Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lack of Tolerance?

I thought I had learned to be more tolerant - until an evening recently, when I invited a couple of long-lost friends to share a meal at Sydney Chinatown's East Ocean Restaurant!

Having been involved, albeit on a peripheral basis, in the hospitality industry for many years, I am most particular about etiquette of waiters and waitresses in restaurants. I find there is a great deal many serving in Chinese restaurants can learn from their counteracts in the western settings.

The decor of to the restaurant was quite impressive by any standard. But the moment you went into the restaurant proper, you could see that the people there were really a sloppy lot - in terms of room orderliness and reception. But never mine, they are all like that, so I said to myself.

After our meal, we ordered some pancakes. I immediately lost my cool when they were served! Three pieces for ten people??? When we asked for them to be cut so that we could share, the "dumb blonde" cut each into half. Six for 10 people??? I couldn't help asking her if she had forgotten to bring her head to work. I was a little little curt in my tone. it was just me
But I suddenly notice the disapproval looks of some friends. How could I be so patronising!!!

I certainly still have a long way to go in terms of xiu-yang (休养)!

But again, why are we Chinese generally so incapable of exercising common sense? And thoughtfulness? And social etiquette? 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Malaysia: What have you become?

My wife and I enjoy playing taxi driver, albeit unpaid ones, to our two grandsons in Melbourne. Apart from that, much of my time is immersed in Malaysia’s online press: The Star Online, Free Malaysia Today, Malaysiakini, The Malaysian Insider, and Malaysia-Chronicle. I used to read Malaysia, but have long lost respect of its principal, for his lack of credibility and made-up stories. I am simply hungry for news about Malaysia. What is going on there???
I feel sorry for many of my compatriots back home. Many are caught in the so-called middle-income trap. Life must be pretty hard for a mid-level executive who may be earning something like MYR10K a month. Really how much is left to feed one’s family after paying for your house and car, not to mention children’s school-going needs? Things aren’t cheap in the wet markets either; so are most of the goods in supermarkets and shopping malls. Many are priced even higher than those found in higher income countries!
Many will disagree with me. Look at the number of Mercedes Benzes, Porches, BMWs and even Jaguars and Bentleys in the Klang Valley, so these people will say. Sure, many of these are rewards for one’s achievements – in business or work. But many are a results of easy or free money falling on your laps – if you are a politician or in some branches of the executive and are happy to sell your soul. What do our men-in-the-street drive? Chances are a Proton or a Perodua! As for the rest – the rural and the urban poor – I suppose one just take a day at a time?
It is really quite easy to create a tyranny in our country; most of us are basically a subservient lot – either full of the zombie inertia or fear of arrest by police. We can criticize the western countries for their hypocrisy about human rights etc., but this fact remains: their systems will always have a decent check and balance mechanism to weed out any abuse of power.

Partly it is our own making; partly we are living in a system that many of our basic rights have been robbed from us. But again, this is a chicken-first-or-egg-first question. I suppose as long as race and religion are deemed more important than nationhood by the majority, we can only wobble forward!

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Sinking Feeling

Although I am fortunate to still be able to earn some honoraria here and there, I consider myself primarily a retiree. So is my wife. Being “self-funding” – meaning, we have to depend on ourselves since we are not entitled to pensions – we have to be careful with the way we manage our nest egg. The little we have is in either Melbourne or Malaysia.

Both currencies are sinking!!!

An Aussie dollar is only worth about 73 US cents today. Malaysian Ringgit is even more pathetic; it is now 3.91 Ringgit to a US dollar!

It is a loss-loss situation for me and my wife!

While it is Australia’s wish to see their currency going south, since the ‘emperors-not-knowing-they-have-no-clothes-on’ insist this is good for the country, they got what they had wished for. But these ‘emperors-not-knowing-they-have-no-clothes-on’ have largely lost touched with the masses. People are feeling so much poorer there today.

On the other hand, in Malaysia, the ‘emperors-not-knowing-they-have-no-clothes-on’ here say our economic fundamentals are all great, yet the Ringgit keeps sinking. I believe all of us know the reasons; any attempt by me to explain is like my trying to tell folks how to suck eggs. (I might also run the risk of being hauled up on the account on promoting the subversion of parliamentary democracy!)

Because I gave a financial commitment to make in Malaysia, I flew in with AUD20K in cash. Thinking that the exchange rate of 2.81 vis-à-vis Malaysian Ringgit I saw on the money changer’s board two days ago was save enough for me to make the exchange, I promptly off-loaded my Aussie dollars. To my chagrin, Ringgit plunged again yesterday; it was 3.91 to a US dollar and 2.85 to Aussie! Overnight, I felt “short-changed” for a couple of hundred Ringgit overnight!

Whose are these ‘emperors-not-knowing-they-have-no-clothes-on’ that I have been referring?

Those who label themselves economists – by virtue of his or her degree or degrees in Economics!

Oh, low Aussie will benefit our exports – wines, tourism and commodities, blah, blah, blah – since they make us “cheap”, say these conventional ‘emperors-not-knowing-they-have-no-clothes-on’ in Australia.

But how do this benefit men- or women-in-the-street? They simply find that everything seems to be getting more expensive! How many are fortunate to have their income adjusted upwards?

My argument is simple, unless a shift benefits the majority of the men- or women-in-the-street, all the big talks from these ‘emperors-not-knowing-they-have-no-clothes-on’ simply do not hold much water!

Countries like Singapore, Switzerland and China have never attempted to talk down their currency. The ‘emperors-not-knowing-they-have-no-clothes-on’ there do have something on! It is productivity, productivity, and productivity that make the difference! (Remember Location, Location and Location in Property investment?)