Expat@Large

PEP, EP or PR. IKYN.

Posted in about to be kicked out of Singapore, visas by expatatlarge on May 4, 2012

His Personalised Employment Pass lasted for 5 years. It gave E@L, well, 5 years of hassle-free residence in The Little Red Dot (TLRD {aka: DWTDP}). It was not Permanent Residence (PR) but, hey, no need to pay 15% of his salary into a lame-arse, opaque investment, Gov’t superannuation scheme, viz: the Community Provident Fund (CPF). But he does pay about $50 more for a game of golf (GOG) than a PR would.

No, with this PEP E@L could stay in TLRD for an extra six months after any termination of employment (as if they’d let him go!) in order to seek an equivalent fat package from one of the other big players in the field (not including Philips, burned his bridges there). Otherwise it would be only a month before a visa run would be required, and an apartment in Surat Thani secured.

OK, it’s cool, E@L is in a BigCompany(tm) these days, his preferred employer swallowed yet again Jonah-like into the belly of some fresh corporate beast. And that size company means an efficient human resources (HR) department that will sort it all out, right? *wobbles hand*~~~ish…

Ah, no-no-no! An eight storey building, all one company, right? Right? Wrong. Each division is a separate entity with its own HR. Only 45 people in our sub-company. One lady doing it all. Sigh. Corporations these days, what can you do?

Yet E@L’s PEP was on the cusp of expiring. He had until Friday.

Our lone HR lady had faxed the paperwork to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) three weeks ago. We all figured it was going through the internal machinery; chuffa-luffeling through those pipes behind the walls; turning under the power of springs and cogs; sucked up by singing vacuums; whirring dizzily through the typewriters; faxes and teletext machines, concentrated on by bespectacled men in suits in Dickensian offices; with cowering amanuenses scribbling down the wisdom of great men’s opinions on the suitability of foreign talent (FT) these days; photocopied here and there; stamped by officials with their square Chinese name stamps and their round Chinese company stamps; initialed by execs; digitalisised [sic] and whisked as fast as electrons into databases and random access memories (RAM) (And then, one day, I got in!); glowing on tri-colored crystal displays; duly filed and uploaded; dutifully backed-up; emailed and copied to all; archived; printed; stored; checked and sorted; all done and approved.

Just waiting for the call.

~~~~~~~

However.

On Wednesday, still no news. E@L was at the ANZAC dawn service (no, shamefully, he was fast asleep) and hence late for work. The HR lady and E@L’s office manager (OM) had been checking online for his application’s progress through the MOM and thought it rather … strange … disconcerting … that there was no record of E@L’s application at the MOM’s on-line, check your status, don’t bother us we’re busy, information site.

“We can’t get in, to check the progress. There is no record of your application having been filed,” they (HR lady and OM) told him as he placed his kopi (upsize, still warm, carried all the way from Tampines Central Mall) on his office desk. He stood erect, his fists on the desk in front of him, looking sternly over his still-slightly fogged (aircon -> 100% humidity -> air-con) sunglasses. He tried to look like a bigwig who was going to say something serious. HR lady was fidgety. She was apologetic and looking awkward. Perhaps she was worried than E@L would be upset. Mmmm, thought E@L, and HR lady waited, turning her head slightly side to side, (she’s not from the sub-continent), dancing from foot to foot…

“Mmmm”, said E@L. “Without that employment pass (EP) I’m grounded, work-wise, right?” She nodded. Thinks: OK, that’s it, down tools, work finished, no visa, no more slaving over a hot tablet playing Words With Friends in the office. He’d have to do that all that tuff stuff by the pool at E@LGHQ instead.

“Whatever,” shrugged E@L. It sounded a good deal to him, as he repacked his man-bag with Samsung 7.7 Tab (new toy, not really happy, font-size too small), his Kindle, reading glasses and a fifth of bourbon. “Let me know.”

“Ah, no, you can still work, at least until Friday. I am sure we can get a 30 day extension. But you will have to go online to cancel your current PEP.” That might, she said, sort out the some issues, like with overstaying his visa. But he needed a SingPass.

A what?

He needed to register and obtain a password (forgotten it already) that will allow him to access the government’s many sites that are interactive, where official things can be, um, interacted with. Like cancelling PEPs for example. He took an hour off and wandered to the CPF building where he could check in with a little old lady (LOL) at the SingPass desk to obtain this on-line avatar. FIN (no idea) number of his PEP, passport sighted and a new password (he has so many different passwords – not, he has two and no idea which this one is) was on its way. She looked up, smiled, and said he could now log-in and bring down the structure of the entire electronic edifice of Singapore should he so desire. Or just cancel his PEP.

Back to the office and puts fresh kopi, upsize, on the desk. Log-ins. Follow instructions, as printed out by HR lady.

“There is no record of an application for a replacement EP. Please enter a valid reason for PEP cancellation,” said the computer screen. Valid reasons? E@L has not finished his contract of employment and leaving the country. He has not lost his PEP. He is not pregnant. WTF?

Mmm. Back to paragraph one.

What to do? If nothing came through by Friday, E@L would become an “overstayer” and essentially a criminal in the eyes of Singapore’s notoriously forgiving uncompromising judiciary. The fine? The cane? The noose? Even worse, his BigCompany(tm) could get fined, and they don’t want that says HR lady. And E@L would have a black mark on his passport for sure. Overstaying is not an option. Must get an extension or do that visa run on Friday.

Travel-wise, (for work) even with an extension, temporarily, he is screwed. He’d have to hand over the current (expired) PEP at outmigration and come back in on the white entry form for a maximum of 3 months of doing nothing – on a tourist visa – as no work is allowed (unless you are run by a snake-head in orchard Towers or Geylang). Work-wise, maybe some gardening coming up.

PR lady and OM were on the phone all day (well, three or four calls) and kept getting no help at all from the MOM Help Center. Eventually someone twigged that the PEP work visa renewals are done manually – there was none of the above-spoofed electronic complexity. Further investigations showed that the file was sitting in someone’s in-tray. Had been for weeks. And today was that person’s day off. IKYN.

Sigh.

E@L was on the web almost instantly seeking a solution to this devastating dilemma. It was a terrible situation, the world was falling down around his ears, and all other senses and body-parts related to his head. OMG! E@L was in a frantic panic!

He had to make an urgent decision! Book a flight for Phuket or Hua Hin? Maybe Koh Samui. Bali? Cebu? How could he decide at short notice? Either that or skip to the Malaysian border at the causeway, hand in his PEP card, as mentioned, play a GOG (so much cheaper than as a non-PR in Singapore), fill in a white tourist form, as mentioned, and all would cool. Except work.

