If countries charge others for mining their oil & gas, why not also charge, if you’re supplying the world with oxygen?
Although meant to be sarcastic, this Indonesian official makes lots of sense, if you think about it
“It has only been one week of smoke and people are already making so much noise. What about all the oxygen that Indonesia supplies to them during the rest of the year?”
HOW KEEPING FORESTS HELP THE REST OF THE WORLD
- Supplying oxygen & fresh air to everyone
- Biodiversity, which is all mankind’s heritage. Plus, new drug discoveries are made from forest species
HOW COUNTRIES CURRENTLY PROFIT FROM THEIR FORESTS
- Deforestation for plantations (loss of biodiversity & damage to environment , even for future crops)
- Selling of timbre & other forest products
- Mining oil & gas
- Building cities
Rather than pointing fingers at countries that allow their forests to be cut down, let’s think about whether the system is fair.
We expect them to keep their forests so that we can benefit for free
Yet we pay them huge profits for deforestation, and blame them.
Most countries with huge tracks of forests are developing ones, with an obligation to improve their citizen’s lives.
If we can have a carbon credit system, what about having an oxygen/clean air debit system? Where countries who KEEP their forests get a reasonable profit/compensation so that they are not the only ones bearing the opportunity costs of deforestation?
If we can work out an international carbon credit system, I’m sure the UN & other international bodies can work out an oxygen debit system. That may be the first step to truly stopping massive deforestation.
Was applying for travel insurance when the T&Cs pissed me off. Homophobic + discriminates against single-parent families (last I read on Straits Times, 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce) + discriminates against mixed-nationality marriages (last I read, 50% of marriages in the last yr were Singaporean + non-Singaporean).
For “Couple” Plan: Both Insureds must be legally married and Singapore Residents of age between 18 and 75 years of age on the commencement date of the insurance.
Many multi-national corps set international standards for their local branches to follow, that are way above the local standards (especially if they operate out of 3rd world countries). Am irked it does not apply to insurance companies
DISCRIMINATES AGAINST SINGLE-PARENT ( incl divorced parents) FAMILIES
For “Family” Plan: For two adults who are legally married and their legally dependent child(ren). Trips made by any of the child(ren) must be accompanied by either of the Insured adults. The Insured must be a Singapore Resident between 18 years and 75 years of age on the commencement date of the insurance.
DISCRIMINATES MIXED NATIONALITY COUPLES
For “Couple” Plan: Both Insureds must be legally married and Singapore Residents of age between 18 and 75 years of age on the commencement date of the insurance.
Having dual and diverse specialities is one way to become highly in-demand in this age of short-term employment and globalized competition. Unfortunately, many educators and parents have not realised that and some even discourage dual specialisation, seeing it as a waste of time.
In JC, I wanted to do Biology and Economics. The principal refused. You had to do either (1) Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Maths, or (2) Economics, Chemistry, Physics and Maths.
I wanted (3) Biology, Economics, Chemistry and Maths. There were students who wanted other Biology combinations too… eg. (4) Biology, Economics, Maths, Physics. They were refused too.
The reason given for refusing us? In order to get into the Medical Faculty, you needed combination (1). What could you do with option (2,3, 4) besides teaching?!!
Today, Health Economists and Biostatisticians are amongst the world’s most sought after specialists. They are so rare, because we’ve always been conditioned to think that we need to be a master of one, rather than a jack of all trades, especially here in Asia.
Health Economists are people who are both specialists in biology/medical/health sciences , AND economics. [ combi (3) Biology, Economics, Chemistry, Maths] These are the people who plan and design national health care systems, deciding who to subsidise, what to spend money on, how to generate revenue etc. They are the people employed by WHO to create financially sustainable health care programmes for countries in need of help. Large pharmaceuticals or investment firms pay them huge salaries to forecast which class of drugs is worth investing in. Large insurance companies need them to forecast how much medical-claims they have to pay, and how much premiums to charge to be profitable.
