Tuesday, 29 November 2011

双语双文化,一个钱字推得动吗?政府单方面推得动吗?



双语双文化人才对新加坡的未来很重要,这点即使不是双语双文化的人也同意。但是,要培养这些人才,有钱未必推得动,政府单方面领导更无法推得动。

这需要一股傻劲,一股精神,因为,具有双语双文化未必就能‘风生水起,财源滚滚’。尤其是,双语双文化中的强势语言不是英语英文。

当年,否定南大人是双语双文化,不正是基于他们华文华语比英文英语强吗?不单如此,正因为懂得双语双文化,他们的薪金待遇还吃了亏。被认为是不入主流的毕业生。因此,懂得双语双文化,未必就吃得开。因此,在钱的现实下,我们现在只能做到英文英语比华文华语强的所谓双语双文化人了。

说实在的,这到底是不是双语双文化人呢?特选中学真能培养出双语双文化毕业生吗?

或许,我们连这样起码的要求都做不到。举个例子来说,我们的足球当年订的目标是要进世界杯,我们在足球的财力物力投资更是各种体育项目之冠,甚至还要出动部长坐镇,领导指导规划,勾画出一片美景,美梦。这么多年过去了,我们连亚洲都无法突破,更谈什么世界杯。

民间的体育运动,推广,是否一定要由政府来主导,部长来领导,才能达到预期的效果?

同样的,推广双语双文化,是否一定要由教育部来主导,政府来领导,才能成功?

我们的政治是否涉入太深,而使到好多政策,活动,都变得生硬,变得不灵活,而变得无法成功?

不知是政府不放心,还是,政府以外,我国就没有人才领导体育运动,语言语文的推动,文化的传承。行动党的不放心,样样事情都要插上一脚,反而是作为第一世界国家所最不应该做的。

新加坡人的教育程度,收入都是排世界的前面,基本上,我们已经能够解决基本的生活问题,现在是要向生活素质上提升,软实力的提升。这种背景,已经不是样样事情政府都要做主导,都能坐主导的时候了。大选,总统选举后,民间在政治上要有更大的参与,当然,在其他方面,语文,文化,体育,社会活动,也要也应该要有参与。

政府单方面主导一切的时代已经结束,一个所谓“新”的行动党应该应当要有勇气面对这种挑战。如果真的要搞好双语双文化,搞好足球等运动,放手让其他人来领导,效果可能更好。

继续由政府来领导,指导,在思维上还是换汤不换药,结果是成事不足,败事有余。我们还有多少时间再等下去,或许,政府也该换人做了吧。

Monday, 28 November 2011

Why is it so hard for the PAP to say ‘thank you’? …To the voters, CPF members and Singaporeans at large.



The Sunday convention of the People’s Action Party is about a new PAP, tougher fight in future and a word of thank to some PAP members.   Why can’t they extend the ‘thank’ to the voters, especially those 60% voted for them in GE2011.

Will the ‘new’ PAP begin to appreciate the contributions of Singaporeans and not only listen but say ‘thank you’ whenever necessary?  Yes, you will face tougher contests and as PM Lee put it there will be no more ‘safe” seats and the PAP has to fight to win.

It also proves that the magic of GRC and boundary reviews conducted before a general election will no longer be effective and it may even back fire the PAP. Further, PAP candidates have to be known in advance and fight their own war.   

In the great book of Red Chamber, there is a famous prediction about the future of the Jia family:

三春去后诸芳尽,各自需寻各自门。
After 3 generations, all the beauties will be gone.  Each has to find their journeys and destinations.

The protection of GRC and boundary reviews can no more protect the weak candidates. Even stronger candidates, like George Yeo, have to face the defect.  The passenger-candidates will be a burden to the PAP and the voters will not thank the PAP for putting a trainee MP in their constituencies.


Why is it so hard to say ‘thank you, CPF’ and “thank you, Singaporeans”?

We all know about the debt crisis in Europe, the high yield of Italian bonds, and even the difficulty of getting full subscription of German bonds. These countries have to compete in international market for their financial needs.

While in Singapore, the government can draw the money from Central Provident Fund and just issue bonds to CPF Board for their financial needs.  These monies can then re-direct to Temasek and GIC for investments.

Considering these 2 fund mangers as
2 countries, why is it so difficult for Italy and Germany to raise funds and it is so easy for Temasek and GIC to issue bonds?

Is the management of Temasek and GIC more intelligent and capable than the leaders of Italy and German?  No, it is because we have CPF and the hardworking Singaporeans.  Because of this solid backing, Temasek and GIC can then stand so high in the international financial market.

But why can’t they say a word of thank to CPF members and Singaporeans?  When they show off the wealth of Singaporeans to international bankers and financiers, do they know who are supporting them behind them?   

When the international financial magazines and newspapers credit the management of Temasek and GIC as influential persons in the financial market, do our fund managers know the backers behind them?  You are famous not because of your intelligence but the willingly and unwillingly support of the CPF members and Singaporeans.

Voters, CPF members and Singaporeans are the ones make you famous and well known internationally.  Of course, without hearing a word of appreciation, they can also entrust other persons to do it and make these people famous.  

New PAP, they are watching you

Sunday, 27 November 2011

当赌场已经成了新加坡的标志,广告促销限制还能起效用吗?


