When news of the Health Science Authority (HSA) data breach broke last night, I really do not know what to make it. Yes, I am embarrassed like any patriotic Singaporeans who took great pride of our country would. But I am actually more concern with the state of affair of our country. Why are we having one too many of such incidents and is there an end to all these? It is like some Egyptian-curses had befallen upon us.
Some netizens that are pro-ruling party have been quick to play down the latest incident as “things to be expected” or that failures are to be expected from time to time. Fair enough, a valid point but when is it “one too many”? We are talking about a series of breaches and the endless assurances and why are such incidents are still recurring? Sorry for the first time is not an issue but sorry and more sorry?
Our Mainstream Media (MSMs) were scrambling with bits and pieces of news as it broke and that does not help with the incident. What is certain by their reporting is that HSA had outsourced their IT to an external service provider and one of their employee, who is a foreigner with gender unknown, had made a mistake and that is how the incident had occurred and that HSA takes a serious view of such incident.
HSA in this incident is “illuminating” a more pressing systemic problem of our governmental ministries and agencies – much of their work has been outsourced. Whenever things go wrong, it is always their vendors’ faults and they were also always quick to assure Singaporeans that they will be taking punitive steps against their vendors as they too viewed such incidents as “not acceptable”. Really, then who is taking punitive action against them? This is definitely unacceptable, to begin with.
As a government, let’s be clear that all our ministries and agencies ought to be taking their responsibility more seriously and must be accountable directly to Singaporeans. Outsourcing works to their vendors does not preclude them from their primary responsibility and their heads must remain ultimately accountable for every outcome, be they good or bad. If good, then they deserve their millions. What if they turn out to be bad? Are they still worthy of our millions?
All governments in the world have an obligation to their citizens. Just look at how stressed up Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is in India as he prepares for his re-election campaign as he has to account to his people on his election promise of creating millions of jobs for their working class. Likewise, our ministries and agencies too should have an enshrined pro-Singaporean employment policy. By outsourcing away their works, what happens to this “obligation”? Lost in transition?
The success of Singapore has much to do with the time-tested DNA of our working class. It got us from Third World to First World. Whenever thing goes wrong in the past, we were always quick to find real solutions to fix them squarely. Foreign investors like our “can do” spirit. It is good for their investments. It helps Singapore to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). It is one of our key Comparative Advantage.
Singaporeans definitely have much to be angry about when good paying jobs were “traded” away when our government keep signing untenable Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) just to boost trade without understanding the full consequence of their actions. We end up having to keep to the unfair contractual obligations of these agreements that are disadvantaging Singaporeans.
The real concern is not just about the loss of good paying jobs to foreigners but the various consequences of such an unrestrained inflow. Without good paying jobs, many Singaporeans are struggling to make ends meet. Those with families are struggling to even put food on the table for their children. To make matters worse, our cost of living keeps going up. Singaporeans are not only unfairly disadvantaged or overly burden but are also being sandwiched. This probably makes Singaporeans the most stressful people on this planet. What is the health-cost of these consequences?
By diluting the time-tested DNA of our working class, our workforce is no longer the same. We have become just another average Joe. Singapore’s comparative advantage is being diluted too. Our “can do” spirit is also weakened. There is a negative impact on our FDIs. Can this be the reason that best explains why Singapore is facing endless failures, breaches and breakdowns? Are we going to reverse the stupidities of these unfair FTAs and enforce a more explicit pro-Singaporean working policy and have it enshrined?
As a nation, we have been open and generous to foreigners, and it has served us well. We should never be against them. The key issues that need serious addressing are still the unrestrained inflow of foreigners and its socio-economic impact on our society. The latest HAS incident may just be another wake-up call to our government to start taking corrective actions to protect our working class as we are the best defence and solution whenever things go wrong in our country. This is a Hard Truth.
We have obviously overtraded the many good things that had served us well. As the saying goes, a bird in hand may just be better than the two out there. Our government need to open their eyes and stop chasing after mirages or pursue easy options. So too must every Singaporeans if we still aspire for the collective good of our country and our people.
The accountability of the various heads that are responsible for our endless lapses, breaches and failures is something for our PM to decide as election approaches. I still think our government need a stronger “hire & fire” policy. Without good leadership, any good organization will also weaken over time. At the end of the day, it will always be Singaporeans that will be paying for the final outcome.
Let’s take this HSA as a timely wake-up call and do something meaningful and constructive about it. If our government continue to stay in denial mode, then as concern citizens, we ought to do something about it as the country belongs to us, not just our elected political leaders. Let’s take the first corrective step and start pushing for the protection of our working class in a more comprehensive manner. Our working class deserves better.
This was first published on Joseph Nathan-Hard Truths of SG’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission