INT.OFFICE - CAFETERIA - EARLY AFTERNOON
Ah Tan, Ah Lim, Ali and a few other senior executives were having lunch together at a long table.
AH LIM (chewing his chicken rice and shaking his head at the same time): Wah, that was one long meeting with Mr Teo man!
ALI (scooping a spoonful from his nasi lemak): Brudder, later still got round two sia!
AH TAN (cutting his chicken chop): But it's brainstorming session later right? Guess it shouldn't be too stressful. Khaw, I heard you're going to start the ball rolling?
While Khaw nodded, he put his spoon down on the plate of roasted duck rice and took a sip from his iced lemon tea.
KHAW: Yah, I'll be giving some suggestions to resolve the hospital bed crunch issue.
AH LIM (looked up from his chicken rice): Huh? Why? Our hospital beds not enough meh?
KHAW (nodding): Yah, especially last week during the end of the Chinese New Year. Those pantan ones who had avoided hospitalisation during the festive period suddenly made a beeline for the beds. Tan Tock Seng was overflowing, then other hospitals went to its aid and in the end that caused them to suffer a bed crunch as well.
AH TAN: Wow, that must be agonizing for the patients!
KHAW: Hmm... I won't put it that way though. Even though there wasn't enough beds, the quality of care is not compromised while patients wait for their assigned wards.
AH TAN: That's good to know. So what's your suggestion then?
KHAW (in a solemn tone): Tell the people to avoid getting sick on Mondays and Tuesday.
Suddenly, Ali chocked on his nasi lemak and everyone looked at him. As he shook his left hand to imply that he was fine, his right hand reached for his teh-C. Khaw cleared his throat and continued.
KHAW: After a few months of comprehensive and holistic analysis, my ministry has concluded that Mondays and Tuesdays are the days when bed occupancy rates are at their highest, when the number of people needing beds exceeds that available. So our suggestion is to prevent the people from getting sick on Mondays and Tuesday.
AH TAN (puzzled): And... how are you guys going to achieve that goal?
KHAW (smiling): We'll put up posters in all of our hospitals, urging people not to fall sick on these two days. We can have slogans like "Why fall sick on the busy Mondays and Tuesdays when there are five other days in the week to choose from!"
AH TAN: Erm... that's quite a mouthful for a slogan.
KHAW (chuckled): Hahaha... that's just one of those little ideas that just sprung from my head! Of course we'll outsource to a good professional design firm and leave the poster design to them!
All at the table nodded in agreement and continued with their lunch.
SEAH: We need to do more for new migrants.
All at the table looked up to find Seah suddenly talking. Seah slowly took out a piece of tissue to wipe his mouth before continuing.
SEAH: More needs to be done to help new immigrants work with the old team and feel a part of us.
AH LIM (looked up from his half-finished chicken rice): I thought we're already going to spend $10 million to integrate these people liao?
SEAH (staring at Ah Lim in dismay): What do you mean by 'these people'? They're our precious new immigrants! Heck, they shouldn't even be called new migrants! That's too rude! They should be called new Singaporeans!
AH LIM (sitting back): Hey, relax man!
SEAH: We must respect these new Singaporeans, my friend. They are definitely not new migrants - they are an old hand at migrating, and want a new life. They want to settle down and to make Singapore a new home. And we should be thankful to them for choosing Singapore!
Suddenly, Ali chocked on his nasi lemak again and everyone looked at him again. As he shook his left hand to imply that he was fine again, his right hand reached for his teh-C again. Seah frowned at Ali before continuing.
AH TAN: But Seah, we've already set aside $10 million to help them integrate, like teaching them English and organizing activities at the neighborhoods. I suppose we've already done enough.
SEAH (shaking his head): No, no, no... Did you guys even realize that no large scale survey has been done to find out what these new Singaporeans need? What they actually need? We have not done any large scale survey, we do not know their problems but we have already gone ahead and decided that the funds will go towards organizing activities. But songs, dances and performances are entertaining but do we perhaps need something more?
AH TAN (raising his left eye brow): And... what are you suggesting?
SEAH: If it is language skills, then we should subsidize language classes!
AH TAN: Like I said, we've already started quite a large number of affordable English lessons...
SEAH (ignoring Ah Tan and continuing): If it is educational information, or integration at schools, then we ought to target that! With 20,000 migrants becoming new citizens each year, we should reward such parents with some form of baby bonus when they have a new Singapore baby!
AH TAN: You mean the same kind of baby bonus that we're giving our real Singapore citizens? But that might blur the line between the citizens and these new immigrants... I mean, new Singaporeans.
SEAH (raising his voice): Hello? Didn't you hear me just now? I have made the argument for national integration with new Singaporeans on the basis that they are members of the same team. So since we're all in the same team, they should have all the privileges that the citizens have!
AH TAN: Hmm... I'm not so sure if that will please the citizens...
SEAH (scorned): Who cares about those citizens?
All at the table stared blankly at Seah for a second, then continued with their lunch.
ONG (cleared his throat): I've got a brilliant idea to move up our productivity level. I'll be suggesting that later.
AH TAN: You mean, besides all the trainings that we're going to force down the peoples' throats?
All at the table laughed.
ONG (chuckled): Hahaha... hey, my suggestion is more cost saving than those expensive trainings that might not even be useful!
AH TAN: And so your brilliant idea is?
ONG: First, create some kind of benchmark of productivity level to judge our local workers. Then the moment they fail, sack them!
Suddenly, Ali chocked on his last spoonful of nasi lemak and everyone turned to shout at him "Ali!". Ali lifted up his left hand and nodded with an apologetic smile.
AH TAN: Er... sack them?
ONG: Yah! Sack them! Let me tell you this... there was one family at my constituency who complained that the cleaners in their precinct were lazy and too old. Hey, they don’t want local workers who are old, they want young foreign workers! So to satisfy the demand, I made a quick decision and changed the local workers to foreign workers! Foreign workers are not a burden to us. Their presence here is not negative. Without foreign workers, things will be worse! If local workers cannot perform, we can't be soft and just close one eye and forgive them! So what if they're old? The foreign workers are cheaper and more hardworking! God, I'll say bring them all in!
AH LIM (swallowing his last spoonful of chicken rice): But... but I thought Boss said we're supposed to bring in less foreign workers, not more?
All at the table paused to stare at Ah Lim for a second then laughed.
Marine Parade GRC MP,Seah Kian Peng,new migrants,new immigrants,Yishun MP,Ong Ah Heng,Health Minister,Khaw Boon Wan,hospital bed crunch