Re: Is there something known as "Asian values"?
- By Hades H. HellSpawn
11 June 2003
After about a month or so in hiding, I decide to say my first words on this
One thing I would like to talk about, "Asian Values" and "Asian identities".
I have noticed a lot of people fling these words about as if they really make
some sense. Is there something known as "Asian values"?
How can a set of values be attributed as something common to the world's
largest continent? I have come to realise "Asian values", based on context,
"Don't see dirty pictures"
"Don't piss off those in power"
"Say no to democracy"
I think none of these labels fit Asians, or even most asians by any yardstick.
Most Asians are considered "conservative". This, IMO is absolutely not true.
Conservativism was enforced in many parts of Asia through either the spread of
Islam or the Colonial masters (Note: I am not saying anything against muslims,
nor is this a religious rant). The "liberalised" west and the "conservative"
Asians are cliche. The west is hardly as "liberalised" as we think (ever
wondered why in US, where it matters, the choices are relatively few? 300
brands of cereal but only 3 big media companies, and 2 political parties with
identical agenda), and Asia does have some of the finest examples of democratic
government. Asians are considered submissive lemmings who can't think. I refer
to that parody of a book by Kishore Mahubani (or something like taht) "Can
Asians Think",which is utter hogwash. 30% of NASA scientists are Asian over 30%
of high profile doctors in US are Asian Indians and Chinese are highly sought
after problem solvers in the computer industry. Asians can't think?!
As far as "Asian values" meaning "not seeing dirty pictures" is concerned,
remember it was the Indians who gave the World the Kama Sutra, and when I last
checked, India was still in Asia. Also, Japanese porn makes the Germans look
If Asian values mean "Acceptance of authority", then why were there widespread
demonstrations in Phillippines to remove that drunken yob, Estrada? Why
did Tiananmen happen? How did Gandhi win India freedom? If Asian values
mean "Asian democracy" (I refer to the way LKY uses this term), then why is it
that the world's largest democracy, with a hyperactive, often chaotic political
scene, India, is in Asia? Countries like Japan are also in Asia. What kind of
values they have?
If Asian values means "communitarian" values, why is it that more and more
countries are adopting an increasingly capitalist outlook to government and
economics? I wish group people wouldn't fling these words about as if they
meant something. Asia is too big to generalise under any set of "values".
Hades H. HellSpawn
> We have witnessed the western concept of democracy
> through channels of the
> media. However, coming from an Asian perspective,
> is it possible to achieve
> the "Asian" version of democracy which is unique and
> typefies the Asian
> Singapore's founding fathers are champions of Asian
> values and are keen to
> preserve them even with the dawn of the globalized
> era. Therefore, is it
> possible to build a society where Asian values are
> preserved but at the same
> time, people play an active role in the running of
> society, a fundalmental
> aspect of democracy?
> We do not have to look far for the solution to these
> questions. The key lies
> in the traditional villages of Indonesia. What is so
> special about this
> villages? The answer lies in the methodology with
> which the village leaders
> deal with issues and problems that arise in the
> villages. The methodology
> implemented is known as "Musywarrah" better known as
> In a situation when a problem arise that will affect
> the whole village, the
> village leaders will call for a meeting with the
> villagers. Solutions are
> based upon the upon the position of the majority in
> the group or the group as a
> whole. The village leaders will make the final
> decision based on the general
> consensus of the group.
> Will it be possible to implement? My answer is more
> work has to be done,
> especially in changing mindsets. Recently, an
> article published by Straits
> Times caught my attention. It was regarding Deputy
> Prime Minister Lee Hsien
> Loong's speech to the students' which was organized
> by the Victoria Junior
> College and the Ministry of Education. From my
> knowledge, students were
> advised not to speak to the media in order to
> facilitate the ease of hosting
> the event for the organisers.
> Therefore, it is a little unfortunate that students
> cannot share their views.
> My opinion is that this event should be organized
> forum-style or in a multi-
> personnel dialogue format. This is part of the
> methodology adopted by the
> village leaders to facilitate consensus-building.
> This also kills two birds
> with one stone. Firstly, organizers will have an
> easier time hosting the
> event. Secondly, the students get to have a
> dialogue with DPM Lee and express
> their opinion.
> The mindsets of the village chief and the villagers
> should be emulated as a
> first step towards building this type of Asian-style
> democracy. Villagers
> display maturity and responsibility as they offer
> solutions to problems in the
> process of consensus building.
> They are mature and responsible in the sense that
> their solutions, be it
> similar or different from that of the village
> leaders', to the problems arise
> from their sense of duty to the village.
