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I am dead serious!

Someone I know sent me this link about the columbarium brouhaha in West Sengkang and added for good measure: “by some accounts, this Lam guy
doesn’t seem to be handling this very well. sounds a bit like the HDB and URA functionaries of old. more trouble for Baby God.”

This is what I wrote in response: “Frankly I don’t know y these people r making such a fuss… Bishan, Takashimaya, even some good class bungalows in Kheam Hock Road r all built around or on top of old graves… soon it will be Bidadari.

So what if there’s a columbarium?

The people in landed prop around St Ignatius Church in King’s Road have not only a columbarium as a neighbour but also wakes day in and out…

The West Sengkang people are making a fuss now probably as an excuse because prop prices r falling and they want out…

If I were BG, I would say to those who want out: “Please take back yr deposits. And for good measure, I will offer those returned units to those in the Pioneer Generation, who have never had the benefit of buying a discount price home from the Government, who own private property and who would like the privilege of also owning a HDB home direct from the Government. As a special concession to this special group of Singaporeans.”

And I would be the first to jump at such an offer — as after all, with the best of effort, I probably won’t have more than 30 years to live and what better way to get daily reminders that I am not going to live forever than by living next to a columbarium!

I am dead serious about taking up such an offer, if it materialises.

I am also dead serious when I say that I hope our Government would re-learn how to take a firm stand when the occasion arises. Not try to accommodate more and more demands, especially when they aren’t reasonable. Otherwise why should caveat emptor apply to anything any more!

Misdirected largesse

OK, call me sour grapes but I think the government’s continuing “upgrading” of private estates is misdirected largesse.

So, $20 million will be thrown on another nine estates (see repro of Channel News Asia story below) after $167 million had already been spent on 54 private estates.

So, I don’t live in any of the estates that had or will be benefitting from another slosh of tax payers’ money. So pardon my jaundice.

But IMHO, I think the G should be more targeted in its generosity. For example, why not direct the money at pioneer generation members who live in private estates and whose home values hit the dreaded $21K annual value. “Dreaded” because that cuts them off from subsidies when hospitalised and prevents some health care services like hospices providing free care from turning to the G to ask for subsidies for this group of patients, never mind if they are severely ill.

I have raised this matter with highly placed individuals who believe it or not retort that if I felt so strongly about hospices missing out on subsidies when they treat my mum — who falls into the $21K category — then I should donate funds (such as the $100 per month which G provides with no means test to her since she can’t perform 3 self care functions) to the hospice looking after her!

Such a suggestion completely misses the point.

I will let that be. Yet I will not let that be.

Because while reading the latest private estate upgrading news on the CNA website, I also chanced on the internet a write up about Chiam See Tong’s victory in 1984.

I remember that occasion very well.

I was living in the Cairnhill constituency then and that night as we watched the election results being announced live on TV, the apartments in the blocks around me rang out with such loud cheers you would think it’s dawn of the New Year.

Later I learned from a sibling, there was a similar phenomenon in the Sixth Avenue neighbourhood where she lived. Such cheers of glee reverberated from landed property to landed property that one who didn’t know nothing about SG politics would have imagined it’s the defeat of a pesky small time opposition wannabe :roll:

SINGAPORE: Nine private estates will be upgraded at a cost of S$20 million under the Estate Upgrading Programme, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said on Friday (Jan 9).

The nine estates slated for upgrading are:

•Clover Estate

•Lentor Estate

•Thomson Faber Island Gardens,

•Toh Tuck Estate,

•Meng Suan/Springleaf Estates,

•Happy Gardens,

•Sea Breeze Garden,

•Toh Estate

•Jln Merbok, Jln Layang-Layang, Kln Kakatua, Jln Selating, Jln Rajawali and Shamah Terrace Estate.

The upgrading works will include providing footpath lighting or safety railings to enhance safety and security, covering drains to create footpaths, creating barrier-free access such as ramps, improving the estates’ landscaping and parks and enhancing the estate identity, the ministry said.

According to MND, these nine estates were developed more than 30 years ago. More than 4,800 households will benefit from the improved facilities when the work items are planned and constructed in three to four years’ time, it said.

More than 54 private estates have been upgraded under the Estate Upgrading Programme at a cost of S$167 million.

Prior to upgrading, the Neighbourhood Committees or the Citizens’ Consultative Committees will conduct surveys and/or dialogues with the residents to gather their views and ideas on the upgrading works, the ministry said.

Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Chairman of the Estate Upgrading Programme Committee and Minister of State for National Development and Defence, said: “This is truly a collaborative effort, with residents taking ownership and playing an active role in deciding what improvements they hope to see in their estates to make the living environment better for all.”

Celebrate SG50 by gifting needy with $2 or more?

Today is the day when many of us wish one another a good year ahead. I have received and sent out my share of wishes for sweet surprises for 2015.

Today is also the day when we are counting down to the 50th year of Singapore’s reluctant independence from Malaysia.

Today is the day when we are on the cusp of the biggest national bash in Singapore’s post independence history. It will be SG50 with everything within a few hours.

Today is the day when I recall again — have done so on and off over the years — where I was when I heard that Singapore was no longer part of Malaysia.

I was outside Victoria train station in London one late August afternoon when I saw a newspaper poster screaming “SINGAPORE OUT”.

As a teen-aged student who followed the news only sporadically, I wondered what it was all about. Bought a copy of the evening newspaper — Evening Standard or Evening News, can’t remember which — and found that Singapore was out of Malaysia. Couldn’t understand the implications nor did I really try.

In fact I learned how upset former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was only years later — in 1968 to be precise when a colleague in the Straits Times newsroom in Kuala Lumpur waxed lyrical about Mr Lee’s tears.

This colleague was a Malaysian student in Perth and vividly retold what she saw on TV on the faterful day of the Malayisa-Singapopre separation.

“I admire your prime minister,” Yeoh Phaik Kim declared again and again.

Even that conversation and that colleague and I have been separated by more than 40 years.

Much has changed. Yet little has changed.

I returned from KL to work in Singapore. One day after work, I saw an old man sleeping on the five-foot way opposite where I was living (which incidentally like many buildings in Singapore has been demolished). I remember seeing him there when I left for work.

Asked him why. I was too young to understand that he might be hungry or had no home to go to. Or if I did, I assumed it was par for the course.

After all, when i was growing up in the same neighbourhood, I had witnessed beggars going from house to house regularly to ask for something to eat. My family always spared them a few cents which in those days could buy a bowl of noodles from the street cart vendors.

So I spared the old man some loose change. And even gave him some biscuits. And sure enough, he wasn’t there any more when I looked out my window later that night.

Wish I can say the same for the generic poor in Singapore. Today, although no one (other than scouts or other trick-or-treat rich kids) comes to my door to solicit something to fill his own stomach, the poor are very much with us.

Two weeks ago, one thundery wet afternoon, I saw a tiny waif of a woman picking up discarded cardboard outside the back door of the Fairprice outlet in Blk 280, Bukit Batok.

I had gone there for a GP-friend to give one of the family’s helpers her MOM mandated check up.

The cardboard picker was soaked even though she did wear a flimsy plastic poncho with hood. The cardboard she was collecting was soaked and disintegrating even as she tried to bundle the lot together.

I felt compelled to hand her a little something that would make her cardboard scavenging unnecessary — at least for that day.

But the pain of pervasive poverty didn’t leave me that afternoon.

I went to the OCBC ATM outside Fairprice to withdraw some spending money. Someone before me had left his/her withdrawal slip where the input keys were.

I am a kaypoh.

I picked it up and the numbers gave me yet another reality jolt.

The person before me (552XXXX203) had withdrawn $20. The available balance was just $34.49.

Fine if it was a domestic helper or a young student with employer or family to fall back on. Not so if it’s an adult, with no family support or worse, has a whole family of dependents!

So amidst all sorts of SG50 celebrations to spend money to mark the occasion, I would like to propose my favourite.

To celebrate SG50, let us adopt this habit to gift $2 (or more) to someone in need or looks in need we come across.

Of course, do respect their dignity. Make sure to smile and say “please let me buy you a coffee?”

A few may say no. Try to persuade. If they still say no, then say something like “another time? Bye”.

In my experience, persistence works in all cases.

So if they say no, try, try and try again. It’s not a waste of time to convince these aunties and uncles that someone out there actually wants to share a tiny something with them.

Coward & snob

… that’s what I am.

This is the conclusion I came to after I reflected sadly in recent days over how I let a high society dame swipe $50 from me in the name of charity when all I wanted was buy a book for $20.

Why didn’t I say “no” when I handed her a $50 note, fully expecting to receive my change, but she said, “Lucia” ever so sweetly and insincerely, “you want to donate the balance to the scholarship fund?”

