Archive for the ‘Works of others’ Category

Knowledge can be a bad thing, if others are taking credit for it

August 26, 2007

An article by Dr Manoj Thulasidas (Today, 25 Aug 2007)

TECHNICAL knowledge is not always a good thing for you in the modern workplace.

Unless you are careful, others will take advantage of your expertise and dump their responsibilities on you. You may not mind it as long as they respect your expertise. But, they often hog the credit for your work and present their ability to evade work as people management skills.

People management is better rewarded than technical expertise. This differentiation between experts and middle-level managers in terms of rewards is an Asian phenomenon. Here, those who present the work seem to get the credit for it, regardless of who actually performs it. We live in a place and time where articulation is often mistaken for accomplishments.

In the West, technical knowledge is more readily recognised than smooth presentations. You don’t have to look beyond Bill Gates to appreciate the heights to which technical expertise can take you in the West. Of course, Gates is more than an expert; he is a leader of great vision as well.

Leaders are different from people managers. Leaders provide inspiration and direction. They are sorely needed in all organisations, big and small. They are not to be confused with middle-level folks who keep harping on the “big picture”, the “value-chain” and such, and spend all their working hours in meetings.

Why should they get such hefty salaries when they know and do so little?

Technical experts are smart cookies. They can easily see that if they want to be people managers, they can get started with a tie and a good haircut. If the pickings are rich, why wouldn’t they?

Going the other way is a lot harder, though. For a pure people manager to become a technical expert, it takes a lot more than losing the tie. But why would anybody want to be an expert in the current corporate climate here? Slim pickings, really.

Is it time to hide your knowledge, get that haircut, knot that tie, and become a people manager? It comes down to your personal choice. Knowledge gives you technical authority and a sense of indispensability. But it also sets you up for a stunted career progression. So, the choice is between fulfilment and satisfaction on the one hand, and convenience and promotions on the other.

I wonder whether we have already made our choices, even in our personal lives. We find fathers who cannot get the hang of changing diapers or of household chores. Is it likely that men cannot figure out washing machines although they can operate complicated machinery at work?

We also find women who cannot balance their accounts or estimate their spending. Is it really a mathematical impairment, or a matter of convenience?

At times, the lack of knowledge is as potent a weapon as its abundance. Yes, knowledge is a double-edged sword. Use it wisely.


Govt should intervene in property market

August 9, 2007

A good real life example of a victim of the property boom by Lucy Huang

NATIONAL Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said on TV last week that the Government does not need to intervene in the property market yet, because prices have not risen to 1996 levels. I disagree. In that year, we were forced to leave our home because of an en-bloc sale. We spent many months looking for a replacement flat. At that time an HDB executive maisonette in Bishan was going for $650,000; a Lakeview HUDC unit, $800,000; and one at Braddell View, $640,000. A private freehold flat of 1,600 sq feet in Devonshire Road was advertised at $1.05 million while a Cavenagh Court high-floor unit was selling for $750,000.
We are now obliged to find a new home again. HDB five-room flats and executive maisonettes are going for over $750,000; the point blocks near the Farrer Road market, $800,000; Braddell View is now being offered for $1.25 million. Private 99-year-leasehold property like Queens on Commonwealth Avenue are priced at $1.1 million, while prime developments like the one at Orchard Turn opposite Tangs are being booked at over $4,000 per sq ft. All these are way above the 1996 prices.

Thousands are being turned out of their homes because of the en-bloc craze. The money paid to us means either a downgrade or a move to the very borders of Singapore. It is time for government intervention.

The following of a Lee Kwan Yew model aggravated the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis

August 4, 2007

A statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

The propaganda way

August 4, 2007

An interesting article by Christopher Lingle:

Why are the public, bus drivers treated differently?

July 7, 2007

A sharp letter by Mr Chew Mun Kit …

IN THE face of increasing assaults on bus drivers, police have said that such attacks will not be tolerated.

Those who assault bus drivers will be prosecuted under Section 323 of the Penal Code and police investigations were initiated in all cases, except when the drivers themselves did not want to pursue the matter.

I read a few letters in the Forum in April, also referring to the above legislation. The letters are ‘Punched and hit but police won’t be taking action’ (ST, April 4), ‘When is an offence seizable?’ (ST, April 6) and ‘Why that advice to lodge magistrate’s complaint’ (ST, April 14).

The letters started with a Ms Kong Lai Meng who had been assaulted asking why the police did not go on to detain the suspect, and ended with a reply from the police force.

