Saturday, March 31, 2007

English Newspapers In Malaysia

Some people have wrote to ask about my well-being since I hadn't updated this blog in a while.

Over the past weeks, I have been doing something I did not get to do earlier due to various reasons: getting to know Malaysia better, in particular visiting Johor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang with friends and colleagues. In the coming days, I will write about each of these states / cities.

First, I want to touch on something that I think would be good for Singapore: the sale of Malaysian newspapers in Singapore.

When I was in Malaysia, I read the two key English newspapers: the New Straits Times and the Star.

Both these publications are now available in tabloid style - like Today or The New Paper in Singapore.

And on weekends - when I was in Malaysia mostly - the newspapers run into hundreds of pages with a variety of sections.

What impressed me was the quality of both publications. Both local news and world news were covered extensively. Their commentaries also left much food for thought.

I also came back with the impression that, unlike the past, these newspapers are now more willing and able to cover controversial issues and pursue investigative journalism.

But I was surprised to learn that Malaysian newspapers are not available in Singapore, and vice versa.

I am not sure what the reasons are for this; it's worth finding out. If you know, do leave a comment and share what you know with others and me.

With the formation of the ASEAN Community looming by 2015, companies and organisations in Singapore will come under increasing pressure to know ASEAN better and market their goods and services in the region. Indeed, some like my company are already feeling so and we now advertise in the Star.

Plus, Channel NewsAsia already runs feeds of the various ASEAN news broadcasters on its channel.

Perhaps, it is time for all ASEAN English newspapers, including Malaysian newspapers, to be freely made available in Singapore.

Until then, some like me, will have to read them online or rely on our Malaysian colleagues to buy and bring the Malaysian newspapers into Singapore!

Dharmendra Yadav

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Increase Medical Cover When Visiting Developed Countries

Recently, I met a young professional who had an unfortunate accident while in the United States of America (US).

She was admitted in hospital for about a week and she underwent various surgeries to place implants in her body.

She was discharged and returned back to Singapore two weeks later. The airlines had to make special arrangements for her to take the plane.

Her medical bill alone for that short period was about US$300,000, including imaging services. She still has other bills pending.

Her insurer paid out its maximum liability of S$250,000 for medical expenses. The person was clearly under-insured. She will now have to pay the remaining bill out of her own pocket.

Due to her continuing treatment, she is also unable to afford legal advice in US, which may help in reducing her medical bill.

I asked a company's chief executive, who has lived in the US for some time, if such bills are a norm. He confirmed it was, especially for foreigners since their medical care is not subsidised.

He offered the following advice, "If you are travelling to a developled country like the US or United Kingdom, be sure to top-up your insurance cover. Otherwise, you are likely to find yourself inadequately protected in a medical emergency."

For example, in such a situation, one can opt for NTUC Income's Deluxe Plan, which would cover up to $500,000 of one's medical expenses.

Interestingly, there is no limit on medical expenses under the travel cover of American Home Assurance Company for persons insured, who are below 70 years old!

Dharmendra Yadav

Friday, March 02, 2007

Voluntary Bodies Lack Resources

Many voluntary bodies often give this reason for being inactive: a lack of resources, funds and volunteers to do the things they want.

In my experience, I have found that the fundamental way to deal with this issue is to have more events and activities. And it only takes one committed person to initiate this.

In his article, Top Ten Things to Think About If You Want to Change the World, Chief Inspiration Officer of Success Networks Michael Angier has written, "Know that all significant change throughout history has occurred not because of nations, armies, governments — and certainly not committees. They happened as a result of the courage and commitment of individuals. People like Joan of Ark, Albert Einstein, Clara Barton, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison and Rosa Parks. They might not have done it alone, but they were, without question, the change makers."

A body buzzing with activity is able to raise funds and attract members. In raising such funds, it is able to have more activities, which in turns attracts more members. From those members, you will find more like-minded volunteers, who you can involve more actively in your initiatives.

It is also important to find the most prudent way to achieve the objectives of an initiative, including keeping proper and comprehensive accounts of how the money was spent.

Many voluntary bodies also spend lots of money on overheads. For example, they have a full-time secretariat or they invest in properties as a source of permanent funds. As a result, they are unable to react in bad years when their funding or membership numbers drop.

I have found it is better to outsource such routine tasks to independent contractors. This impels the body to customise the tasks as projects and allocate a budget for such projects. It is then easy to find a suitable provider, who is willing and able to do the project within the allocated budget. This also establishes a performance-based and member-centred culture within the body.

One voluntary body that works using this model is the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association and the work of its secretariat is outsourced to Bizibody.

Interestingly, Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has reflected about this extensively in his autobiography, "And now after considerable experience with the many public institutions which I have managed, it has become my firm conviction that it is not good to run public institutions on permanent funds. A permanent fund carries in itself the seed of the moral fall of the institution. A public institution means an institution conducted with the approval, and from the funds, of the public. When such an institution ceases to have public support, it forfeits its right to exist. Institutions maintained on permanent funds are often found to ignore public opinion, and are frequently responsible for acts contrary to it. In our country we experience this at every step. Some of the so-called religious trusts have ceased to render any accounts. The trustees have become the owners and are responsible to none. I have no doubt that the ideal is for public institutions to live, like nature, from day to day. The institution that fails to win public support has no right to exist as such. The subscriptions that an institution annually receives are a test of its popularity and the honesty of its management; and I am of opinion that every institution should submit to that test. But let no one misunderstand me. My remarks do not apply to the bodies which cannot, by their very nature, be conducted without permanent buildings. What I mean to say is that the current expenditure should be found from subscriptions voluntarily received from year to year."

Dharmendra Yadav

Thursday, March 01, 2007

SIEU Reply: Three Ideas For SIEU

This is an excerpt of a reply from Singapore Insurance Employees' Union to my letter where I shared three ideas with them:


On behalf of SIEU, I am very pleased to receive your feedback.

Your 3 useful suggestions will be given to the Education & Publication Committee.
I like to share with you that the union is keen to improve its publication. The union also wish to provide more and better communication and educational avenues to its members. However, we are always challenged in terms of resources and logistics as SIEU has only about 3043 Ordinary and 3614 General members.

In this connection, we are most delighted to have members like you who are concerned about the union and its activities...

As our member, we welcome your participation in the union. Your contribution in
any way you prefer would make a difference to our organisation.

We thank you for your support and feedback.

Willie Tan
General Secretary


The part of the reply that I have removed is an invitation from SIEU requesting me to join their Education & Publication Committee. I have agreed "to be both a sounding board and ad-hoc resource for the union for up to 12 hrs per year, without any official recognition of the contributions".

Dharmendra Yadav