Tag Archive | Straits Times

Feel good expressions that are plain bad

The crash of an airplane is always a bad, sad event especially one that’s carrying a full load like MH17.

What makes this event even sadder than sad is the fact that it was shot down, with suspicions resting on the heads of the Ukrainian rebels backed by Russia.

No one onboard, as far as anyone knows, the ill-fated Boeing 777 had anything to do with the Russia-Ukraine squabbles. So it’s a random, pointless and baseless tragedy!

Making this shocking event especially brain-numbing shocking is the fact it’s Malaysia Airlines’ second air tragedy in just four months. :cry:

For me, who is linked to Malaysia by personal history, kinship, friendships and the sheer proximity of our countries, I feel as numbed as I would feel if MH17 were a close personal friend.

So, I was snappy with a VVIP Singaporean friend who Whatsapp me from Bangkok with this message: “Malaysia really tak boleh. This year two total wipeouts of planes with lots of passengers. How they cope with Isis?”

I replied: “Pse don’t blame Malaysia. MH370 still a total mystery. MH17 a matter of timing, Ukraine rebels etc. Just pray this doesn’t happen to SIA. As for Isis, just blame US n the Israelis.”

No further contact from him.

Guess I must have pissed him of.

Just as I was pissed off to read on the front page of The Straits Times of July 19, below the banner headline top story, one that was titled “Lucky couple, someone must have been watching over us…”

It’s about a Scottish couple who had been planning to fly on MH17 but switched to a later KLM flight because MH17 was full.

Mr Barry Sim and his wife Izzy, who heard about the tragedy on the way to the airport, spoke of the “sick feeling” they experienced on hearing the news. Mr Sim told the (UK) Telegraph: “You get this sick feeling in the pit of your stomach We started getting butterflies. Your heartbeat starts going.”

His wife added: “There must have been someone watching over us and saying ‘you must not get on that flight’. “Coming to the airport in the taxi I was just crying … I feel like I’ve been given a second chance.”

As a bystander, I was upset by the headline. I can imagine what those who lost friends, loved ones, even whole families, would feel.

If someone watched over the Sims so that they didn’t board the ill-fated flight, what did it mean for the 298 who perished? There were babies, grandmothers, even a nun. No supernatural forces were on their side? Surely not!

I am sure Mrs Sim hadn’t intended to convey what the headline made her appear to imply — or encourage those reading it to infer adverse meanings.

But the fact is, that was how it came across. At least to me.

Hence today I am glad on re-checking the online version of the ST July 19 issue, I found the Sims’ account carried a factual and neutral headline: Malaysia Airlines MH17: Scottish couple missed flight which was overbooked.

In recent years, the Internet has helped to proliferate feel-good aphorisms, taglines or sayings that are meant to uplift and convey “there but for the grace of you-know-who”…

I however never feel good to say “I used to complain about my tight-fitting shoes till I met someone with no feet.”

I prefer to feel good on meeting someone who has everything and realise that compared with the best I can still count myself lucky.

For in this world of unpredictability and constant change beyond our control, it is better to live by the Chinese saying 塞翁失馬焉知非福 (Saiweng Shima, Yanzhi Feifu)

The poor are always with us…

says the Bible. At least in the Gospel according to St Mark. In that version, this was the reported advice given by Jesus to Martha when she complained that her sister Mary Magdalene was wasting money that could have been better spent on the poor, instead of anointing Jesus with expensive oil…..

The truth of the statement ascribed to Jesus is evident, even in Singapore which has gone from 3rd world to the 1st in about 1.5 generations.

This is reflected by the ongoing debate on how best the disadvantaged (PC euphemism for “poor”) in our country could be helped and could be savoured through the links to recent bloggers’ posts I’ve collated below on the topic.

One of my biggest disappointments with Singapore is that the poverty I witnessed in my childhood, youth and as a working adult is still very much with us today when I am already on the cusp of old age.

More incredulously, The Straits Times reported in recent days that the poor in SG are perceived to be invisible, with many young, educated and presumably working adults claiming not to have witnessed grinding poverty.

Oh sure, I’ve seen grinding poverty in old developed countries, more specifically in London, Washington, New York and San Francisco. As well as in Hongkong, Shanghai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. And one could hardly move more than a few feet in Laojie in Shenzhen without coming across most horrifyingly disfigured men and women begging for pittance in the sizzling heat or the miserable cold.

By comparison, the poor in my country is nothing as visible or clustered in as large numbers as those in Shenzhen.

But if we look harder, we can see for example, the trishaw rider outside the Victoria Theatre now under multi-million $ refurbishment. He has the unhealthy bloated look of someone eating bad food that fills the stomach but doesn’t nourish. He is shabbily dressed. His vehicle looks rickety and has plastic bags filled with inconsequential stuff (his worldly possessions?) on the floor of the trishaw. No wonder I’ve never seen him pick up a customer, every time I went to the Singapore Cricket Club.

So a couple of times, I made to effort to pass him some money (and more than the usual $2 I give the usual tissue sellers I come across all over Singapore, but especially on pedestrian malls, MRT stations and places of worship) not because he’s a beggar but because I think I should give him a treat and break the monotony of his painful long waits for probably non-existent customers.

It is gr8 therefore to discover that the online community can see our poor vividly and to pen articles such as Belmont Lay’s below which have views and practical advice on how to extend our helping hand ; good too to have taglines like “make poverty history” or whatever, but IMHO, giving out $2 to someone who looks in need will hit the spot right away.

I hope — and pray — in the next two months (at least) when we all swing into the “giving” mood, some of my friends and visitors to this site would make sure they have plenty $2 notes in their wallets to share with someone in need whom they come across.

Never seen anyone in need? Then please go to Blk 25 Bendemeer Road (near Boon Keng MRT exit) and you would be rewarded with at least a handful within 30 minutes. Or go to the environs of the Kwan Im Hood Cho Waterloo Street Temple, and you would have a much better harvest, tho most destitutes there try to avoid arrest (for public begging) by flogging tissue papers.

OK, some of these folks may be frauds. But for anyone with swollen face and/or limbs and weeping sores to crouch miserably in all weather, blistering sun or persistent rain, just for that few $ to come his way after several hours of suffering, then he must have some mental deficit at best. After all, his “fraudulent” haul is probably no larger than what he could get from going to see his MP with a good story. So I would rather be defrauded by him than by those who ask for a lot more just because they’ve got the Govt’s nod as a public charity!

In any case, I’d rather be defrauded by 99 fake needy-looking folks than accidentally overlook one genuine case, in dire need of one last grasp of what a meagre two bucks would buy in Singapore nowadays.

Views on Singapore’s poor

http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/one-quarter-of-singapore-households-below-poverty-line/

http://thehearttruths.com/2013/10/25/26-of-singaporeans-live-below-poverty-line-in-singapore/

http://sgbangla.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/people-on-social-assistance-can-drink-and-smoke/

http://searchingforenlightenment.blogspot.sg/2013/10/anti-poverty-groups-in-singapore-one.html

http://hardhitting-nobs.blogspot.sg/2013/10/not-going-to-happen.html

http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg/?p=8408

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/great-retorts-to-kee-chuis-rubbish/

http://www.voiddecker.com/2013/10/govt-rejects-poverty-line-says-prosperity-line-better-for-social-objective/

http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/defining-poverty-singapore-more-just-cliff-effect-031732736.html

http://singaporedesk.blogspot.sg/2013/10/being-poor-is-your-own-fault.html

http://alphamalesyndrome.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/homelesssg/

http://blogging4myself.blogspot.sg/2013/10/chan-chun-sing-no-to-poverty-line.html

http://fuzzielemon.blogspot.sg/2013/10/singapore-not-considering-poverty-line.html

http://singaporedesk.blogspot.sg/2013/10/no-poverty-line-please-we-are.html

http://mothership.sg/2013/10/3-factors-understand-poverty-spores-poverty-data-absurd/

Call me naive.. or subversive

… but there are three recent developments in Singapore that flummoxed moi. :lol:

Take the latest first.

I refer to the victory achieved by the minority dissenting owners to kill the en bloc sale of the Thomson View condo.

