Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday, February 16

KEEPING AN EYE ON THE CRANES: Someone who works near the container terminal at Tanjong Pajar told Sandy and me that economic downturns and upticks are hinted at by the massive cranes at the terminal, which dominates one view from our apartment. It's one of the terminals run by PSA International, which used to be the Port of Singapore Authority. "When the cranes are up, the economy is slow; when they are down, the economy is up," this person said (approximate quote). I took a couple of photos yesterday, one in the morning (top) and one in the afternoon (bottom). The top one shows the cranes in the DOWN position and able to move containers on and off the ship. The afternoon shows one crane still in the DOWN position. The others are UP. The ship (an NYK Line vessel) left in the early evening.
So, this begins my Singapore Crane Index Limited Economic Indicator. Yes, it's simplistic. And narrow. And unscientific. And easy (just look out the window). And I have no idea what I am talking about. Does that make it all that different from other one-source Economic Indicators? It's international. It's real-life. It's longitudinal. It's simple.
The first Singapore Crane Index Limited Economic Indicator
Date: Feb. 16
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Cranes Up (Bad): 11
Cranes Down (Good): 17
I might do it again tomorrow. I think I'm counting the cranes accurately.

EN GARDE: I didn't know it, but yesterday was Total Defence Day in Singapore. This has nothing to do with post-Valentine's day tactics. A Public Warning System siren went off at 12:05 p.m., but I was oblivious, innocently poking in bins at Ikea at the time. Five components are part of the nation's Total Defence plan: military, civil, economic, psychological, and social (see icons above). The overall logo is at right. The official explanation says that the image represents an outline of a HAND (with five fingers, representing each of the components listed previously). And, it's in the shape of a house (in a strong wind). When I first saw it, I thought of a missile. Silly me. I was wrong. They take this VERY SERIOUSLY here. Peace and security are very important. The concept was introduced in Singapore in 1984, drawing from examples in Sweden and Switzerland.
Why Feb. 15? Well on this date in 1942, the British forces here surrendered unconditionally to the Japanese. About 1,200 people gathered at the War Memorial Park to honor civilians who died during the occupation by Japanese, which lasted from 1942 to 1945.
Security is an issue, of course. Maybe that's why next Sunday, at 7:32 p.m., there's a documentary on "Surviving Disaster: Mall Shooting" on Channel 102 (Channel 5) in "Prime Time Morning" which is linked to I think it aired originally in October 2009.

RATINGS CONTROVERSY: Yes, The Kids Are All Right will be shown in Singapore. However, there's a catch. First, it gets the restrictive R21 rating. Second, only ONE PRINT is being allowed to be used, meaning, of course, that only one theater will show it.Clearly, it's an effort to limit the people's exposure to same-sex family issues. Those who invested money in the movie are not amused. Neither are some film lovers in Singapore who want more freedom of expression. Others see it as a sign of loosening up--because they thought the movie would be banned outright.

MAID IN INDONESIA: The relationship between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia has turned cooler because of reports of extreme abuse of Indonesian maids (e.g., tossing one into a Dumpster in November) by Saudi employers. An article in the Straits Times presents some interesting numbers. About 1.2 million Indonesians work in Saudi Arabia, mostly as maids or drivers. Another 2.2 million work in Malaysia. All told, about 6.5 million Indonesians work overseas. They collectively send back to Indonesia about $7 billion (U.S.) every year. That's a little more than $1,000 apiece or $20 a week on average. Those are interesting numbers. Here's the INCREDIBLE number. Indonesia has put stricter rules in place to make sure that prospective employers of maids have an annual income of at least 24 MILLION rupiah. That sounds pretty good. But that translates to about $2,700 dollars A YEAR. You can be considered "wealthy" enough to a maid with an income of $2,700? That's poverty level, of course. How much does such a maid get paid? Do those numbers make sense?

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