Mar 30, 2007

Change Is Coming

To this blog, that is.

Commenting on my previous post about yet another monstrous increase in ministers' salaries, a reader wrote:
"You can debate, go on and on.... Does it make an inch of difference what will happen?

Many of us wish for a more equitable society... possibly a consequence of years of reciting the national pledge.

That is but a wish and unless your 'fair'y appears and grants your wish, time spent wishing is time wasted.

Focus on things that are within your
circle of influence. This will hopefully expand the range of choices available."
Yes, I do grow a little tired. In a sense - I give up. I need a change. So does this blog.

I am going to adopt a new thematic focus. This blog is usually devoted to analysing social trends, current affairs and the latest ways the government is messing things up. However, from now on, I will be much more practical.

I will be blogging my thoughts on about how the average Singaporean can survive, and thrive, and manoeuvre his way into a better life for himself - taking into account social trends, current affairs and the latest ways the government is messing things up.

In other words, I am going to write about what the average Singaporean can do, within his own
circle of influence.

I haven't figured out all the details yet, but you get the general sense of where I'm going. Hope we all have fun. Look forward to all your comments on my future posts, as usual.

Mar 29, 2007

Sweet Talking

I was on holiday late last week, with no Internet access. When I came back, I learned that the PAP ministers had raised their salaries again.

Well, this was no surprise. Months ago, SM Goh had already dropped hints that the salary increase was on its way. So now, their salaries are not only the world's highest ministerial salaries, but the world's highest ministerial salaries by far.

Eat your heart out, George Bush.

I still haven't caught up with all the details. I've just been quickly browsing articles via the
Intelligent Singaporean on this matter. MM Lee's age is showing - he spouts little bits of strange nonsense like this:
"Low salaries will draw in the hypocrites who sweet talk their way into power in the name of public service, but once in charge will show their true colour, and ruin the country."
This is an illogical statement. One may just as well assert: "High salaries will draw in the hypocrites who sweet talk their way into power in the name of public services ...". Surely high salaries have greater ability than low salaries to attract hypocrites.

In fact, both statements are untrue. In Singapore, most ministers do not need to "sweet-talk their way into power in the name of public service". They just need to be picked by MM Lee, to be minister. That's the tough part. The easy part is getting into Parliament - that's usually done by election walkover.

Anyway, I wonder how the founding fathers of Singapore, like
Goh Keng Swee or S Rajaratnam, would feel about MM Lee's remark. Really insulted, I guess.

Back in those days, ministerial salaries were low, far lower than now. There was no such thing as pegging ministers' salaries to the absolute top earners in the private sector. But were Goh and Rajaratnam really "hypocrites who sweet-talked their way into power in the name of public service"?

I don't think so.

Mar 27, 2007

Globalisation At Work

Just started work at my new organisation (a bank). I learned something quite interesting during the orientation programme.

The HR department has a special service to help foreign employees in Singapore process their PR applications. However, that HR service has been outsourced to the global processing centre in Mumbai.

In other words, the administrative work of getting PR status for foreign employees in Singapore is now being handled by people in India.

We learn a few interesting things here. Firstly, this bank employs so many foreigners in Singapore that it's worth the trouble of setting up special support and administrative services for them.

Secondly, so many of the foreign employees end up applying for PR status that the HR department finds it cost-efficient to set up a special service to help them do it.

Thirdly, outsourcing has become so extensive that even such a highly local process as PR applications in Singapore has been outsourced to India. In other words, the bank does not hire any secretary, clerk or admin officer in Singapore to do the necessary paperwork. It's cheaper to get someone in India to do it.

Mar 20, 2007

Mar 19, 2007

The Hungry Island

In early February, the Singapore government announced its plans to eventually support and sustain 6.5 million people on our little island. Right now we're already the 2nd most crowded country in the world.

Blogger Alex Au (aka Yawning Bread) was
not too concerned about this. In his analysis, he considered three broad areas - housing, transport and leisure. Alex gave examples of how it could or would be possible to create adequate space in Singapore for 6.5 million people. For example, build taller flats; build more train lines; build more linkways between buildings; build taller shopping centres and cineplexes.

