By Gilbert Goh of Trasitioning.org
My fear is that if the ruling party calls a general election now they may lose a few more seats to the opposition based on the current environment. I have never met so many dissatisfied Singaporeans in my life.
1. Foreign workers
The issue of foreign workers is perhaps the biggest grouse of Singaporeans. The huge sudden influx of foreign workers into our tiny island state is too much for most locals to bear. Not only do they compete for employment opportunities with Singaporeans, they also drive down wages as manpower supply exceeds demand especially at the last recession.
Though the government has tried to placate Singaporeans by promising to slow down future intake of foreigners, the damage is already done and may cost the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) a large number of votes.
Prices of HDB resale flats have risen significantly since the middle of last year even in the midst of a recession. This is largely thought to be influenced by the huge number of foreigners bidding for resale flats. Moreover, the build-to-order (BTO) programme is not really going as well as proclaimed. Newly-married couples have to wait for at least three years and the locations of new flats are also not that popular.
Singles above 35 years of age can buy HDB resale flats but the sky-high prices are seen by some to be inflated by immigrants with strong cash reserves. They also felt victimised as the housing policy is seen to favour married couples.
3. High cost of living vs stagnated salary scale
The high cost of living has affected the spending power of most Singaporeans, notably the poor and lower middle income earners. The past recession has forced many Singaporeans to take on lower-paying jobs. Many who are retrenched from their high paying jobs have lost the hope of ever attaining such good-salary jobs again. They feel that the country has regressed.
The inflationary rate has also outstripped whatever small gain in salary the average wage earner has made. Many are also unable to save enough for their retirement - a potential time bomb for the country.
4. Bias In Human Resource Practices
Many PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) in their 40s and 50s are not able to find jobs easily as employers continue to be biased against this age group. With younger, cheaper foreigners waiting in line, employers have the upper hand here, especially when the economy is still in its gradual upward trend. Many who are desperate take on low-end jobs such as cab drivers and security guards to make ends meet. People in this age group often carry the burden of unpaid hefty home mortgages and educational funding for their children. Under-employment seems to be a main issue with middle-aged professionals who are armed with coveted degrees and MBAs.
5. People everywhere
Trains are more crowded as foreigners enter our country by the hundreds of thousands. Every part of this little red dot is swarmed as Singaporeans avoid their usual weekend solace at the shopping malls and cinemas. They begin to camp in at home during the weekends, wallowing in their frustration. They may also explore migration opportunities in the search for a better life abroad.
With overseas voting available for the first time in the forthcoming election, it will not be surprising if many of such votes should go against the ruling party.
6. Stressful lifestyle
The Singaporean lifestyle is often associated with stress and boredom. People simply move from one stressful environment to another as they progress in life.
From being stressed out at school due to the achievement-oriented environment to work stress prevalent everywhere, the typical Singaporean has often complained of having no time to relax.
Too much time spent at work has also contributed to a high divorce rate, as many couples fail to find the time to cultivate their relationships. This have also resulted in a spike in juvenile delinquent crimes as the lone parent can not find the time and space to care for their children left alone at home.
7. Lack of welfarism
There is general agreement that the government is stingy in its many welfare programmes. Many lament that they have to pay high prices for healthcare services. The sandwiched generation has a lot to complain about here as they have to care for their young children and aged parents.
In the eyes of the typical Singaporean, it is better to die poor and dignified than depend on the government for hand outs. Many have also complained of the high–handed ways Community Developement Council (CDC) officers have handled their welfare applications.
8. Skyhigh ministerial pay
Much have being said about the high salaries our ministers command. Ministers are paid in the millions and this have not gone down well with the people, especially when their own salaries are being squeezed by the influx of foreigners.
Ministers are also perceived as distant power figures, unable to understand how people on the ground feel while they plot their policies up in their ivory towers.
How many ministers actually take the MRT to work and attempt to understand how the common people feel about the peak hour crowding they endure on their way to work daily?
9. Huge losses on our foreign reserves
Recent reports on the huge losses incurred by Temasek Holdings and Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) have also stirred up a lot of negative sentiment against the ruling party.
Its failure to be transparent in its investments have caused many Singaporeans to believe that there are things that the two investment bodies are hiding from the public. As monies in the foreign reserves belong to the citizens of this country, people will naturally react adversely when news breaks about huge losses incurred by the government's two investment arms.
10. Push for change
People generally believe that change is needed in a stifling political environment that has long been dominated by a single ruling party for well over forty years.
The issue of foreigner workers may just be the main catalyst that push Singaporeans to demand for change. People are pragmatic and if their economic needs are not met, they may simply go for the jugular.
Forced out by foreigners in their work places and feeling second-class in their own country, Singaporeans may well throw caution to the wind and vote for an alternative.