Whispers from the heart

Ocassional conversations with my heart. Never heart-wrenching and heart-breaking. Always light-hearted and hearty. Ever thankful for your heart-felt support.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The ministerial salaries are going up ... and away

This half-hearted Singaporean had refrained from blogging for a while because Singapore's affairs are best discussed by Singaporeans themselves, an old man once said.

I am still holding the red passport and pink IC. But my heart is far away, in some mediocre first world country. Thus, I deem myself not qualified to whine about things around me.

Yes, ordinary Singaporeans whine when they rant about how their income has been dwindling since we reached the Swiss Standard of Living. But, when ministers complained about their lower than the top 8's pay, theirs is an emergency of national proportion. The country will collapse and I will have to work overseas as a maid.

Personally, I don't see why MM has to resort to such knuckle-duster antics to get his pay rise. I would have gladly gave to any 83-yr old man begging for an extra dollar on the street. I no longer respect MM but I can still pity him.

See, this is one-half singaporean who is happy to give him the pay rise. I hope he lives long enough to enjoy more good years with it. I sincerely do.

Actually, this pay hike saga has fetched quite an international audience. Amazing, isn't it? Many of my foreign friends are taking jibes at me. I told them that in Singapore, we are all one big family; elites, foreign talents and peasants. We also operate like the mafia with everyone paying dues to the Godfather regularly.

However, we must always look at the positive side of things. Otherwise, we will be accused of engaging in politics of envy. And I thought the ministers sounded like they envied the private sector salaries, to begin with!

These are some positive outcomes of the pay hike:

1 There is a lot of learning and information sharing between the government and the people. For example, we did not know that Singaporeans can be paid a salary and a pension while performing the same job. All peasants should start to petition for the Labour chief to include this wonderful feature in our pay packets. Of course, we would still have to ensure that we still have a job at 55. But, nevermind, Mr Lim promised to find jobs for all old people as long as they are willing to work. (Actually, I am wondering what is Mr Lim Boon Heng doing now and whether he deserves the ministerial pay since he is no longer the labour chief).

2 A renewed confidence to donate to charities after the NKF saga. Since Mr Durai's curse of the golden tap movie, many are still sceptic of the various charities in Singapore. Singaporeans are also quite tired of those dangerous stunts from these charity events because, well frankly, surviving in Singapore with your meagre income seems more like a dangerous stunt to you now. With our PM's declaration to donate his pay INCREASE to suitable good causes (we hope he means charities lah), people are re-discovering the benefit of donations as a worthy tax deductible item. I am confident many higly paid civil servants will follow in his footpath, as they always do with their masters. There is another strong motivation for the donation. We Chinese believe that we should not keep all our ill-gotten gains. Bad luck and bad karma for a few generations.

3 We are getting near to being the only world class country in the world. In this round alone, MM had written off 3 countries off the first world list and labelled them mediocre. Now, we don't have to worry about Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. Sure, some years ago, every ministry was sending their officers to these countries to learn about their systems of governance. But it was all to aware ourselves of their mediocre practices so that we do not end up like them. We really don't want to have a NOKIA lah. Our MM is well-known enough.

4 MM, during his recent jiak-hong trip to down under, mentioned the uphill struggle to attract and retain talents in Singapore. I empathise greatly with him. When mediocre talents are coming to our shores in dozens, like those from Finland and Switzerland, how are we to attract angmohs from erh, where else hah? No wonder he has to resort to India and China, the future first world countries. A great man with great vision.

Don't despair for Singapore, this pay hike had solved the problem. Last I heard, every angmoh wants to migrate to Singapore. Whole load of peanuts, hassle free, no accountability and all the perks to boot like discounts on condo prices etc. I am half expecting Tony Blair and George Bush (both Snr and Jnr, we like such combinations)to be knocking at our door. They should be looking for jobs too. For all we know, even the Queen herself might consider migrating to our paradise. No one will question her lavish lifestyle and she does speak the Queen's English. Like that hor, we may have to set up quotas for foreign talents rushing here.

5 MM has taught us how to negotiate with the boss for our next increment. Ask the boss to take things in the right perspective. Don't begrudge a miserable few thousand when compared to the company's gross total revenue. It helps if you are also wearing knuckle dusters at the HR meeting hor.

