Wednesday, December 29, 2010

That's Cricket.....


Cricket is a strange word to many people in the world. Kids may know cricket as  Jimmy the Cricket who accompanies Pinocchio, famously known for his growing nose, in his adventures.  Cricket the game is even stranger to many. Despite being the second most watched sports in the world after football / soccer, a lot of people don’t understand the game. Not many countries play the game at the highest level. The highest level being a Test Playing Nation. South Africa, India, Pakistan, England, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies. Just in case you are particular with your geography, The West Indies is not one country, but a multinational team representing 15 English speaking Caribbean Countries.

I will not do cricket justice if I try to describe what cricket is. Event though I am a fan, especially when it involves England, I understands less than 50% of it! If you interested to know about cricket apart from most of the time it is being played ‘gentlemanly’ by 22 men or women in all whites with reddish streaks on the front part of their pants at the strategic areas appearing as the day goes by, you can read more about it in the forever reliable (not 100% trusted) Wikipedia. On the team attires, nowadays you get teams in multicoloured ‘pyjamas’ in almost all forms of cricket bar the Test.

Pondering on a recent remarked from  a friend was surprised to know I am a cricket fan, how did I become one? To support England is normal for most Bruneians. That’s not strange. Most of us support England in football. May be its because of our history closely linked to the United Kingdom. Bear in mind the administrative power of the UK is England. Nowadays slowly the powers are being devolved. That’s a story for another day when, if ever, I start writing about politics. Back to cricket. My love for cricket grew from my first summer in England, Ulu England to be precise, years ago. With the smell of fresh summer intertwined with the smell of ‘cow dung’ in the air, there I was watching my first game. Cricket is a game for the summer time. I can’t recall who was playing apart from one of the teams was my school’s team. But the sight of the summer day is still vivid in my mind.

From that day, my ‘love’ or rather fondness for cricket grew. Supporting the England team. Watching the live telecast on TV. Listening to the radio with headphones in the middle of the night when England is playing down under. Bear in mind those days, internet was still at infancy and only used by the military. So TV and radio was the source. Fans of cricket know the biggest rivalry in cricket is between England aka the Poms and Australia aka the Aussies (rather obvious). The rivalry is at the most when they are battling for the Ashes. If you are interested enough, you can read about the Ashes here.

From the time I started watching cricket up to as recent as 4 or 5 years back, the Aussies always thrashed the Poms. Only in the recent years the Poms got the upper hand. Right now, they are in the middle of the battle. Very intense, highly captivating. Glued me to the internet where I got a ‘free’ (illegal?) live streaming of the games. Or to my able phone for regular updates when I am on the move.

What intrigued me is how cricket, the supposedly gentlemanly game has adopted to the use of technology in disputed or bad umpiring calls. Well, the word gentleman conjured up the perception of resistance to change albeit in a polite way. Compared to football or soccer (as known in the USA), cricket has embraced new technology with open arms. Football on the other hand still resisting technology despite some admitting wrong decisions can affect the lives of many people. The famous Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly said football is more important than life and death. So why leave it solely to humans, who are prone to making mistakes? After all, football results had been known to caused deaths to the supporters.

In cricket, new technologies are embraced. Apart from the two umpires, they utiilise a third umpire who has access to myriads of technology. Hot Spot, Hawkeye (similar to the one use in tennis) and snick-o-meter are some of these. Google them up for details. Instead of slowing down the game, it made it more interesting especially for the spectators. Added suspense when a player or a team referred the decision to a the third umpire. Spicing up the excitement for us. May be football can learn from this and we will never again had the ‘did it cross the line or not’ aka the Russian linesman incidents.

Talking about technology, here is a funny yet inspiring story from the Daily Telegraph…

“….Sydneysiders finding it hard to be enthused by the fifth Test should draw inspiration from the great lengths Twitter cult hero @theashes is taking to get to the match. Not even a giant blizzard sweeping along the US east coast can prevent Theashes, a Massachusetts woman unwittingly bombarded by messages from cricket fans tweeting about the Ashes during the first Test, from seeing a match first hand. About 2900 flights have been grounded after snow blanketed cities from Philadelphia to Boston. The freeze saw the cancellation of buses and trains heading to New York, leaving Theashes stranded at home. ''Unless @qantas-airways can get me a flight tmrw, not coming,'' she tweeted in the early hours of yesterday morning. ''I hope I can work something out with @QantasAirways in the morning so I can still go.'' Fortunately for her, Australia's national carrier came to the fore yesterday. ''The trip is on! @QantasAirways got me a flight for tomorrow. I'll be in Sydney to @SeeAustralia on Thursday the 30th - in time for New Years……'

Moral of the story? Technology is a great tool but it is only a tool and not 100% foolproof. It can still deliver the wrong message to the wrong person, fortunately this time with a happy ending….

P.S.
At the time of writing of this entry, England is well on the way of thrashing the Aussies in their own backyard and retaining the Ashes. Wonderful feeling with a tinge of regret. I would have been there, should have been there witnessing and be part of history. If only I had chosen to spent my sabbatical not here…..




Saturday, November 06, 2010

Paradox of Savings….


Paradoxes are everywhere in this world. Recently came across this term ‘Paradox of Savings’.  It’s one of the paradox of economics. Popularised by the father of Keynesian Economics, John Maynard Keynes, according to the Wiki, “The paradox states that if everyone tries to save more money during times of recession, then aggregate demand will fall and will in turn lower total savings in the population because of the decrease in consumption and economic growth.”

To explain this, the Wiki says, “If a population saves more money, then total revenues for companies will decline. This decrease in economic growth means fewer salary increases and perhaps downsizing. Eventually the population's total savings will have remained the same or even declined because of lower incomes and a weaker economy.” In short, increase in individual’s saving may be harmful to the economy.

Admittedly in economics there are many ‘factions’ or ‘schools of thought’. This view is from the Keynesian School of Thought. Others may beg to differ.

So what do we do? Encourage savings or discourage it? I am not an economist to answer this. It’s up to individuals which faction they want to believe. But what’s interesting is how we Asians specifically the Chinese think of savings compare to the Americans.

Michael Pettis in his article ‘Chinese Savings and the Wealth Effect’ discussed why the savings rate in China is very high and why savings rises when interest rates decline. By commonsense, when interest rate increases savings will increase. But not in China. The author shared that in China savings are meant for things like education. Parents will have a specific target that will cover their children’s education. This will be calculated taking into account interest rates for a monthly amount to be saved. Hence when interest rates decline, they will have to increase their monthly savings to cover the gap resulting from the decline in rate.

Culture seems to play an important role here. One thing it thought me, you have to wear many ‘glasses’ to see the true picture. The world seems different when seen through an economist’s eyes but not necessarily the complete picture…..


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lesson Snippets….

It’s not easy going back to academic stuff. The hard drive and the RAMs are not what they used to be. The CPU is almost obsolete. Yet in the midst of all the confusion, ‘blurness’, blankness and lost in the street of the academic world, some lessons stuck in this old head. Struck more like it. Using the lecturers’ terminology, there are some ‘take away’ points and I try to share as much as I can here, the important ones at least.

