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e-Learning and the needs of developing countries

Having had the pleasure of speaking at the UNCTAD14: e-Learning – Leapfrogging Skills Development session on the 21st of July 2016 in Nairobi, I am enclosing below some of my thoughts on e-Learning and the needs of digital countries in terms of knowledge development and how to best address them.

Details of my fellow participants can be found here.

The full video of the session can also be found at E-learning: Leapfrogging skills development from TrainForTrade on Vimeo.

Introduction

ACCA, as the global body for professional accountants , has within its DNA embedded the notion of delivering public value and to also advance the science of accountancy.

As an organisation committed to innovation and providing opportunity, it was only apt that we became the first professional accountancy body to develop ACCA-X, a comprehensive suite of learning modules towards financial literacy, accountancy and business skills using MOOC (Massive Open Online Content) learning through an exciting partnership with edX and Epigeum .

In the 12 months since launch (from July 2015), there have been over 120,000 learners from over 210 countries who have participated and engaged with the courses and started their journey towards a better understanding of accountancy, business and finance.

 

Four key areas for developing and transition economics to consider for e-Learning knowledge development:

  1. Tackling the employability gap

  2. Building the foundations for data-led learning

  3. Capacity building for educators and policy makers

  4. The value of partnerships

 

Tackling the employability gap

  • Employability is one of the key policy issues of our times.
  • Linking education to employability and improving overall efficiency and productivity is something policy makers and politicians are grappling all over the world.
  • Interestingly, UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi highlighted in a high level policy roundtable during the first day of the UNCTAD14 conference that employees in developing nations only have an output that is 10% of their counterparts in the EU.
  • It is important to note though that employability is an issue that afflicts both developing and developed nations equally. It is a problem in India (with increasing numbers of graduates unable to find relevant jobs); it is a problem in China (with the numbers of graduates increasing from 1 million in 2000 to 6.1 million in 2011); it is a problem across the EU with over a fifth of 15 – 24 year olds unable to find gainful employment. Further details can be found here.
  • Reasons for this employability gap:
    1. mismatch in skills required by industry and what they are being trained towards;
    2. lack of clarity of skills needs and dialogue between educators and industry;
    3. education and training style (focus still on role learning – does not foster mental agility and innovative flair)
  • This is where technology and e-Learning becomes an enabler to helping fill the gap between education and technology:
    1. Technology allows for learners to reflect, plan and articulate knowledge
    2. E-learning embeds amongst their learners core digital literacy skills – which is crucial
    3. Learning and assessment become more authentic through digital learning à more closely aligned to workplace
    4. For instance with ACCA-X, there is an emphasis to ensuring that the business and accounting theory is supported by interactive simulations of actual practice and with significant support in ensuring learners understand the link between the theory and how they can be expected to apply their knowledge in practice and enable them to be work-ready.
    5. E-Learning allows for students to become active agents of engagement and change and allow them to further develop their social and leadership skills. It also aids students towards becoming self-aware and independent learners which could be argued is the main purpose of education. It is this quality that should be at the heart of institutional strategy policy formulation.
      (C) zodakreza
  • E-learning allows the opportunity to establish a clear pedagogy (to cater to the different learning styles) – to the right levels of assessment – to effective monitoring and management (through data) and support a process of continuous improvement.

 

 

Building the foundations for data-led learning

  • The data allows for identification of hot spots, areas for improvement and ensure a programme of targeted support and intervention.
  • Data analytics and review is a critical component to aid both educators and learners along with policy makers.
  • The availability of data to enhance educators’ ability to better support their learners is a major component of effective e-Learning.
  • Tutors also have the tools to enhance learner management and be able to teach to scale.
  • The availability of learning data will also be instrumental in helping policy makers and researchers identify the learning gaps and hot spots and ensure there is effective capacity building taking place at appropriate levels to resolve outstanding issues.

