Thieves market’s grimy old men

From ‘Thieves’ Market closure ends nightmare for resident’, 25 Feb 2017, ST Forum

(Ang Zyn Yee): As a resident of the Housing Board flats beside the Sungei Road flea market, I have felt only relief after it was announced that the market would be shut down for good on July 10 (“Sungei Road flea market to make way for future homes”; Feb 15).

Many of the people whose views I have read oppose the closure. They present a vision of the market as a charming area of Singapore that must be protected from the modernisation that has gripped the other parts of our nation. However, having lived with the market my entire life, I cannot help but disagree with the heavily romanticised narrative presented.

The Sungei Road flea market has been a nuisance to me for years – not because of its actual operation but how it has encroached into residential space.

…The Thieves Market has ruined the aesthetics of the estate by making the area look messy, dodgy and filthy. In addition, several of these stall-holders have made the residential atrium their home, sleeping on the stone benches and washing themselves at the tap under the HDB block. It is not uncommon to spot their clothes hanging from trees near the atrium.

It may be unfair of me to base my judgment of the flea market on the actions of these people, who might constitute just the minority. But I appeal to the public to try and appreciate the situation from a resident’s perspective.

Grimy old men hawking frayed yellow-stained books and broken toys in the pavilion have become the gate keepers to my home. Every day before I enter the lift lobby, I am careful to keep my eyes straight ahead, in fear of seeing a man relieve himself.

The Sungei Road Flea Market may hold precious memories to some, but it has been nothing but a nightmare for me. I am overjoyed that it will soon be gone.

In the mid seventies, Sungei Road market was not just a haven for ‘grimy old men’, but enterprising bootleg cassette tape pirates who sold dubbed version of originals for as low as $1.60. Such unwholesome activity would become the norm more than 30 years later, as ‘stolen music’ became blase in the Napster era. Today, $1.60 would be the iTunes price for a SINGLE, instead of the lovingly curated playlist that the Sungei Road pirates peddled in the past.

It’s a shame that one man’s livelihood is another’s ‘yellow-stained’ eyesore, but residents paranoid about wading through puddles of old-man pee are not the only ones who felt the Thieves’ Market needed cleaning up. Just ask MP Denise Phua.  Of course in a crowded city as ours it’s unrealistic to expect perpetual serenity where we live. Geylang residents are afraid of their daughters getting harassed. Serangoon folks once complained about nearby foreign worker dormitories. Sengkangers wailed about an impending columbarium.  Sin Ming residents indirectly led to the untimely deaths of wild chickens.

Along with the demolition of the Rochor tri-colour flats, the demise of an iconic flea market spells the end of the Rochor ‘character’ as we know it. Things change or get destroyed, and there’s precious little we can do to preserve what the writer calls ‘romanticised narratives’, whether it’s a downtrodden theme park like Haw Par Villa, an obliterated Lentor Forest, or people proposing air-conditioning in hawker centres to turn them into de facto Food Courts.

As for grimy old men, given our aging society, I suppose we’d better get used to seeing more of them around. Who knows when my time comes and my work is taken over by a bot, I’ll find myself peddling smelly old books and vintage handphones at a makeshift flea market, incurring the NIMBY wrath of some post-millennial who’s turned off by my shady wares and yellow teeth.


Schoolchildren doing area cleaning is pointless

From ‘What is the point of cleaning activity?’, 14 Dec 16, ST Forum

(David Soh Poh Huat): We need to ask ourselves what is the objective of getting children to do cleaning as part of their school routine (“All schools to have cleaning activities daily from January“; Dec 12).

Is it to help the schools save on costs? Is it to create social responsibility in children, and if so, does it work? Do the schools just not have any other programmes?

Already, it is compulsory for children to return their food trays after eating in their school tuckshops. It is enforced in school, but when we go to public food courts, how many children actually remind their parents to return the trays or do it themselves?

I hope the planners of these activities will look at what the objectives are.

As early as the 70’s, concerned parents echoed the complainant’s objection to having pupils ‘slog like slaves’. There was even a time when kids were made to wash toilets, with parents then whining as they would today with the ‘I send my kid to school to study, not to clean toilets’ mentality. These likely being the same parents herding their kids into enrichment programmes anyway even if they spend 100% of their damn time in school studying.