All his suggestions share one common element - build. Perhaps that's what has recently terrified Indonesia. Construction requires concrete, and concrete requires sand, and Singapore has little of its own. So we must get what we need from our neighbours.

According to the Times article below, in 1965 Singapore was 581 sq km (224 sq miles); but by 2007, it had grown to 650 sq km and also plans to acquire another 100 sq km in the next 30 years. Furthermore it is not merely that our surface area is expanding; we are also building underground (eg more and more MRT lines) and upwards (taller and taller buildings) and all these activities require natural resources.

When we see things in this light, we may begin to realise that Indonesia may have genuine environmental concerns about Singapore grabbing its sand. Sometimes we may be overly inclined to think of Singapore as the poor whipping boy of its big, nasty neighbours. We might also see the recent sand ban as Singapore's latest whipping. But if you were Indonesia, wouldn't it be legitimate for you to be
a little concerned about your vanishing islands?

TIMES March 17, 2007
Singapore accused of land grab as islands disappear by boatload
Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Editor

With more than 17,000 islands — from the jungly expanses of Borneo and Sumatra to unnamed rocks jutting out of the sea — you may think that Indonesia would not mind if a few of them went missing. But the huge South-East Asian nation has become caught up in a furious dispute with Singapore, its tiny neighbour, which is accused of literally making off with its territory.

Indonesia has banned the export of sand and imposed strict controls on shipments of gravel, after fears that its islands were being loaded on to ships and carried away to Singapore. In its thirst for building materials and landfill to reclaim new territory from the sea, Indonesians allege, Singapore has been stealing the land beneath their feet.

The dispute reached a climax this week after 24 tugs and barges, carrying granite chips, were intercepted by the Indonesian authorities as they sailed home to Singapore. Jakarta announced that future exports would be allowed only if the granite could be certified as environmentally friendly.

Since Indonesia announced its ban on sand in February, the price of a cubic metre of it has increased more than seven times, from S$6.5 (£2.18) to S$50. The Indonesian Navy has mobilised 18 ships to intercept gravel pirates and sand bandits.

“Some of these islands are reduced to islets, and could even disappear below the surface,” Hendropriyono, Indonesia’s former intelligence chief, has said. “This could theoretically lead to a cartographic zero-sum game in which Singapore’s gain could be at Indonesia’s territorial loss.”

Relations between Singapore and its neighbours have been tense since the city state became independent from Malaysia in 1965, and disagreements often arise over natural resources. The Singaporean achievement was to create an affluent, highly educated society in a swampy, jungly, malarial island with a population of 4.5 million people at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula.

Singapore’s reliance on its neighbours gives them powerful leverage over it — in the past Malaysia, with whom relations are particularly prickly, has threatened to cut off water supplies across the Straits of Johor. But the sand sanctions are equally threatening.

After years of stagnation, Singapore is undergoing a construction boom, with an increased demand for sand for the manufacture of concrete. The island also has long-term plans to ease its overcrowding by reclaiming land from the sea.

At independence, Singapore was 581 sq km (224 sq miles); now it is 650 sq km and plans to acquire another 100 sq km in the next 30 years. It gets through 1.5 billion cubic metres (2 billion cubic yards) of dredged silica a year — 333 cubic metres for each man, woman and child. The Government has been forced to draw on its strategic sand reserve, which Singapore hoards as other nations keep stocks of oil and food.

There may be more to Indonesia’s position than a sudden rush of environmental conscientiousness. If Indonesia really does lose islands, it also risks losing the rights to the ocean surrounding them. “The Convention on the Law of the Sea dictates that national territory is traced according to the coastal base line, and if islands near Singapore disappear, then the base line is pulled closer to the mainland,” says Mr Hendropriyono. “As it now stands, Singapore is only 20 kilometres from Nipah island, which has been especially eroded by the loss of sand.”

Mar 18, 2007

One for Mr Wang's Files

Not much to say about this topic that I haven't already said before. I'm just preserving the excerpt below, from a STAR article, for my own records:
NS Rumblings on the Rise
By Seah Chiang Nee
17 March 2007

...... With Singaporeans facing growing competition from foreign workers, however, national service has become a strain when bosses pass them over in favour of permanent residents (PRs) because of their “cumbersome” reservist duties.

