Monday, February 21, 2011

Geylang -- Vice City


Was in Geylang to get dinner with some friends, and we walked around after dinner for some night shots on a slow night.

I saw lots of prostitutes on the streets near Aljunied Road towards Lor 18, and was walking by to later check out some Durians.

The human traffic checking out SEX in the area is pretty insane as well. To get by, you need to walk on the roads. We saw a lady who was quite pretty, and we wanted to know if she had modeling experience and we chatted for a few minutes, and a few men came over and asked us to pay $20 for wasting her time.

Geez... $20? Then a knife was shown, and before it escalates to a gun, we paid $20 and walked away.

You can't chat with the lady for a business proposal to use her as a model later?

I suppose that if you are in Geylang, you are only good for sex...

-- Ironbowl

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Traditional Chinese Wedding.

The more I go to Chinese Weddings, the more disappointed I am.

I wonder if this is a "custom" thing or is it really necessary.


I was at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel Singapore for a Lunch Wedding reception today, and I would like to comment on a few things which seems to bother me.

1) This is one of the few restaurants I've been to where which does the really annoying dimming of lights before the first dish arrives. The hall is completely dark, and I find it rather annoying to wait in a dark room for 30 minutes - 1 hour before lunch is served. There is also a large curtain preventing light from coming in, so this was totally unnecessary.

2) The red wine is SOUR. I've not had such bad wine before, and yet the people at the table brag about being able to tell good wine from bad and traveling experiences. I did 100k miles last year, and I don't feel the need to compete with the people at the table.

3) Seems like in Chinese Wedding dinners, people are there to brag about their sons and daughters. I told my mom not to participate as the bragging seemed to be more and more exaggerated as the time pass by. Most other tables seem to participate.

4) There is nothing emotional about most of these marriages, mostly just showing relatives how successful the couple is and it feels like a business partnership / transaction. It just happens.

5) The food and service is bad, yet everyone is too nice to voice out. When the chicken is tasteless and a tad under-cooked, the shrimp and abalone has "strong seafood smell" The staff clears off your plate before you finish your food, and does not give you a new plate until slightly before the new dish. Food and Service -- POOR.

There is much more to complain, and after going to so many Dhinese wedding receptions, I reckoned that the "YUM SENG" Portion is totally unnecessary, and most people are not interested.

The lavish spending on "expensive menu" with bad food and service does not make your marriage more successful. (About 50% of the people I know are divorced now)

In my opinion, have a simple dinner with friends and family separately is good enough, it saves money, time, preparation, and the SHARKS.

Save your money, and go for a great Honeymoon!

-- IRON BOWL

P.S. I did not eat my bowl of sharks' fin today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In Singapore and outside Singapore

Seems like a dilemma for Singaporeans to just find a job and earn a lot of money. Screw your morals, family and other obligations, Medisave comes first.

Medisave – pay up or be charged? -- “Failure to pay Medisave contributions is an offence under the CPF Act and is liable for composition fine and possibly Court action.”

Even when you are not in Singapore, you need to contribute Medisave.

It seems like hoarding cash and giving to the Government is important here as you need cash for:

cash to pay COV for HDB Flats.

cash to pay my sch fees.

cash to get married.

cash to pay for my rental (cannot afford HDB)

cash to survive, cos i don't know when i will be lay off.

cash for my daily necessities cos living standard cost of Singapore is too high.

cash as welfare for poor people is $30 a month meal coupons, which will be used up in 3 days.

Medisave, CPF and other forms of contributions seemed like monies you cannot access anytime soon. It is virtually a form of tax if you can't use it.

There was a time you can access the funds when you are above 55, but things change, laws change, and I've known many people who had $$ in CPF and are 65, yet are so poor now as they do not have a job, family or a way to survive, except just getting $800 a month when they have thousands in their CPF which why want to use to start a business.

*Sigh*

We need a change.

-- Iron Bowl

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

For Show



Have you ever seen the nice looking bus stops in Singapore?

