Why the Young Should Care About MediShield Life

To the point: why should Gen Y or Gen Z care about MediShield LIFE?

I’m not going to go into technical details. But I would like to raise a simple question: how sustainable is MediShield Life going to be for our generation (those born after the 80s)?

In one Budget, the Government has taken care of an entire generation’s healthcare needs. But what of the rest of us?

It’s premature to say that premiums would be unaffordable, for now. Tiered subsidies will tide all of us through for the next four years.

But what happens after the next four years? What happens after 2020, when the workforce will start to shrink? What happens after 2030, when one in five will be above 65?

What will the costs of MediShield Life look like by then for the average young person today?

My concerns do not end here.

How will we, the children of the post-80s generation, foot the bill? Universal coverage mandates that we pool our risks together. In essence, solidarity is needed. Solidarity is, I would say, a large part of why the Scandinavian countries have succeeded in their social policies. The success of MediShield Life, then, depends on solidarity too. It’s up to us to determine if this is possible.

The permanence of any Government policy depends also on us. After all, we are the ones who vote political parties into power. In 2020 and beyond, would the Government of the day have the wherewithal to shoulder this responsibility of universal coverage? No government has lived to tell the tale, as far as I know. Debt-laden governments are very often the outcomes in such cases.

Source: CNA

Source: CNA

By and large, MediShield Life is a policy with good intentions. But copious amounts of money would have to be spent on such a universal social insurance scheme. My concerns would be overblown if we had a sufficiently young population. However, our population is ageing, and rapidly too. For that reason, I worry about MediShield Life’s long-term sustainability for our generation, the youth of today.

We stand therefore on the edge of a very uncertain future, where the policies of today have a significant impact on the generations of tomorrow. I would gently urge us pause to think very carefully of what MediShield Life’s implications are for us young people, and what it would take for Medishield Life to succeed for us and for future generations.

Pork Rendang!

Yes, aside from observing politics, I enjoy cooking to whet my pseudo-Peranakan palate. I never thought that I would one day be posting recipes online until a good friend of mine made a request earlier. So here it is, the recipe for pork rendang!

Pork Rendang

Ingredients

  • 400g pork shoulder (ngoh huay bak, 五花肉; take the one with a bit of fat)
  • 5 pieces of shallots
  • 5 pieces of garlic
  • 1 thin slice of lengkua/galangal
  • 2 small and thin slices of turmeric
  • ⅓ stalk of lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 6 to 8 pieces of kaffir lime leaves
  • 200 ml of chicken stock for deglazing (this is more than enough; the remainder will be wasted)
  • 200 ml of coconut milk
  • Chilli paste (bought or homemade is fine; mine is homemade)

Method 

1. Slice the shallots and garlic. Put aside.

2. Remove the first one or two layers of the lemongrass stalk. Bruise it lightly so that the flavour will be released. Finely chop ⅓ of the lemongrass stalk from the white part upwards (I find this to be the part with the stronger flavour).

3. Prepare the rempah via blender.

3a. Pour a bit of water in the blender.

3b. Throw in the shallots, garlic, lengkua/galangal, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, and lemongrass.

3c. Blend for a few seconds until a paste forms. Add water if necessary, but not too much, just enough to make it thick and runny.

4. Add the chilli paste. Blend. Make sure the blender doesn’t go up in smoke.

5. Chop the pork shoulder into rough, bite-sized chunks. Remove the extra fat if you wish, but keep a modest amount there for flavour.

6. Sear the pork chunks in a saucepan with a heavy base, not a wok/kwali because you don’t want the wok hei but the brown bits that come after searing the pork.

7. Sear the pork until it is nicely brown on all edges. The pork does not need to be fully cooked at this stage, but it is important for all edges to be brown. Once done, put seared pork chunks into a separate bowl.

8. Deglazing means that you pour just enough stock to remove the brown bits from the saucepan. You will have this sauce that you will need to pour over the pork in the bowl.

9. It is time to fry the rempah. First, put a few drizzles of oil in a large pot. Heat up the pot with oil over a medium fire.

10. Once the oil sizzles, throw in the rempah. Fry the rempah until it is fragant. Then, add in the pork, coconut milk, and kaffir lime leaves.

11. Cook over a small fire. Do not let the mixture burn. The rempah will still be on the watery side. Keep stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated.

12. Rendang is ready for eating once the lime leaves have turned a dark brownish green, the pork meat is firm, and the gravy is thick.

Enjoy! Do feel free to give your comments on this recipe J

Haze Gets In Your Eyes

The noxious fumes of this vile haze have inspired this post. It will not be too long. I just want to jot down my observations of how Singaporeans have reacted to the haze over the past week or so.

Observation #1: I want my Hello Kitty

Despite the haze, many brave Singaporeans did not abandon their beloved feline. No, the haze did not deter them at all. Legions of Hello Kitty fans braved the haze to receive what was rightfully theirs: a Hello Kitty plush toy.

Observation #2: Numbers, Numbers Everywhere

With Asian stock markets plunging more than 2% this week, the only statistic that soared upwards was the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI). It was the most-watched number of the day, the obsession with which soon became feverish. Why take only the 3-hour average? Why not the hourly spot reading?

