Monday 28 September 2015

Recapping The Straits Times Run At The Hub 2015: Haze? What haze?

I ran the 10km instead of the half marathon in The Straits Times Run last year.

This year, there's no 21km half marathon. Instead, it's 18.45km, you know, because The Straits Times was supposedly founded in 1845. Yeah, that makes sense.

Since only 18.45km runners get the finisher's T-shirt, I of course had to join the 18.45km category even though the shirt is rather ugly.

Last week, it seemed the event would likely be cancelled because of the haze. It was quite suspenseful checking the PSI on Saturday night and waiting for the announcement.

But as if someone at SPH was controlling the haze, the PSI compliantly went below 100 for the first time in days just so the ST Run could go on. It was uncanny.

Flag-off was at 5am yesterday near the Sports Hub. My work ended at 1am. I decided to head for the Hub straight from the office, so I didn't get any sleep at all.

I reached the Hub way too early at around 3.40am. I almost fell asleep standing up while waiting for the flag-off at the starting line.

Runners (including myself) taking pictures of the starting line.

The Straits Times editor flagged off the run promptly at 5am. This punctuality surprisingly doesn't happen often enough at the races I've joined.

It was good that in the early part of the race, the route was very wide to accomodate the huge crowd of runners.

Running under the distinctive arches of the Flower Dome at Gardens By The Bay.

The same dome from across the bay many minutes later.

I decided to take my time to survive the long distance and slowed down to almost walking speed after the half-way mark.

Another selfie on the run with the Singapore Flyer in the background.

A runner (sitting in gurney) getting help from an ambulance crew.

One way the ST Run cheat your feelings is that you see the dome and you think you're almost near the finish line, but you actually still have more than 1km to go and you're already limping.

Finally, the tunnel into the dome

The finish line.

My target was to finish the race in under two and a half hours, and I just made it.

It was funny to hear the announcer inside the dome having to keep reminding runners not to take pictures before crossing the finish line.

The danger is if you stop to take photos, you're blocking the way and other runners could run into you.

I wonder how organisers will handle this problem in the future. Will they enforce stricter rules against picture-taking by runners near the finish line? Or will they accomodate this behaviour and find a way to make it safer?

I spotted Mr Teo Ser Luck (Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Mayor, North East District) among the runners. He is more bulked up than I thought. He's second from right in the picture above.

I also saw another minister, Mr Lawrence Wong. He is more petite than I thought.

Although the run was supposed to be 18.45k, my running app says it was more than 19k.

I've never felt more pain after a run despite having done two half marathons. I should just stick to 10k or below from now on.

But I've already signed up for the 13km run in The North Face 100 at MacRitchie in two weeks. I've even bought the shoes.

And worn the shirt.

Maybe it will be cancelled because of the haze.

Speaking of which, after the ST Run, the PSI went up again.


EARLIER: Recapping The Straits Times Run At The Hub 2014

Sunday 27 September 2015

Feelings were cheated: Want a haze holiday? Only if you're not over 16

It was the one good thing that came out of the haze.

And then it wasn’t.

And I’m not talking about Friday being declared a “voluntary non-work day” by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

The announcement turned out to be a hoax. Did anyone even fall for it?

Just because we had two extra public holidays this year (Jubilee Weekend, Polling Day), do we assume that public holidays simply fall out of the sky now?

But what made the “voluntary non-work day” announcement so credible was that the Ministry of Education (MOE) had announced on Thursday night that school would be cancelled the next day because of the haze.

Are we so gullible to believe that MOM would care as much about the health of Singapore workers as much as MOE cares about the health of the Singapore school children?

Of course not. But then the “voluntary non-work day” wasn’t even an outright holiday.

According to the fake MOM announcement, civil servants got only half a day off and employers were merely “encouraged” to give their staff a “paid day off”.

I suspect the haze had already “encouraged” a few employees to get an MC anyway.

But you know who can’t get an MC? My wife.

That’s because she’s a stay-at-home mum.

And even though she’s a mum, she’s not under MOM.