> As for the leaders, they respect the villagers'
> views as they understand that
> the villagers are responsible and mature people who
> are offering their help in
> solving the problems. Therefore, even if the
> villagers' solutions are opposed
> to that of the leaders', they still acknowledge the
> fact that the villagers are
> doing their best for the general good of the village
> and take the villagers'
> views into consideration in the process of concensus
> Our society is likened to a ship negotiating the
> stormy seas. The captain and
> the crew members have to work hand in hand in order
> to ensure the well-being of
> the ship. The captain and crew members have to work
> hand in hand in tackling
> the obstacles that lie in their way during the
> journey. The failure of both
> parties in cooperating with each other will result
> in a wrong move, causing the
> entire ship to sink. A safe passage in the storm is
> ensured as long as the
> everyone from captain and crew members work with
> each other in unison.
> It is only through understanding of the societal
> fabric and the mindsets
> involved which will make the "Musywarrah" version of
> Asian democracy possible.
> Message: 2
> Date: Sat, 07 Jun 2003 15:22:45 -0000
> From: Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com
> Subject: The Baby Bonus - Criticisms &
> The Baby Bonus
> Madeline Low, Tan Yew Kiat, & Aw Kian Hsing
> Criticisms & Recommendations
> The baby bonus is an incentive that provides a
> tangible reward to
> couples in order to induce them to increase
> fertility behaviour. The
> act of setting up a Children Development Account
> that matches the
> parents' monetary contributions dollar-for-dollar
> for the first three
> children is seen as a monetary incentive. The longer
> maternity leave
> and the implementation of the paternity leave are
> considered as
> psychological benefits. Taken together, the
> government hopes that
> they will work to reduce the costs. Will
> Singaporeans, who are known
> to be docile and obedient citizens, respond
> Firstly, the mere provision of such a small amount
> of money for each
> child (given the high costs of living) is not
> sufficient to induce a
> change in fertility behaviour. The most costly
> aspect of parenthood
> is not the expenditure on childbearing, but the
> costs of child-
> rearing (which is the expenditure spent on a child
> till he becomes
> financially independent). Many young couples are
> unwilling to have
> children as they will have to sacrifice current
> material comforts due
> to the anticipated expenses associated with raising
> children. Even if
> couples were willing to give up their own material
> comforts for
> various utility mentioned in the Leibenstein Theory
> of fertility,
> some would be deterred by the fact that they are not
> able to provide
> the baby with a luxurious lifestyle. They would not
> want to have more
> children if couples feel that they are unable to
> provide the best
> care, education, daily necessities etc for their
> children. This is so
> despite the monetary rewards given for child
> bearing. Instead of
> settling for lower-quality education (with
> insufficient money for a
> university education), and entertainment (few toys,
> computers etc),
> most prospective parents feel that they might as
> well not have the
> It must also be noted that the young adults being
> targetted by the
> baby bonus scheme are 'victims' of the previous
> 'stop at two'
> policies. They have been brainwashed and accustomed
> to having small
> families. Besides, some of these couples whose
> parents have been
> sterilised may be unhappy about their lack of
> playmates during
> childhood and may detest the idea of social
> engineering that affects
> people's private lives. Moreover, the skeptical
> youngsters may be
> uncertain about the seemingly frequent alterations
> in the
> government's past population policies. From past
> experience, it may
> seem to them that incentives of today will become
> disincentives if
> some demographer revises the estimates for the
> optimal population
> (yet again). This will reduce their responsiveness
> towards the baby
> bonus scheme. The baby bonus might be able to
> encourage couples to
> have their second or third child, but is not
> expected to make a dent
> in the determination of those who decide to 'stop at
> zero' !
> Although monetary incentives may have little effect
> as explained
> above, it is not totally useless. More of such cash
> rebates and
> bonuses might encourage the marginal couples to have
> more children.
> Here, marginal couples refer to those who are
> initially unable to
> afford a baby, but will be able to do so with the
> aid of the subsidy.
