Professor Lim Chong Yah – The Devil’s Advocate

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冰冻三尺非一日之寒 (bīng dòng sān chǐ,fēi yī rì zhī hán)

English translation.

表面意义是冰冻了三尺,并不是一天的寒冷所能达到的效果。比喻一种情况的形成,是经过长时间的积累、酝酿的。

表面意思是,水被冻结了三尺的冰,不是一天的寒冷就可以造成了。

准确意思是,任何事的发生都有其潜在的,长期存在的因素,不是突然之间就可以形成的。多用来说矛盾的形成,也说成绩的取得。多用于贬义。

冰冻三尺非一日之寒 (bīng dòng sān chǐ,fēi yī rì zhī hán) Loosely translated to mean ‘Rome is not built in one day.’

I came across this phrase from Dr Toothfully aka Yao mo gao chor ah? I did a search for its meaning. Actually that phrase has no mention of Rome but it is the desired meaning really.

To explain literally it actually says three feet thickness of ice is not formed in a winter day. One day of extreme coldness doesn’t give rise to the formation of thick ice. It takes a much longer period of time possibly the whole winter season to accumulate and form the three feet thickness of ice.

We have got more than three feet thickness of ice accumulated and formed over the past 10 to 20 years! Our huge thickness of ice is NOT the result of one or two years mismanagement and outdated policy.

Slowly and surely over the many years, it has accumulated, hardened and entrenched until we are faced with so much problems as a consequence of our inertia under the above mentioned circumstances.

Sadly, we are going downhill. There is so much problems today on transportation, housing, widening income disparity, medical, education and yes FTs related issues – the heartaches and the headaches!

When our good gentlemanly eminent academic professor of economics Lim Chong Yah came out openly to highlight the serious wage problem, he was quickly shot down by an artillery of heavy guns. The bombardment never ceases. The pounding gets louder and protracted.

Professor Lim Chong Yah in his mid 70s from the establishment is no ordinary person or ikan bilis. He has a track record of proven credentials as an economics academic and professor. He was Chairman of our National Wages Council for many decades.

I believe Professor Lim like all loyal citizens just cannot tahan any longer. The piecemeal haphazard rate without any clear coherency this government in handling our current social economic problems just don’t seem to make any sense at all. It’s becoming a big joke as more and more problems surface.

Professor Lim Chong Yah “pointed to our growing income inequality, which he says is approaching dangerous levels, and the nation’s overdependence on cheap foreign labour.” – Straits Times, 10 April 2011.

Just like Ngiam Tong Dow who spoke out against current government FTs policy, Professor Tommy Koh also ever said that we need a minimum wage policy. That was shot down by the union chief straightaway.

Professor Lim CY, Ngiam TD, Professor Koh are not politicians but well known intellectuals just voicing their inner conscience to those elites currently in charge of running the country. We do have Tan CB, Tan KL and Tan JS who have come out openly to challenge those elites in the last PE.

We hope for the love of Singapore our mother land more will step forward to offer alternative views/solutions and play the Devil’s advocate.

The nub of the whole issue is either you increase wages drastically to force business enterprises to increase productivity or remove all cheap foreign labour to forcefully increase productivity. (not depressing wages with cheap imported labour)

It seems that those MIWs are so hopelessly addicted to the intoxicating euphoria of cheap abundance of foreign labour from neighbouring countries that in their state of high ecstasy they just can’t differentiate the wood from the trees! Will they ever listen?

I wonder if it would be like the KMT in ROC where they lost power after five decades of power then only will they come to their senses and humbled down to serve as ‘people’s servants?’

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I'm a Singaporean Chinese living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I also share interesting jokes, stories or anecdotes and observations on my blog. Thanks for visiting.
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12 Responses to Professor Lim Chong Yah – The Devil’s Advocate

  1. patriot says:

    There are many intellectuals in the Blogoland volunteering much of their grey matters to the so-called talented leaders at no charge. These are enlightened folks with as much if not more academic qualification, expertise, experience and many have traveled far and wide. These are also the sensible chlvalrous people that have the well-beings of the people, government and state as their main concern. BUT, they are invisible to our Rulers or worse seen as anti-establishment.