The judge threw out the sale, already cleared by 80% of the owners, because the property agents handling the deal had paid a few owners out of their potential commission to sign the deal and achieve the tipping point. They even paid the return airfare for one owner to come back to Singapore from the Netherlands to sign.

I personally don’t see what’s so wrong for the agents to induce the last few critical owners to sign.

Conflict of interest?

Only if the payment came out of the sale price (après commission) of the property and thereby has the effect of eating into the total sum paid to owners who didn’t need inducement.

Only if once the consent to sell is achieved, the agents then sell the property at prices below what could be reasonably fetched on the open market in order for them to close the sale and collect their commission.

But this would be unlikely as all en bloc agreements have minimum price clauses included. In any case, it won’t benefit the agents to sell at a fire sale price since their commission would be a % of the price achieved. The lower the price, the smaller their commission.

Of course there could be suspicion that agents who induce critical stragglers to sign have hidden agendas, such as selling the property below its true value and then collecting kick backs from the buyer.

But as pointed out earlier if there is a realistic and market sensitive reserve price, fire sales are unlikely.

If under-table shenanigans are discovered then of course the agents and their co-conspirators should be dealt with to the full extent of the law. Send them to jail and throw away the key!

This wasn’t the case with Thomson View. Hopefully, our law enforcers would in future see that there are inducements which are practical, legal and ethical and those that aren’t.

Which brings me to the 2nd development: curtailing the privilege of alumni from elite primary schools sending their kids to their parents or grandparents’ alma mater.

In my view, all alumni should retain their priority registration intact. These schools should open their doors to those with no alumni connection only if and when their alumni have got all the places they need for their offspring.

Unfair to children not blessed with such well-connected parents?

Nonsense.

If every school in SG is a good school, then let kids without parental connections go to those which have as yet to grow such a network.

If not every school is a good school, then MOE should hot-house those schools that have, for whatever reason, been unable to build up cohorts of loyal alumni. But not disrupt the prioritised inflow of schools that have already built their alumni families of multi-generations!

To prevent inbreeding and infuse new blood? Let that come naturally via any unfilled places left over annually or let the affected schools find their own solution, not have it imposed by fiat by the Government.

Unfair to those without parental connections?

Well, no more unfair than it is for those who own HDB homes being allowed to buy and continue to buy private property. Whereas those who own private property no longer have the reverse privilege to buy HDB, even when such buyers were confined to the resale unsubsidised HDB market, in days when the rules were different.

By contrast, most of those who own HDB have already had one or several bites of the state’s subsidy-cherry. Yet they continue to enjoy the privilege of buying private, while holding onto heavily subsidised assets.

How much unfairer can things get, you tell me!

Since the presumably better off are handicapped in the housing market, is it so outrageous then that the presumably less advantaged be somewhat left out in the cold when it comes to schooling in brand name primary schools?

While I believe in a more equal and inclusive society, I don’t believe that to achieve such equality G should level up one segment of Singaporeans while having policies that level down the presumed better connected and better off :roll:

In any case, if Singapore truly wants to build tradition, encourage real appreciation of heritage, continuity and community bonding, then depriving some descendants of alumni from attending the schools of their forefathers is hardly the best route to achieve such ends.

This brings me to the curious case of famous surgeon Susan Lim and the fees she charged a deceased relative of the Sultan of Brunei.

So our courts and her peers have found and continue to find her fees to be exorbitant! Case closed!

But like I had said in an earlier post — http://singaporegirl.wordpress.com/?s=susan+lim — I don’t belong to the camps that condemn her.

This is because there is plenty of choice for medical treatment in SG and Dr Lim, like your rich and famous Kim Robinsons and Michelin starred chefs, should be free to impose ridiculous fees on those who have money to burn and seek brand-name service providers, be it doctor, hair dresser, cook or bottle washer.

Instead, the courts and medical fraternity’s indignation and ire should be directed at doctors who turn away patients who can’t pay — telling them to go to A&E or retaining prescribed medicine until they bring the full sum to pay for consultation and drugs!