> Examples of such benefits might include higher tax
> rebates for
> couples with more children, and more tax
> disincentives for childless
> but fertile couples. Infertile couples can be
> provided with more
> financial assistance as well as psychological
> (counselling) and
> medical services (for e.g. Subsidies for couples
> hoping to vitro-
> fertilisation procedures.) The government should
> target this
> particular group of couples who are willing to have
> children but are
> unable to conceive. Since changing the attitudes of
> the 'want the
> best' and the 'stop at zero' groups are relatively
> difficult, the
> government should concentrate on assisting infertile
> or lower-income
> Thirdly, the baby bonus scheme does not take into
> account the
> qualitative aspect of the future population; it does
> not emphasize on
> increasing the stock of intelligent offspring and is
> merely concerned
> with the quantitative increase in population
> figures. Such an
> unbalanced procreation scheme, given that it is
> effective, will have
> serious repercussions on the socio-economic mix of
> Singapore. Such a
> small sum of money per child (relative to the total
> cost of raising a
> kid till he becomes independent) will spur mainly
> the lower-income
> group to procreate as this extra cash is of a higher
> significance to
> them than to couples from the higher income levels.
> This is depicted
> by the relatively larger shifts in the budget lines
> of the lower
> income families in Fig 2 below. These low-income
> couples that are
> usually not well-educated might have difficulty
> providing an
> education and environment that nurtures the child's
> talent. From a
> society's point of view, the quantity of kids may
> increase, but the
> overall quality of the next generation will be
> adversely affected.
> Disregarding the moral issue of whether it is right
> or wrong to
> restrict or promote child-bearing activities because
> of the fear of a
> drop in the quality of the population, such a policy
> takes note of
> both nature and nurture factors that might affect a
> child's future
> and character. The socio-economics status and the
> educational levels
> of couples were considered in previous pro-natalist
> schemes where
> couples of 'higher-quality' were given large tax
> rebates to encourage
> them to reproduce. However, the latest baby bonus
> scheme is skewed
> towards helping the 'lower-quality' couples,
> possibly affecting the
> average' quality' of the next generation.
> Next is the apparent paradox in the various policies
> implemented by
> the government. Singaporeans are told to be
> superhuman. Get educated,
> excel at it; get a job, excel at it; get married,
> excel at it; raise
> a family, excel at it; get your children educated,
> excel at it... The
> list goes on. Men are told to take risks. Leave your
> family in
> Singapore and relocate overseas if necessary. Women
> are told to work
> so as not to waste society's efforts on their
> education. Put your
> children under the care of strangers. Children are
> told to behave --
> without any parent at home to guide them. Something
> has got to give.
> Despite the apparent conflict between excelling at
> work and starting
> a family, the government is urging people to have
> more children.
> However, the societal and personal goals mentioned
> above raises the
> opportunity cost of marriage and child-rearing, as
> young couples will
> have to give up more to raise a family.
> Career-minded couples of
> today will choose to give up child-rearing, which
> requires a lot of
> time, effort, concentration and sacrifice. Besides,
> these relatively
> well-educated couples of today are also aware of the
> fact that an
> infant's formative years are very crucial to his
> development and
> character, and would not risk having a child if they
> cannot afford
> the time and energy.
> An obvious solution would be to implement policies
> that help relieve
> the burden of childcare. Locally, there is a lack of
> sufficient child-
> care centres at convenient places. Besides most of
> such services,
> operate from 6 am to 7.30 pm. Couples who tend to
> work overtime or
> shifts are unable to benefit from such child-care
> services. Domestic
> helpers are also out of the question as the local
> maid levies are
> relatively high. Besides, parents generally do not
> feel secured
> entrusting their kids into the care of stranger(s).
> Since having child-care series at workplaces seem to
> be popular with
> local parents, the government can play its part by
> reducing taxes on
> companies that set up child-care services in their
> premises. Perhaps
> there is solace in the fact that demand (for
> child-care services)
> will create supply). Some commercial childcare
> centres are beginning
> to offer full-time care. However, the fees are high,
> and few couples
> can afford. The government can step in to provide
> more of such
> centres, or subsidise these private centres to lower
> the fees. The
> staff at the centres should be trained in order to
> allay parents'
> fears of inexperienced child-care givers. In
> addition, reductions and
> possibly the scraping of maid levies will no doubt
> encourage more
> couples to react positively but is not advisable due
> to the
> government's worry of an over-influx of foreign
> domestic workers in
> Singapore. Encouraging the practice of flexible
> working hours or
> working from the home will help the mother juggle
> both career and
> The vanity issue may seem trivial to the serious
> worried about the low replacement rates, but it is a
> fact that some
> women put off childbearing for the fear of an
> unsightly figure during
> before childbirth, and stretchy marks and an
> increased difficulty in
> reducing weight that occurs invariable after the
> birth of a child. No
> amount of cash incentives will make this women give
> up their beauty
> for the sake of raising children. Perhaps
> counselling or social
> pressure (to raise children) would do the trick.
> Free post-natal
> slimming services can also be provided at hospitals.