I actually had no such intention or inclination but I was so taken aback at her audacity that I was at a loss for words momentarily. Then I said “OK” somewhat weakly and unenthusiastically. She, the brazen fund raiser, said a brief “thanks” and was already “charming” the next sucker before I could even gather my wits together to demand a carrier bag for the $20 book for which I had paid a reluctant extra $30.

Now contrast this with the firm folded palms “salem” and “no, thank you” I always dish out to volunteers at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital who invariably gather at the start or end of the hospital’s main escalators trying to sell stuff to raise money for needy patients.

Why can I say no to needy patients when I could allow myself to be intimidated to part with $30 ($50-$20 for the book)?

I can only put that down to cowardice. I was instinctively afraid to offend the high society dame. I was afraid to say “no” and make her lose face since there were many people around. And possibly I was also afraid that the people milling around would consider me mean or couldn’t spare the extra money.

Yup, like it or not, I want acceptance even from people I don’t particularly care about or strangers that I don’t even know.

Then why was I so brave to turn down fund solicitors at TTSH?

Guess I go to the hospital on such a regular basis that I have already grown callouses on my heart. I am less afraid of the volunteers thinking me mean since droves on either side of me also say no or just ignore them. At least I acknowledge their request — even if I don’t give in.

And worst of all, I probably value the opinions of the volunteers less than I do the fellow guests at the book launch, even though the majority were as unknown to me as I to them. But socially I most likely placed them subliminally above the hospital fund raisers.

Which makes me a snob of the worst kind. And a coward to boot!

Since I have for some time decided not to donate to organised charity — a decision taken long before the NKF and Renci sagas among others but strengthened in the wake of the scandals — I should have been as firm with the society dame as I am with knick knack fund raisers.

But I wasn’t.

So I resolve to do better the next time a well heeled tai-tai tries to intimidate me into parting with my money, or at least more than I want to!

Prepare yourselves, GE is nearer than you think?

OK, I’m no political pundit. Nor an academic in political science who should be better able to read the political tea leaves than your average auntie. I also don’t move in the circles of great thinkers and insiders in Singapore’s elite political sphere..

But to parody the Wet Wet Wet song, I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes. GE’s all around me, and so the feeling grows; it’s written in the wind; it’s everywhere I go..

.. that the next General Election for Singapore, IMHO, is a lot nearer than all the august big brains — Eugene Tan, Bertha Henson, Kit Wei Ching, Song Seng Wun to name a few — in our midst have been predicting.

“The bet is that it will be late next year or early 2016 to take advantage of the SG50 hype,” said Bertha, while Song thought the PAP would prefer to concentrate on the SG50 festivities for most of 2015.

Then they say there are the contentious and likely amendments to the Broadcasting Act and Town Council Act to get out of the way be4 the next poll.

Ditto the thoughts of some acquaintances of mine who appear to run with the in-politics crowd.

These give all sorts of reasons why GE won’t be before SG is done with its SG50 celebrations, as more goodies have to be distributed first be4 the ballot papers are handed out :roll:

Still, the consensus of the knowledgeable is that the polls will be called a good year before the government’s use by date of January 2017. Their forecasts grow granular around the months of September to December 2015, or at latest January 2016.

I beg to differ, not least because of what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the PAP’s 6oth birthday last Sunday.

He said the next general election will be a “deadly serious” fight between the PAP and the opposition and that “every seat, every GRC, every SMC will be contested. Every seat, every contest will be a national contest, not a local one. Every seat is a general election, not a by-election.”

Wasn’t PM stating the obvious? When had the PAP ever gone into a GE without making it a “deadly serious” fight with the Opposition? When had it not contested “every seat, every GRC, every SMC”? When had it ever treated a national election as anything but a national contest and a general election, not a by-election.”

If it isn’t a GE rally speech, I don’t know what is.

To me it was clear as a bell that the Sec-Gen of the PAP was signalling to the party faithful that GE isn’t months but possibly only weeks away and so better be battle-ready.

As for the feel good effect of SG50 softening even the most hardened of the Singaporean hearts that are against the PAP, I feel PM had better take a cue from what happened to Churchill after he won the war. The epitome of British leadership lost the election immediately afterwards.

Instead if  PM chooses to go to the people before SG50 celebs take off, what better way could there be for the PAP to celebrate 50 years of nationhood than for the PAP to collect yet another resounding victory at the polls.

I hope I am right as I can’t see PM and most of his cabinet ministers continuing to rush around for another year as they have been doing this year at myriad functions that seek to thank this, that and the other besides the Pioneer Generation!

