Friday, May 28, 2010

Milking The Deceased ?

There has been alot of speculation that the general election is near - likely this year. Why - because there are many signs of it, with all the 'propagandas' we come across in the media. There has been continuous bombardment of 'positive' news and statistic on employment, wage increase....etc, which are mostly not supported by hard evidence. Normally it is via interviews conducted with someone and only God knows how that person being interviewed came out with the 'positive' projection number.

Then recently the extensive coverage of our respected Mr Goh Keng Swee who had contributed much to our nation. For many days, all the local papers devoted many pages on his nation building effort and success stories.

The question is why honour our great pioneer after he is dead? Should not we have done it at those special national events? There have been lots of opportunities to honour him during the past 2 decades National Days, why was it not done? Would not it have been better to show our appreciation and acknowledge the great work of Mr Goh Keng Swee when he was still alive?

Most of us have forgotten about him as after his 'retirement' from parliment, he seems to have completely 'disappeared' from the local scene. We know how things run, those not in favour with the current ruling party will not be 'seen nor heard'.

Such tactic has been so successful that the younger generation of S'porean has not even heard of him! We can't blame them as his name is not mentioned in local history books used in school. Our students are not enlightened during their many years of schooling even after going through all the various courses to get them acquainted with S'pore nation building history and development. The only familiar names they know are that of MM Lee's and his son, our current PM.

Thus, I cannot help but wonder if they are milking the deceased for all he is worth because of the coming general election. Is this not unethical?

However, their strategy may backfire because it only reminds us that the current members of parliment do not possess such high capability and integrity as Mr Goh Keng Swee. Mr Goh had the passion to serve the country. Now ? Likely these folks are in more for visibility, political power and not forgeting the handsome salary.

If only Mr Goh were to head Temasek or GIC during his life time - things would be different. He would have been a better safe keeper of our public fund and not loss billions of citizens' money. There would be accountability and transparency in the way the 2 government investment arms are run.

Those who remember Mr Goh Keng Swee have only respect for him. But this does not necessary translate to respect for the folks in the current political party dominating the parliment.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Luck - the feel good factor

At times I wonder why so many people like to 'play' Toto, 4-Ds...which just involve marking some numbers on a bet slip. It is not that such activity is in any way fun, exciting or brain stimulating.

I can understand why betting on horses could be exciting, as the animals are racing. It is similar to the excitment in watching sport game to see who is the winner. At least card games could stimulate the mind and be fun and exciting if one is betting with money, which could be the reasons for their additive power.

What is it that makes striking out numbers on Toto and 4-D bet slips so addictive? Beside the chance to win some money - could there be other 'motivator'? It occurs to me it could be LUCK people are after. We all like to be lucky. Striking Toto or 4-D is mainly due to luck.

So besides the prize money, it makes one feel good to be lucky. Perhaps it is this feel good factor that folks are after, even if they may not be conscious of it.

Hurting the Environment

The civil unrest in Thailand is hurting the environment, besides the country enconomy, stability...etc.

We have been watching newsclips day after day of protestor burning vehicle tires and creating hugh black smoke engulfing the city. Of late they have taken to burning buildings too.

So we have Indonesian farmers burning their land (short cut to land clearing) and causing forest fire in peaceful time. Then we have the Thais burning their city in civil unrest.

Looks like there is no escape for the environment. Mankind is polluting our own breathing space, escalating the process of global warming and speeding up the arrival of our doomday. Sigh..... Likely many animal and plant species will be extinct before us.

How selfish human can be - causing the extinction of so many species which have every right to live on this earth.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Of Owl and Elephant

Came across 2 good books which are highly recommended for animal lovers.

Wesley - The Story of a Remarkable Owl is a non-fiction book by Stacey O'Brien. Stacey is a Biologist. She adopted a 4 day old baby barn owl which had nerve damage in one wing and could never survive in the wild. The story traces her 19 years relationship with Wesley.

Learn alot of things about barn owl which does not look like those owls we are familar with. It has a heart sharp face with gold and white feathers. The story is written with tendernes and the keen observation of a scientist, making it remarkably touching at the same time funny. Wesley was intelligent and playful doing things which were not typical behaviour of the barn owl species.

The 2nd book is a fictional work about an elephant. Hannah's Dream is by Diane Hammond. Diane was the media liaison for Keiko, the killer whale which acted in Free Willy.

She blended her experience working with the whale and inspiration from a news coverage of a zoo elephant touching parting scene with its long time keeper into her story.

Hannah's Dream is extremely hard to put down as the story is heart warming and captivating read.

