By Lawrence Seow
When I was younger, there were problems just like today. The big difference is I always had hope and believed someone out there had the solution. More than half a century has passed and I do not believe this anymore. Today I’ve come to realize our problems are so massive that no man, no leader, no company, no government or international organization has the answer. In my assessment, the world is not getting any better – with all our progress, inventions and technological advancements, people are not becoming happier or more relaxed. If anything, people are more competitive and less satisfied.
Let’s just talk about our “little red dot” – Singapore is an affluent nation and has become a playground for the rich. One can find, do and get anything on this tiny little island provided he has the dough. Without doubt this is a paradise for the wealthy, but remember the elite are only about 15% of the population. The rest of us do not get an equal slice of the pie. We struggle and work tirelessly to keep the wheels turning but are not rewarded equitably. The income gap continues to widen every year. To make matters worse, those top guys in government who get paid millions get protection when they mess up but the average Joe who gets paid peanuts will get the sack if he doesn’t deliver. They do not understand the phrase “the buck stops here”.
Before going on, let’s settle one thing. Many hold the erroneous concept that to criticize the government is to be unpatriotic to Singapore. Nothing can be further from the truth. We criticize in order to hold the government accountable when they are wrong and to remind them they were elected by the public and are responsible for and must have our welfare at heart.
Without beating around the bush, I do not believe in our government anymore. They can say whatever they want but they have lost my trust. They do not have a heart for Singaporeans. Bhutan has about 800,000 citizens and we have about 3 million citizens. Our GDP is a hundred (100) times theirs. You know what? Bhutan provides free education and basic healthcare for all her people. In Singapore you can afford to die but you cannot afford to fall ill. It will wipe out your entire savings and put your family in debt. That is how much our leaders care for us. They care more for their own pockets and self-interests.
They exist in their rarefied environment so far removed from the daily realities of the average Singaporean that they spout nonsense. There are many examples – the PM wants us to eat healthy but does not understand you don’t have a choice if $3 is all you can afford for a meal at the hawkers; they build casinos for employment but they are blind to the families that are destroyed as a result; the authorities want us to take public transport but the train keeps breaking down; the Transport Minister not only gets to keep his job, he even gets a salary hike, and if the PM and his Cabinet take the train everyday to work at least we can’t complain. They also banned chewing gum so many years ago but refuse to ban smoking because of the revenue they get. And the list goes on and on and on.
Too many things have transpired here in the past 15-20 years that have led me to this conclusion. So please understand I did not arrive at this position lightly or hastily. From paying themselves millions, the Certificate of Entitlement, the way they dishonored Mr Ong Teng Cheong when he asked for figures (to check them like they wanted), the way they demolish and destroy the opposition, the way the rewrote history and changed the facts to push for the Elected Presidency for a Malay candidate, the way they redraw the boundaries before every Election. And again the list goes on.
Their supporters always point to the fact that Singapore is way ahead of other countries and that 100 other nations can only wish for an economy like ours. This is, of course, true but it is also missing the point. We are in a good position because of the solid work and right policies of the past. We owe this to our Founding Fathers but to keep harping on our lead is simply resting on our laurels and ignoring the wrong and bad choices of recent years. There is plenty that is good about Singapore but make no mistake, there is also plenty that is wrong in recent times. We ignore this at our own peril and go down a slippery slope from which we cannot return. God bless Singapore!