False priorities and false courage will lead us nowhere

False priorities and false courage will lead us nowhere

by Augustine Low

In a speech on behalf of the government last week, President Halimah Yaacob outlined some key priorities for the government. They include combating stratification, improving social safety nets and shaping a new social compact.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong followed up yesterday by talking about “the courage to change where change is needed.”

But haven’t they been talking about stratification, social compact and social safety nets for years? What changes have accompanied all the talk all these years?

If they get their priorities right and they have the true courage to change, start by looking at the Parti Liyani-Liew Mun Leong-Karl Liew case.

This case is a mirror to our society. This case encapsulates what needs to be redressed.

Ordinary people have a mountain to climb, elites have the wind at their back. Ordinary people have to fend for themselves, elites always have someone, somewhere watching out for them.

If for ordinary people to achieve some semblance of justice is like striking the lottery because the odds are so stacked against them, what does it say about the system?

When even the district judge says the prosecution submission on Karl Liew’s sentencing reads like mitigation, what alarm bells must ring?

If DPM Wong is serious about the courage to change, he only has to look at the system that facilitated the Parti Liyani-Liew Mun Leong-Karl Liew case. It gives him the impetus to address stratification and safety nets for the poor, the elderly, the little people, the helpless ones who do not have anybody watching their backs.

So let’s not be fooled when they talk about priorities and change. Priority for who? Change to what? As long as priorities for the elites take precedence over priorities for the ordinary citizens, as long as priorities are misplaced and self-serving, there is no change.

We see misplaced priority when politicians take to TikTok and Facebook to show us where budget meals can be found.

They should make it their mission to fight profiteering, not find budget meals. They should rein in runaway rental for pasar malam and Ramadam Bazaar, not gloat over visitor numbers.

Likewise, the people’s priority would have been for GST increase to be put off in this current difficult climate. But they turned a deaf ear and pressed on – the people have no say, their self-serving priority comes first.

Then they started touting rebates, top-ups and vouchers to offset GST increase. After inflicting permanent pain on Singaporeans, they offer painkillers for temporary relief.

What’s the use of their slogan “we share your concerns about the cost of living”?

We see the elderly in their 80s and beyond still slogging away as cleaners and cardboard collectors. Making a mockery of pledges like “no one will walk alone” and “no one will be left behind” and “we will look after every Singaporean.”

When suggestions are made to use the reserves to fund public expenditure (instead of GST increase), the retort is that we must not raid the reserves, we must “husband” the reserves for the future generation.

That’s a good one – prioritising the future generation over the current generation!

They attribute it to prudence and a willingness to sacrifice for the future generation. However, they don’t appear to exercise the same prudence and willingness to sacrifice when their own interests are at stake.

Early this year, Minister Chan Chun Sing (under questioning in Parliament) revealed that the government aims to have an independent committee carry out a salary review for political office holders sometime this year.

Seems to be laden with urgency. Seems like a pay increase is on the cards.

Is that what they mean by “the courage to change where change is needed”?

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