> Despite the various issues raised above, the baby
> bonus might be able
> to alleviate the problem of declining population
> growth as mentioned
> in part 2. However, since Singapore is still a
> conservative society, one has to be married before
> having a child.
> This is unlike the situation in Western countries
> where help offered
> to unwed mothers are considered as part of the
> social welfare system
> and such mothers are seldom ostracized. However, as
> mentioned in
> Section 3, falling replacement rates are not only
> due to married
> couples not wanting children, it is also caused by
> the apparent lack
> of enthusiasm to get hitched.
> Since the lack of willingness to get hitched lies
> mainly with the
> better-educated graduates, this group should be
> targetted to raise
> marriage rates (got this word or not?). Most of them
> have shown a
> high level of academic ability since young and have
> been streamed
> into SAP or independent schools, which are
> single-gender schools.
> While single-sex school students may have reaped the
> benefits of
> focused learning, they have lost out on observing,
> befriending and
> relating to the opposite sex in their growing years.
> interpersonal skills are critical in dating and
> marriage. The fact
> that most work places have disproportionate gender
> distribution and
> lack social activities further reduce the chances of
> between men and women.
> Restructuring and combining single sex schools to
> form co-ed schools
> suddenly changes the culture and tradition of these
> SAP and
> independent schools and may not go down well with
> the school
> authorities. A subtler method would be to encourage
> more interaction
> between schools in festive celebrations and ECAs and
> or have such
> schools situated close to one another. Having more
> ECAs and hostels
> in JCs and Universities is one way to encourage
> interaction. The
> Alumni of these institutions and the SDU can also do
> their part by
> organizing activities for members. Changing the
> corporate structure
> that frowns on chats and pair-ups will also provide
> opportunities for
> people to deal with matters of the heart.
> Parental objections to kids dating while schooling
> are also a
> problem. In Singapore, studying has become a rat
> race and an
> investment for the future. The value of a child's
> future seems to
> rest solely on his grades. Parents are often worried
> that when a
> relationship goes wrong, the academic results of
> their children would
> be adversely affected. However, it is difficult for
> the government to
> encourage dating while schooling and to change the
> mindset of
> Hence the above are the various problems that still
> exist despite the
> introduction of the Baby Bonus Scheme. More help
> should be given in
> order to reverse the trend of falling birth rates.
> Last updated: 22 November, 2002
> Message: 3
> Date: Sun, 08 Jun 2003 19:27:03 -0000
> From: "nirma12003" <yangkevin336@...>
> Subject: Is subversiveness necessarily bad?
> By: Teo Wei Min, Kelvin
> 8 June 2003
> Is subversiveness necessarily bad?
> Sigmund Freud, the philosopher and psychologist once
> said, "Beneath the super-
> ego (defined as the criticizing part of the mind
> which might be dominated by
> rules and conventions) lies a subversive Id".
> These words flashed across my mind as I passed
> through a park during a cycling
> trip. A group of youths and primary school kids
> playing a game of soccer caught
> my attention. What is the significance behind an
> activity that merely involves
> twenty or more men chasing after one ball?
> Well, it was a highly conspicuous "No soccer" sign
> erected in the middle of the
> field that drove home the impact. It seemed that
> the motley crew of soccer
> players were not even bothered with the sign, as if
> in total disregard of the
> ruling. In the eyes of the authority, this group of
> players will be deemed as
> committing an act of subversion.
> How does the subversiveness within human nature
> arise? According to Freud, it
> arises from the Id, defined as the part of the mind
> where needs and drives
> arise. Well, it seems for some people, their
> subversive Id overrule their
> super-ego most of the time, hence the acts of
> However, is subversiveness necessarily bad? To be
> honest, history has shown
> its negative side, BUT we also cannot run away from
> the fact that acts of
> subversion have contributed to the progress of
> mankind. Galilei Galileo, a
> mathematician and astronomer, discovered theories
> relating to the motion of
> bodies in space, only to be branded by the then
> powerful Catholic Church as an
> infidel attempting to subvert its doctrines through
> his discoveries, and
> subsequently, prosecuted him. His discovery marked
> a small step in
> understanding the nature of our universe, explaining
> the motions of planets and
> other celestial bodies.
> Albert Einstein is another individual whom I
> consider as subversive, albeit in
> a scientific sense. He disregarded well-established
> Newtonian concepts(well-
> established during Einstein's time) which explained
> the nature of space and
> time, coming up with his own notion or explanation
> of the space-time phenomenon
> that disproved the Newtonian concepts - the theory
> of Relativity. In a way,
> Einstein was luckier than Galileo in the sense he
> crowned his discovery with a
> Nobel Prize.