~~~~~~~~

Eventually, early Thursday, HR lady got through to the hyper-efficient doofus at the MOM (in this country which is a paragon and bench-mark of efficiency world-wide) who had overlooked the urgency of E@L’s PEP application. He, for only a man could fuck things up as grandly and as casually as this, banged a few contact points on his keyboard and the required information was officially in progress.

This meant E@L could go in to MOM (in person) on Friday and pick up the Temporary 30 Day Extension for both his work visa and something for the immigration people.

(Sigh. E@L had been planning to work from “home” on Friday. He had organized with some friends to head to Marina Bay Gold Club (MBGC) for an expensive GOG first thing in the morning! Cancelled now!)

OM went with him. Appointment was in the afternoon. He could have played the GOG after all!

Look at all fancy chairs for the staff, said OM. E@L thought they looked like Aerons, certainly something Hermann Millerish. OM tells E@L that the enormous amount of money (from PR and citzens’ CPF no doubt) spent last year on seats for bums was quite controversial at the time. They are Hermann Millers. E@L paid more for a non-Miller. Damn.

Temporary visa notes handed over quite quickly by another LOL, no smile this time, but E@L wondered if those comfy chairs were not part of the problem. He knows that lazing back on them is immensely, emotionally soothing (he had lazed, emotionally soothed, amazed, on Aeron chairs in the Philips office in Hong Kong all those years ago). Had Mr Paperwork-In-In-tray been asleep? Maybe, like E@L, he was internally retired.

~~~~~~~~

Notification of approval of his work pass came through this Thursday, 6 days after the PEP period ended, a month after the application was submitted. The PEP was, as E@L mentioned in para one, a 5 year pass. It turns out that this can only be given once. It has to be replaced (if the application is accepted) by a conventional EP.

This time E@L was only granted a 1 year EP? WTF? He will have to go through this again in 12 months. It’s almost like Singapore doesn’t want E@L to stay!

~~~~~~~~

Perhaps he should apply for PR to avoid this threatened annual thing?

While one of E@L’s buddies, who is essentially a pauper, was denied, several of E@L’s better paid buddies have been granted PR easily. A few years ago this was. They walked into PR-hood as if MOM was giving away quasi-citizenship with MacDonald’s Happy Meals at that time.

But he it is getting harder and harder to obtain PR these days, despite the Gahmen’s own recommendations that more and more FT and PR are required up for a declining population (or to make more kids?). And not unsurprisingly there continues to be quite a controversy (nicely understated by mrbrown) about dilution of the Singaporean population and its (Chinese?) identity.

