June 26, 2017

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Photo By Shawn Danker
AIA Singapore.
(Illustration by Marcus Tan)
(Illustration by Marcus Tan)

The alleged abuse of an intern has been in the news over the past week. Our young writers, BN’s Junior Chefs, penned these letters to employers on what they expect from an internship – if they get one, that is.

 

(Illustration by Melissa Lim)
(Illustration by Melissa Lim)

Dear Prospective Employer,

You are probably reading through yet another highly-polished résumé and letter beseeching you, the honourable employer, to employ a humble intern.

For three months, or six months only, you would expect me to jump ship just because I am not going to be a permanent employee. Bear with me as I give you another perspective to the story.

I will be suitably grateful for the employment. Thereafter, it will be my life’s mission to prove my worth. However, consigning me somewhere in a dark alley of your company, or doing tasks that I probably would be doing at home anyway, such as making tea and coffee, or “assisting” in trivial tasks will do nothing beneficial for your company. I am here to learn, and also apply what I have learnt for your benefit. Allow me to explore, and spark new ideas which may provide a new direction or opportunity for your company. We interns might just be sojourners, but we are fresher than many of your permanent staff that might have be so bored doing their jobs that they could be less creative, less inspiring or less productive than many of us interns. We, the said interns, are dying to give our best shot in this limited time window.

Here is a potential window of opportunity where, if you place your trust in us, you will find repaid plentiful with intangible benefits that money simply cannot buy.

Have I offered an offer you cannot refuse?

Yours Truly,
Donavan Cheah
One Who Makes a Difference

***

(Illustration by Melissa Lim)
(Illustration by Melissa Lim)

Dear Prospective Employer,

I am a professional student, currently in my second year of undergraduate study at the National University of Singapore. I would like to apply for the position of Intern at Your Company.

After 14 years of experience in the school industry, I have a wide array of skills that will prove useful to Your Company.

These are my terms and conditions for some of the relevant services I offer:

Package A* – $0/ month
Printing and Photocopying
Buying Coffee and Tea
Data Entry

Package B* – $500/ month
Research
Making Presentation Slides
Phone Reception

Package C** – Valuable Insight and Experience (negotiable)/ month
Interest
Learning
Problem Solving

*For a limited time only, I offer complimentary Boredom and Slacking services for Packages A and B. Blindly Following Instructions Though Sometimes Ignoring It is also available upon request.

**Please note also that some monetary remuneration is expected for Package C, though the rate is negotiable. The market rate of $0/ month may be accepted, though there will be an additional charge of Less Respect for Not Being a Half-Decent Employer.

Quality of services provided (Package C) is directly proportional to Valuable Insight and Experience paid.

At higher rates of Valuable Insight and Experience, you may also be eligible for Appreciation, Sense of Loyalty, as well as access to services in Package A and B – with no additional cost.

For further enquires, please contact me at 9xxx – xxxx or capablestudent@internship.sg.

Thank you.

Warmest regards,
Jonathan Tan

***

(Illustration by Melissa Lim)
(Illustration by Melissa Lim)

Dear Prospective Employer,

You have probably shuffled through many internship cover letters, all proclaiming how working in your company would be a “tremendous (or once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity”. These cover letters will be accompanied by impressive résumés clad in professional templates, proclaiming how the applicants have involved themselves in a multitude of activities. And maybe you will receive calls from the Career Services department of the universities, inquiring whether you will be interested in opening up more positions for the undergraduates.

Despite the anecdotal incidents of abuse, many still flock to these openings. Why?

The remuneration is often a non-issue. Most applicants are cognisant that their lack of qualifications depresses their allowances, and that they will not enjoy the same benefits as their full-time colleagues who have graduated from school. Those who are in serious need of cash will avoid internship offers. Abuse cases are far and few between, and most do their tasks well. At the end of the day, the schools have repeatedly emphasised that internships are opportunities for students to gain work experience (in other words, I should be thankful that you are gracious enough to provide work openings for us in the summer). And as a desperate young Singaporean deeply immersed in the rat race, these stints are extremely valuable.

