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Information Overload and its Economic Impact

Information overload, according to wiki, is the difficulty in understanding an issue and effectively making decisions when one has too much information about that issue, and is generally associated with the excessive quantity of daily information. Information overload reduces our capacity to function effectively, which can lead to poor decisions in both work and life as well as the inability to make decisions, which is sometimes referred to as analysis paralysis, or paralysis by analysis. When the situation persists, burnout is a common result.

Causes of Overload

There are typically three types of ‘Infobesity’:

  1. Task related obesity: otherwise known as ‘work overload’.
  2. Message obesity: resulting from massive amount of incoming communication (email, viber, telegram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and their respective groupings in particular).
  3. Media obesity: media messages across many outlets, including those from outlaw media outlets (sources of mis information).

There are nearly as many causes of information overload as there are bits of information available to us. The most common reasons behind modern information overload include:

  • Huge volumes of new information being constantly created (imagine millions of wannabe celes)
  • Pressure to create and compete in information provision – leading to a quantity over quality effect (consider many Myanmar ladies dancing the same way to show off their “assets” in TikTok)
  • The simplicity of creating, duplicating and sharing of information online (nowadays you don’t even need a computer anymore)
  • The exponential increase in channels to receive information by; radio, television, print media, websites, e-mail, mobile telephony, RSS feeds, etc. (just think of fake news on Myanmar coming out of Chiang Mai alone)
  • The increasing weight of historical data available to us (hence, chatGPT!)
  • High volumes of conflicting, contradictory and plain old inaccurate information (more conspiracy theories than ever on social media these days)
  • No simple methodologies for quickly processing, comparing and evaluating information sources (no efficient way to identify fake news in this world yet)
  • A lack of clear structure in groups of information and poor clues as to the relationships between those groups (anonymity promotes creating of propaganda groups void of accountability and responsibility)

Technically speaking, “infoglut” occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Human decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.

Effects of Overload

We are so primed and conditioned to consume information, that we often engage in behaviours that trigger information overload without even realising it.

Examples of this can include habitually scrolling through social media or instant messages on your phone while at work or attempting to focus on one task, having multiple screen tabs open at the same time and shifting between them and juggling multiple tasks simultaneously while splitting your attention between them.

Performance wise, some symptoms of information overload are: inefficient work, confusion, delay in making decisions, lack of critical evaluation of information, loss of control over information, refusal to receive communication, lack of general perspective, greater tolerance for error, anxiety, stress, etc. ‘Infoxification’ has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. May be many of Myanmar citizens may be guilty of that too, believing in fake news and consequently feeling scared to death and some even refusing to come out of their houses.

The constant noise created by cognitive overload has a collective effect on our minds, developing both anxiety and confusion. The perpetual tension and restlessness can rise, affecting our emotional well-being, which can lead to many psychological discomforts such as mood swings, irritability, and depression.

This can be incredibly overwhelming, and if not managed, make your whole new life much less enjoyable. When our brains are overloaded with too much data from the outside world, we can struggle to absorb, process, and make sense of it — hampering our ability to make smart decisions and perform at our best. Take an example of many holiday makers refusing to go to Ngapali during this season, despite being such a safe place to rest and relax.

While it might sound innocuous enough, the long-term effects of information overload are serious. Some of the negative effects of experiencing information overload include:

Textual overload – the eventual outcome of receiving more textual data and information than you can process, leading to feelings of confusion, frustration and exhaustion. I am sure all of us can recall such recent experiences.

Outcome overload – the effect of information overload on the outcome of your tasks. Too much information can leave you fatigued and slow down your workflows, hindering your productivity and leaving work vulnerable to errors, omissions and inaccuracies. Envision the news or lack of, on clashes on Northern Shan State, for decision makers.

Analysis paralysis – being overwhelmed with too much data makes you prone to overthink and over analyse every potential option and its outcome, creating more confusion and uncertainty and leaving you unable to progress or move forward with a final decision. Many stay at home wives are guilty of that, wanting their husbands to be henpecked and forcing them to stay put at home.

Over time, repeated exposure to information overload can impact a person’s physical and mental wellbeing, commonly leading to feelings of disillusionment and persistent confusion while working or conducting research. Fatigue, mental exhaustion and burnout can also occur more quickly when we’re operating in a constant state of information overload.

