Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Secret Recipe

I have the privilege of attending a training course on Economic Development in Singapore and today was actually the second day. I must say I’ve been enjoying it and so far have learnt a couple of ‘development tricks’.

Now, we (at least, I) often wonder how did Singapore do it? From Rags to Riches. From Zero to Hero. From Third World to First World. What are the secret recipes or the brilliance of it? Well, the answer is NOT so secret or complex at all! In fact, it’s all about simplicity.

We know for a fact that Singapore has no natural resource and uses its human resource to develop the country into what it is today. But it doesn’t mean Singaporeans are different from any other people in the world. What actually make Singaporeans appear to be superior (or cleverer or more hardworking) than Bruneians, for example, are simple basic rules that they live by.

1. Do Not Make Life Difficult: Especially for a small country where human resource is limited. We don’t have many people to handle too many regulations/jobs/complexity. Take Ease of Doing Business as an example. In Singapore, there’s only 1 form to fill and takes less than a day for a business application to be processed. Does this mean the Singapore government is not being vigilant i.e. by letting any Tom, Dick and Harry to set up whatever business he wants? Does this mean the business can be set up anywhere and anyhow it wants it to be? So how does the government ensure that any business is properly set up? The answer lies in no. 2 and no. 3.

2. Treat People as Humans with Brains: Normal human being should be able to think rationally and generally will abide by the rule. Not forgetting, almost everyone wants to do well for themselves. So a genuine businessman should follow whatever regulation there is.

3. Implementation is Key: No matter how perfect a policy is designed, without implementation, it is guaranteed to fail. So in our example of setting up a business, any businessman that does not follow the regulation, must be punished and treated according to the law. The implementation act is the perfect deterrence of any wrong-doing.

4. Think Ahead: Singapore policymakers are trained to think ahead, see the bigger picture, and to do something now in preparation for the future. This act of pro-activity as opposed to re-activity, to me, is the secret recipe to the Singapore success.

All of the above appear to have been applied to all sorts of policies including the administration such as the appointment of leaders and top management, the budget allocation and so forth and so on.

So to conclude, Singapore did not and perhaps never adopted any complex policy after all. All they did was applying the commonest sense in all of its development policy. And this continues until today. And it works.


Monday, 2 November 2009

Tips to a Blissful Marriage

I was reading the Star this morning and there was a story (news) on how the Terengganu state government wants to ‘spice up sex life of newly-weds’. The divorce rate in that state has gone up and apparently the main contributing factors are Body Odour (I cannot imagine!), Humdrum Sex and Boring Pyjamas (including those worn-out t-shirts that we so dearly love that actually horrify our other-halves) . I don’t know what the divorce rate is in Brunei or the causes. But I think these should also be addressed in Brunei pre-marital course (kursus nikah).

So before you buy ‘Tongkat Ali’ or ‘Kacip fatimah’ these are a few ‘investment for life’ products that are vital in every marriage:
1. Deodorant and perfume;
2. Lingerie for women (I need to buy these too!); and
3. Decent pyjamas/sleepwear for men.

It was also suggested that taking a bath/shower together can also help in the S department.

Ok, Abang……!


Friday, 30 October 2009

The Planet in Trouble

This morning I had the pleasure of attending a BEDB Forum entitled ‘The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia’. I must admit, when I received the invitation I thought ‘oh dear, I will sleep..’. On the contrary, it was quite interesting and had me thinking that I should blog about this.

There was a presentation by the Asian Development bank (ADB) about how the climate has changed and caused the natural disasters. And that if the world continues its business as is, in about 50 years from now, the planet earth may no longer be a healthy planet to live in.

There was also a panel discussion on ‘Towards a Strategy on Climate Change: How Can Brunei Darussalam Contribute?’ Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay until the end of the discussion due to an office appointment. So, I didn’t actually get to hear from the experts what Brunei could and should do to help our planet which appears to be in great trouble.

Earlier on however, while listening to the remarks made by Dato T, which was as captivating as any of his previous ones, I began to list down what Brunei could do immediately without having to incur millions of dollars in cost. I would like to share this with you.

