by Khush Chopra
NHK World the international service of Japan’s largest broadcasting organisation produced a couple of weeks ago a short feature to talk about “the other side” of the Singapore success story; the people “money no enough” side of the story as I like to put it.
There are 300,000 – 400,000 elderly Singapore citizens who continue to live in abject poverty and who cannot afford their basic needs; including food, a roof over their heads, transport, utilities and basic medical care.
In a 2015 paper on elderly poverty in Singapore it was unsurprisingly observed that the poverty rate among the working elderly jumped from 13 per cent in 1995, to 28 per cent in 2005 – to 41 per cent in 2011.
According to Manpower Ministry figures, in 2016 about 29.4 per cent of persons over 65 in the formal workforce were earning less than S$1,000 a month*.
It is crystal clear that ordinary Singaporean’s do not have any real or effective income security or enough money for retirement. Work simply cannot be relied upon as the primary or sufficient source of income in old age. The cost of living and expenses including the high cost of public HDB housing leaves very little in the table to survive.
Our elderly have insufficient money, savings, assets and care to deal with the pains of aging; leading bleak and unhappy lives suffering the indignity of having to break their backs working till death almost.
Indeed neither the PAP Government nor the their subservient mainstream media wants to acknowledge that we have a serious problem on our hands. Our media instead has called for “further studies” to look into elderly distress. We don’t need further research. We need action and we need it now.
As the news programme correctly points out, we are a country with one of the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in the world and yet a large segment of our elderly are clearing tables and cleaning toilets with yet a number sleeping in void decks. The system is broken and the PAP are neither admitting it nor doing anything meaningful about it.
Yes indeed our island state’s stunning economic growth has come at a cost. It has left most ordinary Singaporean’s far behind in the rear view mirror of success.
How do you reconcile a high GDP with abject poverty amongst a large segment of our elderly. These matters are not easily reconciled except to say that we have the wrong values driving our policies that end up with an inhumane society that has terrible outcomes for the impoverished elderly.
Has the PAP Government no shame? The entire system needs an overhaul. Can they not see that their policies have failed us. The system is just not working well for ordinary citizens. It may benefit the elite rich but not the rest of us.
The distress of our elderly is the clearest evidence I can give to you to prove that the PAP Government has totally failed ordinary citizens. The system is broken and needs to be fixed. It is crucial for all of us to understand that the poverty of our elderly is but a symptom of what ails our society. The disease is the PAP, the ruthless system they championed and their failed policies.
We don’t just need symptomatic relief in terms of measures like raising cash payouts through existing schemes like for example Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) and Silver Support Scheme (SSS), a suitable unemployment insurance and protection system, affordable primary care and medication beyond the Pioneer and Merdeka packages, decent subsidised flats etc.
These are indeed important measures in themselves that should be taken immediately to provide relief to our stricken citizens but what we really need is a total systemic overhaul in setting new priorities to achieve a better quality of life for all.
We need a 360 degree revamp of the system to lower the cost of living, increase wages of the lower and middle income workers to ensure greater purchasing power parity and lower the cost of public housing to allow people to keep more of their money as savings or otherwise to invest into sustainable long term legacy assets ….to start with at least.
We can debate how exactly this can be done but we must set these objectives soonest possible rather than appear to be concerned about these issues but pay lip service the way the PAP Government has done for years now leading to this terrible situation for so many.
What’s the point of a beautiful country if the people are poor?
People of Singapore unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. Vote Them Out.
This was first produced on Khush Chopra’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission
*gross income excluding CPF if any