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Generals on top can draw up the most beautiful plans…

I have to confess that I had high hopes during national service. I had a strange fantasy of being an officer and then, somehow proving myself in a combat situation and climbing the ranks. I guess part of it was from growing up in the UK, where it was expected of any young man with A-levels entering as an officer if he chose the armed forces. Another part of it was from watching movies, where officers seemed to get a better life than the average grunt.

So, when I got to admit that I was a little disappointed that I didn’t make it to OCS and going to what was then called “School of Infantry Specialist” (SISPEC) felt like second best. However, as I was going through specialist training, I received an invaluable piece of advice from the then Weapon Wing second in command (2ic) in the School of Artillery. The then 1st Warrant Officer, Yeo Lay King, told us, “Gentlemen, always remember, the generals on top can draw up the most beautiful plans – but without us to execute, nothing is going to happen.”

These Guys Are Brilliant at Drawing Things Up On Paper

 

But we need this guy to ensure their brilliant plans are more than just sheets of paper

I didn’t know it then, but he was giving us a pearl of wisdom, which I would soon realise, nobody followed much to the detriment of the rest of society. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which as a citizen army, is a microcosm for the rest of society is a perfect example. In the word of my Uncle Andy, who was an officer in the SAF – “You know the army is going downhill when the officers get everything and the NCO’s, who are the backbone of the army, get nothing”

Back in my day (early nineties), the government spent a sinful amount to create the Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute – Military Institute or SAFTI MI. The idea was simple (and often repeated across the board) – it was to make Singapore the regional centre for training military officers. The facilities at SAFTI-MI are supposed to be based on West Point in the USA or Sandhurst in Britain. Officer Cadets lived like university students – two to a bunk. Food at SAFTI-MI was inevitably better than it was anywhere else in the military eco-system (there’s a direct correlation between the quality of food served in a camp and the number of colonels and above and SAFTI-MI had a hold of the number of colonels walking around).

While young officers were resting two to a bunk in SAFTI-MI, we at the other “commander school,” were living many, many people to a bunk. Although, we were treated relatively well (trainees get to take on various commander roles under supervision), it was quite clear that those of us in the old Pasir Labar camp were living off the scraps of the more glorious at SAFTI-MI next door.

The comparison between the officer and NCO (or specialist as we were rebranded in Singapore) continued throughout the rest of our national services careers. I do acknowledge the differences between the Officer and NCO class and I do believe that good officers are as important to the system as good NCOs. However, while the importance of the role of the NCO as much talked about, the reality was quite different. The best example comes from the fact that a third sergeant, which is an operational rank that comes with command responsibilities, pays a grand total of $900 a month. By comparison, an officer cadet, which is to all intents and purposes, a trainee with no actual responsibilities, is paid $40 a month less (at one stage officer cadets were paid more).

If you want to put this into the commercial context, it means that a senior technician, in charge of actually fixing things, is paid only marginally higher than a student in engineering school.

Interestingly enough, the disparity between the officer class and NCO and enlisted men would also continue into later life. Singapore has the world’s highest paid ministers. Our Prime Minister, who runs a country that is barely a suburb of New York or LA, makes at least four times more than the US president. We’re constantly told that we need to “attract talent,” because Singapore’s success in just about everything comes from letting world class people run the show and you need to pay for talent.

It’s nice idea. However, does it actually work. Well, Singapore is well run on the surface, so much so that the people who don’t have to live through the system are inevitably the ones praising it. Dig a little deeper and the story is rather different.

Without these guys, our homes don’t get built, we’ll travel on potholed roads etc.

Let’s look at the opposite end of the scale where the guys who ensure that our world class cleanliness is actually that, are paid wages that are just ahead of slave wages. The standard reply to any suggestion that people the lower end of the scale should earn a few cents extra was inevitably “Would you be willing to pay more for your ……” (which inevitably happened anyway, because the other main costs for business, which is controlled by the people in power – i.e. rent inevitably shot up, even in a recession.)

It took the Covid-19 pandemic for us to realise that we actually needed people to do things. Someone had to clear the trash. Someone had to get our food ready for us? How have we shown the people that make our life livable our appreciation? Well, there’s now some talk about how we’re going to have a “Progressive Wage model,” which will help the guys who actually do things to double their low salaries in five years. In the meantime, rents for businesses, especially the home-grown ones, have gone up in an instant.

A year after Covid, you have the usual bureaucrats trying to get people back to the office. The answer is simple, these are the clowns trying to help ensure the landlords have a large say in things. You have people insisting that their professional service providers up the bill by two thirds but at the same time insist that they are being screwed when logistics movers send the bill and insist on being paid up front.

Unfortunately, Covid has shown us that what we considered “normal,” was not actually normal. Nobody is saying that the people who do should be given as much as the people who talk on an overnight basis. However, it is clear that the people who do things have to be respected and valued. Talking, contrary to what most bureaucrats assume, is actually the easy part. Picking up a paper and walking to the end of the room on the other hand requires energy. If we are to progress as a nation, we need to rediscover the respect and value of the people who actually do things rather than to lavish it all on the people who talk about doing things.