Charging what your rich patient can very well bear isn’t about ethics. But not attending to a sick person because he doesn’t have the means to pay is!

Such wicked doctors don’t exist in SG? I wait to be convinced!

To conclude, I wish my self-righteous fellow citizens, including our judges, would direct their disapproval, better still anger, at things such as the strange metamorphosis of a tender for a $19.14million project by the Republic Polytechnic to develop an academic system.

After the deadline, the poly allowed a vendor to submit a revised proposal. Bad enough, right?

Worse! It was a substantial change from the original tender, says the Straits Times, citing the G’s Auditor General annual report which highlights cases of cavalier behaviour by those who handle our country’s coffers.

Worst! This substantial change wasn’t disclosed to the tender approving authority and believe it or not, the vendor who re-submitted got the contract.

I rest my case. And I don’t even wonder why there’s no Committee of Inquiry for all those scandalous cases involving our civil servants that run to millions of dollars or dozens of illicit occasions for cheap sex, often in car parks, for crying out loud! :cry:

Say something about these, please, PM Lee!

If I were to respond to a survey about life in Singapore, I would say I am 60% happy with my external environment and 80% happy with my home environment. Can’t be 100% lah or else I would be in paradise, and I’m not talking about the Paradise restaurants :roll:

So, I would like Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to address some of the issues that bug me about things that aren’t within my control and hopefully change them so that my happiness level with the external environment would match that of my feelings for my own home.

First and foremost is this thing about the People’s Association and the grassroots adviser.

For years and years I’ve found it — and still find it — impossible to understand why defeated PAP candidates are allowed to remain the grassroots adviser to the ward/s that has/have gone to the Opposition.

I am no Opposition fan. In fact, I am mostly neutral when it comes to the Opposition. And when it comes to one or two Opposition noise makers, I am downright hostile.

Yet I feel it isn’t right for Opposition MPs who have won fair and square to be left out in the cold where community events are concerned. Especially at the once a year National Day dinner.

Shouldn’t the kosher MP be the GOH instead of the defeated PAP candidate? Sure, it’s the grassroots organisations such as CCCs that organise the dinner and the entertainment but when was the last time that the grassroots of an Opposition ward asked the standing MP to be the GOH, instead of the PAP loser?

If there has been such an occasion I am sure it would have made the front page headlines in the Straits Times. I don’t remember ever having read such an account. :roll:

My hope therefore is for PM Lee to address this topic, preferably at the National Day Rally when all Singaporeans, PAP, Opposition and everyone in between are supposed to be united as one nation, one people, one Singapore.

If PAP nurtured grassroots leaders don’t know any better about propriety and respect to the Opposition MP who represents their constituency, then let the supreme commander of the PAP educate them about respecting the wishes of Singaporeans in word and deed!

The other topic I would like to hear the PM talk about is the ever-annoying policy to share government goodies with Singaporeans by using the annual value of property yardstick.

Of course I am highly grateful that the $120 discounted maid levy wasn’t doled out based on homes’ annual value or else I won’t have got that either.

Never mind that my flat would be put to shame by most of the ECs such as Bishan Loft and new generation HDB housing.

Never mind that everyone of my generation in my family has more or less stopped working, some for years. And although all of us live in private property, none of us are of the Wee Cho Yaw class; not even the permanent secretary class. We are even below lesser mortal classes for that matter.

Also, as our homes were bought decades ago, the prices that we paid back then won’t be able to get us decent public housing today. But if anyone would today offer me public housing of 1800 sf near Orchard Road for $500K, we might have a deal! :lol: Then, there would be no more angst about having my full share of budget goodies.

Seriously though, what is so difficult about determining who should get the GST Voucher? (see below) Why base it on a combi annual value of one’s home and assessable income, when it’s owner occupied?

Why not improve the criteria by checking the ages of the occupants? If someone is already 80+, is it likely that he or she would be able to benefit from the GST rebates for very much longer, even if he or she lives in private property? And as the annual value is a notional number, the effect of such a yardstick is that the person is given an implied make-believe income when none exists

It is the private-public property blunt cut-off that I find so galling. Why not throw in age consideration and the price paid for the property? Given our massive computing power, surely this isn’t too much to expect? Or am I mistaken?

The Straits Times
Published on Aug 03, 2013
GOVERNMENT HELP SCHEMES

Fair system of income, annual value as criteria in place

 GOVERNMENT help schemes such as the GST Voucher (GSTV) aim to provide support to those who are less well-off. They use both assessable income (AI) and the annual value (AV) of homes as criteria, as this combination provides a better picture of a person’s means than if just one criterion is used (“Govt help schemes: Income more relevant than annual value” by Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi; Wednesday).

To address one of Mr Chan’s points, the AV does not refer to actual rental income earned, which would be reflected in the AI. The AV is a measure of the value of the home, irrespective of whether it is rented out. Besides a person’s income, this is an additional measure of how well-off he is.

Most Singaporeans with lower incomes do obtain larger GSTV benefits. This includes, for example, the majority of non-working spouses, who rightly benefit from the GSTV.

However, if GSTV benefits were based on AI alone, those who live in expensive homes and who choose not to work would obtain the same benefits as the poor.

Similarly, using AV alone would mean that Singaporeans who earn high incomes, but who choose to live in flats with lower AVs, would benefit unduly.

Our approach of using both AI and AV as criteria is a practical way of identifying those who are less well-off, from among the full population of adult Singaporeans. It is not perfect in design, but broadly equitable. It also complements other schemes which are less broad-based and allow for more customised assessment of an individual’s needs.

We will continue to review the eligibility criteria of government help schemes to benefit those who need greater support.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)

Director, Corporate Communications

Ministry of Finance

Some connectivity — 25 years late?

My heart leapt up when going over last Friday’s Straits Times (old newspapers miraculously came to hand earlier, thanks to my dropping by at nephew’s home on Saturday and grabbing what he’s discarded instead of waiting for him to deliver at his leisure)!

I refer to the makeover that’s been completed at the dinosaur of Singapore’s shopping malls –Plaza Singapura. (see article reproduced below).

It seemed like the answer to my complaint voiced here more than 30 months ago !

But alas, I rejoiced too soon.

It’s some connectivity, pardon my sarcasm!

Singapura Plaza was already connected to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. Ditto the Atrium. Be4 the makeover.

There’s no connection to Cathay Building or Park Mall — at least not according to the ST article. Or it’s silent on such new connections — if indeed there are links.

I shall confirm the non-existent links the next time I visit Plaza Singapura.

You would think G would have insisted on creating links to Cathay and Park Mall when approving the 80 extra shops. People need links, not more shops — of which there were/are already plenty in and around Plaza Singapura :(

 

The Straits Times www.straitstimes.com

Published on Dec 07, 2012

New lease of life at Plaza Singapura

Makeover adds more space, 80 new shops to draw young adults to 38-year-old mall

By melissa tan

PLAZA Singapura, down at the less glitzy end of Orchard Road, has a new lease of life now that renovation works are over.

After its 21-month makeover, costing $150 million, the 38-year-old mall is nearly the size of Ion Orchard with about 80 new shops, all linked to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station.

Its net lettable area has grown by about 25 per cent to 629,000 sq ft.

The previous block-like facade at Plaza Singapura has been revamped with a wave-inspired design. The mall front now stretches 170m along Orchard Road.

It has also been integrated with its neighbour, The Atrium@Orchard, which mall owner CapitaMall Trust bought from the Government in 2008.

A walkway now connects the first floor of Plaza Singapura with the MRT station via the mall’s new wing which is the retail podium of The Atrium@Orchard.

The new wing has about 80 shops, including several brands that are new to Singapore.

These new stores are aimed at young adults and professionals, managers, executives and businessmen, the mall said in a statement yesterday.

One of them is 1 Market by Chef Wan, a buffet restaurant launched jointly by the eponymous Malaysian chef and Food Junction Holdings.

Located on the fourth floor of Plaza Singapura’s new wing, it serves a smorgasbord of South-east Asian cuisines.

The 450-seater halal restaurant has been booked up for lunch and dinner until the end of this year, Food Junction managing director and chief executive David Lim said yesterday at a media briefing at the restaurant.