Singaporean employers who have gone through it are generally more ready to employ reservists, but foreign companies often feel no such responsibility.

They often turn away locals who are still doing reservist duty, preferring to hire foreigners or PRs, who are free of the obligation.

An average of 30,000 foreigners (2006: 57,000) and PRs are accepted every year, and they are not required to serve military service.

This anomaly is causing rumblings among NS men who feel – quite rightly – that the system reduces their ability to compete in the workplace.

Recently, a fresh Singaporean 26-year-old graduate related his interview at a foreign-owned fabrication plant here.

The first question the Taiwanese manager asked him was: “I see you are a Singaporean. Do you need to go back to serve NS every year?”

When he replied that he had to report back for in-camp training every year, the manager reacted negatively, observing that reservists who failed fitness tests would need to train until they passed.

He also mentioned frequent absence of employees who had to attend occasional military meetings, which disrupted workflow.

“If every Singaporean needs to do all this, then I’d rather not hire you all then. Every year you all have to take long periods of absence for NS and no work is done,” he added.

The Singaporean didn’t get the job.

“Singaporean males are going to suffer from this influx of foreign talents. We don’t have an even ground to compete on!” he complained.

The government appealed to employers not to discriminate against reservists, but it in many cases, it has fallen on deaf ears.

The logic of appeals borders on the absurd, remarked a blogger.

“Why should a business entity which has to earn a profit for shareholders support an obligation imposed on Singaporean males?”

Mar 16, 2007

What We Believe

Muslims don't drink alcohol. Hindus don't eat beef. However, in Singapore, they don't try to prohibit non-Muslims or non-Hindus from consuming alcohol or beef. Why?

Because the freedom of religion exists in Singapore. The first aspect of this freedom is that each of us is free to practise our own faith. The second aspect, which follows logically, is that we shouldn't impose our own faith on others.

Just as we worship the gods of our own choice, so too should others be permitted to worship the gods of their own choice. Similarly if you choose not to drink alcohol or not to eat pork, that's fine - but you shouldn't stop others from doing so. Especially if they don't share your religion.

Mutual respect and tolerance is the basic principle on which an inter-religious society like Singapore can hold itself together, in relative harmony.

Recently I learned from Yawning Bread's
blog that the National Council of Churches of Singapore is seeking to criminalise lesbianism. I find this disturbing. I sense a potential threat to the freedom of religion in Singapore.

If church leaders merely stood up in their own churches and preached to their own congregations "It is wrong to be lesbian", I would not feel so disturbed. For those who believed such a statement, I would feel a little sorry, but it is ultimately their own church. Within their own church, they should have the freedom to do what they like, as long as they don't impose their beliefs on others.

But now the NCCS is advocating the criminalisation of lesbianism in Singapore. The NCCS considers lesbianism to be "
abhorrent and deviant", and wants to make it an offence for any lesbian, to be lesbian. They want such a law to apply to all female Singaporeans, whether they are Christians or not.

That is disturbing. Very disturbing.

Mar 15, 2007

On Life, Work & Study

ST March 15, 2007
Kids, it's your life, so plan for it
Kai-Alexander Schlevogt

OPEN houses showcase not only the host but also his guests. University fairs therefore are a crystal ball on the nation's future.

Two student archetypes dominate: the specialist and the existentialist. Members of the first category know exactly what they want. Without taking note of anything else, these youngsters dash to the business faculty's booth. They ask the delighted officer to admit them to a BBA in accountancy and extra courses in derivatives.

In contrast, the existentialist, clueless about his future, wanders around until some staff member grabs him. To appear less awkward, he mumbles a supposedly intelligent question, such as: 'What exactly is business?'

Both approaches to career planning are problematic in view of the national objective to raise innovativeness and job satisfaction. They lead either to premature closure or endless drifting. It is therefore imperative for students to take corrective measures at an early stage. They need to be supported by those who have a stake in their future, including parents, politicians and educators.

Students should start with the end and reason backwards to what needs to be done now. They need to plan their lives, not only their careers.

