The ERP System

June 20, 2008

Here comes the depressing news. With effect from 07/07/2008, the Land Transport Authority (LTA), in conjunction with the Singapore government, is attempting to further burn deeper holes out of the pockets of local motorists. Escalating fuel costs aside, motorists now have to contend with both higher ERP rates AND new ERP gantries around the city centre.

For the benefit of Singaporeans who have been living in a slumber, as well as for our overseas counterparts who may find it bewildering why complaints about Singapore’s road and transportation system have been rife lately, the ERP stands out Electronic Road Pricing, designed to keep Extremely Rude People who road-hogs off the roads so as to regulate traffic during peak hours.

Sounds good? Perhaps, but the question remains whether the ERP is actually suffice in fulfilling its role in controlling traffic. Statistics from the Straits Times have shown that average speeds along North Bridge Road and South Bridge Road have dropped from about 25km/h in 2002 to 19km/h last month during peak hours of 6pm to 8pm.

So, will the latest review of ERP rates actually work?

Considering the fact that Singaporeans (as well as many people around the world) suffer from this innate disorder known otherwise as the complain-about-new-system-yet-still-revert-to-the-old-ways-because-it’s-after-all-the-way-of-life-so-what-if-it’s-pricier syndrome (for a case in point, look at the nil impact on passenger frequency despite the hike in taxi fares a few months ago), this will probably end up a red herring.

In addition, this does not seem to go along well with the government’s efforts to promote healthier family lifestyles. Picture a car owner (with a family) who drives to work. In a bid to escape ERP charges, said car owner decides to work overtime (earning more money simultaneously) and settle his dinner in the vicnity, before driving home after the ERP operations cease at 8pm. As if this shall go a long way in boosting the floundering birth rates of the nation. Of course, said car owner may decide to leave his vehicle in the car park and use the public transport instead, but he’ll end up having to squeeze his way home on the MRT. Despite the LTA’s promised increase in frequency of the trains, they’re still as packed as sardines during peak hours. So why forego the comfort of one’s own car for public transport if one can still afford it?

Nonetheless, all the ERP brouhaha has resulted in several pictorial spoofs attempting to make a mockery of the entire system:

Singapore 2010 - An ERP Spoof

Image credited to www.phuakahkengthomas.blogspot.com/

Advertisements

I read with interest the cover story on LIFE (Thursday, June 19th) which featured how local arts groups have deviated away from the conventional sources for sponsorship and are increasingly looking into companies which on first glance, have nothing to do with the arts.

As an ardent supporter of the local arts scene, and having dealt rather heavily in drama-related activities during my schooling days (which included massive sourcing for sponsorships for our theatrical productions), I suppose I can somehow identify with the plights which the local arts groups are in when it comes to funding.

Which is why, it is a beckoning on the horizon to read the article, on how companies such as Simmons (which backed The Wild Rice’s production “Beauty World”) and Old Chang Kee (which supported Mandarin musical “If There’re Seasons”) are willing to support the local arts scene, considering how competition for funding from traditional sources such as the National Arts Council (NAC), and the Lee Foundation is becoming increasingly fierce.

Schools will have to contend with professional arts groups, and vice versa, for these sponsorships.

Of course, this is not a one-way street and the situation has to be win-win. After all, the reality that there is no free lunch in this world remains. That is why it remains a source of concern that “it is hard to target big sponsors when there are bigger arts fish vying for the same funds”, as Ms Melissa Lim of The Necessary Stage (TNS) aptly puts it.

Yet, it is still worth a shot, and I will urge schools and burgeoning arts groups to send out sponsorship requests – you will never know whether you’ll receive if you don’t ask. The key lies in the attempting to work out joint promotional activities such that both ends benefit from the publicity.

With a whole new category of resources to be tapped, Singaporeans can certainly look forward to a more massive variety of events in the long run, don’t you think?

PS: Readers who deal with the arts are encouraged to share their experiences in getting sponsorships by leaving a comment here!

 

It is truly heartening to note that people the world over have been donating generously to the good cause of funding the survivors of the Cyclone Nargis, which whipped Myanmar at the start of this month, as well as the May 12 Earthquake which devastated Sichuan, China. While the number of casualties of these natural disasters loom far and large, let’s not forget the huge number of survivors in duress for food, water and shelter, and for the case of the youths, education as well – commodities which are deemed basic and are easily taken for granted by each and every one of us.

So, please do keep your donations pouring in!

For the uninitiated, the following links to the Singapore Red Cross website, which features ways and means as to how you could play a role in setting the lives of the survivors back on track.

1. Singapore Red Cross Myanmar Cyclone Nargis Appeal
2. Singapore Red CrThe Pick-Me-Up Bookoss China Earthquake Appeal

In the meantime, however, let us not forget that life still goes on for the rest of the world and there are still a large number of unfortunate individuals out there who truly need our help.

