Tues Nov 26, 2013
I went to Khin Khin's office and met 4 Myanmar people of various social strata today. Two women are business women, one man is a Work Permit contractor and another woman works at the restaurant to support her child in a Singapore secondary school.
1. The business woman who wanted to give back to society
"I am not asking my rich friends to donate to my nuns' orphanage," she repeated to me a few times. " I want them to contribute to their own neighbour's needy and poor. But all they are interested is which European tour they will be going this December! Those who have succeeded should help the unfortunate. I bought a plot of land 20 feet x 60 feet for S$2,000 for the orphanage and now the head nun's and helpers live in the one-story building. If a donor can buy another piece, then the orphans can learn to farm and grow vegetation! I can teach them the values of hard work and responsibility."
I did not correct her use of "vegetation" at first and asked: "Is it swamp land? Many years ago, Florida people sold cheap land to international investors and it was swamp land!"
"What is swamp land?" she asked.
"Land filled with sea water and is unfit for building house or growing rice."
"No, no," she said. "The land is for rice growing. But it is not located near the main road and so the price is cheaper." Nowadays, Yangon's houses are selling for over S$500,000 for land size of 40 feet x 60 feet in hot areas not near to the downtown and millions of dollars in the downtown. Property prices there make Singapore properties look cheap. It is true but you will find it hard to believe.
"If it is $2,000 and the orphans can use it to grow vegetables which is the correct word, not vegetation, I am interested in donating this piece of land to the orphanage so that the orphans can learn some skills as well as getting a steady stream of income. Why not rear chickens for Kentucky Fried Chickens as these will earn them more money?"
"We are Buddhists. We don't believe in killing animals," she said.
"Grow some crops for the hotels' foreign guests," I said. "Higher sales value than vegetables."
"I propose organic farming," she said.
"Organic farming is not easy. The surrounding farmland is using insecticide and so, how can you claim organic crops are grown there when the next plot is full of insecticide spraying?"
"Ok, it will be vegetables."
"You must find a trustworthy person to ensure that the money is properly used for the orphanage, not into the pockets of the nuns or the staff or volunteers," I said. "Only then will there be donors to sustain the orphanage over the years. How about the realtor who buys properties for you?"
She took out her pre-paid card and dialled Yangon. Apparently it is cheaper this way. She spoke in Myanmarese which I could not understand. Then she said: "There is a seller who ask the orphanage to buy over the adjoining plot of land of 20 feet x 60 feet but the orphanage says there are no donors."
"How much is it?" I asked.
"You bought a similar plot for $2,000" I said.
"That was 3 years ago."
"Property had gone up 100% in 3 years or 33% interest per year. This is better than putting money in Singapore's fixed deposit getting 0.2% or some low figure!"
"Prices have gone up."
"Ask the realtor to negotiate," I advised. "She can be trusted and so I don't have any worries about being cheated."