> There is a huge gulf in standards between Singapore
> and western countries such
> as the likes of America and Britain in areas of
> science, technology and the
> arts. It is from such comparisons that I noticed
> the relationship between
> progress in the aforesaid areas and tolerance
> towards subversion. Needless to
> say, such western countries have high tolerance
> towards subversion, hence
> promoting a rich diversity of views and
> counter-views that has led to their
> Is it possible to attain the level where one becomes
> subversive in the
> constructive sense? Possessing a strong bedrock of
> morals will make this
> possible. The manifestation of morals in the
> super-ego should suppress the Id
> in the event that the drive to commit immorally
> subversive acts arises. It's
> only when the subversive Id inspires and drives
> actions that are not morally
> detrimental but potentially beneficial that one
> attains that level.
> Reflecting on the brighter side of the subversive
> act committed by the
> footballers, perhaps a few of them might don our
> national jersey and take
> Singapore soccer to new heights in future!
> Subject: DON'T TALK, DON'T ASK QUESTIONS, KEEP
> Mellanie Hewlitt
> Singapore Review
> 6 June 2003
> In the 30 May 2003 issue, Singapore Review
> circulated an article contributed
> by a regular reader, Mr Teo Wei Min, Kelvin
> "Producing Dynamic Singaporeans".
> Mr Teo has pointed out the crucial role played by
> the edcucation system in the
> process of grooming tomorrow's visionaries and
> With this in mind, it is most disappointing when we
> are greeted by a scene
> which shows "organisers" and educators at a recent
> state organised function,
> actively dicouraging students to raise questions and
> discuss issues with an
> appointed Head of State.
> The incident reinforces public perception that the
> local education system is
> long overdue for an overhaul as the key people
> behind it are unable to shed its
> dogmatic, myopic mindset.
> It is illuminating that the order to refrain from
> raising questions came from
> educators in Junior Colleges in Singapore. Is this
> part and parcel of a system
> that produces docile, unthinking, unquestioning,
> "exam smart" zombies which are
> the perfect Human Batteries (pardon the analogy to
> The Matrix, but the
> similiarities are too glaring)
> This policy is an eye opening revelation of the real
> mentality and spirit that
> governs Singapore's education system. Inspite of all
> the hype about instilling
> creativity, encouraging questioning minds and
> nurturing independent thought and
> expression, the education system in essence, has not
> moved one iota from its
> stale unbending dogmatic and anachronistic posture a
> decade ago.
> This comes really as no surprise. It is one thing to
> flippantly say we embrace
> creativity and independent thought. It is quite
> another thing to let go of the
> reigns of controll and allow nature to take its
> inevitable course.
> Is the system engineered to churn out willing
> followers who will submit to
> authority in an unquestioning, unthinking and
> obedient manner? This is not the
> mould on which the leaders and visionaries of
> tomorrow will be shaped.
> Then again, perhaps this also explains the apathy
> that permeates Singapore's
> political scene, the existence of a compliant local
> press, and the pathetic
> state of the Opposition Party.
> Ask no questions, keep quiet, hear no evil, see no
> evil and speak no
> evil.....lets not upset the apple cart....and you
> will live to see
> another day....
> This message was forwarded to you from Straits Times
> (http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg) by
> Don't talk...
> ONE by one, it became clear yesterday that the
> junior college students at the
> annual Pre-University Seminar did not care to speak
> to the press.
> 'No comment', said seven of them in rapid succession
> when asked what they
> thought of Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's
> dialogue with them.
> Slowly it emerged that they dared not speak because
> of a rule printed in the
> programme kit distributed to all of the 510
> participants at the annual seminar,
> held jointly by the Education Ministry and Victoria
> Junior College this year.
> While some students scuttled off, a few others
> opened their files and pointed
> to a paragraph that read: 'If at any time you are
> independently approached by a
> member of the press... give a listening ear to the
> request but politely decline
> to be interviewed.'
> The students were also told in the kit to refer
> members of the media to the
> When asked, the organisers replied in a statement
> that the rule was 'to allow
> organisers to balance the need to ensure that the
> activities at the event and
> interviewees' schedule are not unduly disrupted with
> the need to facilitate the
> media in covering the event and interviewing
> They also said they would have been happy to have a
> press officer escort
> reporters if they wanted to approach participants
> And that 'rule'? It was merely 'advice', the
> organisers said.
> Message: 4
> Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 11:36:34 -0000
> From: "mellaniehewlitt"
> Subject: How do you fix a Broken Man?