If you consider the social media and digital platforms, our clicks and engagement with the content presented to us also informs their algorithms what kind of content we most enjoy and interact with. Thereafter, we are fed incessantly all the related contents, regardless of whatever impact these feeds might have on the viewers/users. More ad $ for the platforms, more Infoxification for us. In this information age, where content can be created and curated seamlessly for the purpose of views, this can quickly become hazardous, increasing our chances of viewing and engaging with fake news and misinformation.

The more fatigued we become from information overload, the more likely we are to only engage with surface-level social media content (whether for work or life), which can be fake, inaccurate or even irrelevant. Not only can this negatively impact our work and our professional relationships,  but it can also leave us vulnerable to consuming potentially harmful content that could subliminally influence our beliefs and actions. We have in Myanmar, so many cases of relatives and close friends become brusque and stand-offish to each other, after being convinced by the misinformation on social media or fake news spread by illegal digital media outlets.

Prevailing over Overload

Suffering from Infobesity is not something we ever feel used to, no matter how connected we are to our phones, the internet, apps and so on. The long-time effects and consequences are simply not worth it.

What can we do as modern humans? Unplug entirely? That’s not a viable option for 99% of us, but there are a few things we can do to mitigate the effects of Infoglut and protect our precious attention, focus, creativity and minds.

Avoid juggling multiple tasks – multitasking is often touted as a skill worth bragging about but in reality, it’s not good for our mental health or productivity. Try to eliminate multitasking or, if that’s impossible, try to limit it to no more than two tasks at a time.

Use tech and tools to manage data – dealing with inordinate volumes of data is exhausting for a person. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, look into AI and other digital tools that can process large data volumes in seconds to do the mental heavy lifting for you. Generative AI can be a great tool for speeding up research, summarising and collecting and presenting information in a digestible way.

Implement attention management strategies – simplify and segment your roles and responsibilities where possible. Prioritising urgent tasks while delegating less urgent ones, or postponing them, can free up your time and your focus. Breaking down your tasks into smaller steps to complete can also make them more easily manageable, reducing the likelihood of information overload.

Take breaks – if you suddenly feel overwhelmed, tired, frustrated or confused, take a break from your screen. Get up and stretch your legs, make a cup of coffee or tea or take some deep breaths. It’s impossible to avoid cognitive overload completely, so taking breaks and disconnecting at certain times is an important coping strategy that can relieve stress and boost productivity.

In terms of what is happening and being specific to Myanmar, we can summarise five short ways to deal with news/information overload:

  1. Be choosy about choosing: Choose the right news channel, to would represent true news or a channel that does not have a history of representing fake news. Take note that even mainstream media failed to produce balance news most of the times.
  2. Identify three or five channels/sources to follow. When it comes to news gathering, it is no longer the more the merrier.
  3. Understand the importance of each story; is it propaganda? Is it for spreading hatred towards a particular group? Is it to induce sympathy and subsequent donations? Be sure or at least make an educated guess about its motives.
  4. Put a time limit on information gathering. The world would not end tomorrow and no one is going to give you a Pulitzer or a Nobel for getting the perfect ten.
  5. Schedule your information viewing activities. No point looking at fb, telegram, whatsapps or messenger, every five minutes. The sky is not going to collapse during your absence from screen time.

It’s time to make a choice: either you prevail or let the Information and accompanying falsehood overload us to ruin us all! As Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”.

The Forgotten Private Beach?

With a coastline of more than 2,200 km, you would be at fault for not finding any beaches worthy of visit in Myanmar. Yet, if you were to name just one beach that consistently ranked among the world’s best, it is the Ngapali beach that stood tall among the crowd.

Chaung Thar may be too messy for international visitors, Ngwe Saung a tad too commercial and the rest along the west coast are still in development stage. The southern seaboard also have a few, Set Sei, Maung Ma Gan, etc., yet they all suffered from the usual invasion of fire ants and unwelcome companies of stray dogs. How can you possibly enjoy strolling along the beach while your ‘doggiguards’ sniff you along the way while you focus your attention not on the vastness of the sea and the nature, but to avoid stepping on their excrements! After topping the ranking of world best beaches by tripadvisor.com reviewers in 2016, it has fallen from the top 10 position on most rankings, but still maintaining its status within the top 20-25 of the world best, albeit the current campaign of Avoid Myanmar 2021+ by the West and mainstream media mis-information.

