Archive | July 2011

Dignity for the old begins in our hearts

Two weeks ago, I wrote about him. (Click here for the story.)

He was in a nursing home in Johor Baru (JB), Malaysia.

Today, I saw him again. He finally returned to Singapore.

He passed away a day ago, in the early morning hours in the JB nursing home.

There were no family members with him when he breathed his last.

He was 87.

On my way home from the wake, I thought about him. I thought I’d write about what had happened but I could not find the words. And then a friend posted this video on her Facebook page:

Read More…

The presidency is not a feedback channel

Istana - Picture from Club Snap

I almost want to tear my hair out. In the past weeks, as the Presidential election approaches nearer, we have been hearing how the potential candidates are all pledging to be “the voice of the people”. They also vow to “speak up for the people” and to let the government know what the people’s views are.

In brief, they want to provide feedback to the government.

In other words, the office of the president is nothing more than a feedback channel.

On the surface, this sounds all good, even as you suspect there might be a tint of good ole politicking behind some of the words. But on closer inspection, you realize that there is a fundamental flaw and a serious misunderstanding of what the presidency is all about.

The office of the elected president – the highest office in the land – is not a feedback channel.

If it were, it would be a redundant office – and a completely wasteful one too, since we are paying millions to the one who holds the office.

We already have many channels for feedback. Lets count the ones that come to mind. Read More…

Enter the PM

My apologies. After the General Election, I’d wanted to be more objective in my views. But the topic of public transport, and seeing how the PTOs are asking for even higher fares and the PM coming out to support this, just makes my blood curl. 

So, here’re my thoughts on the matter.

Channelnewsasia, on what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said about public transport:

“Our interest is not to help the transport companies make big profits. There is no reason for us to do that. We want good service, we want affordable service. But we have to allow the transport companies to break even and make reasonable profits so that they can provide this good service,” he said.

Mr Lee added that service standards will also be improved. And that includes issues like waiting time, overcrowding, the frequency of the train services at peak hours.

He said that the government will also make sure, through the PTC, that when the fares are raised they are reasonable and justifiable.

Every year, when the public transport operators (PTO) submit their applications for “fare adjustments” – (read: fare increase) – we are given assurances that service standards, waiting time and overcrowding will be improved, and train and bus frequencies will be enhanced.

They are the same promises we hear every year. Read More…

Flying Cowboys

One of my favourite singers and certainly one of my favourite songs… by Rickie Lee Jones who has a voice like an angel…

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No concessions for disabled – but CEOs reap millions

Members of the disabled community, many of whom work in low-paying jobs, have been calling for public transport concessions for 12 years – to no avail.

In 2009, SBS Transit said it was looking into the call. (See here.)

It has been two years since and no news from SBS Transit, or SMRT, about its decision. So, the status quo remains – no concessions for the disabled.

In the meantime, the CEOs of the Public Transport Operators (PTOs), which seek to impose ever-higher fares on commuters every year, are paid record-breaking remuneration.

SMRT’s CEO Saw Phaik Hwa, for example, is the highest-ever paid SMRT CEO the company has employed. This despite all the problems faced by commuters in the last few years.

In 2009, she was paid S$1.67 million.

In 2010, she was paid S$1.85 million. Read More…

The blandness of sameness in the estates

Walking around the heartlands now, you can’t help but feel one thing – they all look and feel the same. There is this monotonous drabness about them. The same designed HDB flats, the same playgrounds, the same shops, the same estate centres, the same shopping malls with the same kinds of shops selling the same kinds of stuff. You have the same food outlets, the same foodcourts, the same restaurants. The only places which are different and unique with their own ambience would be places like Little India, Chinatown and perhaps the eastern part of Singapore.

Everywhere else, they are all the same.

Sameness is the one thing which kills creativity and inspiration – the two things we desperately need in this city which rushes head-on, sometimes blindly, into materialism and mediocrity. Whoever plans our towns seems to use the same blueprint for each one. As a result, at times I mistake a location for another because they are so similar.

I would have thought that having elected our Members of Parliament, they would have different ideas and plans for the towns they are in charge of. But the bottomline consideration of “economies of scale” have resulted in the towns run by the same party all end up looking just like the other. It is cheaper to just replicate one plan for all the estates, I guess. It is also a lazy way of doing things. Read More…

Elderly in foreign nursing homes – something is not right

Would just like to add more thoughts to the article I wrote for Yahoo: “Singaporeans dying away from home”.

It is an emotional issue. There is no doubt about this. After all, we are talking about the elderly who could be our parents and grandparents. And no one in his right mind would want to see them packed off to a foreign land to live their last days. Unconscionable is the right word to use.

In the words of former Minister for Health, Khaw Boon Wan: “Many other sins you can plead to your God and say, sorry, I repent … But lack of filial piety, dumping your parents is inexcusable. Straight down to the 18th level of hell!”

But filial piety aside, the issue is of course a serious one.

Singapore’s budget on healthcare as a percentage of GDP has been between 2 to 4 per cent. Here isWikipedia’s run-run-down of some countries’ healthcare spending (2006/2007) for comparison.

Singapore’s budget in 2006 was a mere 3.3 per cent.

In 2009, it was 3.9 per cent. (See MOH website.)

Countries in the first-world league seem to spend more, according to the Wikipedia list. Read More…

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