Jan 30, 2007

On Real Life & TV

I recently mentioned that I have often tended to disbelieve the government. Shianux has an interesting response. An excerpt:
      Technically speaking, it's not wrong to say that it's a good thing to “disbelieve” the government. That however, is only half the answer. It is incomplete and unsatisfactory, because it assumes that the government is trying to lie to you (they are not), and it provides no actual guidance to answering the question.

      When the government makes faulty predictions for the future, it does not mean that they are lying to you. It simply illustrates the truism that the minutiae of a capitalist economy is beyond the control of any individual or group of individuals, no matter how intelligent.
Shianux has missed out on one element. The government has its agenda. You have your own. The two will often not coincide. Even if we assume that what the government wants is good for the nation, we have to bear in mind that what is good for the nation may not be good for you.

Here is an example. Last night I was watching TV. An ad came on. It was one of those pro-family, it's-fun-to-have-babies advertisements from the government. It showed cute, smiley babies. Happy, joyful parents. Kids doing fun things like camping with Daddy and in-line skating with Mummy. All is light and joy and happiness.

As we all know, birth rates in Singapore have been falling steadily over the years. The ageing population has been identified as one of the biggest challenges for Singapore. For quite some time now, the government has been
hard at work trying to convince more Singaporeans to have children. Pumping the media with happy, ideal images of family life is one of the government's methods.

Raising children can certainly be a joyful thing. It is for me. In fact, my two children are the centre of my life. Nevertheless, for many Singaporeans, having children could well turn out to be a very bad idea. Why? Because they simply cannot afford to have children:
    The income of the bottom 30 percent of the population has fallen. What is more worrying is the fact that the majority of Singaporeans in the middle class has only seen about a one percent increase in their nominal income in the last 5 years.
When you have a child, or two, your monthly expenses will certainly expand by much more than one percent. For starters, think obstetrician, hospital, paedatrician, cot, milk powder, immunisation jabs, baby clothes, toys, domestic helper, food, preschool, kindergarten, school bus & uniforms.

All this could actually be quite okay, if your income also grows steadily to match your increasing expenditure. However, for the bottom 30 percent of the population, and the majority of middle-class Singaporeans, this simply isn't happening. It hasn't been happening for the past five years.

So when you watch TV, just remember this - it's like the movies. Most of it isn't real.


Anonymous said...

I think the words to use are "propaganda" and "spin".

It happens with all governments, corporations, organisations and individuals.

Well..... notice that government ministries, stat boards, etc have "corporate communications officers" (aka spin doctors) or whatever they are called. Their purpose is to package information in a way that shows the government in a good light or to package information that is acceptable or digestible for the masses. It is just one way of looking at the information, and up to you to accept it or not.

zHuAz said...

Maybe I expound on the issue of manpower too often. But when the company hits a low, the workers take the blunt for "redunancy" but what of the bosses who could not save the company from the low?

When the economy picks up "because US consumers have confidence", bosses get rewarded first.

And Mr Wang, you quoted correctly but should bold and underline the word nominal, because 1% increase in nominal income against the annual more than 1% inflation, is in actaul fact a pay cut or real wage decrease.

How to afford more babies? Especially when the costs increases are in electrical and water bills due to "oil prices" which have since come down, but not the utilities rates! And of course, our public transport prices too, which did not result in bigger wages for the middle-lower management group?

And of course I am still waiting for NTUC and MOM to comment on this http://lemondroplets.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!26F399664A850E81!304.entry

Anonymous said...

It has come to a point that whatever you hear/read from the government have to be taken with a large amount of salt. There are those who believed and got screwed. There are those who are still believing and still get screwed. There are those who got screwed when they disbelieve. Of course, there are those who disbelieved and got smarter. Then, they are those who disbelieve whatever they are telling the rest of the people themselves.

So, the next time, when they say something, you ask "do not believe what you have just said"...

HH said...

I believe it is a case of not believes everything the government said. Same thing goes for any other source of information.

If you read something from the news either from the heavily “sanitized” one from the MSM or from the Internet, you should not believe 100% of what it said.

Rather you should try to gather your information from several sources and come up with you own conclusion.

I agreed with Mr Wang on the children bearing propaganda advertisement by our government.

Bring up children indeed could be a joyful experience but it may be jolly well be a traumatizing one if you are not prepares for it.

moomooman said...

What's good on the government who TRY to make faulty predictions so that young adults can make a bad decision to study a certain course so that they can have a bad future, and indirectly affects the economy as a whole?

Anonymous said...

I think I have a problem with English. So maybe you can help me.

How does one managed to extrapolate your disbelieving something to mean your suggesting that you are painting the government as lying. Does disbelieving means one accuse another of lying?

If so does it mean one could be held for libel or slander for using such a word? ;-)

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

This is one of those kinds of points which I am considering discussing at the seminar. Perhaps I'll blog about it after 3 Feb.

Anonymous said...

I suppose most does know what is happening to our neighbours - Jeff and Rocky :-)

Anonymous said...

Best example of saying one thing and doing another... the govt's never ending talk on religious, racial harmony, meritocracy, anti-discrimination bla bla bla... one look at hougang, potong pasir and you know its all a load of rubbish, so much for equality.

George Yeo blogged about the harmony thingy too, no response from him about a comment left there. Makes you wonder about his sincerity


le radical galoisien said...

but don't forget

more babies => more demand => more jobs

So yes, expenses increase, but the economy could increase also, no?

Of course, again, as I think you have mentioned before, "I'm going to have a baby so I have to buy more consumer products and thereby aid the economy!"

Anonymous said...

more babies => more demand => more jobs

So Singapore's population has grown from 3 million-5 million in the last decade of FT policy.

