Take responsibility, we are a meritocratic society

Brandon Ngo

It used to be the case when we knew how to take responsibility. When I came home from school with a less than satisfactory grade on my test paper, I would be punished by my parents. I accepted it, because I knew that I was the reason why I failed, and I had to take the blame. The fact that other people could do well, while I could not meant that the problem lay with me.

However, Singaporeans, and many other people around the world seem to have forgotten what the word responsibility means.

When students fail their tests now, soft-hearted parents who listen to their child’s excuses go to school and complain that the exams are too hard. We see this every year with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Yet, the top scores rise every year. From an observer’s point of view, I would say that the parents are sore and the PSLE is either getting easier or kids are getting smarter.

The same thing applies in Singapore today, where we seem to have forgotten that we are the only ones responsible for our future and that the government has never, and should never interfere in our future.

People point to income inequality as the fault of the government, and this is true to a certain extent. But often we get emotional and forget that at the root of the problem is us. We are expecting to be paid more than what the market is willing to pay for, and they end up blaming the government which often has little to do with the current market prices. Look in the mirror, and justify why you choose the cheaper brand whenever you shop, but companies cannot choose the cheaper and better worker.

When you work in the office and get paid $y a year, after many years, you only get $500 more, but inflation has made that almost worthless. Who do you blame? Most netizens point the finger at the government, but they should take a mirror out instead. As an employee, you are only producing $y worth of work a month. When your pay rises, it means that your work is valued more. A bonus is to reward you for your work. So if your pay doesn’t rise to meet inflation, it means that your value hasn’t risen as much as the value of other things which has risen. So take responsibility and acknowledge that your work has not grown in value over the years, and you will have to buck-up, work harder and smarter. Maybe then you will get your promotion and not complain over the cost of living.

People whine about foreign workers (FWs). They say that these FWs do not need to serve national service, go for reservist or feed a family here in Singapore. They say that FWs take their subsidies, then leave when they are about to retire. But that is not looking at the problem. You were educated under a world class education system and live in a society that is actually capitalist and meritocratic. Yet you lose to someone that had to grow up in a much tougher environment and you complain. Are you so lousy that two weeks of extra, partially compensated leave and CPF contributions (~13% more) make you less viable than a foreigner who probably doesn’t speak English as a native language? If he is equally qualified, then you should improve yourself.

Yes, the government can come in and regulate, set a minimum wage, but the problem remains the same. As of today, Singaporeans (by Singaporeans, I mean the people who hire these workers) feel that cleaners should be paid only $xxx a month, and that every dollar more spent on cleaning means less profits and subsequently less money for the office staff. Would you as an employee of the company, like to donate $100 of your pay so that the cleaner in your office gets paid $100 higher? If yes, then be my guest and donate it to him/her. But just because you are willing to do so doesn’t mean our co-workers are willing to do so. When the government sets a minimum wage and prices for basic services rise, that money will most likely come out of your bonus.

The opposition promise to restrict immigration. They say this is to wean companies off cheap labour. I fully support their stand. Companies need to learn how to do more with less in order to grow, and that means the quality of workers (us) should improve. But history has shown that we are lazier, dumber and more demanding than the foreigners. If we do not take responsibility and solve this problem, then restricting foreigners is not going to give you a job.

Reality is often colder, harsher and more cruel than the utopia that we imagine. I admit that there are many people out there that are so poor that they are literally penniless. The Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) website has taken pains to compile many sob stories for us. Go read and empathize with them. These are the people that the MPs and charity organizations try to help. If you are kind and have values, please donate your money to them. But don’t expect me to pay for the poor from my pocket (taxes). I want to choose how much and who to donate to (it helps so much better this way). I do not want a government to take my money and spend it inefficiently in helping the poor.

The government has never been a social institution. Those that tried have failed horribly (the US 14.66 trillion dollars, UK 23 billion pounds budget deficits). I work long and hard, but at least I am proud to say that I am worth my salary, not some artificial amount dictated by the government.

Vote for the government that gives you the most choices and the best opportunities, not for governments that waste your money on things that should never be compulsory, that is, charity, YOG.

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Headline picture from transitioning.org.

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