The beginning of decline in Singapore?

On March 15, 2013, the Shibuya Station Toyoko Line above-ground train quietly shut down for good, to be replaced with a new section of subway track connecting Shibuya Station and the nearby Daikanyama Station. Converting the line from above-ground to underground was a massive operation, requiring a grand total of 1,200 engineers and countless man-hours.

But, even if you’d been living in Tokyo at the time, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the construction, because it all occurred during the train line’s off-hours… over the course of one single night.

In just one night, Tokyu Railways put their proprietary, somewhat clunkily named STRUM (Shifting Track Right Under Method) tech to the test, mobilizing all 1,200 engineers at once to slowly lower the existing tracks along a pre-built incline to connect it with the subway tracks below.

Building the incline required holding the tracks up on temporary scaffolding as the company dug out the earth below, which kind of makes us doubly glad the method held up.

In all, with the Tokyu railway’s last train arriving at the Shibuya Station at 1:00 am, and the first train the following morning departing at around 5:00 am, the army of engineers had a vanishingly short four hours to put everything in place and send a few trains on a test run before morning commuters arrived.

さよなら地上駅舎_東横線渋谷駅-2013_3_15−3_16 相直までの1日を振り返るドキュメント_-_YouTube

It’s almost a miracle that everything went smoothly, as with so many boots on the ground and such a short time to accomplish the task, it must have been a logistical nightmare; each engineer required to know exactly which bolt they were in charge of turning.

Thanks to Tokyu’s incredible organization and the commendable teamwork of the engineers, the new section of track from Shibuya to Daikanyama was ready to roll overnight, giving us a renewed respect for Japanese engineering.


When I forwarded the above news article to my friends, they were impressed with a chorus of “incredible”, “fantastic” etc.. Click the above link to watch the video.

My friend “Ape” had this to say “I’m always amazed by the engineers of Japan. Such feat demands more than just workers’ commitment. It requires management commitment and direct involvement in what’s going on on the ground… sorely lacking here in SG. I’ve seen lots of paper pushers, the likes of “staffers” and “eunuchs” suggested by Philip Yeo. We’ll never get anywhere near the Japanese until management roll up their sleeves and sweat it out with their workers.”

Like I said before on my blog, Japan being a developed country is always No:1. We may console ourselves that there is nothing to be ashamed about if we can’t match them. Link

Let’s look at another video clip below. This time it’s from China which is a 3rd world developing country.

Not too long ago, China’s paramount leader visited Singapore to learn from us. In the early 1980s, they were so poor and backwards then. Our own paramount leader told Deng that the Singapore Chinese were descendants of illiterate landless peasants from Guangdong and Fujian, whereas the scholars, mandarins and literati had stayed and left their progeny in China.

“There was nothing that Singapore had done which China could not do, and do better,” Lee wrote. “He stayed silent then. When I read that he had told the Chinese people to do better than Singapore, I knew he had taken up the challenge I quietly tossed to him that night 14 years earlier.”

Fast forward, the predication came through within one generation.

Let us hear what our potential PM had to say.

“Whole-of-government efforts mean every agency chipping in to make the impossible possible. It is not every agency having its own vested interest and a veto to make the possible impossible,” he said.

Public servants can get in the way of innovation, by coming up with new rules to regulate activities instead of looking for ways to cut red tape and enable new activities, he noted. Common reasons given are a lack of time and resources, and unsupportive bosses, said Mr Ong, who was a senior public servant before he joined politics. But public servants must set aside the time, he said, adding that the best ideas are always born out of a desperate need.

Why take the risk when you are drawing big paycheck you being a maverick? Why go against your bosses by going against the flow and kena marked? I’ve lived long enough to know what I’m talking here. Duduk diam diam dapat duit. Jangan cari penyakit!

My brother, a school teacher for more than 25 yrs migrated to Vancouver to do menial work working as plumber starting from scratch yet he’s still surviving bringing home the bacon.

Just like other European countries, Japan or Korean, they do not have cheap foreign workers in the construction and maintenance industries churning defective or lousy products resulting in so much complaints.

Instead of looking into the root causes of locals not willing to take up jobs in the construction and maintenance industries, they blame our young not able to take hardship. Frankly, with that kind of pay who wants to work in that industry. With so much available cheap foreign workers, it makes much more sense to employ them. With so much revenue generated from foreign worker levy, no one is complaining. Why upset the status quo?

That is the obvious reality of the ground situation in our country. But who cares as long as the trains move?

But then of late, it doesn’t seem to be the case. You have seen and read the news. I’ll just leave it to your imagination and I’ll rest my case.