Yet, your internship should not feature simplistically on my curriculum vitae (where I detail my supposedly magnificent contributions to the company, and how I have made a difference). Bollocks. Is it possible for me to be an “asset” if the three months were but a breeze?

Put me out of my comfort zones. Do not group us – the young interns – conveniently together, but allow us to interact with colleagues who have been involved in this line of work for some time. Hear me out, and understand my strengths and specialisations. Allow me to ease into the daily routines. Do not treat us as young ignoramuses with no experience in “the real world”, and mollycoddle us every step of the way. We can bring something new to the table.

Because quite frankly, I just want to be treated as a normal employee. Let me be part of the company. Once I have been shown the ropes, and after I have proven my competency in my first few assignments, entrust me with roles and responsibilities that you would have assigned to regular workers. More rigorous challenges like these will give me the chance to make mistakes on the job; and, more importantly, to eventually learn from these shortcomings.

Challenge your interns. We can take it.

Yours Truly,
Kwan Jin Yao
Resident Student Sceptic

***

(Illustration by Melissa Liim)
(Illustration by Melissa Lim)

Dear Prospective Employer,

I am the triple science ‘O’ level student who switched to triple humanities in the International Baccalaureate programme. I am also the NSF who took 1 whole week of leave during NS just to participate in the Habitat for Humanity programme, as well as the student who travelled to France for a semester exchange with only rudimentary French (4-week crash course, to be exact).

Why? Just because I can.

Expect different from me – from us – we are the You-Only-Live-Once (YOLO) generation. Our curiosity knows no bounds, leading us on to paths less travelled. While other employees give you the same ole’ dry ideas, don’t expect the same from me. I don’t promise mistake-free work, I promise a fresh perspective, a new take on old problems.

But I also expect different from you. I will not be satisfied with photocopying, with tea-making, with paper-filing. Been there, done that. And definitely not for anything less than $600 a month. You see, I did a quick calculation in my mind; if I worked at McDonald’s for $3.50 an hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, not only do I earn more ($560), I will also learn more (how to make those curly fries!). Not to mention, McDonald’s has won the Hewitt Top 10 Best Employer Award (Singapore) in 2007, 2009 and 2011. In the UK, interns are seen as just another source of cheap labour, I hope that the companies in Singapore do not follow the same path. We are not cheap labour.

An internship is a two-way process. You judge our work performance but we are also judging you. You are the prospective employer but we are your prospective employees. The internship is your marketing campaign to us. Mess it up and we not only promise not to ever apply to your company but we will also tell our friends not to work there. I remember all the internships where my friends have done menial labour, received paltry remuneration and in one particular case – sexual harassment in the form of dirty jokes bandied about.

I’m sure your esteemed company recognises that a happy intern is a productive intern. Treat us like valued employees in your company and I promise it will be a win-win situation for the both of us.

Yours Truly,
Augustin Chiam
Highly Employable Undergraduate

Photo By Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
The Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City Mall

by Daniel Yap

Plastered on the front pages of The Straits Times and The Business Times is the announcement of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) spinning off a REIT for their Clementi Mall and Paragon properties (SPH to spin off Paragon, Clementi Mall into REIT, ST, May 28; SPH plans to list retail Reit in July, BT, May 28).

The lead story in ST’s “Money” section was also about the REIT (Paragon’s value up by over $100m in 6 months, May 28).

While the BT article clearly declared that SPH owned The Business Times, ST failed to include that detail in its coverage. Both BT and ST clearly have a vested interest in the deal.

Coverage by other media was muted, with TODAY running a Dow Jones report just four paragraphs long, the same length as a Reuters report run on Yahoo!.

While the numbers highlighted in SPH’s own publications look glowing, it remains to be seen if anyone else is as upbeat as SPH about the deal, as the IPO price has yet to be announced.

SPH is expected to rake in $1 billion in net proceeds from the sale of the two malls to the REIT. SPH will retain a 70 per cent stake in the REIT. SPH plans to announce a special dividend of 18 cents per share after the spin-off – a handsome 4.1% yield based on SPH’s current share price of $4.39.