More jobs you said?

russell1200 said...

more babies => more demand => more jobs

It is very possible that the statement "it would be good for our country if we had more children" could be true, but that the statement "it is good for you (the individual) if you have more children" would not be true.

Presumably then you (the individual) would then do your best to convince other that it is best that they have children while abstaining from the practice yourself. This is generally referred to as the "freeloader" problem.

Do government officials have more children then the people in comparable economic-demographic situations?

Anonymous said...

Yah, have more children, 2, 3, 4, 5....... then when you got no job, no $ to feed ur kids the garmen will say "Govt will not bail out financially irresponsible households"......then sell house to pay debts, have to buy tent and sleep in parks, the garmen will say "homeless by choice".......everything oso garmen say, so the garmen is always winner......

Anonymous said...

"the minutiae of a capitalist economy is beyond the control of any individual or group of individuals, no matter how intelligent."
Try telling that to Mr Lee Kuan Yew - he's still maintaining he knows all, sees all, even at age 83. He was the guy with the superior gene theories, and caused unfathomable pain with the graduate mum policy. I thought God humbled him with his autistic and albino grandchildren, but it doesn't seem the case. Now he has an errant son to boot.

Anonymous said...

We have lost our innocence when we put money first in our decisions to get married and raise children. Ever wonder why people, happy people I may add, in Myanmar, Somalia and Bangladesh get hitched up and procreate? Ignore the Ministers who live in $12 million bungalows with 24/7 Gurkha security guards, you can start home in a rented one-room flat. Day-care centers who charge $500 per month are just rip-offs for insecure parents. And do you really need to get a place in SMU to succeed? Just look at Creative's founder. God ordained that on this earth we find someone to love, and then produce offspring to shower them with love. It's that simple, really. Otherwise, you may be a $4 million a year CEO with a beautiful, talented wife and still end up with an illicit liaison with a lowly personal assistant.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious that Shianux does not have the same problems that writers in this column are highlighting. Shianux lives in a different world.

If proganda is not intended to lie and deceive, then there is no need to control the media!!!!

simplesandra said...

"the minutiae of a capitalist economy is beyond the control of any individual or group of individuals, no matter how intelligent."

Aye, but it isn't just about "faulty predictions". It's about credibility and accountability, and I'd sooner believe someone who makes a poor call and then raise his or her hand in apology, than one who tries to put a positive spin on every piece of bad news and hopes people don't notice.

Anonymous said...

Honestly I don't think decisions are made these days for the good of the nation, rather increasingly, decisions are made for the good of the PAP or to be more precise, decisions are made to ensure that the "exceptional family" do not lose power.

Anonymous said...

Larry, some people handle imperfections in their lives by striving for perfection although it is an impossible task.

Now you see why Singapore has to be no. 1 in everything? Is it really totally globalization that necessitates it?

Anonymous said...

But the government has indeed been lying! All the time, in fact. So, Shianux is mistaken to say: "When the government makes faulty predictions for the future, it does not mean that they are lying to you."

And this consnat lying will be the cause of its downfall <-- this one not I say. Confucius say one leh!

Anonymous said...

I digress but SMU? Simply Made Up.

No, I don't believe in the type of marketing which so eerily looks like our Government's.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, s separate issue, but also about taking MSM message with a mega rock of salt.

Singapore is recognising more overseas trained doctors to work in Singapore. Supposedly to alleviate the situation of insufficient doctors in Singapore.

Now, the medical intake is a quota governed by the MOH according to MOH manpower forecasts. If we face a HUGE shortage now, does it not mean that MOH screwed up in their forecast?

Point 2 is more important. For all the good and qualified people we refused admission to Medicine, because of MOH screwing up the quota forecast, there will be no compensation for "redirecting"(ruining?) their future.

For screwing up with national manpower resource AND many people's lives, the Minister and Senior Civil Servants get pay increases and promotions?

Food for thought.

And why is the media not probing into this?!

Anonymous said...

So tell us, "why Singapore has to be no. 1 in everything?"
Can we not recognise our natural limitations? Will Singapore ever be an oil producer? Will Singapore police the world like USA?
One thing's for sure, if Singapore wins the Sunday match against Thailand, real blood will flow. Sometimes eating humble pie does a world of good in human terms.

riverlight said...

Please mr wang. what do you want your govt to do for u? make things good only for u because your life is the most impt. i am no supporter of the govt but i do want want your truths only.

Anonymous said...

hey ugly,

I don't know what Mr Wang would say, but I would say this:
1. that PAP/lky stops thinking he knows best and behaves like a commie through central planning
2. be accountable and not spin every news to make them look good
3. stop doing things in point 1 and then treat us like kids by saying its good for us. they have been wrong too often to deserve this privilege
4. they are too paranoid of losing power that they are resorting to underhanded tactics. governance is a higher calling and their behaviour is a disgrace

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"Please mr wang. what do you want your govt to do for u?"

For myself personally, I would be happy if they leave me alone. For S'pore generally, well, you can read the 480 posts on my old blog, to get some idea.

Anonymous said...

I would like the government to treat singles as decent human beings equality along with the rest of the citizens. It's amazing how your worth as a human being suddenly escalates to top levels of priority once you get married.

Anonymous said...

more babies => more demand => more jobs

Hehe eh kawan, Malaysia has been having a lot more babies since day 1. Got more jobs?

More than 80,000 Malaysian graduate unemployed. You have a serious issue on your analytical capabilities hor? Hehehe

Anonymous said...

Hate to say this but sixteen year old is really too young to comment in this topic

Anonymous said...

Here's something ironic. On family orientated programs like "happy fish" etc, I noticed the families are always squabbling over big and small issues. Not only that, they often plot against one another with ludicrous plans.

So much for happy families.