Biostatisticians are people who are both specialists in biology/medical/health sciences AND maths [combi (4) Biology, Economics, Maths, Physics/Further Maths] After sampling 1% of the population, the Biostatistician tells you how many people in the country are likely HIV+, how many people are going to be HIV+ in 10 years. Biostatisticians are arguably THE people responsible for the whole Human Genome Project and all the genetic studies we’re going to do over the next 50 years.
(I’ve described what other highly sought-after dual specialities are, at the end of the main article.)
Lately, because I’m finishing up my PhD thesis, people are asking me what I want to do after graduation. When I tell them I’ll like to go into public health planning & policy-making, they go “Why don’t you want to do lab research?!?! Your PhD would be wasted and you’ve been in biology research for 10 years!” hmmm….. wait till they hear that I want to go into religious studies one of these days too ; )
A person’s health conditions are determined by a combination of his/her genetics, environment and behaviour. My PhD hopefully makes me an expert of the first. Going into public-health will hopefully make me an expert in seeing how we can create environments good for every citizen’s health. And religion — that’s fascinating! It’s fascinating how religion can be so subjective, faith-driven, and yet have such huge tangible effects on our economy, politics, health and society. So many religious practices have direct impact on health-determining behaviour. So many religious commands, I suspect, has its roots in ancient public health policies.
Few people understand the concept of dual/multiple specialities until you explain it to them. Most of the time, that’s all right = ) We can’t all know everything, and we learn something new each day.
However, I think it is very dangerous and sad when parents and educators don’t understand this concept, and INSIST on how a child should be educated, INSIST that a child should not do such dual/multiple and diverse subjects in school. It’s very dangerous and sad when parents and educators assume that they know how the world works, and how the world will work in future, and INSIST on limiting a child’s potential, in the name of NOT WASTING TIME. Because in the end, you might be denying these children some fantastic opportunities to really make it big in this world.
Many developed countries, including Singapore, are seeing increasing and very worrying unemployment trends amongst PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives, Technicians). This is not surprising given how India and China are mass producing cheap PMETs. Telling people that they should not be picky, have better attitudes, accept lower pays, getting re-trained, improves the situation to a certain extend. However, few people accept this advice happily.
I look on with worry, at the number of engineers, bankers, biotechnologists etc we’re churning out. No doubt, these are good jobs with good incomes in good times. But when the industry goes through a bad patch, you get lots of unemployment. On an individual level, you really have to be in the top percentile to keep your job. How can YOU as an individual make yourself more recession-proof? How do you increase how in-demand you are? Many people decide to do advanced degrees, which is great. Getting an advanced degree in your field, is great too, because you’re capitalising on what you already have. However, you’ll still be competing with people specialised the same way, and there’re just so many more of such people.
On the other hand, few people specialise in 2 different areas, and few people might choose the same combination as you did. Suddenly, you are peerless. There’s no competition. The demand for such dual specialists far outstrips the number of such specialists, and you become an expert overnight. One such example is Dr Martha Lee, whom people often mistake me for. She’s specialised in Communication, Public Policy and Sexuality — 3 specialities ( http://www.eroscoaching.com/profile.html ) . It’s easy to see how each of her specialities have complemented each other, how she has been able to market herself as an expert in Sexology to become Singapore’s leading Clinical Sexologist in less than a year.
So why not consider doing a specialisation in a totally different field? You wouldn’t be wasting your first degree. You’ll be one of those rare, rare people, who can do it all.
High-demand dual specialities.
( Everything here is health/biology-related, because of my familiarity with this field. I’m sure you can come up with your own speciality-pairings in your familiar field)
Computational biologists (Computer Science + Biology)–
The human genome has 3 billon letters. Trust me, you need high CPU power for that one.
Biology – Engineering –
I’m referring to the people who create the powerful machines that push biological experiments to the cutting edge. You need to know engineering to make it work, you need to know biology to make it useful.
Indispensible aren’t they? Trust me, defending pharmas, doctors and hospitals from lawsuits are huge money. Handling Intellectual Property for pharmas and research institutions are huge money. But if I told my JC principal I wanted to do Biology, Econs, Maths and English Literature, she’ll just roll her eyes and not even bother with me.