SPH has seen its revenues from rental growing from 10% of total revenue in 2010 to 13% in 2011 to 15% in 2012, even as revenue from its core publishing business fell in 2012.

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Photo by Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
A PVC hand.

by Daniel Yap

A Straits Times article called PM Lee Hsien Loong’s Istana guests “netizens”, a seemingly forced and vague classification (MP Lee has tea with netizens at the Istana, May 28).

It made the broad declaration of the guests’ status on this premise: “some had been featured by PM Lee on Facebook and Twitter, while others had followed or commented on his posts on these platforms”.

While the guests were indeed laudable individuals, it sounds like one doesn’t even need an Internet connection to be counted as a “netizen” these days. Just get someone else to mention your name online and a newspaper will bestow the honorary title upon you.

With Facebook listing more than 2.7 million people who “live in Singapore”, it is clear that just about anyone is easily a “netizen” these days. “Netizen” is so pedestrian that it’s hardly worth mentioning anymore.

Social media is mainstream, and just about everyone is a “netizen”. Time to come to terms with that.

by Bertha Henson

A survey by women’s advocacy group Aware is illuminating. The men are dominant members – and even the women seem to think this is fine. It must be a setback for those who have been championing equality of status between the sexes.

Here are the relevant statistics as reported in TODAY:

Men are the head of the households and should make most of the decisions in the family: 66 per cent of men agree, 46.3 per cent of women agree. Women are the ones who should take care of the household chores and care-giving: 58 per cent of all male respondents agree, 47.2 per cent of all female respondents agree.

Dig deeper and you will find that the younger set think a little differently.

Among those aged between 18 and 29 years old, 58 per cent of men think women should take care of household chores, compared with 38 per cent of the female respondents, according to TODAY.

So attitudes might be changing. More young men probably think it’s no harm wielding a mop and doing the dishes. And more young women agree that they can’t be the only ones laden with the laundry.

Other statistics, however, are dismaying. It concerns attitudes towards sex and violence.

Here are the statistics:

Women who are raped often ask for it: 12.06 per cent of men agree, 10.2 per cent of women agree. Women often say ‘no’ to sex when they actually mean yes: 19.39 per cent of men agree, 12.29 per cent of women agree. Women often make false claims of being raped: 24.89 per cent of men agree, 16.34 per cent of women agree.

Thing is, you can view the glass as half empty or half full. Why focus on the negative when it can be viewed positively, such as how most people (87 per cent of men and 89 per cent of women) do NOT agree that women who are raped asked for it?

Still, the fact that there are women who hold such views – such as making false claims about being raped – boggles the mind. A rape is such personal assault and the shame attached to being a victim would surely deter anyone from making false claims. In any case, isn’t the problem usually about rape victims who do NOT come forward?

Now, one in four men seem to think that women who cry rape are crying wolf. Is that why they – and even women – won’t intervene to help someone they suspect of being abused? Eight in 10 said they wouldn’t butt in.

There’s really something wrong with our society if we can think so poorly of others and don’t want to raise a finger to help victims. Reasons cited include they don’t know how to help/don’t want to make things worse/it’s just a one-time incident.

There really is no justification for mean-spiritedness.

Photo By Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
Audience watching a fireworks display.

by Bertha Henson

Who says Singapore has no talent? We’re making waves. Here are a few people we should celebrate from a reading of today’s MSM:

a) Film-maker Anthony Chen

Just 29, he’s the first South-east Asian to win the Camera d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Set in Singapore during the 1997 financial crisis, Ilo Ilo is about the Lim family and Teresa, their new domestic maid, a Filipina. It traces how their already problematic family ties evolve; and how cultures crash. Ilo Ilo is the name of the province in the Philippines.

If the G needs a poster boy on what a diploma holder can achieve, Mr Chen is it. He graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film & Media Studies. So unassuming was this Singaporean that he was actually leaving Cannes when he was told to stay for the closing ceremony to receive the award. His cast had already left for home. We’ll be able to catch the movie at the end of August at Golden Village cinemas, reported ST.

Now the question which aspiring filmmakers would probably like to know is what sort of help did Mr Chen get to make it to Cannes? Did the Singapore system kick in – whether in the form of financial, infrastructural or other aid – to help him onto the red carpet? Or did he have to do it all alone with just family and friends for support? He can’t not have been in the official gunsights given that an earlier film he produced earned a special mention in 2007.

Breakfast Network congratulates Mr Chen and his cast and crew. Thank you for putting Singapore on the filmmaking map!

 

b) Bishop Raphael Samuel of the Anglican Church

The 56-year old is the head of the church in the South American country of Bolivia. Yes, Bolivia. Go locate it on a map. He’s the first Asian to be consecrated Bishop in the Spanish-speaking Anglican world. What’s amazing was that this former Anglo-Chinese School boy, his wife and son, then just three, had relocated there in 1993. The couple spent six months learning Spanish and what followed was two decades of church work. They are the longest-serving foreign missionaries in Bolivia. His congregation is small, just 900 compared to the 30,000 or so Anglicans in Singapore. But his geographical span is three times bigger than Malaysia.

Breakfast Network congratulates the Bishop on his appointment and wishes him and his family well.

 

c) Daryl Neo, 28 and Charles Poon, 37

Former Singapore Exchange Regulators, they developed Handshakes, a system that can tell you all about the links, among other things, people in listed companies have with other people and entities. According to Business Times, they describe it as Disclosure 2.0. The duo collected data from 60,000 documents filed by Singapore companies since 1997 and made everything searchable. So it means that you can see which big shot is related to another big shot in the same company, or in a subsidiary and even whether they shared the same banker or auditor. That beats a lot of file work and research, which the duo had to do when they were working in the exchange.

Now if the productivity people wanted poster boy(s), the two men would be it. They’ve taken a massive load of people who want to know more about what they are investing in – and made everything simpler. Of course, it will cost – from $500 to a couple of thousand dollars depending on the complexity of the data sought.

For support, they had $50,000 in seed money from Spring Singapore. That’s good to know. With 10 employees here and another 10 doing data entry abroad, it will probably qualified for productivity incentives as well. Let’s hope the duo gets the support it needs.

Breakfast Network would like to shake hands with you. Congratulations and good luck.

Photo By Shawn Danker
The Ministry of Manpower building.

by Tan Pei En

Workers here could see even more conducive working conditions in future, going by the recent suggestions and initiatives made this week. In the news today is an ST report (“Firms that flout CPF rules may get heavier penalties” ST 24/05/2013) which reported that the Manpower Ministry and CPF Board are now looking into enforcing tougher penalties on companies who fail to meet CPF contribution requirements, such as paying employees their CPF late or at a reduced amount.

This news comes closely after remarks made by Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan Jin earlier in the week, who said that the G was open to considering outlawing discriminatory practices at the workplace.

And with the recent spotlight cast on interns’ working conditions (link to previous BN posts here abt the story) , it can only be hoped that the interns may finally receive some sort of protection from the law too.

Perhaps the MOM may also consider holding discussion groups to find out what Singaporeans consider a desirable workplace environment. Singapore Conversation anyone?

No, not the kind of “complain sessions” where employers and employees play the finger-pointing game and blame each other, but the sort where people are encouraged to talk about what they think will create a workplace setting that makes working there enjoyable and satisfying.

Hey, it may even bring up productivity!

Photo By Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
A lego replica of Singapore's Fullerton area in Legoland Malaysia.

by Bertha Henson

So the Malaysian opposition politicians went to the Singapore High Commission to remonstrate against the G’s supposedly harsh treatment of its nationals who mounted silent protests at Merlion Park on 8 and 11 May.

It’s to be expected. The protesters were clearly on the side of the opposition and it wouldn’t look good if some sort of display was not made on their behalf.

What’s interesting though was how the Malaysian politicians pitched their case. Said PKR’s Chua Jui Meng: “We recognise the need for Malaysians in Singapore to respect the law of Singapore. However, we call on the Singapore authorities to exercise proportionality and fairness in applying the law.”

“It is heavy handed to arrest them and cancel or review their work and visit passes simply for their quest for democracy, which is a universal struggle.”

Now what is the proportionality and fairness yardstick is he using here? Is it between Singapore and Malaysia laws?

According to ST, Mr Chua goes on to note that Malaysians comprise the largest foreign workforce in Singapore and contribute significantly to the country’s economic development. “The harshness of the Singapore authorities’ action completely runs counter to this spirit of cooperation.”

Singapore has revoked the work pass of one protester, as well as the social visit passes of two others. The remaining 18 will have their work passes reviewed, the Singapore police said. Apparently, one of them is serving out a scholarship bond and will have to pay out $100,000 to her employer if she can no longer work here.

It’s a bit galling to always hear Malaysians talk about Singapore’s heavy handedness or arrogance in the same breath that they invoke a spirit of co-operation and adherence to domestic laws. And how Malaysians contribute to the economy in such large numbers – and Singapore is therefore indebted to them? What’s surprising is that the phrase “not being sensitive” hasn’t been uttered.

Never mind that. Probably just political posturing. But it would actually have made better sense if the politicians talked about how police here said that their investigations on the activities of former Johor menteri besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman when he visited Singapore during the Malaysian GE did not amount to campaigning, as alleged in a police report. Some had wondered if this was indeed so or if the G here was merely giving Malaysia some face.

Frankly, it would not skin off Singapore’s nose to let the Malaysian protesters here off with a slap on the wrist. After all, they did not disturb public order and the “review” of their passes would probably have convinced them enough of Singapore’s tough stance on such activities. We should give these ordinary Malaysians some face too. After all, the Malaysian politicians will probably have their hands full now with their own G’s arrests of activists and protesters…

by Bertha Henson

Yet another phase has entered Singapore’s political lexicon: anti-wealth. It’s not about living an ascetic life and forswearing worldly possessions. It’s about looking at the rich and saying that there must some way to make them less rich and more like the rest of us. So measures are put in place to penalise the wealthy, who might think they should go elsewhere if they are not welcomed here.

It’s a bit like the phrase that was very much in vogue in the past – “politics of envy’’. You know, when you see the wealthy decked out ostentatiously and driving fast cars – and you go all green and want to punch them. Except “politics of envy’’ is emotional and might even aspire people to work hard to achieve the good – and high – life. “Anti-wealth’’ really means having a policy position that penalises the rich.

Those poor things!

First, they were hit with more progressive property taxes. So high-end homes and investment properties got taxed more. “This is fair. The property tax is a wealth tax and is applied irrespective of whether lived in, vacant or rented out. Those who live in the most expensive homes should pay more property taxes than others,” said DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam earlier this year.

Then, those with luxury cars have to pay heftier Additional Registration Fees. A wealth tax too?

Now, they are facing the prospect of paying more if they buy a luxury car or if they want to buy a second car. These are some tweaks recommended to the COE system to make it “fair and equitable’’, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew.

There wasn’t much objection to their moves on luxury homes and cars. The rich kept silent. Singapore is still a good place to make money. Safe and secure.

This time, however, even the not so rich might weigh in given that supposed luxury cars below 1,600cc are actually quite within their reach. Beemers, Audis and the like now take up one-third of such Cat A cars. Seven per cent of drivers have second cars. A luxury car is more within grasp than a high-end Good Class Bungalow to most people.

The proposed tweaks might not be viewed as “anti-wealth’’ but “anti-aspirational’’.

by Bertha Henson

Court cases are so interesting. You can ask any question you want, including hypothetical ones. So many things in the realm of possibilities but what’s the probability? Like the Shane Todd case. There was no “forced entry’’ into the apartment in which he had hanged himself. But someone could have a key no? There was no upturned furniture et cetera to indicate a struggle. But someone could have set it right later no? And he could have been killed elsewhere and made to look like he committed suicide no?

Sheesh. Clearly, conspiracy theories don’t just exist online. Anyway, the Shane Todd case is reading like a mystery novel with no mystery as one by one witnesses come forward to talk about that disc (apparently a powerpoint presentation that sort of deleted itself as a matter of course) and whether he could really have killed himself without help. Was that black strap strong enough, how did he push himself off the chair and why his feet were on the ground – the strap stretched) All interesting questions, although pretty hard for the family to have to sit through.

The case still has some more days to go, so it’s best not to pre-judge matters. But, really, if hypothetical questions are all that the family has to make a case of murder, regardless of suicide notes, suicide sites he trawled etc, then imagine what sort of time it would take for the State to establish that any death is a suicide, especially given that there’s a suicide a day in Singapore. This is not to make light of any family’s grief, especially the Todds’. A coroners’ case gives a family “closure’’ since they can ask questions that have been nagging them.

The most useful thing, however, to emerge from the case so far are the police protocols that govern such investigations – the steps that are taken when they come across unnatural deaths. Like whether a hanging body should be taken down and whether the scene should be kept pristine for forensic scientists to comb through. Doubtless, CSI types will argue on the merits or demerits of some procedures and whether some things should be modified.

Transparency is always good.

by Daniel Yap

I guess you’ve heard, Singa the Lion has quit and will no longer be the face of courtesy for our island nation.

PR stunt or not, I say “good riddance”. He was failing on his KPIs, not living up to expectations, and after more than 30 years on the job, it’s time to call it a day and go withdraw his CPF or something. Find a nice retirement spot, maybe in the zoo.

(Photo by Chia Aik Beng)
(Photo by Chia Aik Beng)

Forget about him. As mascots go, this one is a failure. He barely held back the tide of angst and bitterness that is building up here in Singapore. Let him go, and let others take his place. Let the natives rise up.

This island is not his natural habitat. Pressed and stressed as we are, pushed to the limits of human endurance by people who offend our sensibilities, ask for too much, give too little, or simply enjoy making life hard for other people and doing whatever the hell THEY want.

I’m not a nasty person by any account. I never fall asleep in the reserved seat on the MRT and am eager to give it up. I’m polite in my speech. I never rush into lifts until everyone has come out. I don’t cut queues. I encourage others to do the same.

But what I’ve learnt in life is that nice guys finish last. Be good, not nice. Look at Batman. He’s principled. He’s good. He’ll kick your ass into the next comic book frame if need be. If Singa had his way with him, Batman would be delivering flowers like some weakling and trying to talk villains to death.

Singa has made us weak. Being nice never got us anywhere. All those old folks standing on the MRT, hovering above the reserved seat currently occupied by a sleeping douchebag. “Courteous” uncle or auntie never got their seat, thanks to you. Too polite. Don’t want to make a scene. It’s just a few stops. Those of us standing around – courteous to a bleeding fault. Don’t want to step in to right the wrong. We haven’t got the balls to do the right thing the hard way.

We are weak. We are nice. We are fools.

I blame you, Singa. You have disempowered the weak. You taught those who already were “nice guys” to roll over and get stepped on. The jerks got their way and the rest of us suffered. You’ve changed nothing. Bad guys get ahead, and we don’t have Batman to stop them. Maybe we have the Police, but they don’t cover every little thing, and they’re usually too polite for my liking.

We need real men and women who will stand up against jackasses, pricks, arseholes, bitches, bastards, dickheads and all their ilk. Kick (gently) the morons who sleep in reserved seats on the MRT. Ask (politely at first) others to stand up, give way, stop cutting the damn queue, let the wheelchair through, shut the heck up, stop being obnoxious, behave yourself, stop smoking at the bus stop, quit that anti-social behaviour. You tread on others – courtesy be damned.

This is war, and the first casualty is the lion.

So bring me the head of Singa the Courtesy Lion. I want to mount him on a plaque in my living room. And while you’re at it bring me the head of that productivity bee, Teamy as well. Our productivity numbers have been pretty horrible lately.