Economics and its world of demand and supply seems to play a very important role in setting public policies all over the world. Despite economics being an inexact science, people argue if it is even a form of science and add to that economists seem to argue among themselves to what is wrong, what is right, it’s prediction is the cornerstone of policy making. Prior to this, my personal perception is economics tend to look at facts, figures and tend to be ‘cold hearted’. More concerned about ‘efficiency’, the so called size of the pie  (share rather then ‘equity’, the distribution of the economic gains. Yet, the perception has slowly changed. More and more it can be seen in the pursuit of ‘efficiency’, distribution takes place. May be I am wrong but that’s how the perception has changed. Coming back to using economic arguments in policy making, hopefully someone can enlightened me to what extent it has been used in the process of policy making in Brunei.

Housing is always an important necessity no matter how we are. Recently, I had to opportunity to listen to how our neighbor approached this challenge. The take away points generated some raw thoughts.

The first one is about the DEMAND. Do we really know the actual demand on housing? Is the queue number the real demand? Is there anywhere we can manage, priorities and streamline the numbers to get the actual demand? Without knowing the real demand, we may end up building more than what is really needed. An aspect of this is the eligibility. Do we consider application from single person? Here, they based it on a family nucleus. A family nucleus is made up of minimum TWO person eg husband and wife, mother and kid etc.

Secondly is how can make use the houses to create assets for the recipients. Here, the ‘houses’ are treated as assets. Their value will grow in tandem with economic progress. The owners can cash in on the appreciation in value. Two important side to this is making ‘home ownership’ as the cornerstone and also allowing ‘right sizing’. Right sizing means upgrading or downgrading to meet the necessity.

The third one is ‘FORCED SAVING’. Everyone is ‘forced’ to save part of their income towards housing right from the beginning of their working life. Here, the figure is about 30% of the take home pay. This saving in most cases pay for most of the cost of buying the home. By the time the individual is allocated a house, he or she will have enough to make significant amount to pay for the house and subsequent payments.

An important aspect to all these is ‘financial savviness’ of the individual. The perception is that the general population is not financial savvy. Is this due to lack of education? May be educating them right from primary school will help. That’s for the future. How about for the current generation? We can’t force them to go back to school. The real question is the access to financial planning specifically in developing their individual ‘housing plan’ to meet their needs and within what they can afford. The individual will be more aware and understand more what they can afford and what needs to be done. Eventually he will have the ‘right’ expectation. The next question is who to provide this? Either we can leave it to the financial institutions or we face this head on. As we are responsible to allocate the houses, collect payments, we should be able to give financial advice. Financial advice given right from the day they submit their application.

The most important of all is we need to be pragmatic. Being pragmatic, able to evolve to meet the challenges and improve is the answer rather then to be tied up by rules and regulations. After all as the saying goes, rules are meant to be broken. Before they are broken, we can adjust to meet the demand of current time.


P.S. Is the academic world slowly infecting me? After re-reading this entry, it doesn’t sound like the usual me. Scary to think what will be the effect after 12 months of academic dose….

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Time To Learn….

It’s been a while. Over two months this blog has be left ‘unupdated’, if there is such a word. Time was not kind. Not enough time to do everything. Prioritisation had to be done. Blogging seemed to be not among the top ten of my to do list chart. Talking of to do list chart, there is a lot ‘to do’ apps out there. But nothing beats the simple list. Easy to understand, simple to use and off course free. Unlike some paid apps, not user friendly and time consuming to use.

So, here I am sitting by the window overlooking the green surrounding in a foreign country. Taking a year sabbatical from my work and from life in Brunei. To quote one of the people I met “we are lucky and brave to be able to do this at this stage of our lives.” 

Moving into another country albeit a familiar one is not easy. Looking for accommodation and getting used to the transport system, bear in mind not having the luxury of the car we always took for granted. Walking, hopping onto the bus and up and down the trains. Add to that trying to jump-start this rusty brain to high-speed mode and process the enormous information that had to be consumed, digested and repackage into personal point of view. That’s the whole point of being here. To develop the ability to ‘having an opinion’. Sounds simple. Everyone has an opinion. It is human nature to have an opinion in everything. 

Despite the many challenges, loneliness is up there, it’s been inspirational. Being in a group of over eighty people from over twenty countries is refreshing and an eye opener. I was told these are among the brightest people. Most are future leaders of their respective organisations and countries. One even aspires to be the President. I guess he is at the right place. Developing leaders is one of the primary aim of this School by equipping them with right skills and tools. Eventually, in a year’s time, all of us will not just go through this with flying colours, more importantly be a better leader. On a personal note, a better person.

As the Dean said in welcoming us “make use of everyday, every moment in the year to engage in learning.” That is the reason being here. To learn……

P.S.
One of the things I had to relearn again is cooking. The skills from my student life over 18 years ago are long gone. One mean cook had become a clueless one. Delicious multitasting recipes turned out into carbon even for the simple ‘talor dadar’. Fortunately food, halal food is plentiful. Prices are reasonable especially in the School. The famous Adam Road Nasi Lemak is just a few bus stops away. May be within this year I will go up to ‘reheating stage’ in the cooking skill level.  Thanks to the microwave and those Brahim pastes…….

Friday, June 18, 2010

Seoul to Seoul….

Back in Seoul. Just over a year ago was here for almost a week. The same this time. Last year gripped by the threat of their brothers from the north and the funeral of a well beloved ex President. This year, the threat from the northern brothers are still there but this time more of a fight over the sinking of the southern ship. By all accounts from experts called by the South, the north is guilty as charged. But the north disputed the south’s account as lies and fabrications.

We witnessed very deep and strong national fervor last year albeit a very sad one. This year, the national fervor is still here. But this time it’s on a happier note. It’s the World Cup. Both the north and the south are represented. Even the normally hostile north was over the moon when their southern brothers won their match.

Being in this soccer mad nation, you can see red everywhere. Red, the color of their football team. On a match day, people gathers at open space public areas. The Seoul Square in front of the City Hall packed. Streets apart from the vicinity of the Seoul Square very quiet. Here and there groups of people gathered around TV screens, big and small. Shouts in unison in the event of a goal by their team. Grunts in the event of a goal scored by their opponents. Shops are open but not that many people shopping. It is as if the whole city, the whole country for that matter, is on a standstill for ninety minutes plus the injury time and half time. Tonight was such night. But it ended in a big disappointment. Their team got thrashed 1-4 by the South Americans. Still the atmosphere was electric. I wonder what if their team wins. May be the whole place will be shaking!

P.S.
One of the speakers asked ‘why did we consume food through one hole but dispose it through two holes?’. According to him, that is the clue, the way forward for us to dispose of human waste. Two hole ‘toilet bowls', that's the way of the future, according to him……

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Welcome Home World……

‘The waiting is over’… ‘Let the games begin’…. ‘Here we go’ ... are some phrases heard when the World Cup 2010 kicked off. 5 years of waiting, ,months of build up complete with the increase frequency of airtime given to World Cup promos and the catchy songs.