The Pick-Me-Up Book was first launched in January this year when a group of 12 graduates from the program, The Courage to Create, was given an impossible deadline of 24 hours to write a book. The book is a collection of true stories about how people managed to overcome their dire circumstances when facing long odds, and turned their dreams into reality.

Aptly, the Make-A-Wish Foundation is the beneficiary to this cause. The organisation supports underprivileged children in turning their dreams into reality. 60% of the nett proceeds will be donated to the foundation, while the remaining 40% will be used to set up a social enterprise.

The book has since been distributed to good bookstores around the island, including Kinokuniya, Borders and Popular. It has also been featured on local media such as Channel News Asia, mypaper, and interviewed on local radio stations such as NewsRadio 93.8FM. The book has also been endorsed by MP Ellen Lee as well as MP for Aljunied GRC, Mdm Cynthia Phua.

Given the resounding response thus far, a second edition of the book will be launched at the World Book Fair this weekend. The upcoming launch will include both an English and a Mandarin version of the book.

The highlight of this edition is the story by Charmaine Tan, a 13-year-old wish-child from Make-A-Wish Foundation who is suffering from end-stage kidney failure, on top of a congenital eye disease which has led to her being visually-impaired today. Her wish, is to become a published author.

The good news is that her wish is about to be granted this coming weekend!

Details of the Book Launch are as follows:-

Book Launch – Pick-Me-Up Book (Edition 2)
Date: 31/05/2008 (Saturday)
Time: 3pm to 5pm
Venue: World Book Fair, Suntec City Convention Centre Level 4 (Booth 4EO1)

It will be wonderful if you could attend the launch (do spread the word as well!) to make the granting of Charmaine’s wish of becoming a published author a memorable one. Charmaine and her mother will be invited up on stage during the book launch to share her experiences of writing the book, and she will also be having her first autograph session then!

Do support the book by purchasing a copy (or better still, more than one) at the launch!

For more information, you may visit http://pickmeupbook.org/blog/pick-me-up-2nd-edition-launch-at-the-world-book-fair/.

As it should be a well-known fact by now, service from popular online site www.streetdirectory.com.sg has been interrupted following its parent company, Virtual Map’s loss to a government agency (specifically the Singapore Land Authority) in a court battle, in which the latter accused the firm for copyright infringement in its maps.

What greatly puzzles me is the amount of “room” for copyright infrigement there is in maps. The whole irony of it all lies in the fact that if the maps look different, then one of them is certainly inaccurate – aren’t maps supposed to be an accurate representation of the landscape and the landmarks of a particular place? How different are the maps expected to be. Green grass in SLA’s but blue in Virtual Map’s? Buildings to be shaded in a different colour? Different font size to be used? Different scale?

I am sorry that I sound bitter, but on behalf of fellow Singaporeans, I believe that, while not exactly 100% accurate, www.streetdirectory.com.sg has proven its mettle in providing mostly reliable information on road directions, as well as an MRT & bus guide, all in a single site.

That, is precisely what is lacking in SLA’s StreetMap , which only provides a fundamental topographic view of a particular location and its surroundings, but not road directions on how to get there. Which inevitably means more hassle for the users at the end of the day as they’d still have to figure out how to get there.

In the interim, however, the Streetdirectory.com website states that “Streetdirectory.com services will be interrupted for the next few days while we update our new maps and add more awesome online services.” so I shall hope that services will resume as per normal soon enough, and that the company will not decide to “quit the business here and focus (their) efforts elsewhere”, a possibility discussed on Friday’s mypaper.

Brandchannel.com’s recently-concluded global survey on the influence of brands threw into light plenty of results which pretty much fall within expectations, but also several disparaging ones as well.

 

TThe Apple Logoaking the runaway lead is, of course without surprise, Apple. The brand has really revolutionized the entire globe and taken the First World by storm with its range of products from their MacBook laptops, to iPods to the iPhones. The brand in itself signifies a modernization of terms – the acrylic white surface characteristic of the brand clearly an indication of the purity of the brand, as well as a presentation of everything modern and futuristic. People literally wait with bated breaths for the overpriced new releases from the company. With its stylish range of products, especially the iPod, the popularity of the brand has grown somewhat exponentially over the past five years or so. From playing second fiddle to Microsoft in the computer market, Apple has found its own niche group, and has clearly used that to expand its reputation and attractiveness, and eventually, its market. Today, the brand signifies a societal status and style which people love to flaunt despite their very own complaints of its generally user-unfriendly features. Founder Steve Jobs really knows how to work his magic around the technological market.  The brand took the lead in 6/10 questions, such as “What brand would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party? Why?” and “What brand, if sent back 100 years, would have the biggest impact on the course of history? How?”.