Ok, as a malaysian said somewhere, we should be thankful that we have a clean and green government. We take the Pappies for granted. No wonder MM thinks Malaysia is mediocre too. If we change Pappies' names to Dr M and call them bumiputras instead of elites, perhaps this malaysian will get some enlightenment why we are so pissed off. It's all about the right moral perspective or the lack of it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What I learnt from the GST hike ...

Singaporeans are a very happy people. After the "mee siam mai hum" affair, many were seen sniggering and laughing happily at PM's foray into the pop scene. More laughing was heard when a group of P65 dancers announced taht they would be trying some hip hop moves at the coming Chingay procession. Really, Singapore's happy index was at sky high levels, only to be rivalled by the soaring Straits Times Index.

This is not good at all. Our ruling elites do not believe in humour. In fact, some months ago, our PM had advised that we should all maintain an optimum level of unhappiness within us. He did not dictate what constitutes the optimum level (we are a very free and democractic society, remember?), but most ventured that the level would be one at which you are not too happy with life that stops you from working 24/7 and not so unhappy that you vote for the opposition. It is a delicate balance indeed. However, PAP, with their 40 years of governance in the tiny island, is very experienced to deal with such difficulties. The trick is to provide some form of 'package'; be it progress package, offset package or santa claus package. It always works and its efficacy is so entrenched that the ruling elites seldom think out of a box, er package that is, anymore.

After Miss Wee's blunder, one would have thought Singaporeans' optimal level of unhappiness has gone up. But, it was apparently not good enough by our government's world class standards. Luckily for all Singaporeans, our PM is our saviour again!

He (but who else?!) has single-handedly pushed our unhappiness index to the limit with his 2% GST hike in 2007. It was so effective even aunties around me were visibly upset over it. Fortunately, their AQ (Ah Q spirit) triumphed over their EQ and IQ. They reasoned that after paying for the hike, they would be qualified poor. It can't be bad if you are getting it back, right?

Now that we have reached that wonderful optimum level of unhappiness, some MPs are telling us to exercise restraint over our feelings. "Do not get into overdrive" mode except when you work.

We must accept the news, treat it like another of Newton's laws and pretend nothing impactful has happened.

Again, Aunty does better. I start dreaming of what kind of goodies I ought to be getting from this coming April's Budget. Let's call it April Fools' offset package. Surely, it must be worth a few hundred dollars? Will a hardship package be worth less than a vote-buying package? If we KPKB, will we get more?

On the personal level, I have gathered some learning points from this hike. I would like to share them.

1 The Oracle is failing ...

In the past, when MM Lee shared his visions of good years ahead, Singaporeans would be somewhat comforted and renewed with confidence for the future. Nevermind where he got those romantic notions but they did materialise, didn't they?! Lately, MM's words are only good for laughs. Most of my friends hardly felt the optimism of a better few years ahead. We even joked that perhaps we must put on a white shirt first. Frankly, I don't give a damn about MM's visions anymore. The soccer team may need the ra-ra prep talk more.

2 The country is struggling ...

I was one of the many goondos who bragged to others about living in a world-class super wealthy developed country. It was indeed sobering to realise Singapore is only living from hand-to-mouth. It hasn't the spare cash to help its poor at all!!! Worse, I did not know there were so many Mr Tans amongst us that we need a whopping 2% of our domestic consumption to prevent them from dying at the MRT tracks. Thank goodness this hard fact was revealed sooner lest I, too, become an "elite uncaring face".

3 PAP is not a political party, it's a choir!
Notice how every member in its ranks (all 82 of them) sings the same tune and reaches the high notes in such harmonious perfection and timing???? Unlike those decadent western democracies where their MPs quarrel and fight, ours is a world apart from them. In fact, ours resembles the Vienna Boys' Choir except for a few flower vases amongst them. I must say the PAP choir sings more beautifully than the boys from Vienna except that those little boys probably scored higher in musical talents and cute looks.

4 An acute shortage of real economists in Singapore ...

In some decadent western democracies, an issue like a GST hike would generate many discussions from the academia, particularly the economists. In Singapore, there seemed to be a dire shortage of such talents. We have mostly unhappy bloggers giving their 2-cents worth of the new directive. No wonder our PM is sending his son to MIT to read economics. In a few years, we would finally have one authoritative economist to lead us all. We will have Singaporenomics; our own version of an open economy that does not depend on others for survival. We only need PAP's magic hat of tricks.

