Thursday, October 28, 2010

Food for Thought: The lowest denominator

Read this story and it struck home deeply.

I'm not trying to be noble or magnanimous in spirit when I penned this blog entry, nor am I attempting to resolve world hunger issues. But one principle I strictly adhere to with conviction in the army and also in my work environment is:

Everyone has a crucial part to play and the team is only as strong as the lowest denominator.

Recently a taxi driver shared his condition and predicament with me while driving to my customer's site. He is a 65-year-old Malay diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and hypertension. His wife is very sick and bed-bound. He drives to support her and himself. His income is largely used to pay for his medical expenses. His children are not financially well-off to support their parents. He complains of fatigue and wishes he need not work so hard because he wants less stress and to live a simple life. He is definitely NOT getting it right now.

I questioned quietly, "Was this man lazy in his teens? Or perhaps he did not think long-term and planned his retirement properly. Was it his fault or did he and his wife slipped through the cracks of progress and nation-building?"

To which I answered myself that during his time, getting a job and earning a living was the main driving factor. Not schooling. How many Singaporeans during his age had the luxury of completing their studies to an 'A' level certification which means little now even? Aren't we doing injustice to them because they had to let opportunities go in order to support their siblings and parents back then? I know of relatives who had to quit primary education to work as an odd-job labourer to help finance the family and siblings.

It was the right thing to do. At that time.

Now it seems like the government policies of CPF and retirement have turned around and bitten them. These same people whose blood, sweat and tears helped built this nation. These people have nothing to fall back on except to work and work until they cannot do so anymore. Even then they might not have enough for their twilight years.

I have written a previous article somewhat along this line. I hope and pray that the leaders of Singapore government will implement a minimal wage policy. I see a greater good in this policy than all the 'fear mongering' thoughts shared by my Labour Minister Lim SS. Ironic, isn't it? Is he for the people or for the businesses I often wonder. If having a minimal wage policy will see companies sourcing elsewhere, then perhaps they should be. The savings are proabably used to pay their top executives millions for 'screwing up' as in the recent discoveries during the global financial crisis.

And SGX paying premium dollar for ASX? Strategic move one may think. I'd say strategically moronic move. Don't we ever learn from the huge financial losses in Citibank, Lehman Brothers, etc? Australian shares and dollar are at a peak these few months. Seriously do you need a PhD in economics to work that out? See how the market reacted to the news of the SGX buyout of ASX - FALLING prices. Maybe they are telling you that they don't really like you.

Health Minister Khaw BW not too long ago proudly proclaimed he had paid no more than SGD$8 for his heart bypass surgery. My jaw dropped because I remembered other folks paying much more.

So the begging question is: How did he do it?

Apparently his bill amounted to SGD$25,000. Out of which SGD$20,000 was paid by his private insurance and the other SGD$5,000 was paid by Medisave. Isn't it obvious that the lum sum was paid by his PRIVATE insurance? I am no financial advisor but I can safely say his premiums must have been quite a sum.

If this SGD$8 can be translated to an ordinary Singaporean or even SGD$100 which I believe most Singaporeans will gladly pay for such a heart bypass surgery, I'd say the Singapore healthcare system is superbly awesome and fantastic. And my Health Minister and government ministers are worth every single penny of their millions in salary.

Alas it is not so because the general Singaporeans can't afford to pay such a premium to cover their health cost. So asking Singaporeans to subscribe to Medishield which may help them in some way doesn't address the issue that the majority of SGD$20,000 cost will still be foot by them.

Now personally that is no public healthcare system to me at all. Unless SGD$20,000 is borne by the Medishield and SGD$5,000 borne by the patient. Now that is what a healthcare system really is - make healthcare affordable and available to the general public.

Of course we'll have the nay-sayers claiming that the taxes will go up, people will abuse the system, etc. Frankly hasn't our overall tax been increasing over the years? In addition I have not met anyone who wants to get sick or be born sick. But isn't GST to help the poor? Whatever happened to that?

C'mon, what talk you (Singlish for what an absurd statement)!

Anyway here is the excerpt from the article:

Wisdom From The Past

Over two thousand years ago, during the Warring States Period in China, a simple old woman had the common sense to realize that people need to be decently fed.

Zi Fa was a general in the State of Chu. In a battle with the State of Qin, his food supplies were running out and he had to dispatch one of his men back home and asked the King of Chu for fresh supplies. While he was there the subordinate paid a courtesy call to the mother of General Zi Fa.

The mother asked, “How are the conditions of the soldiers?”

“The food situation is very tight. The men could only have some beans and grains,” the subordinate said.

“How about your general?”

“Don’t worry ma’am. Our General has Braised Meat to go with his fragrant rice.”

“Oh, “ the mother said, shaking her head.

Not long after, General Zi Fa scored a decisive victory over the Qin army and he returned to his country a hero. However, when he went to his own house, he found the gate locked and he was not allowed in.

His mother then sent a messenger to relay him her message:

“When Gou Jian, the King of Yue, was fighting the State of Wu, someone donated a cask of excellent wine. He poured the wine into the river and together with his men, he drank from the river. Would there be any taste of wine left? Of course not! But the morale of the men had increased five-fold. Later somebody donate him some bags of grain. He divided them among his soldiers. Would the grain be enough to lessen their hunger? Of course not! But their battle resolve had increased ten-fold.

“In your case, while your men starved, you feasted. Why? Did not the Book of Songs advise, “Don’t enjoy yourself too much, only then can the good man be peaceful and relaxed”? Is your behaviour at the warfront something to be proud of? You sent your men to die and yet you live in comfort. Even though the war was won it has nothing to do with you but your men’s valour. You are not my son. Don’t come home.”
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