Tag Archive | NTUC

Pioneer perks and pains

First, I was pleasantly surprised today when I visited my GP — an ex-neighbour with a clinic in Bukit Batok — to consult about a suddenly super itchy throat and occasional coughing.

After the consultation and receiving three types of medication, I was told that no payment was needed as I hold a Pioneer Generation card. ūüôā

Second, I was pleasantly surprised again at the Bishan Fairprice Finest outlet to be told that I would get a discount on my purchases if I had a Pioneer card. This was the Monday bonus for us Pioneers!

Well, I have and showed it with alacrity.

Only to be told: “And now your IC”.

Huh? Why an IC?

The cashier auntie deadpan: “to confirm you aren’t using someone else’s Pioneer card.”

I duly showed my IC but the pleasure that Mr Lim Swee Say hoped to give us Pioneers was destroyed in one go.

For heaven’s sake. It’s only a 3% discount!!

Would I, or anyone, be so desperate to get 66 cents off our bills (that’s my discount) as to borrow someone’s Pioneer card? And if someone elderly (but doesn’t belong to the Pioneer Generation) and so desperate would it kill Fairprice to let them have that discount just once or twice?

Today’s request reminded me of the days when I was asked for my bus pass to prove that I qualify for the Tuesday 2% elderly discount, even though I have a union member card.

As I don’t have a bus pass, I had to show my IC. There were even a couple of times at an outlet with unbending cashier aunties when I was refused a discount with my IC as the bus pass was the stipulated proof!

Thank goodness that ridiculous demand has long become history.

Hopefully our good Lim Swee Say will now mandate those who man cash machines at Fairprice be more flexible and not ask for our IC. If nothing else that is showing true respect for Pioneers and not start by implying we would be so cavalier with our Pioneer privilege from NTUC as to let others use our card.

No free lunch?

I used to be very chuffed whenever I received NTUC Fairprice Co-operative’s annual notice of the dividend from the handful of shares I hold in the co-op and the rebates I get from shopping at the co-op’s supermarkets. These are on top of the cash Linkpoints that I can use to offset my bills.

Then suddenly last year, I noticed something in my bank statements that I didn’t remember seeing be4. Every month, for goodness how long, whenever NTUC Income credits my account with the pay-out from a small annuity I bought from the insurer, there was a corresponding debit of $9.

The sum was innocuous enough for me not to make a quick journey to NTUC’s headquarters to demand an explanation.

Suddenly, the penny dropped.

The $9 is probably some kind of fee I’m paying to hold the U-card which in turn allows me to enjoy link points and rebates from my shopping at Fairprice.

The corollary is that if I don’t shop at Fairprice or don’t shop enough to offset the $108 I pay¬†every year¬†to NTUC Co-op, then I should give up my U-card.

So, there’s no free lunch!

The timely arrival of my latest yearly statement from the co-op a few days ago showed that I enjoyed a rebate of $168 for the year ended March 2013.

Assuming that I also got cash offsets of the same amount from my Link points, the candle is worth the game especially when Fairprice’s outlets are ubiquitous enough across Singapore for me to be able to buy from¬†any without making any great effort.

The only drawback in general — though not for me — is that poor folks who can’t afford their monthly $9 contribution to the co-op won’t enjoy the Link points or the rebates.

Which doesn’t seem right especially when those who have little $ need to have every bit of help they can to stretch what little they have.

Oh sure, Fairprice and/or NTUC already do a lot for the poor, with food vouchers and many other things.

But why not a little bit more, such as granting U-cards to all households living on direct welfare from the Government?

As a gesture to encourage NTUC to do a little bit more, I am willing to use part of the rebate I have enjoyed to enable one disadvantaged household to have a U-card.

Anyone care to recommend such a household? ūüėÜ

Having a political background matters!

Yup, you read right. Say what you like, but don’t you think the only candidate without any real political shadow hanging over him did badly in the recent presidential election precisely because he didn’t and doesn’t any real political affiliation?

I’m referring to Mr Tan Kin Lian who lost his deposit because he didn’t get the 12.5% of the votes needed to¬†retrieve his $48,000. Why, he didn’t even get 6.25%! He got under 5%, leading to jokes about “low 5”! And this despite the fact that he’s been visible for years since he quit NTUC Income — online and offline at Speakers Corner at Hong Lim Park.