 

Microsoft LogoMicrosoft, coming in second in terms of popularity results, has certainly lost its edge and avant-garde appeal to the masses in comparison to Apple. Perhaps as an effort to rebrand its model, the company released Windows Vista, which, in my humble opinion, has modernized the brand to a great extent yet to a rather lukewarm response on the market. I guess it’s probably time for Bill Gates to consider tweaking its marketing strategy a little such as to compete with Apple’s growing popularity.

 

Google LogoAlso performing well in the poll is leading search engine Google, the revolutionary search engine which has definitely replaced Yahoo as the primary search engine on the Internet. What makes Google tick is probably its simplicity. Visit its homepage, and you’re offered a simple website (certainly a Plain Jane in comparison to its other counterparts such as Yahoo or AltaVista) with merely a textbox and a search button on it, apart from a few other links. Also, the search engine has the ability to upkeep its stand on modern times, and its consumer-centric position really makes it a winner.

 

However, apart from these runaway organizations apparently taking a large contingency of votes, it was a no-show for various sectors as they perhaps are too commonplace to strike a lasting impression among consumers.

 

Firstly, the fashion and apparel industry. Despite the myriad of brands setting up stores worldwide following the onset of globalization, it does not really come as a surprise that something so commonplace – clothing – fail to make that large an impact on the poll. This is probably an after-effect of consumer saturation of the market – too many companies and brands crowding the market with similar items which result in a lack of prominence to the crowd. While the logos are certainly different, a Banana Republic shirt can most certainly be mistaken as something from, perhaps, Ben Sherman or Cortefiel. Likewise, Topman, River Island, Zara, FCUK et all also offer comparable items at comparable prices. So do Fossil, Swatch, Therefore, the marketing of the product takes on paramount importance today in leaving vivid impressions in the consumer base. The most successful, in my opinion, of all, actually charted – Nike – with its simplistic yet catchy logo and catchphrase “Just Do It!”. The brand has become synonymous with sports, and certainly is the market leader no matter how popular Adidas and Puma are becoming today. On the contrary, keeping up with the times is certainly important, and that is something stores like Asics have to do to maintain their relevance.

 

Next, the F&B industry performed rather poorly with the exception of McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Starbucks. These 3 stores are tittered around the globe and transcend languages and continents to reach out to the world. However, there were no signs of Burger King, Subway et al.

 

It is also somewhat surprising to note that amidst the dominance of Apple and Microsoft, essentially computer system brands, and online sites Google and Facebook, other technological brands did not fare as well. Handphone models such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Motorola all fail to chart in any of the categories. What about technological companies such as Panasonic, Sharp, LG, Sony, Casio etc? Neither did Youtube, which revolutionalised an online video-sharing community, myspace, Blogger, from which the fad for blogging debuted, Skype, the popular global voice messaging and conferencing devise, or Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia with the communal touch.  

 

While the survey results may not prove to be conclusive, given that the poll size is small (approximately 2,000 in 107 different countries, which means an average of 20 people representing the tastes of a nation), they certainly can act as a milestone of the paradigm shift global trends have taken over the past few years, as well as a benchmark of better things to come in the future.

 

The tiny kingdom of Bhutan was recently thrown into some unprecedented limelight as the nation held its inaugural democratic elections, marking a shift from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. The landlocked nation in the Himalayas sandwiched between India and Tibet is, perhaps, best-known for measuring happiness of its people via their very own Gross National Happiness (GNH) indicator. The concept of GNH claims to be based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other (Source: Wikipedia).

Only during the past decade has the nation begun opening its doors to the foreign world. It was only in 1999 did the country lift a national ban on television and the Internet. While it remains of interest to observe how a nation of people accustomed to a lifelihood of subsistence adapt to the alien notions of technology, cars, and cable, one thing remains clear – the impact of the introduction of technology will certainly pose a major setback on the country’s GNH scaling.

How do people in the First World, more often than not, hanker over a myriad of very much possibly redundant features so as to spice up their lives a little – earn more money, have more respite, for instance – only to end up filling their lives with more clutter and responsibilities they tend to shun or prioritise wrongly in the end?

This trend boils down, very much, to the mindset of First World people (myself included), transcripted by technology to believe that with technology, anything is very much possible, and the process of things is inevitably sped up. What results is a vicious cycle – people tend to take more things on their shoulders (and by ‘things’ it is not only the tangible items such as work; these also include the intangible such as relationships and responsibilities). We are no longer as satisfied nor gratified with our lives, as, perhaps, the old grandmother next door who spends her day collecting old newspapers and cardboards for sale to the recyling plants. How can we ever be truly happy this way?

