Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Responses by the pro-PAP pages (Updated).

This is a separate post for my views on the responses of the pro-PAP pages - FAP, FLOP and Calvin Cheng's Facebook - to queries on the allocation of government grants to Town Councils.

First, I think FAP's response to the queries about government grants is a deliberate untruth. It claims that it's justified for AHPETC to receive fewer grants than Tanjong Pagar GRC because the "Serangoon and Paya Lebar" areas under AHPETC have a majority of landed property whereas "Tanjong Pagar, Kreta Ayer has the smaller units dwelled by the elderly".

This statement conveniently leaves out the fact that besides the low-income areas, Tanjong Pagar GRC also consists of the most atas and expensive residential areas in Singapore: Orchard Road, Tanglin and Holland Road. It also comprises the private residential areas of Havelock Road and River Valley areas where many condominiums are located. Tiong Bahru has also become a gentrified neighbourhood with condos and highly sought after four-storey SIT apartments that cost millions of dollars. None of these falls into FAP's classification of "smaller flats".

FAP's effort strikes me as another attempt to explain away a controversial method of governance that Low Thia Khiang has been complaining about for years. See this article from 2010. I guess he must've gotten tired of complaining, because he's been very silent these days.

Also see this statement from 2013 by Lina Chiam. Note the line: "When it was under the Opposition, Potong Pasir did not obtain a single cent from the CIPC fund or any HDB-related funding." It is rather alarming that Potong Pasir was deprived of funding. Whatever reasons the government had, it was not justifiable to leave out an entire ward in its funds allocation. And surely Potong Pasir was not "mostly private residential"?
Jin eh boh? "Mostly private residential"? U never go AHPETC before, right?
Calvin Cheng's post here provides more insights on the system. Calvin says that grants are disbursed according to the number of flats which are four-room and smaller in the area. Admittedly, I had no idea that "grants [for the Town Councils] are given out according to the overall wealth of the people in a constituency". I thought they were for the regular maintenance of the area. Nothing to do with wealth. 

Does this mean that if I live in a landed house, I gotta hire my own sweepers to sweep the road outside, because the TC doesn't have funds for that? And if the wheelchair-bound elderly in the private estates want ramps to be built, they gotta hire their own construction workers to build the ramps, because the TC is not in charge of improvement works in private residential estates? 

That cannot be right.

But if it is indeed so, I think it's a bizarre way to determine the allocation of grants. In fact, I think disbursing grants by population served is better. :P Disbursing grants by housing type makes one blind to the needs of the real people in the households.

Unfortunately, not many agree with me. Much has been said in the pro-PAP pages about my erroneous methodology of using electorate size to pass judgement on government grants allocation. The commenters seem really confident that government grants are, and ought to be, disbursed based on housing type. Well, in that case, I would like to invite Calvin Cheng or any of the pro-PAP commenters on his page to share how many one- to four-room flats there are in AHPETC as well as in the other PAP constituencies.

Calvin Cheng, for example, has furnished the statistics pictured below. But there's something not quite right. How come he knows the respective income levels of people living in Jurong GRC and AHPETC? I would highly recommend that he reveal or credit his sources. Perhaps his Oxford credentials are good enough to convince others to believe him without asking him where he got the information from. My view is, there's no shame in being wrong, but it's shameful to concede defeat in a debate without rigorously questioning the person who disagrees with you. To me, for now, Calvin Cheng's Facebook post looks like what it is, filled with insightful opinions, but lacking in source credits, and with statistics plucked out of thin air. (And on this note, I would urge those who disagree with him to stand their ground. He sounds confident because he has strong views. But he doesn't know for sure either. Remember, this is the guy who insisted that his price-fixing in the modelling industry was "noble" even after being fined for the unethical practice.)

How U calculate one?
As a blogger, I make use of whatever information I can find on the Internet. I did not find any information about the number of HDB households, the income levels of the households or the housing types within each GRC. If anyone can provide convincing statistics to prove that there has been no discrimination in the way the PAP has disbursed government grants, he or she should come right out and say it! This will be to the benefit of the people in this country and it will improve the PAP's credibility among its critics.

