A hazy tale of PSI and two ministers

Tolong, tolong, please send rain so that our construction workers can carry on working.

“Tolong, tolong, please send rain so that our construction workers can carry on working.”

SINGAPORE — A week of record haze levels has tested the resilience of a country, and brought out the best and worst of Singaporeans.

Spontaneous acts of Singaporeans coming together to assist the poor and elderly are marred by accounts of profiteering on N95 masks and citizens accusing one another of spreading half-truths on the haze.

According to one health expert, “What doesn’t kill us now can only make us stronger — I mean, making us a stronger risk to lung cancer in future.”

“But any risk of casualty so far is not so much from the haze itself, but the likelihood of Singaporeans beating one another up.”

A technical debate on PSI

The country has also seen a spike in interest in technical analysis and PSI chart studies.

Books on this topic have been flying off the shelves as Singaporeans debate over simple and geometric moving averages, and whether a 3-hour average is more predictive of future PSI moves than its 24-hour equivalent.

“Looking at the 5-day chart, I believe what we are seeing now is the clear formation of a ‘double bottom’,” wrote one chartist who has been posting Excel spreadsheets of his analyses online.

“Once the PSI breaks through the support level of 136.86732, I recommend a strong buy on N95.”

Others prefer a fundamental approach.

One such investor said, “My preference is for bottom-up analysis — that is, going out to different HDB estates to see, feel and smell the foul air.”

“Even the smallest PM0.0001 haze particle can’t escape the hairy chambers of this nasal sensor,” he added, proudly tapping an unusually large nose.

A divine act of intervention

On Tuesday, rainstorms carrying hail over western parts of the country provided respite from the haze.

Unbeknownst to Singaporeans, the rain was not due to Indonesian cloud seeding but to the work of one man working quietly behind the scenes.

Mr Khaw Boon Wan told this newspaper his story.

“To complete the ramped-up construction programme, I do need more construction workers, more than currently available,” explained the Minister for Unsustainable Asset Appreciation.

“That is why I was shocked by Singaporeans’ suggestion: That we issue stop-work order on the construction industry, immediately and for as long as the haze lasts.”

“But saying no to Singaporeans is not as simple as rebutting the opposition.”

Following advice from fellow Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Mr Khaw sought the help of Hor Seen, the local God of Rain.

“Every day I prayed to Hor Seen: Tolong, tolong, please send us rain, hail, whatever — anything to stop this haze,” recounted Mr Khaw.

“I told Hor Seen this is throwing a spanner in my building plan. I will not be able to deliver the new flats as promised to 200,000 families! They are our people too, Singaporeans. Many people need to move house, set up families and have babies.”

“Of course, I didn’t expect Hor Seen to take the part about hail so seriously. I guess they don’t call me Khaw Peh Khaw Bu Wan (complain endlessly) for nothing.”

A minister rises from the ashes

Dr Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment, Water Resources and Political Wilderness, said he was happy to help Mr Khaw.

“I had to seek the help of Hor Seen too when the floods came the last time, though I ended up searching a rubbish dump for houseflies!”

The minister was not aware then that houseflies and the local God of Rain share the same name in Hokkien.

Nevertheless, he is glad to have come through a turbulent few weeks, having to combat dengue fever, the haze and opposition parties over hawker centre cleaning.

“Who would’ve thought that this literally shitty portfolio would bring so much work?”

“But can’t complain lah. This is a new beginning for me. I need to keep my head up and not continue to sink into political oblivion.”