Monday, July 15, 2013

The (Shadow) Class Struggle

..I am concern about you and your well being; trust me...

Is there a class differential in Singapore? That depends on who you ask, I guess. With 80% or more owning a house/HDB, even the bourgeois is confuse.


  [boor-zhwah-zeeFrench boor-zhwa-zee] noun
the bourgeois class.
(in Marxist theory) the class that, in contrast to the proletariat or wage-earning class, is primarilyconcerned with property values.

The working class is fast becoming a a struggling class in classless Singapore where rising costs of living is pushing them lower and lower on the affordability ruler. The stagnation to declining of income, coupled with more educated persons and professionals (PMETs), aged 40s and above losing their jobs, are putting pressure on the starch that holds everyone together for decades.

There is no real discontent nor challenges except the opposing 'noises'; (i)the promise of "we will prosper together" versus (ii)"you are prospering and we are sinking", with the latter getting louder by the day. It didn't help much with conflicting statistics - the official statistics almost always show a rosy picture but the netizens' sources almost always are able to point to selective reporting and deficiencies in the official numbers.

Why not call 'a spade a spade'?

Singaporeans can accept a frank, honest and sincere value proposition. What is it we have not seen? From fishing village, to being an entreport to high finance to gaming/integrated resorts; objections were always mild and the willingness to go it together is firmer than the finest glue on earth.

At the rate foreigners are coming in, its a fact that Singaporeans will become a minority in their own home; what's there to protect them as you would protect your homes? The locals do NS and have reservists' obligations while the foreigners come to feast and get free scholarships is/are an unacceptable equation. Charity begins at home; if you cannot take care of your own (kind), it's shallow and foolish to groom others in the hope they will stay and become one of you/your own!

There is no need, nor allow foreigners, to hide under the emblem "PR". Get it straight. PRs are foreigners. Let us have an honest and sincere relationship. Tell it as it is! Let us go back to basics:  

The Govt do what they are good at - Govern. The people works for their living and the entrepreneurs work on the multiplier and equitably pay their local staffs. Our domestic economy is re-engineered and rejuvenated and let the small industries and 'mom & pop' shops prosper manifesting more choices and opportunities for all.

Protect Singaporeans lives and livelihood. To all foreigners who scream 'xenophobic', allow me to say this; "pack up and go home and ask your own Government to open your door wide to welcome foreigners". We may consider coming to join you together with the 200mil globally unemployed.

When push comes to shove, if & when the locals feel helpless, 'impoverished', hopeless and ignored, many may seek alternative solutions just to ventilate and 'hope for the best'. What's it, I don't know neither can I predict. 'What the mind thinks, it becomes' - quote/unquote.

The future will be as bleak or as hopeful depends on our ability and willingness to re-engineer and share. The rich cannot live in a sea of poor as the more able must lead the mass out of this 'unequal paradigm'. Let us start working and stop bickering for a better tomorrow.

Strictly, there is NO anti-government elements but when & where policies strangle and the noose tightens, you get feedback and responses.

We, the Citizens of Singapore, ..... 

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Government政府, the Mandarins官 & the People人民

The government sets policies and the mandarins execute them. The people either benefit or suffer from the consequences.

When the government acquire land compulsorily at low cost and built flats to house the people, it was a harsh necessity then but accepted. When there weren't enough to go around, population planning was introduced to ease pressures and with lesser mouths to feed, there were more to share. Life was tough but happiness were abundant as we care and share; for the better or worse! We were the master of our own Providence.

Humanity has always been united during adversity and divided when the North-South divide widens.

Policies always served to achieve certain pre-determined goals but their effectiveness, efficacies and relevance may change over time; you may arrive at the right place but at the wrong time!

When Mr Goh Keng Swee decided 'we are price taker', he was a 'hardnose bargainer'; he haggled, slogged and gave to best price to locals, not just any price. Affordability was not measured against the upper half of society but using the layman's ruler. There were pains in army life but there were comradeship, belonging and a common destiny. Foot-nurses visited homes for pre-natal checks, compulsory vaccinations and the 'prevention is better than cure' approach built a healthier citizenry. Education and skills development empowered the people to climb the social ladder.

The Cabinet then included the educated, the citizen-leaders, the labor movement and the commoners. Everyone has a role to play to unite, live and fight as 'one'. The politicians of the day were committed and fighting for a common cause, that is, for the betterment of Singapore & Singaporeans. They were leaders who stand up and speak out for the people, not invited nor 'employed'.

Today's Cabinet comprises of many with scholarly achievement; an admirable mix. Even our Mandarins are academically superb. But, how many can claim to really empathize, understand and share the dreams, fears and aspirations of the mass? I am not doubting anybody's abilities but to think and act 'out of the box and against groupthink', where applicable, is fundamental in steering away from mines of failures and discontent. A successful group needs both, the scholar and the streetwise, guys. Strictly speaking, the army of generals cannot win a war without the soldiers.

My guess is we are paralysed by the 'need for perfection and there is zero tolerance for errors, even signs of weaknesses are frowned upon'. Adding meritocracy and persistent challenges from imports and foreigners, the equation becomes 'survival of the fittest - the Law of the Jungle'!