To football mad fans and to a certain extend non-fans it will be a month of change in routines. Need to be home early to catch the early games. Waking up middle of the night to catch the early morning games. To some may be the other  parts of their lives will come to a stand still. Some non-football spouses, majority of the female gender, will have sleepless nights too. TVs too loud and the husbands and kids shouting like crazy in the middle of the night. Add to that sound of popping crackers, kuacihs, cans and all sorts of must have paraphernalia for an armchair spectator.

64 matches in one month. We had 5 down 59 to go. In Brunei, for the ‘live coverage’ we have the choice of watching astro for those with dishes hanging on their walls, astro beyond for those who are into HD technology and last but not least the ever reliable RTB. RTB also offers HD. So far, in terms of quality of the pictures compared to the standard astro (I don’t have astro beyond, tempted to have one but don’t see the use of it), RTB got the thumbs up. For those fussy about details, it seems the pictures are five seconds earlier than those in astro.

Talking about RTB, thumbs up to them for their effort to bring the matches live. After all not everyone has astro. If someone have any grouse about RTB coverage is may be about the ‘experts’. At the interval of the opening match, the experts, to use a local term, ‘mati-mati’ said the referee and his assistant was wrong for flagging the Mexican player for offside. This clearly showed the experts were not aware of the offside rule. Put it simply, the referee was right, the ‘experts’ were wrong! Read the rulebook again please.

Another craze that comes along with every world cup is collecting the ‘Panini’ world cup stickers. Six hundred plus stickers to fill. That’s almost $100 per album, if you are very very lucky and don’t get doubles or even triples. Apparently some stickers were hard to find. A sniff of the precious rare stickers leads to sms exchanged, facebook updates browsed and meetings arranged for exchange of stickers. We are talking about adults here! I suppose this will help the economy a bit. Generate extra sales. On a personal note, I just started to fill up the album. Just for fun and to get into the world cup mood, not that I need much of stirring up. Still 500+ to go ….

One good news that came before the World Cup kicked off, the continued suspension of our national  team from the world of football. I suppose it’s good news but since when a continued suspension is good news. But then again compared to expulsion, in the wilderness of the world football?  All the fans wanted is the BAFA saga sorted out one way or another so we can have our normal football season. Hopefully this will be a kick-start to Brunei returning to fold of world football and we can make full use of the facilities FIFA funded near the Stadium.

Despite not participating in  any international matches, Brunei’s ranking has gone up four places to 189. Joint 189th with Afghanistan. We are better ranked than other well-known ‘powerhouses’ like Bhutan, Macau, Timor Leste, Andorra, San Marino and Papua New Guinea. That’s without playing. I wonder what will be our ranking if we fully participate.

Still fresh in memory the golden outing our national team at the Qualifiers for the 1980 Moscow Olympic. We were grouped together with the hosts Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Brunei gave the bigger countries a run for their money. We defeated Philippines 2-0, Indonesia 3-2. Roslan Hj Suhaili scored a hattrick past the Indonesian keeper Taufik Lubis. Indonesia at that time was a powerhouse in this region.  At that time we had Ali Hj Ismail, Zulkifli Anis, Ak Zamani, Pg Tajudin just to name a few. We lost narrowly 1-2 to Japan. 1-3 to both Malaysia and South Korea. Look at what happened to Japan and South Korea now.

If we followed the example of Japan and South Korea, may be we will be in the World Cup Finals sooner than we think. Nothing is impossible……


P.S.
When we won the Cup, the Malaysia Cup not the World Cup, we were ranked 192. The year 1999 will be forever etched in the memories of the local football fans. That was the pinnacle. It felt we were on top of the world. 

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A tribute, a celebration ….

Farewells are always sad. With the recent changing of the guards, a few of us decided to have what originally we termed as a personal farewell to our bosses. Gathering of people who worked closely with both of them before.

When the night came, those who were there unconsciously but unanimously made it into a celebration, a tribute and an appreciation. The beginning, not the end of the road.

Each and everyone present were asked to speak. Sharing experiences, conveying tributes, showing appreciation and off course expressing their deep sincere thank yous.

I was among the last one to speak. Being among the last gave the advantage of making notes. The early ones had to make do with impromptu speeches. Mine was a bit scripted. Notes made on the phone. If there is one thing I learned over the years from my boss is having written notes and keypoints helps a lot.

Decision to put the raw notes here as it was ‘scribbled’ was more personal than wanting to share it with the world. These words came from deep down. To put it here is one way to safely keep it, treasure it. The notes were definitely disjointed, may not make sense but these are the words uttered:

“Dear friends, i consider us all friends .. Pehin, Dato, Lets make tonight a not sad one.. I got selesma not crying... Lets make tonight a celebration & appreciation for Pehin's & Dato's achievements & our bonds.....I dont know what else to say.... Everything has been said... & i concur with all ..But i hope the story about names will say it all.... Continuing Theme tonight about names.. I consider myself still young yet i m worse off, very very bad in remembering names ... Until i bought a small book on how to remember names.. Thats how bad I am so very forgetful with names... But the impact of pehin & dato through the many highs and the few lows on me personally i m sure i will never forget pehin's & yb's names...tq pehin tq dato..tq for everything ... Everything realy means everything.. All the best wishes for pehin & dato.. Amin…..”

Throughout the  5 years leading us, both of them had achieved a lot. But to me the greatest testimony of all , the greatest achievement of all is the strong bond between them and the rest of us. That, to me is priceless and lasting. More than anything else……..

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The New Guard …..

Today , the announcement a lot of people, if not everyone was waiting for, came.  His Majesty the Sultan dan Yang DiPertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam in his titah this afternoon announced the new Cabinet Ministers line up.  Details of the appointments can be read here.

To the new guard, we say congratulations and welcome and wish them good luck, all the best and all the success. To the old guard we show our appreciation and say thank you very much, we wish them all the best in their future undertakings, good health and happiness.

On a personal note, today’s announcement means some ‘uncertainties’ but exciting time ahead. May be it is the same for others who share the same position. The weeks, in fact months of speculations ended with today’s announcement. Some of the speculations were spot on. Some did not materialise. That’s the nature of speculations. Many uncertified pundits. Everything was analysed. Rumors flying around left, right and centre. Some were outright outrageous. Nevertheless, it added to the ‘suspense’ feeling. In fact we can feel it in the air.

Somehow, it died down a bit when no announcement came last week. Then came lunch time today. SMSes started coming. To quote a friend, it was raining messages (hujan labat!). Everyone searching for radio and TV to confirm what the sms conveyed. The radios and TVs confirmed it but no timing was mentioned. Form then onwards, our ears on high alert glued to the radio.  The old TVs with the ancient antenna, which was seldom switched on, suddenly, became the centre of attention.

Work must go on. Yet the mind and the head were focused on the impending announcement. Two o’clock passes, three o’clock came still no announcement. SMSes and phone calls ‘belatupan’. Even old friends who had not called for a long long time rang up.  Came Asar time, the mind set for the announcement to come around five o’clock just like last time.  Suddenly, at the end of the doa after Asar azan, appeared His Majesty on TV. The rest was history…..