5 PAP's magic hat of tricks ...

After ruling the tiny dot for 40 years, PAP has indeed perfected some tricks. That's why MM does not believe in learning points, like those needed from the shin corp deal. Tricks are much more efficient and less accountable. I used to sneer at Greenspan's magic hat of tricks of rate hikes and rate cuts to solve the woes of the world's greatest deficit economy. How un-creative!

It is right that PM should be paid more handsomely than Bush. PM has more tricks besides the 'fixing and buying' strategy : wage cuts, CPF cuts, fare hikes, GST hikes

These alone, PM is worth twice over Bush. And I'm sure he would have more tricks in it if not for the shrinking magic hat. By the way, he also has one fail-proof trick that Bush lacks, the PACKAGE!

6 Welfare is a dirty word ...

PM said so. He meant every word of it, I'm very sure. That is why the ruling elites had never took the WELFARE OF SINGAPOREANS at heart. Well, he told you so. Singaporeans are hard-core romantics that must learn the BRUTAL TRUTH. You want welfare, pay for it yourself. The message was very clear in the GST hike announcement. To the elites, you are the poor, remember?!

7 Things that come in a 'Package' are not "handouts".....

The first time I received a Package from the government, I was a little stirred and a whole lot shaken. I felt I was receiving a handout for having done nothing!!! This guilt of developing a clutch mentality lived with me all these years, especially when I received $600 dollars in the bank but I was not required to vote at the elections. Money for nothing!? A handout. Luckily, the recent spate of events had enlightened me. It was never a handout lah. It was a short term deposit that the government had put in your bank to be withdrawn later at full principal plus interest.

8 Hikes never STOP AT TWO ...
Keep dreaming but it will never stop at just two rounds, that is. I think this is the double-digit growth that we have been dreaming about for years. It's up, up and away. Ok, I must qualify that this is purely speculative and I'm not willing to offer constructive solutions until the peanuts and white blouse are in the package on the way to me.

9 GST hike is also helping the poor in neighbouring countries ...

I hope our neighbours will finally appreciate PM's kind gesture to help them. Imagine the number of Singapore shoppers that will throng their supermarkets and provision stores to stock up on rice and cooking oil. In fact, it makes more sense to have your wedding package in JB, keep your children in their childcare centres and keep your old folks in their homes. All you need is a one-room flat in Singapore to sleep at night, after 12-16 hours of work at the office. JB can become our satellite town and enjoy the spill-over growth in this way. Never say we never help, boleh?

10 GST hike will help our local retail industry to upgrade...

Contrary to what SCCI claimed, GST hike will not affect our local retail industry. It will only affect the local retailers as more will pack up their bags. Hey, we need more world-class products to entice the rich folks visiting our IRs. Notice how local retailers (or mum and pop shops) tend to sell unglamourous low-end stuff from China? With their exit from the industry, we could free valuable retail space to bring in the really fun and sleazy - like nude dancers, pimp services (sorry, match making services industry) and more interactive risk- management centres (casinos are a bad name).

There is nothing much we could do. It is very much like the Shin Corp deal and many others before it. In fact, many conspired that Shin Corp is the cause of it! Utter nonsense, Mdm Ho had a string of corporate successes and is the only rare talent born outside of the Lee Family. (Shin Corp is only a paper loss, as yet. Hee hee, wait till the write-offs for Optus and Shin corp are due. Then, you'll know what is a double whammy ...)

So for now, you either start spending like there's no tomorrow and end up being the poor to reclaim your 2% or stop spending and die of starvation in a bug-infested flat. Either way, you are going there ... Of course, the government is betting on many of us dangling at the midway of these 2 ends.

Readers beware
I sincerely request that economist wannabes refrain from expounding your theories here. If you are all for the hike, there is nothing you can't tell me that the Straits Times wouldn't during the runup to the Budget Speech. If you are against it, well, my heart knows why too.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My father, the peasant from China ...