Capacity building for educators and policy makers

  • This is often an area that is overlooked as e-learning programmes and initiatives are rolled out.
  • Whilst there is ample learning support for students to help them make the relevant transition to e-learning and blended learning, there isn’t always the same level of support of policy makers.
  • A key policy area for policy makers is to provide the right levels of support to educators as they embed e-learning within the curriculum.
  • The ACCA experience has demonstrated that there needs to be support for educators in helping develop blended learning solutions so that they are able to best leverage the opportunities offered through e-learning.
  • It is a large shift away from strictly face to face traditional’ transmit’ style learning – and training and support needs to be given to help educators adapt to e-Learning.
  • Educators and teachers also need to be given the comfort and confidence that e-learning is not designed to replace them. It is in fact designed to re-configure their role and their place in classrooms.

 

The value of partnerships

  • Developing effective partnerships will be the most effective way for countries to develop effective e-learning and knowledge platforms and solutions to meet their needs and ambitions.
  • The development of high quality e-learning (from the pedagogy to course development to platform development and delivery) can be extremely resource and investment intensive. This can be a significant deterrent for various developing and transition economies to either defer investment or worse, to develop poorly designed e-learning solutions which hinder more than they help.
  • The ACCA experience has shown that through partnerships, it is possible to develop a high-quality learning experience and allows for stakeholders in developing and transition economies to scale the learning curve much more rapidly.
  • Partnerships between policy makers, educators, industry organisations and employers is vital in developing the e-learning solutions developing nations needs.

Conclusion

E-learning solutions represent the most efficient way for nations to build the productive capacity they need to support the wider learning and development programmes to support their employability agenda, to promote social mobility and tackle the endemic problem of inequality.

The path of e-learning and digital learning that remains ahead of us is an exciting one. It is not without its challenges but a focussed and targeted approach of developing the appropriate e-learning solutions that are fit for purpose and in partnership, where possible, will ensure that much more rapid progress is made.

Opening Remarks – 4th Shared Services Centres Forum (Nairobi, Kenya)

Date                : 20th July 2016. Wednesday.

Location         : Serena Hotel, Nairobi

Topic              : 4th Shared Services Centres Forum: Sharing Experiences

 

A very good morning distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

It is a pleasure to present the opening remarks for the 4th Shared Service Centres Forum. We are particularly pleased to be partnering with Deloitte and Standard Chartered Bank Kenya for this crucially important business area.

Over the last decade, we have seen an increasing number of companies using shared services, outsourcing and global business services to improve efficiency, lower costs while maintaining a high level of rigour and quality. Shared services and BPOs have been one of the most instrumental pillars of financial transformation and we know that almost three quarters of a million finance personnel are employed in this sector globally.

Many organisations are looking at GBS, shared services and outsourcing as a way to help transform their finance function from a traditional cost-focused and back-office function looking mainly at historical data into a value driven, value-adding forward-looking part of the business.

Shared service organisations are ideally place to lead this change due to their global reach, visibility of data and information across the entire business (in contrast to a finance function within a single business unit), and they are also geared towards continuous  improvement and standardisation

Kenya in particular has been one of the early adopters in Africa in the space of shared services, BPOs or global business services. Given Kenya’s position as a major communications and business hub, we can only expect the sector to grow exponentially in the coming years as more business, particularly in East Africa seek to enhance efficiencies and adopt best practices in financial transformation.

A critical component of this transformation is the building of human capacity with the right set of skills and capabilities. It is to this end that ACCA has worked closely with our partners globally to develop the right set of solutions to support the process.

In the last two years, ACCA identified needs based on 12 months of consultation with over 150 multi-national companies including captive shared service centres and business process outsourcers, governments and industry bodies, in 13 countries.

Following this extensive consultation, ACC developed a suite of Global Business Services qualifications, starting a Certificate level, progressing on to Diploma and Advanced Diploma level. This also dovetails nicely with companies’ training and development frameworks and ensure there is a consistent programme of training which in turn supports staff moral and staff retention, which is traditionally a huge risk and issue for most shared services and BPO firms.