P.S.
To my boss, congratulations and all the best wishes and success in the new portfolio. We had our sad farewell too. Thank you Dato. You have been great to us. We will always treasure your advice, guidance and most of all your kindness and generosity. You can always count on us as your friends.







Saturday, May 29, 2010

To whom it may concern .....



P.S. Need I say more? ;)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rankings....

Brunei came 63rd in the Network Readiness Index (NRI) 2009-2010. But what does it mean?

NRI measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities offered by information and communications technology. Propensity, to those who does not have access to any dictionary, means simply ‘tendency’ or ‘inclination’. It is part of the Global Information Technology Report published by the World Economic Forum and INSEAD, an internationally renowned graduate business school and research institution. The full report can be read here.

The NRI is a composite of three components: the environment for ICT offered by a given country or community, the readiness of the community’s key stakeholders (individuals, businesses, and governments) to use ICT, and finally the usage of ICT amongst these stakeholders. It covers 133 economies from both the developed and developing world accounting for 98% percent of world’s GDP.
Sweden with a score of 5.65 is the Numero Uno, the most networked economy in the world. Our neighbour, Singapore with a score of 5.64 came a close second. Brunei’s score is 3.77. Among the high-income countries, Brunei is ranked 44th out of 46 economies. At least we are better than Kuwait and Trinidad and Tobago. Among the notable countries that are above us are Vietnam, Thailand, Tunisia and India. Just below us is Azerbaijan.
Let’s dig deeper into the report. Assuming being ranked in the top 40 as doing well, the report indicates Brunei has a good ICT infrastructure especially with very strong support from the Government. Our education system is ranked highly especially in the quality of maths and science education. We also have an ICT friendly taxation and legal framework.
Surprise, surprise, we are outside the top 100, infact ranked 127 out of 133 on the time required to start business and ranked 128 in the number of procedures to start a business. Sounds familiar! Remember what was reported in the Ease of Doing Business Index? May be there is a miscommunication on this. As I recalled, in the Ease of Doing Business Index published by the World Bank, we got the very low ranked due to the part left unanswered by the survey respondent.

Other areas where Brunei can improve are the need to have more competition and in the creative and technology exports sector. May be somebody has looked into this. I do hope the incubates at the iCentre can rise to this challenge.

One other area we did not score well is ‘buyer sophistication’. Are they serious? I thought we Bruneians are quite up to date with the technology and we are crazy just about everything ‘the latest’. Look at how fast we change our high tech gadgets, our mobile phones, our laptops, our computers, our TVs and many more. Even the products not launched in other parts of the world will reach us in just few days. How can they say we are not sophisticated? May be our inclination to buy ‘grade A’ copies aka pirated / not original alternatives had a say in this. May be….

In another ranking done by Speedtest.net, Brunei is ranked 146 out of 178 countries in terms of download speed. At an average 0.91Mb/s, we are the tortoise compared to the top ranked South Korea at 33.97 Mb/s. In ASEAN, only Cambodia is ranked lower. Singapore is ranked 31st at 8.47 Mb/s. Even Rwanda at 3.74 MB/s and Mozambique at 1.96 Mb/s have faster download speeds. Hopefully the new Brunei International Gateway project through the Asia-America Gateway due to be completed in 2011 will help us move higher up the speed league. May be we can sit next to the Maldives in the top 50 ……

To summarise, as the familiar phrase written in the school kid report books, 'Well done but there is a lot of room for improvement'.

P.S.
How do you measure success of the awareness campaign on fuel subsidy? It is not easy and results definitely will come overnight. May be the results can be seen in the coming months or years in terms of fuel consumptions. Any significant drop may point towards a more efficient usage of fuel and more people moving towards ‘green’ lifestyle.

But the TV news seemed to think the massive drop in fuel sales, 85% if I heard correctly, meant the campaign was a success. How can that be? Isn’t it obvious people will not buy petrol on that day? Isn’t it obvious people rather wait till the next day to fill up their tanks the day after? It must be obvious that the sales figure would drop massively when price are double or even tripled in the case of diesel. The drop only points to the fact that Brunei population is a ‘savvy’ and knowledgeable group. They are quite aware to the rise and fall of their daily necessities.





Monday, May 24, 2010

Choices…..

 The last week had been eventful. Had some time off. Some interesting items in the news. Some of us were waiting for some big news that never came, for now.

One news that made headline was the so called destruction of the mangrove area, the habitat of the proboscis monkeys aka Bangkatan. One side claiming we are destroying the Bangka tan’s habitat. Another claiming we have done everything we can not to disturb the Bangka tans. Who is right?

My guess is, nobody is 100% right. Both have sound arguments. One looks after forest and its habitat. Bangkatan is an endangered species. Apparently they can only survive in Borneo and not many of them left. Being rare, and their habitat in Brunei is accessible within a short boat ride, it became a tourist attraction. No wonder the tourism people cry foul when they heard of the clearing of the mangrove area.
On another side are the people trying to alleviate flooding. I am not going to bore everyone with the technical details. Suffice to say they need to widen and deepen the existing river. They did their environmental impact studies and proposed mitigation actions that have minimum impact on the mangrove vegetations and the habitat of the Bangkatans. In short, leaving their habitat on Pulau Luba untouched. The few Bangkatans that ‘migrated’ across the river now must move back to the island.

So the choice goes down to either helping thousands of people in the flood prone area or the few Bangkatans? It is not an easy decision but an obvious one. Choices had to be made. That’s a fact of life.

Talking about choices, another recent headline was the introduction of new regulations on the type of number plates for cars. I may have missed it but I did not hear any explanation on the need to change. Please correct me if I am wrong.  Everyone must change before the end of the year.

Apparently, at the moment only two companies are licensed to produce the new number plates. Lucky them. In the next few months it will be a windfall to them. At $38 per car and with around 180,000 active vehicles in the country, that works out to be almost $7million within 7 months. Cool $1million per month. That’s not including the new cars, around 20,000 annually. I wonder how much is the investment to set up  the number plate business.

Today is Energy Day in Brunei. SOS is the mantra. Switch Off unused lights and water heaters. Set the air conditioner to 24C. Hopefully, we do this not just today but everyday. Make it a habit.  We can make the choice and start saving energy and other green initiatives.


We will also be paying the commercial rate for our petrol today. Double the normal rate. Overheard some complaints already. Nobody likes any price increase. It’s human nature to want everything on the cheap or free whenever possible. Long queues seen at some petrol stations yesterday. Imagine if the increase is for a longer period. May be next year we can try this out for a week especially during long weekends.  Wonder if the queues at the border crossings will be as long.

Hopefully, out of this, our people appreciate better our energy and the subsidy we are getting. Around $200 millions of subsidy annually. We are a lucky lot indeed. But the more important thing is for us to start living responsibly. Realising our resources is limited and scarce. By doing this, we may just secure the future of our future generations.

