At a post-National Day Rally dialogue at Ci Yuan Community Club last Sunday (14 Oct), PM Lee told the grassroots leaders that Singapore must not allow social stratification to harden.
"The way you dress, the way you talk, what you eat, and where you go on holiday. You compare notes then you feel, I show you a little bit (that) I am better than you. I think we have to combat that," he said.
PM Lee also mentioned about the need to have right social attitudes. "In other words, the attitudes of each one of us individually, as Singaporeans, towards one another. We want to, and I think we generally do, live in a society where the ethos is open and informal. We want people to interact freely and comfortably as equals and we must have regard and respect for one another, regardless of income or status," he added.
It is strange that PM Lee would talk about wanting Singaporeans to interact freely and comfortably as equals with one another when during a public dialogue in 2015, he said, “You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow. But if you don’t have a certain natural aristocracy in the system, people who are respected because they have earned that and we level everything down to the lowest common denominator, then I think society will lose out... If you end up with anarchy, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be delivered with brilliance.”
He was responding to a question on communities that accept challenges to authority, as seen in countries such like the US, Sweden and Israel. These are also countries known for their dominance in innovation, science and technology.
Hence, when his above remarks are taken altogether, PM Lee seems to say that Singaporeans can interact freely and comfortably as equals with one another but not with the country's leaders, as they are deemed to possess "a certain natural aristocracy" because they have "earned that".
In the dialogue at Ci Yuan Community Club, PM Lee also said that people from lower-income families should not feel that they are being discriminated against, while those who are successful and happen to have been born wealthy should not flaunt their wealth either.
"No need to show off, and people are not impressed. If you succeed, remember, it is not purely the result of your own hard work or even of your own talent. Because many others have helped you along the way," he said.
It's not known if PM Lee has also told this to his fellow MP Chong Kee Hiong from Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. Chong is frequently seen "showing off" his Bentley at the Orchid Country Club where he usually goes to play golf.
GST to increase after 2021
At the dialogue, PM Lee said that his government has worked hard to lessen inequality in Singapore. "Inequality exists everywhere. In every society, there is a certain amount of inequality and there is no society where the top and the bottom are the same," he said.
But he also said that his government has worked hard to lessen this inequality and "raise the base level up" to make sure that Singapore becomes a fair and just society. He elaborated that this was done through "high quality and affordable housing, education and healthcare for everybody" as well as a progressive tax system.
And finally, PM Lee also took the opportunity to remind the people that his government would be raising GST after 2021.
He highlighted his government's efforts in tackling issues that have concerned Singaporeans such as public transport reliability, affordability of public housing, availability of healthcare as well as preschool education.
He added that the government was also tackling other cost-of-living issues such as by handing out U-Save vouchers to keep utility tariffs affordable.
"Then, we are looking at how to pay for these things... and how to keep our programmes financially sustainable. We are planning ahead to make sure we have enough revenues, especially with the GST increase sometime beyond 2021," he reminded all.