Science Journalists —
A lot of public misunderstanding and suspicion of science and biology happens because most scientists frankly, are too specialised too communicate normally.
Biology and politics, biology and religion etc etc —-
you see why bad policies/doctrines are made? Sometimes it’s not because of anything more than ignorance.
Google Search term : europe investigation who h1n1
I have cut-&-pasted highlighted extracts from the websites listed, in this blog post (ie. Not original material).
Thus far I haven’t been able to find the large media organisations (bbc, cnn, StraitsTimes etc) carrying this news online. The online reuters article I found seemed to want to debunk the myth. If anyone can find these articles, appreciate if you can add on in the Comments, Thanks! )
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly to Investigate WHO and “Pandemic” Scandal
by F. William Engdahl
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will launch an inquiry in January 2010 on the influence of the pharmaceutical companies on the global swine flu campaign, focusing especially on extent of the pharma‘s industry’s influence on WHO. The Health Committee of the PACE, a body representing 47 European nations including Russia, has unanimously passed a resolution calling for the inquiry.
Drug companies face European inquiry over swine flu vaccine stockpiles:
Council of Europe to discuss whether pharmaceutical firms spread alarm over pandemic to boost orders of medicines
James Sturcke and Owen Bowcott Monday 11 January 2010 19.47 GMT
The talks, due to be held later this month, come as British ministers decide what to do with a surplus of as many as 20m doses of vaccine ordered at the height of the swine flu outbreak.
“The governments have sealed contracts with vaccine producers where they secure orders in advance and take upon themselves almost all the responsibility.
“In this way, the producers of vaccines are sure of enormous gains without having any financial risks. So they just wait, until WHO says ‘pandemic’ and activate the contracts,” Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, told the Daily Mail.
Wodarg, who proposed the resolution, added that H1N1 virus was “a mild flu and a false pandemic”. (
The ‘false’ pandemic: Drug firms cashed in on scare over swine flu, claims Euro health chief
By Fiona Macrae 8:38 AM on 11th January 2010
A resolution proposed by Dr Wodarg calling for an investigation into the role of drug firms has been passed by the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg-based ‘senate’ responsible for the European Court of Human Rights.
An emergency debate on the issue will be held later this month.
Dr Wodarg said: ‘In order to promote their patented drugs and vaccines against flu, pharmaceutical companies have influenced scientists and official agencies, responsible for public health standards, to alarm governments worldwide.
He does not name any Britons with conflicts of interest.
But last year, the Daily Mail revealed that Sir Roy Anderson, a scientist who advises the Government on swine flu, also holds a £116,000-a-year post on the board of GlaxoSmithKline.
GSK makes anti-flu drugs and vaccines and is predicted to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic.
Professor David Salisbury, the Government’s head of immunisation said there were ‘no grounds whatsoever’ for Dr Wodarg’s claims, saying people with conflicts of interest were kept out of the decision-making process.
Man At Center of Worldwide 2009 H1N1 Hysteria Under Investigation for Gross Conflict of Interest
Posted by Anne Dachel December 10, 2009
World Health Organisation: ‘Mr Swine Flu’ Under Investigation for Gross Conflict of Interest. This is out on Google News in lots of European languages. What are the chances that any major American news sources will pick it up?
A German weekly magazine, published in Hamburg. It is one of Europe’s largest weekly magazines with a weekly circulation of more than one million. The Market Oracle
Professor Albert Osterhaus, of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam Holland has been named by Dutch media researchers as the person at the center of the worldwide Swine Flu H1N1 Influenza A 2009 pandemic hysteria. Not only is Osterhaus the connecting person in an international network that has been described as the Pharma Mafia, he is THE key advisor to WHO on influenza and is intimately positioned to personally profit from the billions of euros in vaccines allegedly aimed at H1N1.
