Is Singapore becoming the new “Moulin Rouge” of Asia?

by Joseph Nathan

When PM-designated 4G political leaders like Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing advocated for the push towards the 10-million populations, Singaporeans naturally got alarmed and questioned its logic and rationale. Such push-backs are no longer an exception as the spuriousness of their economic policy-changes are getting to be too ridiculous, more like they are trying to avoid their obligations and promises to Singaporeans.
Singapore only has an original landmass of 580km/sq but through land reclamation, our landmass has grown by 23% to 720km/sq to support a self-induced population growth of 5.6-million. With a liberal immigration policy, 40% of the population are foreigners and PRs and these exclude the tourists.

To put these numbers into perspective, that translate into a space of 128 m/sq per person, and it includes road, nature reserve, water catchment area, land reserve beside many others, and also having to share with tourists visiting Singapore. Take into consideration the increase in industrial and vehicular pollutions, health-threatening chemical fogging and latent-heat built-up, and infrastructure such as road, MRT, hospitals etc and we do not need rocket scientists to be telling us as to why Singapore is falling apart and why Singaporeans are getting worked up.

The push to 10-million is just not tenable or realistic as Singaporeans will literally self-extinct due to the lack of breathable oxygen, food and water, and risks being crushed to death during rush-hours.

To further increase land reclamation, we will further antagonize our immediate neighbours as that means the dividing waterway will get more narrow and contentious. Even our airspace with both our immediate neighbours has become contentious. Singapore also cannot continue importing river sand indefinitely as that is already a serious global environmental issue and when sand are “unethically” exported from under-develop countries such as Cambodia, NGOs and regional news-media will openly demand greater accountability from our government.

To circumvent this limitation, our 4G leaders are now proposing underground excavation to increase living-space just to justify its push for 10-million populations. These underground spaces are not only expensive but also highly unsuitable for human-living as it erroneously presume that energy used to power the ventilation, exhaust extraction cooling system and sump-pump can be maintained 24/7 and will be economically viable. It also undermines the importance of natural sunlight and the fact that human is an emotion creature with a mind and its overall psychological makeup will be greatly impaired by such a radical shift in underground-living.

It is hard to understand the logics or its rationale as to why both Heng and Chan are pushing so hard for such an unsustainable, costly and highly questionable population-policy that is glaringly not economically, socially or psychologically viable. Is there something else that we are missing or failing to understand their political-agenda for 10-million population?

Looking back, when our political leaders needed to push SG from a Third World to a First World economy, they promised us a “Swiss Standard of Living” to inspire the nation forward. I am not sure if we were ever there as besides being a national narrative, its tangibles were never delivered holistically. In fact lives have gotten much harder for many Singaporeans and we are now extremely concern about our children’s future.

As a rich and First World economy, it is not acceptable when our children are graduating into unemployment or having to enterprise just to be economically viable. Out in the wilderness of entrepreneurship, they have to content with mammoths like our GLCs, NTUC or take up ridiculous sub-contract offers and assignments from our governmental agencies. Just look at Hyflux and you can imagine just how much more hardships our smaller entrepreneurs would have to face.

When 80% of Singaporeans living in public housing were just about to retire comfortably and spending some time to look back at their hard work and contribution toward our Nation Building with pride, they were told by these 4G leaders that their HDB flats will be zero-valued after 99-year and will no longer be an appreciating asset. Rules to the withdrawal of CPF were changed repeatedly and their whole retirement planning are now complicated beyond their reasonable control. With a higher retirement age in place, it means more work for many of these older Singaporeans. What can they do or more exactly, what are they actually going to be working for?

Being rated as the most hard-working people on earth, it is understandable that many of them are simply tired and needed a well-deserved rest, and also the time to rethink the purpose of life in general. Some needed the downtime to repair strained relationships or look into many other unfinished tasks that they have set aside all these years such as helping their community or contemplating their religious conviction as life is more than material success.

Why are our political leaders implementing such drastic change in policies instead of appreciating their efforts, and understand that they are firstly human and not some slave or robot? Are they heartless or clueless?