Being a environmentally responsible citizen extends beyond merely returning trays at food courts; from leaving the toilet seat free of pee stains to conscious attempts to minimise carbon emissions when you travel.  Despite decades of schools instilling ‘social responsibility’, we continue to be spoilt by an army of foreign cleaners, horde NTUC plastic bags and jet-set on budget airlines like nobody’s business. So whether passing the broom and toilet brush to kids now to inculcate the clean and green habit would be better long-term for the environment remains to be seen.

What you can’t argue against is that doing chores is actually a decent form of exercise, especially with today’s kids having their lazy arses chauffeured to and fro school by their parents.  For the less athletically-inclined pupils, it would the preferred option to tossing medicine balls during PE. For the kids who spend their waking life on homework and tuition, wiping the windows would likely be the most physically strenuous activity of their day. So yes, if there would be a valid point of making children do the ‘maids’ work’, it’s to make sure they don’t die of diabetes before they hit 30.

I believe the yoke of repetitive chores also brings benefits beyond helping boys cope with area cleaning in the army. It’s like trekking up to Shambala to seek enlightenment and having your master grill you into picking weeds for hours on end. You may not see the purpose now, but years from now you’ll look back fondly on your gardening days and appreciate how the mundane practice prepared you for nirvana.

Coney Island developing $250 million OBS campus

From ‘Keep Outward Bound Singapore out of Coney Island’, 29 March 16, ST Forum

(Dr Aishworiya Ramkumar):The news that there is going to be a new Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) campus built on Coney Island (“$250m Outward Bound campus for Coney Island“; last Friday) is extremely disappointing.

I believe that I speak for many a resident in the area in describing the elation we felt when Coney Island was opened to the public last year. The island is rustic, untouched by development and, simply, nature at its best.

This is something that is rare in Singapore – understandably so, given our constant need for more space for man-made endeavours. Most of our parks already have numerous man-made touches which may make them more comfortable, but ironically, nature by itself does not always have comfortable and modern amenities.

OBS already has two campuses in Pulau Ubin, just across from Coney Island. Unlike Pulau Ubin, the latter is not big enough for one part to be built up into a campus and the other to remain truly untouched. So, perhaps expansion within Pulau Ubin could be considered instead.

Yes, students, and indeed all Singaporeans, need to experience and learn through the outdoor experience. But often, the crux of that lies in experiencing the true reality of untouched nature rather than through a built-up campus.

I truly hope that the authorities will leave Coney Island true to its natural self and not turn it into yet another “developed” nature spot. Alternative possibilities for the expansion of OBS should be considered.

Most Singaporean guys would have the opportunity to experience the ‘true reality of untouched nature’ at some point in their lives. They’ll get to brave the elements, piss behind bushes, dig their own shit holes, bash through vegetation and roll around in mud while fostering deep manly bonds. And all this without pumping in a fortune to build the Singaporean equivalent of summer camp. It’s called NS.

More bad news for the writer and the lone cow roaming the island: The non-park portion of Coney Island is already designated for housing development (Safeguard rustic appeal of Coney Island Nature Park, 13 Jan 16, ST). In fact, the very name ‘Coney Island‘ came about in the 50’s when a businessman opened a ‘health resort’ on the island mimicking its namesake in the US. In the seventies, the isle was already tainted by pollution from Punggol’s pig farms. On my recent trip garbage flanked the beach. So yeah, Coney Island is a far cry from an unmolested rustic paradise. There’s already a trail run cum carnival scheduled, so building an expensive, big ass adventure camp on the island shouldn’t come as any surprise. Not to mention that it’s TINY, less than half the size of Pulau Ubin, where the OBS flagship campus resides. Why the need for TWO offshore camps anyway? Is there so much wimpiness in the air that we need to man up this whole lot of spoilt buggers with mega-camps?

OBS is often touted as a character-shaping, confidence-building experience, allowing a generation of kids brought up on Survivor, Hunger Games and iPads to relive fish-out-of-water fantasies for a couple of days. How applicable all these outdoor skills turn out to be in real life remains to be seen. You may be the fastest knot-maker in the history of OBS, but that doesn’t save you from nasty office politicking where you’ll need to choose the right apples to polish. You could excel as a sailor though, because that’s precisely what OBS was originally designed for in the 1940s, a program borne out of an archaic concept that a boy must face his demons in the untamed wild like Leonardo De Caprio in the Revenant to become a MAN. But even surviving an attack from a beast, thriving on canned sardines or drinking your own piss doesn’t guarantee you’ll walk out of OBS with balls of steel. One teen blogger revealed that she had to ‘pee in the sea’, an act which her instructors told her was ‘life-changing‘.

