As I mentioned some time ago, one of the modules I really learnt alot from this semester is BSP2005 Asian Business Environments. It's one of those strange modules where before you began you wondered what could this even be is this going to be some boring thing, but it's not. The main thing is that every lecture I feel like I see the world through new lenses. It really challenges what I think I know about the world, in particular Asia and businesses.

It's funny, I always had this lingering thought about what I'm doing in business school and how can I add value to the world given how people keep talking about personal gain, and how even at the start of this semester the vice dean and career services people talked at length about all these things which made me uncomfortable and a little stressed over my future.

Two modules this semester really blew things out of the water though and showed me so clearly how business can, and probably is one of the best ways through which social justice can be achieved. And that it's not all always a marketing ploy. Many business people are actually smart enough to realise that money can't give them fulfillment in life I guess and they seek meaning in the work they do.


Anyway back on the module, I didn't have time to catch up to the latest webcast due to rushing projects so I finally got round to it today. There was a guest panel and the topic was on Singapore and its economic position, given all we had learnt in the past twelve weeks on the region. A couple of key things stood out for me.

1) The entire guess panel did not collaborate beforehand, but they were completely on sync on what they thought was the future of Singapore and their thoughts on the region. It seemed almost as if all these were common sense to them. The thing was, most of it was all new to me, and anything that wasn't new was something I learnt earlier this semester. One of my greatest takeaway from this lecture has nothing to do with the module. It is simply that I know nothing. Sometimes I think I do, sometimes the proud part of me thinks that I'm very knowledgeable, but if I sat at a table with these individuals I would have been a complete embarrassment with the things I would have said and opinions that I would have held, that are clearly, completely wrong.

2) A part of me felt rather intimidated by this panel who seemed so eloquent, so in sync in their knowledge and understanding, and the fact that while these people are rather impressive high caliber individuals, they're all below forty years old. For some strange reason, I always thought hey if you're like some fifty-something year old CEO and you know alot, cool. Life time of experience. I just, never thought that way about the thirty-somethings. Initially I felt a little overwhelmed by how much I didn't know and how they seemed to know all these things, but of course I quickly realised thirty-something means they're at least a decade older than me, and that ten years of actual working experience is actually alot. So of course I don't know these things like they do. Besides, they're people who got invited to the panel, of course they know about these things, that's why they got invited. So I don't feel so intimidated anymore but just wanting to learn more, recognising that I still have such a long way to go.

3) One of the panelists was a civil servant, and from his job history of moving around various ministries I'd say he was probably a government scholar. And as he spoke about some policy related things. Its funny that I never really thought about it before given my interest in Singapore politics, but as he talked a little about how civil servants make policy and all and clearly explained some of the trickier policies and why they are the way they are, it made me realise a couple of things.

a) Firstly, that there are reasons why the government isn't giving in on certain things despite the backlash. I mean, we all kinda knew that, but we always thought of it as how Singapore is very focused on the economy and that is all they care about. In all seriousness this was the first time I felt the brunt of the meaning of 'Singapore is a small country with no natural resources and our survival depends on XYZ'. It always never had that impact on me and I must say I never really bought into it, but today I see where they are coming from.

b) Secondly, we focus alot on the ministers, the politicians, and that's not wrong given they are the leaders. They don't do everything though, in fact how much are they actually directly responsible for? I don't know exactly how it works, but the impression I get is that the ministry does their research, comes up with solutions and proposes to the minister. It may not work exactly that way, but the point is that the bulk of the work, the ideas, the proposed solutions etc isn't done by the minister. It's done by ordinary Singaporeans working in the government sector, who study issues and craft policy. Which means that some of the policies that we aren't too happy about are not the brainchild of the ministers who gets blamed for them but Singaporeans who researched and came up with the best solution they know. I know that these issues are complicated and solutions aren't always satisfactory for all parties, but somehow knowing that ordinary Singaporeans are the ones behind them seem to lend greater credibility for me? Haha, probably an absurd way of thinking but I suppose it's the idea of how these people aren't in the limelight anyway, they don't stand to gain, they're just doing what they believe is best.

c) On that note, I also wonder about the opposition. We tend to think of it as the ruling party vs the opposition, but the civil service is kind of independent isn't it? Clearly it's affiliated to the ruling party that I understand but in the event that the ruling party loses power to the opposition, these civil servants will still be in the ministry, and...life will go on as per normal isn't it? Of course there are changes that I understand, (it's late I'm probably not expressing myself properly), but more of how sometimes we think that the entire society will collapse if the opposition rises to power. Will it? If the civil servants are still in place, doing their thing, it doesn't seem like the country would implode. I also wonder, how much influence will the opposition have if they take power.

It's funny, most of the things I am thinking about in this post have nothing to do with what will be tested for my final exam. That's a good thing I guess, it's a sign that I am learning important things that are more than textbook knowledge (which I usually forget anyway).

That's supposed to be the value of education anyway, learning which leaves an impression and helps you to grow as a person. Not some random paper slips that tells me how good I am at cramming knowledge in my short term memory.