For 41 years Hannah has been kept in captivity in isolation at a dilapidated zoo. Hannah is blinded in one eye and thus feel insecure. The only saving grace is its keeper, Sam who treated it like his own child. But he is getting on in years and have been postponing his retirement because he knew Hannah could not survive in such condition without him. He has been having strange dream for years which he believed is Hannah's dream. In his dream, he sees with the eyes of an elephant roaming freely in an animal sanctuary. He wanted to make it a reality for Hannah before his retirement. But Hannah is the zoo star attraction and it seems impossible that the zoo would let go of its main star.

The story has many interesting characters interwoven into its plot. It is irresistibly touching and very uplifting to read about the devotion of Sam to Hannah.

: Elephants are social animals and live in herd. Solitary elephant does not fair well in captivity.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rebate for those with bags & Charge those without

This letter is written in reply to Howard Shaw, Executive Director, SEC, who still thinks rebate strategy works after all these years of failure to get folks to bring along their own carrier bags for shopping.


For productivity, we should 'Do it right the 1st time'. The bring your own bag campaign has not been met with much success over the years. Would SEC get it right this time round with their rebate strategy?

SEA mentioned that NTUC FairPrice has saved more than 43 million plastic bags since 2007 when the rebate scheme was introduced. What percentage is this compare to the number of bags issued to shoppers over the same period ? Likely the number of bags issues would be a shocking figure many times over the 43 millions.

Besides, SEC has not clarify on the questions raise regarding :

1) Are there are less folks shopping at NTUC on Wed compare to other weekdays ?

2) What is the number of shoppers who bring along their own bag on Wed is less than those who do not ?

These answers to these questions is a good gauge if the current rebate scheme is effective.

Why not learn from success story like Ikea ? If the rebate strategy works, Ikea would not be charging for the carrier bags. Why reinvent the wheel ?

As mentioned before, we know psychologically people are more adverse with parting with their money than being rewarded monetary. The small token sum of rebate will not entice shoppers to bring along their own bag. However, charge them for it, they would not want to pay for something they have been given free for all these years. As suggested before, the rebate collected could be donated to an environmental cause.

Perhaps fine tuning the scheme to rebate for those who bring their own bag and charge those who do not, will meet with more success.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Drama vs Real Life

Sometimes I wonder how much of real life is reflected in social drama and movies. For example, watching those Korean dramas give one the impression that Korean women drink as frequent as their male folks and it is a social norm. But we don't see Japaness women drinking away in Japaness drama. We know Korean and Japaness males are heavy drinkers. So it looks like it is more socially acceptable in Korea for women to drink than in Japan.

If we look at the local drama production, one would have thought nobody in Singapore smokes! But we know many in Singapore do smoke and the trend is rising amongst teenagers. Anything not supported the the government is weeded out from the sight and hearing of viewers. They hold the simplistic view that all of us are simpletons and easily influence by what we see and hear over the media.

If we are so easily influence by what we see and hear, then rightly so there should be no smokers in S'pore. After all we are bombarded with the health horror of smokinig. Besides all the cigeratte packets are cover with frightening pictures of cancerous tissues.

Such mentality extend to the other spheres of their 'control' - from media censorship to sexual education in school. What we need is more 'creative governing' in Singapore.

''Hidden'' from public view

Visitors to S'pore may be under the impression that there are no homeless or beggers in our city. After all, they are openly seen in other countries, including developed ones like US and Japan. But in S'pore they remain 'invisible'.

I suppose this only makes it worst for those who are living below the provery line as they are deemed 'unacceptable' by the government. Begging is an offence and can get one into trouble. The homeless camping at the beach, even though they have a permit, are chased away by local authority when their plight became known and some foreign news media wanted to interview them.

The thing is, what we don't see still exist. The fact that they are 'hidden' from public view only implies that they are being ostrazied. This does not reflect well on the governing party as it only shows a lack of compassion. They need to walk the talk instead of just spewing empty words that in S'pore no one will go hungry as help is at hand. If it is so, it is due to the good work NGOs. Why claim credit for it ? How dishonest politician(s) can be.

Keep an open mind and don't accept those positive statistics they dish out. We know for a fact statistical numbers can be manipulated and skew easily, especially when there is lack of transparency in how they operate. For example, our local investment arm, GIC, is run like a secret service agency with everything shrouded in secrecy, with lack of accountability to the billions they lost even though it is public CPF fund they are using.

Corruption is suppose to be almost non-existent in S'pore. But corruption takes on many forms - abuse of power is one of them. The only thing unique in S'pore is that is it done 'legally'. Yeah...we do have many of smart politicians. No wonder they can get away with paying themselves millions in annual salary to run this tiny island. Our PM pay is substantially higher than US President who runs a country many times larger than ours, besides shouldering much heavier responsibility.