What’s so different about him from the other three competitors?

IMHO, I think it’s political affiliation. Tan Kin Lian really had none, never mind the fact — which few people knew, really and truly — that he was a PAP assistant branch secretary at some time in his¬†NTUC career.

By contrast, all the competition had overt political connections, never mind if everyone of them strenuously tried to distance himself from, if not entirely disown those connections.

Take Tan Jee Say. He was as recently as May a failed election candidate standing under the banners of the Singapore Democratic Party. He resigned from SDP, as he must, to contest the PE.

He and¬†his running mates¬†— who failed in their joint bid for the Holland-Buona Vista group representation constituency — were very much in evidence in¬†his PE campaigning. The ever-delectable Nicole Seah was there as were other National Solidarity Party luminaries. OK, all in their personal capacity, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. But you get the picture. ūüėÜ

It was the same for Tan Cheng Bock. OK, he too said he was his own man. Independent. Above politics ad nauseam. But come lah, he was a PAP man for decades and successfully contested countless elections wearing the PAP badge.

Even all¬†the evidence¬†he proudly displayed to show his independence — speaking out against the Nominated MP scheme, getting free parking in HDB carparks on Sundays et al — were ironically achieved while he was a PAP MP, not because he was independent loner Tan Cheng Bock.

He spoke in parliament and was listened to¬†because he was¬†an important long-serving PAP backbencher who scored the highest percentage of votes in his final election — which incidentally he did¬†not because he was just Tan Cheng Bock, independent but because he was a PAP candidate through and through, white on white.

Given the decades’ long association that he has had with the PAP, it would take decades, not months or a couple of years for the public to view him solely as indie Tan Cheng Bock without also¬†seeing the PAP association in everything he does.

So, guess what? I think he was given a handsome outing because voters inherently associated him with the PAP and his success in garnering almost 35 per cent of the votes is due more to his PAP DNA than he was sweet Mr Independent.

Some observers say that Tan Cheng Bock attracted opposition support. I would like to suggest it’s not so much opposition support per se as voters who had voted against PAP in the general election, ands¬†having taught the PAP “a lesson”, deciding they would¬†rotate the support to a candidate with PAP cred.

As for Tony Tan, he got the solid PAP supporter vote all right. Although he too, in the mood of times, tried to move away from the PAP banyan, he was never vociferously anti or ungrateful about his PAP background. And he is to be respected for that.

And the lesson to be learnt from the recent pressie election? If you want to get anywhere in the next PE in 2017, you better have some political name recognition, overt or at arm’s length. Otherwise, be¬†prepared to lose your deposit!

2 mysteries & my Marina Bay Sands wins

In the run-up to the 2011 General Election, two mysteries have surfaced — at least they seem like mysteries to me.

First is the teariness of Mr Lim Boon Heng, the secretary-general of the NTUC, when he was asked about “group think” in the PAP at a recent press conference.

He hint-hint that he was against the casinos aka the integrated resorts so that’s one example of no group think. And he wept, apparently, at the havoc the casinos have already¬†wreaked on¬†the well-being of some Singaporeans.

I find this a mystery. Why should the casinos cause such havoc when legal¬†gambling is already big time and well entrenched in Singapore?¬†¬†4D, Toto, horse racing, football betting, lucky draws, Big Sweep and the ubiquitous slot machine rooms at private clubs and at the NTUC’s own Downtown East.

Also does Mr Lim, as NTUC boss, know that many (perhaps all?)¬†Fairprice supermarkets actually host Singapore Pools outlets? I’ve even seen Fairprice employees manning the 4D and Toto booth at the Square 2 Fairprice.

Perhaps Mr Lim was more upset by the IRs¬†cannabalising that slice of NTUC income that comes via the NTUC Club’s slot machines and Sg Pool sub-tenancies?

Now for the second mystery which relates to all those self-appointed political analysts¬†relentlessly dissecting the PAP’s every move. Many are now surmising from Mr Lim’s tears and hint-hint re disagreements over the casinos that there are cracks surfacing at the all encompassing PAP terrain.