There are other ways for mollycoddled Singaporeans to toughen up of course. Send them off to climb mountains, volunteer at an orphanage or apprentice at Ah Kong’s coffee shop. The question is whether you need to plow through Coney Island’s natural environment for $250 million to accomplish just that, only for these OBSers to go through the motions for the rest of their sterile existence, reminiscing about the sun, the sand, the sky and urinating in the goddamn sea.


Tesla electric car penalised with $15000 carbon surcharge

From ‘Electric car Tesla slapped with $15000 tax surcharge’, 5 March 2016, article by Christopher Tan, ST

An electric car which attracts tax breaks in several countries has been slapped with a tax surcharge in Singapore. The Model S – a sedan made by California-based Tesla Motors – is the first tailpipe emission-free car to be penalised this way here.

Mr Joe Nguyen, 44, registered a used Model S he sourced from Hong Kong just before Chinese New Year. He was shocked that the car – for which he paid close to $400,000 – was liable for a $15,000 carbon surcharge.

“Honestly, it’s stupid,” said the senior vice-president with an Internet research firm. “I went back to them (Land Transport Authority), and they cited a UN emission test regulation. They also factored in carbon emissions at the power station. We don’t apply a carbon penalty to people charging their iPhones, do we?”

According to LTA, the Tesla uses 444 watt/hr per km, equivalent to 222g/km of carbon. You will only get rebates if your carbon emission is below 136g/km. In comparison, if you use the ICAO carbon footprint calculator to determine the amount spewed from a round trip between Singapore and Bangkok, you get a figure that is roughly a 1000 fold increase – 240kg of carbon per passenger. That’s excluding the taxi ride to and fro the airport. In other words, you need to drive a Tesla for 1000km before you can clock the same amount chugged out over a short holiday. How much carbon did we emit over the SG50 long weekend last year, I wonder. Alas, policy decisions made on the basis of CO2 emissions are never simple. You could avoid taking the car out on the weekend but end up guzzling electricity at home Netflixing on your giant 48 inch Smart TV, snacking on smoked salmon flown all the way from Norway to your coffee table. Your very mundane existence is itself a strain on the carbon budget.

Before we saw carbon in a different light, beyond its presence in fizzy drinks and the fact that we excrete it out and trees suck it back in, electric cars were seen as the panacea to our oil dependence problem. If we’re not able to witness solar-powered flying cars in this lifetime, then electric seemed to be the way to go. We imagined these vehicles as sleek, Zen-quiet machines which naturally smell of fresh pine, guided along by a GPS equipped with the voice of Sir David Attenborough. It was the future of transportation, not MRT lines underneath Macritchie reservoir, not car-free days, not bicycles or hoverboards. Instead, our government bans electric scooters in parks, slaps penalties on supposedly ‘green’ cars that happen to be gluttons for electricity, and the public asks for zero emission bicycles to be regulated. No, we’re still not going to emulate the Jetsons in another 50 years.

But this isn’t the first time that anyone who tried to promote clean tech got into a tangle with the authorities. James Diebley couldn’t register his battery-operated three-wheeled Corbin Sparrow as a motorcycle as the LTA deemed it to be more ‘car-like’. Although the LTA explained that it would have granted the rebate , Diebley eventually gave up the EV, but only because being a solo vehicle, he couldn’t use it to send his kids to school. On one hand, we want to encourage families and pledge to cut emissions, on the other it seems that the prerequisites of driving a cool electric car around Singapore include being 1) bloody rich and 2) single. Yes, try picking up girls with a gadget that looks like a character out of Pixar’s Cars.

Somehow, people have this perception that being small and compact, Singapore would be ideal for an electric revolution. Yet at the same time we have one of the highest ownership of modified supercars in the region, despite the roads being notoriously race-unfriendly. Bureaucracy is often blamed as the final nail in the coffin of any hopes of us becoming a car-lite, low-carbon nation, but without the right mindset and behaviorial changes in all of us to ‘heal the world, make it a better place’, or we continue to have billionaires who can afford to be penalised even if their EV is a grid vampire, our future generations will still inherit the scum we leave behind, with or without electric cars and their rebates and charges.

