Category: Current Affairs
Published on Saturday, 05 September 2015 13:52
Written by Andrew Lum
So in light of the election coming up much sooner than anticipated, I have a sudden compelling need to assert my opinion to every one I know who is willing to listen, is interested in politics, or both. I don't care if you are for PAP, or WP, or another opposition party.
At this point in time, I don't care who I'm talking to. You are probably my family member, one of my best friends, ex-primary classmate, ex-secondary classmate, someone I've met overseas, someone I had a one night stand with. Whatever. As long as you're a Singaporean. Or if you are no longer a Singaporean but still have relatives who reside here.
So if you're going "What the hell, so long never talk now suddenly write me such a long message?!", I totally understand your annoyed curiosity. But this message is important because it is Singapore I am talking about - your country and mine - and I have a fierce innate need to protect it, and the people I care about who are currently living in this beautiful, thriving, yet vulnerable country which we call home. I just hope you read it all before deleting this message (or me from your friend's list).
I can start by saying how much I've learnt from studying and working overseas as a Singaporean, how people are fascinated in my unique identity of being a Singaporean (because frankly you don't meet many Singaporeans working in the US and Canada), and how much I've learnt to appreciate Singapore. But let's cut the crap and get straight to the point:
We Singaporeans are a bunch of spoilt brats.
We are a bunch of complaint kings and queens. Just look at when the MRT breaks down. "Wah lao, half an hour already MRT still haven't come, hot like shit leh"; "All those foreign workers lah! Country so small already still want to increase the population"; and my personal favorite: "LTA CEO Chew Hock Leong should be sacked!"
Seriously?? Well thanks to some unhappy ducklings, Mr. Chew decided to step down.
Now let me shift gears a little. I'm currently living in New York City, and have so experienced the pleasures of the subway, also known as the MTA. NYC is huge, so there are 22 different subway lines to accommodate people living all over the city. They have express trains to speed up the commute, and most trains run on a 24 hour schedule.
The subway systems are also ALWAYS delayed, has the most adorable brown rats scavenging for their latest snacks, and has a death toll of over 100 people a year who fall and die on the tracks, either by suicide or they get pushed down by some racist mad man
Compare the statistics to Singapore's MRT. How many people have died since the establishment of the MRT in 1987?
Just a handful.
My point is, that our present government is at least responsible. After the incident of the Thai girl who fell down the tracks in 2011, the government hurriedly put up barriers on all MRT stations ASAP.
The other thing too, is that the MRT is government-run, and most probably debt-free. The MTA on the other hand, located in USA's most metropolitan city, is privately run, and is currently $10 billion dollars in debt.
You read right. A first-rate city in a first-world country: 10 billion frickin' dollars in debt.
That's why despite the constant fare increase every year and a half or so, the subway service is still in no better shape than it was two decades ago. Two-hour delays in the blistering cold or sweltering heat is not uncommon.
You get my point with the MTA vs. the MRT.
But I want to head on to deeper, graver matters.
We have issues with inviting tons of foreign labour into our workforce.
All the "stupid Chee-Na people shouting across the train cars, shitting in public outside our MRT platforms and Um Poo Nehs leaving their disgusting mucus on the side screens in the MRT where people lean on."
It is unpleasant, I don't deny it. In fact, after someone told me about the mucus, I got paranoid for a while making sure there was no mucus before leaning when I saw an unoccupied side screen.
We complain about the shortage of jobs in Singapore, and it's because of the tsunami inflow of foreign workers in the last decade or two. Every time I come back to Singapore (which has been rather frequent of late), I hear and see a lot of Filipinos working as nurses in hospitals, both private and government. I am uncertain of what kinds of jobs we are really complaining about in terms of having the foreign workers taking over our jobs, but I am certain they are jobs that most of us (especially us Millennials) will not want anyway.
Case in point: I know of someone, a Singaporean obviously, who recently after being registered as a nurse upon graduation, worked for 1.5 years and then quit. The reason she gave me was because she felt that working in the hospital was not for her. The real reason (fed back to me from someone else) was that she felt that the job was too tiring.
Thank god for foreign workers, or our hospital patients will be left sleeping and watching TV in their own poop all day because someone decided to quit because she is too tired.
My cousin's husband, also a Singaporean and a team leader in an engineering firm, says he prefers to hire foreigners than locals, because "all the locals I've hired except for maybe one are lazy and have always given me attitude. They put out the least and expect the most. All the foreigners I've hired just work and get the job done."