1. Public Education: Call it ‘Awareness’ or ‘Changing the Mindset’. This has to be done Pronto. This alone however will not have a big effect unless back by some policies because let’s face the fact, this does not appeal to our culture of ‘it’s –my-money-I-can-do-what-I-want-to’. So, by having some advertisement or one-off ‘awareness day’ (only) on the cost to the environment of diesel car or excessive electricity or excessive recyclable rubbish, my bet, will not change anyone’s mind let alone, centuries-old habits.

2. Policies: Now, before we talk about investing in solar power or wind power and what not, I think there are a number of policies that can actually make a difference.
First and foremost, look at the way we use the air-conditioner in the government offices! I tell you, in some departments frozen chicken can actually stay frozen for days if left in the rooms…well, ok I’m exaggerating, but some offices ARE cold. Now, can’t we have some sort of regulation to ‘cap’ the temperature? They do this in Japan, I was told.

What about the use of energy-saving light bulbs? Are these being used in all departments?
Before we ask the public to recycle, please can we practice what we preach? I do not recall ever seeing a recycling bin or box in any of the government building (at least in those I’ve been to). Well, they don’t have to be expensive or special bins, the normal ones with some pictured labels should be enough I think. I mean, if my children’s school can do it, I’m sure government departments can do it too, no?

Other ideas in my head (which may not easily implementable) include the encouragement for supermarkets to charge their plastic bags. Those plastic bags are not free in the first place. So let the consumers know how much they really cost.
Limit the number of parking spaces in government buildings, so people can be encouraged to come in twos.

And I can go on..

But the point of me writing this is that yes..we can contribute..We can start at home. (We do). You may say, ‘I alone won’t make a difference’ but if everyone contributes in his or her own little way, I’m sure it will.


Tuesday, 8 September 2009

That's Life!

I know it's been a long while of me updating this blog. Sometimes I wish there are more than 24 hours in a day. I can tell you my life has never been busier..(Can I do another PhD?!). Busy at work and equally busy at home. A boss at work, an amah at home hehe. That's life!

Actually there is so much in my head that I'd love to write about. Maybe one of these days.

For now, I just want to wish all Muslim readers, Happy Fasting..let's embrace the last 10 nights of Ramadhan..and at the same time Selamat Menyambut Hari Raya..
A reminder to myself and readers, Spend wisely! Buy Needs, avoid Wants! In the words of one very distinguished religious Pehin, "Tidak Kedekut, Tidak Membazir" (Not miserly nor wasteful).


Thursday, 23 April 2009

Dewasa Bernegara Part 1

I’ve been back for more than 4 months but I still cannot accept how Bruneians, especially parents, actually live. They don’t seem to value their lives and their children’s. I’m referring to the use of safety belts in the cars of course. Everyday, everywhere I see children jumping up and down in the passenger seats. What is worse, I always see parents who actually drive with a child on his/her lap. Once, I actually saw a car swerved in the middle of a road and when I looked at the driver, it was a man holding a crying BABY!

It looks like the law on child-seat and safety belts fall on deaf ears.

Some people blame it on the implementation of the regulations. They say the police are not doing anything about it so why should we. I say: when accidents happen, those policemen won’t lose their lives but you and your children will.

Some people say the child-seat is expensive. I say: more expensive than the lives of your children?

Some other people say their children refuse to sit in the child-seat and/or wear safety-belts. Since they don’t want to upset their children then let them do as they wish. I say: You don’t love your children!

I’m ashamed and saddened by the way we Bruneians see and live life. After 25 years of independence, do we deserve to be called ‘Dewasa Bernegara’ when we do not even want to be responsible for our own lives and that of our children? When we still need other people to look after our lives? When we still embrace the old-skool mentality of law-breakers as opposed to law-abiders?

Oh dear.


Monday, 13 April 2009

Islamic Banking in Brunei

This morning on the way to our children’s school we listened to ‘Pedoman’ (Nur Islam Channel) and the topic discussed was Islamic Banking. The good Ustaz was explaining the virtue of the system and so on and so forth, which reminded me of my fourth year Islamic Economics course that I took ages ago.

