I am a Singaporean, born-in-Singapore citizen. I have loved this country all my life until recently. My dad’s pro-PAP stance and his take on politics had a huge influence on my positive perception until I grew older and experienced the downside of life – sometimes wondering if it was a direct impact of our government policies.
Many issues made me wonder if our government is still working for the citizens, as should all governments around the world:
Education – We are constantly reminded that Singapore lacks natural resources, and our people are the only resource we have. Yet our citizens do not enjoy free education for life – from preschools to universities. GIC and Temasek Holdings could have invested in Singapore citizens, in our only natural resource and our future.
Employment – increasing foreign talents and immigrants at a rate that has affected employment among citizens, who do not have the benefit of social welfare to fall back on. On the one hand, we are facing intense competition in the job market; on the other hand, places for tertiary education in universities are restricted. That signalled to me that Singaporeans will continue to take up lower-paying jobs while top salaries will be given to foreign talents sourced from around the world. Ironically, those talents are more likely to be hired based on paper qualifications than not.
I was competing for jobs with foreign talents yet I could not rent my flat to foreigners due to HDB quota, even though I needed the income. It felt like a double betrayal by government policies. I once made a joke about how Singaporeans are working as private hire drivers chauffering foreigner execs while the reverse is true in US movies.
Salary – We have relatively low pay and high cost of living compared to peers in developed nations. I have met foreign talents who experienced the same problem that we are facing. Most of them are not expatriates who have good salary packages.
HDB flats – Flats bought in the 70s-80s had very high profit margin and were good investments, but not for flats bought in recent years. Some had even experienced losses. Old HDB flats in popular mature towns losing value is a huge signal that this is no longer a good investment. New flats are being built and sold in areas of lower value, yet their prices are creeping up even as the old HDB properties are losing value, not to mention the supply of new flats is slow. Keep in mind that the tenancy of 99 years is a government policy but the land itself never ever expires. Instead of relying on the VERS many years from now, why not let owners sell their flats directly to developers who could then build new flats under HDB guidelines?
Immigrants – We do not have a competency test of English for immigrants even though it is our business language. I wonder about the quality of immigrants who would affect our workforce, culture and economy.
If a bigger population guarantees a stronger economy, then countries with a much bigger population than ours would not have any problems at all. Simply increasing numbers would benefit certain industries and probably continue to widen the income gap.
The people’s confidence in spending makes a difference – whether we want to spend money at retail stores, or we would rather save on the huge price difference and shop online, letting the money go directly to overseas merchants.
There are layers of incompetence embedded within the ministry hierarchies that affect decisions made for Singapore and her citizens. Singapore, like many countries, is facing widening income gap, and we are often the most unhappy people in the world. Certain solutions, even though viable, are not popular because of political and/or business implications. We need leaders who are willing to take calculated risks and experiment with these solutions.