Me & My Friend

Riding out the Recession

“Riding out the Recession” – The Singapore side of the story ?

These are my personal candid notes and immediate thoughts as I listen to the presentations. So don’t pick my bones.  This a a grassroot leaders briefing conducted at the National Community Leadership Institute.  The topic headline was 7th Leadership Dialogue on “Riding Out the Recession”.

The dialogue’s Guest of Honor was Mayor Zainudin Nordin of the Central Singapore District. Here are some of his points at his opening speech:

The Reserves will be used: Does this mean that the recent rise in NASDAQ over the last two weeks will not sustainable and our government do not foresee a positive response in the next 3 quarters – would that mean that the new US government policies may not work? OR is viewed by our government that it may not work?

Preservation of Jobs – a system that is viewed as old school isn’t it. I do agree that it works, the last economic crisis has shown to results to cement this system. But the community’s expectations needs to be managed. After so many pass ‘presevation of jobs’ style implementations over the previous economic crisis, what have we learned and would do different this time to manage the community’s perception?  I may have miss it, but so far I don’t see it, the stressing and re-stressing on ‘Preservation of Jobs’.

GRLs have been doing what they have been doing, whether being told or innovatively done their best to help the heartlanders. May I ask what has been done to help the GRLs who were econmiically affected ? Have we ? Did we ? GRLs are being briefed on how to help the heartlands. Who ? may I dare ask, Who ? is there for a GRL to turn to for help if they themselves are economically affected.  Do remember that they usually don’t fall into a serviceable category in the myriad complex of rules for assistance. Are the GRLs in need ready to come forward for assistance? or do they simply fade away from community while we busy ourselves with helping the heartlanders ? … I don’t know, so don’t shoot me. These are just my random thoughts as I sit in the NACLI autditorium.

Benefits of having targetted job fairs closer to the heartlanders – the idea of being nearer to the heartlanders are great and I agree they are effective. Could we … have we thought of the possible issues of ‘face’ of the heartlanders. I recognise the need and agree with the benefits of the targetted job fairs, we may also need to be able to see how we can also not ‘disgrace’ the economically affected heartlanders on top of their current situation.

Mayor Zainudin feels that the ability of GRLs being able to talk in the heartlander’s lingo helps to bridge the gap between the policies and the heartlanders.

Final message from Mayor Zainudin: Stay Relevant and Caring, ride out the recession and emerge a stronger nation.

Ms Chang on Community Care Scheme – a multi prong approach with the emphasis of “Government as a last resort”. Agree that is a good system.  Can we also realise that there is a dire need for the government to NOT project themselves as ONLY willing to save a house on the brink of being burned down. The many other mult-prong help is great, can we STOP highlgihting ‘Government as a last resort’ Because it is NOT – With various schemes already in place, it is surely NOT. OK, I am repeating myself again, STOP saying ‘Government as a last resort’.  Just as our innovative Fire Department has done, they have moved away from putting out fires to preventing fires; we see them in our annual drills, we see them inspecting public buildings and factories.  That’s grassroots work, the government is not the last resort, isn’t it ?

1800 2220000 – CommCare Hotline.  Do you know ? I didn’t.  Maybe I must have doze off when this was highlighted.

Can we do more to ensure that this number is everywhere, so that heartlanders in need but have not been reached by a GRL can gain assess to this help? What are the efforts already in place for doing this ? Are these efforts enough

Karen from WDA spoke on SPUR: Centred on re-training to plug the skill gap for a working heartlander; to gain new skills and an unemployed to gain the skills needed for a job in a hiring sector that they need certification for. I like these efforts as it helps those who help themselves. This is what I called and termed as efforts where the phrase ‘Government as a last resort’ does not accurately project what has been done for the heartlanders

Coming up next was a video on ‘Riding out the Recession’ – Rice Party at Yio Chu Kang. Job Fairs at Tampines, why is there no IT system being use to track all the job seekers, what about a PA job portal to do job matching? Use a Job Portal to aid the recording and matching process and use and SMS and phone system to contact the job seeker who does not have internet access. Sunday Market; low cost stalls. Making Banner Bags at Henderson. Home to Home visits at Marsling.  Great video.

