by Joseph Nathan
As taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers are not allowed to take more than two passengers due to the prevailing pandemic measures, a family of three or four, despite being a family and staying together, has to either take two taxis or use public transport.
This inevitably will cause a spike in the use of public transport.
From a virological point of view, where is the logic in this regulation as it seems to presume that the viruses are less inclined to take buses or trains?
As such, these frontline workers, already stressed up trying to put food on the tables for their families, end up being drawn into needless arguments with their passengers.
Just how on earth can they explain the illogical rationale of this regulation to angry passengers?
If private vehicles are allowed to carry a family of four, why wasn’t this regulation calibrated or differentiated similarly to help our frontliners and passengers?
This begets the question – was this regulation designed to maintain ridership in our public transport but at the expense of our frontliners’ incomes?
Who are the real beneficiaries of the Point-to-Point Support Package?
Why was the monies in this package given to the operators instead of going directly to supplement the income of all the affected frontliners, or be used as a relief so that some of them can use it to look for alternative jobs?
How about those who own their own vehicles and have mortgages to pay, the relief or part-time drivers, are they excluded from this package too?
With so many of them struggling to cover even their rental and expenses, it is sad that many of these Singaporeans are worse off than foreign workers right in their own backyard.
Is this humanely acceptable of a wealthy “First World” country like Singapore?
Who is going to champion their plights and rights now that unions are so busy engaging in businesses and politics these past years?
Onerous Temporary Relief Fund
When some of these drivers and gig-workers did not get their S$9,000 handouts previously, l was told that a few of them went to Devan Nair Centre where NTUC has set up a help station to assist them in making an appeal.
Once there, they were “encouraged” to sign up as members of NTUC and ends up paying S$9 monthly membership fee.
When some of them ended up receiving notices from CPF Board that they have arrears for MediSave contributions, it confuses them.
After clarifying the matter with CPF Board, they were then told that the notices for those arrears will be withdrawn as they was “erroneously” computed based on data submitted previously in their appeals.
Now when many of them have to submit fresh appeals to get the S$700 or S$500 grant, they decided to forgo it as the whole grant is just too onerous and daunting for them.
Here lies the irony – mayors, member of parliaments (MPs), unionists, and grassroots activists are aware of this issue but why has none of them done anything about it?
Aren’t they suppose to be helping Singaporeans who are in dire needs so that “no one will be left behind”?
Workers in other sectors were affected too, like contract and part-time cleaners who were left “high & dry” when F&B establishments and contractors stop paying them during the current lockdown.
What is sad is that many of them were illiterates, not tech-savvy and find making an appeal for the relief grant too onerous while those who are supposed to be helping them pretend that such problems do not exist or are hiding online, expecting to receive emails from those affected.
CDC Voucher Scheme
Where are the S$100 CDC vouchers as announced in February by the former Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat?
Wasn’t it supposed to be distributed in June to help our hawkers and businesses in our heartlands?
With so much hardship facing our hawkers and heartland businesses during the current Heightened Alert, why aren’t any of the mayors showing any sense of urgency in launching this scope of support earlier so that help can reach our hawkers and heartland businesses before collapse?
Surely these CDC Vouchers were not meant for use as burn-offerings to honour the demise of our hawkers and heartland-businesses right?
Are our mayors so overwhelmed by this task that we need to consider spending more monies to recruit more mayors so that they can exercise more initiative and be able to respond to the needs of Singaporeans with greater urgency?
Despite having spent billions to become a Smart Nation, these gaps and lack of initiative show just how “gong” our Smart Nation really is.
Where are common sense and empathy these days?
Exceptional time demands exceptional courage
It is sad that many of those affected are starting to lament the loss of Heng as our Finance Minister as there is now a growing narrative on the ground that he had paid a high price for pushing for timely help and support for fellow citizens who were in need previously.
By calling the latest lockdown as “Heightened Alert”, Lawrence Wong, who is Heng’s replacement for the Finance Minister, is not compelled to repeat what Heng has done for Singaporeans previously.
This means massive savings on his watch and he also does not have to make any request to use our reserves, thus helping to spare the president of unnecessary stress.
Isn’t he brilliantly heartless or was he simply clueless in being the Finance Minister?
As l took a walk and see real hardship faced by fellow Singaporeans, l must admit that the current government seems to have no heart or compassion for fellow Singaporeans these days.
Many families are struggling to have a decent meal while breadwinners stand helplessly as bills, expenses, and mortgages pile up against them.
Stop mis-pricing Singaporean workforce
A street-smart friend of mine, who is very resourceful and hardworking, told me just this week that he wanted to cry when he last check his bank balance.
So, stop the excuse that Singaporeans are lazy and shun jobs that are less glamorous or tedious.
If employers want to be taken seriously, they just need to stop under-paying Singaporeans, improve their job scope and stop exploiting them as if they are slaves.
As the current hardship is equally pandemic in the Malay community, as it is across other communities, what exactly has our dedicated Malay President does for her community so far?
How can she stay so silent while there is so much suffering and hardship within our community?
Our Elected Presidential system is obviously broken, and until it is fixed, the well-being and welfare of Core Singaporeans will remain compromised and neglected.
Many of these affected Singaporeans, including their families and friends, will not forget the hardships faced and how “compassion-less” our president, new Finance Minister, MPs, mayors, unionists, and grassroots activists have shown themselves to be in this pandemic.
This is going to cost the People’s Action Party (PAP) severe vote loss at the next election unless they start walking their talks more consistently and start ensuring that urgent relief and support reaches affected Singaporeans in a more timely manner, and also remove bureaucratic complaints that hurt the dignity of fellow Singaporeans.
As facing financial hardships does not make any Singaporean a beggar, it helps if those in power stop insulting the dignity of those affected and start making supports and grants less onerous too.
Since PM Lee is on local leave and has the time to walk the ground, he should do so without his stage managers and jesters, and validate first-hand just how out of touch and “compassion-less” his 4G politicians, advisors and “whole of government” really are.
Lee needs to know that during exceptional time, only exceptional leaders will have the courage to effect exceptional measures for the people as the failure to act will definitely come back to haunt his premiership and the longevity of his party.
As such, how Lee is going to respond in truly alleviating the many dire hardships that Singaporeans are currently facing will define his legacy and show if he still personally believe that Singaporeans deserve better…
This was first published on Joseph Nathan’s Facebook page, and reproduced with permission.