We need foreign workers, skilled and unskilled, because our work attitude is shit. For those whose work attitude is top-notch (which I'm sure yours are, since I like to pride myself in having quality friends and family), we still need foreign workers.
We invite the unskilled labor so that WE don't have to go under the hot, humid heat laying bricks and cement for the construction of roads and the development of new buildings in our country.
WE get to sit in an air-conditioned room shuffling papers and building the economy that way. WE have the choice to be entrepreneurs, which the government highly encourages but which most of us don't take advantage of.
This is how our economy has grown - and it is because of foreign workers doing the jobs that need to be done but the locals won't touch.
We will have social issues inviting foreigners here. That is inevitable. It is also usually fixable with time.
We will have devastating economical issues if the country is unadaptable to change and ceases to grow. That... may not be so easily fixable in time.
Instead, the government has spun all the new developments into something that even other first-world countries lack. Public washrooms that look so luxurious you could spend all day putting your makeup on in there and not feel disgusted that you just tried to pretty yourself up ten feet away from someone peeing. A first-rate subway system that is 99% on time (fuck the complainers - you have not travelled. If you have, shame on you). High tech systems in our public libraries (in USA and Canada, the majority of books are still checked out by crummy old-lady librarians).
And I credit these advancements to the blood, sweat and tears of our unskilled foreign workers, as well as the innovation of some of our skilled foreign workers. And of course, the brilliance and efficiency of our current government body.
And some hardworking, innovative Singaporeans, of course. Just some.
Housing is not affordable.
At least that is the main complaint. A Howard Lee mentioned in the Online Citizen about how "homes in Singapore are not affordable. Affordability is not buying something you will pay for 30 years down the road, at possible risk to your own retirement and a future family you dare not have. Affordability is paying for something you are comfortable with today without having to bet on your future."
While Mr. Lee's statement makes sense - grammatically - he and many others fail to see the much bigger picture. Which is:
At least you have a home you can call your own.
I don't know how he came about that definition of "affordable". In my experience and through the eyes of many others, affordability is when you have the financial capability to acquire that which you want. "Comfortable" is hardly ever in the mix, especially not if you are just a white-collared worker. Or in his case, a journalist.
What most Singaporeans are, I suspect, are that we have acquired a dependent taste for comfort. So if something is not comfortable, something is not right.
I reiterate: Singaporeans are a bunch of spoilt brats.
Look around at the other countries. Let's start with the first-world countries, USA and Canada. While their internal regulations differ, the general outlook is the same: most people can't afford to buy their own homes. By standard definition, it means that if the bank doesn't offer you a loan, the house is unaffordable. Hence, many end up renting, and most for the rest of their lives.
For those who can secure a loan, if they don't make timely payments on their mortgage, the bank forecloses it and your home is gone. Just like that. In comparison, HDB is a lot kinder to you, as in the case of one of my relatives. I would disclose more details, but I am not 100% certain about the housing procedures here and so do not dare risk disclosing fuzzy data. All I know is, HDB will be kinder to you than banks will be.
In the case of a foreclosure, you are left with nothing but a bad credit record which will ruin the rest of your life. Because guess what? The government there doesn't care.
Zooming over to Hong Kong. Population is skyrocket high. There is also a housing crisis. I have a Hong Kong friend who is going to get married in November. When she finally marries the love of her life, they will be staying in a rented flat. She is 29, her husband-to-be only a couple years older. And they are not expecting to own their own home ever, because the housing there is too expensive. They don't even have the luxury of securing a loan for a place they can absolutely call their own, even though they are considered middle-class in Hong Kong.
Or the other guy who had to beg his employer to not increase his pay for the next ten years, because he had applied for government housing which takes 10 years to get approved. At any time in that ten years, if your income hits above a certain bracket, you are out of the loop to getting your own "affordable" home, and are kicked back to renting an apartment, or living with your parents.
I don't even need to go to the third world countries at this point. Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand. Your own home? Sure! Build one in the middle of the forest, or swamp, and you can call it your own.
We Singaporeans are extremely lucky that there is even such a housing program out there for us to own a home. Don't forget, we weren't too different from The Philippines sixty years ago. Philippines have not progressed much, if at all. We are now a first-world country with developments that have surpassed other first-world countries.
As the world-renown American blogger, Mark Manson once said, "Singapore is like Manhattan, 100 years from today."