当爱已成过去,当赌已成事实,当钱已成时尚,当赌国地位已被确定,仅仅只次于澳门,我们要怎样才能禁止人们不想起我们的赌场。新加坡河畔的三炷香,圣淘沙的环球影城,即是综合娱乐城,也是赌场。这已经是新加坡的新地标,新的旅游象征。

国内外的人都知道这是赌场兼娱乐城,但是,并不是所有的人,不论旅客还是国人,都会上赌场玩上一把。清者自清,对着这个已知道的事实,有些人会为之所动,有些人坚守本分。因此,赌场广告促销的限制真能起效用吗?

这样做,是否是:祭之丰,不如养之薄也。事情都发生了,现在,才来大事的宣传我们要限制广告促销,不让赌场的相关广告在新加坡媒体,电视等等地方出现。赌场是为外国人而开的,本地人应该禁赌,不要让他们接触赌场的广告宣传,促销活动。祭拜再丰富,也改变不了赌场存在的现实。而它们的存在,又是这么的醒目,无人不知。


防赌,防烟,防厕所

看看我们的禁烟活动,现在还要扩大禁烟区,禁烟广告宣传,早就不准见报和在电视上出现了。禁烟者自禁,吸烟者自吸。好像走着两条不同的道路。再看看厕所文化,不也是推了好几年了吗?

我们是否是走太快,我们的经济是赶美超英,好多洋人是又羡慕又妒忌。这么有钱,这么贵的房子车子,这么高的外汇储备,但是,偏偏有些软体就是跟不上,但是外国朋友未必看得到。禁烟,禁赌,厕所卫生,在新加坡的旅游点,高尚地区,未必这么明显的展露出来。

希望而来 失望而归


经济上赶上了,精神上赶不上。对新加坡人来说,有些人是两者都赶不上。变成了,两头都不到岸。对于,好多到新加坡打工的朋友,如果喜欢赌上一把,喝多几杯,吸多几包烟,很可能在合约期满之后,也是两手空空回国去。不过,他们倒是对新加坡国库做出贡献,真是出钱又出力。我们忍心看着这些人带着伤心,失望离去吗?

我们不希望国人,也不希望在新加坡工作的朋友,到最后是两手空空。尤其是经济不景气,即将到来,更加要有定力,抗拒赌场,烟酒的诱惑。

即使广告减少,没有促销,赌场的存在已经是个事实,唯有自己的把持和信念,才能抗拒这些诱惑。但是,这是一件说来容易,做来难的事,祝愿大家好运。

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Singapore working language is English? Yes and no


Yes. It used to be the way, especially when the first language in our schools is English and we have effectively phased out other language schools in Singapore.  For local citizens, English is the working language plus may be our unique singlish.

No. When our population increases to 5 or even more millions, with a sizable foreign born population, it is quite impossible to have only one working language. You may ask property agents, insurance people, car dealers, entertainers, or even some doctors and lawyers, what is their working language?

Then we may have to define what working language is. Is it different from official language in the government and courts?  Look at Hong Kong, the working language is English or Cantonese?  Hong Kong people will tell you that it depends on the money factors.

You may argue Hong Kong is different.  More than 90% of the population are Cantonese. In Singapore, we have different races and cultures. Then, you look at USA, a dominant English speaking country but with a quarter of the population speaking Spanish. 

Singapore has two worlds. People in one world will only claim that English is the only working language. Just like some rich and elite Americans who only know English and no others.  They fail to realise there is another 25% Spanish speaking Americans plus another few percentages who speak other languages.

Our foreign born population in terms of percentage is one of the highest in the world.  With such a high percentage and even in number, it will easily be 2 or even more millions. This is equal to how many Ang Mo Kio or Toa Payoh put together.  For this group of people, it is not sure whether their working language is English.

So far, Singaporeans are complaining about the non-English speaking service personnel and workers.  There are also training courses conducted in other languages. Are these working or non-working languages?

If we step out of our comfort zone, Geylang is like another world. Little India is another one.  I am not sure whether you can extend the working language English to these areas. 

Language of money and politics

Unfortunately, we are facing the challenge of money and politics in defining a working language.  Ask the sales girls in Hong Kong, can they not speak Mandarin to the high purchasing power Chinese? Can our property agents not speaking Mandarin to rich Chinese buyers? Can we do business with China with only speaking English?

Even when we come to politics, when the election is so fiercely contests, like Potong Pasir, Joo Chiat, etc, the foreign born voters will be the king makers.  This is why political Americans are forced to speak Spanish; Ma Ying-jeou has to force himself to speak in “taiyu” (台语). 

Perhaps, we cannot define working language as a working tool for money and politics.  This is wrong and in Singapore, working language means the administration language of the government because the government has the monopoly power to decide the working language. If this is the case, you are not listening to the money, politics and people.  Can such so-called working language survive in the long-term?  

Just like bilingualism, if Singapore wants to be an international business hub, we have to be flexible and not only limit ourselves to English.  There is an urgent need for young generation to know more than one working language. The Americans are doing it. The Europeans are doing it.  What is the need to restrict Singapore with one and only one working language?

To survive under the language of money and politics, the working languages are decided by the people who are the buyers, voters or decision makers.
  


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

如果南洋大学延迟出世50年,今天的评语是不是有所不同

  
应该是吧?南洋大学在1955年创校,如果以50年来计算,延后出世50年,那么,创校的时间就是2005年。想一想,2005的世纪是个什么时代,太平洋的时代,中国经济超越美国的时代,老外逼着人民币升值的时代。在这个时代,出现一所中英文并重的大学,不只符合国情,东南亚各国也不会有所怀疑。

人们的评语应该会说,这是一所有远见,符合国际大趋势的学府,比国大的博雅学院,更能配合国家人才的需求,毕业生能够像1955年的南大一样顺利到欧美留学,更重要的是能够到中国做生意,打工,文化交流。不像现在,苦苦求你读点华文,都好像难如登天。

这真是风水轮流转,50年后,局势改变了。评语竟然可以相差180度。生不逢时,是南大的错吗?还是生错地方,如果当时把南大放在邻国,有独中生的生源,那将是个怎么个结果?不敢想这个问题,越想越糊涂了。

但是,回头想一想,1955年的南大真的错了吗?真的是一出生,就注定面临关门的命运吗?还是事在人为。到底是英雄出时势,还是时势出英雄?事后孔明可以不可以不只是一个人。孔明要说话,也要让周瑜说上一点吧!不然,不是成了一家谈,全部的人只听一方了吗?世界上,难道没有其他意见了吗?难道人都死光了吗?或许,死人真的没有话语权,那这不成了死无对证了吗?

孩子的出世,什么时候生,生在什么地方,生在什么家庭,孩子是没有选择的,甚至,是健全的出世,还是有缺陷的出世,都是无法意料的。如果,一出世,就说长不大,那就真的长不大了,试问天下有多少个父母是不希望孩子长不大的?

活着的人,是否可以积点阴德。不要事事以孔明自居,也要让其他的人有些看法,单面的说辞,在网络流行的时代,似乎不能独行其道。

Monday, 21 November 2011

Beauty over capability. Can the rich culture of Italy save the country?



Italy under Berlusconi is a country of beauty.  There is a joke that he has transformed the country into a place of pretty girls, handsome men and entertainment - a mini culture revolution of placing beauty over capability, intelligence, and quality. When people are looking for jobs, the interviewers will first consider their ‘looks’ and their competency, capability, intelligence and suitability become secondary. 

Berlusconi with his playboy character has transformed Italy into a ‘face’ looking country. People are learning soft skills and want to appear in the televisions (some controlled by him), entertainment circle, to get famous quick and some have lost their interested in study and work.  It will need to take time sometimes to ‘correct’ the culture change under Berlusconi government. 

Few years ago, I also heard of another 2 jokes about Italy. The first one is about who are Italians. When you are in Milan, anyplace in Milan is Italy.  When you move a little south and come to Bologna, people there will tell you, anywhere in Bologna and above is Italy.  When you are in Rome, then anywhere in Rome and above is Italy.  Then it stops there.  This show how the country is divided into the industrialized north and rural south.  And the northerners only consider the industrialized north as Italy

There other joke is about productivity and efficiency.  Many Italians, especially those from the north, will tell you the best airline in Italy is Lufthansa – the German airline.  What an insult!  For international traveling, they will go to Frankfurt.  And they call Alitalia an airline of always later.   

Rich culture is not enough

The Italian language is a beautiful language, so do the culture – the home of Renascence.  This could be a burden, just like building a metro system in Rome; it will take decades to build a short distance of rail road because there are plenty of treasures underground.

But the rich culture also gives the strength to the country, just like the never ending underground economy. The Italian underground economy can be as big as 20-30% of the GDP. So, it is much bigger than the GDP of Greece, Portugal or Ireland.   And this part of the economy is used to pay high interest, much higher than the current bond yield that Italy is paying in the international market.

One of the new measures to solve Italian debt crisis is to limit the cash transactions to 2500 euro. This is to prevent tax evasion but also a measure to tackle the issue of underground economy.  But like in the past, some innovative business models will appear again.

The rich culture has given Italians some edges in creative and innovative industries. So does their economy of operating in a smaller scale to prevent labour and tax issues. But all these are not enough to make Italy a great country again.

Beyond a weak link and be a leader

Mario Monti, the new Italian Prime Minister, said Italy will not be a weak link in Euro zone economy. He should aim higher than that.  Italy must aim to be the leading state in Europe even though it is not possible to repeat the history of Roman Empire

At least, Italy must be a leader not a follower in some areas if not all.

Let’s look at an example in the Spring-autumn period in Chinese history – the story of Guanzhong as Prime Minister of Qi state (管仲相齐).  Qi is one of the many states in the ancient period.  Qi is a rundown state when the new King takes over the country. Guanzhong is from the political opposite side. However, the King decides to appoint Guanzhong as Prime Minster.

In the very first meeting, the King wants to test the intelligence of Guanzhong and asks him to come with solutions to solve the state’s problems.  Instead of giving answers, Guanzhong asks about the ambition of the King.  The question is:

“Does Qi want to be a leading state in the middle land?”

The King (齐桓公)hesitates and so Guanzhong walks out of the meeting. When the King realizes the importance of the question, he quickly rushes to Guanzhong and invites him back and appoints him as the Prime Minister.