But the haze has affected her too.

The one thing she hates most about being a stay-at-home mum is waking up early every morning to get our two teenage children ready for school.

If she doesn’t wake up, the kids don’t wake up. No non-human alarm clock can rouse my children from their coma-like slumber.

Because I work late regularly, I sleep through the whole thing, so I don’t care.

On Thursday night when MOE announced the school closures, no one was happier than my wife. She was going to sleep till noon the next day.

Finally, something good came out of the haze.

Then the other shoe dropped.

She found out that only primary and secondary schools were closed.

My daughter is in Secondary 4 and my son is in his second year of junior college.

So my wife still had to get up early for my son.

She felt like she was hit by a Formula One car driven by Sebastian Vettel near turn 13 at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Why, MOE? Why did you cheat my wife’s feelings like that?

Only I can do that.

Why didn’t you close junior colleges too? Is the haze rated NC16, suitable only for persons aged 16 and above?

It must be because of the obscene PSI readings.

It felt like 2013 all over again.

On Thursday, the PSI was so high that Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and KFC announced that they were suspending home delivery — just like in 2013.

[ SUSPENSION OF DELIVERY SERVICE ] Due to the hazardous conditions caused by the haze, we have temporarily suspended...
Posted by Pizza Hut on Thursday, September 24, 2015

That’s when you know the end is nigh — when you can’t go out to get food because of the haze, and the food can’t come to you.

On the Pizza Hut Facebook page, someone wrote: “No worries, I will order Canadian Pizza.”

Ironically, the next day, when MOE closed the schools, the haze situation apparently improved enough that the food companies resumed their delivery service.

[ RESUMPTION OF DELIVERY SERVICE ] As conditions with the haze have improved, we have resumed our delivery service. Thank you for your kind understanding.
Posted by Pizza Hut on Thursday, September 24, 2015

So did MOE jump the gun? Or Pizza Hut?

Ask the people queueing outdoors for the new iPhone 6s on Friday morning.

Wow, deja vu. I just flashed back to June 2013 when people were queuing for the black Hello Kitty doll at McDonald’s in the haze. I was one of them.

But unlike Friday, schools weren’t closed in 2013 because the haze happened during the June school holidays.

Surprisingly, my son didn’t feel any resentment that he had to go to school on Friday in the haze and his sister didn’t.

My daughter, on the other hand, resented that her chemistry teacher gave her more homework via WhatsApp.

Her teachers weren’t that happy they had to go school on Friday in the haze too. Her history teacher used not one but two crying face emojis in a WhatsApp message to the class.

My wife knows how he feels.

Can teachers complain to MOM?

- Published in The New Paper, 27 September 2015

Sunday 20 September 2015

Complaining about the complaints: Singaporeans get the haze we deserve

I don’t mean to complain, but the haze is back for the second time this year and it’s worse than before.

In March, the three-hour PSI in Singapore hit 106, which is in the unhealthy range.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) released an advisory that said:
“The haziness is likely due to an accumulation of particulate matter in the atmosphere under light wind conditions. Burning activities in the region could have contributed.”

Hmmm, what were these “burning activities in the region” NEA was referring to?

Since this happened in March, it couldn’t be Singaporeans burning stuff for the Hungry Ghost Festival since that takes place around August and September.

Let's blame Indonesia.

On March 3, Jakarta Globe reported:
“Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has denounced neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia for complaining about the severe haze caused every year by Indonesian forest fires.

“He said he took note of the way the neighbouring countries had kept complaining when toxic haze from adjacent areas in Indonesia, Riau in particular, fouled their air.

‘For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us. They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset,’ Kalla said.”

Jakarta Globe added:
“Kalla said Indonesia has repeatedly and profoundly apologised for the forest fires and for the inconvenience and pollution the haze caused in neighbouring countries.”

Was the Indonesian vice-president right? Should we be grateful for the “nice air from Indonesia” we get the rest of the year?

This wasn’t the first time that someone had complained about our complaints.

In 2010, then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong reminded Singaporeans to think of the less fortunate. He said:
“It is important that we do not complain too much when we can’t get the house that we want, we can’t get the carpark that we want, when the MRT trains are a little crowded.

“We are in fact quite fortunate. These are problems created by our own success. There are many people who are not able to benefit from our overall success.”
It’s so quaint that when Mr Goh made this speech five years and a gazillion breakdowns ago, all you could complain about the MRT trains was that they were “a little crowded”.

O, Phaik Hwa, Phaik Hwa! Wherefore art thou, Ms Saw Phaik Hwa?

But despite Mr Goh and Mr Kalla complaining about our complaining, we can’t seem to break the habit. It has been our favourite pastime after shopping and eating for too long.

Just over a week ago, after his Reform Party lost the election, Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam said:
“Singaporeans get the Government they deserve. I don’t want to hear any more complaints.”

I don’t think he means he wants Singaporeans to stop complaining. He just wants Singaporeans to stop complaining to him.

But then why would we complain to him? It’s not like he’s a Member of Parliament and can do anything except compare Singapore to North Korea.

What I infer from Mr Jeyaretnam’s remark is that many people had been complaining to him about the Government, which led him to believe that many were unhappy with the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and thus his party had a good shot of winning the election.

When this turned out to be not the case, he understandably felt misled by the complaints and doesn’t want to hear them anymore.

But Mr Jeyaretnam wasn’t the only one blindsided by the election results. Many have given their analysis on why the PAP did so well in the election, but the real question is why no one saw it coming. Not even the PAP.

The answer? All the complaining we do.

As Mr Tan Jee Say of the Singaporeans First party said:
“The results are not consistent with the feedback we’ve heard from the ground, and these results are even worse than what we had expected.”
My guess is that the “feedback” they heard were complaints about the Government. This Complaints Index is probably not the most reliable indicator of how Singaporeans will vote.

So the lesson the opposition parties have learnt here is that just because they hear many complaints about the Government, it doesn’t mean the majority will vote against it.

So it’s their turn to complain about the complaints.

Just like the Indonesian vice-president did six months ago.

Hey, wait. Didn’t Mr Kalla say we get to enjoy 11 months of “nice air from Indonesia”?

But we had the haze in March, August and this month, and the year isn’t over yet. That’s less than 11 months of nice air!

Can we complain now, Mr Kalla?

That is, if Mr Goh and Mr Jeyaretnam are okay with it.

- Published in The New Paper, 20 September 2015

Saturday 19 September 2015

Discovering the joy of sockless running

Even though I have been running for a long time, this year has been filled with revelation after revelation for me as a runner.

I have learned a lot about running and running shoes in particular because of my online research to find the perfect shoes for the 2XU Compression Run half marathon last month, postponed from April.

I went through several phases.

At first, I was into minimalist shoes after I read about barefoot or natural running.

Then I got the On Cloudster and I was into cushioning.

Then I got the Saucony Virrata 2 and I was into lightweight shoes.

But then I had a problem with all these shoes because they were too narrow for my freakishly wide right foot.

So I looked for wide shoes, which led me to the Altra The One2.

They are cushioned, light and wide, but I still feel a little tightness and discomfort on my right foot.

I wore the Altra for the half marathon and they performed okay until the final few kilometres when excessive perspiration caused my feet to slide forward in the shoes.

All this time, I ran with socks.

One day in a shoe store, I tried on the Nike Flyknit Free 3.0 without socks and it was a revelation. The shoes felt like socks themselves.

I loved the feel, but the Free 3.0 were a little too minimalist for me. So I got the next best thing, the Flyknit Free 4.0.

At first, I ran with socks in the Free 4.0 (in the 10k Pocari Run), but again, I had the problem with my freakishly wide right foot.

So I took a chance and ran in them without socks. It worked. Without the extra fabric of a sock, I had a little more room in the shoe for my problematic right foot.

I ran the Singapore Aquathlon in the Free 4.0 without socks to reduce my transition time and now I'm hooked.