Cross Island MRT line cutting under MacRitchie forest

From ‘Macritchie Route for MRT line an irreversible error’, 13 Feb 16, Voices, Today

(Joey Gan): I am writing in to express my concern about the planned Cross Island Line. I feel strongly that the line should be routed along Lornie Road, one of the two proposed alignments, to avoid it cutting under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (“Impact of Cross Island work on MacRitchie significant without LTA mitigation measures”; Feb 11).

Having worked in conservation previously, I have had the opportunity to conduct research in the forests of MacRitchie. It is a beautiful place that can only be harmed if works are carried out beneath the area. The impact of noise and smell on forest inhabitants cannot be fully understood or quantified even with an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Even with mitigation measures in place, it is likely to be near impossible to enforce these measures on a daily basis. Furthermore, works must be done around the clock, and this only exacerbates the situation.

The MacRitchie forest is home to one of the largest patches of primary rainforest and lowland swamp forest in Singapore. It is a national treasure.

I can appreciate that transport is a big concern, but in this situation there is a viable alternative. If this alternative is not taken, the consequences on our national natural heritage is irreversible.

We have already divided what was once the largest stretch of primary forest in Singapore into two fragments when we built the Bukit Timah Expressway through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. We then spent millions trying to connect the two via the Eco-Link@BKE. And now we are considering making a similar mistake at MacRitchie.

I implore the Minister of Transport and those involved this project to consider their decision carefully, for the sake of our forests and for Singapore.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan once pledged in a Facebook post that he would help ‘protect our Garden legacy’, whatever his portfolio. If there’s anyone would could sway the powers that be to scrap the Macritchie project, it would be this man. But he can’t do it alone. To paraphrase his thoughts on engineering, we need to make conservation ‘sexy’. We need to shake off our perception of nature crusaders as hipster tree-huggers. We can’t just plant a tree and think we’ve undone all the damage we’ve inflicted to become where we are today. We need to discuss such issues in Parliament instead of thrashing out town council accounts and duckweed (even though they’re green) NCMPs.

Concerned voices failed to stop the impending wipeout of Bukit Brown and, more recently, Bidadari. Mandai also looks set for a ‘moderate-impact’ makeover.   An Environmental Impact Assessment without considering the cumulation of all our past ‘achievements’ at the expense of nature doesn’t tell you much about the fate of our ecosystem, whether future generations will be spending most of their existence staring at screens, living in concrete, and their only concept of wilderness is a stroll though the UNESCO World Heritage Site Botanic Gardens. One also can’t help detecting the mixed messages coming from the authorities. On one hand, you’re talking about going ‘car-free’, the next you’re ripping an expressway right though the oldest damn cemetery in Singapore.

Environmentalists call for a zero-impact solution, but it’s likely that the Government will give zero shits. Occasionally, conservation warriors win the day. In 1992, the Nature Society managed to stop the development of an 18 hole golf course in Lower Peirce Reservoir. What’s more disturbing to me is the fact that the idea of building a golf course in the first place came from the PUB. What a national water agency is doing supporting an activity that actually wastes water is beyond me. We are thankful for Chek Jawa, Sungei Buloh and Kranji Marshes, but need to be wary that the Government doesn’t use these as excuses for further devastation. For every avid golfer there are probably a dozen motorists or commuters who wouldn’t mind a new road or MRT line if it means killing off some pesky wild boars. The Government will continue to use fuzzy words to placate us like ‘moderate’, ‘calibrate’ and ‘balanced’, and sneakily modify buzzwords like ‘Garden City’ to ‘City in a Garden’.

There wasn’t time for self-congratulatory pats on the back. Ultimately, conservationists lost the battle for Marina South and Senoko. And there’s little done to stop the onslaught of less known nature enclaves right behind our doorstep. There may not be an endangered pangolin hiding in the bushes behind my estate, but if the town council decides to replace whatever wilderness we have left with a Gateball Court that nobody uses, it not only wastes resources and tax payers’ money but who knows what chronic deprivation of greenery and birdsong would do to our mental health and ‘spirit’. Not everyone has the time or energy to trek to Sungei Buloh for their dose of greenery. I could be struck with cancer staring out of a window in my terminal years and there’s not even a swaying branch in sight to sooth my dying soul.

