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Archive for August, 2004

National Day Rally

Sunday, August 22nd, 2004

The last hour of the Prime Minister’s first National Day Rally was pure history in the making.  A sweeping array of new schemes, policies and strategies were announced, including the equalization of spousal health care benefits to husbands (instead of just wives), the extension of maternity leave from four weeks to twelve weeks, maternal and paternal “child care leave” (to be used for a variety of child care activities) of two days annually for parents with children under seven, all sorts of other incentives, tax cuts, levy-reductions (infant care, new first and fourth child benefits, cheaper maids, grandparent incentives) and (most shockingly) a five-day workweek for the civil service (though the 44 hour workweek remains).  Wow.  My initial reaction when listening to all this was, “This might actually work!”  Truthfully, my first reaction was, “Is this really the same Singapore/PAP??”



Now that the initial buzz has worn off, I observe that PM Lee (II) was precisely the person opposing the enactment of about half of these exact same measures that people have been requesting forever.  So now we’re supposed to applaud the wisdom and leadership of the person who spent about a decade blocking the measures he now deems necessary, even though nothing much about the arguments on both sides and the environmental forces have changed.  And with no signs of embarrassment whatsoever at having dramatically changed positions (both literally and politically).  At least he seems to be saying and doing all the right things now.



From now, I am busy.  I have back to back engagements and driving lessons before my test on Wednesday, when Woj arrives (yay!).  Then the travelling begins 🙂  Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and back in two weeks.  I can’t wait.  Then it’s just a couple more days till Cambridge days begin once more.  Miss me yet?  I do.

Happy National Day!

Sunday, August 8th, 2004

Singapore’s 39th National Day is tomorrow, and I flew home in time for it 🙂  Too bad I already missed all the debates stuff and the US universities fair stuff.

Jiayu took this picture of me on a rickshaw, caught in traffic on our way back from the open-air New Market near the older section of Dhaka.  Notice the green three-wheeler "CNG" behind me – these taxis run on natural gas, as do the regular taxicabs, which has helped drastically reduce air pollution levels in the past few years.  The book in my hand is "Health for All in Bangladesh".

On a rickshaw near New Market (30 Jul 2004)



Thinking about…

Thursday, August 5th, 2004

Yesterday I read that Dhaka has one of the world’s highest levels of air lead pollution and that city dwellers often have toxic levels of blood lead because of this.  This has definitely made me seriously consider leaving soon.

The flooding is subsiding now, slowly, so most of the places we normally go to are relatively dry now.  At the same time it’s been raining almost all day today, which also happens to be the day we went to the Botanical Gardens to take a boat ride along the river, which was VAST.  Locals told us that the water level has probably risen over ten feet from its normal level, so you see massive electrical pylons and trees emerging from what looks like the middle of the river.  We were soaked by the rain rather than by the sloshing river water that threatened to capsize the flimsy, unstable boat we were in.  An interesting experience, if not exactly very fun.

I still haven’t decided exactly what I’ll be writing about. 

The days here are beginning to blend together into a continuous sequence of grant proposals, rickshaws, dinner appointments, FTV, silk sarees and Masala chai.  It’s probably time to go home.