Qi state under 齐桓公 is one of 5 recognized leading states in the Sprint-autumn period. Confucius has given very high respect to Guanzhong – the status of protector of Chinese culture and civilization. Without Guanzhong, there is no possibility to prevent the invasion of northern barbarians.  

Let’s hope Mr. Monti can aim higher and make Italy a strong link of Europe instead. 

Friday, 18 November 2011

欧洲意识跑得比国家意识快,一消一长,距离拉大,欧元区困境有待解决。


欧元区并不是单单只是一个经济区,在更广泛的意义上,还要加上社会,政治上的整合。因此,欧洲领袖在最初倡导欧洲共同市场,欧元的时候,也没有忘记政治,社会,法律等多方面的整合。

目前,除了17个国家共同使用欧元外,在教育,治安,通关,关税,文化上也积极寻求共同点。欧元事实上,就是要向世人表示欧洲的团结,牺牲本身的货币,尤其是马克这样强势的国际货币,来完成欧洲的大一统。

经过几十年的努力后,欧洲意识开始提高,尤其是当统一的货币 -欧元, 10多年前出现以后,这种欧洲意识更为强烈。但是,欧洲意识的提高,相对的个别国家的意识却减落了。这种情形,尤其发生在经济势力比较弱的国家,因为,他们知道,加入经济共同体的好处是可以得到经济财政上的援助。使用欧元,更使自己的身份上了一个层次。

对于势力较差的国家,他们更乐意作为欧洲人,更乐意的投入欧洲的大怀抱,反而是势力较强的国家,相对的比较不那么积极。这是情有可原,无可厚非的。有钱人为何要和你平起平坐,有头等座位不坐,却要坐商业,甚至经济座位。

正当势力较差的国家,减少本国意识,积极投入欧洲意识的时候,他们并没有在思想上做准备,在工作热忱,生产力,工作态度方面跟进,甚至在法律,社会制度,劳工保障上跟进, 拉近他们和势力强的国家的距离,反而,越具有越投入欧洲意识,他们和势力强的国家的差别就越大。

好多人把欧债危机归纳为当时这些加入欧元区的国家,做假账,隐瞒一些数据,以勉强过关的方式加入欧元区。或许,这有一定的道理,但是,难道欧元区的国家,尤其是德国,法国,他们不知道这些问题吗?他们当时这么做也是希望,能够扶弱国一把,让弱国他们有机会跟进,顺利提升弱国的势力。

这原本就是一件好事。就好像我们责任帮忙弱势群体,让他们的孩子受教育,找一份好的工作,提升家庭的素质。但是,我们也要面对一个现实,不是每个家庭都能顺利提升。有些需要更长的时间。欧元区的经济,目前也面临这样的困境。

很不幸的,当这些弱国加强欧洲意识的时候,只知道本身贵为欧洲人,用的是欧元,然而,在其他方面并没有做出努力,相应的改变本身的人文素养。要和势力强的国家坐同一张桌子,是要做出一些牺牲的。当年,东西德统一,德国经济曾经一度不振,不过,经过一番努力,又出现生机,东德的竞争力提高了。或许,这可以归功于德国的国家意识和民族性。

目前的欧债危机,不论,经济势力强或弱的国家,都需做出努力,当然欧洲人更要做出牺牲。势力强的更要有助人之心,势力弱的牺牲则更大,不然,谁愿意伸手帮助你。

国家有难,谁来负责?

当你的国家意识递减,欧洲意识提高的时候,你当然认为国家有难,欧洲有难,当然是欧洲人来负责解救,大家都是欧洲人嘛。尤其是,有钱富有的欧洲人和欧洲国家。因此,你在报上看到的是,德法两国领袖在带头,在要求欧元区弱国节约,同时,又提出种种救市措施。

但是,富国的人民可不是这么想,为什么其他国家的债务,自己要分担呢?尤其是,欧洲意识没有这么强的人。自己辛辛苦苦工作,有了储蓄,有了养老金,现在却要拿出来冒险解救不努力工作的其他国家的人。

这好像美国大量举债,外国大量借钱给美国一样。美国作为一个整体国家,或许可能还上借款,因为借的是美元,美元贬值,或者大量印制,美国可以自己做主。欧元却不一样。虽然有个中央银行,但是,却没有贬值和印钞票的权力。因此,很容易受到国际金融大炒家的袭击。

欧洲中央银行不是最终的借款者?

法国虽然同意让欧洲中央银行成为最终的借款者,即具有美国联邦储备局的权力,可以印钞票,可以为银行担保,可以举债。德国却不同意。 这些权力的后果是要有人买单的。德国作为欧洲最富有的国家,其他欧洲国家付不起时,这笔账,就要由富有的德国人负责了。法国或许看到自己的信贷不如德国,借款利率也上升,比德国来得高,给予欧洲中央银行最终借款者的权力,或许是最佳选择。反正,债主找人还钱,当然是先找最有钱的人。

这么一来,是不是欧洲富国被弱国绑架了?

没有办法,看起来欧洲富国和弱国的人民都要一起做出牺牲,不然,国际炒家又有机可趁了。

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Long-term planning – I thought we always had it in Singapore!



