THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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Archive for May, 2007

Today’s Reads (May 31/Jun 01)

Posted by intellisg on May 31, 2007

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When the Silence is Deafening: Post-UNSW & EDB Lessons.

Posted by intellisg on May 31, 2007

silence.jpgDO you hear anything? It’s so quiet these days you could even hear the termites feasting on your bed post. Or even hear a pin drop two blocks away. You’re probably thinking, there he goes again being all obscure and opaque again – he can’t possibly be serious this time can he? Except perhaps to tell us all he’s being bitten by a rabid werewolf and slowly morphing into a canine with ultra sensitive hearing. Can he?

Well the reason why I mentioned it’s so silent these days; since UNSW decided to pack up and scoot off like a traveling circus hardly a whimper has emerged from their partners EDB. Neither has the party political machine responded to the fiasco or for that matter anyone else in the real world – that simply bothers me.

Nothing substantive at least, except perhaps Miss Chua’s write up recently in the ST which did quite a decent job of stirring up the tea cup but regrettably it fell short of starting the perfect storm. (good try old girl, pat on a head and well deserved doggie nimble –fetch!)

Let me just tell you all what happened yesterday morning while I was sitting on the great white throne in the toilet as I usually do reading our beloved rag. I came across a “clarification” by Mr Ko Kheng Hwa managing director of EDB in the Forum section May, 30, 2007, entitled, “EDB clarifies involvement with UNSW Asia.” My first reaction can only be described as the sound of music which finally punctuated the silence. No I am not referring to the remnants of the battle of my gut with a dodgy prata. Rather it was my reaction to Mr Ko’s timely clarification. Unfortunately half way through the yarn my initial sense of relief was rapidly replaced by disenchantment.

My main gripe is: Mr Ko’s “clarification” raises more questions than it answers. Yeap folks, I am all obscure again and the silence is deepening even as I tap on my key board; what’s really happening here? Why is it so difficult for these bureaucrats to just answer a simple question? All I really want to know as a regular 6% GST tax payer is; what really went wrong? Aren’t these legitimate questions that deserve an answer? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Economics, Politics, Sociology | 22 Comments »

Singaporean Pragmatism

Posted by intellisg on May 30, 2007

The following is an extract from the book, “Harvesting the Seeds of Prosperity,” written by Christopher Ng Wai Chung. His own blog can be found in treeofprosperity.blogspot.com. He can be reached at waichung.ng@gmail.com. In chapter 1 entitled “Are you a scholar or a statistic”, he examines the concept of Kiasuism.

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Singaporean Pragmatism

As an engineering undergraduate studying in the National University of Singapore, Chee Ming, aged 23, does not really care for anything else other than his examination results. After all, engineering students have punishing workloads, often requiring 25 – 30 hours of lectures and tutorials a week. Chee Ming’s philosophy as a student is simple – tune out all the extra-curricular activities and simply focus on his studies. For examination subjects, Chee Ming chooses only those subjects which he believes he would score in, considering complicated factors like the leniency of his lecturers and the feedback on course difficulty from his seniors. Chee Ming deduces that by scoring a solid Honours degree, he could land a good stable job. The technicalities of the work in the industry can come later.

In this country, there is a Chee Ming in everyone. From the uncle who carefully orchestrates the family on a proper strategy to attack a buffet table ( “ Ah Kow ! You go get a plate of prawns. Ah Zhu, you go for the fruits. I grab the fried rice for everybody ! ” ) to the middle-aged woman who positions herself next to school children in anticipation of a vacant seat in an SBS bus, Singaporeans are pragmatists – they do what works, optimise all their choices and alternatives and focus on their goals with religious fervour. In Hokkien this is known as being “Kiasu”.

Before we start to think that we invented “Kiasuism”, we should note that Pragmatism is largely an American invention. Pragmatism, first coined by William James, is the philosophy which emphasises the importance of results, consequences, utility and practicality as opposed to the navel gazing and intellectualism espoused by other philosophies.

If it works, it has to be true. That is the Singaporean way. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Chris Ng | 15 Comments »

Today’s Reads (May 30)

Posted by intellisg on May 30, 2007

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First A*Star, then Shin Corp and now EDB – IMHO What Really Went Wrong?

Posted by intellisg on May 28, 2007

whatwentwrong.jpgNOW I warn you all. I may be very obscure this time! That’s because I am terribly confused by the spate of failures that has recently dogged agencies like EDB and A*Star and their parent ministry MTI (I am sure I don’t need to elaborate on the sordid details? They’re everywhere these days). Along with residues of the Shin Corp debacle.

Are these failures just isolated cases? Or do they suggest there’s an underlying reason why these fiascos are regularly churned out these days? I am not suggesting that something like the curse of the Mummies has befallen our red pimple of a country. Or that it’s time for whole cabinet to take a giant flower bath to cast aside evil – but what’s happening here?

Till now most pundits in the MSM and blogosphere have done quite a good job of examining; who-was-responsible? – who- pulled- the- plug? Others contend each of these failures are no more than isolated incidences, each with its own extenuating circumstances?

Then there are those who have wax lyrical these recent spate of failures are simply the necessary cost of pursuing a pro-active policy of expansionism. The damage control rhetoric would probably read, “no risk, no gain la! Didn’t you mama tell you that dummy!” Besides we are told the financial losses suffered by Shin Corp, the pull out of John Hopkins and UNSW’s, “no show,” hardly amounts to a hill of beans to de-rail Singapore Inc from carving out a competitive advantage. It’s “business as usual.” How could we disagree? After all we all know the business environment is a feral hit and miss domain where all types of risk abound and if we play it safe, it profits us none – right? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Politics, Sociology | 24 Comments »

Today’s Reads (May 27/28)

Posted by intellisg on May 27, 2007

Humour/Film

Posted in Digest | 3 Comments »

Singapore’s Preoccupation with Statistical Nonsense!

