Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Women longer term thinkers than men says economist

Photo of Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Economic Advisor, Asia-Pacific, MasterCard Worldwide and his comments are from The Hindu

This is what Dr Yuwa said at a briefing in Singapore:
"I don't have any market specific data. But the kind of research I've seen… it is sad to say from my point of view… that women manage their credit and debt much better than men. Why is that sad to say? Because I am a man!

From an economic point of view we have no insight, but my personal guess is that probably men's time horizon is much shorter whereas women tend to take a long time horizon and, therefore, behave more responsibly.

When you have a shorter time horizon, you are less cautious. But one who has a long-term horizon is constantly thinking of things such as family, children and ageing parents. Women tend to do that most of the time. Whereas a man can just walk away… and start all over again."
I have also read this UN FAO article which says "Women in rural areas tend to manage smaller plots than men and generally work in more precarious situations with only seasonal contracts."

Perhaps this is why many people I have met involved in poverty alleviation have told me the importance of helping women. Research from the World Bank has found:

"In Brazil, income in the hands of mothers has four times the impact on children's height-for-age as income in the hands of fathers.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, a large proportion of women are farmers. If women could participate in agriculture on an equal basis with men, total agricultural output could increase by up to 20 percent."

The story is the same in Cambodia, where there is great gender inequality - females are underrepresented at all formal education levels and while they are a minority in the new wage labour market, they are the majority of market traders.

It is interesting working with the women in Bloom. This is what happened to two of the women. One is a single mother whose husband left her with two daughters. Another, a single woman whose wife-beating husband left her for another woman, a friend of hers. After working 2 years at Bloom and having a stable income and life, the two women got hitched.

The first to a new man and the second, to her former husband, who came crawling back - don't ask me why she accepted him. She tells me she does not want him back, but her granny told her she should have a man to look after her. The women say the men now respect them because they are able to earn money and look after the family - some months they earn more than their husbands, the first a construction worker, and the second, a bum turned motodop (motocycle driver).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cambodia in the Financial Times

Article by Elaine Moore, "Catching Cambodia on the cusp of development", FT.com:

"Douglas Clayton, founder of frontier market fund manager Leopard Capital, has a habit of relocating to the country he believes is on the cusp of development. Right now, his home is Cambodia.

“It’s fun to be in countries that are changing rapidly,” he says. “Cambodia is where Thailand was 30 years ago, and where Vietnam was 15 years ago. There is a lot going on.”


In fact, Mr Clayton rates Cambodia alongside Hong Kong and Singapore as one of the most open countries to do business in. Corporate income tax is 9 per cent and there are no laws against 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies, although land can only be fully owned by Cambodians."

Also from the article: Of the US$53 million raised by Leopard Capital, the largest investment has been US$5m to CamGSM, which operates Cambodia’s largest mobile phone network; US$$2m into Kingdom Breweries, a Cambodian beer brewery; over $1m in Greenside Holdings to construct a rural power distribution system; and $1.5m for 24 per cent of a property project in downtown Siem Reap; and up to US$4m into Cambodia Plantations to lease approximately 3,000 hectares of land to grow rice. The first harvest is expected in 2011.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bloom in the Blackberry Bold Ad

The ad came out in yesterday's "Today" newspaper. I thought the team did a good job and I had a fun time at the photoshoot. I was told to look pensive, and at one point I remember I looked blank and the creative director said I looked like I was about to be hit by a meteor (or flying pigs!), hahaha!

Blackberry was nice enough to give me a Bold (in place of a "talent fee", I suppose, since I'm not quite a talented model) and they are talking to someone from Cambodia's CamGSM to get me set up over there. I used the phone to take photos at Memphis, a nightclub in Phnom Penh, and it had a flash so resulted in better pictures than Heike's (our German customer) iPhone, which doesn't have a flash. I'm still trying to get used to the qwerty keypad though. My thumbs are too fat! By many accounts it is a good phone and I have had five offers for it already :)

The shoot was taken in January and the location is the (only) train station in Singapore, the Tanjong Pagar Train Station. It's a beautiful train station and trains still run regularly from Singapore all through Peninsular Malaysia, even though train travel has become much less popular (the trains kept breaking down is what I remember as a child taking the train to Malaysia to see relatives).

