Saturday, January 02, 2016

2016: Internal Strength and Hardship Readiness

It is now 2016. Among the matters that needs attention in a cycle of a year is the annual budget. We now know that each faculty/institute has now a much reduced budget. Certain measures, some really unpleasant, happened due to this budget cut. Anyway, it seems 2016 will have to be a year for building internal strength, keeping and improving our science wherever possible and also our services.

Some may like to paint rosy pictures of the economy and say that we are still doing fine. However, sometimes I get upset when insensitive commentators on social media begin to say what hardship is there, since all they see are people spending money on (luxurious) goods. Either they are being cynical (still distasteful) or they only see what they wanted to see or maybe spin for whoever their masters should be. I don't think these commentators will be good leaders as they can't see beyond themselves or the community they are with. Maybe things are still ok within the environment in our vicinity, since otherwise we will probably not joke about price increase and hardship. But there are those who don't, probably have no time to access social media to make a living and they may say otherwise and their stories need to be heard. Each of us has a unique experience in facing the current economic situation and often we cannot really overgeneralise only to emphasize one's own experience. Thus it is only informative to retell what circumstances do people face from different sectors of the community.

These days if some people say that they are not affected by price increase of goods and services, I will be very surprised. I used not to care about money as long as I manage to afford a worry-free comfortable life (and by comfortable, I don't mean a lavish lifestyle). This gets increasingly difficult. With the toll and utility rate hike beginning next year, it will get worse because it will entail further increase of price of goods besides the hike in rates themselves. But still one can manage and change our lifestyle as they say. In a way I do wish that those who say so also practice what they preach.

For public servants, we still have a steady pay (and it is only when certain times come e.g end of contract, then we worry). For those in the private sector, things can really be uncertain and I know this from my other half. I was told that having served as panel clinic for various organizations can be troublesome because some organizations  can even go beyond six months not paying for the clinic services and medicine. To top that, price of medicine is on the rise and pharmacies have started to pressure clinics to pay cash on delivery or shorten the period of credit. Unless one has access to relatively unlimited resources, businesses suffer if they get banged on both sides. Some clinics have to resort to ask patients, who are supposed to be covered by some organizations, to pay for their medicine and ask for reimbursement from their respective organizations. Those who are affected worse are those from poor families where they can no longer afford medical services and goods. Sometimes patients go to the clinic just to enquire how much they will be charged over the counter and leave empty handed.

This Sunday, we will be sending our third son and we have paid the boarding school fees beforehand. We were told that we had outstanding fees before that, though our own personal recollections, we have never missed one payment. So school matters may also present another form of financial pressure to some families. I'm bracing myself for the university fees of my two sons in the forthcoming semester. There are rumours that university fees will go up and I certainly hope this is not true.

I'm retelling all these personal stories to just say that things are not fine and we have to get ready for the worst if we are not careful. I pray that things will get better but in any case we must be mentally prepared.

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