Sadly, subsidy if not appreciated, admittedly, in most cases will make us ‘misbehave’ and ‘irresponsible’.  

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We are lucky .....



A few days ago, a big group of us together with the bosses went on a road trip to Ulu Belait and Tutong. Checking progress of a few projects. Kargu, Bang Taong, Buau, Sukang, Biadong and Merangking are among the stops. Longhouses were visited too.

At one of the longhouses, got talking to an old man. About life in the ulu. They seemed to be contented with the life, peaceful life. In the conversation, what struck me most was what the kids went through to get their education. At least two hours walk just to reach the school! The roads were only accessible on a four wheel drive cars. Five in the morning, still in darkness, surrounded by thick greens, they are ready for their two hours daily trek to school. Five in the morning in bandar, most of the kids are still in the dreamland, blanketed, in their air conditioned rooms.

Two hours to school, another two hours heading home. Four hours total. By the time they reached home these kids must be tired yet they endure this daily. That’s the spirit, RASA KAN BELAJAR. For kids in bandar, if can, they want the cars to send them up to the class room doors! Even people live near the school send their kids by car.

May be we need to change this. Need to make the kids feel a bit of hardship. May be the will appreciate how lucky they are. May be they will not take things for granted.


P.S.
On a flight to the Lion City, listening to old songs, feeling melancholic, savouring my rare time off from work. Almost halfway on the flight, with almost empty stomach, saw the stewardess smiling pulling the food cart. In my head, here comes the best part of the flight. Food! I love airline food despite being less tasty lately. As the cart approaches, the heart beats eager to know what’s on the menu. Longing for the days where they gave out the menu at the beginning o the flight. To us who flies on 'kelas kambing' we no longer have the privilege. We can only intu-intu and subok subok to those in the Business Class who knows in advance what they will be having. Back to food cart. It now stood next to my seat. The lady serving the guys in front of me. Then it moved slowly to the back. May be she was going to the back to get some food so I thought. Minutes passed by yet not food in my view except those of the passengers nearby. Finally saw the cart approaching but sadly it passed by me right to the front serving drinks to others. I sense something not right. I felt annoyed a bit. How could they keep me waiting for my food, my highlight of the flight. Losing my patience but still cool, pressed the call assistant button. A guy came politely attending to my call. Food, where was my food, I asked. Surprise surprise, the lady missed me! I must have gotten the invisible effect I read in the Invisible Man story. It is not as if I am off small built. She apologised albeit belatedly. Me more disappointed than angry. Appetite spoiled. Food not even half eaten. A couple of her colleagues apologised for the mistake. Apologies accepted but my highlight was robbed. Contemplated to make an official complaint. On second thought I better not. I may end up labelled a spoiled adult behaving like a kid who lost his sweets. May be I am ...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Balikpapan, Kota BERIMAN ......

Balikpapan, a city famous for many things. Also famous in Brunei for the wrong reasons especially during the time, not so distant ago, where we used to have direct flight from Bandar Seri Begawan to Balikpapan. Even now there is a place in Brunei known among the locals especially the older members of the public as Balikpapan. Don’t ask me why.

Here I am, first time at Balikpapan, not knowing what to expect except the stories of adventure or rather misadventures of some of our countrymen (I stressed men) here. To arrive here, we have to do a round trip via the Lion City and it took us almost 10 hours. No more direct flights. Some alleged the stopping of the direct flight was due to the misadventures of our countrymen. The more plausible reason was may the very low passenger count. I heard the original intention was to use the direct flight as a link to Australia.

After almost a day here, Balikpapan indeed is a delightful city. With the typical colors of the Indonesian cities I had visited but without the traffic jam. Last night, I heard the Governor saying something about Kota Balikpapan known as Kota BERIMAN. Must be a very religious city, I thought. Not surprising as on our walkabout, we heard quite a number of the call to prayers, the azan. More about the BERIMAN part later.

With a large number of Muslim population, I was told at least 70%, this seaport city on the eastern coast of the island of Borneo has a good mixture of people. The population of over 600 thousands is a mixture of origins from Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, Jawa, Sumatera and Kalimantan.

My boss commented last night the name Balikpapan is unique and in some ways romantic. If I heard him correctly that is. I decided to look it up. The official website of Kota Balikpapan had two versions of the origin of the name Balikpapan.

One version is during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Idris in 1739. The sultan ordered the communities around a bay area to contribute building materials for a new palace. The contribution is in the form of 1000 pieces of timber tied together into a raft. Upon arrival at Kutai, 10 pieces were found missing. These missing pieces were thought to have refused to be part of the contribution hence the phrase ‘Baliklah papan itu’.

Another version was from the people of Suku Balik, better known as Suku Pasir Kuleng who migrated to the current location of Balikpapan. This group originated from the family of Kayun Aleng and Papan Ayun and was known as ‘Kuleng-Papan’. Kuleng in Pasir Balik dialect meant ‘balik’ hence the name Balikpapan.

Coming back to the BERIMAN part. I thought it was about religion. Infact it is an acronym and it stood for ‘BERSIH, INDAH & NYAMAN’.

More info on Balikpapan can be found here.

P.S.
While having breakfast, I heard a story about how some Indonesians are ‘crafty’ and how it takes a lot of patience living here. There is a local saying ‘if you can make it difficult, why make it easy’. From experience, it's not an Indonesian phenomenon, it's everywhere......

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rumours & Speculations…

Throughout our live, no matter what we do, where we are, who we are, we can’t run away from hearing rumours and speculations. All aspect of life affected by rumours and speculations. The stock market, price of goods and services and many others. The nature of rumours and speculations no matter how far fetched they are, they will always get attention. One rumour which is not connected to another speculation, will somehow be linked through creative out of the box or shall I say out of this world thinking. A small one sentence rumour can become a full paragraph or even a few pages of text after passed on from one ‘uncertified pundit’ to another. Reminded me of the Mossad’s motto "Tell people big lies often enough and they'll believe it.”

How we deal with rumours and speculations, how we handle them, how we analyse them and the conclusions we draw from them will somehow dictate our success in life. Some people make a living out of analysing rumours and speculations. Bookies, futurist, market analyst. May be even this skill is essential to those aspiring to go through MBA , economics and related courses.

In the old days, we have the newspapers, radio and the dumb box we called TV as our main sources of information. Now, we have the sprawling reaches of the world wide web as the main source. A movement here, a shift there, a shake here, a rattle there, with a click of a button, the whole world knows about it. Be it tweeted, facebooked, four squared, you-tubed and more other internet medium not just the social networking sites. Rumours and speculations are also on the same ride. Spreading faster than wild fire. As fast as the lightning I guess.

Gone are the days of privacy, the cushion of time to tone down an impact of the news be it the truth or a mere rumour or speculation. Harnessed the right way, we can do many good and wonderful things with it. Use it the opposite way, we can do untold damage, intentionally or not.

