Thursday, 21 January 2010

Longest working hours - 45.9 hours a week

According to a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), SINGAPORE's workers continue to lead the pack when it comes to the number of hours they put in at work.

The report puts them at the top of 13 economies in the group's Global Wages Report for 2008-09, surpassing even the notoriously hardworking Japanese and Taiwanese.

The ILO report did not specify the exact numbers. Based on a check with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the Straits Times put the working hours here in Singapore at 45.9 hours a week for 2008 and the first quarter of last year. In 2007, the figure was 46.3 hours.

Under the Employment Act, the limit on working hours is 44 hours a week or eight hours a day. Beyond this, workers are entitled to 1.5 times their hourly rate of pay. The working hours do not include a tea break or lunchtime. As this applies to employees drawing less than $2,000 a month, it means at least 93% of the working population is working such or even much longer working hours.

This long working hours is not only affecting work-life-balance but is also contributing to declinding annual birth rate. Despite this setback, the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) is still urging workers to work "Cheaper, Better, Faster" as a total approach concept - an overarching macro-strategy that embraces both companies and workers in a paradigm shift towards a more competitive economy. Perhaps the NTUC should change its slogan to "Cheaper, Better, Faster and Shorter Hours" to encourage workers to work effectively for better work-life-balance.

However, despite such long hours worked, the Minister Mentor had ironically commented that Singaporeans have become "less hard-driving and hard-striving." during an interview with the National Geographic last year.

Straits Times Online Jan 11, 2010
Longest working hours
They top international poll of 13 economies; MOM's figure is 45.9 hours a week for 2008
By Dickson Li

Friday, 8 January 2010

Prices of HDB flats at record high in Q4 2009

The following was reported in the Straits Times online, Jan 4, 2010 (By Jessica Cheam)
HDB prices hit new high

"PRICES of Housing Board resale flats continued its relentless climb, rising 3.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year to hit a fresh record.

 The Resale Price Index (RPI) hit 150.7 in the fourth quarter, up from 145.2 in the third quarter, according to flash estimate released by the HDB on Monday.

 This means HDB resale flat prices rose about 8 per cent for 2009. Analysts say this is due to the nascent economic recovery and strong demand for resale flats."

The HDB said it will continue to launch more build-to-order flats in 2010 "if there is sustained demand for new flats". "It will ensure that there is an adequate supply of flats to meet prevailing housing needs", it said.

The Board said in a statement on Jan 5 that 12,000 new build-to-order (BTO) flats will be offered this year if there is sustained demand.

Its move comes amid growing concerns on the supply of HDB flats, which analysts say is not keeping up with current high levels of demand.

But the real issue is whether the current demand is sustainable in the long run at the high prices (BTO) flats are being released into the market. Even if demand is temporarily sustainable due to young couples rushing in to buy a unit for marriage despite the heavy financial burden, will it be sustainable in the longer run, since prices of new units are tagged to re-sale prices in the open market and not necessarily its real costs, not forgetting prices had gone up by 8% last year.

Hence, not only current prices of HDB resale flats are high, future prices of HDB flats will continue to escalate and aggravate the existing "asset bubble". Will HDB flats remain "affordable" in the longer run?

Not only must the existing pricing formula for new flats be reviewed but the "market subsidy" principle should also be re-examined to ensure affordable pricing relevant to costs and income elastcity; rather than leaving it to a free float and wild market forces where high HDB flat prices is politically justified by economic growth and unrealistic "asset enhancement" policies.

Nevertheless, general affordability was otherwise assured by MM Lee during his recent visit to The Pinnacle at Duxton Plain, the newly-completed crown jewel of Singapore's public housing in his Tanjong Pagar constituency, which the Minister Mentor said is symbolic of the spectacular transformation of our country.

Other Reference

Dec 14, 2009 Straits Times online

Flat prices still affordable
MM: Cost grows with economy, but Govt will help first-home buyers

In the interest of justice for court to right juducial wrongs

My Letter published in Todayonline 09:30 PM Jan 06, 2010
Online Only - "Miscarriage of justice should not even happen at all..."

I refer to "'In the interest of justice' for court to right judicial wrongs" (Jan 6).

The report posed an interesting opening question: Whose responsibility is it to put right miscarriages of justice, if ever there are any - the judiciary or the President?

The majority of cases would not go up to this level as to pose a responsibility issue between the Court of Appeal and the President. Subjecting a plaintiff or claimant to serious drawback of an unending possibility of litigation seems a greater possibility. If our judiciary works solely on a system of counter-checking and following court decisions, this opening question may be apt. But in reality, this is not the case.

Time and cost constraints are important issues, not to the "officers of the court and judges" administering the system, but to the plaintiff and defendant, as in a commercial case where the "principle of finality" would be helpful in bringing justice to the aggrieved party speedily. The legal process is a rush. When we rush, are we hasty?

It is more important for those administering justice to see a greater responsibility to answer for its own miscarriage of justice during the process rather than leaving it for the legal process to take its natural course to ensure final justice. This should not be the case only when it involves a "capital punishment" case.

While the "finality principle" should not be applied strictly in criminal cases, I doubt the "finality principle" is conversely being strictly applied to help our system achieve greater justice and fairness for contending parties in commercial cases, such as those involving tortuous responsibility to compensate accident victims.

The report quoted the three-judge Court of Appeal to have said that it was "in the interest of justice" for the court to have that power to right its own wrong. Yes, we can leave the power for the court, but will judges (who enjoy the benefit of immunity like diplomatic agents) be willing to see and acknowledge its own wrongs while following the "finality principle"? Or will "ensuring of fairness" still be left for a higher court to decide, which drags the legal process. I believe the tendency is to leave it for a higher Court and the judicial system to take its natural course. A party adjudging a case will not admit or recognizes his own wrong.

Perhaps, we had left our judicial system to work too much on a model of counter-checking and following others' precedence under the Common Law system and if not, to leave it for a higher Court by taking the easier route of an "interim" judgment. The converse is to exercise taking greater (and own) responsibility to ensure fairness and finality in the administration of justice, without leaving it to a possibility of unending contentious matter which will prolong the legal process and place substantial burden on those seeking justice financially.
The problem is not simply one of pushing up or pressing down responsibility in the decision and authority chain. Miscarriage of justice should not be a by-product of our system to determine whose responsibility and which level of authority has the power to decide. It should not even happen at all in the first place, particularly in a capital punishment case.

What if the accused who is already sentenced is sent to death; and the defence lawyer had not acted in time? In the case of Yong Vui Kong, the 21-year-old who was sentenced to death last November for trafficking heroin, the deputy public prosecutor had argued against his defence lawyer seeking a stay of execution saying that granting it "would open the floodgates and allow for abuse of the judicial process".

In commercial cases, the "finality principle" is more likely to work conversely in forcing a decision down on both parties in litigation (plaintiff and defendant). It does not necessarily ensure greater fairness to an aggrieved party. Majority of cases would not go up to this level, wherein do the "floodgates" lie? Ensuring justice to the young accused is still more important.