I’ve never had any major problems with any e-trading platform. The system will never ignore my orders or submit a wrong order. However, when it’s necessary to write in to a human to manage my account recently, my instructions were ignored 4 times in a row. They finally told me I had to sign a form to make the instructions go through. I did that and the same problem occurred for the 5th time.
When times are bad, we’re all afraid of losing customers. It thus boggles the mind when some people still dare to provide such poor service to their clients and customers. Last week, I dumped vPost (customer since 2006?) for being clueless about my lost package and not even answering my queries logically. This week, I’m dumping OCBC Securities (client since 2011). Let’s see what the competition has to offer.
Alas, I do miss the good old days of dealing with competent humans, but given the attitudes and communication skills of some human beings nowadays, I would rather deal with machines. We need to pray that the automated systems we’re on will never break down. Human support is bad news. So what has gone wrong here? I’ll come to that later, but while we consumers are glad that there is competition, not everyone is in favour of it.
Mr Ong Ye Kung seems to like monopolies or political hegemony, insinuating that competition in the political arena is a bad thing. In his speech at the Institute of Policy Studies in January 2017, Mr Ong painted two likely scenarios of multi-party systems.
1. Unions and various associations and even the media become split as parties seek support
2. Political parties align themselves along “sinister” lines
Are you frightened yet? There’s more. Not having a government with absolute dominance in Parliament will “slow down decision-making and nimbleness while navigating an “ever-changing world and environment”.
Mr Ong is merely repeating something which we’ve been told at every election. Singapore is small, diverse and vulnerable. That we all know and accept. But the 2013 Little India riot (our first in more than 40 years) had nothing to do with political conflict and more to do with the tenuous declaration that Singapore is for everybody. So why does Mr Ong think that unions and various associations will become split and seek support? Because it’s fun to do so? Or is it because they feel that they have been left out, not properly represented and their issues are not being addressed? Not giving opposing voices any representation in Parliament will not eliminate their problems and concerns. It’ll only dampen robust debate and give an appearance of superficial harmony that prevailed in Little India prior to the riot.
I’m not sure if anybody in the audience challenged Mr Ong on his second point, but it seemed like a rather foolhardy thing to say. By making his second point, Mr Ong seems to be trying to blind side the audience to the fact that any party out there can align itself along “sinister” lines. May Buddha help Singapore if that party happens to be the only party in power. This point actually supports the fact that a single-party system may ruin Singapore!
Next, let’s talk about speed. Admittedly, Mr Ong is not the first and only leader to point out the need for speed and expediency. Let’s get back to vPost and my soon to be former stockbroking firm. So, what has happened to the folks there over the years? Why has service become so bad that the machines have become so much more reliable than the humans? And we’re not talking about solving complex mathematical problems here; just simple and straightforward customer service. Remember cartoons of frustrated folks smashing their computers? Now it’s human who is asking to be smashed. Maybe it’s because our machines have taken over so much of the work that humans have lost the ability to serve customers well. Maybe companies that want to dominate the market have bitten off more than they can chew. Monopolies can afford to care less about customer satisfaction; like TV stations that receive awards for being the most watched in Singapore and newsPAPers that claim to be the most read by Singaporeans, there is no need for them to do better. Who else can the award go to?
In the same vein, good or bad, right or wrong, popular or unpopular policies can be passed very quickly in a one-party Parliament. But speed is only good if you’re running on the right track or driving in the right direction. On the wrong track, speed ruins you. And looking at the way things are going, I take a contrarian view to those who ride the “digital” trends. No, we don’t need to get faster and faster. We really need to slow down. But then again, that’s just me. You may want to run a different track or go in a different direction. That’s your prerogative. A mature society respects and gives space to such diverse views and aspirations. A truly developed nation accepts differences, individual rights and privacy and sorts things out without the use of excessive legislation.
By asserting that speed and expediency are vital, Mr Ong is implying and assuming that his government is infallible and incapable of making any bad decisions. Isn’t that the kind of advertising that Google wouldn’t allow because it’s misleading? One problem with the one-party system is that it’s an all-or-none when it comes to policies. We can’t vote for education system and vote against the healthcare system. It’s a blank cheque. You accept all policies lock, stock and barrel. A two-party system can delay a good policy as much as it can delay a bad one. There is no perfect system out there that will suit every individual ideal.
I think we should march a bit slower. The wisdom of crowds cannot be completely trusted regardless of whether it’s a democratic majority or a compliant people under a dictatorship. But for better or for worse, our key to future happiness lies in the power to change the folks we put in charge of our postal packages, our trading accounts and our country.
© Chan Joon Yee