I am definitely digressing a bit here. What started as a thought about certain rumours and speculations that is snowballing as we approached May 2010, let me to think about how rumours and speculations affected every part of our lives. Ending up with a piece of unscripted, unplanned piece of writing. All that came to my head I typed down. So if this entry looked disjointed, my apologies. Not that I am such a planning sort of person. Not planning is planning to fail, I read somewhere. But some may say, not planning is also planning in some way. Planning not to have any plan.

What are the rumours and speculations I am referring to here? A lot of people realise it is already May 2010. Almost 5 years from the appointment of current line up of Cabinet Ministers. People on facebook (who does not?) got a reminder of this when a well known blogger put up a survey on the performance of the ministries a couple of months back.

Sharing and spreading the rumours and speculations about this story is not what I have in mind. So many of them, we can’t tell which ones are from reliable source or which ones are not. Some are credible some are far fetched. Very interesting to hear if you keep your ears open to these ‘uncertified’ pundits. What is more interesting how people arrived at the speculations. Some even went to the extend, may be jokingly, is to do a survey of the well known tailors in town. Who ordered a more than normal number of suits, are the ones with aspirations or strong belief they will be appointed. Far fetched yet plausible?

Enough of that. … we just wait and see….

Monday, March 29, 2010

Buildings Principles.....


It was a long morning, even a longer afternoon. Dreading a long evening too. To my surprise, the evening was a delightful one despite a bit tired after staying up watching my beloved team thrashed Sunderland. Delightful evening, not so much the food nor the company but the privilege to listen to a renowned architect, Mr Chien Chung Pei AIA. For people who are familiar with the world of architecture, the family name ‘Pei’ brought images of famous buildings such as the Grand Louvre in Paris and the skyscraper Bank of China building in Hong Kong. These buildings, off course were designed by the one and only I.M.Pei. Mr Chien Chung Pei AIA is one of his sons.

It was not just a talk on architecture. Going through some the buildings he designed such as the Al Burj in Dubai, the Bank of China Head Office in Beijing, Suzhou Museum in China, United States National Slavery Museum, Ronal Reagan UCLA Medical Centre and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, he talked about the thought and philosophy behind the designs.

As he remarked again and again, it will take him more than three hours to go through his presentation. Fortunately, or was it unfortunately for us, he talked for slightly over an hour giving us to have a lively interactive session for another hour.

To share what I learned will take me pages and pages of boring text. I will not be able to put them as eloquently as him. But two things, simple yet valuable things etched strongly in the mind. If put into practice we may just be able to meet the client’s expectation more not just in terms of cost and time but ultimately the end product, a building meeting their requirement.

Firstly: “Buildings should make people (occupants) feels better”.  

Secondly: “in designing a building, talk to the client/owners”. Talking to them will help us discover what they really want and need. It is easier and more comforting trying to sell to them their own ideas rather than trying to force our ideas on them.

With these two principles, we may have more and more happier clients and end users. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Songkok...

Price of songkok must be have gone up. May be focus on spending is not on songkok. May be there are other far more important things like servicing our credit card payments which for some people shot almost 300 percent suddenly. May be even it is the ‘in thing’ now, the new style. May be they want to show off their trendy branded expansive sunglasses on top of their heads. May be.

What am I rambling about here? It’s the growing phenomenon of men attending weddings in full baju melayu complete with sinjang but “songkokless’. Judging from the few weddings I attended, not that I attend a lot of weddings, the number of ‘songkokless’ guests are increasing. Not just among the young men but also the older men in their thirties and above.

Some may ask why does it matter if you have your songkok on or not. It may even be a trivial matter to some people. I don’t consider myself as an ultra conservative. In fact I am quite liberal in some of my views. Somehow the sight of ‘songkokless’ men in full baju melayu attire just gets on my nerve. In this country, aren’t we suppose to have a dress code for functions like wedding? Minimum standard and minimum level of decorum. If we see the ‘warga emas’ they normally dress immaculately, stylishly in their baju melayus complete with their songok in some cases inclined at an angle ala P. Ramlee.

In short, respect the function, dress accordingly. As the Malay saying goes, “masuk kandang kambing mengembek, masuk kandang kerbau menguak.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour ......


A lot of people all over the world is talking about the Earth Hour. For those not in the know, not many I guess, Earth Hour is a global call to raise awareness on climate change issues by encouraging everyone to turn off non-essential lights and electrical appliances to save energy. This year it falls today, 27 March 2010. Started in 2007 in Australia, it has grown into a global movement. Last year cities and towns in over 88 countries officially participated. The number is expected to increase this year. Brunei for the first time will be officially in it. Thanks to the efforts of a group of determined young people and supportive NGOs.

What can one hour of switching off the lights do? Not much in grand scheme of reducing our energy usage and the climate change. But this act, hopefully will trigger other acts that will have a bigger positive impact on climate change issues. So, it is not just for today, not just for one an hour. It’s for every hour, everyday, all year round. What can we do to conserve energy and save the environment?

Turn things off, buy energy efficient appliances, use less stuff, use cloth bags, recycle hazardous household wastes and MINIMISE WATER USAGE are among the simple things we can do. Yes water. Reduce our usage of water. Apart from energy, water is another major issue we must focus on. Water, energy and environment are all interlinked. You cannot deal with one and ignoring the others.

We can even argue what are essentials what are not. Is watching TV essential? Some say it is non-essential but in this modern age of information and entertainment some need it as a form of outlet to remain sane and to keep touch with the rest of the world. Do we need 100 watts light in the toilets? Some people say level of lighting varies on the usage of the area. Areas for reading must have high level of lighting. But some people read in the toilet. How about charging our hand phones and gadgets while we are sleeping? Is the burglar scaring light essential? How about having more than one fridge per household? How about more than one car per person? The list goes on and on. Very subjective and varies from one individual to another. Some say if we follow fully the green guide we may end up back in the stone ages. We must find the balance between having a modern lifestyle yet taking care of the environment. In moderation I guess.

In our enthusiasm to celebrate the Earth Hour, please remember the aim is to create a sustainable low carbon future. In short lowering our carbon foot print individually, the whole country and the whole world. Some of our activities may leave a higher carbon footprint compare to switching on the lights. Lighting candles are worse for the environment than light bulbs. Carbon dioxide emission is a s much as ten times higher. So candle light dinner, no matter how romantic it is and how good it is to your relationship, should be avoided. Guys may use this as an excuse to go on a romantic candle light dinner with their loved ones. Plausible reason even though the real reason may be they are skint or even stingy. Come to think of it, dinner should be avoided too. Candle lit or not. Be it fast food, slow food which is eat at your home or sit-down restaurants, all food production especially for beef involves destruction of rainforest contributing to global warming.

No lights, no dinner, no TV, no radio, no to many other pleasurable things we took for granted. Have fun tonight everyone in saving the earth.

P.S.
Based on data from the International Agency, Brunei's per capita Carbon Dioxide emission stands around 15 metric tons. We are way up there despite our total emission is negligible compare to the total global emission. How much can one hour switching off do? At the most, just about 0.01 percent. Well, that's my rough estimate assuming it is just one hour out of 24 hours a day, 365 days every year.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Money Sense .....