I really expected these analysts to see the skull beneath the skin; not jump at what appears obvious!

Still, never mind.

Time now to share my own happiness at another successful joust at the Marina Bay Sands. Below are the latest lot of loot I left at the end of my 19th n 20th visits on April 5 and April 11.

Yup, the latest amount had declined from what I collected on March 31 (18th visit) but higher than what I was left with on April 5, the 19th visit at the end of which I gave back about 25% of my March 31 winnings.

net win on April 5


net win on April 11

Actually, my winnings (see pix right) on my latest visit (April 11) had gone all the way to $660 but along the line i forgot my “harvest, harvest” mantra and my target to recoup my $2000 one-year entrance levy.

I shall be more careful at the next visit which hopefully I can fit in sometime next week. Ah anticipation!

PS I’ve not put in any fresh money since the signficant $330 loss in early January, churning my accumulated small winnings on every subsequent visit. Now isn’t that a mystery too? My ability to hang on to my winnings, I mean ūüôĄ

Incentivise health, not sickness

OK, one more post on thoughts stemming from¬†Tan Jee Say’s prescription¬†to the Government¬†on rescuing Singapore from the brink. And I’ll be done. Promise!

TJS’s prescription, touching on hospitals and doctors, called for $10 billion to be pumped into enlarging the healthcare sector, as follows:

Hospitals Regeneration – Singapore is lagging far behind other First World countries in key indicators of healthcare; we have only 32 hospital beds per 10,000 population, about half the average number of 58 beds in high income countries, 17 doctors per 10,000 population compared to an average of 28 doctors in other high income countries, and 53 nurses and mid-wives versus their 81. The $10 billion fund will be used over the next 5 years to add another 8,500 beds in public hospitals and to double the number of healthcare personnel so as to achieve First World norms.

I’ve always had problems with the¬†term “healthcare sector” or “health sector” when essentially it’s really a sickness sector. So talk of euphemism!

And I shudder at the thought of seeing money spent on adding more hospital beds and doubling the number of sick-care personnel.

Rather, my proposal is that money could be better spent in encouraging Singaporeans to stay healthy and stay away from doctors and hospitals as much and as long as possible.

Here is what I would do if I were in charge of what is truly the Ministry of Health (instead of what is currently an euphemsim for the Ministry of Sickness!)

First, I would provide all Singaporeans with $5K worth of¬†“sickness” credit¬†every year which could be used at hospitals and clinics, public or private, when they fall sick.

Stay healthy for 3 years and¬†the sum of $5K (or any leftovers after medical bills)¬†from the credit from year 1 would be the recipient’s to spend or invest as he/she or his/her parent/guardian deems fit.

Second, I will get the Ministry of Manpower, NTUC and SNEF — as a tripartite effort — to persuade employers¬†to complement the Government’s¬†move to incentivise the nation to stay healthy by letting

  • any and all sick leave not taken in one year by employees to be carried over to the following two years and
  • anything not consumed in Year 1 by year 3 be given out as as paid leave

This means that all Singaporeans will have good and solid incentives to stay well.

Now isn’t this a better way of spending the nation’s¬†$$$$$ instead of promising free or heavily subsidised medical support, with a doctor at every bus stop and a hospital around every corner?

PS The scheme might also allow for undrawn health credits from the Government to be accumulated for future consumption or withdrawal. Perhaps impute a small interest element to discourage unnecessary (ie sickness unrelated) and immature use and encourage accumulation?

Clubs’ jackpot hit: no surprise

As has become my habit, I read past issues of Singapore newspapers, after my nephew’s family has done with them.

Today, I chanced upon an article in the Today freesheet which documented the sorry state of the coffers at Singapore’s social clubs, and all due to the opening of the integrated resorts or casinos for short.

The jackpot rooms of these clubs — which used to contribute¬†the giant slice of their income — have been all but been deserted, with their faithful followers drawn as if by magnet to the casinos, the $100 daily levy¬†on Singaporeans and permanent residents notwithstanding.

I’ve reproduced the article in full below and want to boast that’s exactly what I had forecast would happen in this post as far back as June.

