by Joseph Nathan
Singaporeans have come to accept the many Hard Truths that the People’s Action Party (PAP) is no longer the same political party like the one from the First Cabinet. From being a prudent Singaporean-centric party, PAP has now become too extravagant and party-centric, and questions are being asked as to who exactly their 4G politicians are serving these days.
When it comes to public policies, these 4G PAP politicians have been behind the curve on many key policies. Each time they go behind the curve, a segment of Singaporeans end up bearing the consequence of their many miscalculations. As these discrepancies are now severely dividing us as a nation, they should have been the core topics for this year NDR. Why were they omitted?
The Return to Affordable Education
Under the first-generation PAP, education is not only affordable but highly accessible for every Singaporeans. When unrestrained capitalism started to creeps into our public policies these past years, probably to grow our GDP, the cost of education became an issue for many working-class parents.
Grants and subsidiaries were then conveniently used to address these cost-discrepancies. It is looking like our current politicians are the “cause” of many of our problems. By stepping in to champion them before solving the very problem that they had created is starting to sound rather absurd. Should we be grateful to them or be alarmed by such absurdities?
Disadvantaging Our Children
To make matter worse, when places in our universities and polytechnics were set aside for foreign students, our own children have to pursue their education in private schools or go overseas. Such discrepancies place a heavy financial burden on many of our parents who are already struggling with the rising cost of living due to self-inflicted inflation and the many indirect taxes. It doesn’t help when real economic opportunities become exceedingly challenging for many of our children when they finally graduate.
When affected parents learnt not only of these Hard Truths but that our current government is also giving foreign students free tuition and attractive allowances, it is understandable for concerned Singaporeans to question as to why foreign students are given so many privileges over our own children.
If we were to add the PAP’s latest advocacy that “zero-value” our HDB flat, then more parents will find themselves in a situation of also losing their sense of dignity when they are unable to pass any meaningful asset to their children and help them avoid the risks of incurring high mortgages. Which parent is not concerned about their children and future generation incurring such death-trap and becoming a burden for a lifelike slave?
I guess none of the 4G politicians will understand the many plights of Singaporeans as they had merely inherited the success of our nation, and are unlikely to be apologizing to those affected parents or make any restitution to lessen their pains or debt incurred. None of them has ever thanked or acknowledged concerned Singaporeans for escalating these discrepancies into public discussion. Is saying “sorry” or “thank you” so difficult for the current PAP politicians? Aren’t we supposed to be an open and inclusive society, which is supposed to be the hallmark of PM Lee’s premiership?
Was National Day Rally (NDR) 2019 an Election Pitch?
When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke proudly about his 4G team making early childhood education affordable in his National Day Rally 2019, he has already turned it into an election pitch for his 4G team. The “Greatest Singapore Sales” has begun.
You see, the call for our government to seriously address the challenges of early childhood education was first highlighted by a report from the Lien Foundation in 2012 as rightly pointed out by PN Balji, a veteran journalist. It took our politicians a time-gap of 4 years before they begin taking corrective steps to address this issue. At NDR 2019, it was conveniently narrated as a timely policy, attributed to the “competency of his 4G team”.
Lien Foundation was not acknowledged for their valuable contribution while parents who have been paying through their noses received no apologize. Interestingly, Singaporeans are expected to be grateful to his 4G team for merely making early childhood education affordable again, despite their miscalculation and having lagged behind the curve all these years.
The same is true of our older workforce, or more specifically, about their inability to retire comfortably despite slogging hard for so many years. By simply seeking to increase their CPF contribution, the 4G politicians again failed to understand that this not only increase business cost but it also reduces the overall Purchasing Power of this population segment, and it will only compound their hardship further unless our CPF system is also tweaked to pay out more than what it locks up.
I am starting to empathize with our working class and entrepreneurs, for having to constantly endure the burden of their miscalculations, ambiguities and follies, and hope that modern-day slavery is not an aspiration of these 4G politicians.
Lack of Discretion and Empathy
Our CPF system was not created by the PAP. It was created in 1955 and initiated by David Marshall, who was Singapore’s First Chief Minister, as a national saving scheme where every Singaporean can plan their own retirement, knowing with certainty that they can withdraw their saving fully when they reach 55 years old. Alas, all is lost when the PAP, in their later years, kept shifting the goalpost and delaying the payout, again and again.
As this remains a very highly divisive issue, it was very unwise for PM Lee to be joking and stressing at the end of his rally that he is not shifting the goalpost in this year NDR. It is like rubbing salts on the wounds of our working class who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Is our Silver Economy being turned into an Election Play?
Older Singaporeans are not robots. The manner their retirement has been mismanaged all these years deserves greater scrutiny. As such, the whole talk about our Silver Economy must be balanced with our many Confucius values in honouring and respecting our elders, appreciating them for their contributions and to respectfully allowing them time to address their own spiritual needs before they pass on from this world.
I hope those religious leaders from the Inter-Religious Organization “IRO” will remember this pressing issue and start engaging the 4G politicians with greater urgency and help older Singaporeans to have some time and space to look into their unfinished matters that are important to them in this life and play a critical role in empowering them to address these issues before they pass on. Once they are dead, all the “sorry” or “thank you” in the world mean nothing. Let’s start to honour our living before it is too late yet again. Their spiritual needs matter.
As such, it will be very troubling should our Silver Economy be exploited and turned into another business proposition or election game because our older Singaporeans truly deserve better.
This was first published on Joseph Nathan – Hard Truths of SG’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.