By Roy Ngerng
On Thursday, Defence Minster, Ng Eng Hian said to the press that the Defence Ministry “is considering giving more recognition to NSmen by giving them a bigger stake in the country, such as in the areas of housing, healthcare and education“. In response to this news, AWARE had said, “Every person deserves access to housing, education and healthcare, because these are basic requirements for human sustenance and social participation.“
There has also been other debates and views over this issue.
Let’s take this debate to the fundamentals.
This situation of having to give more recognition to NSmen arose because:
- First, National Servicemen Full-time (NSFs) and National Service (NS) men have not been adequately compensated in the first place by the People’s Action Party (PAP) run government. Also, the government has not satisfactorily explained the need for enforced conscription at this present age and the differential standards surrounding conscription.
- Second, all Singaporeans have not been adequately protected for our housing, healthcare and education needs in Singapore – the prices we pay are unaffordable.
In the first place, it should be a basic right for all Singaporeans to receive adequate support for housing, healthcare and education. It is not the ruling party’s prerogative to use housing, healthcare and education as tools which they can use to bribe citizens with.
This means that we have to be very clear in this debate – giving more “recognition” to NSmen for “housing, healthcare and education” is long overdue not only for NSFs and NSmen but to ALL Singaporeans. Using this as a tool to placate NSmen shows that the ruling party believes that the provision of these basic rights to the citizens is a power beholden only to them. It is not. As a government, they should have provided these long ago for ALL citizens.
The fundamental wrong here is that the current government wants to use housing, healthcare and education as bribes to NSmen, when in the very first place, it has reneged on its responsibility to provide adequate and affordable housing, healthcare and education to NSmen and ALL Singaporeans.
If we are to fall for this show of appreciation to NSmen via more “recognition” for housing, healthcare and education, this means that we have forgotten that the government has neglected its duty in the first place not only to NSmen but to all Singaporeans. We should be aghast at how the ruling party is using this as a bribery tool, when it is a basic right of all citizens to receive adequate support in these areas, which has not been provided.
The solution, as has been discussed by many, is this:
- First, a government needs to clearly understand and explain why NSF and NSmen are required to undergo enforced conscription. A government also needs to increase the salaries (not allowances) of NSF and NSmen/women to levels commensurate to the liveability in Singapore for the people in service.
- Second, a government needs to provide much higher subsidies and right pricing for housing, healthcare and education to ALL Singaporeans.
Appropriate compensation to NSFs and NSmen and women are long overdue. To use housing, healthcare and education as a tool to placate the service personnel is a continued slight at how unimportant our service is. Appropriate remuneration is the rightful show of respect to our service, not piecemeal increments of our rights.
We need to look beyond the discussion to the inherent fundamentals of the current gridlock. NSFs and NSmen and women are showing great displeasure because of the inherent gaps highlighted above. It is not at the ruling party’s disposal to use their lack of adequate protection for ALL Singaporeans in housing, healthcare and education to cover up for their lack of adequate compensation for NSFs and NSmen and women, and vice versa.
We have to be very clear about this. The PAP as the ruling party has failed in both fundamental aspects and the government needs to step up in its responsibilities in both areas – towards NSF/NSmen and women, and towards ALL Singaporeans.
We cannot allow the use of what is rightfully our rights and their obligations at the reckless disposal of whoever holds the administrative power of the resources and policies. We have to be clear about how the government has faltered in its responsibilities and demand for rightful compensation for all.
We have to be careful not to let such divisive policy measures divide us. We must always look into the fundamentals, address the fundamental issue at hand, and realise what the fundamental solutions are.