Singapore is a planned country - from the day of our independence or even longer than that from the day Sir Raffles Stamford found it.  Sir Raffles wanted to make Singapore a trading hub in the Far East and skilfully and strategically planned a successfully ‘take over’ of Singapore.
So, planning is not a strange word for Singapore.  In our early history, we built our economy based on suggestions and planning from United Nations (Dr. Albert Winsemius). In 1960, Dr Winsemius led the United Nations team to examine Singapore’s potential in industrialization. …... He presented a 10-year development plan to transform Singapore from an entrepot trade port into a centre of manufacturing and industrialization. (wikipedia).

And now, suddenly we hear that we need to have a long-term planning for flood control. Don’t we ever have one? We have long-term plan for water requirements even long before our independence (the water contracts with Malaysia) and now PUB is telling us there is no long-term plan for flood control. Have we already forgotten the story of once in 50 years – the force of nature?

Long-term plan and nature

<Dr Balakrishan noted that Singapore is at a point where it needs to develop a long-term plan for flood control infrastructure.

But even as he outlined plans to review and improve the flood control system, he was quick to set expectations right.

"Nature is a very, very powerful force ... there will inevitably be some episodes of flash flooding, despite all our best efforts ... what we will commit to, is making sure that everything we can do to prevent it, to mitigate it, and to keep you informed, we will do so."> (Today, 16 Nov 2011)


Since there is no long-term planning for flood control, it can also mean there is no long-term planning for migration, MRT/Bus, foreign workers, housing, hospitals, doctors, education, etc. What a surprise!

When everything moves smoothly, there is a planning and when things are not OK, it can be the force of nature or there is no planning.

Only short-term businessmen or speculators will not have long-term planning. Our GIC and Temasek Holdings, when they made losses, they will tell you they are looking at the long-term and not short term.
Is this a long-term planning?  People are told we may need 10, 20 years to recover the losses and this is planning!


Wait a minute we have to admit the force of nature too as suggested by Dr Balakrishan. Not only for flooding, but also for all other social and economic areas, natural force or market force is very powerful.  We did not expect the population to be increased by so much, so the trains, buses, housing, hospitals and many infrastructures are facing pressure to meet the demands.

We have economic forecast every year.  We even are happy if we can achieve 3-5% annual growth in the coming 10 years. So, there must be a planning, especially water is money and flooding is causing money.

Are all these problems caused by nature or lack of planning?  Or our economic development and planning is so successful in the past 50 years that we overshoot our target and land us in a situation of planned development higher than planned infrastructure.

So, don’t blame the nature? The nature will grow on its own speed and human beings have to adjust the change of nature. Perhaps, we have moved so fast that the nature is not able to cope with it.  This is especially true for Singapore.  Limited by land and nature resources, even with reclaimed land, there is a limit and constraint for Singapore to grow.     

Of course, if you look at the money, the GDP, the profit, you will consider less of your physical constraint and look more on how to maximise profit. 

This perhaps is the result of using GDP as a measure of happiness.  

Lee Yuan Tseh, the first Taiwanese Nobel Prize (chemistry, 1986) laureate, in a recent interview (see below) pointed out that blindly emphasizing the growth of GDP is not equal to happiness. In the process towards globalization, we need to look at the relationship between human beings and land.  Only considering this, then the growth will be a healthy one.     

Man and land, development and nature, will PUB consider more human touches and nature elements in their long-term plan for flood in Singapore?


*

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

口香糖以面盖全 优雅象惨遭毁容 我们是客观还是主观前进



什么是主观?什么是客观?有时真的是说不清?当然,也要看你站在什么立场,为谁说话。你说我小题大做,我说你不够客观,最后,很可能是各说各话,不了了之。

总理出席亚太峰会CEO座谈,有人提出在新加坡可否吃口香糖,答案当然是可以,只要你不要随便吐,妨害公众利益。老外也蛮可爱的,经常拿着种小事来消磨新加坡,小题大做,想要通过一些小动作,来挫我们的锐气。难怪,总理会说,每当谈起新加坡是否真正民主,老外总是好像摸着大象的尾巴,形容整只大象。

看新加坡要看全面,不要拿着一,两件小事,就批评这, 批评那。这叫做以一面盖全面,拿一,两件小事,就说整个国家都是如此。最重要的是,新加坡独立以来的政府,都是人民通过选举选出。为何,外人还要以异样的眼光来看我们?

外人可不是这么看问题,小不改就会乱了大事。如果在小事上不认真,在小事上不公平,那么,当做大事时,就会出现更大的偏差,所以,他们才会这么紧张,常常提醒,常常提问。或许,他们是旁观者清,但是,在我们看来他们太主观了,太不客观了,拿口香糖,这样的小事来消磨我们。

或许,这是各自侍奉各自的主人,各说各话。所以,有时客观,有时主观,该客观的时候,就客观,该主观的时候,就主观。例如,吴作栋就说我们新加坡人,现在,已经比较优雅了。我们已经进步了,不再随便吐痰。这是主观呢,还是客观呢?