Similarly, how will the Bhutanese be able to resist the onslaught of all these technological advances, what with the huge likelihood that the misuse of it (overusage of cars, violence on television, pornographic images on the Internet, which the nation is leaving uncensored) will lead to the erosion of traditional Bhutanese values which are so vital to their society? How quickly will the country develop, such that its people become more engulfed in their greed for success rather than the simplicities in life? What about brain drain – will its people want too much too fast and hanker over educational qualifications so much that they venture abroad and not wish to return to their very own nation where they grew up in, because it remains so rural?

It all remains a question which answer will be unravelled in the years to come.

Anyway, as a sidenote, I chanced upon this article “Life Coding: 9 Ways to Fight Feature Creep in Our Lives” on the blog “Zen Habits“. Feature Creep refers to the phenomenon where too much ‘software’ and ‘applications’ have been added to the programme that is your life, such that it becomes too overloaded for effective functioning. The article offers some tips on how the ways you can take to start uncluttering your life a little to ease up your misplaced, or even redundant, ‘responsibilities’ or addictions even. Certainly deserves a read.

Be Kind, Rewind

March 30, 2008

Local cinemas really ought to learn to be kinder to its patrons.

The prices of Cathay’s movie ticket prices rose on January 31 this year, leaving a rather rancid taste in my mouth, given my personal opinion that their cinemas are equipped with the better facilities in Singapore (ranging from complicated matters like their surround sound system to their seats). For the uninitiated regarding the new prices of Cathay’s movie tickets, the following table just about sums it up:

Revised Cathay Ticket Prices
*Click to Enlarge (Source: http://www.cathay.com.sg/cp_ticketprices.html)

The hike of Cathay’s cinema tickets is needed to “offset exceeding operational costs”. I recall newspaper reports, in the wake of the brouhaha over the hike, mentioning that “the other cinema organisaions currently have no intention to increase movie ticket prices”. The revelation that Cathay was not running a very much profitable business was somewhat baffling.

However, less than two months later, in a kneejerk reaction I suppose, Golden Village has followed-up with Cathay’s price increment by going through the “monkey-see monkey-do” motions typical of Singaporeans. The reason they provided was, quoting the CNA website, “a result of the current market situation and rising costs”. Could GV possibly have used the past two months to observe the successes of Cathay’s price increment, and noting that there was no significant decrease in movie patrons, decide to follow suit as well?

The following table sums up the prices of GV movie tickets currently:-

Golden Village Revised Ticket Rates

  *Click to Enlarge (Source: http://www.gv.com.sg/promodetails/gv_promotions_916.jsp)

The ironic thing is that, similarly, the other movie organisations have proclaimed to have “no plans to increase ticket prices” (yet again). We shall see how long they remain plan-less before they get tempted to join in the act.

On a side issue basis, I shall take this opportunity to highlight a boo-boo on the ChannelNewsAsia.com’s 26-Mar released story regarding the issue, Golden Village to increase ticket price by 50 cents“.

Channel News Asia Boo-Boo

Cathay Cineplex, of course, has no plans to increase ticket prices, given that it had just done so barely two months ago!

Perhaps in a bid to be more attentive to the tight pockets of the young and the elderly, given that they’re not part of the workforce and are thus unlikely to have any active or passive income, the cinemas have also opted to practise third-degree price discrimination by lowering the ticket prices for students and senior citizens. How brutal, the real world is, that these groups of people get concessions for everyday entertainment like movies and are able to enjoy the same movies as commoners like us for a much cheaper price! 

While I concur that concessions should be allowed for these groups of people for necessities such as transportation and food, as well as at tourist attractions etc, it really gets quite absurd when senior citizens get to watch two movies at a cheaper price than regular people watching one.

Anyway, the tactics used by two prominent movie organisations – Golden Village and Eng Wah to address the issue is extremely contrasting.

Golden Village is apparently opting for an appeasing tactic, trying to play down any furore or disappointment or disgust it could have imbued in the public by attempting to minimize any attention made to the issue on its front page. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-liner, GV merely mentions the issue head-on in a one-liner at the top of the page: “GV’s New Ticket Prices. Find out more HERE”. They even try to sidetrack this sticky issue by glamourising the entire price hike, placing the issue under the Promotions segment, focussing on special deals consumers may use to offset the price hike instead. (If you’re lucky, you’d get to see the promotional banner at the top of the page when you visit)

Comparatively, however, Eng Wah opts for something much flashier as its marketing strategy:-

Eng Wah Movie Ticket Rates

 

*Click to Enlarge  (Source: http://www.ewcinemas.com.sg/)

Nevertheless, if only movie ticket prices could be rewinded back to the good ol’ days when cinema tickets merely cost $5 apiece… … …..