My father passed on two decades ago. I missed him still.
He was a padi farmer from a little village in Guangzhou. With an even smaller plot of land. So small, his family needed only an ox to do the ploughing.
He had an older brother who was wheelchair-bound. He had no schooling and only knew how to work the fields, from morning to evening, everyday.
Times were tough and got worse when his parents forced him to take a wife for an extra pair of hands around the house. The wife was a gambler who ran away shortly, after amassing a huge gambling debt. Father was devastated. His parents died shortly, leaving him alone with his brother to fend for themselves. He was not even twenty.
One day, in a moment of anger, desperation and angst, he hoisted the skinny and bony ox (the only asset in the family) and flung him a few metres away. The poor animal had refused to work, probably due to old age and hunger. That was the final straw my old man could take. Sadly, the ox (his only friend) left him too.
So, at twenty, he entrusted his older brother to a fellow villager and headed south. He heard about a place called "南洋" or Nanyang where he could find some work. How? He didn't really know.
He stowed away on a boat with fifty others in a little cabin. No food, only water because that's what they could pay for.
When he arrived at the promised land, he was hungry, weak and infested with lice all over. He knew no one and eventually ended up in a dark, deserted alley in Chinatown. He was practically dying.He wanted to take his life and end it all, quickly. He hadn't had much in life in all his twenty years before and the present seemed worse. He wasn't a man with much hope then.
A total stranger, an uncle Liu (we always addressed him so but I don't really know his name) took a wrong turn, that night, and ended up in that alley where a young man laid dying. Uncle Liu took him home; nursed him, fed him and found him a job as a sailor using some dead man's papers.
A year later, my father met a local girl and married her. He was not rich, not even getting by in the average sense. Sailors were not really well-paid and their work was contractual. Sometimes, he got to work on a ship for a month. There were also many months when there was nothing to do but waiting at the shipping agents' offices for work offers.
They had several children and I am the third offspring. Very often, Father would visit Uncle Liu with his whole family in tow. The visits were boring to me initially. When we were older, my mother would relate my father's story to us with him sitting beside her, nodding quietly. Everytime, My mother would crack up laughing as she described animatedly how Father carried the poor ox doing an "incredible hulk" and smashed the poor thing to his death. Despite the laughing, I began to understand why uncle Liu was important to our family.
Father used to tell us stories from his trips and life in China. Through his stories, he taught us much. I had never heard a harsh word from him. Nor have I seen him angry even when he had quarrels with my mum (over the lack of money, mostly).
Yes, we had little money. Sometimes, we only had plain rice for our meals or a little tauhuey (bean curd, minus the syrup) to go with it.
There were also times when my mother brought me to visit uncle Liu when Father was away. The wages from the shipping company had not arrived and she had to borrow from uncle Liu to make ends meet while waiting. My mum told me Father would not be happy if he found out she had "inconvenienced" uncle Liu. My mum said borrowing is an act of last resort. We must always try our best to cope first.
So, we grew up in such days. Life got a little better as jobs were more available due to a better economy. We even managed some meagre savings, sometimes.
Once, Father tried to learn to speak English so that he could get jobs on "angmo ships". I was in primary four and doing very well in school, then. I helped him along but after six months or so, he still couldn't get past " Sit down, please".
Perhaps, I was not a competent teacher. Both my parents had self-taught themselves to read chinese without a day of formal schooling. But, english was a different ball game, I guess.
I tell everyone Father did very well in life. He was not wealthy and had not achieved much. But, he left behind a legacy of values and principles to enrich his children's lives. That is priceless.
Unfortunately, this is not the basic point of this nostalgic post. And if there was any brutal truth to be learnt, it was that Father would have died if no one gave him a helping hand in his weakest moment.
I don't understand all those theories about why the fittest should survive. I only believe that everyone is born with a mission to bring forth life and celebrate its wonders. It is sad if we endorse others dying for our living.
Savages can't get any worse than this.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The heart of the matter ...

The heart is not just a pump for the human body. It is credited for many wonderful and equally evil capabilities ...

The Chinese has this saying "公道在人心". Apparently, we believe the heart knows, deep in its recesses for some, what is right and what is wrong.

We saw it working during the NKF saga.

The heart gives more than it takes too - kindness, empathy, generosity and hope.

We saw that in the overwhelming response given to the late Mr Tan's family. (I was touched beyond words how Singaporeans had reacted. We are not cogs in a machine, afterall!)

The converse is true. The Wee-wee saga is an example.

Some of us thought it was a battle of the haves and have-nots. Politics of envy, they say. Some thought it was just a brutal truth to be learnt.

For those who sincerely wish to engage the heart, perhaps, they might want to hear me out.

The heart is won only through the good - honesty, sincerity, integrity and compassion.

Some hearts may be incapacitated by greed, arrogance and vanity but at the end of the journey, they will come to realise their true abilities.

