While Singapore has topped the Human Capital Index (HCI) released by the World Bank, it also leads up the rear in the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index. On the face of these results, it would appear that while Singapore equips the well educated and savvy citizen onto better and greater heights, it does not support those who fall through the cracks enough for them to also access those opportunities. What does this say about our society and the values we possess?
It is also notable that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) has also chosen not to address the CRI. Is this an indication that the government is less interested in reducing inequality? Or rather, is it still refusing to accept that there is increasing inequality in our country? Back in 2015, in the lead up to the general election, PM Lee had pledged to be more inclusive – to build a society where no one is left behind. Three and the half years on, has PM Lee made good his promise? Looking at the CRI, I would say no.
Singapore is still by and large, a very prosperous country. However, many have noted that inequality is on the rise. The government is not blind to this and PM Lee tried to address the issue of rising costs of living in his National Day Rally speech. That said, words remain what they are – just words. The results speak for themselves and the CRI speaks volumes.
For society to progress, we need to be a cohesive. Not just racially or religiously harmonious but a more economically cohesive society as well. In other words, income has to be more evenly distributed and everyone should have equal access to opportunities. Not just those who are already “in the system” so to speak. As the documentary “Regardless of race” hosted by Dr. Janil Putucheary suggests, it is not race or religion that divides people – it is class. In light of this, it is curious that PM Lee has remained mum on the CRI. Is it a case of burying one’s head in the sand? Or is the government tacitly wanting to continue with the status quo? That of meritocracy within the confines of the well educated without any efforts to increase the ability of those that fall through the cracks to also enter the race.
Meritocracy is not equality and until the government openly acknowledges this, I am afraid that our CRI ranking will continue to fall. But then perhaps, the government does not care and if it is indeed the case that they don’t care, what does this say about PM Lee’s pre 2015 election promises?