不随地吐痰,是一个现象,它能代表整个优雅社会吗?就好像老外拉着摸着大象的尾巴,来形容整只大象一样。大象说到底还是一个实体,优雅在一定程度,还要凭感觉,吴作栋或许自我感觉良好,就说出我们现在比较优雅了。

那里知道话一出口,新加坡文明博物馆前的36尊大象雕塑,就有一尊,惨遭毒手,被人毁容。看来,我们的优雅社会,就如我们的民主进程,内安法的争论,废除,是向前几步,又退后几步,我们几时才能不原地踏步呢?来个大跃进呢?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Smaller space does not mean smaller mind or ambition – thinking out of the HDB box.


Perhaps, it is true. Housing Development Board (HDB) chief Cheong Koon Hean says that smaller flats do not compromise the quality of living in Singapore.  This is especially true when our mind and ambition is not restricted by our flats and social mobility.

We, of course, know how much more earnings the government makes by offering us smaller flats.  A reduction in space plus an increase in selling price over that past 20, 30 years with no shortage of demand – this is a dream for all developers! 

We also realize we do not need a bigger space for our computer, hi-fi, and even bookshelf (considered ipad).  Technology, especially nanotechnology, has made things smaller. With an ageing population, small flats are even better to meet the demand of senior citizens. Yes. In this way, the quality of living may not be affected and furthermore, there are substitutions for the smaller flats if we can free our mind, expand our visions and set a higher ambition for ourselves.

Smaller space or flat really don’t make a difference. We can live happily if we can set our mind free, do according to our wishes, face less control and more mature rules and regulations from the government.  Alternatively, we are able to set our mind in a level that physically size is not a constraint to our social mobility.  When we can afford we move to a bigger area if not we are happy with what we have.

Our quality of living should not be restricted within a HDB flat.  There are lives outside the HDB flat. Smaller flats should not make our thinking smaller. Smaller flats should also not lower down our ambition or narrow our vision.

The government has successfully reduced the size of our flats but certainly we should not subject ourselves to a narrow mind, smaller vision, and lower ambition as directed and guarded by the government.  However, one way or another, the government must open its mind to listen to the people.  The 2 elections this year have proved the need of listening.

The PAP government has acknowledged that there is limitation for the control imposed on the people. As reported in yahoo: ‘Gov't has to adjust to be acceptable, responsive to people: PM Lee’.

In his CEO Summit at the Asia-pacific Economic Cooperation, PM Lee talked about physical limitations, like facilities, bus stops, childcare centres, and community hospitals in different parts of the island. And the difficulty the government faces to meet all the needs of the people.

"The nature of the government will have to adjust in order to be acceptable and responsive to these pressures in the population," he was quoted as saying, as he pointed out that government will have to "find their own way forward". (sg.yahoo.com)

But he seemed to miss the points by answering only the physical demand and limitation by finding his own way.   The bigger picture is the government must adjust to the non-physical demand of the peoples. By doing so, even staying in a smaller HDB flat, the residences will feel happier emotionally and spiritually.  

PM Lee has to adjust to the demand for bigger political and social participation of the people. Not just restrict the debate on facilities, bus stops, childcare centres, and community hospitals.  This will bring the debate back to the size of the HDB flats.  

We want to think out of the box of HDB flats. What is needed is to think out of HDB flats, i.e. the quality of living in a free minded world. Is the PM ready for this adjustment? 

Friday, 11 November 2011

联合早报的尴尬地位,反映了华文华语在新加坡的处境;不久后早报很可能要和八卦报纸争老大


这是一个让人感慨的调查统计数据,早报读者人数又再下降了。尼尔森(Nielsen)媒体调查公司公布的数据显示,早报的读者人数只比新明和晚报多一个马鼻。


这是早报自己的报道:


每天阅读《早报》的人数大约有504000个,但如果把范围扩大到一周内至少曾读过一天《早报》的读者,渗透率则达17.6%,或694000人。同样由新加坡报业控股出版的华文报章《新明日报》和《联合晚报》,渗透率分别增加到12.6%11.5%。每天读者人数分别是497000人和452000人。


有关报道加上将范围扩大到一周内至少曾读过一天《早报》的读者的数据,其实是有一点要误导读者,不小心细读,还真以为早报的读者人数,高达694000人。作为新加坡第一大华文报,早报大可不必如此。

上网看了一下早报的读者数字介绍:

《联合早报》的平日发行量约为20万份,星期天22万份,新加坡读者人数约75万。除了在新加坡发行之外,也在中国大陆、香港特别行政区和文莱等地少量发行。

或许,早报应该及时的更新上述数据,就像读者要知道,和有权知道最新消息一样。不然,恐怕会被人误会数据造假,误导广告商和热爱早报的读者。

万万没有想到权威的第一大新加坡华文报,在新加坡特殊的语文环境下,竟然面对这样的尴尬场面,严肃看报的人每况愈下,喜爱八卦新闻的人却有增无减。不久后,新明读者再增加,早报读者再微降,新加坡第一大华文报,竟然要和八卦新闻竞争老大的地位。这也没有什么好说的,看看苹果日报在香港和台湾的地位就知道了。


从南洋商报,星洲日报,新明日报,民报(还有人记得这份报纸吗?)到联合早,晚报,新明日报;这一路走来,也见证,反映了华文华语的崎岖之路。报业合并,也改变不了这个命运。越来越少人对权威的早报有兴趣,语文水平的降低,也只能看看八卦新闻比较适合。


