Reading Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong's (ESM Goh) response to a suggestion by a Mr Abdul Aziz to create a pension fund just for senior citizens is a reminder of what is inherently wrong with current government attitudes. Solutions aside, where is the ownership here? Where is the humility? Where is the accountability? Instead of answering the questions, ESM Goh is flipping the situation over by asking more questions. He asks the crowd if they would be willing to clean tables for $1000 a month. Perhaps, he thinks this is a very clever way of making a point but there are many flaws with his approach.
Firstly, the crowd is not representative of society as a whole. Has any actual research been done on this? Can he give actual evidence to back his statement up? If not, it is nothing more than a flimsy and dare I say it, lazy way of distracting the audience.
Secondly, by suggesting that it is either foreigners or old people who will clean tables because of the low pay, he has completely missed the point. Why does the pay have to be $1000? Where is this figure plucked from? Why can't we pay a living wage? He says that cleaning companies will look for the cheapest labour but one important thing to remember is that companies will do what they can get away with. Why are we allowing them to get away with exploitation?
Thirdly and most crucially, Mr Aziz brought home a very sobering reality which may have been left in the wayside because he mentioned the formation of a fund which our leaders of course jumped on. Whether or not the government can find sufficient cleaners is a side issue - the main question (which has not really been answered at all) is why old people have to work in the first place? That is the uncomfortable question that neither ESM Goh or Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mr Lim) have managed to address. The Central Provident Fund (CPF) was meant to be a safeguard in retirement. Clearly, it has not worked as well as it should have. Are we making attempts to rework the CPF concept or supplement it?
ESM Goh's tactic was to deflect by turning his attention on the lack of labour. Mr Lim's technique is an insistence that old people work because they want to. He further goes into a spiel about how working can prevent dementia using his own family members as examples. Good for him that his family members are in a position to work because they want to. His family members are not representative of the rest of Singapore. Is there a greater example of "ivory tower" leaders than this? I can assure Mr Lim that most elderly work because they cannot afford to live in this expensive island if they don't. Shame on our country that we have priced out elders out of the country which they call home.
Most damning of all is ESM Goh's remark that ministers are not paid enough and they have trouble attracting talent. Really? Why is it that other countries don't seem to have this problem? And honestly, despite the sky high salaries, where is this wonderful amazing talent we have attracted? Clearly, it isn't just about pay is it?
We have many opposition politicians in the past who were of high calibre. From the financial ruin that they found themselves in, it is manifestly evident that they were not attracted by high salaries. Why did they still do it? The late JBJ and Tang Liang Hong are but a few examples of politicians that did have promise but were crippled by financial sanctions. They were not given a chance to shine because they had the temerity to go against a privileged club. If ESM Goh is serious about recruiting talent, why does it only have to be PAP talent?
What about Sylvia Lim - I think she is an excellent ministerial candidate and it is pretty obvious that she ain't into politics for cash
The lack of understanding and engagement could not be more starkly represented here. I am appalled quite frankly. Just from this conversation, I cannot see any evidence of this mystical talent that our high salaries have attracted.