I'm going through my other shoes to find more candidates for sockless running, but not all shoes are suitable. They should have a seamless upper and it helps if the shoes are a bit snug to begin with.

Paradoxically, I also found that running sockless helps to reduce heel slippage for shoes that are a little too big.

I experiment by first walking around sockless in them before taking them for a sockless run. So far, the Viratta have passed the test.

I couldn't find much information about sockless running online, although it's often discussed on triathlon forums.

Here are a few links:

Apart from blisters, the most common concern for sockless runners seems to be smelly shoes.

Fortunately, my nose is far enough from my feet that I don't mind.

Thursday 17 September 2015

I'm confused: Who's complaining about who complaining about who complaining?

At first, it was the opposition who were telling the PAP voters to stop complaining.

Be prepared for all those vote PAP...dont complain..plsBrace yourself Singaporean. GST, Utility bill, town council...
Posted by Abu Bakar Bin Wahid on Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Which led to this defense of complaining.

To all the people saying things like "Don't complain next time because you voted for the PAP". How about you take a seat...
Posted by Joel Lim on Saturday, September 12, 2015

Then some started complaining about people telling opposition supporters to stop complaining.

And even wrote a poem about it.

Tired of hearing those condescending pro-PAP types berating you for your legitimate complaints?Here's a creative response in the form of a poem by blogger Lhu Wen Kai...
Posted by The Alternative View on Wednesday, September 16, 2015

To The Rich Kid Who Complained About Me Complaining

A poem I wrote about checking your privilege, in response to some of the extremely elitist remarks made by people around me over the weekend.Not exactly the best person to recite this, but there were some words I couldn't hold no longer, so I decided to give it a go myself instead.For those looking for the 'lyrics', you can find it @

Posted by Lhu Wen Kai on Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Or is it a rap?

And according to New Nation, Singaporeans are also complaining about something else.

So short term #PreGE2020 #GE2015
Posted by New Nation on Tuesday, September 15, 2015

But as Singaporeans, let's not forget to complain about the haze.

Elections are a good distraction. #GE2015
Posted by on Monday, September 7, 2015

Unless you want to blame the haze on PAP voters too.

Now the haze is so bad, yesterday when you look out of the window, you see nothing but white smog. And what can...
Posted by All Singapore Stuff on Monday, September 14, 2015

Not that I'm complaining.

Monday 14 September 2015

Singaporeans kena scolded by Singaporeans for election results

"Singaporeans are apathetic and politically immature."

"Thank you for voting for and with stupidity."

"Shame on you."

Losers? Sorry not the Opposition and definitely not the media like myself States Times Review. It is Singaporeans.So...
Posted by All Singapore Stuff on Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dear SingaporeansFor all factors that may have brought to this conclusion, may it be - gerrymandering, - SG50, -...
Posted by CPF broken promises on Friday, September 11, 2015

"The Singapore electorate’s level of sophistication is not there yet to endorse the opposition’s brand of clean politics...
Posted by TR Emeritus on Monday, September 14, 2015

We are the strawberry generation. We look nice because we are often groomed and protected by our parents. But we are...
Posted by All Singapore Stuff on Monday, September 14, 2015

Are Singaporeans like frogs in boiling water, thinking only of short term gains and ignoring the dangers of a one party government?
Posted by Tan Kin Lian on Monday, September 14, 2015

Stab-in-the-back by Singaporean voters against oppositions?The result #GE2015 shows a near total rejection of...
Posted by Temasek Review on Saturday, September 12, 2015

What appeared to be a close fight for the hearts and minds of the voters has turned out to be a whitewash (pardon the...
Posted by theonlinecitizen on Saturday, September 12, 2015

EARLIER: GE 2015 aftermath: Whither the Opposition Manifest Destiny?

UPDATE: I'm confused: Who's complaining about who complaining about who complaining?

Sunday 13 September 2015

If Darryl David can be an MP, why not 1994 Manhunt winner Benedict Goh?

Could Benedict Goh be your MP next?

After all, he was a Pyramid Game host, like Mr Darryl David, who was just voted into office as part of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) team.

