Monday, November 26, 2007

Our Bumiputra friends up north should read this

Our Bumiputra friends in Malaysia - including that pseudo-Bumiputra who wrote The Malay Dilemma - should read this front page article which appeared in Singapore’s Straits Times last Friday (23 November 2007).

  • She scored a staggering 294 points in her PSLE.

  • She broke the record for the highest score ever in Singapore.

  • The closest rival was a good 6 points behind her.

  • She came from a humble background; her mother was a housewife, and father, an aircraft technician.

  • She never had a day of tuition in her life.

  • Her name is Natasha Nabila Muhamad Nasir.

  • She’s Malay.

Please stop insulting your own race and scrap the New Economic Policy. And for goodness sake, stop that kris-waving wayang.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Our foreign talent policy is short-sighted

The front page of Weekend Today (17 November 2007) carried two headlines.

1) “Cracks in society are showing” – SM Goh raises concern as foreign talent stats hit new high.

2) “If only they were given the time”

Interestingly, I find that the second headline provides the answer to the issue raised in headline number 1.

In the first article, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong basically points out the problem that with the rapid influx of foreigners into Singapore, many of them are finding it hard to assimilate into Singapore society. I was not surprised. Are you?

It is common sense really. How can you expect people to adapt so quickly to a new society. The mainland Chinese may look like Singapore Chinese (and likewise the Indians) but he is more different from us that a local Indian or Malay culturally. I think you need years to achieve this kind of adaptation. Let me give you two personal examples.

Recently I received a marketing call from a lady who was obviously a mainland Chinese. She was trying to sell some services related to property. She asked if I could understand Chinese; and I answered yes. Then she launched into her sales pitch. But she was speaking so quickly and coupled with her mainland Chinese accent, I had difficulty following her. I asked her to slow down and she did … for a while; and then she reverted to her incomprehensible rapid-fire Chinese. In the end, I simply gave up.

On the other hand, I had an opportunity to meet a classmate of my son, an 18-year old China scholar who had been studying in Singapore for about four years. I had little difficulty communicating with him. His English, though a little different from ours, was perfectly comprehensible.

These two encounters with mainland Chinese clearly shows how difficult it is to make adjustment in just one area – the way we speak; and I am not even talking about learning a new language. This is particularly true for the adults. The bottom line is that they need more time. In the light of this, I wonder, is it wise to bring in foreign talents into our country in such huge numbers?

My own conclusion is that our government’s foreign talent policy is short-sighted. Our economy is growing and our population growth is too slow. Answer? Bring in more foreigners lor.

On paper, it looks impressive. We are forward-looking. We anticipate problems before they arise. We act fast and grab the talents before the other developed countries do so. But I think it is short-sighted because it is basically a quick-fix solution which brings with it many long term consequences; some of which like the one mentioned by SM Goh, are quite predictable. There are probably many others. For example, our recent spats with the China-born athletes have also raised another problem related to their commitment to our country.

I think we should really re-look at our foreign talent policy. For a start, take a look at the problems faced by other societies that have adopted a similar policy; for example the UK and US. Are there lessons for us there?

We should also re-look at our assumptions. Just because they are from China and India, and we have a large Chinese and Indian population does not mean that they are like us. Singaporeans are very ‘westernised’. Our Chinese have been labeled as ‘bananas’ by the Taiwanese and mainland Chinese – yellow on the outside but white on the inside. Looks can be deceiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Be discerning when you donate

In Singapore, we have no shortage of charity organizations. Some are huge and employ aggressive marketing techniques to appeal to your emotions. They hire famous artistes to perform daring stunts on TV and make moving appeals. The Ren Ci Hospital & Medicare Centre even has its CEO - a monk no less doing Fear Factor style dare-devil stunts like standing an 8x8 inch platform on top of a wobbly metal structure erected 5 stories high in Suntec City for 1 hour 45 minutes and 28 seconds.

And kind but gullible Singaporean fall for these stunts hook, line and sinker. They must feel really stupid that hot on the footsteps of the National Kidney Foundation saga, we have another scandal in the making. If you have been donating to Ren Ci, please ponder over this.

- Ren Ci has been making interest-free loans totaling millions of dollars to various companies from as far back as 1996. Apparently, these organizations are linked to the CEO. Is that how you want your hard-earned dollars to be used?

- $200,000 to $300,000 remains to be accounted for at the multimillion-dollar charity. Is that where you want your hard-earned dollars to end up?

I don’t know about you. But I smell another NKF-type stinker brewing?

I think we should all learn a lesson from this latest fiasco, if we have not already done so from the previous one. We just have to be more discerning. Don’t be lazy. Do a bit of homework before you sign that cheque. Even if the amount is not big, it is irresponsible to use you money so foolishly. You are depriving other more deserving charitable oranisations of your precious dollar. They are many small and low profile charitable organisations that do their work quietly and without much fanfare. Find out who they are and consider is it more worthwhile to give to them instead.

The same advice applies to those show biz personnel who work so hard to help raise money for these charities.

Pedra Branca

I have not been following closely the arguments presented by Singapore at the hearings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning the sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh which is also claimed by Malaysia.

I understand that one of the main points put up by Singapore is that “since 1847, Britain and its successor, Singapore, have exercise sovereignty over the island through activities that were an open, continuous and effective display of state control” (Straits Times, 13 November, 2007)

In this regard, I wonder if our team had mentioned the fact that we even have a stamp issued in 1982 featuring the Horsburg Lighthouse on this island.