It seems like a lot of things done in Singapore is for show as the bus stops do not offer much shelters in the rain. (even when 50% of the time Singapore is raining.) The seats become very wet, and the rain does get into the bus stops.

I've seen much upgrading done to the Polytechnics and other Tertiary education, but it seemed like upgrading the facades but not the courses, and many things taught are still pretty back dated.

Is everything done in Singapore just for show?

Let me know your thoughts.

-- Ironbowl

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Slow and dangerous.


I often ask myself this question, is there such a thing as "slow and dangerous"? On 6 Feb, 2011, I finally witnessed it first hand.

I was on the 707 Travel Group Bus from Singapore to KL and it was a horrifying experience. I bought the tickets from Great Excursion Travel Pte Ltd for a 9am bus from Golden Mile Complex to Times Square KL. The bus that was allocated was an old bus with a cracked windshield, WRW6566. upon entering the bus, it felt messy, and unkept.

Apart being 1 hour late, we left Singapore at about 10am, the "slowness" was not as apparent as buses are only allowed to travel 60km/h in Singapore. However in Malaysia, I suddenly realized that everyone was over taking our bus, and when I looked over at the speedometer of the bus, I realized that it was broken.

In the first 3 hours of the bus ride, I've seen the bus weave between lanes, without signaling and often when there was no cars around. This was because the drive was on the phone half of the time and smoking a cigarette. On one occasion, he nearly hit a motorist, but narrowly escaped.

Then there was a break and the bus stopped for lunch at Yong Peng (It took about 2.5 hours to get there). Again, the break took longer than expected, and we left Yong Peng after 1:30pm, and traveled north towards KL. Before we left, I asked the driver not to chat on the phone or smoke as he nearly hit a motorist and he nodded in acknowledgment.

10 minutes into the drive, he was on his phone again. This time, the bus had problems shifting and I could feel that there may be problems with the brakes as the driver was keeping a very far distance between cars, and when the other cars braked, he needed that distance to stop in time.

The journey was a lot more exciting than it should as Malaysian cars enjoy switching lanes and cutting in front of the bus which was also swerving lane to lane, and getting overtaken by everyone. At times, the drive was getting honked at as he was not keeping to his lane while he was distracted by snacks, drinks, his cell phone or smoking.

I've constantly taken similar buses from other providers and even during the "peak-est" of holidays, the trip would have taken 6 hours. But it is now 8 hours into the bus, and I'm still on it. The ride was slow, and the constant weaving in traffic by the distracted slow driver still managed to make it more dangerous than necessary.

I could understand how fatal accidents could happen when these tour operators seem to hire very distracted drivers who enjoy chatting on the phones without a headset, while smoking a cigarette. I hope something could be done before any loss of life, but this seldom happen as safety seemed to be a secondary concern behind profits in many of the tour operators.


-- Robin Low

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

An analysis of the UBS study (Part 1): Singapore has the lowest wages and domestic purchasing power among the Asian Tigers (revisited)

The worldwide study conducted and released by UBS lately, titled “Price and Earnings 2009″ has some unflattering results for Singapore. (download the study here)

While our economy has the highest GDP (PPP) per capita in Asia at $49,288 according to a World Bank report (source: Wikipedia), our people do not enjoy a quality of life which commensurate with it.

Though we are technically a developed first world country, some economic indictators as shown by the UBS study suggested that Singaporeans are not that better off than those in Third World countries.



Low wages

Singapore has a GDP (PPP) per capita higher than Switzerland, but our wages are way below the Swiss.

The UBS study found that employees in Copenhagen, Zurich, Geneva and New York have the highest gross earnings. With its extremely high gross wages and comparatively low tax rates, Switzerland is a very employee-friendly country.

The net wages used have been deducted for taxes and social security.

Zurich and Geneva have wage indices (gross) of 119.8 and 107.5 respectively. In contrast, Singapore has a wage index of only 31.3, comparable with Moscow (30.9), Tallinn (28.7) and Johannesburg (26.7).