Open up the back pages of the local newspapers, we can see almost daily rows and rows of bankruptcy orders. Credit card debts, loan defaults, failed business are some of the reasons. Over the last year or so, more and more details surfaced about how many people in this blessed country of ours are deeply in debt. Just look at the long list applying and receiving the wang zakat. Any rumours of “gifts” and any sniff of “easy money”, we can see thousands congregating. We hear a number of people declaring themselves poor (‘fakir’ and ‘miskin’) to get their hands on the wang zakat. Gone are the days where people were eager to show off their pay to gain more loans. Now people are more eager to show off their debt (‘hutangs’) Based on these alone, debt is a very serious issue. Up there with other social and economic issues. Debt can lead to other social ills and crimes.

The authorities, I am sure, realised this. From the curb on personal loans, new regulations on credit cards and also the introduction of the Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP), the authorities are trying to address the debt and personal finance issues. But what else can be done?

There is only so much the authorities can do. As in many things, financial discipline involves personal will and personal control. How best can we do this? Obviously education and awareness plays a big role, if not the biggest. But, are we taught about this in our schools? Not during my school days. I believed it’s the same for many others. Lack of personal finance education can lead to costly mistakes. A good example is buying a car. I believe to many people owning a good car is a symbol of status and among the most important things in live. It’s the same with me. Imagine my shock when reading the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. According to him, which I believed is true, a car is a LIABILITY not an asset. Come to think of it, it should have been commonsense. Apart from a few vintage cars, all cars depreciate in value as soon as you get it out of the showroom.

So, education is very important. Hopefully the Education authorities can look into this and do something similar to what they did for “Corruption” issues. Give our kids, our young, a head start in personal financial management.

How about us who missed the boat? What can be done to help us? Our neighbours, Malaysia, had setup ‘Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit’ (AKPK) or ‘Credit Counselling and Credit Management Agency’. Its mission is to promote financial wellness among Malaysians by empowering them to be financially savvy through comprehensive consumer educational programmes and providing professional credit counselling and debt management programmes to enable them to regain control of their finances. AKPK is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank Negara Malaysia, set up to provide financial counselling and debt management to individuals as well as financial education to help individuals take control of their financial situation and gain peace of mind that comes from the wise use of credit. All their services are provided “FOC” (Free of Charge). You can read more about AKPK and learn some tips and even download their Money Sense / Celik Wang e-book here.

May be setting up a similar agency here will help not only in debt management but more importantly increase ‘financial literacy’ and hopefully shorter list of wang zakat applicants.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Country Brunei Darussalam....


Today, 23rd February 2010, we as a nation celebrate our beloved the land of unexpected treasures country, Negara Brunei Darussalam national day. "Negaraku Brunei Darussalam" a simple theme yet with deep meanings. What does it mean to us? I am sure each individual will interpret it in their own way. To me it simply says, proudly, Brunei Darussalam is my country. It brings strong sense of belonging, sense of ownership. Owning and belonging will make us, most people, to feel attachment and love. This leads to actions of care and not wanting to lose the one we love. Automatically we will be acting responsibly. Responsibilities we will be willingly doing. All will be natural to us. Respecting the authority, the religion, the laws, the culture are among the things that will come natural to us. In true spirit of our national day, not just today, but every day, let’s remind ourselves proudly "Negaraku Brunei Darussalam". MY COUNTRY BRUNEI DARUSSALAM.

Recalling back over 26 years ago, the evening of 31 Dec 1983. Rain could not stop thousands thronging Masjid Omar Ali Saiffudien for the hajat prayers ushering Brunei Darussalam gaining full independence. Sitting outside, not managing to get space inside, a lot of us were wet under the drizzle. None of us care. We just had to be there.

As the hours pass, events moved on to the adjacent Taman. Used to be the old Padang Besar, the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan, centre of everyday lives for so long. It was fitting the proclamation of independence was held there. As the clock struck 12 midnight, His Majesty made the proclamation. Some in the crowd shed tears and shouted "merdeka". The late Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan led the shout of "Allahuakbar", the crowd roared. Standing at the centre of the Taman was surreal even for a teenager. I was a teenager then. In my shirt and jeans. Looking back, I should have been in my best baju melayu for the historic day. Baju melayu or not, the moment His Majesty proclaimed our full independence and the shouts of "Allahuakbar" will forever etched strongly in my mind, my memory. A moment we will never experience again...

P.S.
Part of being responsible to our country is being responsible in the use of our scarce resources especially water and energy. On average, we use 450 litres of water every day. One of the highest in the world. That’s equivalent to 300 big bottles of bottled water. Around $240 worth of bottled water yet we are paying only 5 cents for it. Almost ten times cheaper than the production cost. Recently, the Energy Authorities declared “Brunei's roughly 400,000 inhabitants consume electricity similar to that of a country with a population of one million”. Both shocking figures. Let’s do something about it. Start saving. Save water, save electricity. And save money too. At least the extra money we save from our utility bills can help us pay off our credit card debt.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Credit....


Late last year the Ministry of Finance introduced regulations on credit card. In short, (quoting a notice from a bank), “to qualify for a credit card, you will have to be at least 21 years old, have a minimum gross salary of B$500 per month with your salary credited into your account with the bank issuing the credit card or maintaining a deposit amount equivalent to your card limit.”

How about the credit limit? Below B$1000 will only get one month gross salary. Two months for gross salary between $1000 and $9,999. Anybody with gross salary above $10,000 can get anything the bank wish to give. Lucky them. Or shall we say unlucky them?

How about the minimum payment? This will interest a lot of people. Currently some banks charge as low as 2.5% of outstanding balance. But from January to March, it will be 5%. After that, it will be 8%. For a lot of people this means the minimum payments they have to make to the bank will be at least three times what they are paying before. More money to service their debt, less money for other things. There goes the luxuries.

What will happen to cardholders who do not qualify with the new criteria? By June 2010, they will have their cards withdrawn or invalidated. The outstanding balance will have to be settled over a period up to 36 months. What will be the interest rate charge? If based on existing credit card rate, people will end up paying a whopping 24% interest annually. Makan darah some people will shout. Hopefully the interest rate will not be that exorbitant. Afterall, the cardholders are no longer getting the full services of a credit card. Just servicing what the owe the banks. Hopefully the banks will not take advantage of the people who will no longer be their loyal customers after three years.

As in many things, everything has its pros and cons. So do these new regulations. Some says in short term, at least for the next three years, some will suffer. But after 2013, people will have less debt. What is a short term suffering compare to long term prosperity? Some says there will be increase of people declaring themselves fakir and miskin which will allow them access to “al-gharimin credit”. Some even says this regulation is only favouring the rich, the well paid people. Giving them more opportunities to credit and access to the luxuries of life while the not so well off can only watch in the sideline, gigit jari. Some says this will make people treasure the luxuries and pleasures of life, not easy to get hence we will appreciate them more. Right now, swipe your card, you can get 42” plasma TV, the latest smartphones, self lighting always visible watches and many more. Worry about paying for them later. In the future, we will have to work hard for it. The argument goes on and on.

