Saturday, November 8, 2008

Teacher by day, bar dancer by night

Source: The Star
Insight: Down South

As the recession bites harder some find unconventional ways to get spending money while others show their meaner side.

WHAT was an ungracious act in a train has turned the spotlight on just how much stress the current financial havoc is putting on Singa­poreans.

The news website, Asia One, kicked off its report of the encounter by saying: “Desperate times call for depraved measures. The financial crisis might have hurt more than just our wallets.”

It occurred last Sunday, when a train commuter refused to give up his seat to a pregnant woman even when he was asked. Instead, he blamed it on the tough life, reported The Straits Times’ news portal.

The episode was photographed by an eyewitness, who quoted him as saying, ‘Life is already full of suffering, why should I reward her (the pregnant woman) for bringing one more life into this world?’

The furore centred on his ill manners and ignored his reference to ‘suffering life’.

Some believe it should not be dismissed out of hand and that the uncivil behaviour could actually reflect his despondent mood over the economic crisis.

“Singaporeans react differently to a crisis. Not everyone can articulate his thoughts rationally under pressure,” said one writer.

The man’s allegation about stress is, however, not without basis.

The majority of Singaporeans are coping well, striving to survive these hard times, keep jobs and preserve assets. Not all will succeed.

The stronger characters see it as an opportunity for a better future or to buy cheap, but for a segment of the society morale has sagged and a bit of lethargy has set in.

A forum recently started a discussion on unscrupulous retailers fleecing customers in Singapore, despite its reputation as a shoppers’ paradise.

A woman tourist said when her daughter wanted to buy a new digital camera, the salesman demanded S$30 to have the international guarantee stamped. She stood her ground and was spared paying.

Widely-travelled ‘mybingoh’ wrote, “Every time I returned to Singapore, I found people brasher and outright peevish.”

In sporadic instances, salespersons had shown distaste for their job and did not bother to hide it from the customers.

“I hear from the man in the street they are all trying hard to cope with the escalating costs of living and the sky-high rental premiums,” one said.

He gave several other examples: a hawker adamantly demanding $4 for a pineapple, a salesgirl at a camera repair shop ignoring a customer while chatting on the phone and specialist doctors charging exorbitant fees.

A retail businessman put the main cause in one word, money. In recent boom years, rents in the central areas had been skyrocketing – by as much as 50%-60% a year.

The recession has forced retailers to keep wages low, which in turn resulted in unhappy staff and customer service.

Others disagreed and attributed it to a spoiled generation following decades of prosperity.

“In certain jobs, we don’t have a good work culture, unlike Thailand,” one food centre operator said, explaining why he had to rely on China workers.

In a recession, service standards should in fact improve because workers generally need to work harder to keep their jobs, he contended.

Within the next 12-18 months, jobs will remain the biggest worry for Singaporeans.

Thousands of fresh graduates will come out of universities at home and abroad to start hunting for work at a critical time. They will be joined by youths from Asia’s job-hungry countries.

Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong last week warned people to expect deterioration over the next few months, with more Singaporeans losing their jobs.

“There will be higher retrenchment,” he said. So far, unemployment has stayed at 2.2%, although 2,000 more workers were retrenched in the recent quarter.

The more pessimistic analysts talk of a job tsunami, with decline across Singapore’s entire economy, including manufacturing, shipping, finance, tourism, retailing and property.

Yuppies seem to be doing reasonably well – so far. This breed is not good at being thrifty, compared with the older generation. Generally, they do not have a sense of urgency to save, so some of them are using unconventional ways to make spending money.

One ‘university’ girl offered to sell her soiled underwear while another – a 17-year-old – offered her virginity to the highest bidder.

The tabloid New Paper just ran a story about engineers, teachers and other professionals working as bar dancers at night-clubs, partly for fun but mostly for the extra dollars.

The newspaper exclaimed in a headline, “Is that my housing agent dancing on the bar?”

This market meltdown has struck the government and the wealthy just as badly.

The billionaires and wealthy property developers have seen their fortunes decimated, at least on paper, by as much as 60% since early this year.

“Some of these poor souls are down to their last one or two hundred million dollars,” joked a remisier.

In worst shape are Singapore’s state reserves, once estimated to be about US$330bil, much of it invested at home and overseas. Today values in the tens of billions are believed to have been erased.

In Singapore more than elsewhere, if the wealthy suffer so will the poor. That could mean less investment and employment as well as a drop in tax revenue for public services.

In fact, the government here is facing one of its toughest political tests since independence. It has to strike a fine balance between giving big business a free hand to cut costs to stay healthy and placating voters who may want just the opposite.

On the ground, these common folks want more spending by the corporations so they can have a better life.
posted by paymedollar at


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home