Earlier this year the Second Chamber of the Netherland Parliament undertook an investigation into alleged conflicts of interest and financial improprieties of the well-known Dr. Osterhaus. Outside Holland and a mention at the time in the Dutch media, the only note of the sensational investigation into Osterhaus’ business affairs came in a tiny note in the respected British magazine, Science.
Osterhaus’s credentials and expertise in his field were not in question. What is according to a short report published by the journal Science, are his links to corporate interests that stand to potentially profit from the swine flu pandemic. Science carried the following brief note in its October 16 2009 issue about Osterhaus: “For the past 6 months, one could barely switch on the television in the Netherlands without seeing the face of famed virus hunter Albert Osterhaus talking about the swine flu pandemic. Or so it has seemed. Osterhaus, who runs an internationally renowned virus lab at Erasmus Medical Center, has been Mr. Flu. But last week, his reputation took a nosedive after it was alleged that he has been stoking pandemic fears to promote his own business interests in vaccine development. As Science went to press, the Dutch House of Representatives had even slated an emergency debate about the matter.”
No U.S. decision on H1N1 vaccine orders – official
Thu Jan 7, 2010 3:33pm WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters)
– The United States has not made a decision on whether to cancel or sell any of its orders for the H1N1 vaccine, unlike some countries in Europe, a federal health official said on Thursday.
Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said demand remains steady and the government’s focus is on having as many people vaccinated as possible.
“Right now we are at a point where we have ample supply. We’re really encouraging people to get vaccinated. So we haven’t made decisions here in the U.S. about giving back vaccines,” Schuchat told a media briefing.
Germany plans to cancel half the 50 million vaccines it ordered from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) (GSK.L) to combat the H1N1 flu virus, a German health official said on Thursday.
Earlier this week, France canceled over half the H1N1 flu vaccines it had ordered because of the pandemic.
The U.S. government has paid for 251 million doses of bulk vaccine from five makers — Glaxo, AstraZeneca (AZN.L), Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA), Novartis (NOVN.VX) and CSL Ltd (CSL.AX). (Editing by Philip Barbara)
(on how Wodarg came to be suspicious)
“In April, when the first alarm came from Mexico I was very surprised at the figures that furnishing the World Health Organization (WHO) to justify the declaration of a pandemic. I was immediately suspicious: the numbers were very low and the alarm level very high. It was not even in a thousand patients that there was already talk of a pandemic of the century. ”
“In things that have aroused my suspicions so there has been a part of this will sound the alarm. And the other curious facts. As such the recommendation by WHO to carry out two injections for vaccines. It had never been done before. There was no scientific justification for this. There was also the recommendation to use only vaccines patented individuals (…) We did not do so because they preferred to use patented materials vaccine as major laboratories were designed and manufactured to be ready in case of development a pandemic. And in doing this so we did not hesitate to endanger persons vaccinated. ”
“I have seen very concrete example how Klaus Stöhr, who was the head of the epidemiological department of WHO at the time of bird flu, and thus prepared the plans to cope with a pandemic that j ‘ mentioned above, in the meantime had become a top executive of the company Novartis. And similar links between Glaxo and Baxter (etc.) and influential members of the WHO. “
I read with a mix of concern and amusement, the news that NKF was in the red for the first time in 10 years.
Yes of course, donations have been down, especially since the scandal. It’s down 26% from the last year.
Expenses, aid and subsidies have gone up — we all know it’s getting more expensive in singapore, and more people are needing help. So its nice that the charity is doing its job and providing help.
The one particular thing that really got me noticing was the 97.5% drop in investment income from $3million to $80,000.
Now I really hope that’s because the current management has decided that investment income was something they no longer wanted to depend on and hence made a deliberate effort to not pursue investment income.
