Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lessons from killing rats

Bring in the commando pest busters,  inform the media and show Singapore society that the authorities are doing something and acting quickly. Then wait a few months when people complain on social media which cannot but also find its way to the ST, repeat the cycle calling in the exterminators again.

If you are not motivated to get to the bottom of the problem once and for all, just paying contractors to do this is also kinda of solving the problem.

So what's the problem?

It is when public servants are easily rattled and frightened by us. They are too hasty  and not interested to do a fundamentally good job. Unless the PM looks into the matter nobody solves problem for long term and sustainable results.

Confident leadership is gradually turning into order takers and people pleasers. We are becoming like elsewhere.

Carmel Mission: A depressing place

We have been around these parts several times over the years but never visited this place. This time I had ignored my hunch and we came here yesterday.

In photos the place is beautiful but all of us feel a heavy spirit sitting on us while inside. We had to pay to get in, so might as well just look around. When we finally got out, the feeling of release and uplift was palpable.

The Forbidden City in Beijing was a more tragic place than here but we enjoyed the place and learned much. On the other hand this place feels haunted, tragic and self defeating.

Scholarships & your mind

Scholarships do strange things to the awardee's mind he is rarely aware of. He stopped looking for a job because he is already bonded to an employer. Unlike most of his classmates, he is secure and uncurious. I was hoping Sandra Davie would finally add this observation so many of us passed our youth are aware of.

Why go checking and learning about other opportunities especially entrepreneurship when you are already committed to an organization? Mentally the world of these scholarship holders shrink. The younger this happen to you, the worse off you will be,

In the end people often choose to be secure than to be adventurous. I am not sure I want my children to be risk adverse. In the bigger picture we are producing so many risk adverse leaders with this system. Even if we are successful, we are also becoming more fragile. A few exceptional ones at the top cannot make up for the deficit of the rest. Top leaders will find themselves pushing against a wall of the majority of lesser scholars. At the personal level these people are also boring and predictable.

Before us the top leaders might appear bold using spin doctors. Behind us they were unaware simply acting their programmed from young code to play it cleverly safe. Sadly each time they try to stray off the beaten path they also fail to appreciate the risks they were running with predictable results. Not all of us can put our fingers on this but many of us can sense that the quality of public administration is falling. I leave other more motivated bloggers to enumerate the long list of examples.

Written half way round the earth at 4 am in the morning without a keyboard.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Has the power tripped?

No, I could tell by connecting with our WDLive disc at home.

Before we had this there was no way to tell until we are back home from our trip abroad.

I am writing this from Yosemite national park.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Scholarships Realities

Now I have numbers to give form to my hunch about this matter. At the atomic level my daughter was one of those who didn't bother to try for any scholarships. At the macro level this is a critical problem for the civil service who must now find new ways to attract and retain their share of the best. This they cannot do without overhauling the system and culture. I only hope they will act more like Apple than Nokia in the process. Of course my girl would have missed the boat but that cannot be helped. We must live in the present more than in the future.

Taxi fares priced to the limits

The last time I was in a cab was more than a year ago. For me it is either my car or public transport. These days more buses than the unreliable MRT. Cabs are simply not value for money. I don't know if I am right but overall owning your own set of wheels is better than calling cabs.

The story above confirmed my hunch that the cab companies have used their pricing power to the limit. Before this happened at Changi Airport I didn't understand why Trans Cab wanted to list but now their effort to is probably history.

On the other hand taxi drivers need to earn enough money to continue to attract locals to drive them or you would have many taxis in the yard and no drivers. We have a top and bottom squeeze here. I wonder if this is not the reason why we cannot imitate HK taxi scene.

For me, I am waiting the day of the driverless car come asap. Of course "all things being equal" transport cost will go down but property price will go up. This is the peculiar dynamics for the layman concerning the non tradeable sector of the economy. Indeed property continues to be a good long term investment despite what some very learned socialist minded economist eruditely propose otherwise.

The only enemy beside a bad economy or adverse politics for a good property market is the disruptive side effect of technology. Ecommerce has started to hurt on the street retail and it is not stopping there. Quietly years before it had save office rent through hot desking. The long term sweet spot in real estate is probably residential, logistics and meeting places.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The will to make Madrasahs succeed

I had been worried that the Madrasah path was an educational dead end for its pupils. Its failure was too horrible to contemplate. Now my fears have been put to rest.

This is a reminder that we can produce excellent outcomes if we are committed and put the best we have to the task. Pretty obvious isn't it? The problem is unlike our early days, the number of tasks and projects are growing faster than the people we have to deal with them. So many important jobs are now done by inadequate people.

We make do with what we have, assigning our best to the jobs that are most critical. Of course we don't do this anywhere near perfectly. The slip ups are glaring and potentially politically costly. Fixing the priority list has never been as important. Sometimes the trade-offs has as many losers as there are winners e.g., the understaffed police. Often the trade-offs are measured in time. What is withheld today for the sake of the future. Especially how much do you avoid spending today for a more secure tomorrow. John Maynard Keynes had some wise words regarding this matter which the PAP had grown to ignore to their cost.

Some things were just stupid in the the form of penny wise and pound foolish or a stitch in time to save nine. The woeful lack of maintenance of our rail system is a classic example.

To deploy sufficient resources and talent to make Madrasah succeed stems from a deep appreciation of the consequences of not giving the Muslim Malay community a leg up. I do not know if this is an original thought owned by the present leadership or just a hard truth they acted upon without deep insight.