Even with the current state of affairs, visitors and reviewers are still giving Ngapali raving reviews highlighting its rustic charm, quiet nature, spaciousness and being uncrowded. The sand is soft and smooth, the waters are crystal clear, the people (including the service personnel at the resorts) are super nice and best of all, the prices are extremely reasonable. Oh, have I mentioned about not being crowded too? In terms of having seclusion akin to being in a privately owned beach, you would be hard-pressed to find any shortcomings of Ngapali. Probably the most private among mainstream beaches in the world! To see the reality of the present circumstances and to find out the truth from the facts, MI dived into the sea in Ngapali during the X-mas holidays.

Getting there

The town of Thandwe (where Ngapali beach is) can be reached from Yangon either by car or by plane. Driving would take up at least half a day with short stop-offs, hence plane is normally recommended. The return flight costs around $240 for foreigners and $110 for locals, a mis-match we hope, would be addressed as Myanmar economy develops. Once you have landed at Thandwe (IATA code: SNW) and collected your luggages, there will be coaches waiting for you at the airport building exit.

We decided to stay at Aureum Palace Hotel and Resort Ngapali. The hotel did not disappoint. With very few visitors around even at this time of the year, we were treated like royalty. From the manager to the chef to the housekeeping, the staff did their work with all their hearts in it. We were provided a butler service too, probably unheard of in Myanmar.

The five days of X-Mas

We were there for four nights. It is unfortunate that due to recent attacks on the government forces by the insurgents and terrorists in border area, including the western front, the government imposed some restrictions on deep sea fishing and large movement of goods through land routes. As such, our favourite seafood choices of sea urchins and oysters were unavailable. Fret not, lobsters, clams, shell fishes, prawns and others are there to tempt you to put on more weight during your time off.

The set menu at the hotel are very delicious and reasonably priced that we ended up eating three consecutive dinners at the Aureum. Local food is a bit spicy but you can always opt out of that savoury option.

An early swim in the sea followed by another exercise in the hotel pool would set you up with sufficient alertness to enjoy the spoils of the beach. You can opt for bicycle rides (FOC), horse rides or boat rides. Boat rides to nearby islands that have even clearer waters and more fishes for snorkelling, cost around $20 for half day. There are local restaurants on these islands to serve you lunch after the activity. Horse riding costs around $3 for 15 minutes duration. A vacation to the beach would not be completed without relishing the delights of a fresh coconut juice. It only costs 60c per drupe.

Deep sea fishing and scuba diving are not available at present due to government restrictions on boats going far out into the sea.

Lunches are best settled in local restaurants outside of hotels. They are situated alongside the only main road running parallel to the Beach, just behind the hotels. The prices are around half of the prices in hotels. The dishes are excellent for those who are connoisseurs of spicy food. Even with restrictions on movement of goods along land routes, beer and alcohol options are extensive. One restaurant owner, Thiha, told us that the goods needed are being delivered via flight. The cost is slightly higher, nonetheless. Having chosen the right hotel and the room with a Seaview, we were treated like VVIPs every day. The feeling of waking up everyday to the view of the endless ocean and sleeping with the lullaby of sounds of the waves added the icings on the cake. The suite that we stayed in was meticulously set up, living room, bedroom, walking wardrobe, indoor and outdoor showers, beautifully appointed large mirrors, all with quality amenities in the right places.

All good things must come to an end

We are leaving Ngapali with many wonderful memories and with pride, having supported a local destination in need of visitors from afar. We do see a sizeable number of foreigners and their families at the airport, yet the numbers are a significant reduction compared to pre-covid figures. One foreign visitor did asked at the airport, ‘Is it safe here?’. We heard the law enforcement and immigration officer both replied. ‘Yes, very safe, we guarantee”. The welfare of the staff, the livelihood of the local population, the standing of Ngapali as a world renown beach resorts, all are at stake here. The betterment of the world is the responsibility of every individual, as they said. While the holiday season is still in full swing, we encourage you to play a part in this amelioration agenda by swinging by to the forgotten resort for a couple of days. You definitely will not regret the visit!