Frantic office workers would anxiously refresh the NEA website every hour, desperate to be the first to announce to their colleagues the magic number in a fashion very much like how 4D and TOTO winning combinations are read.

Observation #3: Where’s my Stop Work Order?

Soon after the haze breached the 300-mark, many were asking for a Stop Work Order – and rightfully so. It was the first time this little island was engulfed in such toxic clouds. Everyone was understandably worried about their health. More masks appeared.

It was worrying (to me at least) that some foreign workers were still forced to work in such hazardous conditions. What McDonalds and KFC did was the right thing: no more deliveries for the health of their deliverymen. Well done to our beloved fast-food providers!

Observation #4: Unleash the Ministers!

Earlier this week, Ministers Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan registered their deep concerns with Indonesia on behalf of the nation. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for a press conference to inform the public that the Government has convened an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), a taskforce established specifically for the purposes of combating the smoky menace. The IMC is chaired by the Defence Minister, Dr. Ng Eng Hen.

Sounds like it’s sibeh tua zhong (Hokkien for serious). With good reason of course.

Observation #5: Why No Free N95 Masks leh?

Yes, we wanted free N95 masks because $10-medical care for those below age 18 and above age 65 at general practitioners and family clinics is not enough for the population. We want to see those 9 million masks being distributed! If you can, grab more, then sell in blackmarket lah, hoh tan (very profitable) you know!

So, by now you must be wondering what the heck I am trying to say with these five observations, interesting as they may be in their own right. My take on this is simple.

This haze crisis (if I may be so bold to call it one) is more than just an irritant to our health, and more than just a test of how much haze we can tahan (tolerate) to get our Hello Kitties. No. It is a formidable test of our national resilience. Why do I say that?

I would say that our National Character is revealed in our responses to the haze, how we respond to one another, and how we respond to our Government too (no, this is not a piece in defence of the Government, sheesh).

To the haze, we have said many times, screw you for making our little island miserable. Yes. We know that no amount of bitching can actually rectify the haze, but we still want to bitch nonetheless. That’s us, right? And I would like all of us to actually remember the severity of the haze. Why? Because that’s when we will know how to cherish the days when the skies are clear and clouds are fluffily abundant.

How have we responded to one another? Has it been a response of warmth and concern? Or has it been a response tinged with negativity? Expressing care and concern for our fellow countrymen and foreigners who work in our midst will in part define who we are. I was deeply touched by a story of how a friend actually wrote in to her superiors to let in the elderly cleaning auntie who had to sit outside the office quarters in the haze. Imagine: how much of PSI400 smog can that poor auntie take? Thankfully, her superiors concurred and the cleaning lady was let in for some much-needed respite. For your bravery, I commend and salute you.

Some have not been as lucky. As mentioned earlier, many construction workers and manual labourers had to continue toiling in the unrelenting heat and haze. It is not known if their employers had issued masks to them as a measure of basic welfare. I only hope that employers do find it in their hearts to do so, because somewhere beyond our shores, several people are depending on the health of that foreign worker to remit some money back so that they can survive.

On this front, clearly, the score for Singapore’s generosity is mixed.

And then, how have we responded to our Government? Some netizens, brazen as they are these days, have actually earned the ire of a minister and received accordingly their ministerial rebukes from Mr. Shanmugam himself. That must certainly be a privilege: to be singled out for blatant stupidity.

This haze is not an issue to be politicised. Not everything has to be, nor should they. We should have enough common sense to acknowledge that this haze is not of our doing and that there is a limit to what our Government can do precisely because it is a domestic issue of a foreign country that has affected its regional neighbours. To blame the Government for the haze is nothing short of full-blown stupidity.

This haze comes as a great challenge to our resilience as a people. We have made it thus far over 48 years. We soon approach our fiftieth year of independence and we should rightfully be proud. Before we get there, we should take some time, look at ourselves and ask the questions: Who are we? What defines us?

To end off, I’ll simply say this: if we have enough resilience to weather the haze for Hello Kitty, surely we can find much more resilience in us to weather this haze together as one people, one nation, one Singapore.

Happy Lunar New Year

The Side Parting wishes all readers a prosperous and jubilant Lunar New Year! 

As the Lunar New Year is a season of union, there will be no posts for the time being – this gives me some time to mull over new topics as well 🙂 Do let me know if you would like to hear my thoughts on certain issues. An upcoming topic would be the post-mortem of the White Paper’s passage in Parliament. It won’t be a lengthy one, I promise. 

Cheers to your good health, wealth, and a thriving Singapore!

 

Image

The First Post

It would never have crossed my mind that I would one day set up a blog when blogging was first made fashionable several years ago. 

As time goes by, people change (and so have my attitudes toward blogging). 

So, why the sudden decision? 

I have decided that this would be a good way to put my thoughts in a coherent manner and perhaps share them with those who are interested. 

That Singapore is at a crossroads in its history is another reason why I have decided to start blogging in the spirit of discourse and measured, rational thought. I would certainly hate to see online discourse being quagmired in tit-for-tat reprisals that do not bring debate to a responsible and serious level. 

So, there you have it, my reasons for blogging. Watch this space for more ramblings of an “old man trapped in young man’s body”, as some of my friends have kindly called me. I will begin with a series of posts on the hotly debated White Paper. Stay tuned!