Who knew that hosting a game show on Channel 5 could be a stepping stone to political office?

How about the guy who hosted the Singapore version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

I mean, he already has experience promising people money if they qualify. Isn't that what politicians do anyway?

Unfortunately, the guy’s name is Mark Van Cuylenburg, but he is better known as The Flying Dutchman (or FD for short). That might sound a tad too foreign to win over Singapore voters.

Maybe he could change his name to The Flying Singaporean (or FS for short).

But I believe many would vote for Hossan Leong, who hosted a game show called We Are Singaporean. You can’t possibly get more Singaporean than that.

Actually, you can because Leong has branded himself as “Singapore Boy” after his stage show called Singapore Boy.

I guess he really wants to double confirm that people know he’s not Malaysian or some other nationality.

And that he’s a boy.

But, of course, you have to be able to do more than just host a game show to contest in an election. You should also have some contesting experience.

That's why Goh, the aforementioned former Pyramid Game host, would make an ideal candidate.

Before becoming a TV host, he not only competed in and won the 1994 Manhunt contest, he represented Singapore in Manhunt International and came in third runner-up. He also won the title of Mr Personality.

And honestly, isn’t the General Election just a form of nation-wide Manhunt but with women and more clothes on?

If that isn’t enough to convince you of Goh’s potential as a candidate, let me point out that he was also a regular cast member in the local sitcom, Happy Belly.

You know who else was a regular cast member in Happy Belly?

A certain member of the newly elected Ang Mo Kio GRC team by the name of Darryl David.

Who knew that being a regular cast member in Happy Belly could be a stepping stone to political office?

Happy Belly also starred Lim Kay Siu, best known for his role as Phua Chu Kang’s nemesis, Frankie Foo. What’s more, Lim’s brother, Lim Kay Tong, played Mr Lee Kuan Yew in the movie, 1965. So the PAP connection is there.

Unfortunately, Kay Siu has never hosted a game show. So he is unlikely to be chosen to be on PM’s team.

But Happy Belly wasn’t the only TV show that Mr David acted in. He also appeared in several episodes of the local Twilight Zone rip-off called Shiver.

Who knew that working on Shiver could be a stepping stone to political office?

You know who else worked on Shiver? That’s right. I did.

Your favourite Sunday columnist wrote eight out of the 30 episodes of Shiver. Should I expect an invitation to a “tea session” come 2019?

Unfortunately, I have never hosted a game show or taken part in a Manhunt competition despite my god-like physique.

But I worked on Shiver with Mr David so closely in 1997 that 10 years later when he became some big shot at Temasek Polytechnic, I felt comfortable enough to e-mail him and ask him for a job there.

I reminded him of the time we worked so closely on Shiver.

This was his reply:
“Good to hear from you! Shiver? Hell, just hearing that makes me want to shiver.

“Thanks for your e-mail. At this point in time, we don’t really have anything open in the area of your skill sets, but I will definitely keep you in mind should anything pop up.

“Until then, take care and be good, my man!”
Did you read that? I’m “his man”!

Okay, maybe I really didn't work that closely with him.

Perhaps I should’ve asked the other ex-Pyramid Game host, Goh, who is now the chief client officer at an interior design company called Fide Living.

Wait a minute. There was another guy who hosted The Pyramid Game — Samuel Chong.

I worked closely with him on Living With Lydia! I could ask him for a job.

Unless he’s too busy attending a “tea session”.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 September 2015

EARLIER: Shiver! See PAP candidate Darryl David as an actor back in the cringey 90s

Saturday 12 September 2015

GE 2015 aftermath: Whither the Opposition Manifest Destiny?

You could say it was 9/11 for the opposition.

Many were surprised by the election results. Shellshocked even.

I believe even PAP wasn't expecting such a victory.

How did the party win so big?

Didn't you see the tens of thousands of people at WP's rallies?

Wasn't this supposed to be Dr Chee Soon Juan's big political comeback?

What the hell happened?

