It’s been a while since the Budget was announced, and since then the only thing that seems to have continued echoing is this thing called the Pioneer Generation, and the size of their packages.
I’m not saying that my father’s generation — the one that built the republic’s foundations — doesn’t deserve the recognition or the reward that were supposed to come with it. But that’s not the point of the Budget for me.
Any national fiscal measure is a measure of the direction the Government wants the country to head towards. And for the most part, I agree with where it wants us to head: A high tech, high productivity economy.
There’s never been more money being poured into grants and rebates for productivity, innovation, and internationalisation. It’s easy to bandy these terms around, but the thought behind it is that we’re looking to look after the people that do the work.
This means measures to ensure we don’t over rely on cheap foreign labour again. I don’t like seeing companies that employ a whole bunch of foreign unskilled labour and deploy them higgledy piggledy just because they can afford to, and I’m happy cheap labour supply has been tightened, and that companies are finally looking to innovate to save costs.
As a small business owner, I’ve been witness to how rising costs have forced me to innovate and abandon old practices. Rising rental costs were killing me and my ability to retain a headcount — so off went the receptionist/admin staff, finance manager and other staff. I opted for a cloud based, paperless billing/accounting/time-costing system that I’ve subsequently become a reseller for.
I don’t have to have a finance or accounts clerk to chase late invoices because my cloud accounting system does that for me with increasingly curt emails (best thing ever). When clients call to ask questions about their file, I can answer their query almost anywhere thanks to my files being electronic and in the cloud. There’s no need to call up the office to get a staff member away from their tasks at hand to answer a simple question.
There are so many other options available that would make your existing staff’s lives easier, and encourage other potential job seekers to upgrade and train themselves so their jobs are multi-faceted, multi-skilled.
The fantastic thing in the Singapore context is the fact that all these things can be subsidised. Actually, subsidisation is an understatement. The Government is practically paying businesses to modernize.
Take the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) for example. You get a 400% write off in your business’ tax returns (for businesses that employ 3 or more local staff), meaning if you buy a $1,000 computer, it is worth $4,000 in your tax returns, so you pay less in taxes.
But if you were making a loss, no worries — the scheme lets you get a cash rebate of 60% for your purchase. So if you were to buy a $1,000 computer, dis Gahmen GIVES YOU BACK $600!
DIS KIND OF LOBANG WHERE CAN FIND LIDDAT? SRSLY!
And if you think that’s like ZOMG WLE SIGN ME UP NAO, there is more money being thrown your way to make your company staff’s lives easier.
After getting an e2i Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) discount of 50% off your productivity purchase, if you spend more than $5,000 in a qualifying period and you have claimed a PIC grant of 60%, you are eligible for a (taxable) additional cash grant of 100%. Confused? Nair mind.
Exempli gratia: You purchase $12,000 of several computers, machinery, and software that make your staff’s lives easier and more productive.
You get 50% e2i IGP discount and only spend $6,000.
You successfully claim a PIC cash payout of 60% or $3,600. THEN DIS GAHMEN WILL NOW GIVE YOU AN ADDITIONAL $6,000! OMGWTFBBQ DIS IS THE REAL GREAT SINGAPORE SALE!
Is this Budget serious about supporting SMEs and making lives of workers better? How about you read the previous five paragraphs to answer the question?
You’ve probably also heard about the increase in CPF contribution rates for the over 55s. There’s just not enough in workers’ CPFs to cover retirement necessities, partly because of how much older Singaporeans are when they do finally get married and have kids, and how much more our life expectancies have increased.
I’m glad dis gahmen is also implementing grants to cover the increase in employers’ contributions. Of course, thanks are in order to NTUC for pushing the idea of increasing employers’ contributions to the lawmakers.
There’s also other monies to tap on if you’re interested in improving workers’ skills — the Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education Fund has now been topped up to $4.6b. Again, these funds and schemes have been pushed by NTUC for several years now.
You can call it the happy circle of life — happy employees, productive company, better products, and happier customers. The ball is firmly in our court to put the money to good use — make your employees happier, more productive, more skilled and make your staff and your business continue to be the backbone of the Singapore economy.
A super cyclone lashes the low lying Padma delta region, wiping out scores of villages and rendering millions of people homeless. The refugees who are able to start streaming onto higher ground, into already clogged and crowded cities like Chittagong and Kolkatta. And since we’re talking about millions of people — it becomes a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.