An effective approach is to write an imaginary newspaper article to be published on their 100th birthday, outlining their legacy. Instead of striving for specific titles ('I want to become prime minister'), they should develop a broad and noble purpose that makes them feel passionate and will outlast them. On their life journey, they need to step back often and assess their progress.

Even with broad aspirations in place, students should strike a balance between specialisation and openness. If they choose the wrong slot at an early stage, job satisfaction will plummet.

I recommend building a portfolio of options. When some roads to the destination become blocked, there will be alternative routes. So even if a student is passionate about accounting, he may consider studying other subjects first and specialise later.

Such flexibility contrasts with the early pragmatism of many Asian parents. They want their children to become bankers because of the high earning potential.

Oh, what a coincidence. It so happens that Mr Wang is just about to become an investment banker. This is quite a big change for Mr Wang. For the first time in his career, Mr Wang will not be working as a lawyer.

Yet the change is not as big as it may appear. You see, Mr Wang is currently an investment banking lawyer. So now he's going to cross over the legal side, into the business side. From investment banking lawyer, to investment banker. There will be many new things to learn, but it won't be completely alien territory.

Kai-Alexander, in his article, talks about building a portfolio of options. In my opinion, this is good advice. Keeping your options open is a good strategy because the future is constantly in flux. Ideally you should position yourself such that the possibility of taking alternative routes stays open to you.

My best single piece of advice for young Singaporeans is that you must never stop learning. It sounds cliched and you've heard it many times before, but it's true.

Personally, I review and update my resume every six months, even when I have no intention of changing jobs at all. I do this to check on my learning progress. If after any six-month period I have nothing new to add into my resume, then I know I am in danger of stagnating.
Bear in mind most people spend the greatest part of their life working. How terrible must it feel to drag yourself to work every day, longing for the evening when you can pursue hobbies with great enthusiasm? It is far better to use one's energies on the job. Money will not pour in by itself if you do not work for it.

Second, students should think about how they can rise above the noise level by acquiring distinctive competencies. Take a consulting firm like McKinsey & Co, the ultimate dream for many graduates. Every year, thousands of students with similar academic qualifications apply, but only a few are chosen.

Recruiters look for what is truly special about an applicant's life story. The educational system rewards examination performance, but students need to step out of this narrow box to succeed in life.

How about founding a pioneering company while studying? Why not learn at least five world languages? These objectives seem a tall order given academic pressures. But smart multi-tasking can help to alleviate the workload.

For example, more students should study and work abroad. Instead of defaulting to the United States, they may want to consider Europe, which is winning the soft power contest and offers more diversity. By going abroad, they can pick up a foreign language as easily as an infant acquires his mother tongue.
The key point here is "acquiring distinctive competencies". I've seen the resumes, and I know the track records, of some young outstanding Singaporeans. Indeed it's not just about grades - it's also about the distinctive competencies.

The problem with the strategy of "acquiring distinctive competencies" is that in the context of prevailiing Singapore culture, it may degenerate into a "pick the best CCA" strategy - for example, the one that looks most pleasing on a scholarship application form.

The word "distinctive" is likely to be forgotten, in the drive to "acquire distinctive competencies". One example is how large numbers of Singaporean parents used to (or still do) foist piano lessons on their children. This is fine, if the children happen to have an interest in music. It is not fine if the children have no such interest or aptitude, and hate having to take their piano exams. It just becomes a shameful waste of time and effort.

People start to develop truly distinctive competencies when they are permitted to be individuals, and to pursue their own interests. See my earlier post, about
respecting your own unique strengths.

Mar 12, 2007

US Soldier States the Bleeding Obvious

An article from TODAY.
US soldier takes potshots at SAF
Mindef responds to criticism over inexperienced scholars, soft soldiers, status of Malays

Monday • March 12, 2007

Loh Chee Kong

ARE Singapore's top military commanders too young and inexperienced?

Are they fast-tracked to the upper echelons because of their scholar credentials, while more experienced non-scholars or "farmers" — as they have been unceremoniously labelled — toil in vain?

Are soldiers here soft because of the emphasis on safety during training at the expense of realism?