Interview with Shankar Ojha, Founder & CEO of QHRM Myanmar

Headquartered in India. QHRM proudly extends its reach to five countries worldwide. As we reflect on our remarkable four-year journey in Myanmar, we stand tall, serving a thriving community of over 130 valued clients and supporting an active user base of 30,000. (www.qhrm.io)

 

Israel Palestine Conflict and Analogy with Issues in Western Border

By now everyone on earth with an online access would have been aware of the incursion by Hamas across the Gaza with Israel and kidnapping and killing of innocent civilians. Israeli armed forces are on standby for a ground invasion into Gaza, with the aim of eliminating Hamas once and for all. It would be easier said than done. With a divided administration before this sortie, it be a challenge for Israel to muster enough consensus among its population for them if they be able to stomach caskets of Israeli soldiers coming home. With lack of sufficient intelligence on Hamas underground tunnels within Gaza, the casualties are expected to be sizeable. Remember high US casualties numbers in urban warfare along the streets of Fallujah and Mosul. And how the tunnel rats of Vietnam contributed to the US downfall in Indochina war of attrition.

Time is not on Israel side. As Sun Tzu noted, “Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions”. The world is also pressuring Israel to take the high road as it presses for the release of hostages and and the targeted revenge on Hamas terrorists, instead of widespread bombing of targets co-inhabited by civilians.

Both sides seem to be right from their own caucuses. The pessimistic ones would lament how unlikely this conflict would be resolved before the end of their life. Two states solutions have been argued and negotiated for years, since the times of resolution 242, but the none of these has born fruits. Essentially, the dispute can be boiled down on land ownership. Both Jews (Israeli) and Arabs (Palestinians) have claimed it as theirs alone. From a purely historical perspective, “Israel” predates “Palestine” by more than a millennium. But, with the Jewish people then dispersed from their homeland, “Palestine” became home to a substantial Arab population, again for more than a millennium.

If Hamas and the fundamentalists believe in wiping Israel out of this land, which according to the Book of Genesis, was the land promised by God to descendants of Abram’s, then the solution is even farther than the Alpha Centauri. Israel rhetoric in the past years have been, ‘If Palestinians lay down their arms, there will be peace in the Holy Land. If the Israeli lay down their arms, there would be no Israel.’ This oratory would not work as the solution either. In the mean time, the world awaits with an abated breath, praying that the altercation would not become a stepping stone for the all-dreaded WWIII!

Analogy and Contradiction with Western Myanmar

We are also in land dispute. On one side is the Myanmar people, Myanmar government and Myanmar Constitution. The other side is the Bangladeshi illegal immigrants, who labelled themselves as ‘Rohingyas’ demanding the self administrative land and the right to citizenship of Myanmar.

Myanmar people do not want them in Myanmar. Neither does the government. They are also not one of the 135 ethnic races recognised by our Constitution. Akin to the problems in the Holy Land, the British imperialists are the culprit of this problem and as usual, they left this trashy inheritance for the people of Myanmar. They brought these labourers from East Pakistan to work in rice fields within Myanmar and to work as their servants, yet as a role model for responsible and accountable behaviour of a fallen ex-super power, they did not bring them back to their places of origins post WWII period.

Most Islamic countries believe the land does not belong to Israel, despite the archeological fact that Jews were there prior. Yet, they want Myanmar to allow these ‘Rohingyas’ the right of stay and the right of citizenship, even though their invasion and illegal occupation has been less than 150 years old. It all boils down to land issue here too. The illegal occupation of land is still illegal.

Contrary to their position in Israel, most Arab countries and OIC are demanding the right of these illegal Bangladeshi to continue occupying the golden land. If they want the illegal occupiers of Arab lands to get out, should they not insist on illegal occupiers of Myanmar lands across the Western front to leave the land too?

Court Martial Sentences for Moe Myint Tun and Yan Naung Soe

Corrupt ex-LG Moe Myint Tun took personal benefits abusing the State’s foreign exchange policy, essential goods policy and other economic policies while serving under the auspices of the member of the State Administration Council, the Chairman of the Myanmar Investment Commission, the Chairman of the Foreign Exchange Supervisory Committee and Central Committee for Ensuring Smooth Flow of Trade and Goods.

Touted as the person to replace SG Min Aung Hlaing, he blatantly abused his position of power and committed treason by violating the roadmap and objectives adopted by the State. Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) sold US dollars for importing palm oil to be sold at the discounted rate to edible oil importers yet he did not take action against those entities or persons who had raised the price of palm oil, instead of toeing the state controlled price.

