THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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Archive for May 27th, 2007

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 »