    As for the Cabinet appointed professionals such as Prof Lim C Yah, Tommy Koh, Gerard Ee and former cabinet members, Singaporeans must bear in mind that these fellows were/are parts of the Machinery of the Government. They played BIG PARTS in past and present policies and their implementations which LED TO THE SOCIAL-POLITICAL AND INDUSTRIAL SITUATIONS WE ARE IN NOW. There is no reason to see these folks as any different from any Men In White, THEY WERE/ARE MEMBERS OF THE ESTABLISHMENT.

    patriot

  2. kinjioleaf says:

    How can we be certain that those who were in the establishment did not speak out when they were in? Perhaps they spoke up but fell out of grace therefore making them ‘used to be’ or ‘ex-something something’?

    What we need to focus on is the content of what they said and proposed. Not who they were.

    Personally, I don’t give a damn about background if sound and good suggestions come from that coffeeshop auntie, road sweeping uncle, taxi drivers, train operators or Anonymous. On the same token, so what if that person is a scholar, highly educated, or some big shot? He’s not human? Won’t fart or shit?

    Prof Lim’s suggestion may be extreme. He knows it, thus the word ‘shock’. At least his suggestion is far better than that CBF who wanted Cheaper Better Faster who when challenged, replied,’I’m at a loss for words’

  3. darkness 2012 says:

    Yes I agree in part with what patriot says abt all of them being cut from the same cloth – but we should all take the effort to focus on the important and disregard the trivial. Question: can Lim’s suggested solutions solve many of the problems we as a nation face today? If as Gintai says the men in white have rolled out their heavy artillery to demolish what Lim has to offer – then I say, they can’t shoot a sitting duck for shit as all of them seem to be missing the mark by the proverbial mile – so many in the ruling hegemony have already commented on Lim’s suggest solution, but do you all notice, none of them have been able to really answer the one question that needs to be answered.

    If Lim’s suggested solution is not the answer and does more harm then good – then what would the solution be to resolve the twin heads of income inequality along with diminishing apertures for opportunity for those who have been marginalized by globalization?

    It seems no one is PAP has either the determination or political will to satisfactorily answer this question – many seem to be just beating around the bush in the hope they end up hitting the nail and some sound even like broken records. And this lack of will or intelligence on the part of the PAP to account coherently to the public why they do the things they do is the reason why many are confused about this matter – and when confusion sets in it is only natural for people to think the worse.

    Before trying to craft an intelligent response to what Lim forwarded. The PAP must learn to communicate effectively in the digital age. They cannot be so shortsighted and scale their target audience so wrongly these days by buying into the belief that soundbites and feel good rhetoric will always be able to explain why they do the things they do and to what end (if any and to whose benefit) – they should respond SERIOUSLY in a SERIOUS manner to a very SERIOUS proposal to solve a very SERIOUS problem – after all Prof Lim has done his part, he has dedicated himself to a logical line of analysis, it may be wrong or work against the common good – but no one can take away the belief, this fellow has sat down and worked it out SERIOUSLY. As for the PAP steam engine they don’t even seem to want to take this matter SERIOUSLY – and this may explain why no one in the PAP could get their act together by consulting with their think tanks to demolish Lim’s suggestion once and for all. If the PAP had just sat down a few men who know what needs to be done in a room and the team leader said, “our mission is to use only x number of words to take this fellow’s suggestion to town.” And they had bothered with explaining to all of us in a way that does not hurt thinking folk why Lim’s suggested solution cannot possibly fly and will only crash and burn. Along with why only their solution can resolve our widening income gap and our ongoing addiction to cheap labor – then we can all move the discussion to another level. This is what intelligent people would do when they are faced with serious issues that go in the marrow of the bones of any contentious issue. They use the power of the mind to influence others and get a solid buy in.