From the letters, it seems that a complaint has to be lodged with a magistrate before police can initiate action. In cases where grievous hurt was caused or weapons were used, offenders would be charged under Section 325 or 324 instead.

This being the case, how could the police say beforehand that they will initiate investigations and charge offenders under Section 323? Surely, more information is required before the police can take action.

Unless there is a fundamental difference between a bus driver and a regular guy on the street, police should take the same stand. It seems that bus drivers can opt out of police investigations whereas common citizens have to opt in by filing a report with a magistrate.

Chew Mun Kit

Singapore cabbies puzzle HK visitor

July 7, 2007

Another one I like by tourist Michael Gleissner from Hong Kong (ST Forum, 29 Jun 2007). I sympathise with the taxi drivers. They’re trying their best to make a living lest worry about customer service. It is the taxi companies’ exhorbitant rentals that are causing this lose lose situation for customers and drivers alike …

THE taxi situation in Singapore has reached another low point.
Admittedly, I am spoilt by Hong Kong, where all you need to do is raise your arm and a taxi would stop and the door open, rarely beyond a two-minute wait.

And this is regardless of where you hail a cab.

With the cabbies, it is customer satisfaction first, even if they do not comply with traffic regulations all the time.

In Singapore, not only did I find myself in endless queues on my recent visit, but taxi drivers also kept stopping to ask would-be passengers where they were headed. They would then shake their head and drive off.

Do cabbies take on passengers only if the route is convenient to them?

Who is the customer and who is the one who is supposed to provide a service?

In no other city I know of can a taxi driver reject a customer based on his destination.

I could only shake my head in disbelief.

Michael Gleissner
Hong Kong

LTA, MOE’s responses were non-replies

July 7, 2007

I like this letter by Dr Lim Boon Hee too (ST Forum, 29 Jun 2007) …

I REFER to the replies by the Land Transport Authority (‘Market forces determine taxi fares’) and the Ministry of Education (‘MOE committed to five-day work week’; ST, June 28).
The replies do not address the writers’ concerns at all.

The taxi situation is appalling and to solve this vexing problem surcharges and fares would have to be tweaked, cab rentals adjusted to attract more drivers, and supply may have to be increased.

LTA’s hands-off approach – declaring that taxi supply, fares and surcharges are left to the taxi operators to determine in a deregulated industry – essentially means that the present frustrating situation will remain the status quo, that is, one of the worst in Asia.

What ‘market forces’ are there in free play when an imperfect market exists?

After all, electronic road pricing, diesel taxes and certificates of entitlement are controlled.

Similarly, the husband of a teacher is crying out to MOE for help.

He is asking MOE if his teacher wife has the right to reject going to work on Saturdays without being unduly penalised by the ranking system for being unwilling to perform more than her expected duties.

After all, officially, it is a five-day work week.

Contrary to the MOE spokesman’s reply, teachers have not been given the ‘flexibility’ of choice as to whether to return to school on weekends.

On the other hand, schools have been given too much flexibility and authority to organise too many unnecessary activities on Saturdays.

Dr Lim Boon Hee

Time to exit, not enter, markets

July 7, 2007

Excellent letter by Chua Soon Hock written to Straits Times forum on 6 Jul 2007 …

HAVING made a living as a fund manager and trader for the past 25 years, I have seen the general investing public hurt numerous times when they invest aggressively near the peak of a bubble, whether in stocks or property.
Retail investors should adopt a very long-term horizon to benefit from the stock and property markets.

The starting point of major stock investment or purchasing a property for investment is important. Always try to start major investments during a recession, a global market crisis, a banking crisis or when nobody is interested in stocks, like during the Sars period.

The art of investing can be broken down into three quantitative variables of time, price and size. Investors should pick a ‘terrible’ environment/time when prices are distressed and commit big (but definitely without leverage).

The opposite is also true. In a very bullish, ‘good’ environment/time with high prices everywhere, investors should reduce the size of investments and ensure that whatever is outstanding is getting smaller and smaller.

Forget about wanting to liquidate all investments at the top of the market. It is an impossible task.

The basic idea is to invest aggressively (without leverage) near the bottom and get out when markets are euphoric, like now, even if they could go higher and carry on longer.

Global imbalances are currently at an extreme, making the environment ripe for a market crisis like Oct 19, 1987.

Markets (individual share and property) will go up and down over a long period of time, although the general stock index hides this truth as new, strong shares always replace old, declining shares over the years, giving you a misguided view that the index always heads much higher over time.

