Thursday, 16 August 2018

Remember that time ministers actually got a pay cut? It will probably never happen again

Thanks to recent taken-out-of-context comments by a former Prime Minister who shall remain unnamed, ministers' pay has been a hot topic for two weeks now with longer legs than I expected.

But what I find missing in the discussion is any mention that ministers did get a pay cut once.

Remember? It was just six years ago.

Here's a reminder:



It was big news.

After decades of people bitching that our ministers are paid way too much (like they're doing now... again), the Government actually caved to public pressure and agreed to cut the ministers' salaries.

And this was in 2012, one year after the 2011 General Election and three years before the 2015 General Election. So you can't even call it a PAP election ploy.

I thought people would give the Government some credit for that, but the reaction to the ministerial pay cut was a big meh.

As in "So? They're still paid too much."

As The New Paper reported:
Don’t cut, they whack.

Slash the pay of political appointment holders and they still let fly.

Twitterverse was abuzz with the hashtag #ministerpaycut shortly after noon yesterday.

“Too little.”

“Not enough.”

These were the words used by some to describe the pay cuts for political appointment holders – ranging from 15-53 per cent – recommended by the eight-man committee set up by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last May to review political salaries.

Some critics pointed out that despite a 36 per cent pay cut, PM Lee will still earn more than the leaders of Hong Kong, Australia and the US combined.

Under the committee’s recommendations, PM Lee would receive an annual salary of $2.2 million.

The combined salaries of the leaders of Hong Kong, Australia and the US is close to $1.9 million.

The Speaker of Parliament, a post now held by Punggol East SMC Member of Parliament Michael Palmer, saw the deepest cut, of 53 per cent, while the Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers had cuts of 31 per cent to 39 per cent. PM Lee is likely to face a pay cut of 36 per cent from his 2010 pay of $3.07m.

PM Lee said in a letter addressed to Mr Ee that the Government intends to accept the committee’s recommendations.

Reactions came thick and fast. Will the top talent still step up to serve with the pay cut? Why not cut more?



It's a no-win situation.

What’s the point then?

And now the whole ministerial pay thing has blown up again and no one has even mentioned the 2012 pay cut.

If I were the Government, I would just let the issue blow over (and it will) because as history has shown, giving in to a pay cut won't appease anyone. The haters are still gonna hate.

Been there, done that.

The ministers already gave themselves a pay cut once and no one appreciated it. Now that they've learnt their lesson, I doubt they'll ever do it again.

At least they get to keep their money.


UPDATE:
It has been suggested that the ministerial pay cut was a consequence of PAP's poor showing in the 2011 General Election (where PAP lost a GRC for the first time).

This makes sense. Stung by the swing against the PAP, the ruling party sought to win back voters and the pay cut was its way of telling the electorate: "We hear what you're saying. We can change."

The PAP would do much better in the next election in 2015, but I don't think anyone thinks the pay cut was a factor.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Return of the rendang burger death match: McDonald's versus Burger King



It's back!

The last time I wrote about the rendang burger death match was five years ago when McDonald's pulled off an upset victory after Burger King scored an own goal by adding mayonnaise to the burger it originated.

This year, thanks to National Day, the death match is back as McDonald's has brought back its rendang burger at the same time as BK.





But this year, McDonald's takes its rendang burger to the next level by using angus beef, adding a fried egg and charging more for it while BK sticks to the classic and wisely leaves off the mayo.



I tried them both so that you don't have to.



And the winner of the rendang burger death match 2018 is... the classic.

The King is back. Long live the King!

There's a reason the BK rendang burger was once named one of Travel+Leisure magazine’s global top five burgers.

On the other hand, McDonald's overstuffed Rendang Sedap Angus Beef Burger is just too try-hard. I also found it too salty.

Crispiness is not a factor.


EARLIER: Never mind the Minions, here’s the rendang burger death match

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Majulah Walk & Run for National Day

A run where I could just walk to the starting line from home.

The Majulah Walk & Run this National Day morning started from the Choa Chu Kang Stadium and ended at Gain City Megastore @ Sungei Kadut.

