Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn
This spot on planet Earth has been inhabited for well over two thousand years — as Byzantium, Constantinople, then Istanbul — and was a great cosmopolitan capital city for 1,500 of those. Merchants and scholars from all over the then-known world flocked to it.
I can’t say, however, that it is cosmopolitan any more, certainly not by the standards of London, New York, Paris or Sydney today. Or even Singapore. Istanbul has a cultural homogeneity that our more nostalgic romantics might wish we had. Continue reading ‘Ourselves through Istanbul’
The past week saw a remarkable story of how people here rallied to redeem Singapore with no help at all from government agencies. After video surfaced of Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai on his knees begging for a refund from a callous shop owner, over $14,000 was raised within a day on Indiegogo to help compensate him for his loss of $550. According to reports, news reached all the way back to Vietnam, earning much praise for Singaporeans.
Yet, I daresay that for every one Thoai, there must be a thousand more tourists and local shoppers scammed by get-rich-quick businessmen (and women). Ad hoc bottom-up indignation and fundraising, however laudable in one instance, cannot be a practical solution to a persistent cancer. We need a structural response, and in the nature of structural responses, the role of the state in implementing one cannot be avoided. Continue reading ‘How to help ripped-off tourists’
It’s taken me a while to think of a theme for this end-of-year post. Just in time, I have it: Space. Or rather, the ever-tightening amount of space in Singapore. The space I speak of is not just physical space, but also expressive space. Continue reading ‘As space tightens, Singaporeans suffocate’
Just like what happened in the days following the Chinese bus drivers’ strike November last year, the government is bringing out the artillery to pound Singaporeans’ minds with their preferred framing of the riot that occurred in Little India 8 December 2013: It’s wanton mayhem, monstrous criminality, pure and simple. The small riot (blown up big for its usefulness as bogeyman) is entirely a law and order issue. No sociological enquiry should be entertained, the message insistently says, especially any that asks questions whether the prior behaviour of the the ruling class (both government and business owners) contributed to the state of mind of the underclass. Continue reading ‘Riot police didn’t fire a shot, but propaganda artillery in full barrage’
There rarely is any definitive explanation of any riot. There won’t be one of the brief incident — it lasted barely an hour — at Little India last night, Sunday 8 December 2013. The reason why definitive explanations are elusive is because there is always an element of chance and irrational behaviour. Moreover, riots are complex events involving many actors with many contributory factors. Continue reading ‘Riot in Little India: spark and fuel’
Published 7 November 2013
business and employment
Work permit holders should be able to look for new jobs locally, after losing or resigning from their jobs. They should not be immediately sent back to their home countries, says Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) in a submission to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The present practice of tying an employee to a particular employer, such that the worker cannot stay on, is damaging to Singapore’s hope for productivity improvement. At the same time, the currently wide-open gates to inflow of fresh workers should be partially closed. Continue reading ‘Work permit holders should be free to change jobs’
Published 1 November 2013
business and employment
I have no idea what this thing does, but it’s a pic from ABCO’s Advanced Systems
There’s an article by Toh Yong Chuan in the Straits Times 31 October 2013, titled “The difference a soup ladle makes” discussing his observations as to how Japanese restaurants continuously improve productivity. The soup ladle of the headline was one he saw at restaurant chain Yoshinoya’s training school.
During my visit, a trainer explained that the ladles used to scoop up the beef portions at all its restaurants have 47 holes each. The holes are designed to allow just the right amount of gravy to flow into the rice.
The ladles come in two lengths – one about 30cm, the other some 10cm longer. The reason: a taller person can use the longer ladle without having to bend his back
— Straits Times, 31 Oct 2013, The difference a soup ladle makes, by Toh Yong Chuan Continue reading ‘Improve productivity? Then value engineers’
Last Sunday, I was about to leave for a family dinner when the phone rang. It was a Bangladeshi worker on the line, someone I had worked with for the past two years over his employment problems. His present job is “OK”, he said. However, he wanted to bring a friend to meet me later the same evening.
“My friend, he have problem,” said Alamin.
I tried to shift the date and time, but it was near-impossible. Alamin works seven days a week and most evenings. He’s only free Saturday and Sunday evenings. Reluctantly, I agreed to see him and his friend at 9:30 pm, cutting short my family dinner. Continue reading ‘Human trafficking and shadow boxing’
Property analysts were reportedly stunned by a bid of S$1.43 billion for a land parcel in Yishun town centre, submitted by companies from the Frasers Centrepoint group. It was 47.4 percent above the second-highest bid of S$969 million from a Far East Organisation-led consortium. There were three other bids, at S$930 million, S$875 million and S$705 million.
The most likely reason soon became clear. As owners of Northpoint, adjacent to the site, and the only significant shopping mall in Yishun town centre, Frasers Centrepoint would want to dominate the market for retail space in the locality. But such domination would mean, in effect, a local monopoly.
Competition rules should have kicked in. Frasers Centrepoint should not have been considered eligible for bidding. Continue reading ‘Yishun land sale may entrench Frasers local monopoly’
Vanessa Ho speaking at Hong Lim Park, 24 August 2013
Guest essay by Vanessa Ho
Foreword by Yawning Bread: As in all LGBT communities around the world, there is a tension between those who would adopt the language and styles of the mainstream to advance the cause of gay equality, and those who argue that such “progress” is meaningless unless we also help protect those who are more disenfranchised and voiceless than us. This is often oversimplified into “mainstream gays versus radical gays” — a caricature that does the complex debate a disservice. Setting aside that oversimplification, I have always wanted to have a voice for radicalism on this site, and am pleased that Vanessa has taken up my offer.
Yet, as she concludes, what appears at first as radicalism may in fact be a lot more beneficial to a wider scope of people, including those who aren’t sexual minorities.
Singapore’s LGBT community should shift away from talk about marriage equality. I am not saying that we should *not* fight for marriage equality, but that there should be a much stronger emphasis on fighting for anti-discrimination legislation. Marriage equality is great for people who believe in monogamy, who believe in the significance of marriage, and who are in monogamous long term relationships. But this is not the case for everyone. Not to mention that some within our community may not have the good fortune to meet “Mr/Mrs Right” and thus do not get to enjoy the opportunity to get married. Continue reading ‘The case for anti-discrimination legislation — from an unexpected quarter’