不对,早报不是说在国外,尤其是中国大陆有一定的影响力。受到很多网上读者的欢迎,认可,肯定,甚至是每天必读的网上报纸。不知道这跟中国官方特别融通,让早报可以在中国随便上网查阅,在一些地方可以买到有关。


说到权威性,我们在早报网上,看不到博文部落格。凤凰网,中国网,华尔街日报,甚至中国时报网,都可以看到不错的文章,唯独早报网没有。哦,不过,在类似八卦新闻的‘omy网上,却设有博客栏目。或许,这也是配合新明晚报的演出。


早报的尴尬命运,对于新加坡受过华文教育的人来说,即是事实,也是不可逃避的命运,早报不高兴,难道华校生会高兴吗?只是在国内外一片华文华语有商用价值的呼唤声中,这个语文越来越受到世界重视的时候,我们却开了倒车。


不论早报将来的命运如何,我们自己活得快乐最重要。我们心中的那把尺,自然会衡量出自己的幸福指数来。

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Learning is for oneself, others or money. Can the MOE’s character building kit help students making a better decision?


The Ministry of Education (MOE) has developed a tool kit for character building for students in our schools. Besides schools, Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat also wanted parents to play a part in developing their children’s character and value.

"Parents play the most critical role in the upbringing of the children, in inculcating the right values and building the character of their children," he said.

"Indeed, parents are the ones who know their children best. So there has to be a very strong partnership between the parents and schools, and also between the schools and the broader community. (CNA)
In the process of character building and development, we must include the purpose and meaning of learning and studying too.  Students must have the courage to quite the learning and study at schools to seek and search for their own interest, if they think it is the right thing to do. Just like Bill Gates and Steven Jobs did.  Otherwise, if students keep the usual path, then Singapore will not be able to produce innovative and creative products that change the world. 

I am not encouraging students to quite study blindly.  However, the value of education and the return on investment for a university education has gone down as noticed in the western world.  It is important for students to recognize this trend and instead of pursing a degree, especially a degree that not his or her interest, it is better to opt out to do something that gives himself happiness and fulfilling one’s interest.

This is the courage and determination that we hope to build up during the growing up years of a student in schools.  While building and developing their character, they also learn to make decisions that will match their interest and at the same time, can contribution to the society and our country. 

More than 2,000 years ago, Confucius had a famous saying: In the past, the purpose of learning was for self interest, now the purpose was to please others.”  (古之学者为己,今之学者为人)The “now” was referring to the time periods of spring-autumn and warring states. Today, the purpose of learning even goes one step further.  It is for the money.

10, 20 years ago, parents wanted their children to be professionals, like doctors, lawyers, architects, even engineers. These professionals not only carry the prestige that is recognized by the society but also offer well paying jobs and more money. 

However, since we enter the higher level of economic development, service industry has become the new normal for money and wealth creation. It is the finance sector that produces easy and quick money – no wonder we have the financial and debt crisis. It seems that there are too many intelligent people wanted to out perform the market and created more and more financial products that they themselves might not know the real meaning of investing.

Certainly, many of these so-called intelligent people and top students/scholars working in the financial sectors have lost their moral value.

When Minister Heng urged parents to help in developing their children’s character, parents should not emphasize too much on money matters.  Rather, it is important to help to develop the right value and encouraging children to study for their own interest.

A word of caution for working parents, please don’t leave the character building and developing to the maids. A child’s character is developed through pregnancy, home and schools.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

只淡经济效益,不顾人文民情,欧元区经济大一统谈何容易?兼谈新山买药新山住?



欠缺人文考虑,人文调节的欧元区经济大一统现在正面临巨大的挑战。当时设立统一的共同货币 欧元,完全考虑的是经济效率,经济效益,使用统一的货币能够为欧元经济区的国家带来更多的好处。但是,个别国家的风土民情,不是短时间能够配合经济发展的需要而做出相应的调整。

同为白人,主要为基督教地区的欧元经济区,使用共同的货币在正常的情形下,应该会为区内的经济带来有利的发展,为区内的国家人民带来更大的好处。正因为被这种好处冲昏了头,没有重视人文因素,没有考量人文民情对欧元经济的调整,才导致今天的难堪局面。

事实上,欧元虽然出现危机,但是,到目前为止,并没有发生大幅度贬值的现象。欧元经济区也没有出现大衰退,问题出在不同文化,生活态度,习惯的地区。欧元区南部的拉丁语系国家和希腊和北部的欧元区经济有着很大的人文差异,对经济发展的步伐,原本就不一样,使用共同货币后,这个人文的因素并没有改变。

但是,共同的欧元,却使到欧洲南部地区,失去了调整本身货币和经济的条件。在以前,使用本身的货币,一旦,经济发生问题时,经济发展步伐跟不上时,可以自行把货币贬值,以较慢的速度发展本身的经济。几十年前,报上时而可以看到意大利里拉贬值,希腊,西班牙货币贬值,甚至法国法郎贬值。现在,情形不同了,不是要贬值就可以自行贬值这么容易。

设立欧元的合理构想是,欧元区内经济发展较高,较发达的地区,在高工资高成本的压力下,可以将生产转移到南部较落后的地区,这么一来,大家的经济都有好处。但是,这些来自北部的投资,却无法在南部落地生根,反而,水土不服,纷纷撤资回归。北部的经济继续发展就要靠引入区内其他国家的人力来解决,而南部,由于投资减少,却出现大量的失业现象。

避开货币的考虑,这种情形有点类似80年代新马印倡导的成长三角洲(新加坡,柔佛和廖内群岛),除了政治因素外,这个计划是否也面对人文的因素和挑战?为何,李登辉倡导的台商南进计划(投资东南亚)无法看到预期的成绩?但是,台商在中国的投资,港粤的经济合作,却取得成绩?