Actually, it’s a no-brainer. If you like playing jackpot or slot machines, regularly or even occasionally, the casino is the place to be.

If nothing else, the sheer number and variety of machines, besides the far bigger winning possibilities, available at¬†the casinos leave what’s offered by the various clubs, including those run by NTUC, looking like pauper cousins from the ulu!

So, my forecast for 2011 is that the jackpot revenue at our clubs will continue south, unless, unless, horror of horrors, our dear garmen raises the entry levy!

With this possibility lurking in the days ahead, perhaps I should direct the hongbaos I hope to collect in the upcoming Chinese New Year to buying myself a full year entry to Marina Bay Sands? Or should it be at Resorts World Sentosa which I’ve yet to visit! ūüėÄ ūüėÄ

Clubs’ jackpot coffers take a hit

Athletes and community programmes could be bigger losers if the clubs can no longer support them

05:55 AM Dec 09, 2010
by Teo Xuanwei

SINGAPORE – Some clubs will have to sponsor fewer training sessions for national athletes they support. Others may cut back on community welfare programmes or give out fewer scholarships and bursaries. And up to four S-League teams may even have to drop out.

All this because of plummeting revenue from these clubs’ jackpot rooms, with many of their regulars flocking to the casinos in Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands.

Jackpot takings, which constitute some 20 to 80 per cent of clubs’ revenues, have plunged by as much as 60 per cent since the integrated resorts opened, managers told MediaCorp.

Clubs are now pleading for a lifeline from the Ministry of Finance, in the form of lower duties. Currently, they pay 30 per cent tax on the deemed turnover from their fruit machines. Clubs had appealed against the 12-per-cent tax on actual turnover – a “significantly higher burden”, according to the clubs – which was to have been introduced in 2006.

A review of the new private lottery duty is ongoing.

In one manager’s words, if taxes are not lowered, many clubs will be “in jeopardy”. They hope to pay 15 per cent of deemed turnover, similar to what the IRs pay.

Singapore Recreation Club general manager Abdul Rashid said: “All we’re asking is for an equal footing. If the proposed 12-per-cent tax kicks in, we’ll be hit very hard. Some things like funding for certain sports may have to go.”

The SRC supports 15 sports, including snooker and bowling.

Its funding for sports activities next year has already been cut 30 per cent, said Mr Abdul Rashid.

The Chinese Swimming Club also uses part of the revenue from its 35 jackpot machines to fund some national swimmers, such as Mylene Ong, who train there. So far, takings have slumped by over 40 per cent.

General manager Rosalind Tan said: “Should the tax be fixed at 12 per cent, our preliminary calculations show that our revenue will be very significantly reduced, on top of the fact that the base is now much reduced.

“The club will have to take a long-term view and review its current operations, including its business model in entirety, should its jackpot results continue to suffer or if it becomes untenable to operate.”

S-League clubs could be hardest hit

At the National University of Singapore Society, the approximately $2.8 million it makes annually from 50 jackpot machines helps to fund community care initiatives, scholarships and bursaries, among other causes.

Revenues have fallen more than 30 per cent and chief executive Tong Hsien Hui expects a further 10- to 15-per-cent slide next year.

S-League clubs may end up the hardest hit. Some of their operating budgets are 80 per cent from jackpot revenue.

Said one official, who declined to be named: “If this new tax law is passed, we won’t be able to afford to take part in the league – and this is the case for most of the other local clubs as well.”

When contacted, Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin said it would be a “double whammy” if the new tax is implemented on football clubs.

“It will have a direct negative impact on the operation of these clubs,” he said.

The clubs, which each need between $1 million and $2 million annually, have done a study on the anticipated impact of a 12-per-cent duty on actual turnover, he said.

“We want to engage (the authorities) and give feedback because they may not be aware of the quite serious impact the new tax will have,” he said.

“The fruit machines are not a profit-making exercise for football clubs. The funds that come out of these operations are put back into funding the club’s football needs.”

A Ministry of Finance spokesperson said: “MOF regularly reviews its tax policies and as part of the process, seeks views and inputs from various parties.”Additional reporting By Shamir Osman

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