I joined the 8km run



Even my New Balance shoes were patriotic.



Minister Lawrence Wong flagged off the 8km run at 8am.



I bumped into my ex-secondary school classmate, Chin Hau (again!), at the stadium. Don't know why even though he moved out of Yew Tee more than 10 years ago, he still volunteers at the community sports club.







Crossing the road to Pang Sua Canal, my regular training route.



Water, anyone?









Just strolling along the Rail Corridor with a flag on his head like nobody’s business.





It was good weather for a run. No rain and not too hot.





There used to be an outdoor brothel that operated at night in this area which I jogged by a couple of times.



Heading into Sungei Kadut.







Back to the canal again.







Turning into Sungei Kadut again.

Here was where the 8km runners and the 3km walkers merged, causing a bottleneck.



Then it was an open road to the end.



The Gain City Megastore. I don't understand the van either.









There appeared to be two finish lines,



France won the World Coke, I mean, Cup.



I would feel sorry for anyone who had to massage my feet.



Really long queue for the Milo van.



And of course, the obligatory selfie with the ambulance.



Happy National Day!


Monday, 6 August 2018

National Day makes people do crazy things like 'haka' cheer video & shuttlecock flag



Blame National Day.

Okay, maybe not blame National Day, but blame the people who seem to go a little nuts because of National Day.

Every year, starting in July, you see National Day decorations in every HDB estate, presumably put up by the residents’ committees (RCs).

Flags are to National Day what ex-SAF senior officers are to SMRT management – you can never have enough of them.

In the Yew Tee area where I live, the RC would hang something 10-storey high between blocks 673 and 673A. It could be one giant flag or many smaller flags arranged to form a number representing the age of the nation in case you forgot.





And it’s usually a disaster because at that altitude, the strong wind would wreak havoc on the display and it would be removed before National Day.

But the people who put up the display never give up.

Every year, they would hang something different up there, hoping to beat the wind. And almost every year, the wind wins.

If I were a cornier writer, I would say their persistence symbolises the resilience of Singaporeans who have faced countless challenges in the nation’s 53-year history. But I’m not.

I wish they would give up.

This year, they hung up one small flag with many little holes in it, presumably to let the wind blow through.



Unfortunately, the flag was misshapen due to the holes and from a distance, they resembled bullet holes. Our national flag looked like it had been through a war and Singapore lost.

What’s wrong with these people?

There’s something about National Day that seems to cloud your one’s judgment. For some people, the cloud can be a thunderstorm.

It’s like a form of patriotism-induced temporary dementia.

You hear the National Day songs so often that you can’t think straight any more.

So maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on the folks from Keppel Corporation who were ridiculed for their National Day cheer video, where they performed their awkward version of the haka, the traditional Maori war dance from New Zealand.



And you thought the Keppel Offshore & Marine bribery scandal was bad.

I guess I also shouldn’t be too hard on the Yew Tee RC. At least they try and they mean well.

Then one day, the bullet-riddled flag wasn’t there any more.

But it wasn’t gone – just moved to ground level. The wind claimed yet another victory.

That was when I got a chance to see the flag up close and realised the holes weren’t holes.

Plot twist!

The flag was actually made up of thousands of shuttlecocks.

Yes, the feathery thing you play badminton with that’s so much fun to say. Shuttlecock.



For the upper half of the flag, the shuttlecocks were painted red. The crescent and stars were just cardboard cut-outs, but I was still impressed.

All the hard work the volunteers must have put into collecting the used shuttlecocks and creating the 2.3m-by-1.5m flag symbolises the resilience of Singaporeans who have faced countless challenges in the nation’s 53-year history.



You might ask me, why shuttlecocks? I would ask you, why not shuttlecocks?

But why the RC initially hung the shuttlecock flag 10 storeys high where you couldn’t see the shuttlecocks I don’t know.

Maybe it was due to the patriotism-induced temporary dementia caused by National Day I mentioned earlier.

But now that the flag has come down to earth, they don’t seem so crazy after all.

Shuttlecock.

- Published in The New Paper, 6 August 2018



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