Friday, February 27, 2009

As I've always said...

...the safest jobs in the world are the ones whereby you are actually making something.

Well, no, not really, because the safest professions are doctors and farmers. Regardless, people will still fall sick and people still need to eat. But besides that, I have long espoused the importance and usefulness of a practical job, that actually delivers something that one can touch and see and feel and smell etc.

That is why I have never had much respect for professions that dabble in the virtual and intangible, though quantifiable (even the quantifiability is suspect, as virtual figures that can't be physically verified can be manipulated and massaged to reflect something other than what is is). Key examples of such jobs are those in finance and banking, professional services, etc. As is expected, in an economic downturn, those are the first to go. When push comes to shove and people want to tighten their belts, the first jobs to go are those that aren't necessary and don't add value to the economy in any real sense. I am wholly unsurprised by such a turn of events, and the recent news and headlines about massive layouts have just confirmed my sentiments.

Being from the manufacturing industry, I am of course somewhat biased. But people still needs goods and products, albeit necessities and not luxuries, unless your product is something that is addictive. Highly debatable, in my case. Anyway, it is lamentable and a pity that some of the best people (yep, those in manufacturing) are the next in line to get the axe, if they haven't already gotten it. A key culprit is of course the lessening demand for luxury goods and products, given the harsh economic clime, but a strong and undeniable factor is definitely the rise of developing countries with an educated and cheap workforce (both skilled and mass unskilled) that can offer a cheaper cost base from where to operate, hence providing a competitive advantage that would be hard pressed to overcome in a developed country with much higher costs of living and where the rights/laws add additional costs of operating. It is sad that those in manufacturing, who really produce with their hands and whose work efforts can be tangibly seen, have to be laid off.

A side effect of the current economic crisis, and mind you, from all the figures I've seen and definitely from the very real impact that it has on my company, we are in a crisis, is the affirmation that the end is nigh for the out of control and insufficiently regulated finance and banking sector, putting a much overdue end to a period first started 20 years ago and defined by the jet settling and lavish lifestyle of the privileged top few which hardly translated into real earnings for the average mum and dad. Those who have put their money, hard earned savings, retirement funds, because they trusted the slick talking and smooth talking financial product salesmen, many of who have little understanding of their product except the commissions they stand to gain, and have their hopes so cruelly dashed, will have little to show after decades of slogging, and most likely will have to go through their retirement years much les gloriously than imagined. Of course, many of these people were betting, were ignorant, ill informed, or were greedy, and for these, there is not much to say. But to those who were ignorant, but who trusted the banking and financial institutions, because they had government backing or were too big to fail, this must have been a bitter lesson. Not to mention a blatant breach of trust.

To the many thousands around the world, the financial workers, the bankers, professional services people, who were riding the wave for the last 2o years, the bubble has come to an end. To everyone who dreamt of getting rich quick, of doing work that cannot be seen or touched, who thought that they could take a shortcut and bypass the factory workers, who could get by by manipulating numbers, taking advantage of people's desires/greed/ignorance/insecurities to fund their own lavish lifestyles, who thought they were cleverer than the rest, who stifled their own conscience to push financial products they barely understood, who flaunted their wealthy and lavish lifestyle, this is a time for reckoning. There really is no short cut to getting rich. Analyzing stuff, preventing risks, all that fancy shmancy stuff, has proven to be truly ineffective. What is the point of having analysts, ratings, risk managers, product managers, investment bankers, blah blah blah, when almost every such instrument has failed to prevent the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression? You'd expect, with the technologies at our disposal, we would have been able to spot/prevent/rectify this a mile off, instead of waiting til we are drowning in it. Had someone had more brains, more foresight, more balls, perhaps the damage would have been less. I do not have much sympathy for those who have greedily fed the vicious machine, encouraging and feeding it, thinking they'd be happy doing a 9 to 5, saying they work in a 'firm', wearing their sharp snazzy suits, marching around with their heels and briefcases, talking about clinching multimillion dollar deals, arrogantly describing themselves as traders/bankers/whatevers, who are addicted to the glamour of the corporate world, and who reject the honest work-with-their-hands types as lowr class denizens. Looking at the gazillions of commerce graduates, and especially with an eye towards the cocky and arrogant classmates I had back in uni, I can't help not feeling sorry for them. It'd be more correct of course to point out that not everyone working in those industries is like this, and that I'd be guilty of gross generalization by tarnishing everyone with the same brush, and risk my entire tirade being dismissed, hence I shall include that disclaimer.

If I sound bitter, yes I am. Perhaps it is the residual effect of feeling first hand the arrogance of such people, the constant overlooking of people who do not work in glamorous jobs, the second class treatment, the fact that people close to me have suffered from the activities of such people, and the feeling of injustice I feel for my co workers who put in a good hard day's work and yet are regarded as lower than and earn less than the cockroaches who have contributed to this crash. Life is not fair, and people say 'accept it and don't fight the system'.

If we really wanted to prevent ourselves from getting into another crisis in the future, really, we just need a few simple rules. (i) focus on manufacturing (ii) focus on delivering higher value added products/goods/services/propositions (iii) have stringent regulations (iv) reduce the insane executive payments to weed out the incompetent (everyone's greedy, let's just weed out the incompetent and greedy).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Back...! With[out] a vengeance.

Ah! After many months, I am back, to stake and reclaim my place as one of the world's foremost irregular bloggers. Having said that, I think I am edging away from blogging so rapidly that soon I may be able to shut this down for good. On the still-numerous occasions when I have something to say (noteworthiness of the said stuff is another matter entirely) I find it quite easy to brush it aside and continue living, whereas back a couple years ago I would have tried to post it asap.

Life is still on the regular, coz it's just been a few months, and nothing is gonna change THAT much. But there HAVE been changes, too much to describe in a post.

I probably wouldn't be posting for the next few days, there you go, on again, off again, because I am off to Singapore with some friends to do the OCBC Cycling Challenge. Finally, the race is here! We did not do much preparation, definitely not what is required for a competent participation in the event, but whatever light training we did should suffice in terms of getting us to the finish line.

Having wasted (omg, the final ominous signs are here, I am describing time spent blogging as wasted) 5 mins on the last few paras, I think it's time to check back out of this temporary online reprieve/pit stop of life and rejoin the main race, as I do still have a few errands to run before embarking on the trip down south.

Adios amigos.

Oh wait, just before I go, I would like to say, please take care and enjoy ur life and appreciate all those around you who love you and treat you good. Life is short, unfair and unpredictable, no matter how you try to control the controllables, sometimes it is the more powerful uncontrollables that really get you. Appreciate everyone and everything. Don't let the small stuff get in the way of the things that really matter.