I flew back specially to Singapore at my own expense just for two days for the shoot. I did it because I want to generate awareness about Bloom and our mission: "Help the poor, help the planet."

PS: I wonder if it was a coincidence - the "Migrate to Australia" ad being placed near me, since I am a Singaporean who left Singapore for another country too...!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Cambodian family shopping in Singapore

Well, I have been back for about a week. Went to see the doctors and the appointment for my day surgery at KK (Kendang Kerbau) Hospital is 22March. KK is a famous hospital among Cambodian doctors because they give training and I have met a few Khmer docs who know Dr so-and-so from KK.

I will be back 23rd Feb to Siem Reap to see my family (Alan and my doggies!) and then 25th to Phnom Penh to meet with a customer. Then back to Singapore around the 8th Mar for a blood test which they need to do prior to the surgery. It's all very hectic and I think it is getting to me. Everyone tells me I look very tired.

Anyway, the other day I was at the bank and then stopped by Plaza Singapura on Orchard Road where the French hypermart ("hypermart" is a giant supermarket or supermart) Carrefour was having a sale. I picked up a CD on building your own website. It cost SGD17 (USD12) - before my Cambodian friends exclaim "so expensive!" - it's genuine lah.

While queueing to pay, a middle-aged man bumped into me. "Somtoh," he said.

I was spacing out as usual and it took me a while to register he was speaking Khmer. The family was Cambodian! I was excited because I have never, ever, met a Cambodian in Singapore in my life there. (There are many Khmers in Singapore now - students usually, but I had never met or known any when I was in school because only recently have Cambodians been able to send their children to school in Singapore. Cambodians have also started winning ASEAN scholarships to study in this country).

So I spoke to the man in Khmer. He was super excited and started chattering away, telling his wife and daughter and friends that I am a Singaporean working in Cambodia. I felt happy he found someone in Singapore who could speak his language.

Meanwhile his wife was trying to buy some red cushion covers; it is approaching Chinese New Year (Feb 14) and everywhere you see red ornaments and household furnishings. Red symbolises prosperity and good fortune in the Chinese culture.

The saleswoman was patiently speaking to the wife in English, putting up her fingers and speaking slowly to her, to indicate the price. I have seen Singaporean saleswomen do this when trying to sell to Indonesian customers. Maybe the saleswoman thought they were Indonesians? I was looking at the family and musing how similar they look to Indonesians, except the rich Indonesians who go on regular shopping sprees to Singapore's Orchard Road dress differently - expensively, dripping with jewellery and make-up. The Cambodian family was casually dressed, in T-shirts and jeans, like many of us Singaporeans when we go shopping. The weather is just too hot lah.

This reminds me of what a Cambodian friend in Cambodia said to me. He was remarking how casually foreigners dress in Cambodia, just T-shirts and sandals. He was amazed to learn we actually dress up back home to go to work. He says when Cambodians travel overseas, they wear their finest, and keep the casual clothes for home. Exactly the opposite! I was explaining for us when we travel we have no one to impress, since nobody knows us and we know nobody. We are just out to relax and have a good time. In the office, on the other hand, we have to make a good impression for business, hence the extra effort.

Anyway, back to the family. Nobody around us understood what we were saying in Khmer, and it felt quite interesting. For a moment I experienced what it must feel like to have a private language. Other people like the cashier were looking at us, I guess trying to figure out what language we were speaking, since the word "Cambodia" was not mentioned; only "Srok Khmer". Haha.

However, the daughter, in her late teens/early 20s, was a surly, arrogant creature. Her upbringing made me wonder what the man and his family did for a living. I did not stay long enough to find out. I really hope they are not one of those corrupt military families out to spend the country's money on a shopping spree in Singapore! We only discussed his impression of Singapore - sa'at ("beautiful", but also "clean", which Singapore certainly is) and what I do in Cambodia. He say "aw-kun" (thank you) when I told him.

I'm off to the library now. Yesterday I bought a Singer sewing machine (SGD199 down from SGD399, because it is a display set) and am going to borrow books on sewing. I love Singapore libraries.


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