If nothing else, some of them will collapse from exhaustion while others because of their packed please-the-people schedules will have no choice but to let their portfolio run on auto pilot.

Not a good state or slate to go into election battle surely?

So shall I bet my Pioneer Generation Card against your SICC card that the January 19 2015 sitting for this Parliament will be its last :lol:

Want to pay also don’t want to accept!

This was what I encountered on Friday, Nov 28, when I went to pay my M1 and Starhub bills at Bugis Junction. And it wasn’t the first time either.

What got me wholly cheesed off was that I had gone to BJ specifically to pay those bills so other errands that I wanted to run at the same mall were secondary considerations.

I went to M1 first and like recent visits, was told to use the self service machine to make payment.

Oh all praise to M1’s attempt at efficiency but I prefer the smiley faced sister who used to attend to me. Because in reality, the self service machine wasn’t that efficient.

Here’s why.

I have two mobile lines. One for my phone; the other for a mobile broadband.

I have no trouble remembering my mobile phone number. Since I have had it for more than a decade. Also because I have to give the number to new contacts every so often.

So I succeeded in paying that bill at the self service machine albeit after a bit of trial and error.

But when it came to the mobile broadband bill, I was stymied.

I couldn’t remember the mobile broadband’s number. I didn’t bring my bill — to be truthful I never bring any of my bills as they somehow manage to vanish between their arrival and when I want to pay them, due to the usual grace period given between a bill’s arrival and its due date.

When the smiley human cashier at M1 was in operation, she just called up both bills on her computer screen after I gave my hand phone or IC number. No sweat. And I paid the two bills. Again no sweat.

Not so on Nov 28.

I tried to pay the broadband bill by using the same self-service machine. No dice. Just my identity card number won’t do. I MUST key in the line number.

Whoever did the programming for M1 must be real dumb.

Why can’t a customer’s IC number access all accounts under that particular customer?

I can understand the need to double confirm for a refund– to make life difficult for refund seekers, if nothing else! And perhaps delay the refund that way.

But why make life difficult for a customer wanting to pay up and add to M1’s cashflow?

Anyway, a human “customer” guide appeared at my side. Said sorry, no couldn’t help me find out what my mobile broadband number is. Sorry, no, no.

Miraculously he punched a few keys on another machine and gave me a slip of paper where I had to wait one (yes, ONE) hour to see someone to locate that elusive mobile broadband number.

Never mind that at least two customer officers sitting in front of their computers were just staring at their screens. No customer in front of them.

My human customer guide helpfully pointed out that as his colleagues were already serving 8030 and my Q number was 8035, I had to wait just four customers.

I didn’t rebut — tho I was tempted to– that there were four sets of other numbers in the Q that didn’t start with “80” and under M1 Q-system who knows whether we were in the same Q for all numbers or there were other Qs for different sets of numbers.

And to expect me to wait at least ONE hour to settle a $27 bill, they must be kidding. :roll:

I left and headed to Starhub next door to pay my cable TV bill.

The experience wasn’t much better in so far as the run around I got but I managed to pay my bill within 6 or 7 minutes.

This was despite having gone to the cashier to pay, I was then directed to the info counter to have my bill printed out, as I didn’t have the copy mailed to me.

At Starhub’s Plaza Singapura outlet, one could pay even without a bill. Just give the cashier your IC number.

Donch know why Starhub can’t standardise its bill payment procedures. That would save a lot of its customers’ time! And possibly cut down on its staff numbers!

Of cos, some visitors to this site wonder why I don’t pay the M1 and Starhub bills by Giro, via AXA machines or 7-11 shops. Answer is simple. I want to pay by credit card and earn points. Nothing wrong with that!

Anyway, I find the service of these two telcos sucks big time. Especially when I’ve paid M1 at least $20K in bills — and probably more — over the years. For Starhub, it’s probably a few thousand $ since we only converted to cable about 12 years ago when the management committee of my condo unilaterally removed the antennae at the roof top that allowed access to Mediacorp stations.

Now if Singapore’s productivity tzars are interested to find out more about why the nation’s productivity efforts have yielded virtually nought despite taglines and big bucks spent, they need no more than put the way M1 and Singtel run their bill collection systems under a microscope.

Come to think of it, when a company is inefficient and not productive it affects not only themselves but those who use their services. So there’s productivity lost on the receiving end too. And that cost should be deducted against the productivity figures, no? :lol: