Are you LISTENING?

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Yap Kim Hao

Throughout the General Election and its aftermath the word that kept popping up was: LISTEN.

Everyone claims they want to listen. Candidates from the opposition said they had listened to the voters and were responding to their cries. They then listed the litany of woes of those who found their present living situations difficult and the future bleak.

People’s Action Party (PAP) candidates had to defend and even apologized for not having listened enough to the grievances of the people and they promised to do better.

It is necessary for us to listen to all sectors of our community. We are pleased to listen to those who succeed and able to manage their lives. We need to listen and empathise with those who are struggling with the basic necessities of life in the midst of our relative affluence. The suffering of others in our community is also mine as a fellow human being. When one suffers all share in the suffering.

Some issues have surfaced which need to be addressed for the total well-being of the nation. Are we really listening to what the people are saying? All will have to work together in solving the issues we hear about.

High Salaries.

We have reached beyond the embarrassing stage where those who hold political office are paid the highest salaries in the world, beyond comparison with the more developed and larger countries. It is on a  scale which is truly “out of this world.” Others even regard it as obscene and a form of corruption. It can no longer be justifiable by any means. The opposition has shown convincingly that they were able to recruit equally outstanding and talented people who are not tempted with astronomical remunerations.

Casinos

While it is true that government revenue has increased significantly and that a large number of new jobs were created, the question remains whether the gambling industry is the one that we need to engage in and the kind of jobs that we need to train workers for. The social costs are alarming. The “house” is calibrated to win always and millions of dollars are being siphoned out daily to the owners of our casinos. Lives are being sacrificed at the casino altars.

Minimum Wage

Wages need to consider the living wage for our workers and their families. Foreign workers who compare their own living conditions in their own countries are willing reluctantly to accept lower than living wages. Corporations in our borderless economic world will seek out countries that pay the lowest wage for workers in order to maximize their profits. Without a minimum age policy we are exploiting poor foreign workers and enriching the companies especially in the manufacturing sector.

Gerrymandering

It is obvious enough that there is gerrymandering to ensure the continued control of those in power. Whatever name we use it is a deliberate attempt through the electioneering process to benefit the party in power. The degree and the manner which we have done in the GRC’s have made its continuance highly problematic. We do not train people for political office by getting them to hang on to the coat-tails of successful office holders and bypass the proper election process of having the candidate contest in single-member constituencies.

Widening Gap

The ever widening gap between the rich and poor has no other option but to narrow. When the poor cannot afford to retire and continue to work in order to survive we see that could be one’s fate when one retires. When we depend upon our children’s medisave to pay our hospital bills we are spending not only our children’s inheritance but their present savings. The need for more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth is crying out from the more deprived segments of our community.

Social capital

When I watch the tremendous crowds attending the political rallies, I look at other massive crowds gathered in many parts of our world today demonstrating for change and succumbing even to the violent overthrow of authoritarian regimes that have been in power for decades. There is an urgency
to build up the social capital of people who are committed to peaceful change. We need people to show fairness and to commit to compassion and to engage in caring for one another.

These are the pressing issues that come to mind when we listen to the voices from all directions when we go through a general election. They are the voices for change. If changes do not occur fast enough violence becomes the only option and we all suffer.  We listen to the pleas and the cries of the people who suffer from the pressures of these problems. We can eavesdrop and listen to the voices from afar and they are reaching our shores. The listening process must necessarily lead to action to solve these issues in our society.

Are you listening?