> Mellanie Hewlitt
> 24 March 2003
> Singapore Review
> How do you fix a Broken Man?
> It was a somber weekend for me, with the Gulf war in
> the background,
> adding to the doom and gloom of the recession and
> economic slow down.
> There is not much cheer these days, and I decided to
> spend Sunday
> afternoon with a friend who has been jobless for the
> better part of 2
> years now. John's (not his real name) financial
> status remains sound as
> he has substantial savings. The extended job search
> has instead
> impacted on his more vulnerable psyche. Just two
> years ago, he was a
> self-confident and happy IT engineer.
> In fact he maintained this positive attitude even a
> year later. He
> was unphased by his initial lack of success and
> stuck to his regime,
> waking at 6.30am in the morning, sending the
> children to school and
> dropping the wife at work before going to the gym.
> Thereafter he
> would scan the classifieds and send unsolicited
> applications to
> perspective employers. He kept his upbeat sentiment
> and also
> attempted to widen his network.
> Cashflow was not a problem yet as John's wife earned
> a decent pay
> packet with an off-shore bank. But being reduced
> from a dual income
> to a single income family meant making certain
> lifestyle changes. The
> country club was gone, and a modest 1.6 liter
> Japanese car replaced
> the 2 liter BMW. But John took all this in his
> stride in the first
> "The problem really starts when you realize you are
> unlikely to get
> any job in the near term." John said.
> "The first 6 month to a year are easy, I still had
> supportive friends
> and relatives, and most importantly the moral
> backing of my wife." He
> "But after maybe 9 months, people begin to look at
> me with different
> eyes. They wonder why I can't get a job. Am I too
> choosy? Sure the
> economy is bad, but there are still jobs, settle for
> less, now's not
> the time for pride."
> At this stage I felt a tinge of guilt as I recalled
> that I too had
> gently prompted John to "explore other options,
> other then just IT
> "I tried everything, every single decent job I could
> think of. During
> the initial 3-6 months I applied mainly for
> managerial IT positions."
> "Later on I widened this to junior-mid level IT
> related positions."
> "Finally I applied for any office work I could find.
> Admin, clerical,
> IT, you name it. I was either overqualified, or did
> not have the
> relevant experience. Lets face it, if you needed a
> admin assistant,
> which would you choose, a fresh 24 year graduate, or
> a 35 year old
> unemployed IT engineer."
> "They always say the younger ones are easier to
> train. But its not
> like I am pushing 80 here."
> With a blink of an eye, Chinese New Year was here
> again. "It would be
> my second New Year as an "Unemployed Professional""
> he conceded. "And
> I avoided visitations. We did not have the cash to
> go on vacation, so
> most of the two weeks during Chinese New Year was
> spent locked
> in our flat, with doors and windows closed."
> "If afew friends did visit, we pretended to be out
> and did not pick-
> up their calls."
> "As for my routine, well I still drop the kids and
> wife off in the
> morning, but I have sold the club membership. Its
> not that
> encouraging to go to the gym every morning during
> office hours and
> meet only house-wives and retired aunties/uncles who
> give you a
> questioning look."
> "Instead, I'll just drive to east coast park and go
> for a jog. It's a
> solitary sport, but it helps me keep my sanity and
> peace of mind."
> "I could deal with all of this, but the real blow
> came when I felt my
> wife abandoning me." He said with a slight break in
> his voice.
> "We used to go for some of her corporate functions
> together, like
> D&Ds. Last year she specifically told me she would
> go without me. She
> had to go as her bosses expected her, but she could
> did not want to
> bring me along."
> "I said I'd understand, but what really hurt me most
> was the curt
> manner in which she made known her decision to me."
> "The other factor which placed more distance between
> us was when I
> had to turn to her for financial help. I no longer
> had a salary and
> she picks up the tabs at the supermarket etc."
> as the long draught dragged on, it took its
> inevitable toll on the
> man. From a happy, well balanced, socially active
> and out-going
> person, I saw him reduced over the months to a mere
> shell of his
> former self.
> He was now a social recluse, waking up only well
> after lunch.
> Two Years. That's how long, a gentle reminder that
> Singapore never
> really recovered from the recession in Sep 11. In
> fact it been one
> long track down hill since, with no pick-up. The
> Straits Times and
> local media have always played down the extent of
> this long drawn
> financial draught. But some aspects of it just
> cannot be hidden.
> Over the weeks, Singapore Review has received
> several letters/e-mail
> submissions from readers voicing their grievances.
> Many have turned
> to us as an alternative avenue (to the SPH news
> media) to express
> their heart felt opinions.