Moreover, he took bribes given by companies as part of the scam to cheat the government of foreign exchange, illegally keeping foreign exchange currencies and participating in civilian businesses by breaking directives related to the military discipline.

He was indicted under the court martial and the tribunal sentenced him to a prison term of a 20-years equivalent of a life sentence.

In a similar case, ex-BG Yan Naung Soe (an officer previously served under Moe Myint Tun) serving the duties of Joint Secretary of the Central Committee, took personal benefits against the economic policies of the State and committed treason to the State, together with ex-LG Moe Myint Tun. He also violated the roadmap and objectives adopted by the State by contravening the conformity with foreign exchange, essential goods and other economic policies.

He abused his position to profit from exchange rate differentials between the government set for essential goods and the actual prices charged to public by designated businesses. He accepted bribes in foreign currency and Myanmar kyats from businesspersons, paving connections between business persons and his partner in crime, Moe Myint Tun. He illegally kept foreign currencies and participated in the civilian businesses in breach of directives related to military discipline.

He was also court martial-led and sentenced for the term of a 20-year imprisonment equivalent to a life sentence.

Hopefully, they would not be so readily and easily pardoned in a couple of years time, as even the  perception of corruption at the very top, let alone actual corruption, tear down the image of Myanmar across the world and degrade standing of its citizens among the nations!

Will the Real Mongolia Please Stand Up?

Do you know that the temperatures in Ulaanbaatar start going negative from October onwards until end of March? In the middle of winter, the temperatures at night can go as low as -30C on average. By the way, that’s excluding the wind chill factor. And mind you, the wind speed on Mongolian grasslands can be fearsome. No wonder tourists are hard to come by in a capital city affectionately known as UB, Khot, or Lanbaatar.

But don’t lose heart! You can still experience (nearly) the same mongol culture and feel the experience elsewhere, in the province of Inner Mongolia, a province and autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Even though the province is dominated by the Hans in major cities, such as Hohhot (in Chinese, Hu He Hao Te), the vast grasslands with sparse density were all occupied by the Mongols, sharing the same culture and way of life as their cousins across the national boundary.

The temperatures are milder significantly, infrastructure more advanced and with obviously shorter travelling time from hubs within China, you would be hard pressed not to put your priority ranking on this, comparatively speaking. If you do take a bullet train from Beijing, it would set you back by a couple of hundred RMB, depending on the class of travel and you will reach the capital of Inner Mongolia region within two and half hours. The geography of the suburban areas comprised of unending horizons flat grasslands and deserts, a smaller replica of the greater Mongolia.

Hohhot

The capital of Inner Mongolia autonomous region is filled with captivating places of interests even without venturing out to the intricate world of Mongol cultures yet. The visit to Hohhot would not be complete without seeing the attractions of both heaven and earth in infusing the two great cultures, the Chinese and the Mongols.

Even in the era of the Mongol empire, peace between the northern tribe and the Han emperor was preserved by one famous woman, Wang Zhaojun.  One of the four famous beauties of China, Wang sacrificed herself by volunteering to be the wife of the leader of the northern tribe. She was a  3rd or 4th ranked concubine of the Han emperor. The emperor never noticed her and by the time he realised what he had lost, Wang has been promised to the leader. Wang made the arduous journey to Mongolia. Along the trip, she sang and the flying geese looked at her and the legend has it that they all fall from the sky, after seeing Zhaojun’s beauty. Even though, the leader promised to send her back to China, after he died, that promise was never fulfilled. She was forced to marry his eldest son as one of his wives. She was never allowed to go back to China. Eventually they let her live close to China, in the current region of Inner Mongolia and she eventually passed away there. There was never a war between the Mongols and the Hans during the time Zhaojun was with the tribe leader. In addition to being a legendary beauty, she was a genuine heroine of the Han dynasty. Together with Xi Ji (Warring period), Diaochan (Three Kingdoms) and Yang Guifei (Tang), Wang Zhaojun (Han) was one of the four beauties of ancient China and she is the only one with a museum dedicated to her for her invaluable contributes towards the great Han.