 

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

yyy
READER COMMENTS BELOW

27 Responses to “Generals on top can draw up the most beautiful plans…”

  • Asd:

    I think free meal in cook house for decades followed by m$ no accountability job is known as free rider

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  • MarBowling:

    Wow. LJ General Demon Quack really looks very impressive with rows of Big and Heavy medals on his uniform. Must have obtained rank of LJ General through lots of experience in REAL WAR and COMBAT fighting in Timbuktu! THINK in a REAL WAR situation, when an enemy happens to come face to face, will TURN TAIL and BOLT, NOT because of him BUT because his impressive medals has FRIGHTENED the shits out of him!

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  • abc:

    Akua generals,more like it.

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  • Lee Hsien Loong is FAILURE:

    The best example of over-rated SAF “big shot” is Lee Hsien Loong. He was a President’s Scholar and a Brig. General. He became PM and was TOTAL DISASTER.
    Singaporeans are worse off since he became PM. He is indeed a FAILURE. No doubt about it.

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  • 64,000 more Opposition votes:

    Straits Times: End of the road for Hyflux as High Court okays winding up of water treatment firm

    64,000 retail investors that invested in Hyflux securities lost everything. Together they invest $900m. The banks also lost about the same amount. But this is ok for them because the loss is tax-deductible for them.

    Let us be clear. Hyflux failed because of the adverse effect of government’s energy policy. It gave incentives to power generating companies to increase generating capacity to support its LNG project. This resulting massive excess in generating capacity resulted in a sharp drop in electricity tariff causing Hyflux’s electricity business to lose money continuously until it went bankrupt.

    PUB got Hyflux’s water treatment plant for free. The banks got tax losses which can be used reduce taxes on future profit. The 64,000 retail investors got nothing. They will likely voted for the Opposition at the next GE and they should. This could be enough to flip another GRC (or even two) and few more SMCs.

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  • left behind:

    NS was the worst period of my life. I lost my freedom and have to be a puppy. I was order and command by people who does not deserved to command me. All SAF officers and specialists never fight war before, what do they know to command people like me? I mean what did officer do defend Singapore to deserve salute, they have never give away their life in war or injured in war. I endure SAF stupid theory of defence, knowing that any days nuclear missiles fired by American enemies like Russia will destroy Singapore and Singapore has totally zero defence against such enemies. Now we know how fast Russia missile is, they say it take only 15 mins. So fast that fighters plane cannot take off and military cannot be recall in time even to camps. I know Japanese take Singapore in three days in world war two history and any nations which will conquer Singapore is likely more powerful than Japan in world war two now. Perhaps it only take less than one day. I quietly laugh at their stupid three days or longer military exercise. My friends all told me it was all wayang and we know deep in our hearts. If you have serve the army, you will know like me. In my personal opinion, the army ability to fight a real war is bad and cannot defend Singapore. The commanders order me like a dictator and treat me like a fool. I think the military is government education tool to make us all listen to governments, become obedient and conscription make Singapore a dictator, taking away all our freedom. By the time, we finish NS and NSmen out of control of SAF, we are 40 year old men cannot fight against the government.

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  • xoxo:

    With generals like these,Bye-bye SinkaPOOR-lah.
    All GREEDY FAT CATS…MEOW!²
    We love FI$H N fish-monger$ n luxury KTV .
    See you there.

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  • Pappy R Freeloaders:

    The Old Guards wouldn’t take no $hit from such as these today.

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  • PLP LAH:

    Beautiful plans.

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  • agreed:

    Agreed.Need to respect more our people who do things.
    Pay them better.

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  • 黑豹琶湾拿:

    军队都是这样,将军带领士兵。

    所有的国家都是这样,领导带领国民建设国家。

    任何组织都是这样,必须要有领导层带领非领导层。

    谁能告诉大家,他有更好的方法?

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  • Delta Company:

    The generals, not only received scholarly pay………also

    Has a personal driver and free ice car to drive him home.

    He has free food served by army cook sets……….if he wants fried rice he just inform his runner…………

    And off course got a rent free room all to himself…………the runner irons his uniform n polish his boots…..
    …….

    WHO DON’t want to be a bitter gourd (bg). Rear admiral……….better still enjoying the sea breeze and drinking beer.
    ..

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  • Temusik Patriot:

    Good Post Tangfastic…stay focus n don’t stray into Wonderland like Alice

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  • Oh Sooooo:

    That pic of the Generals is very catchy…wonder though that after their supreme sacrifice service to the country of which they received their just (plum) reward in the civilian world, how many multi millions of dollars (maybe billions) in losses are they responsible for? Perhaps one of the learnered contributors could do the sums..

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  • hierarchy and discipline:

    //NS was the worst period of my life. I lost my freedom and have to be a puppy. I was order and command by people who does not deserved to command me. All SAF officers and specialists never fight war before, what do they know to command people like me?//

    aiyoh. like school streaming at a young age, you need to indoctrinate ‘hierarchy and discipline’ for the system (e.g invented by the elites more for their own benefits ???) ????

    and hopefully this will be burned into the minds of young people (ripe age good for reaping ??) for them to carry on for the rest of their lives lor ??? that is why white idiots need FTs (most of them do not need to go through the same rituals like daft sinkies hor ??) to help daft sinkies in the name of open economy, shortage of talents and needing connection to the wider world or region (very nice and smooth logics hor ??) ???