Because otherwise, it’s a 97.5% drop!!!! 97.5%!!! wow. If anyone working in an investment firm, Temasek, GIC, Town Council , whatever. A 97.% drop is hilariously unacceptable, I think. ( Maybe it’s just me being ignorant, and I know how irritating it is to encounter ignorant people acting like they know something in my field of expertise (health & biology, not econs), so I’ll be glad to learn something if you point out i’m wrong, and that a 97.5% drop is perfectly normal and OK cos it’s not like any money was lost?!?! )
But that’s not really the point I’m concerned with. What I was thinking was that the ex-management — yes the very one thrown out first by popular uprising, and then taken care of by the judiciary —- was really quite savy with the finances . Be it investment, marketing, or simply creating a financially sustainable charity —- they were damned good, so good that they could help themselves to some of the excess.
I’m definately not trying to defend their crimes or unethical behavior here. But what I’m actually wondering is that perhaps we should take a leaf from the PAP’s book, and start paying charity workers & social workers decently.
Now I’m not talking about paying people 5times what their next highest-paid peers are paid (
(Times Absolute Ranking) ;
(Rank by per capita) oh look at that, Ireland comes in tops in Europe! =D )
I’m talking about simply paying charity workers & social workers the amount they deserve — comparable to their other Singaporean peers with equal educational qualifications and effort put into their jobs! Not only would it be decent and fair to charity & social workers, we’ll also be able to retain more good people!
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying existing workers are no good. What I’ve hear from my charity & social worker friends is that fresh graduates (yes they need a degree, and often a masters degree too!
) get into the industry with lots of passion, and learn alot on the job through their early years. However, because the pay just isn’t up to scratch, alot of them leave for other better paying jobs when they decide to start a family, simply to give their families a better life! In this way, the industry loses lots of experienced people who could contribute so much more to Singapore’s needy. There are very very few experienced people who stay on after decades, they are so overworked!
Charity and social work is not just about physically taking care of people’s needs. One very important aspect of it is managing the financial sustainability of the organisation and helping it grow. Most companies would hire someone with financial degrees and experience; charity organisations should be no different. But because the Singapore society has this mentality that people who work for charity should be doing it out of their own good heart, they should be unpaid volunteers or paid very minimally. Now we have many people in this industry with good hearts, and rightly so. But lots of this work requires full time workers — who need to live decently, go for upgrading courses, have parent’s who need to see doctors, have children who want to go to the university. Paying people minimally would drive good financial managers away.
TT Durai’s model was actually an excellent one (minus ths fraud and gold toilets, that is). I remember him giving a lecture in NUS about his business model : Instead of a Not-for-Profit oragnisation, he actually has a FOR-profit-charity. This way, good people work for the organisation, grow it, an sustain it. Everyone benefits. Yes, fraud was involved, but with every industry eg. banking, politics etc, as long as the appropriate regulations are not in place, fraud is bound to happen. Profit, however, does not mean fraud. Paying people salaries benchmarked to their peers, is not fraud.
I’ve actually long wanted to write on this, but never got around to doing the research. Today’s article was simply an inpiration.
I did a quick google search and found a few things.
Civil Service Starting Salary for a Basic Degree (2007 ) : $2570, Honours Degree : $2800, Teachers: 2820
Social Workers Starting Salary for Fresh Grads (Current) : $1800 – $2400 (Their upper limit doesn’t even come close to a Civil Servant!)
Singapore Top 100 paying jobs (2007) : Social Workers are NOT even in that list!!!!!!!!! The bottom of that list makes about 4000+ . My social worker friends tell me they hit a ceiling of about $3000 after years of experience because of this mentality that social workers shouldn’t be doing this for profit, and definately not on donation money.
I hope this would change.
- Young, good-looking, healthy
- Unquestioningly obedient (best if does not know the english word for ‘No’)
- Will do all housework without complaints
- Will take care of all elderly parents, grandparents & kids(when available)
- Provides sex on demand
- 1-time payment of SGD 20,000 to the agent on satisfactory purchase
- No further monetary remuneration to be paid;Expenses incurred as a result of the above requirements will be reimbursed
- Will provide love & 3 meals a day.
I got my idea from here:
“We are the only agent in Singapore doing 100 per cent virgin.”
There is one Vietnam bride agency that says “Although you are old, handicapped or short, we can still arrange a young, beautiful Viet Nam wife for you!”