ACCA’s delivery of this training is also available completely online. To this end, I am also pleased to introduce to you ACCA-X, which is ACCA’s landmark and award-winning digital learning program which provides training up to the Diploma level. We partnered with edX (formed by Harvard and MIT) who provide the technology solutions and Epigeum, part of the Oxford University Press, to develop a high quality learning content which provides training opportunities for all finance staff. The introductory courses are also available for free for anyone, anywhere in the world.

ACCA has always strongly believed in the future of the SSO industry and continues to make significant investment in the sector. This includes development of cutting edge thought leadership and insights, development of qualifications, working with partners, such as the event today with Deloitte and Standard Chartered Kenya and working with various industry bodies to further support the growth of the sector.

We are pleased to continue this support here in Kenya today.

I look forward to an excellent forum today and hearing best practices from some of Kenya’s leading organisations and I wish you all a fruitful discussion and forum.

Thank you.

(C) Burak Gara/Getty Images

The last coup ever in Turkey?

The events of 15th July 2016 in Turkey with the attempted coup could go down in history as one of the most pivotal moments in Turkish history.

On the 16th of July, acting army chief of staff, General Umit Dunar announced that,  “the time of military coups and juntas is over,” and he could well be right.

It is worthwhile understanding the implications of the Turkish events for history has shown that when the Ottomans sneeze, Europe gets a cold and the Middle East falls into a catatonic shock and paralysis.

Modern Turkey has had a history of coups led by the military and often it has been due to the underlying philosophical and ideological conflicts between Kemalism (the secular principles enshrined by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk) and Sunni Islamism.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) are now back in full control of matters in Turkey following this very serious development in Turkey.

The fate of the former Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, and the Muslim Brotherhood (the ideological partners of the AKP)  who lost power in a coup in Egypt before being sentenced to death must have always weighed heavily on President Erdogan’s mind.

In a very prescient article by Gonul Tul for the Foreign Affairs magazine in May 2016, the risk that the empowering of the military generals by Erdogan to fight Kurdish separatists was raised and the danger that the “President was riding a tiger that is…wilder and more vengeful.”

At the heart of the matter is that the military with its strong Kemalist and secular traditions was always going to be viewed as a threat by the religiously-motivated AKP. However, 14 years of a more religious and conservative rule by the AKP would almost certainly have had the effect of changing the ideological mindset of the Turkish people as well as some of the military. Despite this, the military still refused to let graduates of religious schools enter military academies for fear of diluting the secular principles the modern Turkish state was founded on.

The latest failed coup attempt will no doubt see a mass changes in personnel and policies in the military which will have the impact of shifting some of the ideology underpinning the Turkish military.

In the longer term, the broader question is whether this could see the slow shift and tilt of modern Turkey away from very strict secular traditions towards Sunni Islamic traditions? Could a more Islamic Turkey, centred round more inclusive and tolerant beliefs be a bulwark against the extremist and fanatical Islamic terrorist ideology that is consuming the world in hate and anger?

The present Turkish government (under an Islamic leadership) signed a reconciliation agreement with Israel in June 2016 and seek to work with Israel to bring peace to the region. This is a much welcomed development in  world beset with too much hate and difference.

What happens next in Turkey remains to be seen, but Turkey could well establish some precedence within the Islamic world and be more than a physical bridge between the Muslim and Western worlds but go beyond this and be a spiritual and ideological bridge between both worlds. Watch this space.

 

Seven beneficiaries of UK’s Brexit

Following the  proxy class war that was the EU referendum, I was reflecting on who I think will be some of the beneficiaries of UK’s Leave or Brexit result besides the obvious parties like the Leave campaigners and Boris Johnson.