Over here in Singapore, we’re still only just complaining about 2 months without rain, and the haze compelling us to spend the rest of our time indoors. We empathise and send aid in the form of cash, food and clothing. Burma and India start to ask for aid because they can’t cope with the influx of millions. Bangladesh is on its knees as disease begins to take hold of everything that isn’t in the massive exodus.
Then it happens — the tens of thousands of low wage workers from Bangladesh and the Kolkatta region refuse to repatriated after their contracts expire, because they have no homes to return to. The UN bars Singapore from repatriating anyone newly classed as Climate Refugees. And that, is how climate change will become a matter of national security. Read more and start to do something.
Update: Giveaway extended to 2 April 2014, 2359hrs
I count myself one of the lucky people in this constantly changing country. I had a mother who was a relentless hoarder of things. She kept everything.
I discovered a tonne of things she kept that I thought she would’ve thrown away. After all, she did throw away my ACSOBA (ACS Old Boys’ Association) rugby jersey that had been retired and given to me when I played a game back in the late 80s. That the school and its Old Boys’ Association retired their jerseys only once every five years did not move her. She had disapproved of my playing rugby, even after I had left school, because rugby boys were a bad bunch.
When she passed away three years ago, my sister went through her belongings and passed me a box of things which turned out to be a treasure trove. In the box was a plastic folder she had neatly kept her own “Leaving School Certificate” from ACS Seremban (Malaya) in 1955, her driving licence from Melbourne, her first pay slip from the same city, and a rejection letter from the PUB in Singapore in 1965 when she applied for a job upon settling in the newly independent republic of our country.
That same year, my mother and father had returned to the newly federated union of Malaysia and Singapore by ship from Melbourne, planning to marry in Malaysia and settle in the city of Singapore to live and work. It seems it wasn’t long after they disembarked at Clifford Pier that that whole episode known as The Separation happened.
She made an amazing effort to keep my stuff too. There are about 10 copies of my birth certificate, my citizenship certificate (I had not been a citizen at birth even though I was born in Singapore — constitutional lawyers would know why), my first IC, passport photos through the years, Army mugshots, old bankbooks, cleared and returned cheques and dozens of other paraphernalia worthy of a museum display.
I am forever grateful that she kept these things in such great condition, given that everything else in our country seems to be getting erased and built over so relentlessly and rapidly. I can hardly remember what Marina Bay looked like when it was a real bay.
Where I lived from birth till I was about 6 is also almost a mere memory. I remember my first address: 412 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore 5. Yes, a single digit postcode.
Across the road there used to be a police station (not an NPP), where policemen in their shorts used to be summoned across by my mother to scare the crap out of me when I misbehaved. Behind the police station was the beach, and a jetty where fishing boats docked, unloading their catch to be sold at the fishmonger’s (Ah Heng’s) on the corner of Pasir Panjang and Clementi Roads.
I must be one of the lucky, lucky few who can still find his house of birth after 45 years. The original stones that make up the gate’s pillars are still there in its 70s kitschy glory. I drove past it last year and reminded myself to go and take a picture of the gate. Or maybe chip off a piece for keepsake. After all, the police station is no longer across the road.
From this magical box my mother left with me, there are four items I want to share with you:
And not from the box my mother left me, this is a picture of the gate’s pillars at 412 Pasir Panjang Road:
I played within these gates, on the driveway, on my toy cars and bicycles. I hope my son will remember his playgrounds and other places he spends with his Mama and Papa the same way I try to remember mine. It is important to have that sense of belonging and continuity.
I strongly urge everyone to take stock of the things around you, record them and the stories attached to them, for posterity, and for the prosperity of our collective memories.
As part of the Singapore Memory Project’s “10 for Keeps” campaign, a fabulous memory kit worth over $100 will be given away to 2 of you, and it comes complete with an Instax camera, a guide book on how to record your favourite memories, two packs of film and a pamphlet to submit some of the photos to SMP.
Some of your photos may be selected for a Memory Showcase exhibition at the lobby of the National Library Building from 11 Apr — 26 May. Come and check out if yours have been chosen.
Before you leave this page, leave a comment below to share what items you cherish the most, and the memory that comes with it by 31 March 2014. Best two entries (I choose) will win this Memory Kit.
OK the fortnight is almost up, and I think I’ve lost the Blogger Challenge component (to get as many people to sign up for the 1 Million kg challenge) of the campaign.