Now that the earthly part of Hohhot is complete, we can now move onto more heavenly affairs. There is the famous Dazhao temple and well known five pagoda temple, evidencing the spread of Buddhism in mainland before the advent of communism. The former is the largest Buddhist temple in Inner Mongolia, constructed during the Ming dynasty. The latter is another noteworthy addition during the following Qing dynasty.

Grasslands and Deserts

Those who are into outdoors can check out the grasslands and deserts that Genghis Khan and his hoard of horsemen roamed one thousand years ago. Nearby the capital, there are some famous grasslands, namely, Xilamuren, Hulunuir and Gegentala. Observe the Yurts, or Gers, as they are called. These dwellings or houses of Mongols may be small, but the circular structure protects the strong winds from all directions. Once you reach the grasslands, you would instantly comprehend the power of such powerful gusts, accompanied by occasional mini tornados that could take away all of your loose possessions from hats to gloves while enveloping you with the dust, dirt and sand. Mongol culture can be observed in these dwellings from paying respect to Genghis Khan, infusion of Buddhism, keeping artefacts of wild animals to use of silverware for meals.

If that is not sandy enough for your liking, there is always the fringes of the world 3rd largest desert that you can explore. Kubuqi desert features many touristy attractions including camel rides, 4×4 driving, sand surfing, etc.

The costs are reasonable too. The tours are sensible so long as you do not crave for the add-ons such as horse riding or motor bike experience on these outdoors. Accommodation costs are also extremely value for money, probably due to the sparsity of regular visitors. As usual in China, infrastructure is flawless. Just make sure you got a google translator or similar device. And don’t forget to preload your VPN if you want to use any of the google services!

So, here you go! Without having to freeze your body along with your adventure, Inner Mongolia can surely give you a real taste of Mongol culture and travel back in time to figure out how the barbarians from this part of the world manage to amass the biggest land holding on earth while surviving such inclement weather in their homelands. May be all empires started while looking for better pastures elsewhere.

160 Billion Kyats Allocation for Hydropower Projects

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160 billion Kyats (~$55m) will be spent on hydropower projects in the 2023/24 financial year, according to the current Budget. The projects to be implemented in the 2023/24 financial year included Shweli-3, Thahtay, and Upper Kengtawng Projects.

In addition, 1.5 billion Kyats has been slated for the survey of new hydropower projects, 230 billion Kyats on substations and power cable lines, 127 billion Kyats on electricity supply and 2.7 billion Kyats on the maintenance of dams and hydropower plants.

Without sufficient supply of electricity across the country, the country will never get out of the poverty trap. Even African countries with years of development that started well behind Myanmar, are now having 24×7 electrical supply in all their major cities.

MOC Sets Three Priority Import Sectors

Trade Department under the Ministry of Commerce has unveiled three priority sectors for imports. The first priority sector covers pharmaceuticals, medical devices, fertilisers, pesticides, seeds, diesel, petrol, edible oil, raw materials used in livestock businesses, veterinary drugs, industrial raw materials, PET chips, food materials, plastic raw materials, medicine and herbal raw materials, packing materials, lubricants, engine oil, other industrial oil, tar and LPG gas. The importers are entitled to buy foreign currency to bring those items into the country.

The items on the second priority include iron and steel, paper and stationary, equipment for electricity generation, transmission and distribution, construction materials, machine and spare parts, tyre and rubber products, auto parts and accessories for telecommunication. Electronic goods, telephone, telecommunication device, telephone, food commodity, consumer goods, vehicle sfor commercial purpose and machineries are under the third priority sector.

This announcement represented further fine turning by the government to expedite the import processes while trying to maintain the balance of trade to avoid foreign currency shortage.

A Month in Beijing

If you ever have a chance to live in Beijing for one month, would your views of China change? Can you imagine China being the most developed country in the world, at least in terms of infrastructure? Would you still dispute the statement that you can see blue skies on most days in Beijing? Welcome to the capital of the North, or rather, the Middle Kingdom!

Cleanliness: First, Beijing is one of the cleanest cities in the world. There are no rubbish lying around. Citizens can complain/report directly to municipality via WeChat messaging if any rubbish is left uncollected or uncleared. On the streets, on the walkways, on the overhead bridges, in buildings, there is simply no visible unsightly trash. There is no smell of stale urine that usually welcomes you in the European capitals of London and Paris. No loveable rodents running around just like in the subways of New York either. Very well kept and maintained infrastructure, bringing back memories of downtown Chicago.

