Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy New Year - 2008

2007 is drawing to a close and we are all anxiously waiting for the coming of 2008. What is in store for us in the new year? One can only guess. There are many prophecies and forecasts in the world political arenas, economic predictions, warning about global environmental calamities for the next 12 months, but who can be sure what 2008 will bring for us? Only today, in the newspapers, we read about the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. We live in a world full of uncertainties and turmoil. Major world powers, out of self interest play smaller and weaker countries in the world like a game of chess. The discoveries of natural resources of undeveloped countries tend to bring interested players like bees to nectar. Human greed plays a large part in the most trouble spots around the globe. Corruption, greed and self glorification are the main causes for the misery in many countries.

The world we live in is divided into people who are super rich, a large percentage of middle class and a portion of very deprived and poor people. Inequality in wealth distribution vary from country to country. There are some countries rich in natural resources with 95% of national wealth in the hands of 5% of the population. The situation here in Singapore is much better. There are basically no destitute people in Singapore. Like any country in the world there are some very rich and also there are some poor people, but unlike many other countries no one goes hungry. Even the poorest have their basic needs. The Singaporean government has seen to it that no one is deprived of the basic essentials. However, inflation has increased recently and many are experiencing financial difficulties due to the hike in cost of living. The income gap has grown wider and voices of dissatisfaction can be heard in this otherwise very quiet and subdued city state.

What do I wish for 2008? I pray that 2008 will be a good year for all of us. I pray that all mindless world conflicts be ended. I pray that there will be no more loss of lives through indiscriminate acts of terror. I pray for the end of the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars and any other conflicts elsewhere in the world. Let there be peace, love and goodwill in 2008. I am certain this isn’t too much to ask but may prove an impossibility to achieve.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Day 2007

Christmas Day 2007 arrived. Got up early and decided to breakfast at the local food market. As we will be having a heavy meal later in the day I selected a light breakfast of “chui kwey”, a sort of rice cake with the texture of jelly - nice and soft. After of few mouthfuls of this soft rice cakes I discovered that one of my crowns has detached itself. I was lucky I did not swallow it. What a bad start for my Christmas Day. All Singaporean dentists are closed for the festive day so I guess I will have to wait until either Boxing Day or later to get it seen to.

This Christmas, I was appointed to cook the Christmas turkey again. On top of that I had to prepare enough curry for 15 people. Preparing food for the family get together Christmas dinner has never been a problem for me. The dinner party went well. The turkey was much appreciated and the curry was very popular. My contributions towards the dinner spread were well-liked. By the end of the evening most of the spread had been consumed.

A few rounds of mahjong ended the evening. Good food, fine wine and good company made the evening a very happy occasion. The evening was a success. Another Christmas has come to an end. Christmas 2008 is another 364 days away.

Not looking forward to the visit to the dentist in the next few days.

Monday, December 24, 2007

When you are old

I went to the market today for some vegetables and condiments. My regular stall was closed. A nearby stall had what I wanted so I did my purchases from an old lady manning the business. I guess she must be around 75 years old. She was a sweet little lady who advised me to buy an alternative vegetable because the one I had chosen was old and not fresh. I took her advice and made my purchase. As I was waiting for my vegetable to be weighed for payment I noticed she had tears in her eyes. I asked her if she was alright. She told me that she has a daughter who drives around Singapore in a Mercedes but would not drive her anywhere whenever she needs a ride. Wherever she goes she has to depend on her kind hearted neighbour. I guess she must have felt extremely neglected by her own flesh and blood. Her daughter apparently is quite well off and doing well in the booming economy of Singapore. The fact that this old lady has to work at a market stall so late in her life is very unusual in our traditional Chinese tight-knit extended family structure. With teary eyes she lamented that when you get old and if you have no money to leave behind, you will be neglected. I guess she meant that her daughter would probably be more attentive to her needs and comfort if when she dies there was money and asset left as inheritance. As she has none, no one cares. The sad thing about it is that when she was young she must have loved her daughter and devoted a good portion of her younger days towards caring for this daughter of hers. She would most likely have worked hard to see to her daughter’s education and her every need. Many from the younger generation would squeeze as much value and usefulness out of their parents as they possibly can. When there is nothing of value left that they can get out of their parents, they would discard their old folks to the mercy of old age.

I see this more and more in a place like Singapore where money and assets have become the ultimate measure of success. I believe this is also a very common trend in many western societies. Older folks who have devoted their lives bringing up their children are considered burdens in their old age, often discarded and neglected. Many above 70 year old here in Singapore have to work at foodcourts clearing tables and sweeping floors and maintaining toilet cleanliness. Where is the dignity in that? I believe that when one gets old one must be entitled to a few good and easy years and be allowed to live with dignity. They should have the opportunity to play with their grand children and generally take things easy. What a sad world this has become when older folks are considered as burden to society and abandoned. By the look of things this situation is going to get much worse.

I sincerely hope that I will not be in the same predicament as this dear old lady. Expect nothing, be prepared for the worst, and if you are lucky that your children do care for you in your old age, consider that a bonus.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Football Crazy

Singaporeans are football crazy. Making money and accumulating wealth is their first passion closely followed by football. 75% of Singaporeans are Chinese and the Chinese are noted for their love of gambling. Football betting is very widespread in this little country and government run betting premises are found in every housing estate around the island.

On a day like yesterday December 16, long queues could be seen at all betting premises. The scheduled matches were Liverpool vs Manchester United and Arsenal vs Chelsea. I guess the “ get rich quick “ mentality of the majority of Singaporeans encourages a healthy business for these betting premises.

The Manchester United vs Liverpool match was at 9.25 pm. I watched the match at a local coffee shop not too far from our house. By the time I got there the place was packed with fans from both teams. The crowd must have numbered more than a hundred. It was a good match. Manchester United came away with an away win, 3 more points but still one point behind Arsenal at the top of the league table.