And do officers lack professionalism and commitment because mandatory retirement at 45 means many see their time in uniform "as a stepping stone" to a second career in politics or business.

These questions, and several others, are the subject of a critique of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) published in United States-based journal Armed Forces & Society. The quarterly circulates some 2000 copies worldwide.
I can't help laughing. It's so funny, the way these questions are being asked - as if everyone didn't already know the answers.

Regarding Question 4, I was just accosted by an ex-SAF major two months ago who wanted to sell me insurance. I ended up giving him some advice on how to structure his own investments.

The article, which has made its rounds in Singapore and created a stir among the uniformed ranks, was written by an American soldier Sean Walsh, who was stationed at the United States Embassy in Singapore for several weeks in 2004, during his summer break from the US Military Academy.

In the article, The Roar of the Lion City, the writer also claimed that women have been held back from holding high posts in the SAF, and that there is a policy to keep Malays out of sensitive areas.

Despite his criticism of the SAF, Mr Walsh, who graduated from the US Army Ranger School, concluded his article by saying "there can be no doubt that the SAF is the most competent, well-equipped and best trained force in the whole of South-east Asia" — a claim the SAF itself has not made.

He also admitted that the SAF was "more than capable" of defending Singapore's borders, conducting peacekeeping missions and dealing with asymmetric threats in the wake of 911. It possessed a "world-class" special operations force which would not require outside assistance, he noted.

So, why the paradoxical praise and criticism of the SAF?

Umm, because the angmo was being fair, reasonable and truthful?

But once again, let's not get confused. The man wasn't actually saying anything new. For many years, Jane's Defence has consistently held the view that the SAF is the top military force in South-east Asia.

I wonder if this is even surprising. Singapore is the richest country in South-east Asia; it spends the most money on defence, and it is the only country with conscription.

(Malaysia doesn't count. They started only in December 2003, and only called up 85,000 youths, out of the roughly 450,000 youths born in 1986).

Mr Walsh, who is deployed in Germany, could not be contacted, but in his article he pointed to the age of SAF's top commanders — such as Brigadier-General Desmond Quek, who was 39 when he was promoted to the post of Army Chief — and concluded that "youth naturally corresponds to inexperience" and this "casts obvious doubts on their ability to lead in a conflict against battle-hardened troops".

However, responding to queries from Today, Col Benedict Lim, director of public affairs at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), said: "The SAF does not seek out wars but will not flinch from putting its soldiers into harm's way to fulfil its primary mission of protecting the vital interests of our country."

He also pointed out that the SAF carries out about 70 exercises annually with other countries' armed forces, some of which have considerable combat experience, and has been praised for its professionalism. The SAF has also carried out humanitarian missions, for example during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Defence analyst Dr Alvin Chew told Today that the debate centred on Singapore's defence policy, which is based on diplomacy and deterrence. As such, the relative youthfulness of SAF officers, who are groomed in building bilateral or multi-lateral relationships with foreign militaries, was not a major drawback.

Watch the next few valiant attempts to defend the status quo:
Also, given that fighting a war is not the Republic's most pressing concern, defence analyst Dr Bernard Loo said that early retirement meant that the SAF's best and brightest could be deployed for "broader or higher national purposes — whether it is in running the economy, or running the Government".

Where the SAF's best and brightest will no doubt do a great job, since they have highly relevant experience. After all, operating a submarine is exactly the same as managing a bank or running a statutory board.


I skip to the next interesting part, about the Malays in the military.
Perhaps the most controversial claim by the US soldier was that "official discrimination against the Malay population remains an open secret" and those of the race are "systematically kept out" of sensitive areas.

I don't see why this is a "controversial" claim. It isn't even an "open secret" - it's not a secret at all. If I recall correctly, years ago, Lee Kuan Yew himself had publicly spoken about this matter; I'll try to dig that up. The rationale is that there are concerns about where the allegiance of Malay SAF men would lie, in the event of any conflict with our Muslim neighbours.

Whether you agree or disagree with the policy, is a different question from whether the policy exists. I think it is quite clear that the policy exists (or had existed). However, the extent and degree to which it has been implemented may have changed. During my time, it was rather obvious that a disproportionately high percentage of Malays were sent to the Singapore Civil Defence Force, and not to the SAF at all.

