The post described Singaporeans as a perennially grumpy lot, bitching even about trains arriving 30 seconds late. At first, I gave it little thought. The post was one of many linked from Facebook which I cursorily surfed through while munching my breakfast this morning. I didn’t even keep the link; now I can’t find it any more. It was penned by a Malaysian visiting from Penang who was expressing his amazement at how “advanced” Singapore was, and yet how unreasonable Singaporeans were in not appreciating what we have.
I do recognise however that the remark was really a metaphor for a general state of unhappiness; it was not meant to be taken literally.
But as the day wore on, my mind went back to this comment a few times, and I thought to myself: I don’t see why we should necessarily be ashamed of being demanding. Setting high standards is, after all, the first step to achieving them. I would much rather that we as a people are perpetually dissatisfied and striving for better than be too accommodative of slack. Continue reading ‘The importance of wanting trains to run on time’
Not only has the government’s response to this week’s haze problem been one of weak-kneed impotency, the absence of any effective solution shows how little has been done to prepare for what has, over the last two decades, become an annually recurring problem.
We knew as far back as middle last year that the El Nino weather pattern was returning for 2013. We knew it would mean a hotter, dryer year than normal, so not only would haze be a virtually certain problem, it may turn out to be prolonged and more intense. And yet, when it hit, it looked as if the authorities were caught by surprise. Continue reading ‘Haze comes, government in tizzy’
Earlier this year, the future of hawker centres was in the news. The chief concern was the sustainability of the institution (if one can call it that), but much of the discussion centred around how to keep food cheap. A side issue was the declining quality, for which a ‘Hawker Academy’ idea was floated. It struck me even then that insufficient attention was being paid to a much more fundamental question: where are hawkers going to come from in the years ahead? All the talk about pricing and training will be meaningless if not enough people want to be hawkers. Continue reading ‘Who wants to be a hawker?’
At last, we have a party that is urging a true public housing scheme for Singapore. It has long been an embarrassment that we do not have real public housing here.
The policy paper put out recently by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) (link) is a bold move in this direction. Leading economist Yeoh Lam Keong called it an “excellent” paper on Tuesday, 6 November, when he was giving a talk — more about this later.
Readers may wonder about my opening paragraph. What do I mean when I say we do not have real public housing in Singapore? Doesn’t the fact that some 85 percent of Singaporeans live in Housing and Development Board flats point to its enormous success? Continue reading ‘Time we had real public housing’
Change We Must
William S.W. Lim
12 September 2012
This lecture will be in two parts. The first part will highlight four critical issues why Singapore has to change. The second part will focus on the complex challenges ahead.
1.0 Four critical issues
There are four critical issues that Singapore must contend with and are the reasons that it must change. They are:
1.1 Interdependent global conditions today.
1.2 Progress of Singapore not enough.
1.3 Myths and realities of Singapore.
1.4 The misunderstood nature of creativity. Continue reading ‘Change we must, by William Lim’
Our mainstream media has a habit of trumpeting country or city rankings that show Singapore in good light. It’s part of their mission to publicise the supreme achievements of the People’s Action Party government.
This ranking below would not make the cut:
Continue reading ‘Middling going on to transport hell’
You reporters are missing the point — was what I felt on seeing that the chief angle of both stories in the Straits Times was how difficult it can be for teachers to maintain discipline in schools if parents did not cooperate. Yes, that’s a valid news angle, but surely the most striking thing about the story was that of a mother who takes her son to a hair salon for $60 styling jobs.
What kind of values does that instill in children? Continue reading ‘Haircuts, hotels and photo clubs’
Guest essay by Joanne Leow
Supertrees, green spaces and urban development: strange yet compelling connections between the impending demolition of Bukit Brown and the public relations blitz accompanying the opening of the new Gardens by the Bay, with their $1 billion Supertrees and cooled conservatories. One space has been made significant by a spontaneous, communal outpouring, newly cognizant of both its historical and environmental specificity – the other has been planned by the government, designed by a British firm and built by (exploited) foreign labour on land that has been reclaimed from the sea. Continue reading ‘On Supertrees, neo-colonialism and globalisation’
A typical day, with me straphanging in a bus, about one quarter the way in. We pull up at a bus stop, a few people get off and a few people board. The last group to come up the front steps consist of a mother, laden with shopping, and two sons, aged around 12 and 8. The bus driver tells her in mainland-accented Chinese that they shouldn’t board because the two boys each have an ice-cream cone in hand.
The mother starts to make a scene. “They are only children, you cannot be so strict with children,” she says, “and anyway I am in a hurry.”
She adds that they need to get home and can’t afford to wait for the next bus. Continue reading ‘Public trashport’
A point made by Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center which helps homeless LGBT youth, may be counter-intuitive, but still true: The home can be a dangerous place for some young people, especially if they are gay, lesbian or transgender.
Tiffany Cocco’s story illustrates this well.
“I wasn’t dealt the best cards in life,” she says with a bucketful of euphemism. “My parents were drug addicts, so I was put in foster care at age four.”
Her mother managed to regain custody, but then died two years later of Aids. Both her fathers too died soon after, and she ended up living with her grandfather. Continue reading ‘Danger zone: home, part 2′