 & $0.20 increase for each half and 1 full hour of parking respectively. And there are still many places that offer free parking on Sunday and public holidays – the time where we do most of the visiting. The season parking is a bit higher but still it is only $20 and I think the  new 2 tier parking is a great idea and should have been implemented long ago.

In this case, I think the general public should be more supportive of this. There are cost to be paid for everything. If car park charges are low, somebody will still have to pay for it. And if motorists are not directly paying for it, then it means the non-driving public will have to pay for them through taxes. Indirectly the non-driving population will be paying for the driving population. So increasing the charges is only fair and since the increase is not a big increase then I think it is reasonable and people should be more accepting of this.

Seriously I think people like to criticise for the sake of criticism and don’t think through their thick skull. Increase 10 cents in coffee prices? kao beh kao bu! Increase a few cents in bus fares, kao beh kao bu! Me think we should reserve our protest for more meaningful things. If we cry wolves every time, everybody is going to ignore the voices when there is a real issue. Let save the angst for important issues, things that can make our country a better place and not necessary a cheap place to live in. And be smart – only for those matters that we can make a different. In a nutshell, constructive criticism please people.

When is a Nature Reserve not a Nature Reserve?

A nature reserve (natural reserve, bioreserve, (natural/nature) preserve or (national/nature) conserve) is a protected area of importance for wildlife, flora, fauna or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. – Wikipedia

An ​area of ​land that is ​protected in ​order to ​keepsafe the ​animals and ​plants that ​live there, often because they are ​rareCambridge Dictionary Online

Nature reserve, area set aside for the purpose of preserving certain animals, plants, or both. A nature reserve differs from a national park usually in being smaller and having as its sole purpose the protection of nature. – Encyclopaedia Britannica

And the Singapore Government own Parks and Trees Act Chapter 216 Part III:

(3)  National parks and nature reserves are set aside for all or any of the following purposes:

(a)   the propagation, protection and conservation of the trees, plants, animals and other organisms of Singapore, whether indigenous or otherwise;

(b)   the study, research and preservation of objects and places of aesthetic, historical or scientific interest;

(c)   the study, research and dissemination of knowledge in botany, horticulture, biotechnology, or natural and local history; and

(d)        recreational and educational use by the public.

So essentially there is general agreement that a Nature Reserve is a protected area for “nature”. In the Singapore context and activities which threaten the nature reserves are prohibited re Chapter 8 & 9, there are stated punishments for violating these.

So why was the question of having an MRT line running under the Central Catchment Area nature reserve even mooted in the first place? And I don’t understand why is there a need for a MRT line from Changi to Jurong? Don’t we already have the East-West line which runs from Pasir Ris to Jurong and is connected to Changi via the Changi Airport extension?  Is there really such a dire need to spend million of dollars for what seems to be a duplication.

The EIA commissioned by the authorities stated that impact on the nature reserve will be “moderate” if mitigating measures are put in place. And that is just for the initial phrase of the soil investigation work. So if just merely doing soil investigation work and with mitigating measures in place the impact will be moderate, I shudder to think what will be the impact if it is the full blown construction work for the Cross Island line! And by the way, in most industries risk management practices, moderate impact is not acceptable.

People in the construction and engineering line seems to think that it is possible to put in places mitigating measures such that the environment, the fauna and flora are not disturbed! Let’s get real here. If a few runners running through MacRitchie Reservoir at night are deemed to have impact on the wildlife there, do they seriously expect that contractors and construction workers in the hundreds working round the clock will have no or minimum impact on the wildlife? And as anybody who has lived or worked near a construction site can attest, which sites have really good environmental practice? Dirty water run off onto the road, mosquitoes breeding, littering, noise, smoke and anything and everything bad will be there. With our system of awarding projects to tenders with low prices and penalising work delay , the last thing these contractors do will be to put in place costly and time consuming practice which does not add to their bottom line.

The real nightmare is if this or should I say when they go on to Phase 2. Even if the digging is underground using bored tunnelling, just how deep below are they going to dig. There are trees all over many with deep roots. Will the digging impact the tree roots causing them to become unstable? What about ventilation shafts? Surely there will have to be many of them. And emergency escape shafts? And roads will have to be cut into the forest for trucks to bring in supply and remove waste. Do we seriously think that even with mitigating measures, impact will be moderate?

In my opinion, the question of having a MRT line running under the nature reserve should never have come out in the first place. It is a place to be protected and not something that should be changed at will. If that is the case, then there is no point designating any place as a nature reserve or a heritage building ….  if any fellas in some other government agencies can just simply come out with some better justification (mainly economic) reasons to alter the site!

So please leave MacRitchie Reservoir alone. We already lost part of Bukit Brown and the Mandai Forest. Let know lose one more beautiful place where nature is just a short journey away from our home.

Building for 6.9m

I been enjoying running at Coney Island since it opened. It is a nice little place and when I said little, it is really small. From the West Gate to the East Gate, it is just about 2.5 km long. And at its widest, it is probably not more than 500 metres wide. Such a small little and beautiful island and after its re-opening in October last year, I was glad that it has not been fully spruced up into a artificial park but was left rather wild and rustic.

So I was shocked when I read this letter in the ST on 13 January 2016 where the writer appealed to the authorities not to proceed with plans to build residential buildings on it. I nearly fell off my chair when I read this. Build houses on that small puny little island? A check on the URA Master Plan and I was shocked! A portion of the island has been earmarked for residential development. WTF!12509890_10205028159598711_8523602504501974086_n

Coney Island is generally divided into 2 by the main path. DSC_0096

On the right is the bigger portion, the sea fronting side with the beaches, toilet and trails. On the left is a small stretch of land facing Punggol. Apparently that small stretch of land is the reserved land for the building. That piece in my estimate is not even 100 metres wide! How many houses can they possibly build there on such a small area!

I am absolutely disgusted. My guess is some smart alec from the URA decided that Coney Island can be a mini Sentosa Cove and so will be suitable for private housing. The problem is, with the houses, there will have to be a proper access road and some basic amenities. If this plan goes ahead, the whole rustic nature of Coney Island will be totally destroyed.

What I cannot comprehend is why the gahmen is in such a rush to build and build. Even if they are planning for the fucking 6.9m, there is still no need to build on every little sliver of land available. At the current moment, there is a big oversupply of residential houses.  This January 2015 article in the Today paper stated the position very clearly. We do not need to build so many houses even if the crazy gahmen decides to go ahead with the 6.9m.

Already in HDB estates all over, HDB flats have sprung up on the small vacant corner lands fronting the road. In Pasir Ris, the forest along Drive 3 has almost disappeared except for one small stretch before the new bus depot. The rest has been taken up by condo after condo most of which as I understand are still not 100% sold. Ditto Yishun. Punggol is another example where the once open and beautiful Waterway is now sandwiched between row and row of apartment blocks.

Are we so short of houses that we freaking need to build and build? I hope the new Minister for Housing will do something but I am not holding my breathe for it. Sadly!