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S'poreans asked to take bitter medicine for 2nd time. By Andrew Loh.

PM Lee prescribes bitter medicine – again

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Andrew Loh / Deputy Editor

In February this year, I wrote a piece titled, Bitter medicine prescription - with a little spin thrown in. It was in response to the Parliamentary debate on the budget. Nine months later, we revisit the comments and remarks by some People’s Action Party (PAP) Members of Parliament (MP) made in February and in 2007.

In the earlier article, I asked:

With the cost of living increasing at an alarming rate and inflation breaching record levels, one wonders when Singaporeans will get to “enjoy” the fruits of this so-called “golden era”.

Well, it looks like we will have to wait a little while longer because, just today – 28 November – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that “there is still bitter medicine to be taken” (CNA), echoing what he said in 2007 with regards to the GST hike:

"Is it better to take your medicine sooner or stretch it out? Take medicine once or two times? I prefer to take my medicine early…" he said then. (CNA)

Then as now, he did not say how long more Singaporeans will have to swallow such “bitter medicine”, of course. But all projections say that the current downturn will last between two to three years. So, that gives us an idea of how much longer the “doctor” will have to prescribe his everlasting “bitter pills”.

But wait.

Were we not told of all the nice things that will happen to us if we took our “bitter medicine” in 2007? During the debate in Parliament on the Budget (and the GST hike) that year, various PAP MPs defended the Government.

MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Lee Bee Wah, was reported by the Straits Times thus:

On Ms Lim’s criticism of the timing of the GST hike, she said it was better to raise the tax now while the economy was doing well, rather then wait till things took a turn for the worse. Using a Hokkien phrase, she warned against ‘looking for a toilet only when one needs to pass motion’, a comment that evoked laughter from the House. (Link)

I think Singaporeans are the ones looking for the toilet now, with the bitter pill seemingly a laxative, rather than any actual relief.

Various PAP MPs all had very high praises for the budget then – calling it 'comprehensive and forward-thinking', 'good-intentioned', one which was 'made in heaven', 'inclusive and a landmark Budget', ‘pragmatic, innovative and exemplary’, a ‘viable alternative to welfare’, ‘generous and forward-looking’.

Dr Fatimah Lateef was ecstatic, almost in a trance, one would think, in her praise:

Let me share with her (NCMP Sylvia Lim) that nowhere else in the world can you get a Budget which includes love and compassion in abundance as this one.

Well, as they say, love and compassion won’t fill your stomachs.

And so more “bitter medicine” is needed – even after more than a year.

More “bitter medicine” and “bitter pills” for Singaporeans, of course, in case you’re still wondering. For the ministers, they have not-so-bitter medicine for themselves. In fact, just two months after that Parliamentary debate, ministers had the first of their scheduled 3-step pay hike in April 2007. The second rise came in January this year (2008).

What about Singaporeans?

Well, we saw record inflation – and a whole host of costs increases across the board; everything from rice to petrol, bus fares to milk powder. What Singaporeans experienced was a relentless rising cost of living in Singapore. Have a look at the list here but be careful, it might make you puke out the bitter medicine our white-shirted doctors are prescribing.

But lets be serious.

Dear Prime Minister, Singaporeans have taken bitter medicine for more than a year now – since you yourself prescribed it in Parliament in 2007 and you said that "once we have done it, we can move on." (CNA)

Well, where are we moving on to now? More bitter pills?

Channel NewsAsia, on November 2008, reported you as having said:

Mr Lee said that while there is still bitter medicine to be taken, the Singapore government has put a bit more sugar coating on the pill. (CNA)

Dear Prime Minister, “sugar coating”?

You asked in 2007:

Is it better to take your medicine sooner or stretch it out? Take medicine once or two times?

Dear Prime Minister, I am beginning to feel that your medicine is not very good – or effective. They only seem to make your “patients” dependent on your prescriptions. You seem to take some morbid pleasure in using the term “bitter medicine” too. You have used it twice in two years.

Prime Minister, the very fact that you keep using the terms “bitter medicine” and “bitter pills” show me the insensitivity which you seem to display towards what Singaporeans are going through.

Perhaps you and your team should try and taste some of the bitter medicine you dish out so happily to Singaporeans.

Or perhaps Singaporeans should prescribe some bitter pills for you and your team – at the next General Elections.

Perhaps then, we can all be rid of such neverending sugar-coated bitter pills.

After all, under your leadership, all that Singaporeans seem to be doing these past years is swallowing bitter stuff – while at the same time, being told by you and your Government how exceptional a government you are and how Singapore is in a ‘golden period’.

Someone, certainly, is being fooled.

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Picture from epthinking.

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