    But look at what they do. Nothing. And can something come from nothing? Look at how shambolic the PAP has come across when it comes to communication. The PM is MIA, all the heavy weights are just trying to avoid eye contact and issuing one sentence replies along with soundbites. When what a high performance political outfit would have done is to strike down all Prof Lim’s arguments with surgical precision, bang! bang! bang! You are dead! let’s go home lah! – instead they are just all coming across as a bunch of shambolic mumblers, where everyone is hoping that their comment will add rather than subtract from what really needs to be done. No wonder they cannot seem to find the imagination to prosper and thrive in the digital age.

    Darkness 2012

  4. kinjioleaf says:

    Another angle to look at our current situation is this.
    Perhaps some senior management are genuine about raising wages of their low wage workers but clueless about how. Most can only think of do more=pay more. To a low wage worker, that can only mean work extra hours, serve two more cups of coffe, sweep two more blocks of flat. Very few management staff are looking deep enough into the process. Questions like ‘What can I do to facilitate them? Was the broom we get koyak? Can I give him a note pad for him to write down the drink orders? He’s illiterate? Can flash cards of kopi, teh, teh-si help? How about the engineers/technicians? Do they have enough resources? Were they trained? How are they trained? Can they handle financial or contractual issues? Are we spending too much time in meetings to ask questions instead of giving directions and solutions?’
    End of the day, a lot of senior management are staring at the blackbox aka process, clueless what is in there and only focus on tweaking input(operating cost) and output(revenue). So simple ape also can be senior management with super high pay. Just buy low (cheap labour) sell high (increase fare, tax, duties, price, rental and a whole lot of bullshit)

  5. patriot says:

    Me would like to say that IT IS THE MEN IN WHITE THAT HAVE PUT US TO WHERE WE ARE TODAY with their schemes. AND THOSE PEOPLE GINTA MENTIONED HERE HAVE THEIR HANDS HEAVILY IN THE SCHEMES! Now, Singaporeans begin to feel the effects and consequence. Did our MIWs bring joy and cheer in the Last 20 years that they claimed and are still claiming that their schemes can achieved for us? Can anyone believes that some are working from within the ESTABLISHMENT to change thing for the sake of the people?

    There was always the ambition that me born to a farming family will want to be a farmer, however, i never become one after been resettled. I am still hoping to be one. BUT, as it is, I have FAILED so, my wish remains a wish or a dream.

    Dream and wish do not give me consolation, but, if they provide glimmers of hope for anyone, me wishes him/her good luck!

    patriot

  6. Gentlemen,

    Thank you so much for your comments. Yes Patriot is correct to say that there are many brilliant minds and intellectuals in blogosphere offering free advice and diverse views with good faith. Some of them have travelled far and wide having seen much of the world. I consider all of you here sincere citizens giving your two cents’ worth contributing to this meaningful discussion.

    I also concur with Ape that we shld not be overly concerned with his or her past status or affiliations. We look at the contents and the arguments put forth to base our opinions. If its valid we give it due credit.

    As usual, Darkness2012 with his strong command of expressions puts it succinctly that the response to such a highly publicized ‘shock therapy’ by an eminent professor of economics who is also the father in law of PM’s brother warrants serious discussion with a serious response from serious people. It just can’t simplify be brushed aside hopefully to silent our learned professor and the discerning public! As it is, our spiritedly 77 yrs old professor fought back and dug in defending his theory even in the face of heavy artillery bombardment from those running this place!

    In short, don’t just shoot it down. Come out with a clear cut easily understood blueprint to counter that shocking prescription. How to move from here? Do we still have the usual luxury of getting more and much cheaper foreign labour to churn out more impressive GDP figures? Why ROC (quoted by DPM ‘Eight Ball’ recently) or the Koreans not getting their supply of cheap foreign labour yet prosper and survive? That need to be looked into. PAP is bankrupt of ideas. They came from the same cut of the cloth with same group think in the same mould. They just can’t get out of the box!

    As it is there is already nearly half of our population comprising foreigners! Can we go on like that? This crazy madness must stop!

    Ape puts it aptly when he says we also can be part of the management or govt getting paid millions if they do not offer top notch solution. Just ‘buy low and sell high’ anyone including you and me could also do that! Is that so simple?