A ‘Smart Nation’ should have the foresight and, I should say – audacity, to leave our forests, marshes, seas alone without scratching that itch for progress. Singaporeans are already one of the most stressed people in Asia, and with the Government doing whatever it can to make us produce babies, we need to establish a link between this metastatic urban growth and environmental degradation to our willingness to procreate, and ultimately, our very survival.  In other words, think of new ways to pitch the conservation message – that displaced creatures will run amok on the roads resulting in accidents, eat your mangoes, steal your grocery bags and charge at little children, that one less hectare of greenery increases the risk of dementia or depression, or even scare tactics like a docile mousedeer mutating into a novel virus-spreading, gnashing, man-eating beast over time because of tunneling works. Godzilla was Japan’s answer to the scourge of nuclear technology. We need our own Godzilla for Macritchie – Maczilla.

Whatever we’re doing, misguided economic benefits, shitty useless amenities or otherwise, let us be reminded that for what it’s worth, our trains, fancy buildings, expensive automobiles and all those projects that work out to be short-term gratifications in the grand scheme of things, nature always wins in the end, and chances are we won’t be around to witness Her victory parade.

Raw fish dishes containing freshwater fish banned

From ‘Freshwater fish banned in ready-to-eat raw fish dishes’, 5 Dec 15, article in CNA

The Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Agri-Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Saturday (Dec 5) announced that the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes will be banned with immediate effect. 

NEA said tests by AVA and NEA showed that freshwater fish have “significantly higher” bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection when consumed raw.

It added that effective immediately, all retail food establishments that wish to sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes are to use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption.

According to the authorities, such fish are usually bred or harvested from cleaner waters and stored and distributed according to “appropriate cold chain management practices”.  MOH, AVA and NEA said the ban is in place to help protect consumers and “give greater peace of mind” to the public, ahead of Chinese New Year.

Back in July 2015, MOH tried to give the public a ‘peace of mind’ by assuring us that there’s ‘no proven link between eating raw fish and GBS‘. An infectious disease expert argued that although GBS is not traditionally food-borne and does not affect healthy immune systems, food handlers may transmit the killer bacteria to food products.

The authorities have also not provided details on the tests which they conducted, i.e which stalls or country they were sourced from, storage, farming conditions etc. But until there’s a thorough investigation into the cause of the GBS outbreak, considered to be the first of its kind and the biggest IN THE WORLD (Recent GBS outbreak ‘biggest in the world’, 6 Dec 15, ST), this CNY we’ll have to settle for lo hei-ing with canned abalone or salmon (from reliable sources, of course).

Between July and the recent blanket ban, we’ve read horror stories of victims requiring BRAIN surgery, had limbs amputated, lapsing into 10 day comas, and one dying from the outbreak. But it wasn’t until Nov 28 this year when MOH confirmed the link between raw fish and the aggressive Type III ST283 GBS strain and hawkers were told to stop selling such dishes. One forum writer questioned the lag time between the health advisory and sales ban. We should also ask if ST283 is a recently evolved strain, since we’ve been generally having raw snakehead, toman and tilapia without any problems since the 30’s.

I wonder if things would have turned out differently if people hadn’t sent out warning messages initially, which, ironically, many dismissed as a prank, a hoax. Because, well, you’re supposed to take such viral messages with a pinch of salt. It’s SOCIAL MEDIA after all; a platform for inane jokes, political rumours and, soon to come, Christmas greeting spam.

This is one Whatsapp message in full, according to Reddit.

Hi all, I am sharing this because my boss is now warded in NUH because of painful right arm. He ate raw fish last Wed at Ayer Rajah mkt.

He wants me to share the following with as many people.

For the past few weeks the hospitals islandwide have been noticing a surge of young and old men who have been coming in sick with fevers and painful swollen joints.

There has been a particular strain of bacteria that has been isolated from the blood (Group B streptococcus) and this bacterium is usually very weak and mild, but we found this latest strain to be particularly virulent.

The common unifying factor behind this outbreak is that all the patients had consumed 鱼生 (the kind we like from hawker stalls, with a lot of sesame oil and pepper) within the past week.

Nationwide we are still collecting enough info to prove that it’s a particular farm that has been supplying these fish to the hawkers that have contaminated waters.

That’s why not on media yet.

So far places implicated are maxwell food centre, Alexandra village, to name a few.

For the sake of health just avoid 鱼生 for the next few weeks.

Wait until the official news is out where NEA manages to find the source of the contaminated fish.

