Friday, 22 September 2023

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Apart from handouts, there were two standouts in Heng Swee Keat’s budget speech

Announcing a reduction in the foreign worker quota and S-Pass worker ratio for the services sector, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said: “Relying on more and more foreign workers is not the long-term solution.”

The Minister spoke as if it were an epiphany, a brilliant assessment that he has come up with when in truth, this was the exact same thing that Singaporeans have been saying for years. The government has all along either paid lip service or given counter arguments.

Now, all of a sudden, it has woken up from deep slumber to the fact that Singapore cannot keep bringing in more and more foreign workers, especially for sectors where Singaporeans can contribute.

Or is it merely the kind of talk and policy tweak that the government indulges in during election season?

The other standout was Heng’s likening of Singapore to a mouse deer: “Like Sang Kancil, the small but quick-witted mouse deer, we can make our way in the world.”

Can you think of anywhere else where its politicians take pleasure in likening their country to small animals. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong even likened Singapore to a sampan a few years ago.

We know their ploy by now – when it suits their purpose, they resort to the imagery of Singapore as small and insecure, so that Singaporeans have to seek protection and shelter with the government they have known since independence.

At other times, the politicians tell us that small states like Singapore must not behave like small states, and we must punch above our weight in the global arena. After all, we are called the Lion City and we have to make ourselves heard and felt.

So which is which?

Is Singapore a mouse deer and sampan, or a lion with a mighty roar?

Our politicians are not confused, they just think that Singaporeans are easily duped into thinking what they want us to think.

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