One of the readers posted this question to me, and I thought I’ll share my perspective as someone who is closely involved with the earliest phase of medical research and drug discovery
It is due to the very expensive process of drug/treatment discovery.
Over the last few thousands of years, humans have been doing science by observing our surroundings and our own bodies using our 5 senses — our eyes, noise, ears, mouth, skin to touch. Over this long period of time, we have discovered almost everything that can be discovered using this 5 senses.
In the last century, because of electricity and other fundamental inventions, we have been able to invent machines that have in turn allowed us to make greater quantum leaps in science. Machines like the telescope, the microscope, the x-ray machine etc.
Today, drug/treatment discovery in the field of medicine is made primarily with through the use of all these sophisticated equipment. These equipment costs a bomb — many of them the price of a HDB flat easily. So you can imagine to cost of research for one single drug.
Because these discoveries and inventions are not easy to make (there are no model answers at the back of life’s books) , the success rate (drugs making it from the start of the reseach process, to passing the safety tests etc and going on sale) of drug inventions is 1 in 10,000.
So when companies sell these drugs, they have to cover the cost of the 9,999 failures, by selling that 1 remaining drugs.
Also, there needs to be a sufficient profit margin so that investors would be willing to take on such huge risks (1 in 10,000 and no one knows when this 1 will pop out) in investing in the drug research process.
I’m sure many of you have heard about generic or low cost medicines. Such medicines are cheaper usually because the company’s patent has expired, or is willing to allow generic versions to be made. In this case, the cost of the drug is used to cover the cost of the manufacture —- it usually doesn’t cover the cost of the 9,999 failures, or the risk that the investors need to take.
So why don’t we go the way of producing low cost generic drugs from the start, for everything? Why do we use intellectual property and anti-piracy laws to protect rich pharmaceuticals? Because without this financial incentive, many investors would no want to take on such huge risks of failed drugs — they’ll channel their money into more profitable investments. Without this financial investment, research will slow and consequentially medical advancement will slow. While some argue that the State should take on these investments, others argue that it is irresponsible to use taxpayer money for such high risk ventures, and this should be left up to high-risk venture capitalists.
At the end of the day, all these makes new drugs/treatments very expensive, and the aged need more repairing than the young , and so we need to decide who and how to pay for them.
The Ageing problem is not simply an Ageing problem. It’s MY problem. Because in 2050 when the silver tsunami hits, I’ll be one of those old women.
Ageing is a problem for countries mainly because of 2 issues
1. Exponentially increasing health care costs ( relative to the average person’s entire lifetime)
2. Inability to be economically active
Below are some of my thoughts off the top of my head. I’m raising it here, not to convince everyone or to campaign for certain things, but more to iron out some of these ideas — are they valid? are they useful? These 2 issues are also NOT comprehensively explored here …. just exploring a different angle.
1. Exponentially increasing health care costs
Medical technologies/treatments are increasingly advanced and costly.
No medical tech/treatment in this world can guarantee you a cure — it’s all about chances of survival.
Eg. Drug A — 20% of patients survive
Drug B — 40% of patients survive
Drug C — 80% of patients survive
No Drugs — 5% of patients survive
When you go on a certain drug, you pay a certain financial cost for the drug, and you enter a system where you have a certain chance of survival
It’s a lottery.
You choose which lottery you want to play, based on the cost, and the chance of your survival.
And bear in mind, the cost doesn’t correlate with the chance of survival.
As a society deciding which lottery costs should be borne by all ( through State subsidies using taxpayer money), we need to decide on the criteria for distributing health subsidies (eg. deciding whether to give more resources to the young or the old? ) It’s not enough that we agree on a set of criteria or values. The ORDER of PRIORITISATION of this common set of values will also significantly change the distribution pattern.
