Having lived here for almost two years, I can safely say Singapore is not only rich but well managed.

Despite widespread construction, its roads remain clean, green, and remarkably pothole-free. Better yet, crime is negligible, and the streets are safe at any hour.

Its public housing projects – where over 60 per cent of people reside – are attractive, landscaped, and free from the incipient grot that characterise most public housing in Malaysia or, the West.

And things work. The buses and trains run on time. And water disruptions of the frequency and magnitude witnessed in the Klang Valley the last two years, were last felt by Singaporeans in the 1960s!

Indeed, heads would have rolled had the same thing happened here in Singapore. But we continue to accept inept management because we have become inured to mediocrity. Simply put, we’re accustomed to it.

Why am I going on like this?

Well, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts, Vietnam’s GDP in 2020 was estimated to have reached US$340.6 billion, exceeding that of Singapore with US$337.5 billion and Malaysia with US$336.3 billion.

This makes Malaysia the sixth largest economy among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ahead only of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei.

How the mighty have fallen!

In the 60s, Malaysia was the largest economy in the region but by the 90s, I became used to describing the country as “Southeast Asia’s second largest economy” after Indonesia.

And what about The Philippines, perennially the region’s “sick man?” Not any more, it seems, glass houses and all that.

In fact, the IMF estimated The Philippines’ GDP to have reached US$367.4 billion, while Thailand will remain way ahead with its US$509.2 billion GDP.

The elephant in the room is undoubtedly Indonesia with the IMF predicting that it became a US$1,088.8 billion economy in 2020.

What are we to make of these trends?

The only conclusion we can reach about Malaysia is that we seem to have been in “decline mode” for some time. The pandemic merely served to hasten the process.

How else are we to explain our gradually declining economic status in the region?

To what do we ascribe the continuing deterioration of our currency, the ringgit, and the steady build-up of our national debt?

Why is there a worrying pull-out of foreign investment from Malaysia to other places like Indonesia, Singapore or Vietnam?

These are the facts and they are irrefutable. If we are to connect the dots, we have to conclude that out policy makers, our leaders, have failed us, and are continuing to do so. We simply seem to be doing something wrong.

Penalising successful companies by extra taxes simply results in seriously escalating tax avoidance methodology.

And taxing those who bring money back from abroad will inevitably result in them creating offshore accounts.

Neither is anything gained from nit-picking matters of morality, drinking, gambling, et absurdum. It irritates everyone including investors who might wonder why the same care and concern isn’t directed at, say, corruption or public waste and profligacy?

What’s needed are bold measures. Scrap fuel subsidies and impose a tax on fuel instead. That will be green and bring in money in a hurry!

The world – both governments and companies – is marching to a different drum nowadays. And future outcomes will be judged against how they stack up against environmental, social and governance yardsticks, the so-called ESG standards. Dyson’s recent booting out of a Malaysian supplier over alleged labour issues is a case in point.

We will have to measure up or risk abdicating the future.



Utility, thought Dr M, is when you barely have enough; luxury is when you have enough; opulence is when you have more than enough; and ridiculous is when you are heaped with more, despite already racking up much more than enough.

That appeared to explain the continuing good fortune of Fearless Leader. The former premier was convicted of Very Grand Theft for which the Malaysian government now appeared to want to reward him.

To paraphrase the Bard, the slings and arrows of Fearless’ continuing good fortune were, verily, outrageous.

Dr M was in Parliament to discuss this very matter and he thought it was good to be back. Actually, most people knew, at 96, it was good to be anywhere.

Life had handed the physician lemons and he thought it best to squirt them in someone’s eye. That’s what he did in Parliament last week, lambasting the government for its incredible generosity towards a man accused of looting more than RM18 billion from the country he was elected to lead.

Think about that for a minute! The sum – US$4.5 billion – is the amount the US Justice Department estimates was siphoned off from 1MDB. It’s mind-boggling, the sort of thing Bernie Madoff might have contemplated if he were on steroids; a heist that a Great Train Robber might regard with awe.