Let's give the heart a chance to do its best.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The WEE-wee Saga

I have gone into semi-retirement on my blog. Or more truthfully, I have less motivation to write about the events around me because Singapore has lost its hold on me slowly ...

Yesterday, my son sent me his response on the WEE-wee saga. He hails from the same esteemed institution of learning as Miss Wee. But, he confessed he lacked good spelling and grammar skills. He hoped to make up for it through sincerity and humility. He hopes RJC would not be downgraded to an elitist scumbag school like ACS was, once. (son, no worry lah, your PM would make sure it does not happen, even if we spend a few million bucks to rebrand it).

So, here it is. My son's take. Yes, it's taken from Ms Wee's original entry. He thinks she writes very well but his mom knows her punctuations better. (Yeap, your mom was schooled in RGS, too. The only elitist thing she has, is a MP father who has little time to inculcate the right values in her and hopefully not because those were his values).

Well, my son's tribute to the other class of elites, the peasants of Singapore ...

mom's friend sent her some blog post by some bleeding stupid 18-year old singaporean called Elite- wee (WHY do all the idiots become Elites, why?!) whining about how singapore is such a paradise, how elites (ie, 83 of them and more, all wearing white) leeched from their well-paid jobs, how the pool of singkie peasants (dismissively chucked between inverted commas) is really a tsunami that will consume them all (no actually he didn't say that, he probably said THAT'S THE BRUTAL TRUTH, DEARIE.), how the reason why everyone wants elite kids is that they're the only bunch in this world immuned to fragile ricebowls, how the government really needs to save elites from inevitable boredom of wearing white but they aren't because they are peanuts-shoved-up-ass elites who control how their wardrobe works, yadayadayadayada.i am inclined - too much, perhaps - to dismiss such people as crackpots. stupid crackpots. the sadder class. too often singaporeans - both the neighborhood poor and 66.6% socialites who sell their souls for upgraded lifts - kid themselves into believing that our society, like most others, is compartmentalized by breeding. ridiculous. we are not a tyranny of the academically capable and the clever, we, the peasants are the upper class, their masters with the whip.sad Wee attracted more than 50 comments praising him for his poignant views, egging in a chorus of rejoinders that climax at the accusation of lack of peasant intelligence in the form of good spelling and grammar because his all-too-true views had been rejected by the singkie forum. while i tend to gripe about how we only have one functioning 83-yr old elite in the cabinet (he issues all visions for Singapore), i think the main reason for its lack of recognition was that his incensed diatribe was written in pathetic little scraps that passed off as sentences, with poor spelling and no grammar. there was also a total lack of sensitivity to peasant feelings.WEE, wee, wee darling, how can you expect to have an iron ricebowl or a solid future if you cannot empathise accordingly? to become the top drawer in the cabinet, one need to suck ass with the right sensitivity level. didn’t your father teach you this?

if you're an elitist, life will give you less balls. that's just how things go. there's no point in lambasting the peasants for making your paradise one that is, i quote, "far too intellectually unstimulating lacking good spelling and grammar". it's the same everywhere. yes mediocrity exists, and it is sad, but most of the time if people like you are preferred over others, it's because you made it so. it's so sad when people like Elite-wee lament the kind of world that singapore will be if we make it so uncertain for them. go be friggin dictator in another peesai, if uncertainty of success offends you so much - you will certainly be proclaimed a talent and a visionary. More so if you are a knuckledusters-wearing-bully in a cul de sac, which, given your ball-less elitist penchant, i doubt. then again, it's easy for me to say. my future isn't in leeching on the system but i guess right now it's a lot brighter than most elite's. Wee will read this and brand me as an 18-year old peasant, one of the quitters who will chabo the country. go ahead. the world is about winners and losers. it's only sad when people who could be winners are marginalised and oppressed by the elites. is dear Wee repentant? has dear Wee been denied a right of reply? has dear Wee been forced into shutting his blog? has dear Wee had his political career massacred by the government?i should think not. dear Wee is one of many wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches in our country, and in this world. one of those who would prefer to be waxing lyrical about how his myriad talents are being abandoned for a life of serving the peasants, instead of earning a decent, stable living as a Elite professional. it's not even about being a representative of the people. these shitbags don't want anything without "$$" and a guaranteed risk-free career.

please, get your fucking elite uncaring face off this tiny dot.

Actually, the language is atrocious. I have counselled my son accordingly too. :) As for the basic point, there is one, in black.