As a slight aside my personal view is that the root cause of this result is inequality which has led to a disenfranchised populace that is reacting against the increasing economic marginalisation an increasing majority of citizenry are facing. Even the issues of migration are being amplified against this backdrop of growing economic inequality. This is one of THE policy challenges of our time. Resolve this huge issue of rising economic inequality and I suspect we will find in it the panacea to a large number of other issues we are facing.

So on to who I suspect will be benefiting from this:

  1. Scottish independence campaigners – The will of the Scottish people is reflected in the results – they want to remain in the EU. During the last independence referendum, there was a clear statement that any exit from the EU by the UK may trigger another call for independence. Whilst 2014’s independence referendum was deemed a once in a generation campaign, I suspect the result of the 24th of June 2016 may bring forward the next independence referendum to as soon as the next two years.
  2. The United Irish brigade / and IrelandSinn Fein have been quick off the mark to argue their case for a union of the Northern Irish with the Republic of Ireland. Similar to the Scots, the Northern Irish were also in favour of remaining with the EU and there is a case for them to argue for independence and fulfil the long-held dreams and aspirations of Irish nationalists.

    Any push towards reunification will also lead to the levels of investment and pump-priming of both Irish economies leading to further growth. Furthermore, in the near term, I suspect some of the investment meant for the UK may be diverted to Ireland, particularly in the financial services and outsourcing sectors.

  3. First time home buyers – With the expected fall in asset prices, it may finally become easier for people trying to get onto the property ladder. Furthermore, a reduction in immigration will also dampen demand for housing and rental yields, leading to more affordable homes. It is also widely expected that the Bank of England will not be hiking rates any time soon to carry on fostering demand as well, making the overall cost of home ownership more affordable.
  4. Lawyers and accountants – Over the next two years, as major UK enterprises and companies seek to understand their legal, tax and financial planning positions vis-à-vis the EU, they will rely on an army of lawyers and accountants to make sense of their obligations and required strategies to maximise profit and minimise liabilities (legal and financial).
  5. Management consultants – I am fairly sure BCG, McKinsey, Booz (PwC), and other management consultants heard a loud ker-ching of cash registers going off collectively as they seek to become the ‘experts’ in EU law and supporting both the public sector (particularly as they become overnight subject matter experts in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that governs EU exit) and private enterprises as they help organisations make sense of what Brexit means for them (by first asking them what it means for them and then re-writing it into 100 PowerPoint slides and charging them a fortune for it…).
  6. Trump’s policy advisors and US isolationist/protectionist campaigners – The Donald will point to UK’s EU referendum results to his domestic base and use it as an argument about why his protectionist and isolationist policies are for the best and will help “Make America Great Again (TM).” It could also be a powerful argument against the likely Democrats’ positions about open economies and trade reforms.
  7. UK exporters – At least in the short to medium term, as there is a downward rebalance of the UK Sterling, I suspect it will help improve UK’s exporters (particularly seeing as 50% of UK’s 15 export partners in volume are outside the EU). However, it has to be also noted that UK’s net deficit is roughly £300 billion and given the higher level of imports, it is also likely there will be a strong inflationary pressure with little monetary tools or options at the Bank of England’s disposal.
Raghuram Rajan

Muzzling a rockstar central banker – the Indian way

This article reflects only my own personal thoughts and do not reflect the official position of any other organisation. Responsibility for the information and views expressed this article lies entirely with me. 

The news of the resignation of India’s central banker Raghuram Rajan has unsettled Indian investors, and rightfully so.

Rajan was one of India’s best central bankers and was a cornerstone in driving the Indian economy over the last three years.

Here is a man who in 2005 at a conference in Jackson Hole made some prescient statements about how financial developments have made the world a riskier place and called out the systemic risks posed by banks to the global economy. (His speech can be found here: https://www.imf.org/external/np/speeches/2005/082705.htm). He was derided as a luddite who was misguided. However, the developments of the 2008 financial crisis proved him right and a number of his proposed safeguards have since been implemented.