Although I can’t recall 95 percent of what I had learnt during my early twenty’s, the one thing that I still remember is that the system is based on ‘profit and loss sharing’ and the prohibition of ‘riba’ (interest).

Now, a few days ago, I bought a car and took a car loan from one of Brunei’s Islamic finance institutions. I am no expert in Islamic banking so I asked the loan officer to explain to me the difference between the car loan offered by them and those offered by the conventional banks. Well, his answer was simply we’re Islamic! Well, that didn’t answer my question, I pointed out to him that the monthly payment for the loan was exactly the same as the monthly payment that I would need to pay if I were to use a conventional bank. It was only a matter of preference!

I did not want to press the poor guy partly for the fear of rejection of my loan application and partly I knew it was not his fault in the first place. I actually asked the same question to a number of that particular bank’s staff whenever I visited it and I always got the same answer. It makes me wonder whether the bank has ever given its staff a training course on Islamic banking. I feel sorry if it hasn’t and I think it should.

Anyway, somebody please explain to me how Islam are the Islamic banks in Brunei? Frankly, I don’t see the difference between them and any of the conventional banks, in terms of their operation. They may not be involved in the financing of any of the unislamic activities such as gambling, entertainment etc. but I think in terms of profit and loss sharing- which is the basis of the system, they only share the former but never the latter, which to me makes them no better than any conventional bank.

So, please prove me wrong.


Monday, 6 April 2009

Still Alive

Finally, the broadband is now up and running. Thanks for still dropping by. Will write soon (although the choice of topic is now quite limited).


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Thanks Malay Mail

Apparently this blog has been featured in the Malay Mail: Cyberspot. Thanks!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Bruneians and their toys

As I said never say never again, I cannot resist in making some comments regarding the more stringent enforcement of down-payment for car purchases. Firstly, I say it’s about time! This should have been enforced many years ago. Secondly, before many of you hurl all sorts of negative remarks toward the ministry and its directive, I urge you to think twice. Believe you me, this policy is not about making the rich gets richer or the poor gets poorer (i.e. the argument that poor-people-now-can –no-longer-afford-to-buy-cars or make it ‘expensive cars’), in fact it is the opposite.

The previous lax in the enforcement has made many Bruneians spent what they could not afford. This is what we called ‘wealth illusion’. We think we are ‘wealthier’ because we can afford to buy new and big cars, without even batting an eyelash. When in actual fact, we have actually trapped ourselves into ‘debt-slavery’. Don’t many of you feel that the more you earn, the less you actually take home? I’m not going to talk about how the US started (and now many parts of the world) its recession, but in one line, it is really due to this slavery.

Anyway, it should also bring good news to consumers. I am predicting (well hoping actually) that this policy will have an impact on the price of cars in Brunei. [To economics students, don’t read the next paragraph, think about it for a moment :)]

The policy will reduce the demand for cars. If the car-dealers are behaving ‘normally’, they will have to knock down the prices of cars (hurray for me! as we need to buy one) at the expense of their profit margin and perhaps the commission of our friendly car-salespersons. Either that or the interest rates will be knocked down.

So, there. That’s what I think and ought to happen. I’d be quite surprised if it doesn’t. I don’t think the demand will be unchanged since there are already too many cars waiting (at home) to be driven by too few people in Brunei.

Next, credit cards please!


Thursday, 18 December 2008


After having a 50-minute viva, I'm done! Yeayyy! Well I still have some corrections to do but Ya, I'm in Cloud 9..
Thank You to my darling husband and my beautiful daughters for their support and understanding in the last 4 years. Mama's coming home soon...!
Thank You to everyone who's been reading my ramblings for the past 2 years or so. Well, now that I'm about to go home and work (back to reality), there is a BIG possibility that I won't have the time to write as frequent as I want. Plus, I probably cannot write as freely as I want (in terms of topic) never say never, but there'll be less of me.

It really has been a pleasure...