Moving into KopiTalk session

At the KopiTalk session these are my thoughts – We need a portal, an expanded portal that would track the needs of the needy. This portal should:
1. For a GRL to record the need of a needy heartlander and the actions taken, e.g. referred the heartlander to CDC for a job or for a certain scheme by WDA, CommCare etc.
2. The CDC official can then update on this system what has been done or not done or done buy not reciprocrated by the heartlander or it was a success and the heartlander found a new job with or without a new skill.  These case studies can serve as real life testimonies for the other heartlanders sitting on the fence.
3. The GRL can review the records if this needy heartlander comes by again and help moderate a new situation or challenge.
4. Employers can place their needs for a match to fill up their gaps.
5. These information from 4 can also be used to identify skill gaps from available job seekers and used to match the right training for the needy and fill the job available.
6. These information becomes a great resource for identifying success stories to inspire those who did not take actions to do so.
7. And many many more possibilities with such information.

KopiTalk: Job Fairs are great, however they carry a negative conotation. Can we innovatively create a more positive atmosphere ? Say we have a seasonal Residents Day (Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter). In the Residents Day, we can have all the usual fun activities for the families and on the side we have the job fair, we have an entreprenueral corner to help those who like to start their own biz give a try, use comical dramas to bring forth the message of the available assistance schemes from WDA and all other agencies. Use talks about “Money Management”, “Analysing the Financial Markets”, topics that are closer to the heart and interests.

KopiTalk: The street smarts are usually not a problem, they would have all their network and running around to get themselves up and running again. The group that is worrisome, driven to sucide are maybe; a MNC employee who got retrenched and the MNC gave them a nice retrenchment package, so financially they are not immiediately in need. But they feel a lost of face to be seen at our job fairs, so since they don’t have an immediate job need and are financially ok because of the retrenchment benefits, they withdrew into themselves and close their doors. This is a downward spiral and they start to nibble at their cheese and they spiral from a month to 6 to a year to two years and their employability goes off the chart on the negative end. This is the worrisome group that we need to draw out into a social activity like a Residents Day.

Dialogue with Mayor & PA CED

What about the asset rich and cash poor heartlander? How can we help them ? E.g. a heartlander unfortunately purchased the flat during the peak times and is now out of a job. So they have a flat that cost them $300k, there is still a $100k mortgage on it and the new flat scheme gives the loan off to a bank, so this heartlander still has to pay $1000+ a month on his mortgage loan. But they don’t have a job. The bank piles up the interest, they can’t feed the family. Are they poor? No, they are asset rich and cash poor. They can’t sell the flat because the valuation is now only $200k.  Just as in the US sub prime crisis where families forelorn their homes.

I like the scheme where HDB buy off the remaining lease from old couples and the money goes into a financial instrument that allows the old couple to receive a monthly stipent. Can we explore on a case by case basis to apply this to the needy heartlanders ? The heartlanders can have the option to buy back the lease at a later date if things turn to the brigther side. Just an added effort to help them tide over this mamoth crisis.

Altitudes / Values that has cause us to feel shame with lower end service jobs – e.g. cleaners, sweepers.

Start from our kids, get our schools to mediate the values required to respect these lower end service jobs. This is what our nation need to do paying it forward. It is already happening in other developed countries, where degree holders are cleaners. This financial crisis is not the last, there will be another one coming even if we survive this one. History has already shown this to be true.

We as a nation need to pay it forward

Finally, my usual disclaimer: Don’t believe a word I say, What I say ONLY comes from my personal experiences and immediate thoughts that arise out of this forum as I participate in it. It does not make me right. It does not make it wrong. If you see something here and have a better idea, do share, if it works, keep doing more and improve on it. If it does not work stop doing it and try something else.

Mayor stories: Singapore is a miracle or is it? – I think Singapore is a lot of hard work. A lot of sweat and blood of our determined heartlanders in the 60s and 70s. The presevence they exhibited, they are probably now in their 70s, they sweat to bring us to where we are today.

The Big 3 US car behemoth may fall, but they will come back stronger, we have to be ready.

Mayor Cat story: mouse wants to know where the cat is, idea is to put a bell on the cat, but who will do it. WDA solution, re train the mouse to bark like a dog and chase off the cat. Response from the ground: today’s cats are so well fed, they won’t chase after mice.

Well that’s it, this is my Saturday morning thanks to the nomination of my fellow grassroots who volunteered me for this forum.

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