That means a forfeit. Of me wearing spandex and doing yoga or some other exercise designed to make me look more ridiculous than I already do. So please, if you want to save your eyes and those of the nation, do your part and let me not be last if there’s still time.
Being a part of this campaign has been interesting. Not least because I got my friends thinking about what they’re eating and what they’re doing about their health. I get lunch reports from friends telling me what they’ve had and what they’ve cut out. A fried chicken meal is now had apologetically.
Last week, a friend brought Naomi and I a box of delicious nonya kuehs sprinkled with coconut and guilt.
Personally I don’t believe in putting even more stress on myself when it comes to my own health. I count myself lucky I’m able to enjoy tasty and unhealthy goodies once in a while, and in moderation. But to be able to do that requires a little bit of thought into what I’m eating.
Two years ago I was diagnosed with having pre-diabetes and I’m quite sure if I hadn’t modified my diet then, I’d have upsized it to full diabetes by now. I’m now so used to not having soft drinks or any drinks with added sugar that the last time I had a gingerale, I had a stomach ache for a whole night. Most days now, the drink accompanying my meal is a glass of water or a cup of unsweetened tea.
It pays to be mindful, and I’m glad we eat healthily in our household. I know it’s hard to change our mindsets — but like the proliferation of soup stalls shows, once we create the demand for healthier food, the supply will follow.
If the 1 million kg challenge is new to you, or your friends, sign up, and sign them up. Oh lordy save me.
There’s been a surge in soup shops across the CBD in the past two years, catering to workers’ increasing preference for healthier options. I’ve tried some of these places, and I’ve never gone back to any. Soups dished out from boiling vats are simply depressing, and most of them don’t taste good.
It is difficult finding cheap, healthy, and tasty lunch options, but I think this trinity might have finally arrived in the form of this nondescript food stall in a coffee shop in Bukit Merah Central. Thanks are due to Dr Leslie Tay and the HPB’s 1 Million kg Challenge for bringing us to this place.
Called Lim’s Soup (The Art of Soup), the food stall is lovingly owned and operated by Eric Lim in the day. By night, Eric does something in finance. He didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask what it is that requires you to work at night in finance, because when you make soup as awesome as his shop does, why would you want to talk about anything in finance?
Soups are different at Lim’s, as Eric explains — there is a science (and and art) to “double-boiling” soup. The indirect heat extracts the flavour of the soup’s ingredients without overcooking (yes you can overcook soup) them. The results are clear broths and subtle flavours that dispense with the need for further seasoning, or god forbid, MSG.
Apart from the soups, Lim’s offer three grained steamed rice with a topping of cabbage as accompaniment, as well as menu items such as steamed minced meats with various toppings like salted egg yolk.
There’s also a dish of baked rice with salted fish which is probably the best I’ve ever tasted. At other places, you’d probably dig into the dish and bite into chunks of salted fish which kill your tastebuds. Not so with Lim’s version because the salted fish is so finely minced that it infuses the entire dish.
The thing that’ll probably make me lim a lot more of Lim’s Soup is that they deliver (if you order a day in advance). They’ll double boil your order and put them in vacuum flasks that will keep your dishes warm for two hours. This is because Eric thinks microwaving your soup to reheat them is an insult to every ingredient in your soup. He’s such a double-boiled soup nazi about it that he’ll let you keep the vacuum flask and only collect them the day after you’ve finished your meal. Now, that’s dedication.
So I went to the 1 Million kg Challenge launch at Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza on Saturday, signed myself up for the challenge by pledging to lose 3kg in three weeks.
It was a massive event, with exercise stations and sustenance stations where you could presumably learn about what kind of exercise was suitable for you, and what kind of food you could eat to become, and remain healthy.
The bad news is, in the days after the launch, I haven’t exactly been on the straight and narrow path to success. Being in the middle of a theatre production does that to you. It can be difficult to get enough rest, and I think I must have tallied an average of 5 hours a night this past fortnight.
Monday must have been a demonstration of what not to do if you wanted to lose weight: I woke up, dallied before skipping breakfast, then having a high carb lunch with little protein before feeling faint and trembly from hunger at about 4pm. Loaded up on another high carb pre-dinner, before having dinner and dessert. Fail.
I’ll get better. Promise.
Meantime, if you’re struggling with trying to get healthy and don’t know where to start — try signing up for the 1 Million kg Challenge and make a reasonably achievable pledge. There’ll be days (like mine) where your plans go awry, but keep at it, and keep me company. Let me know how your journey goes!
