So what’s new? Below is Singapore’s medal haul at the 31 SEA Games held at Hanoi, Vietnam. Team Singapore has a total haul of 47 gold, 44 silver, 70 bronze medals. A total of 61 out of the 161 medals were clinched by SEA Games debutants. Our athletics team did exceptionally well with one gold, three silver and seven bronze medals. Five national records were set and eight personal best performances were recorded. This was the sport’s best performance since 1993.
Expectedly, we also did well in swimming, pencak silat, fencing, wushu, and bowling. Also not surprising was how our football team performed. There is much to reflect upon. As Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) chief Su Chun Wei said, there is much to reflect upon.
Meanwhile, Malaysia was also celebrating as they had managed to exceed their target of 36 medals with 39 gold, 45 silver and 90 bronze. Conveniently ignored, was the fact that the target was set lower than the lowest Malaysia had achieved before. While the target was exceeded, this is also Malaysia’s worst showing at the SEA Games. Someone must have expected the poor results.
A little less predictable, was the value of the ringgit which plunged to new lows. Crowds stormed to money changers and they were soon out of ringgit. When I visited JB for the first time on 4 May, I discovered to my disappointment that many of my favourite shops and makan places had closed down. My SIM card had expired. I got a new one. I took Grab to a well-known restaurant near Pelangi. It had closed down. The escalators leading down to City Square from JB Sentral had been hoarded up, apparently they had broken down and were under repair. On the way back, it was a long climb up to immigration – not a problem for me but certainly for some folks. I had wanted to go to the bank, but it was a holiday. I couldn’t renew my expired debit card and couldn’t log into my mobile banking. Deeper inside, places like KSL didn’t seem that poorly affected as they depend less on Singaporean shoppers. Nevertheless, the Popular bookstore is no longer there.
I went again on 13 May. The escalators were still hoarded up. The bank was open, but the counter giving out queue numbers on the ground floor was barely moving. The queue wasn’t particularly long, but it took more than 40 mins for me to get a queue number and another 30 mins to be served.
What next? The Malaysian authorities decided to ban the export of chickens from 1 June 2022. Apparently, the move is meant to tackle the dwindling supply of poultry products and escalating price increases that had angered members of the public. Malaysia’s decision to stop exporting chickens by the end of May seems like a questionable move to solve the problem of chicken price inflation. Below is a picture I took at Giant, Northshore Plaza on the evening of 26 May.
If you want my non-expert opinion, the root of the this problem lies with the weakness of the ringgit. At the moment, it’s nearly 1:3.2. Malaysia imports chicken feed and with a weak currency, chicken feed becomes expensive, resulting in chicken prices shooting up. Why is country with so much land unable to grow enough chicken feed? That’s because businesses prefer to grow high value crops like oil palm. Just take a look at price increase of crude palm oil (CPO) over the last 10 years.
Back to our chickens, Malaysia’s chicken exporters are also pragmatic people. Why sell in Malaysia when they can sell to Singapore and earn SGD? Before there were places like City Square and KSL, many premium food products made in Johor were only sold in Singapore. Even today, the best MSW durians are sent to Singapore where they could fetch higher prices. The chicken exporters are pragmatic opportunists who don’t really care whether there are enough chickens for local consumption. They pocket their SGD and laugh their way to the bank.
The ban on chicken exports will hit these folks the hardest. They can’t earn their SGD anymore. But will this questionable move solve the problem for Malaysians consumers when the poultry farmers will still have a problem pay through their noses for … chicken feed? Indeed, in spite of its idiomatic use, “chicken feed” may not be chicken feed when your currency is weak.
PM Ismail Sabri said that government’s priority is their own people. Nothing wrong with that. I wish our government could give greater priority to our own people. However, Ismail Sabri has been peddling the phrase “Malaysian family” since taking power in August last year. Is it a move to win hearts more than to stem the rising costs? I was just thinking … why not tax the chicken exporters appropriately when they earn their SGD and use the money to subsidise poultry farmers’ cost of chicken feed? The latter could then produce more chickens, increase the supply and stabilise prices. Banning the export of chickens is a no-win for everybody.
Finally, the legend of the missing passport stamp. I remember that when I was visiting Thailand more than 20 years ago, I found out something interesting when a senior immigration officer was guiding a rookie at the counter told the latter to scan my passport. He said (I can understand Thai) that once the passport is scanned, my entry into Thailand would have been recorded in the system. The only real purpose for the date stamp was for the passport holder’s reference. In fact, nowadays, some countries do not even stamp your passports.
Of course, I would still advise you to check your entry stamp when you clear customs and enter Malaysia. But interestingly, there are still cases where Singaporeans are caught leaving Malaysia when they had not gotten the entry stamp. I don’t believe that Malaysia is more backward than Thailand 20 years ago. In order for those guys to get detained for illegal entry, the immigration officer in charge of clearing them must have not only forgotten to stamp their passports, he/she had to forget to scan them as well. All this sounds rather fishy, doesn’t it?
Again, I have a little suggestion. Why not make it automated and DIY? Do away with the immigration officer altogether. The foreigner scans his own passport in a booth. That would register his entry into the country. They can have a printer like the passbook updating machine at banks to print the date stamp on the passport. Or better still, don’t print the passport. Just dispense a sticker which can be stuck on a page in the passport or even a piece of paper. Upon exit, it won’t matter if there is sticker or no sticker. Just throw it away and nobody would need to know that you’ve been to Malaysia.