Was it the LKY effect? The SG50 effect? The Pioneer Generation Package effect? The gerrymandering effect? All of the above?

If you ask me, PAP won because, strange as it may sound, the ruling party was the underdog in this election.

And being the underdog, PAP came out swinging.

Unlike the 2011 election, where (apart from LKY's "repent" remark) the defining PAP moment was PM Lee saying the Government should apologise for its mistakes, there was nothing apologetic about PAP's campaign this time.

It was an all-out attack on WP with the AHPETC issue, forcing WP to play defence.

The overly complicated details of the AHPETC issue didn't matter (although it was to PAP's advantage that they were overly complicated).

All that mattered was AHPETC became the issue of GE 2015, allowing little room for other issues, like CPF and the whole foreigner thing, which many had long assumed would be PAP's downfall, to gain traction.

Because of WP winning a GRC for the first time in 2011 and Punggol East in the 2013 by-election, there had appeared to be a trend of the opposition gaining more seats with each poll.

This gave rise to what I call the Opposition Manifest Destiny, a sense that the expansion of the opposition in Singapore is righteous and inevitable.

In other words, the opposition are on the right side of history and PAP is not.

This was further reinforced by social media, the huge turn-outs for WP rallies and the resurgence of Dr Chee.

It gave the opposition and their supporters not just hope but confidence that they were really going to make a difference this time - and it turned PAP into the unlikely underdog.

Observing this, a moderate voter might be thinking: "I want more opposition in parliament but just a bit at a time. I don't want them to suddenly take over. Since everyone else is voting for opposition, I'm going to vote PAP."

Is that voting "wisely"? Depends on who you ask.

The result: PAP won almost 70 per cent of the popular votes compared to 60 per cent in 2011.

And the party got Punggol East back.

The opposition didn't know what hit them.

As Mr Tan Jee Say of the Singaporeans First party said: “The results are not consistent with the feedback we’ve heard from the ground, and these results are even worse than what we had expected.”

So is the Opposition Manifest Destiny dead?

Or merely delayed?

At least WP still has Aljunied and Hougang to work towards that destiny.

I just hope that during the next election, when you see a massive crowd at a rally, remember that that's all it is, a massive crowd at a rally. There are also massive crowds at K-pop concerts. It's not votes.

And please, nobody says SG100 again until 2065.


I just had a heated discussion with a colleague about the AHPETC issue.

He is of the opinion that PAP made a mistake by attacking WP on the issue because it turned off voters who could've helped PAP win back Aljunied. He believes that PAP realised the mistake and tried to drop the issue, but WP wouldn't let it.

I have no opinion whether the AHPETC issue helped or hurt PAP's chances of winning back Aljunied, but it was less important for PAP to win back Aljunied than to not lose any more seats. And PAP accomplished the latter, and then some.

But my colleague remains convinced that PAP's attack on WP over AHPETC was a strategic mistake. I agreed to disagree.

Friday 11 September 2015

What's with people posting pictures of their polling card?

So you voted. What do you want?


Tuesday 8 September 2015

Is Ho Ching not-so-subtly campaigning for hubby's party on Facebook?

I follow the prime minister's wife, Ho Ching, on Facebook because, you know, yolo.

She mostly shares such quirky items like an article on why Winnie is called a Pooh and a video of JJ Lin with Chen Tianwen.

Then yesterday morning, she posted this:

Ever wondered how SG remains a top rated triple-A credit country? There are only about a dozen triple-A rated...
Posted by HO Ching on Sunday, September 6, 2015

This is surprising because she usually just shares links without comment. This looked like something she actually typed out herself.

Still, with an opening like "Ever wondered how SG remains a top rated triple-A credit country?", it could easily pass off as another one of those interesting informative articles she shares so often.

But knowing that she's the CEO of Temasek Holdings, you realise she's providing a rare insider perspective on how Singapore manages its reserves.

Wait a minute.

Is she not-so-subtly campaigning for PAP by going on and on about what a good job her husband's PAP Government is doing in managing the country's money?

It's subtle because she doesn't mention PAP or her husband at all.