> Additional to its duty to make available newsworthy
> articles and
> information, we hope that Singapore Review can also
> function as a
> voice of the heart-landers, especially in a socially
> and politically
> oppressive environment that is bereft of bona fide
> avenues of
> expressions. It is in times like this that a
> credible news paper must
> bite its teeth and be a sounding board for the voice
> of the masses.
> From: Name Withheld at request of writer.
> Date: Sat Mar 15, 2003 11:47 am
> Subject: Re: [Sg_Review] Layoffs are not all bad,
> says PM Goh
> Dear Ms Hewlitt
> It is disconcerting that a person holding a senior
> public position can make a remark like this
> especially during these bad times. Perhaps PM Goh
> will never have the privillege of actually
> experiencing the "benefits" of being retrenched.
> Well, let me share this unique experience with him.
> I am in my mid 30s and was "lucky" enough to be
> retrenched in September last year due to corporate
> down sizing and cost cuts in an off-shore bank.
> Let me confess here and now that being laid-off is a
> first experience for me. With the depressed economy,
> this possibility was always on the back of my mind.
> But no amount of mental preparation can ever prepare
> you for that faithfull golden handshake. I bore no
> grudge to bank management, afterall this was part
> and parcel of doing business, and my Boss had also
> given me plenty of warning.
> It has been six months (and afew hundred
> applications) since that faithfull day and I have
> not been able to find gainful employment. My ego and
> self-confidence took a huge beating. In the mean
> time, my wfe (a teacher) has to support our two
> children, pay bills, and settle financial
> commitments for a house and car from her meager
> We have savings, but its will run dry in perhaps
> another 6 months. In the mean time we sold of the
> car and are now trying to liquidate the apartment.
> But that would mean realising a paper loss of some
> SGD200,000/- and there is also the balance of the
> loan to be settled with OCBC.
> We also got rid of the maid. We did not need one
> with me becoming a full time housewife.
> By and large, I would say that we have "survived"
> the retrenchments in better state then some of our
> friends who were more highly geared. But lets not
> mince word here. The process has been a long and
> painful one.
> We do not question the economic merits of
> retrenchments from a company perspective. But the
> benefits are so obvious they really do not need to
> be mentioned at all, unless of cause you work in HDB
> and the retrenchment exercise itself can cost an arm
> and a leg.
> And the "benefits" are only from the perspective of
> the company as an on-going viable entity. I can
> assure you that there are no benefits for those
> retrenched. PM Goh's focus on the welfare of the
> company also indicates the priorities the government
> has. For Singapore Inc, retaining MNC and attracting
> foreign companies take precedent over the immediate
> welfare of the man on the street.
> I am sure my letters to the Straits Times will be
> ignored so I hope that you will publish this mild
> expression of discontent, from one who has
> experienced the retrenchment process first hand.
> I repeat that it is indeed unsettling that a person
> of PM Goh's stature and office can utter such
> remarks during these times. And it is even more
> disconcerting that Straits Times have printed his
> remarks in full without also publishing the many
> letters of rebuke sent to them. This can only happen
> here in Singapore. A politician who is so careless
> with his public statements will surely invite rebuke
> from opposition parties as well as the press in
> other democratic countries.
> Yours faithfully
> Name Withheld at request of writer.
> Commentary: Mellanie Hewlitt
> Source: Singapore Review
> Date: 8 March 2003
> "Layoffs are not all bad.� At a time when
> Singaporeans are enduring rising unemployment rates,
> the latest comments by PRIME Minister Goh Chok Tong,
> in the 8 March 2003 edition of the Straits Times,
> might strike many as highly insensitive, if not down
> right offensive.
> Mr Goh went on to elaborate that �if there are no
> retrenchments at all, then I worry for Singapore. It
> means that we are actually offering an iron rice
> bowl to every employee."
> Mr Goh's reference to an "iron rice bowl" is
> understandable as Singapore�s civil service and
> State Owned Enterprises (GLCs) have been attempting
> to shed this image for many decades. It was only in
> these recent months that the effects of the
> protracted recession finally filtered through the
> many layers of government bureaucracy and red-tape,
> unveiling the hidden redundancies and deficiencies
> that were part and parcel of daily "government
> According to PM Goh, but for the retrenchments,
> "Singapore agencies could, in time, become like the
> financially ailing state-owned enterprises in other
> countries." His remarks follow a phenomenon some
> businesspeople call the "Singapore squeeze," where
> job losses are mounting at big state-controlled
> concerns like Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing
> Ltd., PSA, and HDB, that play major roles in the
> island nation's economy However, one also wonders
> whether such harsh medicine came too little, and far
> too late.