In the Asia-Pacific region, it is exceeded by Tokyo (83.0), Sydney (74.1), Auckland (44.1), Hong Kong (42.3), Taipei (35.5) and Seoul (32.3)



Low domestic purchasing power

Where does an average income buy the most products and services? Wages alone do not determine the standard of living in a particular city or country.

A better way to measure prosperity is to divide the average annual salary by the total price of a selected basket of goods and services (as used in the UBS study). This tells us how much purchasing power local wages.

Again, Zurich (106.9), Sydney (95.9) and Luxembourg (95.4) topped the list – its citizens have the highest domestic purchasing power.

Singaporeans have a low purchasing power of only 39.9, comparable to Kuala Lumpur (39.5), Warsaw (34.0) and Bogota (33.7).

Other countries in the Asia-Pacific region which are ahead of us are Tokyo (82.2), Auckland (68.9), Taipei (58.9), Hong Kong (58.1) and Seoul (57.4).

In other words, though the cost of living is higher in Tokyo, the average Japanese has a domestic purchasing power more than twice that of an average Singaporean.

Though Malaysia is still a developing country and has a GDP (PPP) per capita of only $14,215, less than 3 times of ours, the ordinary Malaysian citizen has about the same domestic purchasing power as the Singaporean.

Low relative purchasing power of wages

This is calculated in the UBS study by using a specific, highly uniform product that is available everywhere in the same quality, and then calculate how long an employee has to work to afford it in each city.

For the purpose of this article, the iPod nano (with 8 GB of storage) is used.

An average wage earner is Zurich and New York can buy a nano from an Apple store after nine hours of work. A Singapore worker will have to work three times longer after 27.5 hours.

The figures for selected Asia-Pacific cities are as follows: Sydney (9.5hrs), Tokyo (12hrs), Auckland (16hrs), Hong Kong (19hrs), Seoul (22hrs) and Taipei (23.5hrs). Again we came in last among the 4 Asian Tigers.

Long working hours

People work an average of 1,902 hours per year in the surveyed cities, but they work much longer in Asian and Middle Eastern cities, averaging 2,119 and 2,063 per year respectively.

European cities had the lowest working hours per year. A global comparison showed the people in Lyon and Paris spend the least amount of time at work: 1,582 and 1,594 hours respectively.

Singaporeans spent on average 2,088 hours at work per year with 11 days of vacation.

This is less than Hong Kong (2,295) and Seoul (2,312), but more than Tokyo (1,997), Taipei (2,074), Sydney (1,747) and Auckland (1,884).

Singaporeans also took the least number of holidays after Hong Kongers (10 days/year).

High cost of living

Singapore was ranked the second most expensive place to live in after Tokyo, surpassing Hong Kong for the first time.

Let us compare the food prices in Singapore and other developed countries since food is a basic necessity.

In the UBS study, a basket of 39 food items is put together and weighted mainly according to Western European consumption habits. The average worldwide cost of the basket is USD385.

In Asia, Tokyo topped the list with an index of 124.7, followed by Hong Kong (96.5), Singapore (89.4), Seoul (89.0), Taipei (67.9) and Sydney (66.3)

Conclusion

The high cost of living coupled with low wages and domestic purchasing power condemns the average Singapore worker to an ignonimous, monotonus and stressful working life.

Singapore workers have to work harder to earn the same amount of money and save for a longer period to purchase the same product.

In 1991, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong promised Singaporeans that we will be able to achieve the “Swiss standard of living” within a decade. Ten years later, we have a living standard which is closer to Russia than Switzerland.

Like Singapore, the Russians has a low wage and domestic purchasing power and Russia, especially the city of Moscow, has one of the highest cost of living in the world.

In the next part of this article, we shall examine the uncanny similiarities between life in Singapore and Russia after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.


This article is being reposted.

More info here