“I think everyone knows what is missing in Singapore – SINGAPORE’S SMILES,” he wrote. “As a Thai, it was a different feeling the moment I left Changi Airport to the hotel”
He observed that of the people he met outside his hotel, only few show a gesture of welcoming, let alone a smile.
At a hawker centre, he observed many “sad-looking” Singaporeans.
He said, “I chose the only seat available, opposite a sad-looking lady. After finishing my meal, I noticed she was still looking aimlessly. As much as I wanted to chat with her but worried that she might have a wrong idea.”
“I glanced across to another table, seeing another sad-looking lady who might have just finished eating but still sitting,” he continued.
He then left the hawker centre with a question in his mind. “What makes Singaporeans smile?” he wondered.
He added that while life could be tough in Singapore, his countrymen seem to have tougher lives living in Thailand.
He commented that only after he met his Singaporean friends, the situation was different. “My friends are warm and always have a smile on their faces,” he quipped.
“It is easy for a Thai person to smile as Thais are ready to strike a conversation with strangers or ready to interact when asked by strangers who may walk towards you with a smile and ask for directions or whatever things,” he explained.
Singaporeans struggling to find jobs while living expenses are increasing
While Mr Urairat appears to have the time and money to travel around, it has been reported that more Singaporeans are struggling to find jobs in their own country.
One of the Singaporean PMETs (Professional, Managers, Executives and Technicians) interviewed by the media recently was Jeff (not his real name), 49. He became unemployed in October last year after he was retrenched from a multinational manufacturing company. While looking for a new job, he sent out over 500 job applications to numerous companies. So far, he has only received one response.
And this is even after he began applying for jobs that offered about $2,000 a month, which is about one third of his $5,900 monthly pay he got while working for the multinational company. “I just need a job to move on with my life,” said Jeff, who is awaiting a second interview with the only company which got back to him. Jeff needs to get a job soon because he has a wife, two children and his parents to support at home.
Another PMET interviewed was Alan Lim, 52, who was retrenched by StarHub two years ago. In fact, Alan had been with Starhub for 2 decades and last held the position of senior account manager, drawing $10,000 a month.
He then went for a handful of interviews but continued to be rejected by companies. He has been told that he was too old and the salary he wanted was too high — even though he was asking for only $4,000 a month, a 60 per cent cut from his pay at StarHub. Faced with multiple rejections, Alan ended up driving Grab instead.
A 54-year-old who wanted to be known only as Mr Low had a similar experience. He was working as a heavy lift specialist at a multinational logistics firm until he was retrenched in July last year. This was the second time he was retrenched in about three years.
He has since gone back to driving Grab. He had previously driven for Uber in 2016 after he was first retrenched from his job as a regional manager for a foreign logistics company.
Many still struggle to afford healthy food in Singapore
On Thursday (5 March), Associate Professor Walter Theseira, a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP), urged the government to address the problem of food security in a Supply Debate Speech.
Assoc. Prof Theseira argued in his speech that though Singapore is a rich country, there are still many who struggle to afford sufficient healthy food.
The Assoc. Prof remarked, “Singapore was ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the fourth most secure Food Nation in the world, yet nearly half of a sample of 236 families in Singapore have reported moderate to severe food insecurities. These were the findings of a 2018 report by the Hunger and Food Lover’s Paradise by the Lien Centre of Social Innovation Centre at Singapore Management University (SMU)”.
He added that there were some 125 food support groups operating in Singapore, in addition to food support from ethnic self-help groups and community organisations.
During the Budget Supply Speech, Assoc. Prof Theseira posed a pointed question. He asked, “A basic question is how much food is enough. But the question is, enough for what?”
According to the Assoc. Prof, the 2019 Minimum Income Standards study led by Dr Ng Kok Hoe of the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy, a single elderly household requires an estimate of S$400 for food, which is about 29 per cent of their budget.
He explained, “More importantly, that study reveals that Singaporeans consider food to be more than calories for the body; it is nourishment for the soul. It includes having meaningful choice and variety, the opportunity to eat healthily but also enjoy the occasional indulgence, and the chance to meet friends at the hawker centre or invite others to a home-cooked meal.”
He added, “It is not three restaurant meals a day. It is three meals with dignity.”