(This is not a Singapore-only debate. World-wide, easing of immigration laws thanks to the need of corporations [those who truly run the world, not governments] in globalization campaigns for easy flow of workers, has led to increasing conflicts, calls for isolationism and a sometimes vicious backlash against those who support immigration. These attitudes are prevalent in Australia too [a nation of genocidal immigrants], where refugees on leaky boats are hassled and turned back, and where Pauline Hanson gets elected to State Parliament?)

Anyway, EP or PR, it gets complicated.

E@L

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I <3 Singapore – ish.

Posted in about to be kicked out of Singapore, foreign workers, Singapore by expatatlarge on March 12, 2012

This post is not *just* a shameless piece of self-aggrandizement (see prevous post) but after nearly 8 years here, E@L is forced to admit that he agrees with the opinions expressed in the following article.

Ten Reasons Why I Love Singapore.

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Six or seven years ago E@L would have ripped this article to shreds or at least rewritten it, emphasizing the negative aspects of the Singapore attributes that have been given a jocularly positive spin in this article.

Something like:

1. Efficiency
Yes, slave labour, stimulated by the threat of being burned with a hot iron or thrown out a 19th floor window, or merely by the promise from a snakehead people-trafficker of a salary marginally above the starvation levels of poverty you have left your family to wallow in at home (c.f. Slumdog Milionaire), will give you that.

2. Late-night Singapore
Late? LATE? You’ve never been to Hong Kong then. E@L once heard the expression: “If New York is the city that never sleeps, Hong Kong is the city that doesn’t even blink.” Singapore, even at its liveliest – when kids in pyjamas are playing in the Clarke Quay fountain at 11pm – can’t match it.

3. Anytime, anywhere
Nothing that you want. Everything that you already have. Such as “Singapore is a Fine City” fridge magnets. Grant you the omnipresent hookers though.

4. The small details matter
Like the 20c charge for the wet napkin, whether you use it or not.

5. Cheap parking
OK, parking is cheaper than Sydney, but that’s not saying much. The COE ensures that rational people avoid private transport. Only the poor are gullible enough to go into massive debt to buy a status symbol at twice its actual price, whereas the comfortably well off (i.e. E@L) call a taxi.

6. Reliable service
Reliably rude, off-hand and dismissive.

7. Changi Airport
Terminal 3. WTF. Built on a scale that anticipates the days when humans will be 30ft tall and can walk 2km in 7.8secs from a standing start. Ever lost luggage coming into Singapore? The people in the miniscule Lost Luggage Cupboard are usually asleep or absent or both. Never encountered such an inefficient bunch, and E@L has had lost luggage all over the place.

8. Predictable weather
God is laughing. Ha.

10. A multi-cultural city
Bloody whingeing Australians everywhere you look.

E@L

On The Bedpost Overnight

Posted in about to be kicked out of Singapore, chewing gum, Singapore by expatatlarge on November 9, 2011

What is Singapore coming to? Yesterday, guess what E@L found on the sole of the left hand foot of his new walking shoes?

No, no that.

It was chewing gum!

USED chewing gum! Chewed up and spat out chewing gum! I felt like giving LKY a personal call to point out that the No1 son is falling down in his vigilance against the creeping tide of non-Asian Values!

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The history, just cheeking it up on Stickypedia, of the chewing gum ban is mouth-wateringly interesting. It was the new MRT subway system that prompted the ban as vandals – aka cheeky kids – were plugging over the sensors which prevented the doors from closing properly. And so it was the Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and not Harry Lee who stuck to his gums [sorry] guns in implementing this crackdown on illicit mastication with Singapore Statute Chapter 57, the Control of Manufacture Act.

But ban chewing gum? IS THAT ALL! E@L is thinking, what! old chums, hardly much of a punishment, eh? Cane the rambunctious little rascals, trousers down, six of the best, never did us any harm. As we used do for your typical common or railroad urban artists, wherever they be from.

The ban is not complete, as sugarless chewing-gum has been available in Singapore since 2004 for it can’t be denied, apparently, that calcium lactate can boost the strength of enamel. This medicated gum can only be sold by dentists or pharmacists now and the gum is RFID controlled and DNA tagged. Hand over that ID card you cheeky kid, we’ve got you sequenced. Any problems with the MRT doors and we’ll know if it was you! … No, stop crying, lad, I was only having a laugh, big boys don’t cry, here have a lolly…

(aside 1) Bringing a large bag of chewing-gum packets purchased in the Hong Kong airport in through carry-on luggage is not something E@L would ever unless it was for a pretty lady, because it remains illegal to import.