> After all, these are not new issues, as questions of
> viability, transparency and accountability have
> surrounded the operation and management of
> Singapore�s State Owned Enterprises and GLCs for
> decades. Until recently, these issues have always
> been brushed aside in a cavalier manner by the
> Singapore government. Whilst the effects of the
> protracted recession may be one reason for the
> sudden and drastic change of management style,
> another reason is the FTA.
> Indeed, the 'G' - for government-linked - word
> featured prominently in a discussion on the
> US-Singapore FTA (USSFTA) recently, organised
> jointly by the Institute of Policy Studies, the
> American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the
> Foreign Correspondents Association.
> According to United States Ambassador Franklin
> Lavin, it's an issue for American firms trying to
> get into the government procurement business, and
> must be tackled under the upcoming free trade
> agreement (FTA) between Singapore and the US.
> And there is a tight date line since the target is
> to get both houses of Congress to pass the
> implementing legislation before they break for the
> summer vacation in August. If they pass it in 2003,
> the USSFTA can come into force on Jan 1, 2004. This
> is a relatively small window for the Singapore
> Government to clean up the grime and dust that had
> accumulated after several decades of
> The task can be a mammoth one, if Singapore Inc�s
> Senior Management were really serious about changing
> management style to facilitate increased
> transparency and accountability, and ensuring that
> State Owned Entities and GLCs operated in an
> economically sustainable and profitable manner. Some
> of these lumbering vehicles have been in existence
> for decades. Indeed, two decades of virtually
> continuous high growth has allowed the PSA, and many
> Government-linked companies (GLCs), to function as
> near-monopolies in a protected environment, well
> insulated from market forces, and allowed them to
> sustain a "no retrenchment" policy.
> �Many GLCs and State Owned Entities in Singapore
> have grown so complacent in the "outplacement"
> department, they have not even factored retrenchment
> policies into their planning. Of the 1,000
> collective agreements in force today, about
> one-fifths have no retrenchment-benefit clause.�
> (See previous review from Lycos Asia, �Surviving A
> Shipwreck� 24 February 2003).
> The handsome benefits accorded in recent
> retrenchment exercises for some State Enterprises
> have also raised further questions. In the HDB for
> instance, retirement packages were being given not
> only to the 900 or so who choose to leave the
> housing board, but also to a larger number, some
> 1,800, who were staying behind but will be
> transferred to a new subsidiary called HDB Corp.
> (See The Business Times, 27 Feb 2003).
> Mr LEE HAN SHIH of Business Times noted that �If all
> this sounds generous, it is. Giving benefits to
> transferred employees is unheard of in the private
> sector. After all, retirement benefits are given to
> those who no longer draw a salary from a company. If
> employees get to keep their job, is there a need to
> give them the same benefit?� Perhaps there is more
> substance to PM Goh�s words when he says that
> "Layoffs are not all bad.�
> �In all, some 2,700 will leave HDB proper. Their
> departure will cost $100 million or more, including
> an estimated $450,000 per head offered to a few
> senior staff.�
> With retrenchments and pay-cuts rampant all over the
> island, and the city state caught in the grips of a
> pro-longed recession, the latest move by HDB�s
> Management can best be described as baffling.
> It again underscores the need for transparency and
> accountability in the management of public funds.
> This is a significant issue as there is an estimated
> USD100 billion approx in foreign exchange reserves
> and public funds, which are at the beck and call of
> the PAP. And these are not subject to any known
> process of audit, disclosure or independent
> In the mean time, until a turn-around in the US
> economy offers some respite, Singaporeans will again
> have to bare the brunt of these retrenchments and
> lay-offs. PM Goh further urged Singaporeans to be
> more enterprising, citing the case of a university
> graduate who fried chestnuts to earn some money
> rather than running straight to an MP for help.
> It is ironical that while the Prime Minister urges
> Singaporeans to shed the mentality of an "iron rice
> bowl", to accept lower paying jobs, retrenchments
> and pay-cuts, the "Senior Management" of Singapore
> Inc continue to be well insulated from the brunt of
> the economic downturn.. Indeed, it is life as usual
> for Singapore�s Ruling Elite and there have been no
> formal announcements of review of the remuneration
> packages of what are some of the most highly paid
> government officials in the world.
> And what is Mr Goh's final comforting comments to
> all this? "Things had not hit the bottom yet." he
> said. Well, that's Singapore Politics in a nutshell
> for you.
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