Many of my foreign friends said Singapore is an excellent nation; clean, green, organised, well developed with good city-planning but ...lacks EQ - the human side, or should I say 'the feel', of life.

I am not just hopeful but confident that Singapore and Singaporeans will unite as one once we get our equation right.

(This article is written with imagination and hopes and is NOT to be misconstrued as speaking against anyone. If anyone feel offended, my sincerest apology)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Alternative Economic Growth Possibilities - Singapore

Singapore positions herself as an open, laizzez-faire economy with a fairly low tax rate. Our growth is dependent on the global economy as we are too small to generate meaningful numbers unilaterally. Nonetheless, we had, and will, survive whatever economic activities and numbers we generate locally. This was proven from the days of fishing village, to entrepot trade, to labor intensive industries, to hi-tech, value add businesses, to today's high-finance & services.

We have been able to survive, outwit & outshine our competitors since our colonial Singapura era to the days of Malaya and Majulah Singapura aka Singapore.

Singapore did well in post-independence with jobs creation (labor intensive industries), provision of housing (Singapore Investment Trusts - SIT, then succeeded by Housing & Development Board - HDB) & defence. The development of the financial sector was swift and tourism was identified too. Except for strategic industries, most others were left to private entrepreneurs. Singapore's economy grew and local demand & the multiplier were in overdrive. Happiness was found in diversity and adversity; most, if not all, have a bite of the cherry. Income inequality was minimum and acceptable and Singaporeans were master of their own destiny.

Singapore entered globalisation and the 'Big Bang' with the foresight and hope that we will become global players one day. But, the consolidation, especially banks & financial houses, in my opinion, were and still remain, detrimental to private entrepreneurship.

*With fewer banks, come fewer loans. The bigger banks may not be interested in small loans; the 'mom & pop' businesses. Cottage industries died along the way. By extension, there were fewer finance-related jobs, lesser competition (banks become the 'buy side' and borrowers the 'sell side'), costs of borrowing go up and the multiplier contracts.

*(Note: Money is the lifeline of businesses. If there were more (small & big) banks around, credit creation would be amplified).

The need to 'grow overnight' through mergers and acquisition and to 'act big' on the global stage is not without faults. Deficiencies in management skills, international exposures, global 'games-rules', cultures, politics and practices were potent threats. Success were far and few in between.

A well planned immigration policy would have resulted in a booming 'local' economy with the building of more infrastructures, houses, telcos-capacity, provision of services to 'new comers' and benefited most sectors. Instead, we hear of shortages of schools, hospitals beds, MRT/transport bottlenecks, higher costs of living as a result of more demand created by more (new) migrants. Has someone forgotten that the local wing (of the economy) is equally important as the overseas business adventures? Have we missed out an internally generated economic opportunity?

We are not late to re-invigorate the local economy and to lessen our dependency on globalization. The government should look towards reducing costs of operations locally so as to encourage a vibrant internal economy. The sprouting of 'mom & pop' shops, cottage industries and niche services will provide employment, boost entrepreneurship and create 'a sense of achievements'; the made in Singapore 'feel'.

It is not enough to encourage hawking or 'hawkering'. Worst, if a big proportion of our university- and professionally- qualified citizens turn into insurance and property agents and taxi-drivers or are permanently displaced (I have high respect for every professions but I thought the years of education may have ended as broken dreams to many & wasted resources).

When tourists visit China, Australia, UK, Thailand, Taiwan and others, they look for night-markets, local 'roadside' food, flea markets, arts & crafts joints; these are small enterprises, alive and kicking. They bring in tourism dollars as well.

What's the point of bringing in foreign investments if they were to employ wholly, or almost fully, their own nationals? Perhaps, it is nice on the GDP but how does this benefits the citizens?

Our internal economy will provide some level of decent demand and earnings if adequately supported and encouraged. The injection of vibrancy, commerce and a sense of belonging will go a long way towards making a happier Singapore.  

We need foreign investments. We must take to the global stage but let us also not forget and retard our internal economy.

Maybe, not all can be big time businessmen but you have to start somewhere. - published in Todays Papers on 2nd July 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

Beginning Of The Second Half Of The Year

What have you achieved for the first half of the year?
Worry not if nothing's much been done as you have the other half.
Whatever is half done could be completed soon; it's better than not starting at all.
If you don't try, you will never know success as failures go to those who needn't try.

Not having money is not poor as you have friends around & having a lot of money may not be rich too as you don't know who you can really trust.
Health, contentment, peace & harmony are things money can never buy.
Knowledge & skillsets, unlike money, will always stay with you.
Start to acquire some skills & cultivate knowledge as you would ploughing the field; the rewards know no boundaries.

I achieved next to nothing in the first half but I certainly have sown many seeds, plough the land & ...pray!
I am not religious.
However smart one is, the difference between success & hugely successful is this thing called "LUCK"; we are all made equal except some are luckier.
You can plan, have the best plan, do your best, leave nothing to chances but without Luck, you are doomed.

So what's 'luck'?

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

I hope the second half will bring better LUCKs to all.