We are living and breathing in a country that has taken extremely good care of us all these years. You don't see smelly homeless people lying around the streets and in subway stations (i.e. NYC).
So housing complainers: Shut up and count your blessings.
I don't need to go into the detail of the different government corruptions. It's not necessary. All I will say is corruption is everywhere. It is in every country.
Psychological research has shown that people with power are highly likely to exploit the lesser people.
Human beings will always be imperfect. Even the government, which, surprisingly, is made up of - you guess it - human beings!
You have to focus on the bigger picture, which is: This country is safe. You can walk around in the middle of the night without having to fear being robbed. You can sleep without having to worry about being burgled. Sure, cases do exist here, but really, do spend a month in Malaysia; just the constant upkeep to be conscious about being careful when taking your phone out, just in case it gets snatched suddenly - in broad daylight. Or putting an electric fence around your home and feeling like a house prisoner every day, because burglary is rampant in your area.
You are living in fear all the time because the country is that corrupted.
The government in the United States is a joke. In reality, the United States does not have a government. It has many, and they are called corporations and banks. Yes my friends, the American government is controlled by the corporations and the banks.
Here's how. Because of their free capitalist policy of having a president no longer than two terms, prospective candidates have to campaign, and you have to campaign all over the country, stopping by all 50 states. This incurs cost: food, travel and lodging, amongst other miscellaneous costs. It adds up. So how do they get the money? Sponsors. Who sponsors them? You guess it. Whoever has lots of money. And in this case, corporations and banks have the financial power to sponsor the little guy: the ambitious lawyer, or doctor, or state senator, or the super gung-ho McDonald's employee, so that they can get their message across and hopefully win votes.
Nothing is for free, however. There is always a silent pact made between the sponsor and the candidate. For example, if Bank of America were to sponsor Jeb Bush (George Bush's brother who is currently campaigning for the 2016 election), they could propose something like: if you get elected president, you must make it legal to have credit card interest rates raise to 40% of the principal loan. Or mortgage rates to go up by 12%.
In return, they will house him in comfort and luxury for the length of his campaign.
This is just a hypothetical example and the numbers are a little over-exaggerated, but the underlying concept stands. Will Jeb Bush say yes? Sure. It doesn't affect him. He gets paid $100,000/yr and lives rent-free when he is president. He doesn't need credit from them. It's the citizens who take up credit who will suffer from this proposal.
I don't even need to spend my energy talking about third world country corruption. Seriously.
But okay, I will talk a little bit about that.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was exposed by The Wall Street Journal for embezzling US$700M (RM2.67 billion) to his personal accounts. He cites "donations" from Saudi Arabia. The ringgit has been in steady decline since his tenure. Earlier this year, the GST in Malaysia jumped from 0% to 6%. Overnight, just like that. I was in Malaysia on the day they implemented the GST increase (April 1, 2015) and couldn't even get a calling card because all their systems were down.
Former president Marcos looted billions of dollars from the Filipino treasury during his 30-year rule. It is so widespread that they even made a Broadway production out of it.
Overall, Singapore is still developing, and at a rapid but steady rate. I don't know about you, but I can totally overlook the tiny corruption innuendoes if the country continues to be SAFE and economically STRONG.
GOVERNMENT SALARY IS OUTRAGEOUS
Would you rather have an overpaid politician who does a rigorous job developing a country tremendously well so that we can all live comfortably; or an underpaid politician who doesn't give two shits about developing the country and providing for their citizens - instead taking bribes left, right and centre from whoever sponsors them?
The reason I am taking so much precious time away from my projects to write all this is because I personally think that Singapore has entered into a dangerous zone in the last few years. Yes, I really think that this is more serious than what it seems. Maybe you are not smelling it yet. Maybe because everything is going so well. So comfortable.
However, seeing disgruntled comments on the internet, and hearing the rants of some family members and close friends, have made me conclude in the theory that if this inconsequential dissatisfaction goes on, Singapore will not last long.
Here's why. When a person is disgruntled, they are open to change. When a "savior" comes along, guess what happens?
By now, you would have guessed which government party I'm rooting for.
Because personally, I think that governing a country is not an easy feat. It takes a lot of brainpower, innovation, creativity and problem-solving skills to keep a country stable and its people happy. It is a few-men job serving an entire country. If you are a teacher, you will understand. How easy is it to maintain a class of 40 kids? The ratio of governing a country like Singapore is about 1:10,000. That is 1 government rep to 10,000 citizens. Will there be problems? Of course! Will there be discord? Sure!