Now that we know this ‘particularly virulent’ strain has been confirmed and people have suffered tremendously from it, does it mean that we shouldn’t call bullshit on such social media health scares outright? After all, even Dr Google at the time told you that GBS could not be transmitted through food, and only those with a hardcore passion for deadly vermin would know that ST283 was identified as a ‘novel sequence‘ in Hong Kong, according to a Journal of Clinical Microbiology paper (2006). For the rest of us, we either choose to ignore and go on with our lives, play it safe and abstain until official word is out, or fan the flames by bringing sashimi and cerviche into it, instilling panic to food lovers and retailers everywhere.

What if someone sent a mass Whatsapp about a lethal pathogen that had evolved to withstand boiling temperatures and may be associated with see-hum? How does the layman tell the difference between what is merely ‘improbable’ (this GBS outbreak) or what is ‘impossible’?

If anything, this GBS saga serves to remind us all not to take food hygiene and cooking methods for granted. In the meantime, you can continue to enjoy see-hum (cockles), despite its checkered history with Hepatitis A infection, and thank Neptune that we didn’t ban the shellfish back then, despite the fact that the creature, being a filter-feeder, has the ability to concentrate viruses from sewage-polluted waters. If you’re a diehard fan of yusheng and willing to bear the risk of amputation, however, you can still go up to Malaysia for your fix before vendors in JB raise their prices just to cater to deprived Singaporeans.

Vivian Balakrishnan wants you to save money

From ‘Minister calls on S’porereans to save money, not make sacrifices, on energy’, 5 Dec 15, article by Albert Wai, Today

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday (Dec 4) expressed confidence that Singapore will meet its pledge to reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, adding that for many Singaporeans, this will mean having to be more conscious about saving energy on a daily basis.

Speaking to reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before leaving for Paris to attend talks on a post-2020 global climate change regime, the minister said “a concerted and deliberate long-term plan has been put in place to ensure that we can all save money, at the personal, national and industrial level”. “I’m not asking you to make sacrifices. I am asking you to save money. We all need to pay attention to the way we use (electricity) and, more importantly, go back to the age-old wisdom about not wasting.”

Yes, we should all tighten the purse strings, nevermind if Christmas is round the corner. Instead of popping the bubbly, let’s toast with goddamn NEWater. Christmas lights? Hell no. Free range organic turkey? Bah! In fact, let’s all have our meals in hawker centres instead of grand buffets.

This exchange between MP Lily Neo and Minister Vivian with regards to how much recipients under the Public Assistance scheme should be getting is worth reproducing in its entirety (2007).

Dr Lily Neo: Sir, I want to check with the Minister again when he said on the strict criteria on the entitlement for PA recipients. May I ask him what is his definition of “subsistence living”? Am I correct to say that, out of $260 per month for PA recipients, $100 goes to rental, power supply and S&C and leaving them with only $5 a day to live on? Am I correct to say that any basic meal in any hawker centre is already $2.50 to $3.00 per meal? Therefore, is it too much to ask for just three meals a day as an entitlement for the PA recipients?

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?

Oh if only the entire government subscribed to Vivian’s thinking that urging Singaporeans from the very beginning to abide by ‘age-old’ values would be good enough to keep unnecessary spending in check. Then we wouldn’t have to wait till we’re 55 before the Government relinquishes our piggy bank, i.e. withdrawing part of our CPF.

It’s one thing to be told that you should save money by your stingy dad who refuses to throw holey singlets away. It’s another to be educated about money matters by a highly-paid minister, especially one who needs to justify how the YOG budget blew up to $387 million. Luckily he didn’t bring up sacrificing simple pleasures into the picture, like how ex Health Minister beseeched women to ‘save on a hairdo and go for breast screening’. If there’s one leader role model that one should look up to when it comes to frugal financing, it’s the late, jogging shorts-mending, underwear-washing LKY.

Talk is cheap, of course. If you want your citizens to take you seriously, get off the high chair and show that you mean business. Do your part to cut carbon emissions by cycling as part of your daily commute, like Britain’s ‘minister of cycling’ Robert Goodwill. Take the train not just to get a ‘ground feel’ of commuter suffering, but because you choose to do so over driving. Organise an ‘eco-Xmas’ party with your Holland residents, where Xmas trees are made out of recycled trash and the most expensive item on the dinner menu is Farmers’ market eggnog, not airflown Iranian caviar.

Nonetheless, our Minister would do well to be conscious of his own personal spending after making this statement, and keep his luxurious holidays, if any, thoroughly hidden from the public eye. Especially any that involve learning how to cook fancy French food over 5 weeks for $46000.