Sunday, April 25, 2010

Count your blessings not troubles

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Tabitha Wang

PHOTO: Simple church version of Count Your Blessings

Budget tai tai count your blessings
Times are hard, but Singaporeans shouldn’t grumble

Maybe we should stop seeing the Government as our parents, expecting them to shelter us from all harm all the time. Banks collapse, economies fail, property prices balloon ... these things happen.

A friend recently lost his job. He had been working with the same firm for 20-odd years and had anticipated retiring from that company in a few years’ time.

PHOTO: letter C...and you are invited to count your blessings along with me.

Instead, the bosses called him into a room, told him his work was unsatisfactory and fired him on the spot. All he had to show for almost all his working life was two months’ pay in lieu of notice.

As an American working for a British company in Singapore, he found he was not protected by any country’s law. He tried to sue for compensation but all the lawyers he consulted, whether in his home country or host country, told him he had no case.

To make matters worse, he and his family had to leave Singapore almost immediately because his employment pass had been cancelled by his firm.

His kids, who had lived in Singapore all their lives, had to leave their school mid-term while he and his wife scrambled to look for somewhere suitable to live.

The whole thing was a mess.

PHOTO: Count your blessings, not your troubles

When I met him in Hong Kong, he looked like he had aged 10 years in a couple of months. He was bitter, angry with everything in general.

I could well understand this unfocused rage, because I have had lots of it myself.

As you know, my husband too lost his job in Hong Kong. Since then, he has been applying assiduously (Constant in application or attention; diligent) for one position after another.

It’s been soul destroying to see all his applications come to nothing. He was over-qualified, said some, not experienced enough, said others.

Mindful of advice to “just accept anything”, he tried for jobs as shop assistants, only to be passed over for someone with more experience.

Even driving a taxi is out of the question.

Unlike in Singapore, licences in Hong Kong are controlled by individuals. It costs HK$4 million ($706,000) for a licence for a taxi and HK$6.5 million for one to drive a minibus.

As we are in a foreign country, we can’t look to anyone for help. Yes, there are times when I feel like lashing out at someone, anyone.


But apart from my husband’s unfeeling ex-employers, who can I blame?

Since my earlier column on hardship allowances, I’ve been accused of being anti-expat. How can I be, seeing as I’m one myself?

I may be anti-fat cat bonuses but I have a lot of sympathy for expats struggling to make a living on local terms.


Especially when you have no one to rely upon but yourself. There is no “gahmen” to blame or call upon to get you out of your mess.

Our Minister Mentor once called Singaporeans “champion grumblers”. Well, Hong Kongers are too.

Get into a Hong Kong taxi and the driver is full of opinions about what the government should do. My local friends are always railing against this policy or other.

I told a colleague about my American friend’s dilemma and she immediately said: “The Government should do something about it.” It is exactly the same when I read some Singapore blogs, which start with “the Government should ... ” followed by “dampen rising house prices/create more jobs for Singaporeans/stop closing down wet markets ...

Maybe the Government should. But maybe we should stop seeing the Government as our parents, expecting them to shelter us from all harm all the time.

PHOTO: TODAY, Thursday April 22, 2010, BUSSINESS, PAGE b4 (OWELL Bodycare - A Mother's Love, A Timeless Gift)

Banks collapse, economies fail, property prices balloon ... these things happen.

We can wait for the Government to come up with policies to shield us from the fallout. Or we can just hunker down and try to work things out ourselves.

Can’t find a job? It’s painful, but shouldn’t you be concentrating your efforts in looking for one rather than writing blogs against foreign workers?

Can’t afford that penthouse unit in Bishan but have a point-block flat in Bedok?

You still have a roof over your head. At least you have an HDB flat rather than squatter homes or wire mesh cages; yes, they still exist in Hong Kong.

So, if you have a job, a roof over your head and a full tummy, what more could you ask for?

PHOTO: Count your blessings instead of your calories.

Unless it’s for the Geylang Lorong 9 beef kway teow shop to start franchising. Now, that would be a cause worth fighting for.
By Tabitha Wang

Tabitha Wang wonders which Government department she should complain to if volcanoes spoil her holiday.

PHOTO: The Ultimate Start-Up Space Winner Jamie Koh & Cherilyn Tan


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PHOTO: letter C...and you are invited to count your blessings along with me.

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