Gambling of all variety can be found in Singapore. You can place a bet through legal betting shop or through illegal syndicates, with give better odds. There are currently two casinos being built on the island and by 2009 they will be in operation. Singaporeans will have to pay a daily entrance fee of $100 for admission to one of these casinos. I am sure this will not deter the devoted gamblers. Whether these casinos will result in an increase in the number of gambling addicts we shall have to wait and see. There will definitely be an increase in tourist numbers, but maybe at the expense of creating a social ill?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dry Xmas?

After many days of cloudy skies, for a change, this morning has started bright with clear blue sky. It does look like we are in for a dry spell. For how long no one can tell. The weather in this region has been very changeable. Within an hour the weather could change from a sunny day to one of torrential downpour. So let’s hope that we have seen the last of the heavy downpours we have been experiencing over the last two weeks. We need a clear and dry period over the festive Xmas and New Year season.

I understand that the rain has finally stopped in Segamat too. They have been having dry days lately and the flood water has receded. However, we are still in the rainy season and things could change and the water level could rise again. This must be a worrying time for the Segamatians, especially those living in the flood prone regions.

Segamat is a nice place with very nice people. I would be sad if it is flooded again. Of course I would say that .........Segamat is my hometown.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Segamat Floods

The rain season is here again. It has not stopped raining for the last few days. Malaysia is experiencing heavy rainfall and there are floods in many low lying regions in the country. Segamat my hometown has always been prone to flooding during the rain season from December to February. The flood of December 2006 was one of the worst in memory and many lives were lost. The continuous rain of the past few days has resulted in swollen rivers and in many areas roads are closed to traffic.

The morning papers has confirmed my worse fear. Segamat is flooded again and water is still rising. Weather forecast has predicted more rain to come and things do not look good for the Segamatians. My brother has moved furniture upstairs and has parked his vehicles on higher ground.

During the floods of December 2006, there were no electricity and water supply for many days. Food could only be prepared upstairs using portable stoves and bottled gas. Life must have been quite uncomfortable, especially for families with young children. After the devastation of December 2006, the Malaysian government promised to improve the flow of water in rivers, build flood banks and undertake measures to prevent further floods in the region. I guess, from what we are witnessing now, with flood water on the rise again, they must be still trying to figure out how they can achieve what they have promised. In the meantime, while they ponder over the problem, Segamatians continue to be flooded whenever they get heavy rain especially around the month of December.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Day in JB

December 5th was a good day. The weather was horrible. It rained all day, but that did not dampen our spirit. We left Singapore early to avoid the rush at the causeway. By 7.30 that morning we were at Senai having our usual roti prata breakfast. Of course I did not forget buying breakfast for the Indian boy, our neighbour at our Senai house. After a leisurely breakfast we spent the rest of the morning at the house in Senai.

Shopping at Giant superstore was good. By 12.30 pm we were on our way to meet my brother and his children from Segamat. It was a moment I have been looking forward to for a long time. They finally arrived at 2.30 pm. It was so good seeing them again. The children have grown so much since I met them last. I fell in love with all three, especially Jason the youngest. Like all boys his age he is football crazy and a keen supporter of Manchester United. I got him a MU shirt with Ronaldo 7 on the back and a pair of MU shorts.

The rest of the day was spent in Terbau City where we lunched and shopped until late in the evening when we returned to City Square. We left them at City Square to catch the night train to Segamat. We crossed the causeway and returned to Singapore.

I really enjoyed my day with my brother and family. I am happy that we are finally reunited and constantly in touch via telephone calls and emails. The best thing that has happened is that I have a nephew and 2 nieces to pamper and love.

Monday, December 03, 2007

MSM or Blogs?

I read the Straits Times each morning when in Singapore. I then read the Singapore blogs. The messages coming from the MSM paint a very rosy picture of the Singaporean economy. Singaporean Bloggers tend to paint a rather different picture. Singapore has become the London of Southeast Asia and is already a rival to Hong Kong as the financial hub of the Far East. The Singapore Government through Temasek and many GLCs has invested heavily in neighbouring countries. On the whole, the financial health of Singapore is good and the future looks solid. The predicted downturn of the world economy, if it ever happens, will affect majority of the countries around the globe. Singapore too will not be spared, but with proper management and planning I think Singapore would fare better than most of her neighbours.

The robust economical growth of Singapore brings with it many undesirable side effects. Currently, inflation is at an all time high of 3.5% increasing to a predicted 5% next year. The salary gap between the high earners and the low wage earners has widened considerably. Prices for daily essentials like rice, noodles, cooking oil and fresh produce have increased. There are many who are feeling the pinch of cost of living hike. The newspaper has reported an increase in desperate people seeking help. It has also been reported that the government has taken action to help the needy. I am glad to see that the less fortunate in this vibrant city have not been ignored.

In the newspaper this morning there was another interesting article about financial feuds between siblings claiming on the assets left by their deceased father. There were a few other similar cases highlighted. The Chinese tradition of not dragging one’s own family name through mud no longer exists in Singapore. There have been many court cases lately between family members. Almost all such cases involve assets or money. Singaporeans are predominantly the “ Me “ people. They have been conditioned from cradle to grave to be very competitive. They have this “ I must win “ and “ I want to be first “ mentality. This has served the country well over the few decades since independence, turning Singapore from a third world country to the financial metropolis it is today.

This city state will do well over her neighbours in years to come, because Singapore has a very strict and no-nonsense government and a very submissive and obedient population.

Good luck to Singapore. According to reports from the MSM, Singapore is fast becoming the New York of the Far East. The bloggers are telling a different story. Who to believe?