Some criteria I”m thinking of, off the top of my head, in no order of prioritisation (because everyone has a different order anyway)
- absolute cost of the treatment required
- cost effectiveness of the treatment
- age of the person
- economic value of the person
- life expectency of the person
- popularity of the person
- financial health of the person (ie how much can the person afford on his own)
- amount of suffering caused by the illness
- amount of happiness gained without this illness
- political power of the person
- past contributions of the person
- future contributions of the person
- effectiveness of the treatment
- responsibility the person has in acquiring his illness
etc (will add on, with your suggestions, and with more thought into this)
Just to do a little social experiment here:
How much agreement is there amongst the general population, on how we want to prioritise these distribution criteria??
If you would be so kind, do leave YOUR order of prioritsation here in the Comments, and we can take a look. If there are too many criteria, just list the top 5 or top 10.
2. Inability to be economically active
If we assume that, on average, the current ratio of the econ active : inactive is 10: 1 , across all the economically significant nations , and if we assume projections that this ratio will drop to 2:1 by 2050, what would the impact be? That sounds like a 30% unemployment rate to me.
Think about the assets you currently hold. Your property. Your insurance policies. Your stocks etc. What would the value of these assets be if there is 30% unemployment?
Think of your savings. Your salary, your taxes. What happens when there is 30% unemployment?
Am I unduly worried? Is this a valid concern?
Unlike big potential crisises eg. energy shortage crisis, global warming etc, I’ve yet to hear a decent proposal for addressing the Ageing population from anyone. Enforcing the “parents’ maintainance act” is not addressing the problem — it’s re-distributing the problem.
The issue about the state of medical advancement is this: currently we can effectively treat / cure /replace every single body part, except the brain. The reason why we have this Ageing population at all is because we are getting more physically healthier people way into old age. But the mind ages, and degenerates, before the body does. In a knowlege based economy, that’s big trouble.
What we really need is to reduce the number of years between the time people retire from economic activity and death.
Several ways to achieve that:
1. Improve mental cognition of the elderly — this is difficult, we can only place our hope in the neuro scientists out there.
2. Create dignified means of economic viability that do not depend on the mental cognition of the elderly
3. This one will raise the most protests. I’ll just qoute a friend here to illustrate my point :
“i had a friend in college, Pat, who smoked and gave out that i did exercise too much. I said to him, it’s extending my life and those cigarettes are taking years off yours. He said Yeah, but they are the years where i wont be able to poop without help!”
Immigration may boost our work force and balance out our economically-active : elderly-persons ratio. At least on paper it can, if you judge by statistics and population pyramids.
But Singapore does not work on a social welfare model — our social welfare is kept to the minimum. The elderly are expected to either depend on themselves, or on their families. This philosophy forms the basis for policies and legislation like the CPF, Reverse Mortgages and Parents Maintenance Act.
This means that although immigration balances out our young-old ratio, what happens in reality is that there will be many economically active immigrants without aged parents to support (or their money is shipped out of Singapore to support their parents back home), and there will be many elderly folk having to depend on themselves. The State of course continues to get tax revenue, while giving out minimal social benefits.
If the fertility rate of the immigrants is below replacement levels as well, the aging problem will be further magnified. If we do not award citizenship and somehow ensure they will return to their home countries by retirement age, they will take a large amount of savings along with them.
This is just a thought, would be nice to have feedback about whether my analysis/concerns are valid. I’ve no solutions, at least not yet.
The desired outcome/ purpose/ function of the system as a whole is often correlation, rather than causative, of the events that occur within the system .
This is something working on evolutionary ecology / ecological evolution (!?!?!?) and biological signaling systems has taught me.
Reproductive fecundity, species survival etc is often the result and molding factor of species/populations à That’s what evolution is about : survival of the fittest.
Yet each animal never has that in mind. It acts out of instinct, for pleasure , away from pain. That determines its actions. Because of natural selection, instincts/desires which align/correlate with reproductive fecundity are selected for. When we want to manipulate the reproductive rates / species viability for a particular animal population, what we do is to manipulate factors that rewards the individual animals according to its instincts/desires: we don’t ever reason with the animal about its reproductive plans.