How about the economy? Will it be affected? Not knowing any data, and not bothering to look up, lets deduce what is the worth of the credit card industry here. Assuming population of Brunei is 400,000. With 50% above 21 years of age and average minimum income of B$1,000. Assuming everyone, which is not impossible, every single one, has one credit card each with B$1,000 limit. That will be B$200 million worth of credit monthly. B$2.4 billions worth of business annually. What is B$2.4 billions? That’s about half of the Government’s annual expenditure, more than double the total investment in Brunei in 2005. Can the economy cope with loss of B$2.4 billion worth of credit from the consumers?


P.S.
This whole thing reminded me of the curb on personal loans. Based on that experience, is anybody willing to bet against the bank industry coming up with ways around this or finding creative, alternative ways to give us, the consumers, credit? Debts will live on I suppose.....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don’t Know ....

Today, I had the opportunity to sit in one of the so called “business development” workshop. Technically, I was not among the participants. More like an “uninvited participant” but a keen listener nonetheless. It is true what some people says everyday in every way we can learn something.

There I was, “intu-intu” on the fringes of the “high powered” group of people, so “high powered” the young speaker himself was in awed and had sleepless night scared of his audience. If he was telling the truth that is. Come to think of it, he was right. There, in that room, most if not all, are the people responsible for the physical development of this beloved country of ours.

Not expecting much from this young speaker and in the subject I thought I know well as I have been acquainted with it for many years, I was twiddling away at the new toy. Must be the ego doing the rounds. What can such a young guy teach such a high powered group of people, I thought.

To my surprise, I always like surprise especially the nice and wonderful ones, not the nasty ones, this guy had a lot to share. A lot of knowledge to impart. Well at least, the parts where I was in the room as an uninvited participant that is. He talked about how there are three categories in what we know. The first two, which constitutes our ego, are things that we know and the things we know that we don’t know. We can always learn, read about the things we know that we don’t know. But these are just small portions of the “knowing” world. What is worrying is the part where we don’t know that we don’t know. That seems to be the biggest portion by a long run.

So what can we do about the things we don’t know that we don’t know? Some says who cares. If I don’t know that I don’t know, why bother. We may not even realise it. So why worry? Why bother? Why burden ourselves with what we don’t know that we don’t know? Life is simple why make it complicated with what we don’t know that we don’t know. Confused and seeing stars with endless phrase after phrase of what we don’t know that we don’t know? May be we don’t know that we don’t know how important are the things we don’t know that we don’t know. May be....

Well, let’s put this into a decision making process. The best decision will always be an informed decision. An informed decision is always based on “full facts”. But how do we know we have the full facts? Some, a lot in fact, will add a disclaimer at the beginning or the end by saying “to the best of my knowledge”. This statement alone is an admission that the person does not have ALL the facts. May be it is impossible to have all the facts. But maybe it is not impossible to do all we can to get all the facts. To get as much information and facts as we can to help us in our decision making. In short, things we know, things we know that we don’t know and especially the things we don’t know that we don’t know. How can we do this? To be honest, I don’t know myself. Well at least, this is one of the things until today I don’t know that I don’t know.

The speaker suggested everyone to be more inquisitive as a way of increasing our knowledge especially in knowing the things we don’t know that we don’t know. We all can try this but in our culture we must be extra careful not to end up being too inquisitive ending up being nosy, being busy body. This reminded me of something I learned many years ago, also in one of my intu-intu times in one of self improvement talks. Honestly I came for the free supper but ended up with one of the best things I learned in life.

Everyone knows having power can bring you a long long way in life. But what is really behind power? Money? Brawn? Weapons? The answer we got that night was none of those obvious things. Knowledge is the most important, if not the main basis of POWER. We can get knowledge through many ways. We can pay to attend courses, buy books. All these need precious dollars and cents. But we may end up with knowledge that is not that useful to us and skint at the same time. Some may say all form of knowledge is always useful. That’s for another time. The speaker, a lady speaker if my memory serves me right, suggested to us to set a daily target. Set a target of everyday to be in contact with five people with the knowledge and information we need. Networking, keeping our eyes and ears open whenever we meet people. Another is by having a network of reliable sources, just like the CIA and KGB with their extensive network of spies and agents but in a much much smaller scale. A mini James Bond of some sort. Surely, we will gain important knowledge. Free knowledge.

To summarise this endless rambling, whatever we do, however we go about it, we must try to learn something every day. As the famous saying on the radio says, “SEHARI SEPATAH KATA”. Or we may end up with bigger than usual portion of “we don’t know that we don’t know” pie.

P.S.
Thank you Mr Young Speaker. Thank you for making us put aside our egos and realise there is alot of important things that we don’t know that we don’t know......

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Year in Review....

This entry started a day or so before we usher in the new year of 2010 and completed a few days later.....

Here we are, at the end of 2009. Hours to go before the world usher in 2010. If we believe the Mayans, we are closer to the end of the world, 2012. End of the year normally brings in reflections. Reflections how the year has gone. Here and there, on TV, radio, in magazines, newspapers, the internet, the media is full of the year review.

Some, many I guess, will also review their year. A personal review of some sort. Did we fulfil our 2009 resolutions? Did we meet our goals, targets and objectives? The highs, the lows, the happy times, the sad time, troubles, success, achievements. All will be flashing in our head and mind. Doing our own reflections.

One of the biggest explosions of 2009 is the Facebook phenomenon. Practically everyone that has access to computers and smart mobile phones, which is almost everyone we know, is on Facebook. Some are passive users. Some are active. Most of us would have updated our status if not daily, may be regularly or once in a blue moon. If we look back at our status updates, Facebook will be a good way to review our year. Looking at mine, it is full of cucur pisangs, roti talor bawangs and some silly thoughts. Boring life indeed. Nothing to shout about. As hard as I tried to make things exciting it was indeed nothing to be excited about. A road trip meant going round the country on office business. I wonder if other people’s status throughout the year is giving similar reflections.

Based on articles online, it will not be surprising if this is the case. An article in www.time.com showed how a year review based on Facebook can be. One damning conclusion the article said about us, Facebook users, is below:

“I may be bland, but judging from my friends' status roundups, I am not alone. In fact, most Facebook users lead overwhelmingly boring lives. (They must; why else would they have nothing better to do than check Facebook?) My news feed is cluttered with updates about triple word scores in Scrabble, new Taco Bell menu items and people who won't stop talking about their pets. Sure, there is the occasional flash of excitement or wit — like in August, when I said that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sounded like the name of a law firm, or November when my friend Marc went golfing in a canyon — but the moments were brief, hidden among anecdotes about breakfast burritos and daytime television programs.”

The full article can be read here.

I guess one of our New Year resolutions is to make our lives more exciting. At least to make it seem so on Facebook....

Happy New Year 2010 everyone....


P.S.
People says 80% of anything is Public Relation. Public Relation is a big part managing our image, the perceptions and impressions we projected. I suppose it works the same on Facebook.