An old friend leaves Sim Lim Square

I was just at Sim Lim Square doing window shopping with my son when we went into one of my old haunts on the 2nd floor. A reputable shop among a whole bunch of dodgy retailers, I’ve been buying stuff from there for a decade. I can probably count a few MiniDisc players, several camcorders and LOTs of earphones.

So I chatted up salesman Mr J. about upscaling DVD players and asked, “Hey, how come all the Sony HDTVs have been dismantled? You guys refreshing the displays?”

He shook his head and said they’re doing a clearance and will be closing down the shop soon. “It’s hard to do business these days. Customers are smart, they know how to compare prices, and with the 7% GST and NETS charging extra, it’s so difficult to make money. The boss decided to close shop.”

“So where are you going to go? You guys have been here over ten years right?”

“I don’t know, probably join another company.”

It’s always sad when an old established retailer is forced out even though they’ve been running an honest (at least to me) business and trying their best to keep things going.

Rising costs is not just something the papers write about in a detached manner, nor is it just annoying us with spiralling food prices and ERP charges.

There are people’s jobs at stake here and if you think about it, little is being done about it from the top. Many policymakers don’t see or work with people like Mr J., they just read about him and forget about it.

Today, I also read a commentary in the Straits Times about how a minority of people polled felt that the National Day Parade was an excessive waste of money, but overall, people still looked forward to it.

Well it’s just a newspaper straw poll and having conducted many of those, I’d say readers should take it with a big pinch of salt.

Yes, NDPs serve a ceremonial function and should remain a fixture for the masses who may not have anything to do on the public holiday, the thing is – how much of our money is being spent on it and why should it be so high?

How much can NDP committees outdo the previous year’s anyway? I haven’t been paying close attention, but it also appears there’s a real limit to improvement in show content, and there are diminishing returns.

To revive some buzz, they built a floating stage which basically has little use the rest of the year, and destroyed the Marina Bay landscape cum watersports facilities.

As a kid, I went for one or two NDPs and really enjoyed it, but as I grew older, I got increasingly upset with the way our money was being spent on it.

One thing our Gahmen needs to learn how to do better is how to manage its impression management. In tough times, it has to appear like it’s cutting back on trivial expenses and that it is roughing it out with its people.

Unfortunately, it usually has to wait till some controversy arises – I remember the uproar when LTA said it was going to build some expensive building to house its staff, but later backed down and quietly moved into the old Kedang Kerbau hospital premises.

There’s also recent news that the Gahmen is hiring more “information officers” to better manage communications to the public. But man, the stuff that I’m talking about, you don’t need any PR professional to figure out or implement. You just need someone who thinks with his head and heart.

Ultimately, I think NDP is an okay thing, especially for young and old folks. ESPECIALLY if I’m not called up to stand in the parade and its rehearsals.

But for those of us who have to pay taxes, it can also be a show of how the Gahmen is thinking about our needs and feelings.   

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