However, we need to address the issues properly, not turn them into machine guns and use them to fire our own home team. As mentioned earlier, the government is made up of people. They are not Gods. They are regular people with brains and human DNA no different from the rest of us. People make mistakes. Yes, maybe they brought in the foreigners too fast too soon. But what matters is that the government is at least addressing their mistakes and striving to maintain stability for the country at the same time.
This is a vital point, so let me repeat:
What matters is that the government is taking steps to address their errors, all while maintaining stability for the country and constantly focusing on its growth, all at the same time.
Remember, our current government body did not just succeed in maintaining a country, it helped to DEVELOP it from a third-world country to a first-world country, in a span of a mere 50 years. That, my friends, is one helluva incredible feat. Have you noticed?
If you have been busy complaining, you haven't.
I have been blunt up to here, but I will now half-apologize for being brute for what I am about to say next:
If you decide to vote our present government out, you are not just foolish, ignorant and unappreciative, but you will be endangering the livelihood of all the other people who have benefited from the hard work that was put forth by PAP all these years since the beginning.
Having said that, I now withdraw my half-apology. There is no apology needed for pointing out stupid actions.
We all have to remember, that we are a country with NO NATURAL RESOURCES. The reason that we have been able to survive and thrive all this while is because of the brilliance of Lee Kuan Yew and his dedicated team. Not only have they built a country from the swamps up, they have succeeded in maintaining a debt-free country and accumulated BILLIONS of dollars in reserves. When your country is debt-free, you are not subjected to the manipulation of banks and corporations to control your ruling, making the government free to do what it is meant to do.
The fact that we have NO NATURAL RESOURCES puts us in a very vulnerable position. Other countries that are in debt are still surviving because they have natural resources that they can always export to keep them alive. The reason we are able to survive and thrive is because of foreign investments. Foreign investments is the main reason we have made giant strides in terms of development.
Take away foreign investments, and what do you have? That's right. Nothing. We have nothing, guys. But what we could do is export our people, since people are our only resource at this point, right? And so our women will work as maids, and our men will be construction workers for other countries. Get ready for your family to be split up just to put a roof over your children's heads.
Or the likelier outcome will be that China will eat us up. We get sucked back in to the very country we constantly complain about. Hail Mao!
These are all hypothetical, but I do not believe them to be too far from a possible reality, if this disgruntledness from our short-sighted, unsatisfied local Singaporeans persists.
You have to be very careful about who you vote for. If you vote for a party who does not have sufficient experience in governing a country, Singapore will fall much faster than the time it took to build her up. And we have nothing to back us up, because we have NO NATURAL RESOURCES.
Personally, I think you have to really reconsider what you value. The government has only so much control in terms of staying in power. Because of our socio-democratic policy, you have to learn to fend yourselves against sweet talks. In my personal life, I have learnt to always be sceptical with what others say, and to only trust them by what they have done. This is even more so for politicians. It is easy to cajole disgruntled citizens to get their vote, but as a voter, can you trust that they will keep their word? More importantly, do you know if they will be capable enough to fend us from economic attacks?
The WP won Aljunied GRC in 2011. In these last five years, they have not shown us much in terms of progress. What significant progress has Aljunied shown? Nothing. What they have shown instead is a deficit in their accounts and a host of other issues. I don't care for excuses of the PAP trying to squelch them out of that one constituency, since they can't even manage one constituency well. Excuses are a symptom of irresponsibility, and they are used by the weak. The fact is, you either produce results or you don't.
If I were in the shoes of the WP, I would put in 200x the work and make Aljunied progress significantly. I would work my ass off to surpass what the PAP could do. I would gather top brains and brainstorm with them to advance Aljunied and make the neighborhood symbolic to my efforts. I will want to show fellow Singaporeans that I can do this, so that you can vote for me with more confidence in the next election.
The WP has shown none of that. Which means they are either complacent, or incompetent. And either is bad news. In addition to their inadequacy, Low Thia Khiang said he would touch the reserves to reduce housing costs in order to appease the local population.
ARE YOU FOR REAL?!?!!??!?!