Some may question why the current Indian administration has removed a man who is widely recognised as an architect of India’s growth story.

It goes back to 2014, when Rajan questioned Modi’s “Make in India” campaign and cautioned against “against picking a particular sector such as manufacturing for encouragement, simply because it has worked well for China. India is different, and developing at a different time, and we should be agnostic about what will work.”

Last year, Rajan also questioned the rising of sectarian tensions and intolerance propagated by factions associated with the currently ruling government.  In a speech to the Indian Institute of Technology last October, Rajan lambasted the rising intolerance and stated: “India has always protected debate and the right to have different views. Excessive political correctness stifles progress as much as excessive license and disrespect.”

This is consistent with the pattern of behaviour displayed by the current Indian administration .

What have Modi and his administration achieved in the last two years:

 

So what does this administration do in response? Remove one man who can help make a difference and help improve matters.

Another great article here: By getting Raghuram Rajan out, Modi may have won, but India has lost

I am genuinely concerned at the state of affairs in India and despite the sometimes effective PR campaign Modi’s government may run, the cracks are beginning to show.

India’s always been a home to alternative thoughts, ideas, ideologies, religions, faiths, beliefs, ethnicities and ways of life. We have been a beacon of hope and democracy for all and it is very sad to see the very edifices of inclusivity and secularism crumbling.

 

 

bolsa familia

Challenging poverty the Brazilian way

An amazing revolution has been taking place in Brazil over the last decade – one that could save the world. This revolution was done against the advice of experts from leading institutions such as the World Bank and leading academics.

This revolution, named Bolsa Família has had a huge transformational shift in the fight against inequality and poverty across Brazil. It was based on a simple premise that if you place cash in the hands of the extremely poor and have faith that they will do the right thing, then good things will happen and transform their lives and fortunes.

It was rolled out by a President, Luiz Inacio Lua da Silva (or Lula), who was of the poor and understood what it meant to be poor and therefore had the belief that the Bolsa Família scheme will shape the life of millions.

There is a fantastic article written about it in the Foreign Affairs magazine (by J. Tepperman) for those who want to find out more (this post was inspired by the article). Below are some key highlights about how the Bolsa Família works, how it helped move millions out of poverty, reduce income inequality and radically transform a society.

First – the situation in Brazil before the Bolsa Família

  • In 2000, a third of Brazil’s population of 175 million people lived below the poverty line (under US$2 a day) and 15% were deemed to be indigent (living under US$1.25 a day)
  • By 2010, over 40 million people had moved from below the poverty line to the middle class.
  • Income inequality has also dropped significantly in that time

What led to the birth of the Bolsa Família?

In 2003, a man who was born into an extremely poor family and started his professional life as a shoeshiner became the President of Brazil. This was the time of Luiz Inácio Lua da Silva, or Lula for short.lula-bolsa

When Lula was campaigning for Presidency, he was reviled by the business community and foreign banks. Foreign investors were backing off and international banks were cutting credit.

Goldman Sachs even came up with the ‘Lulameter’ – a meter that predicted an inverse relationship between Lula’s popularity and Brazil’s economic future.

Lula was committed to social policies that benefited all of Brazil rather than just the elite and launched a far-reaching social programme called Fome Zero (“Zero Hunger”) and at the centre of this campaign was the Bolsa Família or Family Grant.

This was a revolutionary and ground-breaking anti-poverty effort that transformed a society and has inspired many similar programmes.

How does the Bolsa Família work?

Rather than provide the poor with perks and benefits which sometimes has the effect of increasing the layers of corruption and bureaucracy, the idea was to simply give the poor money.bolsa_familia_foto_felipe_gesteira_0067

In most developing countries, the poor are given subsidies or physical items such as food or basic tools and equipment which tended to be a largely inefficient process that only engendered a culture of patronage.

The Bolsa Familía was a programme which was easy to qualify for.