‘Bad luck’ that DTL disruption happened during open house, says Transport Minister Khaw


MRT tunnel flooding: ‘Commuter safety was never compromised’, says SMRT Trains chief executive

Click here to read Why communism fails?

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The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth

I’ve just finished reading Frederick Forsyth’s latest book – The Outsider, My Life in Intrigue by Frederick Forsyth. It briefly outlines his life story in his latest book Outsider which is basically an autobiography of himself which read like another one of his many bestseller thrillers.

There are many interesting facets of his life revealed in the book. I was surprised that his father worked as a rubber plantation manager in Johor before WWII. Forsyth describes how his father would often ride his motor bike all the way from Johor to Changi Village (that’s where I’m now writing this!) for his entertainment. Having the night out, his father would ride all the way back to his rubber plantation in Johor!

His father ran back to England after he was warned by a Japanese plantation worker believed to be a Japanese spy. The shrewd Japanese had many spies infiltrated in the coastal region of peninsula Malaysia many years prior to the Japanese Imperial Army invasion during WWII. The operation was carefully planned over many years which led to the successful Japanese invasion via sea along the eastern coast of peninsula Malaysia with the planted spies leading the army inland.

Forsyth’s father had saved the Japanese son who was struck with life threatening acute appendicitis by pillioning that boy on his motorcycle in the middle of the night all the way to the old Changi Hospital. Otherwise, the boy would have died.

The Japanese father was so grateful to him for saving his son’s life that one day the Japanese father begged him to leave Johore and return to England quickly. Few months later the Japanese Imperial Army attacked. If the father did not go back to England, we would not have enjoyed Frederick Forsyth.

I was quite surprise that Forsyth in the book reveals he could speak 4 other languages, namely German, French, Spanish and Russian. Very few Englishmen could speak so many languages. It seems that he didn’t go to university. He studied till A levels then went on to work as a journalist after he was trained and qualified as a Fighter pilot.

I read all his novels and short stories. He’s one of my favourite authors. Naturally, I would like to know how he started his writing career.

In the book, he says that he didn’t choose to be a writer. He did it to pay off his debts when he was dead broke. He had no money, no house and unemployed. Whilst staying in his friend’s flat, he had written his first novel, Day of The Jackal in his old type writer in 35 days! Initially, no publisher wanted his manuscript. He had to beg around until he was so desperate that had to forcefully dash into a famous publisher office to convince him to read his raw manuscript.

Since he was so desperate for money, the first book, The Day of The Jackal and another two books – The Odessa File and The Dogs of War were sold in a 3 book contract together with the film rights at a paltry sum of 20,000 pounds. The spectacular success of the movie and the instant hit of his first novel made hundreds of times more than the amount he sold! He says he has no regrets cuz he was an unknown then struggling to make a living.

Forsyth is a maverick who detests the British Foreign Services ( Min of Foreign Affairs) and the BBC. He calls them High Mandarins who caused lots of damage to the country in terms of their foreign policy in Africa resulting in untold suffering and deaths of so many natives as a consequence of their ill informed, inhumane policy particularly in Nigeria’s civil war.

Another area he has lost faith is the British judicial system. He and many others were clearly cheated of their life savings by the criminal activities of an investment banker. He was prepared to testify in court. After so many years, the culprit got away with only a light sentence.

Forsyth ended up as a bankrupt once again with a debt of a million pounds cuz he just bought a farm thinking of retirement as a farmer. But he had to start writing again to pay off his debts which resulted in him churning out a few more bestsellers giving him the much needed source of income and a comfortable life.

Fact that he was born an Englishman where he could get away even though he openly condemns the “High Mandarins” and the unfair judiciary system in UK. Mavericks like him will not survive here!

It reminds me of Jeffrey Archer’s “As the Crow Flies” when Forsyth ends the book, “The Outsider” by synchronising the first part and last part of his life. In the last chapter of The Outsider, Forsyth’s life comes to a complete cycle when at age 75, he was able to fulfill his life long dream of flying the same WWII fighter relic plane – Spitfire. 70 yrs ago, as a 5 year old child, he sat in the cockpit of the same plane when that plane landed just outside his home during WWII, he swore that he would one day fly it.

Fans of Frederick Forsyth should read this book as he relates his life story along with his adventures and many near death experiences which are also part of the novels written by him. Very few author’s exhilarating life mimics art in such a way as his. Outsider is really a fantastic ride indeed!

Read related article here.

My review on The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth. Link

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Japan always Number 1

A train company has been stopping at a remote station for the past three years to pick up just one passenger.

The Kami-Shirataki station in Hokkaido, Japan, is visited by a train twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, so that a schoolgirl can get to class and home on time.