Notice that Col Lim, as quoted below, also refers to "the challenges of building ethnic and religious harmony in Singapore" and says that "integration in the SAF would proceed in tandem with nation-building".
Mr Walsh claims that this has two major consequences: It "limits the involvement of the ethnic group most inclined to join the military" and it feeds the "perception of a second-class status among Malays, a fact which terrorist recruiters have taken advantage of before, and they may do so again" — referring to the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members arrested in Singapore for plotting terrorist attacks.

Addressing this charge, Col Lim said: "The writer's prescription for ethnic integration in the SAF seriously underestimates the challenges of building ethnic and religious harmony in Singapore.

"Singapore has made much progress in ethnic and religious integration. Singapore does not gloss over the fact that there is yet more to be done and addresses these challenges directly and openly."

Stressing that integration in the SAF would proceed in tandem with nation-building, Col Lim added that there are a good number of Malay SAF officers, some with higher degrees, whose studies were sponsored by the SAF, and whether a Malay SAF officer makes it to a higher appointment depends solely on merit.

In fact, Malay officers have risen through the ranks and held senior appointments.

"We have Malay pilots, commandos and air defence personnel. Those who have shown the potential to take on higher appointments in the SAF are given every opportunity to do so. Malay officers in the SAF hold key appointments such as Commanding Officer," said Col Lim.

"In fact, the proportion of eligible Malays selected for specialist and officer training is similar to the proportion for eligible non-Malays."

Personally, I have always felt that the discrimination issue is not such a big deal. The simple reason is that the Singapore Armed Forces is a conscript army. The vast majority of people in the SAF are not there by choice. They are forced to be there.

Most NSmen just want to serve their time and get out, in the least painful way possible. If the colour of your skin excludes you from the "siong" (tough) vocations in the SAF, then this is not necessarily a bad thing. Personally (and I stress that this is my personal view), if I were Malay, I would be quite pleased if there were an official policy that kept me out of places like Hendon Camp, or Guards or Singapore Combat Engineers.

Also, remember this - SAF officers have 10 extra years of reservist duties! I'd rather not, thank you very much.

Mar 9, 2007

Thought for the Day

Just came across an Albert Einstein quote in a book yesterday. Thought I'd share:
    "Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid."
I post this, because it makes a neat point about the preceding post (see below).

So remember folks, you're not stupid just because you weren't good at what Singapore judges you by. That applies to your Chinese Language grade too.

Mar 7, 2007

Psychometrics at Work

How interesting.
Business Times - 05 Mar 2007
Psychometrics picking up steam among firms
Some use the tests to ensure candidates fit their corporate culture


FEW local organisations now use psychometric tests to recruit staff - but that could change.

'I believe it will slowly pick up among smaller firms,' says GMP Group chief executive Annie Yap. 'Plus, firms are trying to cut down on the number of wrong hires, which can be quite costly. A psychometric test can help reduce that.'

Similarly, Alex Lee, general manager of SHL Group, which administers psychometric tests, says Singapore companies that have expanded overseas have grown more aware of psychometric techniques.

The tests are said to measure a candidate's suitability for a job by assessing their personality traits and other qualities. Some companies use the tests to ensure candidates fit their corporate culture and have the aptitude to succeed.

According to both consultants, the tests are generally used by bigger companies like multinationals, which adopt a scientific approach to recruitment.

'These big corporations often look for certain personality traits and emotional quotient, besides educational qualifications and experience,' says Ms Yap.

GMP says the tests can pick up traits such as leadership qualities, which are crucial for strategic roles. The company has been using psychometrics tests for the past decade and found them a useful supplement to interviews and other screening. Other organisations known to have used psychometrics for recruitment include the civil service and big names like DHL International.
I previously took one of these psychometric tests. My then-employer did not use these tests to screen potential hires. Instead the tests were used to identify the strengths of all senior managers and all high-potential employees.

The test we took was the
Gallup Strengthsfinder. I really like the underlying philosophy of this system. Its whole idea is to focus on the person's strengths, and not his weaknesses.