I can't speak for others, but I am not what some might call a "hardcore Oppie supporter" who's blind to evidence. Sure, I don't like the PAP's method of governance but I do have some favourite Ministers and MPs - they're talented and should not be deprived of opportunities by the older generation of leaders. My ideal political system is a two-party system, including the PAP! And my husband... he votes for the PAP every time. Hopefully, the defensive PAP supporters won't take things the wrong way. Not everyone is out to get your favourite party. I think many people in the younger generation just want more accountability and less discrimination from the government.

So, what's stopping you from providing the evidence to show that the PAP did not discriminate against the Opposition wards in its allocation of grants?

Interestingly, Calvin has now made a remark saying that the "formula" the government uses for grants allocation is not on the Town Councils' pages. I guess he thinks that he has the "accurate insider's info"? If his information is correct, this is another fail for government transparency. Without providing such vital information to the populace, it is inevitable that concerned members of the public will resort to coming up with their/our own "formulae" to explain issues, possibly leading to the perpetuation of inaccurate information. It is hoped that more facts will come to light over the next few months. I am naturally concerned because I now live in an Opposition ward. I do not like being discriminated against in government grant allocations, and I will vote against the political party that is guilty of using taxpayers' money to play politics.

Singapore system very secretive hor?

The latest clarifications from the pro-PAP pages are that:

1) The reason for using wealth to determine allocation of grants is because the TCs have a limited role. They only maintain HDB estates and commercial properties, so the areas with a higher percentage of private residential estates will receive lower grants compared to areas with more HDB flats.

2) The graphic below from FAP shows that AHPETC has a lower percentage of HDB flats that are three-room or smaller compared to the other constituencies. Therefore, it seems justified that AHPETC receive a lower amount of government grant. 

In short, higher grants are given when the area has more small flats. Simple?

Spot the contradiction.
Look at the graphic again. When you multiply the percentages, it shows that Ang Mo Kio has 34,759 flats that are three-room or smaller, whereas Tanjong Pagar GRC has 43,529 flats that are three-room or smaller. Going by FAP's logic, these numbers suggest that Ang Mo Kio, by right, should be receiving a lower government grant than Tanjong Pagar GRC.

But look at the grants allocation on the right. The numbers are correct and correspond with the TCs' Annual Reports published in 2013. Tanjong Pagar received $13.45 million and Ang Mo Kio GRC received $17.48 million. If it were true that areas with bigger flats should justifiably receive a lower government grant, why then did Ang Mo Kio receive $4 million more in grants than Tanjong Pagar?

So, apart from housing type, are there other hidden criteria for allocation of grants? In any case, the statistics about the different housing types in each GRC appear to be plucked out of thin air again. I wish FAP had included the source credit and the year in which these household numbers were calculated. The statistics on government grants on the right are from the year 2013. It wouldn't be accurate to match household numbers from 2010 with grants from 2013, for instance, because there could be changes in the number of households over time.

On a side note, the statistics appearing out of nowhere makes me wonder if the people behind FAP are government employees paid to refute bloggers, and not ordinary PAP supporters. Otherwise, how come they know all these numbers that are not available to us?

3) The good news is, finally one pro-PAP blogger has admitted that AHPETC's increased expenditure and resulting deficit, whatever it was caused by, has "nothing to do" with the surpluses accumulated by George Yeo's Aljunied GRC. 

Credit: sggeneralelections2016
Thank you for finally acknowledging that the surpluses were transferred and not used to "fill the gap in Hougang" as your counterparts at FAP have alleged.

The blogger makes a good point that the increase in S&CC charges at AHPETC does not seem to have led to an improvement in services. However, I thought the comparison between AHPETC's expenditure in FY12 and FY10 was a false comparison, since AHPETC did not exist in FY10. It was only after the Workers' Party won Aljunied GRC in 2011 that it merged Aljunied GRC with Hougang SMC. Therefore, I don't think we can make any valid comparison of the numbers before and after the WP took over Aljunied, unless we know the real changes in the number of households.

There's also this table being circulated around. I just want to point out that the person who came up with this rounded off all the household numbers to the nearest thousand while doing the calculations. Maybe he or she doesn't have a calculator.

And where are these numbers from, by the way?

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