(aside 2) One finds it a tad ironic to consider that what we are chewing is basically flavored latex (or artificial substitute), and it was on the back of the Malayan rubber plantations that the port city of Singapore rode to its pre-war prosperity.

~~~~~~~~~~

There was some gnashing of teeth and chewing of the fat during the time when USA and Singapore were going through free-trade talks (remember that hilarious one about Free Trade and Democracy going hand in hand, so funny) at the turn of the century. [I’m looking for reports on the Dreyfus Case, or I go wool-gathering in Antiques Shoppes when I hear that phrase.] Staunch defenders of the Rights Of Man were there to assist our world leaders make the right decision…

Here we see GWB smiling, smirking, leering – what is that stupid look? – as PM Tong stabs himself in the back of the hand with a pointy-nib pen, surrounded by members of the Wrigley’s Iraq task force (see below).

— “In 1999, United States President Bill Clinton and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong agreed to initiate talks between the two countries for a bilateral free trade agreement (USS-FTA).[5] The talks later continued under the new administration of President George W. Bush. Details of the closed-door negotiations are unknown, but it became apparent that by the final phase of the negotiation in early 2003, there remained two unrelated issues: the War in Iraq and chewing gum.” (from the above linked Wiki) —

IKYfuckingN.

Yes, that’s why they were there, because if Wrigley’s doesn’t stand up for Truth, Justice and the (vaguely formulated – no-one has ever convincingly explained to E@L what exactly is meant by this) American Way*, then who will! And why were Wrigley’s brought in, you ask? Was there no wriggle room in the negotiations, couldn’t they stretch things more, was there no bounce in their step, were things stuck in the craw and wouldn’t go down, would the fruit of the discussion not be juicy? Yes Wrigley’s should, indeed, must be involved in the battles which threaten the good of humankind and its salivary secretions. And their long term philosophical profit.

Singapore, indeed everyone should heed the sage advice offered by Wrigley’s who fought strongly enameled tooth and nail for the Iraq War Juicy Fruit Concession or JFC [requires disambiguation], when they had this to say, and not tongue in cheek either, about the efforts they put in to encourage Singapore to relax its ban.

“There’s many examples in our history of things that may have not made short-term financial sense but was the right thing to do in a philosophical or long-term sense,” said Christopher Perille, Wrigley’s senior director of corporate communications. (ibid) —

Believe it or not he was talking about Singapore Oral Latex Laws and not the Iraq War. Truer words were never choked upon.

E@L

* What about the Asian Values, what about the Singaporean Way? — ‘… as a sovereign state, Singapore had the right to formulate its own policies based on its own unique political and cultural values.’ —

Freedom Come, Freedom Go…

Posted in about to be kicked out of Singapore, economics, freedom, maids, Singapore, torture by expatatlarge on January 20, 2011

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Several snippets that highlight the contradiction that is the beloved Little Red Dot, i.e. Singapore.

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1: Singapore once again rates highly in the 2011 Heritage Foundation (and WSJ) Index of Economic Freedom. A close second behind Hong Kong, and just ahead of Australia,

[ Aside: Australia comes in 3rd presumably because the Huge Mining Coroprations of Australia recently showed the ease with which they could a) rip the guts out of the country, b) sell it to China and c) change any government that has the temerity to say, “Whoa, enough already, you greedy arseholes, what about letting the small companies have a go? Here’s a tax on your obscene profits (that’s money left over after all that needed to be spent has been spent) that will provide funding for a scheme that will guarantee truly fair competition for small exploration companies as opposed to the monopolies and cartels that you behemoths call capitalism.”

But I came here not to praise Australia, but to bury Singapore.]

An article in Asia Times Online deconstructs the Heritage’s methodology, and makes not just a few points about this so-called freedom. For a start they are talking specifically of economic freedom here.

This is not First Amendment friendly stuff. They examine how easy, for example, it is to run roughshod over worker’s rights, and sometimes, when they fall out of the trailer trucks that carry them to the construction site, workers themselves. Sorry I meant to say the “flexibility” of the workforce – flexible enough to bend over backward in order to get any job and to be hired and fired on a whim. Slavery would rate highly on this sort of index – oops, did someone mention how some domestic workers are treated here in Whip-a-poor?

According to the Heritage website, “Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.”

That roughly translates as work, consume, die peoples. When I was growing up in Oz, this was not was meant by freedom.

The blinkered simplification of a word like “freedom” without qualification, almost reminds me of the times that George H Bush used to come to the Asian Tiger economies sprouting talk of how free markets and free societies run hand in hand, or was it run with wolves in sheep’s clothing?… *cough* *cough* “hhhuuuurrrrrkkkk* Oops, sorry, choking on a bit of vomit there…