Their productivity call for cheaper, faster and better should start at their own cabinet which is over staff and overpay.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Breathing Space

There have been many calls by the government for the locals to welcome immigrants with open arms and to appreciate the foreign workers that swarm this tiny island.

I think that most locals unhappiness is not at these folks but at the government policies. After all, our forefathers are immigrants and we are a multi-racial society in the first place.

As an analogy, let say we have a family consisting of 3 generations who work hard to build a home. The house was spacious. The grandfather went around to invite friends and neighbours to stay with them, acting as if he is the sole owner of the house. It will come to a stage where there is overcrowding and lack of 'breathing space'. The initial joy of having a more lively environment with new comers will turn into dissatisfaction amongst the other family members with the action of their grandfather. Even if the new members contribute to the maintanence of the house, it will not lessen the frustration of the family members of having their personal sphere encroach upon. Besides, the basic amenities in the house is overtax, with family members have to wait hours for their turn just to use the toilet and bathroom. Then even in their leisure time they find relaxation almost impossible, as the living room is pack like sardine and noisy.

There are many negative consequences of overcrowding besides affecting the quality of life and inducing stresses. We have seen the lower wage workers hit hard by wage suppression and less job opportunity with the steep competition created by external workers flooding our shores with cheap labour. PMET are also not spared either, even with their higher qualification and expertise due to the influx of so many foreign talents.

There has been wage stagnation even for experience workers. Back in 1990s an experienced person starting pay is above $2K doing administrative task. Now, it is about $1.8K to $2K. It is 20 years down the road and inflation has been substantial, not forgetting our GST has gone from 3 to 5 to 7% !

Our aunties and uncles have almost disappeared from the job market and they have been replaced by foreign workers in job sectors which they used to dominate. So much for active aging and working beyond one's retirement age.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Of this and that

It was reported in the papers that one of the commuters interviewed said that "MRT is faster, there are no jams or strange scents and is airy and cool."

She was comparing MRT and the public bus when she said this. Recently with the jam pack trains, MRT is neither airy nor cool. In fact some of the train compartments are rather warm. I am not sure it is due to it being pack like sardine or the air-con is not working.

As for strange scent - sigh..there are many occasions I experience this both on buses and the trains. It is a matter of person hygiene. As S'pore is getting so over populated, person hygiene should be included in our courtesy campaign as it is certain not polite nor considerate to subject others to one's body odour.

I understand there are 'induction' courses for foreign workers. I am not sure what is being taught, but I got the impression that recently they included 'no spliting in public' from the TV campaign advertisement. They should also include some of S'pore unique dangerous habit - throwing things from high rise building, our infamous 'killer litter'.

We cannot presume those who have never been expose to high rise living back in their hometown to know about the danger of such habit. After all, we have numerous cases of maids falling to their death while cleaning the windows and hanging out clothes to dry on bamboo poles.

Just that day, I was walking below a block of flat when I was taken aback by plastic pill containers being thrown out of the window from the 2nd story. In a mater of a minutes, the floor below full of litters thrown out from the window.

If these plastic containers were to be thrown from higher floor - should they hit someone, the impact though not fatal, would still cause pain. For example, a little A4 battery which look pretty harmless, if thrown from high rise building could injured a person badly.

I tried to get the culprit attention by calling out, but met with no response as he/she was hidden behind the clothing hung at the window. It gave me the impression that the room was rented out to worker(s).

A sweeper happened to be around and he just quietly sweep away the litters. I tried to tell him to report such inconsiderate act which is also an offence to his boss or town council. He kept saying 'yeah' but I was not sure if my message got through as he was a foreign worker.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Emperor's New Clothes

Everyday occurrence is a good gauge of the state of 'health' of our local policies. Policy makers have lost touch with reality and folks at the ground. They are in a perpetual state of self-delusion that their policy 'works' in the 'best interest' of the country. Just like in the children story on 'The Emperor's New Cloth', the Emperor just wanted to believe what he loved to hear, regardless of the reality. It is only when he became the laughing stock of all before he realised his self-importance is his own undoing.

We have had quite a number of drastic 360 degree turn around in policies in recent years. From the overweight of importance given to studying of 'Mother Tongue' implemented in the 1970s, to the recent proposal to eliminate 'Mother Tongue' from the compulsory weightage of PSLE marks. Then the punitive measures against family with more the 2 children in the days of population control, to the current bountiful of incentives given to couples who have more children. Reversing of policy is not easy as damage is already done. So to patch up the potholes created, we have import in loads of foreign workers.