The reserves, which was painstakingly built over the years is NOT to keep whiny Singaporeans happy. The reserves is to buffer out emergency crises. The reason why we are still able to be competent as a country despite the 1997 Asian crisis and the 2008 crisis is BECAUSE of the reserves. Despite the crises, we are still able to develop and grow and surpass other first-world countries. If it wasn't for the reserves, we would probably be in a very different scenario right now. You may not even have the opportunity to complain about so-called "housing affordability" while Singapore struggles to bring herself back to stability. It takes a few years to bounce back from an economic crash. Singapore was able to get back up on its feet with lightning speed both times because it has no debt and an abundance of financial reserves.
You don't have adequate financial reserves and you end up worse than Greece, because this is Singapore we are talking about.
I have absolute zero confidence in the Workers Party and the other opposition parties. Mainly because they did not have the mentoring experience from MM Lee during the development period of Singapore. If the PAP was able to build a country from the ground up debt-free, it will be easy for them to maintain it, because the system is already in place. To vote for a new government means a change in the governmental system, which will take a number of years to get established. And frankly, because we have NO NATURAL RESOURCES, Singapore does not have the luxury to test out new forms of governmental implementation that have not yet been proven competent enough to lead the country.
Here is why: Foreign investors are watching us very closely. One wrong move in the change of hands of government ruling, and they will pull out faster than you can blink your eyes. These are the same foreign investors that we are highly dependent on for the survival of our country.
Despite these red flags, Singaporeans are still blinded with risky, lofty and IMO stupid promises. Both George Yeo and Tony Tan were key roles in bringing in foreign investments to Singapore in the last two to three decades. Remember what I said about that the only major source of growth we are dependent on right now is foreign investments?
And we are now entering a dangerous zone because George Yeo was voted out in 2011, and Tony Tan won by a narrow count of 7382 votes. That is only a 0.34% marginal win. If this electoral riskiness continues, we may not be a nation much longer.
Let's just all go to China.
Personally, I think we all need to put our whimsies aside and focus on the bigger, overall picture. Yes, the government is responsible for the country's growth, but we play a much bigger role in the country's economy and stability than you can ever imagine. We need to work with the government to address issues that we are facing, not cuss and swear and threaten to vote them out when something falls out of place.
Because at the end of the day, if the key leaders in our current government do get voted out, it will be us who will have to bear the consequences of dealing with the never-ending issues of government reformation, not the MP's. The MP's, especially the senior ones, will have made their money. All they need to do is cash out and go some place else to start a new life with the experience that they have accumulated from serving a country.
Case in point: Three months after George Yeo stepped down from politics in October 2011, he was immediately engaged as a senior advisor to Kuok Group. Since August 2012, he has become chairman of Kerry Logistics Network, a logistics company based in Hong Kong.
If you haven't already caught on, he became chairman of a company in less than a year of his political resignation. Talk about rocketing up the corporate ladder.
The MPs will be fine. It is us who will be stuck with the never-ending problems of a new governmental system, and the problems will be much more severe than MRT breakdowns, rude foreign workers or "comfortable housing affordability" (*roll eyes*). We will have to deal with actual job crises, the impact on Singapore during and after a world economic crash (which is bound to happen soon, if it isn't already happening now with the recent stock market crash), and new forms of government corruption which, I am 99% certain that that will be imminent, and far worse than what we have all found in PAP.
They may overlook and/or take slight advantages of certain things while they busy themselves with building a country, but you will never find a better governmental system than the PAP. A business investor (whose name I forgot) once said in a Forbes magazine, that "if only China was like Singapore, the world would be a much better place."
My mother always told me - and I love her to bits - that John F. Kennedy said during his inaugural address, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."
It is time we all grow up. Don't spend your time complaining about the nitty-gritty issues. Spend your time instead to find a way out of your rut, if you are in one. Don't nit-pick inconsistencies, work on fixing them. Use those educated brain cells of yours to figure out a way to get ahead, not waste it on clever grumbling. If the country is advancing at a rapid rate, work to keep up with it. Figure out a way to forge ahead, far far ahead. If you get left behind, it will be your fault because you got complacent. Singapore is filled with ample opportunity to succeed. The government is giving out ridiculous grants for local start-up companies. How can you take advantage of that? Instead of grumbling about not having enough jobs, how about you take the initiative to create jobs for others?
At the end of the day, a country is a country because it is made up of people.
You are responsible for how this country progresses. You will also be responsible for how this country might end up. The unfortunate thing is, that if you are careless in your actions, it may result in the downfall of others who do not deserve it.
So vote wisely.
Article is reproduced with permission and originally posted by Andrew Lum.