Gallup's extensive research on highly successful people had led to the following conclusion. Highly successful people do not become highly successful by overcoming their natural weaknesses. Instead they become highly successful by developing their natural strengths.

For example, Beethoven was successful not because he was good in sports, but because he was great in music. Maradona was successful not because he was good in music, but because he was great in sports.

Going by Gallup's philosophy, what should we do if we had a young Beethoven and a young Maradona today? We should encourage the Beethoven to pursue music, and the Maradona to pursue sports. Sounds rather obvious, actually.

However, in Singapore, the problem is that we would penalise both Beethoven and Maradona, for being bad in Chinese. Next, we would send them into NS to be riflemen. After that, we would make them study life sciences, to support the government's latest economic drive.

Anyway, back to Gallup. For organisations, the correct strategy is firstly to identify the natural strengths of their key employees. Secondly, you encourage them to be aware of their strengths and develop them. Thirdly, you move them into positions, roles and projects where they have maximum opportunities to use their natural strengths.

I still remember my psychometric results. My top five
themes were Intellection, Achiever, Strategic, Ideation and Learner. In brief, I think deep; deliver results; strategise well; produce creative ideas; and absorb new concepts like a sponge. My psychologist remarked that these are ideal traits for a future CEO in a dynamic, innovation-driven industry. Heheh.

Every individual has different strengths. For example if your top five themes were Command, Discipline, Strategic, Responsibility and Competition, you would have the natural makings of a great military leader. (War would be the ultimate competitive situation).

Mar 1, 2007

Why The Arts Cannot Flourish in Singapore

ST Feb 28, 2007
Nude art? Not in public area

By Adeline Chia

AN ART gallery has been told it cannot display a 4m-high painting of a nude woman in the public atrium of a government building.

SooBin Art Gallery had wanted to showcase the US$60,000 (S$91,500) oil painting in the atrium of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica) building in Hill Street. It is part of an exhibition in the gallery, located in the building's ground floor.

But Mica said that the work can be displayed only in such a way that the public does not have ready access to it.

A Mica spokesman said the painting was not banned. But, as the building's landlord, it had to comply with the Media Development Authority's guidelines.

The guidelines state that nude or erotic artworks 'should not be displayed in venues which are easily accessible to general audiences, including children and youths'. She added that the atrium was a public area and display materials 'should not offend general standards of taste and decency'.

The painting was on display briefly last night during the opening reception for invited guests. But later, it was turned to face the wall. SooBin will show it to interested buyers.

The painting shows a model, covered in soap suds against a black backdrop, with a parrot flying over her head.

It is the centrepiece of a month-long exhibition by Beijing artist Chen Xi, 38. There are four other nudes among the 29 works on show in the gallery.

The artist told The Straits Times last night: 'The painting celebrates independence and freedom. It is a wholesome message that carries no sexual connotations.'

Gallery owner Chua Soo Bin, 76, said he cannot display the work in his shop as the ceiling is too low, and is disappointed the authorities would not give permission. But Mr T.J. Lim, 60, a photographer who was passing by, said: 'Older people may be uncomfortable with it as this is a woman without clothes. It might not be good for children passing by as it may affect their studies.'

That last bit - "it may affect their studies" - is really hilarious. Okay, folks, get ready, Mr Wang is now going to affect your studies. Enjoy:

Hey Look! ST Journalist Criticising the PAP

March 1, 2007
Why PAP MPs should go beyond cheerleading


WHAT is the role of a People's Action Party MP in a PAP-dominated Parliament?

The question came to mind yesterday, as yet another PAP MP rose to his or her feet to sing the praises of this Budget and this Government, for the second day running.

Mr Wee Siew Kim called Budget 2007 generous and forward-looking. Dr Fatimah Lateef declared that nowhere else in the world would anyone find a Budget so full of 'love' and 'compassion'.

Is the PAP MP's role to be a cheerleader for the Government? Maybe part of his role is to spout and defend the rhetoric of the excellence of the PAP government. This, after all, is a democracy with competitive political parties vying for votes.

But too much self-praise by the PAP is off-putting, even if Budget 2007 has won deserved accolades, even from non-partisan observers, for boldness and generosity.