It is so crowded nowadays. That day, I waited till the 3rd MRT train before I could board it. The trains are so pack nowadays. Then at the MRT station, crowd of people were at the escalator waiting for their turn to take it. Even before crowd had dispersed, the next train arrived.

It takes only common sense to know our basic transport infrastructure cannot support 6 millions folks, we are not there yet and it is so bad already. You cannot keep increasing the frequency of train without compromising safety. Besides, there will be heavy congestion at the station, before the previous train passengers could leave the station, the next train arrives with another load of folks.

Suggest these policy makers get down to the ground level and take the public transport everday to work for 3 months before they come up with practical changes to 'improve' the system.

Thus, it is important that policies makers do not just sit in their high chairs to come out with drastic policies base on projection numbers. Oftentimes, these projections can be way off the mark. Damage control decades down the road may not undo the harm done over the years.

More on Public Transport

Is recent propose change to have multiple transfers and do away with long distance bus route motivated more by profit and cost rather then efficiency and benefits to commuters ?

Have thoughts been given to our aging population of senior citizens ? Is it not inconvenient for them to make multiply transfers to get to their destination ? They have mobility problem and with these changes, likely it will discourage them from being active citizens and/or continue working till past 65 years old, which the government has been encouraging them.

Our basic public transport infrastructure has been overtax in recent years due to the substantial increase in population. Making more transfers likely will incur more waiting time, not less. For example our MRT is often so packed, one have to wait for the next train before one can get on it.

Then can we board the 'short' distance transfer bus service is another big question mark. Buses nowadays are packed to the 'brim' even at the interchange during the morning peak hours.

MRT commuters living in the East and West making a transfer at Outram or Dhoby Ghaut station, respectively, to broad the North East train has to walk a long distant in order to boarding platform. It is time consuming and a hassle. Thus, how can this be improving the quality of the journey ? In this case, MRT as a mode of transport is not elderly friendly compare to a a direct bus journey.

Common sense has it that it is more tiring and stressful to make numerous transfers for our daily trip to work and back home, even if we leave the high cost incurred out of the equation.

Do these folks penning policies about public transport know what they are doing? Have they taken public transport often enough to know what the average commuters are experiencing?

Singapore is only a small island. 'Long distant' bus route is the result of poor planning. They should solve the problem at its root instead of creating more hassle for the commuters.

Sense of Pride

I felt a sense of pride when I read that S'pore will not be renewing one of the water supply contracts with Malaysia which is expiring.

Hurray, we are moving towards the stage of being self-sufficient. Malaysia can no longer 'blackmail' us with our country's weakness of being water dependent.

Our country fair well in the face of adversity. It is in moments like this I appreciate the foresight of our government.

The Birds did it long before us !

One of the scene that left an impact from the BBC documentary movie, Earth, is the migratory birds traveling thousands of miles and flying over the highest mountain range in the world - the Himalayas. They flew from the north east to India to escape the harsh winter.

They have to soar to great heights and overcome the chilling wind turbulence to cross the mountain range. To see them flapping their winds with every once of strength in their body against the wind is moving. Here we are talking about endurance and determination of the birds that great athletes possess. In fact such admirable qualities are found in all migratory animals. They travel long distant without food or water, overcoming harsh terrains through sheer determination and survival instinct. Their will to survive is so strong it put us human to shame.

They did it long before man boast of his conquest of Mt Everest. They do it naturally, without training, external warm clothing, compasses and tons of equipment to help them.

They just do it from instinct. Talk about the marvel of Nature.

Is Achievement all about making money only ?

I attend 2 days out of the 3 days of National Achievers Congress recently. The reason why I skip the 3rd day is - I have had enough already.

All the speakers are trying to sell their 'training' package to you - how to make quick buck in a few minutes or a few months.

This is my 1st time attending the National Achievers Congress, which is held annually over the past few years. Likely it will be my last. Surely achievement is more than just about making money. Measuring achievement solely in monetary terms is very narrow. There are great folks who done a lot for the less fortunate and in environment conservation, they don't make money from such work from the heart.

The pulling factor was one of the speakers is Mr Tony Blair, the formal Prime Minister of UK. He did not disappoint. His speech was well received by the audience as it was full of wisdom and humour. Yes, he is very humourous. He is the saving grace for the whole congress. He is the only speaker whom did not try to sell us anything. After Mr Blair session, I left for good.

The organisers kept the speakers schedule a secret. Luckily Mr Blair spoke on the 2nd day, if not I have to endure more of the same boring stuff on how to make tons of money as a measurement of one's success.

I wonder what the turn out rate is like for the 3rd day. Likely many folks share my view and would make their 'escape' after Mr Blair presentation.