It's not so subtle because we all know who her husband is. It ain't Donald Trump.

This is out of character for her because she has generally avoided posting anything political on Facebook even though she has shared some PAP stuff, more so in recent days because of the election.

But her timeline is still pretty much filled with Brain Pickings and lots of nature photography.

Then last night, she did it again.

She posted this:

Has anyone looked at the shape of the SG budget over the years?MOF has published the SG budget numbers on its website...
Posted by HO Ching on Monday, September 7, 2015

Yup, she's talking about what a good job the Government is doing with the country's money:
Has anyone looked at the shape of the SG budget over the years?

MOF has published the SG budget numbers on its website since FY1997.

I have summarised the broad % of the Singov budget shape below, averaged over three periods:

Sources of Singov inflows and outflows as % of GDP:
Financial Year (FY) 97-99
Operating Revenue 20
Total Expenditure 17
Primary Budget surplus 3

Financial Year (FY) 00-08
Operating Revenue 15
Total Expenditure 15
Primary Budget surplus 0

Financial Year (FY) 09-14
Operating Revenue 15
Total Expenditure 14
Primary Budget surplus 1

Operating revenue includes taxes as well as fees and charges like the vehicle quota premiums.

Total Expenditure covers all government expenses from defence to education, from social services to healthcare, including operating as well as development expenses such as building of schools or hospitals.

As we can see, Singov’s operating revenues went from 20% of GDP before FY2000, to around 15% of GDP the last 15 years or so. This was a major change.

MOF detailed budget data also shows tax revenues including GST going from around 15% of GDP in the late 1990s, to around 12-14% since FY2002.

Government expenditure has been kept tight, in the 12-15% range since FY2004.

Both government revenues and expenditures have grown in actual dollars over the years – they have come down as a percentage of GDP partly because Singapore’s GDP has grown steadily and faster.

In contrast, OECD economies have an average tax burden over 30% (not counting other fees and charges), double the rate for SG. Some Scandinavian countries like Denmark, have high tax burdens of almost 50%. Even Norway with its sovereign wealth fund from oil & gas, the largest in the world, has a tax burden of over 40%.

Others like the USA do not have just federal tax burden, but also state and municipal taxes on top. US government expenditure is over 40% of GDP. Even Hong Kong, without any expenses on defence, has government expenditure of over 18% of GDP in recent years.

Looks like Singov is a pretty lean government with a much lighter tax burden than most other developed economies, no?

And in case you are wondering about the last row of data called Primary Budget surpluses (or deficit in case of a negative number), yes, you would be right. The 3% average annual budget surpluses for the three years before FY2000 were pretty much what went into the government reserves, as the special transfers and top ups for those years were not as substantial as the post FY2000 periods.

I mentioned in an earlier post this morning that the returns from investments used for Singov budget last year amounted to S$8.6 billion. This helped to fund the S$8 billion put aside for the Pioneer Generation package to provide healthcare subsidies for our Pioneer Generation for the rest of their lives. Judging from the surpluses accumulated before FY2000, I think it is quite fitting that a good part of the returns generated from past surpluses, is being used to fund our Pioneers in their retirement years.

Going forward, if we are to maintain a competitive tax structure (as we must), we will not likely see such large government surpluses. So the rate of accumulation of reserves would be slower. Hmmmmm …..

If we don’t want to see higher tax burdens, we should not be careless or wasteful in our spending: as important for government as for all of us as a people.

For the teams in GIC, MAS and Temasek, and perhaps for Team Singapore as a whole too, the load on the shoulders may seem a bit heavier to ensure that we continue to deliver for the long term, with discipline and integrity.

Meanwhile, have a very goodnite, everyone!

As Hossan Leong would say, double confirm!

The PM's wife is not-so-subtly campaigning for PAP on Facebook.

The profile photo is also a bit of a giveaway.


Am sharing a follow up nugget to my post last nite on the SG budget.Those of you who have gone to MOF website to look...

Posted by HO Ching on Monday, September 7, 2015