If the 10-million population policy is a deliberate action taken by the 4G leaders, to cynically “sidestep” their responsibilities as promised by our government, and secure economic growth at all cost, then the whole concept of our Nation Building may just have been a “Great Deception” all along. Cynically speaking, it means that their vested interests come before the people. Are our political leaders advocating cynical public policy where the people are just a function of their political goals or are they simply lost in transition?

As a First World economy, it was very clear since late 1990s when economists and political experts weighted in and advised our political leaders that we cannot continue “doing more of the same” if we are to succeed as a developed economy. By late 1990s, we even convened a high level Inter-Ministerial Committee or “IMC” to look into future challenges such as our aging society. The IMC-Report of 1998 became a critical part of our economic blue-print as we crossed the millennium milestone.

Our political leaders already knew well the importance of creating new strategic economic-values as they cannot simply be doing “more of the same” given the higher base rate of our economy. If they have failed to innovate or lack the ability to innovate Singapore social-economically as a First World Economy, and are now simply creating self-inflicted inflation, adding more general taxes and more foreigners to make up for any real economic growth, then the 10-million population policy can only makes sense if viewed cynically.

Such a cynical outlook can also explain why they are not overly concern by the danger of an “unregulated inflow” of foreigners via its CECA-FTA that is seriously diluting the time-tested DNA of our working class. Have they chosen the easy route of pursuing quantity over quality?

The Integrated Resort or IR issue was so contentious when it was first mooted. A cabinet minister even claimed he was groupthink and lamented openly about this shift towards a non-desirable source of growth. IRs are casinos dressed up as tourist or family resorts. It cannot fool anyone. There are serious social-consequences such as an increased in gambling addictions, white-collared and petty crimes, suicides, broken families, prostitution, alcoholic and chemical addictions etc. Everything becomes experimental without consequences.

Despite the many outbursts from the religious, social activists and workers, concerned NGOs and the general public, the decision was “fait accompli” – where issue is already decided long before those affected know about it, leaving them with no option but to accept it, period. Their political goals superseded public consensus.

With the recent announcement to allow the two IRs to expand, our political leaders are again doing another “fait accompli” and seems to be taking the easy route out of the economic-predicaments that they have created. Simply expanding their capacity is no different from having a third or fourth casino. Despite knowing well the public consensus on this issue, the expansion was never discussed publicly. Even the allocation of public assets such as ultra-prime land and the massive increase in gambling machines were not openly shared with the public until it is a done deal.

As a rich and developed economy, the 10-million population policy pursued by such a cynical objective is totally flawed to its core. If this is the new national narrative to replace the failed Swiss Standard of Living, it is clear that we can forget about expecting our political leaders to take our well-being seriously since so many of the social-goods have already been sacrificed without consultation. Is cynicism the new DNA of our political leaders, and “fait accompli” is the new standard in public consultation?

It is like we have exchange the earlier Swiss standard of living blueprint with that of Las Vegas. As our political leaders have an obsession with being first in anything, why not called this 10-million population policy our new “Moulin Rouge of Asia” where everything is possible? Surely Marina Bay Sand and Genting can easily help stage our version of Moulin Rouge in their cabarets and live-theatres around the world. We can be world-famous, bring in the tourists but for all the wrong reasons. Even Bangkok and Dubai will be laughing at us.

Seriously speaking, with such a cynical DNA, these 4G political leaders are no longer making any sense. I don’t think they even know the consequences of their actions as they seem to be conveniently choosing to forget about their past promises “enshrined” within the social compact of our Nation Building. By setting new ones, are they hoping that we will forget all about it and stupidly join them in their new adventure to becoming the new “Moulin Rouge of Asia”?

From the perspective of such a cynical objectivity, we can finally understand the root causes of many of our never-ending malice that are plaguing Singaporeans mercilessly. We have the economic success as a base, the money, a functional civil service, a highly desirable working class and a working Social Compact that blind us together as a functional nation. Why are they gambling it all away?

Unfortunately, we have become a victim of our own success when political leaders obstinately seek to stay in power and see their party and political survival as more important than that of the country or its people. In simple term, our current political leaders have failed us miserably and if left unrestrained, even our future as a nation will be ruined with their spurious economic-advocacy.

For a better tomorrow, we need to seriously reflect as a nation as Singapore deserves better…

This was first published on Mr Nathan’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission

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