Thursday, September 13, 2012


There were two signs I noticed as my taxi rolled away from the hotel. The first was a battered oblong of metal by a car park, proclaiming in big red letters that 'THIS LAND IS NOT FOR SALE'. Was that a political statement about how a country cannot be bought and sold? Was it a warning to gangs of roving Malaysian estate agents? Have there been so many people turning up with a car and finding the parking so convenient that they wanted a permanent space? I would have got out and asked, but I can't miss my flight back to Singapore.

The second sign was bigger, better designed and proclaimed that 'Hiring a domestic helper can improve your productivity by 180%'. Again, I'm not sure how they meant this. Do you normally think of household tasks in terms of productivity? I don't often tell my wife I've been highly productive in washing the dishes. I don't often tell her I wash the dishes, because I'm bad at it so I have been relegated to sweeping the floor and hanging up laundry, but even then I don't start making claims about maximising throughput or increasing the return on capital employed.

Perhaps they mean with a domestic helper handling quotidien tasks, you've got the ability to concentrate on more valuable work outside the home. That's actually a very positive way to think of domestic helpers, rather than as items you purchase that you store in the pantry, shout at and occasionally push out of windows. I suppose it might be more effective than just trying to persuade people that domestic helpers are people too: if they realise that human beings can be useful when you treat them like human beings, everyone could be better off.

There aren't any signs on the stretch of toll road leading out towards the KLCC, or not that I can see so far. This is in marked contrast to the road to the airport from Bangkok (lots of Samsung adverts, ignored by drivers busily reading the papers as they zoom along). Come to think of it, I don't remember many signs on the way to Changi airport either: either I'm unobservant or somebody needs to hire better advertisers.


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