Friday, March 08, 2013

Disabled Drivers and Caregivers: Safe from New Car Loan Rules

Despite the rightful rage at the government for introducing the new car MAS loan rules that car buyers must have a cash down payment of 50% or 60% depending on the OMV of the car, and that the max loan tenure is 5 years instead of the current 10 years, there was some reasoned restraint in this new car tax.

Some Thoughtfulness and Exemption

Finance MinisterTharman Shanmugaratnam assured that the new loan rules are a temporary measure and would be reviewed in time to affect demand, and also that disabled drivers and their caregivers would be exempted from this onerous MAS policy to ostensibly restrict the number of cars on the road. The COE policy has obviously failed to deter people from buying cars.

The exemption that disabled drivers and their caregivers should not be penalised is a welcomed caveat to the policy. However, it is the details that matter. Presumably the conditions for the special lifting of the loan rules would be based on whether the car buyer has a Class 1 or Class 2 parking label according to the Centre for Enabled Living.  Class 1 is for people who are medically certified as having physical disabilities to park at the disabled drivers lot. Class 2 is for caregivers and those who drive someone who is relatively immobile, and technically it allows for people to park the car at the disabled lot for up to one hour only.

However, there are frequent instances when the Class 2 label is abused e.g. parking beyond the one hour, did not ferry any disabled passenger but yet parked in the disabled lot. Similarly, people would try to work around this MAS loan rules by claiming to be caregivers and getting loan and tax breaks. This is possible as a Class 2 label can be spread up to 3 cars per label i.e. 3 cars exempted from the new loan rules?

So-Called Altruism Questioned

This begs the question. If the government was really generous about disabled drivers and their caregiver-drivers based on allowing them to be spared the new MAS rules, should these groups of people have been exempted from the COE policy at the onset?

Ignoring the technicalities of who is a disabled driver and who is a caregiver-driver and how many cars can be exempted per disabled person, it is obvious these people have a bigger right to own cars more than anyone else. Since the numbers are small, these people need their cars, and as a show of a caring government, all this while, why do disabled drivers surely, and their caregiver-drivers, need to bid and pay for an increasingly exorbitant COE?

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

By George! Media Lobbying, Transparency and NTU's Tenure System

Lobbying is part of the democratic process to advocate a view and to challenge another view. Those with more resources and networks would find it easier to rally each other to support each other in a you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-your-back exchange of favours.

Drumming Up Support for Cherian

When NTU decided not to give Cherian George his tenure in NTU, Cherian's friends and networks got into action. They even produced a petition filled with academic and other luminaries to lobby that their friend deserves job security, as that is what a tenure is in essence. How many of those academics were also striving to get tenure and wanted to use Cherian's case to set a precedent that lobbying and petition for job secuirty works, is a big guess. NTU was however taciturn about why Cherian did not get his tenure citing that it was rightly confidential employer-employee information and were quietly afraid that other academics would rightly learn how to game the outdated tenure system. The lack of transparency on the part of NTU did not help NTU.

There were as a result engineered conspiracy theories from Cherian's friends that Cherian was denied his tenure because he was outspoken in his political views. Is he really that controversially outspoken? If anything and to be indulged in conspiracies, Cherian is in the PAP's books given his employment, wife and wife's background. Naturally Cherian's friends and supporters did not publicly question the former journalist's intellectual rigour as an academic in NTU which prized quantitative and positivist traditions given its engineering research slant. That is not what friends do, but what his former colleague did to set events in context. Courageously even, as nobody wanted to seen as remotely critical of Cherian's situation and going against the tide.

Cherian's Little Elves in Yahoo

Cherian's supporters which includes former students trained and savvy in the use of media, used the media to drum up support for their friend. Yahoo is one of those closely following Cherian's plight and the curious would Google that the Yahoo writers Elizabeth Soh and Shah Salimat were NTU mass comm students and in all likelihood former students and friends of Cherian. Doing their part as writers for the online media giant Yahoo, standing on the chair, "O captain my captain".

Elizabeth Soh in Yahoo

Shah Salimat in Yahoo

Hence, the whole lobby is an extended new media class on what the media can do and should do in lobbying. Cherian's case was reported as a scoop notwithstanding that many academics failed to get their tenure for various personal or office reasons. It helped that Cherian's network was willing and his friends and supporters were in the media to keep support up for Cherian, including a petition and open letter to make NTU open up. In many ways it is like how ST works to play up support for the PAP, this time the table is turned the other way. Control of the media is important in lobbying and engineering support. Ask Gina Rinehart about her Fairfax media ambitions.