It sounds like “cheap” in Cantonese, but “paeng” means expensive in Thai and the title of this blog entry – “paeng ti soot nai loke” translates as Most Expensive In The World. I’ll come to that in a moment.
So what’s new? Three officers who were among the first responders at the scene of the riot told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) that, while they are trained in “peace time” crowd control, they are not trained to handle a large-scale mob.
Yao mo gao chor ah? Was there a war in Singapore?
If controlling and dispersing crowds like this is what they’ve been training for all this while, then perhaps it’s about time we all realised that it’s extremely likely that none of the people captured in the picture below (Aljunied MRT) is a Singaporean. Ms Nicole Seah once mentioned that you don’t even need to bring your passport if you wish to travel in a foreign land.
Obviously, these concerns have not be taken seriously. Our public transport has grossly underestimated the demands on the system placed by the increase in passenger load. Our public hospitals have likewise not anticipated the current severe bed crunch. Should it surprise anyone that our poor men in blue will sooner or later, be facing challenges which are out of their league?
Meanwhile, leaders have voiced the concern that Singapore is in danger of producing too many graduates. I happen to agree with that. I can’t imagine how many talented dancers, actors, musicians, masseuses and char kway teow sellers have ended up doing sub-cerebral admin work in some government office all because of the over-emphasis on academic achievements and the lack of recognition for other talents and professions. The other day, I brought my son to a rojak stall started by a graduate. I got a bit excited because his stall received some rave reviews in the media. Well, there was no guy wearing a mortarboard serving me, but a rude and unkempt auntie who made some absolutely awful rojak. What happened to our graduate? Where is the pride in dishing out good rojak?
No, I don’t even encourage people to pursue a diploma if that’s not their pride or passion. Everybody wants to be a commander. Who wants to be a foot soldier? Why are food stalls in Malaysia still run by Malaysians? Why are junior clerical staff in Hongkong still Hongkongers? Why is Singapore so top-heavy that we require so many foreign workers to fill the junior posts? I’ll come to that in a moment. Meanwhile, another leader tried to boost the morale of poly students by saying that they may soon enjoy the “privilege” of starting NS sooner.
Now for the finale:
Cost of living reports, such as the one released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) which ranked Singapore as the costliest place to live in, are meant to measure cost of living for expatriates in various parts of the world, and thus do not reflect those of local residents.
What do you think of that?
The picture above shows a pushcart stall at Khao San Road in Bangkok and from the words, you can tell that the hawker is not just targeting foreigners. Once a Western backpacker’s enclave, the street has evolved into something a lot more upmarket. But the chaos and cluttered mayhem remains. Every Songkran, drunk Thais and foreigners engage in boisterous water fights. The riot police were never called in. A Thai writer once wrote that Khao San is a short road with the longest dream. As Thailand developed, the street started pulling in Thai yuppies who have even more baht to spend than many of the broke Farangs. Wealthy Thais live in much bigger villas and own many more cars than the typical expat.
Of course, the average Thai lives simply and has no knowledge of or desire for imported cheese or wine. The houses they live in are much cheaper than the condos that foreigners are allowed to buy. Thais love to shop and party and thanks to good shopping, good food, good company, laid-back atmosphere and affordable alcohol, they are often able to do that to their hearts’ content. Political turmoil notwithstanding, life in Thailand is still sanook and sabai.
What about us? Well, I don’t have expensive tastes and I certainly can’t appreciate imported cheese, filet mignon, Burberry-type raincoats, four best seats in a theatre. Without a huge mortgage hanging over my head, I’m quite comfortable. I can’t say the same for other Singaporeans. I guess most are also pretty comfortable provided they do not splurge like the Thais do. Huh? Yao mo gao chor ah? Our Thai counterparts who earn only a fraction of our incomes can afford to enjoy life in their own extravagant ways while we can’t? We’re not just relatively expensive. We’re absolutely expensive. Forget about imported cheese, filet mignon, Burberry-type raincoats, four best seats in a theatre. We can’t even afford to enjoy life like the Thais can! Why is it that we can live like kings in the Land of Smiles? We don’t just have the strength of our currency to thank. We also need to look at how affordable the simple pleasures in life are even to the average Thai.
We go back to the question of why we are so top-heavy and can’t fill the junior positions. The answer should be clearer now. Because those positions don’t earn enough for one to enjoy life. We may not buy imported cheese, filet mignon, Burberry-type raincoats or the four best seats in a theatre, but we all want to enjoy our lives. The trouble is, Singapore has become so expensive that it is now virtually impossible to live comfortably, let alone enjoy life on a measly income of a junior staff.
© Chan Joon Yee