Posted by intellisg on May 27, 2007

statistics.jpgTHE FRENCH have a joke that they direct at statisticians whenever they are caught in the Parisian traffic jam. It goes something like this: “It may work fine in practice, but I don’t think it works very well in theory. So why don’t we make our lives simple and swap the theory with the practice? Besides, no one would ever know.” I am sure it’s supposed to be funny, if something wasn’t lost in the translation, only I am not laughing. Statistics after all litters the world and its serious business.

Lately (and I could be obscure again), I have noticed an increasing use of statistics creeping into the main stream media. This doesn’t just include newspapers but also TV and the radio especially. It’s used to explain, justify, compare, substantiate and drive home everything from selling cat food to suggesting why you should forgo plastic bags and instead used a carrier when you next go shopping. Recently salaries for Ministers were revised and what did the government use to justify the pay rise? Correct, a comparative statistical survey which highlighted the pay disparity between ministers and corporate honcho’s in Singapore. What about the survey that list Singapore as the most competitive country in the world just because we shuffle faster than anyone else. Again statistics was used, and. Most recently Mr Warren Fernandez’s a reporter from Straits Times wrote an article on 19 May 2007 entitled “All societies have elites, but some become elitist.” Where he explored the issue of what students considered to be the most important factor for succeeding in Singapore and to establish his plank again he conducted a poll using a type of statistical analysis. He wrote:

“Only 2 to 3 per cent of those polled from all backgrounds cited family wealth as a major factor in someone making it to the top..”

Now I just want to tell you all that I have nothing per se against reporters, ministers, corporate leaders, businessmen, crow shooters, circus acrobats or even prostitutes using math & stats to make sense of the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Politics, Sociology | 16 Comments »

Today’s Reads (May 24/25) – UNSW Closes Down.

Posted by intellisg on May 24, 2007

News

Comment

Other

Posted in Digest | 3 Comments »

“Where is the real Singapore today? Am I living in the Matrix?”

Posted by intellisg on May 23, 2007

matrix.jpg Perhaps I am being obscure again. But have you ever being assaulted by the sinking feeling you’re a stranger in your own land? Yes, I know it sounds like the “realization” scene from the Sci-Fi movie, “The Matrix.” But please bear with me and allow me to explain.

1.“Something strange is happening. I just can’t put my finger on it!” – Neo, The Matrix

Have you for example passed a Peranakan building only to wonder why it’s suddenly turned into an Italian restaurant? Or why there is so much glass and steel in China town just off Tanjong Pagar? And what happened to the bustling community of street vendors that once plied their trade and wares there? Like me, do you find yourself wondering how it seems everything these days is mindlessly turned into a giant hermetically sealed glass and steel soviet warehouse? Or when you are just walking around aimlessly in a mall – are you are suddenly seized by the realization, “Hey, this is my day off! What am I doing here, shopping? This isn’t supposed to be fun! This is so unreal, really it is! Is it?” Welcome to the surreal and “unreal” Singaporean lifestyle of today, otherwise known as the Matrix. It’s one that compels us all to ask,

“Where is the real Singapore today? Am I living in the matrix?”

Now I am not discounting for one moment my paranoia could be due to my skewered history as a bent individual. Even today it amazes me how I could manufacture great reams of nostalgia for a childhood that was, in truth, averagely miserable – for example, I am one of those who still lament the sacking of the old red brick National Library and when I enter the space age high tech one in Bugis. It just doesn’t feel the same. The books are still there, but there’s something amiss and it leaves a metallic taste at the back of my mouth that I can’t seem to shake off. Have you ever had one of those feelings before? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Politics, Sociology | 44 Comments »

Today’s Reads (May 22)

Posted by intellisg on May 22, 2007

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Why I Think Singaporeans Just Need To Slow Down

Posted by intellisg on May 22, 2007

slowdown.jpgSINCE the advent of the industrial revolution, speed and productivity has commanded a premium. Today in the age of globalisation, life has reached a frenetic mind boggling pace. Technology makes it all possible, e-mail on the go, tele-conferencing etc. The pace of work, life and play is imperceptibly ratcheted slightly higher without us really realizing it. I am reminded we can no more return to the quaint cottage industry days, than we can undo the internet. The age of speed is here to stay. But it doesn’t stop us from questioning this new order.

The hamster wheel is an apt pathos of life under this new order. For one it pokes fun at the imperative of speed but it also carries a serious message, one that suggests the future could be closer to dystopia than utopia. What’s the cost to this preoccupation with speed? There’s always a cost. Our sinews, muscles and brain cells can’t keep on getting larger and better to keep up with the culture of speed – surely something must give.

Is it any surprise these days, there’s a crisis in our preoccupation with speed? It’s a condition that affects people at all levels. From kids to university students and even managers, affecting both the affluent and the poor alike. Don’t assume for one moment you are immune just because it hasn’t hit you – it’s like artery clogging food. You don’t know it, till you’re lying flat on your back while everyone draws straws to see who will give you mouth to mouth. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in B'hood, Sociology | 29 Comments »

Today’s Reads (May 21) – JBJ is back

Posted by intellisg on May 21, 2007

JBJ Returns

Other

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