对于欧洲南部的国家,他们的生活方式,习惯,不会因为欧元的到来,共同货币的使用而做出重大的改变,尤其是乡村和海边地区。有没有欧元对他们来说,是不重要的。他们原本过着桃花源式的生活,自给自足,多产出来的农,鱼产品就出售给其他人,不管是本国人还是外国人。现在,突然之间,国家有难,外债来了,你叫他们如何处理?而多产出来的农,鱼产品,由于用欧元报价,在国际和欧元区内,也没有竞争的优势了。

因此,对失去优势的国家和人民,他们要如何调整生活,改变习惯?原本可以通过币值的贬值来调整,现在却无权这么做?由于欧元的设立目标是经济效益,因此,当然要以富国富人为标准,但是,人文的因素却正是欧元要取得经济效益的障碍。

我国在制订经济策略时,也往往是经济利益第一,较少的考虑不同国人的步伐,当然,在建国的过程中,也没有或较少的加入人文因素。所以,无可避免,有些人就会想出本身的解决方法,新山买药新山住就是一个例子。

为何会有新山买药新山住?

新加坡虽然是个小国,但是,由于人文的因素,有些人跟不上经济发展的步伐。所以,为了减轻药费的负担,有些国人就到新山买药,顺便还可以吃上一餐。甚至,有些人还在新山居住,却在新加坡工作。

欧元区的经济发展,正向危险的两极化发展。富有的北部地区,继续富有,贫苦的南部地区,继续贫苦,统一的货币欧元,却使到通过国家货币调节经济功能失去功效。长此下去,欧元的解体是有其必要的。难怪,有经济学家提出新欧元作为欧洲北部发达地区的新货币,而让欧元任其自由贬值。

新加坡的未来经济发展,将会面对低成长率的挑战。放慢脚步,让我们有机会多一点的考虑人文因素,制订协助脚步较慢的国人,或许是件好事。过去过于注重经济成长,样样经济第一,忽略人文考量的经济政策,是调整,改变的时候了。

而大选,总统选举的结果,也正好反映了这个民意。因此,政府有必要反思和检讨为何出现新山买药新山住的现象。

Thursday, 3 November 2011

An Analogy Is An Analogy Whether It Is Ancient Chinese Or Not.



Suddenly, it is ‘cool’ to speak Mandarin in the Parliament.  The cool wind has received mixed feelings among Singaporeans as some of them think that analogy based on ancient Chinese may not be relevant to today’s Singapore.  Furthermore, how many Singaporeans really know about ancient Chinese, not to mention whether they are proficient enough to understand the analogy?


Singapore has four official languages even though English is the main language for administration and government.  However, in the Parliament, a Member of Parliament can choose to speak in any one of the official languages. Discouraging the use of other languages will not be good for Singapore and it will only show the mono-lingua, single culture of Singaporeans.

To demonstrate to the world Singapore’s multi-culture, multi-language and multi-race, we should encourage the use of all four official languages inside and outside of the Parliament. The old normal and practice of (either intentionally or unintentionally) Speak English only should not be continued, especially if we really want our bilingualism policy to work.

This is also inline with the worry of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who said the lost of Chinese language was like losing our (Chinese Singaporeans) roots.   

Chinese is a ‘continuous’ and ‘live’ language.  Without the past and ancient, there is no present Chinese. It will be extremely difficult to understand Chinese and Chinese thinking without understanding the ancient Chinese analogies and idioms.  

With the increasing popularity of Chinese language in the West, there are more and more new Chinese terms and names being accepted by the West. In the Wall Streets, one will find some Chinese names that are not known to Singaporeans but are already being traded in the financial sectors.

Even in the internet and social media, you have the similar words, with the backup of Chinese meanings, like facebook, tweeter, cloud computing, etc.
    
Without the ancient Chinese culture and history, there is no soul in the Chinese language. Just like the western civilization. Without the ancient Greece, what actually is the civilization of the western world?  

If we can accept the Emperor’s new cloth, Snow White, and other English idioms; why can’t we also accept the Chinese analogies with our open hearts?   

One day, we, Singaporeans, will suddenly wake up and discover that the Americans and Europeans have more knowledge of Chinese analogies and idioms than us even though they may or may not master the Chinese language.   

Do we really want to be a banana republic?

Can the cool wind of speak Mandarin sustain after the debates on the President’s address to the Parliament?  Can it last under the new normal environment?

Our current standard and level of Chinese language is rather poor.  If we continue to practice the old normal, it will end up like what Ix Shen has described below:  
  
Ix Shen: Singaporeans can't speak Mandarin