Self-Help Advice, No-Help Advice


Like me, my son is grumpy when it’s hot. The other day, as we were walking in the sun, he said something interesting.

“Daddy, this weather is too hot. I want a place without summer. Can Earth switch positions with Mars?”

It’s weird how this kid’s mind works, but if one has to keep crossing the equator (south of it in June and north of it in December), a more permanent solution may be for Earth and Mars to switch positions so that no place on Earth in its new orbit will ever be too hot. But then, how do we go about switching the two planets’ orbits? We all know that it’s science fiction but even as things get more down-to-earth, some of the advice we get from leaders and experts are equally hypothetical and out of this world.


How do we get ahead and do better?

Aiyah so simple. Just transform the economy into a better economy (perhaps in the same way as switching the orbits of Mars and Earth).

Not enough workers? Business costs too high?

Aiyah, so simple. Just push harder to upgrade operations, to be leaner, greener and cleverer (perhaps in the same way as switching the orbits of Mars and Earth).

Difficult to retain staff?

Aiyah, so simple. Just make their jobs easier, smarter and safer (perhaps in the same way as switching the orbits of Mars and Earth).

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This is a better way of sustaining growth, creating jobs and avoiding wage stagnation. Huh? What way? Was anything said about how we’re going to transform the economy into a better economy? How we are going to make operations leaner, greener and cleverer? How are we going to make jobs easier, smarter, safer? Go figure.

The second challenge is to transform the workforce into a better workforce. As a higher cost location in a lower cost region, Singapore has to be more capable and inclusive.

More advice. Singapore must speed up the upgrading and updating of skills, knowledge and expertise, and learn to do things that even smart robots are not able to do.

My turn to kee chew. I can write a novel. Smart robots can’t do that. I can tell jokes. Smart robots can’t do that either. I know how to geng MC. Smart robots can’t do that. Let’s teach all our workers to write novels, tell jokes and geng MC; they will remain relevant and gainfully employed, right?

Next advice. There is also the need to strengthen the Singaporean Core in every major sector of our economy, especially the new and high growth sectors, so that people can take greater pride in our progress.

As Dr Cai Mingjie mentioned in his book, Diary of a Taxi Driver, the CEO of Temasek Holdings or DBS can be a foreigner, but no foreigner is allowed to drive a taxi. We already have a strong Singaporean core plying our roads and anyone who takes cabs regularly can tell you that there isn’t very much pride in our progress in that department.

Finally, with “positive energy”, “shared aspiration” and “collective efforts”, the people can make the nation a better Singapore for all Singaporeans.

Of course lah. But where is this positive energy going to come from? What kind of “collective efforts”? If you’ve just bought a self-help book that gives you all this lame advice, I think you deserve a full refund. Come to think of it, even I can come up with some awesome advice on how you can make money without much effort. All you need to do is to write a computer program that everybody needs. Put it online and charge people $10 for each download. Wait for the money to rush in – even when you’re sleeping. Cool, right? How I wish I could be paid millions for giving this sort of self-help advice. Now, let’s juggle some planets.


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