Remember to sign up: http://bit.ly/1iw4Uko
We’re into the third month of the new year, and while I’m glad I didn’t make any health-related resolutions to break, I haven’t done anything for my health apart from an alcohol fast that ended when I went on holiday last month (walau, Hokkaido is home to many first class breweries, can?)
But that’s going to change with another HPB initiative. The 1Million kg Challenge aims to make the whole country lose 1 million kg through healthy choices in diet and fitness. That hopefully will make Singapore light enough to be towed out of this region and away from the haze.
So if you don’t want to be in the haze*, and want to be healthy, do sign up for the challenge at www.millionkg.sg to pledge your weight loss or complete healthy tasks to be rewarded** with prizes.
The other challenge the HPB has initiated is this #1mkg Blogger Challenge. mrbrown, DanielFoodDiary, and myself will try to get as many people signing up on the 1 Million kg Challenge portal. Please click through this link or my picture on the right to sign up, and I’ll be credited with the referral.
This is where I beg and grovel for your help. Because if I come in last, they’re going to make me do something humiliating, like wearing spandex and doing hot yoga or something. So, tolong. Because mrbrown looks better in spandex than I do.
Over the next three weeks, mrbrown, DanielFoodDiary, and myself will be talking about our challenges in becoming healthy. We’ll be accompanied and mentored by the evil Dr Leslie Tay, who will torture us with tales of tasty hawker food while telling us it’s bad for us.
mrbrown and myself will also be at Ngee Ann City this Saturday between 3 and 4pm, supporting the launch of this campaign. Come and have a chat with us, and maybe give us your weight loss tips.
Think you’re up for the challenge? If so, then it’s game on! #campaign4mrbrown2wearspandex!
*sorry, joking. Haze beyond our control
**minimum system requirements: participants must be between 18 and 64 years old, and have an existing BMI of between 18.5 to 37.4
At the last management council meeting of the last year at my condo, we were presented with a request by the cleaning company for a 20% contract fee hike. The managing agent then presented us with three other quotes that hovered around the old fee mark. We opted to terminate the incumbent and go with the cheaper one. 20% was just too much.
The contractor gave the usual reasons — gahmen tightening supply of labour, and the mandated progressive wages about to hit the industry.
The Progressive Wage Model did indeed ‘hit’ last month, in a better way than I thought — in an incentive (basket, early nair say) worth a total of $5M for buyers of services — meaning we could’ve stayed with the old cleaning company, and NTUC’s Progressive Wage Incentive would’ve foot part of the bill.
That’s a nice cushion for buyers since it is now compulsory for cleaning companies to implement the Progressive Wage Model – Lim Swee Say’s betterer version of the minimum wage. Cleaners will now have better entry pays (at least above $1,000 per month), with clear pathways to higher pay based on work experience, skill upgrading and productivity improvements.
That, together with other grants (from the e2i) means that outsourcing industries like cleaning companies and security businesses can look at vendors of machines, systems and services that improve their productivity so they can provide the same level of service for clients without having to jack up prices 20% all of a sudden. (Which, in the words of a member our management council — “wah lao, one time so high, is too much”).
I also sat through a particularly dry presentation (sorry ah, presenter) by the Changi Airport Group during the Best Sourcing Symposium at the e2i, and managed to glean something — that with passenger number increases over the last five years, the adoption of best sourcing practices has somehow managed to keep the contract cost and number of cleaners relatively low while maintaining cleanliness standards.
There are ways for companies and buyers to bite the bullet and shift towards a more productive and innovative mindset, and seriously, you can get a discount via the Progressive Wage Incentive if you’re one of the first to do it. Apply now before it runs out!
- Good Things Must Share: Budget 2014
- Climate Change Is A Matter Of National Security
- Things I Will Cherish Forever #10forkeeps
- 1 Million kg Challenge: Update
- Lego Minifigures To Swap
- Good Things Must Share: Lim’s Soup (The Art Of Soup)
- 1 Million kg Challenge: Not A Good Start
- Posting Raindrops
- 1 Million kg Challenge
- Incentives To Wean You Off Cheapsourcing
- Don’t Eat Cheese And Don’t Drive
- Two Kumars
- Making Sure People #WORKRIGHT
- What To Do With Your Ang Pow Money #1: The Last Five Years
- NTUC Never U-Turns!
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