A prominent quote about one of my ex-girlfriends came from Singapore’s dumpiest hooker, who described my ex – Raffles Girls School (RGS) alumna – as having “Studied so much that she had become stupid”.
I think of this line because in a way, this sums up the biggest problem in Singapore these days. We have top heavy management filled with people who have studied so much that they have become stupid. If one were to look at the performance of the big firms run by born-and-bred CEOs, as was done in “BE LIKE A PARALYMIAN AND DON’T BUBBLE WRAP YOURSELF” (26 August 2021), you will notice an uncomfortable trend.
Our big local firms, run by born-and-bred Singaporeans have been underperforming in just about every measure and that is despite the fact that they’ve got near monopoly power in their domestic market on essential services.
The Internet is abuzz about how the influx of dark-skinned Asians has ruined the lot of local-born Singaporeans. The common complaint is this – how can someone from the University of Rubber Pundek Prata at the tip of Tamil Nadu get a position superior to the graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS), which we are told is a world-class university?
As much as the Government decries locals complaining about graduates from the University of Rubber Pundek Prata, the Government is actually grateful that the complainers are focused on the University of Rubber Pundek Prata because it separates the population from the awful truth that the real problem with Singapore is the fact that top positions in every organisation stuffed with power over the lives of ordinary citizens by people who have studied so much that they’ve become dumb to the reality of what’s happening on the ground.
Our guys have great degrees and the top ones don’t even come from NUS. They come from places like Harvard and Cambridge. If you looked at their qualifications, you’d say that these people are exceedingly smart. You would be right to assume that they’re smart – they’re so smart that they realise that all they have to do in life is to ignore all the basic laws of economics and collect money. The key to success once you’re in a lucrative position is to stay there and avoid getting into trouble – which means not doing anything. Your screw-ups will be miraculously turned into a success narrative.
Just look at the SMRT Corporation and how its former CEO, Mr. Desmond Kuek, a one-time Chief of Defence Force, became a hero for creating value for shareholders by selling the company to his largest shareholder, Temasek Holdings. Or look at another former Chief of Defence Force, Ng Yat Chung, who ran Singapore Press Holdings and became a hero by hiving off its media operations which now needs government support, and selling off its property business at less than peak price to a property company.
Our “local” genius seems to come from creating stories about how fine everything is without checking on the ground. Just this month, one of the best emerged. Apparently, an academic in our world-class national university has worked out that the people on the lowest rung of the ladder were in fact the least affected by price increases in the latter part of last year. The story can be found at:
The good professor ensured that he had the statistics to back his claim.
It’s quite clear that the professor is rather sheltered. Sure, the price of certain items that people in the middle and higher classes buy might have risen a bit more than that of what the poor shop for. However, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that someone earning S$5,000 a month is going to feel the pinch significantly less than someone earning S1,400 (the amount considered a minimal wage of sorts in Singapore).
What exactly are we trying to prove here? We have a world class university because it can come with statistics that magic away the reality that people face on the ground?
There’s no way of saying it other than to say that we are wasting brains and talent of our local achievers on creating a fantasy world. There are plenty of issues faced by normal people, who are paying Rolls Royce prices for a “top-notch” government to solve. The Government and our local elites need to spend a bit less time creating stories that have no relation to the reality that the rest of us face, and start having an honest dialogue with the people.
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