Teenager, Kana, catches the service at 7.04am every day and returns promptly at 5.08pm, and she is the only person to use the station.

Click here to read the full story.

My good friend, Chris forwarded the above article to me. He thought I should read this interesting train story from Japan. This heartwarming story is nothing new of the Japanese society. It clearly reflects the uniqueness of Japanese culture and their idiosyncratic way of life.

From the above news article, it’s so obvious that the train company is losing tons of money over the past 3 years just to pick up the only passenger. The operating costs such as fuel, maintenance of the remote station, railway tracks, staff etc all cost money. It’s as good as running empty ghost trains incurring high operating costs just to cater to the sole passenger. Utter madness?

The school girl was treated more than an VIP by the rail company. It just doesn’t make any economic sense at all. Economists or any greedy commercial entity will scream “stupidity” within the 4 walls of highfalutin board meeting and the Operations Director will definitely get the sack!

I believe no other places in the world that such losing money venture will be allowed to bleed for 3 full years as in the above example in Japan. We need not go far, remember how our Potong Pasir and Buangkok stations were not opened but delayed for quite some time even though they were ready for full operations due to its “low demand and economically infeasible?”

That’s the difference between us and the Japanese. In fact, that’s also the difference between the Japanese and the rest of the world! The Japanese are a great race with its unique culture that no other race, culture or society could hold a candle to them.

I could go on and on singing praises about the Japanese. There are so many anecdotes especially my conversation with Japanese passengers in my previous life, to talk about. But that will be another blog another time.

Suffice to say, whilst drafting this short blog post, my friend Encik forwarded a video clip to me. Pls watch it yourself to reaffirm what I just said.

Posted in Langgar | 2 Comments

Young lady bike mechanic

After working for 5 days on 12 hour shift, I earned my day off yesterday. On normal working days, I take a direct bus to work. Within 40 mins, I’d usually arrive at my work place via bus. It’s convenient, safe and comfortable. It costs me only $1.05 per trip. Only on my off day, I’d ride my 10 yr old Honda Wave around.

When I walked to the nearby carpark to retrieve my bike, the front tyre gone completely flat. This is the 2nd time it happened. On my last off day, the same happened. I had to push the bike all the way to the nearby petrol kiosk to pump air. It was up gradient all the way to the petrol kiosk few hundred metres away.

I checked for any nail or damage on the front wheel which I had changed only last week. The brand new tyre was flawless with no trace of embedded nail. It must be the nipple I thought to myself. I’d have it fixed later after running some errands.

Other than the normal shopping trips to town such as Sim Lim Sq, Bugis area, Beach Rd Golden Mile etc, I usually go round the island on my old trusty economical bike to pick up items from sellers or off load items to buyers which I’ve pre-arranged with sellers or buyers on Carousell over the past few days. But that’s another blog another time.

I planned my route carefully for all my errands with the last stop at Defu Lane to fix my front tyre issue before heading home. I left home around 10.30 am and by the time I arrived at the bike workshop in Defu Lane it’s around 3pm; having done many trips on my bike. It wouldn’t be possible if I had to rely on public transport to do all my errands. With my bike I could zip around the island.

When I reached the workshop, lo and behold, I saw a young little pretty lady amongst the 4 or 5 seasoned mechanics either serving or repairing bikes in the crowded busy premises. After I explained to the shop owner my tyre problem, he directed me to that little girl (presumably his daughter). Once he sprayed some soap water on the tyre nipple with bubbles bursting about; it confirmed our suspicion.

I’ve serviced my bike over the last 30 yrs at so many countless workshops but I’ve yet to come across any young lady mechanic. When I watched her dismantling the front tyre, taking it to the machine to pry open the tyre until she replaced the nipple with a new one on the rim, I was impressed by her singular tenacity in getting the job done.

Most of us will not care for a mechanic job even if it pays well cuz you must be prepared to get your hands especially your fingernails perennially blackened. You could imagine how I felt when I witnessed this young lady barely 16 yr or 18 yrs old doing the dirty black-oil stained job of a seasoned mechanic. It’s tough and back breaking job with lots of bending and squatting in this job where few youngsters will take up, let alone a young fragile lady with an angelic face.

I noticed that those old uncle mechanics around our cute little lady were ever ready to assist when she needed strength to lift the rim with tyre around. The boss – presumably her father – spoke to her in such tender soft tone when giving instruction to her on how to go about getting the job done. Needless to say, one could see the proud father’s loving, touching feeling towards her. How he wished that she were a boy instead.

The boss charged me $15 for the thirty mins replacement of the tyre nipple. That lady at the congested space wanted to push my bike out. I straightaway told her I’d do it myself instead. I thanked her profusely for the job well done. She was beaming with joy seeing the satisfied customer in me before moving on to the next waiting customer.