If a family proved that it lived in extreme poverty and earned less than 50 Brazilian reais ($42) or 100 reais ($84) per person per month, they will be eligible for the scheme.

An average family gets $65 cash and the benefits tops off at $200. To obtain the cash, families needed to go to a bank and draw the money from their own accounts There were no middleman handing them the cash and they had full control over the receipt and expenditure of the cash.

Whilst getting into the programme itself was easy, staying in required that the beneficiaries signed up to a range of conditions or contrapartidas (counterpart responsibility). Some of these included:

  • Ensuring all the children between six and fifteen years old attended school at least 85% of the time
  • All children got immunisation
  • Both mothers and children got regular medical check-ups
  • Pregnant women needed to get prenatal care and breastfeed their children.

President Lula was determined to break the intergenerational trap – and ensure that parents gave their children a better head start and advantages which they themselves may not have enjoyed.

This social contract between the government and the beneficiaries meant broadly there was a greater adherence to the conditions.

There were also strict penalties for those who did not comply and non-compliance meant being first suspended from the programme before being completely struck-off for continued transgressions.

 

The initial sceptics

When Lula launched the programme, he faced very highly qualified cynics and naysayers, economists and development agency experts who thought the notion of giving cash directly to the poor will be misspent and be ineffective as they felt it created a culture of dependency and that the poor will spend the money on alcohol and other demerit goods.

However, the visionary Lula had the right idea when he mentioned to J. Tepperman:

“The number one teacher in my life was a woman who born and died illiterate: my mother. With all due respect to experts and academics, they knew very little about the poor. They know a lot about statistics, but that’s different, sabe?

To an intellectual, putting $50 into the hands of a poor person is charity, an academic has no idea about what a poor person can do with it. But that’s because at university, they don’t teach you how to care for the poor. And it’s because most experts have never experienced what the poor go through every day. They’ve had to work without breakfast. They’ve never lived in a flooded house, or had to wait three hours at a bus stop. To experts, a social problem like inequality is only numbers.”

 

A policy that favours the poor favours all

Whilst Lula and the policy’s opponents and economists were convinced this hugely controversial policy was going to be a terrible idea, Lula was convinced in his belief that this was the right thing to do. He also had a strong notion that putting cash into the hands of the poor will help them participate in market economics and help the economy grow.

Lula remarked: “When millions can go to the supermarket to buy milk, to buy break, the economy will work better. The miserable will become consumers.”

The premise was simple: If the poor start spending, businesses benefit, social ills go down and society as a whole improves.

 

The fantastic outcomes that transformed a society

  • Bolsa Familía now supports 14 million families (or 55 million Brazilians)
  • It has reached a quarter of Brazil’s population and 85% of the poor.
  • The small payments have helped double the incomes of Brazil’s most destitute.
  • In the first three years of the programme, extreme poverty was cut by 15%.
  • Income inequality has also reduced by a third as a result of the Bolsa Familía. The poorest 20% saw their incomes rise by 6.2% while the richest 20% saw growth of only 2.6%. (In contract, in the US, the richest 10% grew their wealth by 2.6% while the poorest 10% actually saw their wealth decrease by 8.6%).
  • Vaccination rate has increased to 99% of the population.
  • Malnutrition amongst children has reduced by 16%. Infant mortality dropped by 40% over the last decade, with deaths from malnutrition dropping by almost two-thirds – the sharpest decline anywhere in the world.
  • Children of Bolsa Familía recipients have graduation rates that are double that of poor Brazilian children who are not in the programme.
  • The number of children forced to work has reduced by 14%.

When the Bolsa Familía was originally launched, opponents of the programme were of the view that it was going to drain the national coffers and be a huge drain on public finances. However, the entire programme has cost the government less than half a percent of Brazil’s annual GDP. In 2011, a study by the British Government also demonstrated that cash-transfer programmes like the Bolsa Famiía cost 30% less per person than traditional aid programs.