As Singapore markets become globalised with much foreign participation, Singaporeans would do well to be patient and courageous by investing near the bottom of the down cycle and selling to foreigners near the top of the up cycle and repeating this process.

If you have missed the huge bull market, that’s just too bad. Now is not the time to jump in aggressively as the risks are increasing exponentially.

Bull and bear markets always repeat themselves, just like summer and winter. Be very patient and do your homework.

You do not need to be a genius to make money in the markets. You need common sense, discipline and a clear long-term workable plan, without which the markets are like a hot fire and will burn fingers.

Chua Soon Hock

Have a mum-friendly economy

May 4, 2007

Here’s another good one which appeared in Today on 2 May 2007

Letter from Yvonne Wong

It’s interesting to note the contrast between the report, “Don’t let them drop out” (April 30) in Today, in which Minister Lim Boon Heng called on employers to help young women stay in the workforce, and a report in The Straits Times on April 28 about the baby boom in France.

Women make a conscious choice to become mothers not because of monetary perks or, for working mothers, the availability of childcare options.

One main reason why working mothers get burnt out is the lack of a pro-family culture at work and in our society. Torn between work demands and the yearning to spend more time with their children, many women clearly prioritise the family over work satisfaction.

Being a stay-at-home mum is not easy. Women have to manage the housework and childcare — work not considered revenue-generating — and have to deal with the loss of opportunities and perhaps self-esteem issues.

I find disturbing the prospect of women working until retirement and, at the same time, having babies who they have to leave in childcare centres for 10 hours or more a day. Those who are not resilient enough to handle such conflicting demands may get burnt out even before they retire.

There is no perfect solution to this dilemma. We have to realise that we have to prioritise and that trade-offs are necessary: Choosing work-life balance and higher birth rates at the expense of slower economic growth and a dip in global competitiveness. There has to be a perception shift to acknowledge the value of working mothers to Singapore’s economic growth, as well as to the population and to manpower resources for future generations.

There should be an inter-ministerial committee championing the creation of jobs that leverage on Sohos (small office, home office), flexi-hours, part-time and project-based working arrangements.

These job opportunities can cater to working mothers with diverse experience and varying qualifications. The guiding principle for this taskforce is to provide working mothers with options that allow them to balance their aspirations in family and life, without shortchanging themselves.

All for the pursuit of wealth

May 4, 2007

A very well written letter that appeared in today’s Today (4 May 2007) that is truly worth reading.

Letter from Aaron Ho Chien Kwok

Much has been said concerning Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s recent comments regarding the possible liberalising of laws with regards to homosexuality. The purpose of my writing is not to argue the merits or flaws of such an action but to look at the basis upon which decisions such as these are being made.

It is my humble contention that the value which is esteemed above all else in our country is wealth — material wealth — and that is an extremely dangerous ground to be on. We are taught this in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways.

For example, Mr Lee said this: “They tell me that homosexuals are creative writers, dancers. If we want creative people, then we have to put up with their idiosyncrasies.” If I may have the liberty of paraphrasing this statement, I would put it this way: “If they can contribute to the economic bottom line, their lifestyle does not matter.”

The still recent debate over the integrated resort issue is another example.

One justification of having an integrated resort — make that two, actually — in Singapore is that if we do not have them, we would lose out to other countries that do have them.

Lose out in what way? In revenue, of course. We can have more jobs, more tourists, more money. The fallout from people who may get addicted, the families who may suffer as a result, these are but minor considerations that can be dealt with.

It seems “we must be realistic” or “we must be practical” is more important than “we must do the right thing”.

It is not surprising that a me-first (maybe a me-only) mentality is prevalent here. It is not surprising, therefore, that I take the lift every day and find litter scattered all over the floor, I squeeze onto the bus trying to find space to get on and find that the back of the bus is still relatively empty, and I read the papers and discover rich people scurrying for cheap books meant for the poor.

The family in Singapore is deteriorating. While we are out earning our wages, our children are at home, being brought up by maids (and this is in no way a slur on the job that they perform).

Of course, some would take exception to what I am describing and say that this generalisation is overly simplistic and I cannot draw a conclusion from these observations. And they would probably be right. However, the purpose of my writing is to force us to think about what is truly important in life.

If we persist in this philosophy of life, we may indeed find that our country remains on top of the economic pile but has lost its very soul.

I conclude with words from an ancient book of wisdom: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”