Dr M was incensed that Fearless had requested a “privilege” from the government in the form of a 2.8-acre residential property worth RM100 million in one of Kuala Lumpur’s swankiest neighbourhoods.

The government had, apparently, agreed, which was what had infuriated the old man.

It was Charlie Brown who got it right, “Somehow I never quite know what’s going on,” he reflected sadly in a strip I read years ago.

That’s what many of us want to know. Here we have a convicted person, the First Felon if you like, going around with security and a motorcycle escort, campaigning in an election to loud cheers, being allowed to travel overseas.

And now he’s asked for a RM100 million house as an “entitlement” and no one thinks it’s strange, weird, or, even remotely, grotesque?

Only a 96-year-old man and the rest of the opposition?

Even the self-confessed holier-than-thou types, the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas, normally so quick to judge or condemn, has been strangely reticent on this subject. Indeed, they haven’t uttered a peep on the matter.

It’s never worried about other people’s money: it’s other people’s fun that keeps them up nights. Because, as sure as night follows day, it’s probably immoral.

I suppose that’s life. The average person strives, he tries to do what’s right, he stays on the right track and still gets hit by a train. And he answers like Norm in Cheers when Coach asks: “How’s the world treating you?”

Norm: “Like a baby treats a diaper.”

This is a world where John Lennon gets murdered, the same world that sees new Barry Manilow releasers each year.

Fearless knew the secret of life. The trick to getting ahead was to get a good lawyer, good book be damned.



How come when you’re talking to God, it’s called praying but when God’s talking to you, it’s schizophrenia. – Complaint of the anti-vaxxer.

We received our Pfizer booster shots two weeks ago. Most people awaiting vaccination at the community centre near our apartment in Singapore were young, probably taking their first doses but there were at least three who were clearly older than us.

They looked scared and we realised they had to be those who’d delayed their shots for whatever reason. The pressure probably got too much for them.

Like Malaysia, there is no law in Singapore that compels vaccination. But the city-state has made it very difficult for non-vaxxers to get by.

They can’t get into malls, restaurants cinemas, parks, even hawker centres – where most people go when they eat out.

On Thursday, Singapore lowered the boom again. Previously, people admitted to hospital for Covid-19 were treated free of charge. Now, non-vaxxers could face charges of up to S$25,000 for full treatment until discharge.

In matters of vaccination, I submit that he who hesitates is a damn fool who will get sick and worse.

Here, we have good news and bad news.
First, the good news. Global studies have indicated that only a very small proportion of anti-vaxxers are the rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth conspiracy theorists who believe that either Bill Gates, George Soros or Elvis Presley, or a combination of all three thereof, is working with Big Pharma to force vaccines into the bloodstreams of Everyman to achieve Global Dominance.

One suspects that their numbers might be higher in the United State where reason, apparently, counts for not much.

There’s very little that can be done for such folk except Prozac and a map to the nearest asylum.

Even so, most hesitaters are just that, people who procrastinate out of ignorance, habit, anxiety or, simply because of stuff they’ve read on the Internet. Through measures like those in Malaysia or Singapore, these people can generally be steered to safety.

Even so, it will take its time coming, for their numbers are legion. They range from 10-20% in the United Kingdom through to 50% in France and, most surprisingly to me at least, 60% in Japan. This is according to the BBC.

There aren’t any comparable numbers for the US but one suspects they might be higher.

Because of its computerised documentation, Singapore knows exactly how many people living on the island are unvaccinated, but it isn’t saying. It’s less clear in Malaysia. Nonetheless, their numbers are still significant. Example: it was revealed recently that 27,000 civil servants remained unvaccinated. This is unacceptable as they constitute a danger to themselves, their families, and the public at large.

The pandemic’s not going away anytime soon and that’s rapidly getting to be a problem. In Malaysia, the infectivity rate has begun reversing and has now gone back to 1. And the UK’s hospitals are now so crowded that you can only get in by accident.

I think it is time to concede that it is no longer tenable to frame the notion of vaccination as a matter of “personal choice.”

When that choice encroaches into the realm of “public health”, it cannot and will not hold.

Indeed, it should never hold.