Related article here.

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Cashless smart nation in 18 months?

Three main themes in PM’s recent National Day Rally speech – Diabetes, Pre-school education and Cashless Payments. It’s about kids – the hope of Singapore, the health of the citizens and the future economy of Singapore. I think he’s the only leader in the world to go on national television to exhort citizens to eat wisely, exercise frequently and take care of our health!

I’ll just touch on cashless e-payments. PM quoted China using e-payments way ahead of us. He admitted that we need to catch up. People in China are using “WeChat” which is similar to our WhatsApp, to transfer money, pay for goods and services by scanning QR or Dox Matrix codes. Read about cashless payments in China here.

Just to side track, China opened up its closed economy in the mid 1980s in Shenzhen; next to Hong Kong, whereas we started our industrialisation in 1965. We are not only a tiny country with high level of western education, we also had at least 10 yrs lead time ahead of China, yet they have now overtaken us by leaps and bounds in so many areas.

Just visit their first tier super cities in China and you will be awe struck by the tremendous progress in terms of infrastructure – the super highways, longest land and sea bridges and yes their train system – high speed and normal speed zig-zagging all over the vast country from the coastal regions right up till Lhasa in Tibet! These are their symbols of success and their pride showcase for all the world to see!

Look at their super efficient train system almost on par with the Japanese and the world’s best. Are they bothered about driverless trains? Here, we are obsessed with converting our aging train system to driverless trains resulting in so much woe and misery.

Back to the cashless topic. As usual, when the most powerful man says something, all will take the cue. Suddenly, all got jolted awake and the scramble to go cashless begins as if it’s something new.

Let’s forget about the credit cards such as Visa or Master as they did not originate from Singapore. Let’s take a look at Nets which has been around for a long time. Why is it not pervasive? If you use Nets to pay for taxi fare or buy 4-D, you are charged 20 cents per transaction. If you use it in other shops, the merchants will have to pay monthly subscriptions for the SIM card, terminal and 0.80% to 0.60% fee of turnover to Nets. More often than not, merchants don’t encourage you to pay by Nets unless you willing to pay extra on top of existing prices. In a nutshell, it basically explains Nets’ low adoption rate.

After Nets, Nets Flash, EZ Link, Dash, PayLah and very recently PayNow came about. Are we short of e-payments? For a small tiny nation with everyone holding a smartphone with access to all these homegrown modes of e-payments, not to mention Apple Pay and Samsung Pay via NFC, why is it that the PM still had to talk about e-payments?

“Thanks @minliangtan! Make me a proposal, and I will study it seriously. — Lee Hsien Loong (@leehsienloong) August 23, 2017”


Out of nowhere, one enterprising entrepreneur gained instant fame and recognition (many of us did not know about him or his company) when he simply tweeted that he could fulfil the Prime Minister’s dream within 18 months! No need bidding or rounds of meetings. Just tweet it to the most powerful man and it’s done. (worth millions of contract of course) Hopefully, he will succeed and all of us stand to benefit from his proposal even though the other modes of e-payments are without much success.

My question is “Why re-invent the wheel?” When we ask ourselves why the need to kickstart another e-payment system when so many retailers have got Nets or EZ link terminals with everyone, young and old holding one or two smartphones?

For more than 30 years since Nets came into the picture in 1985, we have yet to achieve 100% cashless smart nation. Link  Yet our local entrepreneur via a tweet had the audacity to declare publicly that within 18 months he could achieve the impossible! Let’s wish him success so that all of us could just throw away the many cashless cards in our wallets. We only need one universal card (or no card via a smartphone) for everything instead of so many. 

I think the EZ link card is the best so far. Link Nowadays, we hardly see people using cash to pay for bus or train rides. Unlike Nets, I could even use it at the neighbourhood convenient store to pay for things without incurring any surcharge.

Now, they are trying to enforce it in the hawker centres on a pilot basis. Will it take off if there is extra surcharge incurred? Do the hawkers need to pay for the cashless terminals? Do consumers have to pay extra using e-payments like Nets charging both a fee for using their system? Many are suspicious that e-payments introduced in the hawker centres is a form of tracking hawkers’ revenue for the purpose of taxation. Is that the case?

As such, there are so many nitty gritty issues that need to be ironed out before we could declare ourselves a fully smart cashless nation. To say that “within 18 months” we could achieve that kind of cashless infrastructure island-wide is an ambitious over statement. Will it materialise? Only time will tell.

Read related article here.

Government crowdsourcing cashless system at hawker centres and heartland shops.

Why communism fails? Backward China decided to open up to the outside world.

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