Friday, December 11, 2009

Slow To Act As Usual

It is reported in the papers today of our government continual struggle...I mean - 'effort' to upgrade the service quality in the sales, retail and hospitality industries.

It is no wonder that momentum to improvement is slow as there is a lack of foresight and failure to response to the changing profile of the work force.

In yesterday program on Channel News Asia, there was an interview with new immigrants taking up work in the service sector. They featured this young lady who took up a job at one of the eateries in Changi International Airport. She does not speak nor understand English. She is not familiar with local terms. She has no idea what is kaya, teh-o, kopi and even common word like butter. She is learning while on the job. Her company does not send her for English classes. She took the initiative pick up English at one of the Churches which conduct free lesson.

Here she is selling things she has no idea what are they. S'poreans who speak only English have problem with their orders. Foreigners who like to find out what is 'kaya' bread will not be any wiser after asking her. And this is happening at the main gate way to S'pore - at the airport. First impression matters. This young lady is a typical example of the current service standard in S'pore.

The good news is they are finally doing something about it next year. Immigrants who wish to work in S'pore will need to undergo some basic language test. Should not this be implemented way earlier ? There are many countries that we can learn from which have more sensible and sustainable immigration policy. Why the reluctant to act unless the problem escalate, even though it is obvious as daylight it is a teething problem ?

In the same papers it is reported that MM Lee is asking Japan to 'take a leaf out of Singapore's book' in dealing with their economic social problems due to its ageing population. Is he sure our current liberal policy on immigration is on the right path ? It took him 40 years before he realized our bilingual policy is a flop. It may be another few decades before he or his successors realize it is another mistake. The current liberal immigration policy has brought with it social problems which are already surfacing.

This 'urgent' U-turn to beef up S'pore population happens because of action taken too late to reverse the 'Stop At Two' birth control policy. So we want Japan to learn from us ? We are very slow to act besides needing decades to admit to any policy which is way off the mark.

Perhaps we should learn from Japan instead. At least their top brass admits to mistake, make public apology and take full responsibility when thing goes wrong. Here we love basking in past glory and all our top brass can still remain comfortably in their position when things go very wrong. Remember Temasek, GIC and Mas Selamat issues ?

Where is the accountability ? When Mas Selamat escaped from a 'highly secure' detention center with lax security practices, seems like the lower ranking officers took the rap for the incident. Work can be delegated, but responsibility is owned by those in policy and decision making position. There is a Chinese saying, if the top is not straight, the bottom will bend.

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