Other new shops include JRunway, a 3,600 sq ft store that is the first Japanese multi-label boutique in South-east Asia, and several other Japanese stores such as Japanese restaurant Tsukada Nojo and Hoshino, a coffee place by Japanese coffee chain Doutor Coffee.

In the old wing of Plaza Singapura, Cold Storage will be taking over the lower level of the space vacated by French hypermarket Carrefour when it moved out at the end of September, the mall’s management said.

Cold Storage’s 30,000 sq ft store is slightly smaller than the one at Great World City. It will begin operations in the first three months of next year.

The space Carrefour occupied on the ground floor of Plaza Singapura has yet to be taken over by a tenant.

melissat@sph.com.sg

Copyright © 2012 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Deadly dependence on FTs?

Yesterday some 102 SMRT bus drivers from China decided not to go to work. Read all about it here: http://singaporedaily.net/2012/11/27/daily-sg-27-nov-2012/

My initial reaction: Thank goodness I seldom take buses. But on second thoughts, i drive and share the road all the time with SMRT buses.

With unhappy drivers in charge of as big a vehicle as a bus — especially the double-decker and the bendy varieties — and with so many lives in the hand of one person, is it wise for SMRT not to treat their human “software” like valuable porcelain?

(It’s the same analogy which ex-president SR Nathan said Mr Lee Kuan Yew used to describe the Straits Times when Nath was sent there to sort things out aeons ago).

Think also of other road users, especially pedestrains, cyclists and motor cyclists. What if a madly disgruntled SMRT driver/s loses/lose  “it” and decide to take it out on the world — namely a narrow street in Singapore.

It would be a nightmare worse than Freddy Kruger’s Elm Street! (which incidentally gave me nightmares the first and only time I viewed it!)

Guess such a dastardly deed could be done by an insane bus driver of any nationality but when this isn’t home and there’s the added pressure of having to adjust to this not being home, then there’s a gr8er chance of a trajedy waiting to happen :cry:

Mayb one should be glad that the China-drivers showed their hand by not driving. If that made headline news around the world, think how much bigger headlines would have resulted if they drove and the resentment in their hearts went off like a Mumbai bomb!

Which is worse?

I first took notice of the name Richard Teo in the Straits Times obituary page because one of my many cousins has a son by the same name. Still, the similarity ends there. The late RT was a doctor whereas my cousin’s son makes his living as a “sourcer” for antiques and other decor bric a brac for the rich and famous.

Then the name of the late Dr RT came into view again. This time Face Book link of an ex-cousin’s husband gave me a glimpse of what the late doctor spoke about a la the last lecture of Randy Pausch.

As i was relaxing then in Kuala Lumpur, I didn’t really read thru the transcript.

But believe it or not, an email from a KL friend hit my inbox today with the full transcript and i couldn’t help but read it more closely since I am back in SG and have better access to the Internet.

Also, i can’t help noticing that the lament of the late Dr RT has gone viral, at least as reported by Yahoo.

I can understand why it’s so traumatic that someone in his prime should look askance at death. Even my mother at 87 going on 88 — with a host of health problems, sorry lah, I mean health challenges — doesn’t look on death as a welcome exit.

Indeed, I daresay no one, not even those who believe in Heaven, are wholly or even “half in love with easeful death” (as John Keats the Romantic poet once put it!) Otherwise, there would be no need for Lourdes and other miracles.

And i am familiar with the lament — now growing most common and loud in SG — that money and success don’t buy one happiness. This was the thrust of Dr RT’s lecture given near the end of his life. In fact, it’s the same message that I was raised on when as a kid in CHIJ I had chosen Scripture as one of my O level subjects.

That familiar “What doth it profit a man to own the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” has been put into many new packagings in today’s SG, especially by the young clamouring for better life balance.

While I feel it is sad, very sad, for anyone to leave this wonderful life prematurely, I wonder whether it won’t be a lot sadder to leave it prematurely but penniless and an abject failure?

Or put another way: What doth it profit a man who owns not a grain of sand and yet suffers the loss of his own soul? :cry: :cry: :cry: