[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

[India in Ferment]
1. I had a busy day today in Bangalore. The optimism among Indian business leaders is palpable. One of them whom I've known over 10 years thought that India's real growth rate last year was higher than the official growth rate of 8%. A sizeable part of the economy is grey and would not be captured in the official statistics.

2. The real estate sector is booming. Here in Bangalore, real estate prices have shot up because of the lack of urban land. Satellite townships are being built to accomodate the growing population.

3. India's highway construction is changing the pattern of economic development. This was what happened in China and, on a smaller scale, in Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia. When I met the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri Kumaraswamy, he wanted Singapore companies to explore opportunities in the second tier cities of Mysore, Mangalore and Belgaum. Our companies have a good reputation in India. During tea with Singapore businessmen today, many of them expressed optimism about prospects in India.

With the Chief Minister of Karnataka and our High Commissioner Calvin Eu

4. India has many entrepreneurs, some of whom are world-class. India's steel makers, for example, are now global players. At lunch, I met a young entrepreneur who makes a cute electric car called Reva, named after his mother. It was fun test-driving it. He said it was the only economically viable electric car in the world today. All you need to do is to plug it into your electrical supply at night and it will be all charged up for some 100 km of driving the following day. It can go up to a speed of 70-80 km an hour.

Visit Beyond SG where I blog too


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey George...
You should get your own blog so we can read your posts instead of going to two different sites and having to sift through everything else.

Thursday, January 18, 2007 4:53:00 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sir George
the Reva is so cute and interesting car...
how i wish Singapore have it..
anyway, do you think it's able to get into Singapore market?
cos Singaporeans seems to have many long-distance traveling around the mainland thru expressways and roads to and fro..
i'm afraid it might stall halfway travelling..
overall, i still love that Reva, similar-looking to volkwagon beetle..

Thursday, January 18, 2007 9:27:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Imagine my delight when I caught the episode on blogging featuring you and how would be a possible avenue for me to “converse” with you informally. I have been contemplating on sharing with you some “insights” I have gained in my line of service and duty to the Community. It is my hope that these insights would help the government better understand or rather, receive a different perspective of the dynamics involved in the demographics of our nation, and thus win over the hearts of the people.

I have been a Catholic priest for the past 5 years, I grew up in the East and spent most of my life in that part of Singapore. After my ordination in 2001, I was assigned to a parish church in the more affluent part of the West of Singapore. I served in this parish until my departure to pursue a post-graduate theology degree in Chicago.

At the end of July 2006, I returned to Singapore after completing my required courses to being the compilation of my thesis.

For this purpose the Archbishop assigned me to a parish closest to our Major seminary. That parish Church is none other than St Anne’s. Actually it was at my first mass in St Anne that I was pleasured with your presence.

Serving in Seng Kang
What was interesting and surprising to me in my 2 months in St Anne, while having lunch with the parish choir one Sunday, I was asked by a female member, the question “are you local?” According to her, most of the parishioners found my accent as she put it, “very foreign.”

Much to my delight many parishioners of my previous parish affirmed the fact that I still sound like my old self and even close friends of mine said they detect no “slang” in my speech.

However, that did not change the perception of the vase majority of Parishioners in St Anne (of Teochew decent) found me “foreign” and branded me as an aloof “ang moh pai” (English speaking). For the first time in my life I felt I was alienated and discriminated. What a cultural shock it was for me and to think it happening to me in my own country!!! What a paradox! I would have expected such sentiments while in studying in Chicago!

This experience was not only confined to St Anne, in Seng Kang, I experienced similar sentiments and reactions while supplying help to Nativity Church in Hougang, there the people thought I was Filipino!!! (*swoons*).

A Personal reflection and assessment
On further reflection of my short stint in this North Eastern part of Singapore I have these personal “insights” and assessment to share.

Cultural differentiation
Being born and bred in the East, I have become very accustomed to a life-style accentuated by a very strong cultural tradition of the Eurasian and Peranakan community. We viewed anyone speaking with a Chinese accent and in broken English as “chee-nah”. In the East we are expected not only to speak good English but we have to roll our tongues a little and we have a certain way pronouncing certain words, that made our English, “Singaporean.” (given my present experience, that should be classified as Katong Singaporean). Speaking Malay was fine because we spoke some of it at home, and since our national anthem is in Malay, it was generally tolerable and considered “Singaporean.”

However, somehow these “classifications” differed in Seng Kang and Hougang. SURPRIZINGLY, for these people those who spoke “Katong-English” are generally being subconsciously “branded”(if I can use this term loosely) as “aloof” and “foreign” and in some case “elitist”.

“Surprising” views of those in their late 20’s to 40’s
Why do I say that these “branding” were surprising? Because one would expect such sentiments from those in their late 60’s or 70’s, however, it is many young couples, I encountered, who echo these sentiments. In that same breath although this maybe their initial “branding”, they are still willing to “try out” the product, meaning they did not shun me away when I was trying to reach out to them.

A “cultural” segregation
Interestingly, in a parallel experience, at the end of our Sunday services while standing at the church door to greet parishioners, some other young couples came up to me to expressed their delight that at last the Archbishop has sent an “English speaking Priest to St Anne.”

That surprised me because the other two priests who were with me were also “English speaking”!!! However, one of them spoke with a noticeable Teochew accent and the other a Hokkien accent.

However, there is a noticeable shift in demographics. I guess with the construction of the TPE there has also been an influx of “Eastern” Singaporeans to Seng Kang..

They being generally “English” speaking, what was for me a grave concern with regards to this “minority” group of “Eastern-ites” was the difficulty of finding themselves a niche in the parish that was predominantly Teochew. One of my former schoolmate whom I met at the church, one who was much less concerned about political correctness, sums up their sentiments when said to me “I am just waiting for next year to move out of this area, it is too chee-nah for me.”

What insight can I offer to benefit the government?
Well I am no specialist in social psychology nor am I a sociologist, but this is what I have gathered from working with this predominantly Teochew community.

1. Besides offering welfare for the people in terms of benefits packages, the people needs a face (and in this case a voice and ethnic background) that they can identify with. Being Asian, what we receive materially does not trump over “Gan Qing”- the way of the heart. With many government leaders speaking good English, their “accent” may overshadow the action of their good-will. People here tend to identify intimately with those whom they view as “one of them” besides language “slang” and ethnicity, what they value and respect most in a leader is his life-struggle- one who “worked up through the ranks” and at the same time remained faithful to the community, that means always living in the same area and visibly contributing to their community. These “values” are held in greater esteem then any payouts and welfare packages.
2. Considering point 1, besides identifying Ministers who may “fit the bill”, the government could consider raising the profile of our grass-roots leaders, or rope in “natural” community leaders and respectable individuals into community activities and governmental events. This has proved to be extremely effective for us in the Catholic Church. Given the growing affluence even amongst our congregation, although executive positions of in the parish administration have being allocated to the more “educated”. Still the unspoken “grand-fathers” or “fore-fathers” and “pillars” hold great sway in the parish. Their opinion and support for or against certain issues and projects are generally held in great esteem and regard. So although these “fathers” or “pillars” of the church hold no official key positions in the church. We, the priests, value their presence in our community and assign them ad-hoc and accord them “unspoken” status in the parish. Working in close affinity to them, gain us their influence acceptance and respect, and thus the acceptance and respect of the community at large. They are valuable to us especially when most of our Parish Priests are now much younger. Such is the case in St Anne.
3. In that same breath especially when considering Seng Kang and Hougang, whilst these areas are traditionally predominantly Teochew, we should not neglect the influx of “English” speaking Singaporeans. In our bid of establishing a balance and providing them a comfortable niche in our multiracial society, the Archbishop himself has placed, a permanent “English” speaking priest in St Anne, lest the pastoral needs of this group of people be neglected, left untended and thus scattered.

Well, Sir, these are just my humble thoughts and assessment of the acute communitarian life that exist within the constituency under your care. It is my hope that these thoughts may contribute in a small way to the daunting task you undertake so generously and courageously for the good of our nation and community.
Thank you for sparing me your precious time.
Praying for specially for God’s abundant graces to be showered upon you in all your endeavors.

Rev Fr Ignatius Yeo

Sunday, January 21, 2007 9:52:00 am


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