Same with signaling systems. When I talk about signaling systems , I refer to those within the biological cells – the genes, proteins, nuclei acids etc etc that interact with each other to achieve the cellular phenotype that enables our bodies to function. A particular pathway, for example one that causes the genes to duplicate so that the cell can divide, has the intended outcome of duplication. Yet during this molecular process, the proteins involve never do what they do, because they have that goal at the back of their mind. Protein A binds to, and works with Protein B because of the molecular affinity it has for each other. When Protein A + B complex binds to a particular stretch of DNA, it does not do so because it recognizes that stretch has the Origin of Replication – that’s the human name for it. It binds, simply because the microenvironment makes that interaction the one of least energy expenditure, of highest affinity. Basically the molecules just go down the path of least resistance.
So bearing in mind how natural systems works. And applying that to human systems.
Why does capitalism work and not communism? I believe that the same principle applies. With capitalism, the basic human instinct/desire is rewarded with each action the individual takes. Human greed is aligned with the intended outcome of the capitalism à collective wealth. With communism, the individuals have to give up their human greed, and agree to share. Behavior that benefits the individual does not benefit the community under that system and vice versa. Human benevolence is aligned with the intended outcome, and the whole essence of benevolence is to put self-interest at a lower priority,
Why does religion work so well, but not atheistic moral systems (ok, I can hear some of you jumping up in protest, but hey, look at humanity over the last few millennia and see for yourself what I mean ) ? Religion that works well almost always rewards the individual for being good. Under religious systems, lying gets you thrown to eternal hell, and honesty gets you to eternal heaven, and so you would choose honesty even though the earthly temporal reward system may reward lying. You are honest, because that behavior is aligned to your individual benefit of going to heaven. Under the atheistic moral system, where there is no heaven, lying is aligned to your earthly benefit of wealth and prosperity. And so you lie. What is the result of everyone lying? You get societal chaos, which results in a less pleasurable community than the orderly one that has religion. Do communities of people then agree to be religious just so that they get a more ordered, pleasurable community to live in? I don’t think so — it goes back to natural selection; they tend to survive and chaotic ones self-destruct. What about a community of atheists who collectively agree to be moral, for the greater good of having an ordered, pleasurable community to live in? It won’t work, because even when everyone is honest, it still pays for an individual to go against the agreed system and lie. It necessarily descends to chaos, until you decide to punish lying behavior, in order to align individual benefit to the communal good — that’s when you get those oppressive communist regimes.
Why am I going through all this? What’s my point?
I think a lot of NGOs / activists / advocates etc etc tend to use the public good, human rights etc etc to campaign for their causes. That’s the intended good they want out of the system. But that cannot change behavior and so they find it incredibly difficult. The way the businesses go about it – bribery / nepotism / corrupted behavior on the other hand, rewards individual behavior. There’ll be little use saying that the Elites / People Accumulating Power ought to behave a certain way because that is the most ethical way , for public interest. What’s needed is a system to align the good of the people acting on behalf of the State, to the collective good of everyone. Democracy does that, because the people acting on behalf of the State are directly and individually rewarded with power and wealth when they act for the public good in order to get voted.
During the whole financial crisis, people have been laying the blame at the feet of the bankers for their greed. But seriously, everyone has to be maximally greedy – that’s about getting individually rewarded. Expecting bankers to act ethically and not out of greed would be to ask them to give up individual good. We need to tweak the system that aligns this greed with public good. It’s a system error.
So what’s my final point?
I think in trying to get our society (not just Singapore, but in general) to be improved, we need to go beyond bashing individuals of the system. We need to recognize that ANYBODY in a particular position in that system will act out of his individual interest to the maximum. What we need to do is to alter the system to align individual interest and public good that we intend.
How do we do that? I don’t know. But that’s the direction I think our thoughts should go towards.
(PS. I’m no politics student, never ever took even an elementary course in that area, so pardon me if this seems really duh ……. I’ll be happy if you would share your insights. This is just something I came up with during lunch hour, as a student of biology, as my opening paragraph says already. )