Further evidence has also shown that for every real disbursed by the government towards the Bolsa Familía programme, it has increased Brazil’s GDP by 1.7 reais!

Where next?

Ultimately the recipients of the Bolsa Familía have said that rather than feel stigmatised and shamed, they have felt pride in being enrolled into the programme. The programme has allowed parents to give their children a good life and in the process given them greater autonomy, independence and above all, dignity.

This is an important facet of development which sometimes gets lost when viewed through the lens of economic analysis and statistics – that people need a sense of dignity and a programme that recognises this will ultimately be successful and be a driver of societal benefits.

The Bolsa Familía has become a pioneering programme that is inspiring many more countries and cities around the world – indeed Brazilian government officials responsible for the Bolsa Familía delivery are providing training and seminars for others seeking to emulate them. It is not just the emerging economies of the world learning from Brazil, but even major American cities like New York, which only goes to show that addressing poverty and inequality is THE policy issue that needs to be urgently addressed.

Social mobility and breaking intergenerational poverty and illiteracy traps are fundamental areas that need to be addressed by leaders and policymakers, in countries rich and poor.

bolsa familia 10

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Ethics and making a mockery of the Hippocratic Oath

Reading this case of an unprofessional and unethical doctor in Singapore provided me with some food for thought, particularly around the increasing role of ethics and professionalism, particularly in a world of increasing inequality.

It is critical that the vulnerable segments of society are given the appropriate levels of care and support because where unethical and unprofessional behaviours exist, they tend to exacerbate the suffering upon the vulnerable. Kudos also to the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) for pursuing this vigorously on behalf of the victim.

The case itself was interesting. Here was a doctor, Dr. David Wong Him Choon, a noted orthopaedic surgeon at Raffles Hospital, who chose to give only two days of medical leave for a foreign worker who had fractured his hand and had undergone surgery. There is increasing concern that there are doctors who are acting in collusion with construction companies to minimise the time off taken by their workers and to also limit their liabilities for compensation.

What is even more interesting/bizarre, is that previously (between June and December 2015) a Disciplinary Tribunal had acquitted Dr Wong of professional misconduct for giving insufficient hospitalisation leave despite the following findings:

  • The tribunal agreed that the appropriate time off (conservatively) for someone with a distal radius fracture was two weeks of medial leave. (Wong had given two days.)
  • The tribunal also agreed that Wong had failed in his duty to discuss with the patient to understand if there were adequate conditions for his rest and rehabilitation.

Despite the above, the Tribunal chose to acquit Wong on the basis of insufficient proof!

This led the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) (to their great credit) to file an appeal to the High Court which subsequently overturned the tribunal’s acquittal of Wong and convicted him of professional misconduct and sentenced him to suspension of medical practice for a period of six months.

Wong’s behaviour is morally reprehensible and runs counter to the Hippocratic Oath which states: “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

This raised a few questions for me, namely:

  • What was the composition of the Disciplinary Tribunal that showed such flagrant disregard to evidence, common sense and conventional wisdom and what is their justification for their acquittal of Wong?
  • Whilst Wong has been ordered to pay for the SMC legal and tribunal costs, will Wong also be responsible for the worker’s additional injuries and damages caused as a result of Wong’s unethical and negligent behaviour?
  • Is a six-month suspension/sabbatical a sufficient deterrence? Perhaps in addition to the six-months suspension, there should be a clear statement which suggests he will be struck off permanently for another violation and also be ordered to perform pro-bono activities for migratory workers in Singapore for a period of time. This will be not dissimilar to the Correct Work Orders (CWOs) imposed for a number of other offences in Singapore.
  • In addition to punishment meted out to the doctors, companies and firms, that also are responsible for the prevalence of such despicable practices must also be brought to account and be made an example of.

How a society supports and treats its most vulnerable, its most helpless and its most needy, is an indication of the society’s progress and humanity. A society that is materially wealthy but neglects to look after the concerns of its most helpless is but a poor and miserable one.