John Raulston Saul tore that simplistic truism of Bush Snr’s a new arsehole as I remember, in The Collapse Of Globalisation, a few years back.

Then some genuine irony, I mean a conundrum – Hong Kong which ranks #1 in the Economic Freedom Index, also rates extremely highly in freedom of speech and freedom of association, to the point of near anarchy! The exact opposite of what Singapore maintains is the essential political stance for its own economic success! How come?

According to Joe Studwell’s Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, it is not because of their political systems at all, but because the families that run them are slightly less corrupt and self-serving than the families that run the countries around them. (About 20 families run Asia. One family runs Singapore and takes in about 60% of its GDP.) It’s a lay-down misère (in Australia that means a certain win, not a certain loss) for business where to invest in Southeast Asia or lower China. Fascism or anarchism, it doesn’t make a difference if the ports are free and pay-offs are minimal.

Anyway, point of story, don’t confuse your freedoms…

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2. In completely unrelated news about freedom (of speech and association), the leader of the Singapore’s main opposition party, The Singapore Democrats, Dr Chee Soon Juan, appeal has failed and has been fined $20,000 and given a 20 week jail term (again).

His crime?

Speaking to people.

Talking to people.

Out loud.

In Singapore.

Where you need a licence to talk (or write on a blog, See point #5, below).

Dr Chee is the guy who, in a previous period of incarceration (he’s in jail more than he’s out of it) was sprayed with cold water and made to stand in front of an air-conditioner. It’s not water-boarding but it’s not 100% pleasant either, even in Singapore’s constantly hot, muggy weather.

Of course that fact that this blatantly political result has gone through in a period leading up to what the ruling family party, the PAP, laughingly call an election, does not reveal anything about the judiciary in Singapore. Not one bit.

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3: Singaporeans are disappearing race(s). In a town that complains of too many foreigners (like me), the locals are not doing enough fucking to breed more locals. The birth rate of 1.16 is way below what is required to replace the population let alone grow it. At this rate Singapore will invert into its own belly button in 20-25 minutes, which is about the time it takes for a Singaporean to find his dick and put on a condom. According to the authorities, it is the Singaporean’s fault for not having babies. Too lazy to fuck.

Izzy, who camped at E@LGHQ for fortnight over New Years, put me onto a great quote from blogger Menwongth.

One of my friends, a born-and-bred white-collar Singaporean in her early thirties, married with no children and no intention of having them, commented that some species just don’t breed in captivity.

That’s not a hundred miles from the truth Gerald Giam (linked above) of the Worker’s Party, says; the falling birth is due to “too busy at work, cost of living too high, education system too stressful for children (and their parents), cannot find a place of their own to stay.” (My emphasis.)

It’s not increased competition from “foreign talent” (like me) but from cheap, unskilled workers for the service industry out of mainland China or skilled(ish) builders from the sub-continent who can be hired for up to a 1/3 lower salaries. The Singaporeans have to work longer, faster, cheaper in order to compete.

Too busy. No place for privacy, no time for sex, lah.

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4: Domestic workers are overpaid. When the wages of slavery rise to the point that Singaporeans rebel, does this mean they are threatening to match the conditions of Hong Kong, where maids can earn more than double, up to about $S1,000 per month and, horror of horrors, they get a day off each week!

Not quite, but an easy solution strikes me. Maybe those Singaporeans who have been squeezed out of work by the foreign talent can drop their extortionate domestic helpers, and utilize the free time given by their own unemployment to wash their own dishes, do their own ironing, fall out their own windows and wipe the arses of their own incontinent aged parents (who themselves lost their employment as Kopitiam cleaning aunties due to foreign talent).

And the ladies might also find the opportunity to squeeze out more babies and rescue the country from irrelevance.

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5. The website where I read most of these stories , The Online Citizen (via Facebook actually) has been gazetted, whatever the fuck that means, to register as a political association, despite being merely a conduit for political news from a variety of sources.

This means, even though it is a loosely (dis)organized community blog, not an organisation, it has to conform to rules that apply to political parties, such a transparency in its leaders and funding and the banning of foreign sources.

The immensely wise and amusing Singapore blogger mr brown, himself once silenced by the Singapore media authorities, takes this latest news to ad ridiculum lengths by suggesting that even taxi-drivers should be gazetted.

[Singabloodypore, run by a former “foregn talent” from Scotland, is also on still top things in Singapore as well.]

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Enough for the moment. Bangkok work is quiet, hence the lengthy blogging. Time to go for a blowjob massage.

E@L