Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Dinner discussions

I just went for dinner with some hotel guests and the hotel management.  I was a 'long staying guest' and so was invited to a special dinner to say thanks for my custom (though it has yet to be seen whether I will be paying for it or not, I assumed it would be free but now I am not so sure).

It was lovely - a buffet starter where I had a selection of salads, then for main I had the best lamb shank I have ever had, and pudding was a selection of mini cakes (which I went back for seconds of, and could probably have had thirds but I didn't want to seem too piggy).

I was sat with 4 others, all very interesting people.  Two were Singaporeans who worked at the hotel (both Sales), and two others were guests, both here on business.  The old guy to my right was incredibly intelligent - he lived in Hong Kong for 19 years and speaks 4 different languages, including being able to read and write Chinese.  The old guy to my left was Australian, lived in Melbourne and was in the country to train the employees of a new company his old one had just acquired.

We had lots of interesting conversations, but mainly the topic revolved around Singapore and how we all loved it. Here's a brief synopsis as to why we decided Singapore works*.

  • The government provides very little in the form of benefits and handouts.  People are expected to take responsibility for themselves.  This puts the onus on them to find jobs and provide for their families as they know they won't get much help from anyone else.
  • Taxes are low because benefits are low.  There's no resentment from people at the fact their taxes are going towards people who scrounge off the government, because no one does. GST (their VAT) is 7%. 
  • Employment is very low, I think about 3%.  Singapore have policies in place where companies have quotas to fill for Singaporean employees. I think in the industry I work in, you're only allowed 30% foreign employees and no more.  This, combined with the fact they employ people to do many jobs (I have seen people sweeping rarely used roads and pathways) means the majority of people are kept in work. (eta that I believe most Singaporeans get a bonus at December, which amounts to their monthly salary, so in effect they get paid for 13months work rather than 12.  Most use this last month to pay their tax)
  • The fact that unemployment is so low means people are kept busy.  If they can't afford something, they work harder to get it - they don't expect the government to bail them out if they can't afford their rent.  The fact they're busy keeps them occupied and prevents boredom - no gangs hanging on street corners, no mindless vandalism.
  • Punishments are fierce when people do misbehave.  There are tourist tshirts everywhere saying "Singapore is a FINE country" because you get fined for the littlest things - jaywalking, spitting gum, dropping litter, eating on public transport.  They cane you too, and the jail is harsh - no xboxs, books and rehabilitation, just concrete floors, no AC and no personal items.
  • Because of the above, it is incredibly safe.  You can walk alone at night as a young female and not feel threatened in the slightest.  I think the murder rate in 2011 was something crazy like 16 people.

However there are negatives too: 

  • The rich/poor divide is massive.
  • There is no freedom of speech.  There is a degree of press censorship.  There is a Speakers Corner, but to speak at it, slots have to be booked and what you say has to be approved.
  • The boys have to do national service for 2 years after they finish school. 
  • Only 20% of Singaporeans own their houses.  The remaining 80% live in government housing.
  • Cars are ridiculously expensive to own.  Not only do they attract 41% tax on top of purchase price, you need to bid for a certificate of entitlement - there's a vehicle quota and they open up bidding for certificates on a monthly basis. 

*some of these items may be incorrect, it was just a dinner discussion with wine and beer....

It's really interesting living/working amongst the locals - you find out a lot about the country.  I guess it goes to show that there's always a ying and yang - it seems you can't have all the pro's without any cons.  

Anyway this was a very political boring post.  Off to dinner tomorrow with Lisa's friend's mum, and Friday I am toying with the idea of the cinema, I want to see Thor and the idea of seeing it in Chinese with English subtitles tickles me. 


PS just so there's some photos today, here's a pic of my maybe free maybe not free dinner...

1 comment:

  1. Oh yum - that lamb looks amazing!! Very interesting post :) And with the crime rate that low maybe I can convince Mark to holiday outside of England and France! xxxxxx


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