By Jason Lim
The principles of the government in Singapore lies in the notion that everything must be the best and therefore, there will never be anything but the best.
This notion is highly demonstrated in all areas of governance found in the various government agencies and statutory boards in Singapore.
The question here is, who decides what and what is the best?
Singapore has come a long way since its independence in 1965. With no natural resources and a largely illiterate population then, Singapore has evolved into a country that boasts one of the highest literacy rate per capita and one of the richest country around the region in terms of financial reserves.
Present system needs to change
Well, all this can be attributed to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who conscientiously and diligently drove the nation forward with his policies and apt visionary skills.
Now, this was a long time time ago when the people of Singapore looked upon the leaders and powers that be, to lead them and in a perverse way, to control them. This has worked then but, it seems to be losing its effectiveness.
The Singapore today is not the Singapore then. The development of the country has also consequently led to the evolution of the demographical and psychological structure.
In the increasingly competitive global climate, the notion of survival are of utmost importance to the citizenry at large. Consumption issues also raise the degree of thought given to this. The mentality of the people in Singapore has evolved and the citizenry now wants to further participate in the promulgation of policies that affects the way they live - and even die.
The system that brought Singapore to where it is today has to change. Adapting to changes both domestically and globally will serve to benefit the continued growth of the country. This growth will then inevitably be sustainable.
Old ways losing its effectiveness
What the present government is doing now is to employ the very same method that was used about 40 years ago: top-down, autocratic policy-making process that are based on a "WE know what is good for you" manner.
That stance have proved to be indeed successful in the past. However, with prosperity comes affluence. With that, literacy and education, culminating in the development of new ways of thoughts and perceptions.
The people can differentiate what is good and what is bad. Of course, the leaders in Government may have better ways and methods of furthering the good of Singapore but all the people want is to be heard. To be included in the process, so to speak.
Issues of contention
Unpopular policies such as tax increases and such will always be criticised, no matter how noble or necessary it may be. The point of contention in the increase of the GST (Goods and Services Tax), from 5% to 7% was that the increase was necessary for the good of the nation. With the increase, the Government has also pledged to do more for the poor and needy.
How much more, remains to be seen. For the record, there are no social welfare programs like those found in truly developed First World Countries. Hell, even China gives more to the poor in terms of aid and assistance to the needy, albeit dubiously claimed.
Anyway the Singapore government does dish out some dough to the really and desperately poor an amount of approximately SGD$290 per month presently. In your opinion, do you sincerely think that this enough? Especially when you include rental, utilities and food/medicine in the equation?
By the way, Singapore ranks highly for being one of the places that has a high cost of living. Essentials aren't really that cheap here.
A dependency mindset?
Debates on the increase of the amount to be given to the poor were held in Parliament. Several members in the Parliament vehemently opposed the proposal, insisting that doing so may increase the dependency of the poor on the Government to "feed" them.
I'll agree that in some way, dependency will indeed be detrimental to the country. However, it is not easy to be placed under this "sacred" welfare scheme of the Singapore Government.
In a population of 4.5 million or so, there are only less than 2000 recipients for this assistance program. Wow, you may say. So little? Everybody else is comfortable then? Not so! Many have slipped through the cracks and are now either buried six feet down or stored in an urn somewhere; desperation sent them to their deaths.
Jumping off MRT stations onto the tracks to face an oncoming train were pretty popular just a few months back.
The increase of $30 in the public assistance scheme was vehemently opposed by some in Parliament who wanted more. But the government stuck to the $30. This was in fact a prelude to something sinister and totally inhumane.
A burning issue
Now, a big surprise to all echelons of Singapore society: a 50% increase in salary for Ministers. Even before this increase, they were already drawing an obscene amount as compared to the great nations’ government ministers and even Presidents.
Mind you, the amount that we are talking about is in the realms of at least a few hundred thousand dollars per person per annum. To think that they were fighting over an increase of a paltry $30 for the poor just a few days earlier, this is really an insult to the people who voted them in.
This announcement drew an unprecedented backlash from the general public, who were largely dormant on matters pertaining to politics. The first warning has come from the people!
Do not take Singaporeans for granted
In spite of the opposing tone as displayed in this article of the Singapore Government at present, I still think that in some areas, they have done well and the people of Singapore appreciates that in a way.
My point is this, do not take the people of Singapore for granted. We are nobody's fool. All we want is to be heard and have a hand in creating our destiny. Hear us, and we'll reciprocate.
This is our country and home too.
About the author:
Jason describes himself as “just an ordinary fellow who went through extreme ups and downs at a young age. Someone who is empathetic because I can relate.”
He also has a blog here: Just A Singaporean’s Thoughts