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  • SIN generals paper or/& stupid:

    R SIN generals just paper or worse stupid? Don’t they know with a foreign pop including new citizens planted >> core Singaporeans, national security is like a public toilet? Beside why should they waste their soldiers lives defending the wealth n lives of these trash? R they no treating their soldiers under their commands as brothers in arm n at all cost cannot be betrayed? It is time these paper generals not humiliated themselves as stupid n bootlickers for those with treason on their minds n have a strong say on foreign affairs n immigration policy else it is better to resign n be as good and successful as u cann be n not self humiliated to be auseless bootlicking suckers? What if you get $25 millions n be humiliated for life as a duckie!?

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  • What c19 MTF?:

    To many businessmen, the idiots on the MTF r farting everytime they showed themselves on the Media. Ask any construction foremen both locals, Banga, Parki or Ind, smoking outside any constrction or house renovation sites: how many of them working inside? Some will not say but laugh meaningfully n gigglel Slowly then he jokes between their puffs: “sir we no stop 2 huh’ (nodding his head n put up 2 fingers) We fxxx like hell to get more to come to ssspore to ssshit n monies”. Some will say nonchalantly n at low volume: “5. Sometimes more than 10 when boss want fast.” If u tell them of MTF restriction. He laughed aloud n said “i told my boss but he v. V. Angry shout no give a fxxx of the govt.” He pays a lot of tax for their bonus n has zero for them! “Your govt huh, we die no care import more my countrymen. Many at home. We $$$$ your govt”

    This is how good, talented n efficient the papic MTF C19 nincompoops r to the businessmen esp construction n food sectors. To them they fart more than they eat but of course no less than what they give $$$$ n privileges to themselves under ownself xxxx ownself policy! $25 m, here xx billions there n yy trillions under. As Qina from Xi land would snigger “ a lot of oily water in SIN ah, demoncrazy heaven executed! “ “Politics r like sewers everywhere.
    See umerica, Inglan …. all demoncrazy” quan quan hsien fu! Quan has two mouths ah!”

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  • AristoCATs - Limits ?:

    Lee Hsien Loong is FAILURE:
    The best example of over-rated SAF “big shot” is Lee Hsien Loong. He was a President’s Scholar and a Brig. General. He became PM and was TOTAL DISASTER.
    Singaporeans are worse off since he became PM. He is indeed a FAILURE. No doubt about it.

    =
    Safire – “Would your son be Deputy Prime Minister if he were not your son?
    LKY: If he were not my son, he would be the Prime Minister.
    -

    Succession thing – LKY did know what he did not know.

    -
    More than 39% should know the Power of the Ballot Box !

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  • AristoCATs - Paper G?:

    > “Generals on top can draw up the most beautiful plans…”
    -

    Alas, efforts vs results,
    AristoCATs failed to know the difference.

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  • Reboot:

    More than 50% of our population are foreigners, who cares about Generals…

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  • uncle lim:

    More like toilet-paper-generals,I must say.
    If war breaks out,all these paper-generals go and hide first.

    Sia suay nang.

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  • Cumbridge Schoolarstic Umbrage:

    Firdt, we need to ensure Mas Selamat cannot escape highest security detention center and advise people Must Wear Mask and sinovac is approved by WHO but HSA say no and also we need to ensure Vietnamese chicken cannot so easily influx into sg using girlfriend as reason.

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  • Dr. Chan:

    @uncle lim
    Agree with you. These fake scholars, paper generals will run road first. They don’t have REAL fighting capabilities. Useless in a REAL war.
    Assuming they have acquire overseas properties, bank accounts and citizenship with our taxpayers’ monies. Running Road will be much smoother.
    Only the peasants are left behind to fend for themselves – they have nowhere to run to because they are dead poor.

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  • Respect:

    Respect is earned.
    Need to prove capability and leadership.

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  • Asd:

    I think all look like clown how fight anything let alone fight war

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  • DeBarge:

    If the Generals stayed in the job and retired there, like Winston Choo, that would be one thing. But most of the scholar generals are being prepared for bigger things. To be honest, their performance in public life after leaving the military has been underwhelming. It leads you to wonder what the military has prepared them for. I think scholars in the military may be even more prone to the entitlement mentality that many scholars already suffer. Consider what being sucked up to day and day out for years and years can do to your outlook. The person with sufficient humility to survive unscathed must be rare.

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  • Official Cock Sucker:

    Why are people so het up about going OCS? Is it about prestige, face, status and tthe chance to boss your peers around? Do people actually relish the tough training and challenges? Or is it their aim to be a good leader and actually guide their trainees and not have a tekan king mentality?

    On a seperate note, Covid is an abnornal, weird lifestyle. It is perverted, goes against human nature. That’s why there are outbreaks of disobedience and violence.

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