Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Presidential Elections in Singapore

Tan Jee Say has my vote in the coming elections.

I wish to share my story as an associate working in a well-paid position in a global foreign corporation with an office in Singapore.

Over lunch one day, an acquaintance, who had "fled" from New York to Singapore for a job and now occupied a high position in an MNC, who analyses the credit card market, asked me, "What do you think of the Singapore-Foreigner Wage Gap?" He obviously meant the large wage gap between so-called foreign talent and struggling Singaporean PMEBs. He vocalized what many in Singapore have been directly impacted by. Lower wages and a loss of jobs to the foreign influx.

All the signs point to a capture of the state by sectarian interests, as Alex Au wrote on his blog.

My office has approximately 40 people. Of the team of 11 associates, only 1 is Singaporean - myself. 3 were from India, 1 from America, 1 from Taiwan, and other foreign countries. One foreign associate had obviously misrepresented his locally-obtained credentials (as a Singaporean could tell, but many foreigners could not) in obtaining his job but was employed.

The company had recently fired 3 well-paid Singaporeans, one after the other - the managing director, the operations director, and another senior director level position. The reason given was a lack of compliance with the US head office. The head office replaced them with an Indonesian, and two foreign born Indians. I don't know how much cheaper their salaries were, but I suspect a Singaporean would have been equally qualified.

Most had no intention to stay in Singapore for more than 2 years. One colleague had been awarded her PR after just 4 months of working in the office. One had skipped from India, to Singapore, and next to a Western country after two years. The whole office was a floating barge of foreigners, hiring foreigners to send profits to the head office, providing precious few Singaporeans with jobs. Is this the purpose of our government's employment policies?
My experience with executives in the financial industry is the same. Overwhelming numbers of foreigners (which are divided into two groups; Indians, Indonesians, and other lower-wage Asian workers, and Western workers from increasingly job-less Western economies) and a speck of Singaporeans. I have been to several networking events where PRC Chinese/Indians/Hong Kongers/Americans/Malaysians are so surprised to meet a Singaporean that they would query me repeatedly: "Are you from Singapore?...Are you really Singaporean?.. Born in Singapore?" Evidence that Singaporeans are a rare and almost extinct breed in well-paid professions. In this way there is a transfer of our tax money from Singaporeans, to support foreign corporations that do not give jobs to Singaporeans.
Singaporeans are right to be angry. The best, well-paying jobs have been stolen for foreigners. And unless something changes, there will be an increasing Singaporean-Foreigner Wage Gap - with Singaporeans the ones earning less.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tea in Starbucks Drinks - or - The Fastest Way to Make a Buck

If you're a clever student looking to while the afternoon away at Starbucks, be warned.

The renowned coffee chain has begun to add "Extra Strong Tea Concentrate" to previously non-caffeinated drinks including the Blackberry Fruit Shake and the Mango Fruit Shake, in some chains in Singapore. Nowhere on the price listing are the Shakes listed as Tea based.

So why the free, extra ingredients in your afternoon drink?

I had been purchasing the Fruit Shakes as an affordable way to have 5+ hours of time at the cafe to work. One day, I noticed the shakes, for the first time in 6 months, made me use the bathroom really quickly. The next time, I carefully observed the barista pour Tea Concentrate into the drink, behind the counter, hidden to the customer. I have noticed most customers with caffeinated drinks have to get up to use the bathroom every 20 minutes or so. After awhile, somewhat uncomfortable with rapidly filling bladders, they leave.

I can only wonder if we are getting more caffeine in our drinks to encourage us to vacate our coffee tables shortly after we arrive. Although downright unethical (customers don't want sneaky additions to their drinks) This would liberate more tables quickly than a world full of signs telling students not to study.

Skeletal Head of State to Appear Next

Since the devastating blow to the dominant party's mandate in the June(-1 month) elections, the Prime Minister has been appearing frequently to make pronouncements in the media. He talks about the need for (cheap) foreign workers (to drive "growth" ever higher), about jobs going to Singaporeans.

And each time he appears, his hair is just a little whiter, his wrinkles deeper, his face more haggard.

A ploy for pity?

What if we see a skeletal Prime Minister appearing next? Perhaps he will be so haggard, whether by make up or other means, that he expects to move the people that way. The question is whether he can pull this off.

How Do You Spend Your Money?


The bus whizzed by, a poster of brilliant colours on its hindside. The poster advertised the Van Gogh exhibition held the Marina Bay Sands ArtScience Museum, the newest museum in Asia. It boasted the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings displayed in any museum worldwide, a panoply of his world-famous art displayed in one destination. A slick website advertised the exhibit in breathtaking tones.
Furthermore, it would be displayed with cutting-edge technology, a light show projecting the paintings onto museum walls, promising an amazing experience for the viewer.

Except it wasn't.

The experience proved to be a disappointing experience for many viewers. Most viewers were dismayed that the projected paintings fell far short of the slick writeup on the website. The killer was that no actual paintings were displayed; the exhibit was simply blown-up pictures on the walls, paired with monotonous music echoing in the gallery.

In one reviewer's words, "That is pretty much what the entire installation is: a large, empty room with pretty images on the walls and loud music."

One viewer, on the other hand, raved about the pretty pictures and the beautiful installation. She said it was a pleasant experience and an excellent insight. The difference was, she had heard the complaints about the horrible museum from other museum goers.

So if you're a museum owner, what are you to do?

You would eliminate the dramatic website videos and slick advertisements. You would focus on the world-class architecture of the building (which was constructed to rival the MOMA in New York.) You would use words such as "experimental", and "soothing", instead of grand or unprecedented.

In other words, you would manage expectations.

And if you're a museum go-er; you would trust the reviews of fellow museum-goers, and not that of the websites; at least; until the ads matched the reality. If forced to attend, you would read the worst reviews and enjoy the exhibit for what it is.