Hardworking: Everyone in Beijing is so hardworking. From taxi drivers to deliverymen to cleaners, everyone is working tirelessly, believing in this country, its leadership and the fact that they do not want to fall back into the dark days of the great leap backward and the cultural revolution. They are thankful for the opportunities to be able to work hard to earn a decent living. The stories told by old folks of half of their villages starving to death are still afresh in many people minds.

Order and organisation everywhere: Based on our guesstimate, China may have more CCTV cameras than people. Every lamppost or higher up structure is fitted with 3 or 4 cameras looking at every angle to record every single movement of everyone. Other than your own private residence and the toilet, you will not be able to avoid being tracked. Hence, people behave. Everything is orderly. People queue at trains and entrances. Anti social behaviour is close to non existent. You would feel super safe that you could even leave your mobile around. You cannot find baggers either.

Most of the Chinese order things online, making payment via WeChat pay or Alipay. Then when the parcels arrived, the packages were just left lying around the drop zone. Anyone could have gone to pick any parcel or pilfer. But it does not happen. People just search for their individual package among many others, pick up what belongs to them and left. We would be hard pressed to find any other country in this world, being able to top that. The projection of integrity starts from the very bottom.

Food was good: Beijing food is typical Chinese food. Being the capital with 23 million people and a reasonable number of foreign population (all embassies are here), the food of your liking would not be difficult to find. The prices are very reasonable too. Chinese government always have the intention to ensure that the prices do not become out of reach from the majority of the working class – a recipe for social unrest.

Traffic and pollution: As recent as five years ago, Beijing air is famously polluted. But the change from coal power plants to nuclear and hydropower, decisively, ensures that blue skies are now visible from downtown Beijing. The car population has been controlled. Without a residency permit, do not even dream of buying a car in Beijing. Not allowed. Even Beijing residents have less than 1% chance of winning a permit in a car permit lottery system.

But do not lose heart. Metro cost is extremely cheap and it covers Beijing well. The max cost for a single trip is around 75c, regardless of how far you travel.

The capital also no longer allows motor bikes on the road. All new bikes are electric, hence no air or noise pollution from millions of these vehicles. Electric cars are also everywhere, showcasing that the country is ahead of the curve in this world and in line for reaching its targeted carbon neutrality by 2060.

The vastness and ring roads: Beijing occupies such a large area that having one or two ring road encircling the capital is not enough. It has seven major ring roads in all. A feat not seen in any capital on earth.

Attractions: If you want to learn 500 years of China history Beijing is the place to be. Great Wall, Old summer palace (that the British and French destroyed), New summer palace, Forbidden city, etc., awaits you in this ancient capital. The entrance fees are not expensive either. E.g., Beijing zoo entrance ticket just cost $4. Singapore zoo ticket cost $20.

Of course, being in a new city comes with its own set of difficulties. First and foremost would be the language barrier. The second would be the extensive use of digital payments. Cash is seldom used by locals and hence some shops are always short on change. Albeit these minor adjustments, you would be pleasantly surprised to realise that actions are more valuable compared to ideologies, the importance of good leadership in nations building and eventually, how overrated the concept of democracy is.

Balloons over Bagan Resumes

Gas-Powered balloon services over Bagan resumed for the coming tourist season, said Nan Tint, Chairman of NyaungU Township Administration Body in Bagan. The Shwe Lay Tagun (reddish brown) balloon team resumed its Balloons over Bagan services on the morning of October 7 from Hotel Zone (4) in Gantga Ward of Bagan Myothit of NyaungU Township. The team flew two gas-powered balloons with 16 passengers each over Bagan to enjoy the beautiful scene of the city. The tour lasted 45 minutes. It starts at Hotel Zone (4) in Gantga Ward of Bagan Myothit and ends in the southeast of Bagan Lodge Hotel, east of Bagan Myothit.

The travellers can now explore the Bagan Ancient Cultural Zone, the picturesque scenes of the Ayeyawady River, palm trees, Htanaung (Acacia leucophloea), neem trees and ancient buildings. The balloon tour that was suspended since the start of Covid, has now resumed. The Oriental Blooms Company launched the Balloons over Bagan service in 2013 with six balloons and the Golden Eagle Company also introduced the service in 2014 with another three balloons.

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