    Clearly the first salvos fired by those occupying the corridors of power are ‘shambolic mumblers with no surgical precision!’ That is no good. It does not bode well for our country.

  7. Harish says:

    It may be precisely because of the excessive salaries [using a comparative international benchmark] being paid to decision makers in Singapore’s government today, that we may not be able to depend on them to solve the issues plaguing Singapore. Check this out: . High pay sharply lowers performance in solving “poorly-defined” problems.

    • Hi Harish,

      Thks for dropping by and your comment.

      If you examine closely those running the country I dare say a majority either come from the SAF, Civil Service or Statutory Boards. There is one parachuted fast track to the top post can only claim to be best in a tiny red dot who has never seen the world – not even overseas studies. MP Chen SM who has travelled and seen the big wide world beyond our tiny pond can take that guy anytime! That guy can be quite arrogant when ruffled.

      Can they feel the ground? Are they in one with the commoners. I don’t really think so. Do they have the luxury of learning empathy when they are already perched in such lofty height?

      Just look carefully at their public behavior and demeanor. I am not impressed thus far.

  8. Nebermind says:

    I wonder if anybody noticed that Prof Lim Chong Yah is (was??) the father-in-law of Lee Hsien Yang. His daughter is Lim Suet Fern. To think that someone as closely connected to the imperial famiLEE as Prof Lim would speak out in public about the growing wage divide and income inequality, that really says something about how bad the situation is. Or maybe he is of a different character than the other members of the famiLEE, one who is righteous and who cannot bear to see a once peaceful and prosperous country going down the drains under the good leadership of the almighty LEE.

  9. SGPrepper says:

    兄弟,

    虽说过去十几年里的许多政策都不利于我们新加坡国民,但我们国人怨天尤人的态度却是很可悲地。这一群国人应该意识到责怪行动党政府虽然能够满足一时想发泄的情绪,但希望有别党来执政会使我国的经济与社会情况有所改善也可能只是不切实际的幻想。毕竟都是指望‘别人’来解决问题的思维。

    如果能走出‘一切都是政府的错‘的框子,就可能会发现到其实我国人民都有依赖政府的恶习。要真正走出我们个人和家庭的窘境就必须认识到一切改变都要从我们自身开始。如果政治能够解决人类的问题的话,世界上就没有任何问题了。

    SG Prepper.

  10. Expensive price says:

    Would be interesting to ask how of us would like to take the first step or is this about “somebody” ie gehman laying the trail with sticks and carrot incentives? Would you pay your hawker auntie 15% more because her cost has gone up or the SMRT more because gas has gone up and it is already cheap on a global level.

    On a personal level, I would not like to pay anymore unless my income is adjusted upwards first so that my standard improves incrementally or I have no choice.

    We also know pay increase by command will be disastrous whilst “free market” determination taken to its ultimate rational endpoint has the same endpoint. Fact is we have to vacillate between
    the these 2 economic poles.

    The skill is having a political leader that can steer seamlessly between the 2 – sometimes called commonsense. The world cannot exist without sin except in the mind of God – legally it can be said all of us are without sin except we like to lie sometimes.

    The Government we have is a reflection of our own making – we wish, they provide us we enough, we reward them with more tenure. Question is if any opposition is that different once they become govt. Watch Europe and learn from them – they have eaten their cake and now looking for more – since they do not seem to be able to cook another, they are going to borrow or earn it by working for us

  11. Whitehat says:

    Maybe all PTO are Lazy that is why you guy admit the statement make buy him.”Wage shock therapy too risky” (TODAY WEDNESDAY MAY2,2012 *HOT NEWS)
    National Transport Workers’ Union president Mohd Rasi Taib said that, for instance, the typical salary of bus drivers is between S$1,000 and S$1,300 even after more than 10 years of service.

    Mr Taib nevertheless reiterated that wage increases should be in tandem with productivity improvements.

    He said: “We should work on productivity first and then the (higher) wages will come later … because after giving wage increase, nobody will work harder.”

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