Saturday, September 22, 2007

Booming economy, growing poverty....

In the midst of one of the greatest economic booms in Singapore even greater poverty has been manufactured.....

Once in a while you see something so deeply etched in your mind, you will never forget.....

Two weeks ago, I saw a man in his seventies struggling with a plastic bag full of aluminium cans. He had flattened them earlier so that he could put alot of cans into one plastic bag. Although it looked abit heavy for him, he seemed to be quite happy to have collected so many - perhaps he was counting on them to provide for his meals for the next few days or pay for his medical bills. As he was crossing the zebra crossing, the plastic bag broke and the cans spilled onto the crossing. 3 seconds was all it took for the driver of the big BMW (8 series?) to start to push his horns fiercely at old man as he tried to move his cans to the other side of the road. It took me about 20 seconds to get to the crossing to help the old man. That was when the driver stepped out of his car and shouted at us to hurry up or let him go first then deal with the cans later. The sight of the BMW driver in his white long sleeve shirt/tie, the old man in his dirty clothes, the shiny new BMW was all too real for me. You can read about the income gap - Gini index, income distribution, the existence of poor people but these are all 30,000 feet abstraction of a real problem....it was on this day, on the zebra crossing, moving all these little cans that were picked from rubbish bins all over Bedok and watching this 'rich' BMW driver who can't wait 5 minutes for an old man.....that moved the understanding of the problem moved from my brain into my heart....

When your fellow citizens have to rumage through garbage to support themselves, it is sad...when you realised that you have grown accustomed to that and just want to get on with your own life...it is even sadder.

Someone in Singapore has been taking photos from around the island and posting it here. Take a close look at them, these are not sights that you don't see. It is what we see everyday except we have become accustomed to it and don't register it anymore...









55 comments:

Anonymous said...

The other day a middle aged woman with a her young daughter (5 or 6 years old) was pushing a cart full of old cardboards near tekka mall.

Only thing is the woman and her daughter are from china. We now have the foreign "poors" too!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky

From this post, I can see that u have the people's interest at heart. My salute & utmost respect to you!

Capt_Canuck said...

After wandering around Singapore for the week I have been here, I have come to realize that perhaps these elders that work into their old age must have been poor with their money handling. I mean, you cant blame the gov't for not providing for the elderly if they are spendthrifts in their young age. Perhaps these elders were boozers or people that ate out constantly while they worked and didnt think for the future or plan. I have seen so many more elders sitting on the benches or wandering around the malls than elders working and carrying cans or cardboard recycling.

Gov't takes care of gov't, and obviously they expect people to take care of people.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky

Glad to know that you are one of those who have the eyes and heart of compassion to see and help those in need and to speak up for them. I was born and grew up in a poor part of Chinatown and what you witnessed that day in Bedok and the plight of the old as evidenced in the photos you posted are familiar to me. They are nothing new. However, there are important differences between then and now and they are:

1. Now even men & women in their forties go thru' garbage bins & pick up discarded stuff left at void decks. They do not look destitute and I don't believe they are greenies. They look like regular HDB folks except for the sadness in their eyes.

2. In the old days we were not told Singapore was 1st world. We knew we were 3rd world and poverty somehow was more tolerable and it was easier to hope and dream for a better world.

3. Now we are told that Singapore is 1st world and therefore our leaders have to be paid out-of-this-world salaries. It is very taxing for our simple peasant minds to reconcile what we are told with what we see and experience daily.

4. In the past there were not many millionaires in Singapore. Now we have a record number of them here even as the number of people who do not have enough to live on is growing rapidly.

I hope more of us will open our eyes and heart and help those in need in whatever way we can. That is the best solution even as we strive for a more just, equal and caring society here.

Anonymous said...

what is that BMW's license plate number?

Kenneth said...

I appreciate capt_canuck's input above. I understand from his postings here at Lucky's blog that capt_canuck is Canadian now residing in Singapore.

It is nice to know a foreigner is so keen on local politics.

He makes a good point that the trash collectors could have been responsible for their present situation.

However I believe the point of Lucky's articles and photos is to show that Singapore is not as first world as PAP puts it, especially first world in the sense that PAP politicians must draw the highest salaries among politicians throughout the world.

The incongruity between on one hand of PAP's boasts that it is so great what with ts constant preaching to the world on how to run their own nations successfully like Singapore, and on the other of the lives of some just need addressing.

Furthermore there has been a marked rise over the last few years in such old and even middle-aged people scavenging for drink cans, that it rightly raises some questions among some bloggers.

This I personally see is what it is all about.

Anonymous said...

i think the angmoh captain should f*** off and stop meddling in our local politics, otherwise i will write in to the police to complain and make sure he doesn't ever get permission to visit singapore.

how the hell did he "come to realize that perhaps" these elders were poor with their money handling??? yeah, sure, they might have been poor cos they were not given a chance to learn it. and because the society moved way too fast thanks to the government's artificial engineering. if these same folks lived in malaysia, things might not have been so bad cos the cost of living is much lower and true medical subsidies exist. and of course, if the pappies would allow foreign trash of all grades (ranging from whiny expats to cheena hawker stall attendants) to compete at jobs of all levels, where do you think these elderly pple would land up?

angmoh, f-off!

Euterpe said...

I earn a decent living, and I am one of those who the government has basically stated "can take care of their own retirement". And it is true, I am not even 30, and I started my retirement planning about a year or so after I started working. However, I am still not confident that my retirement needs will be taken care of. The reason is simple - I am also my family's sole breadwinner. My parents have no insurance, their CPF balances are laughable and we do not even own our own HDB flat. Right now, I can take care of everyone, and still have some savings. But what happens when my parents fall ill? If the government introduces means-testing, which takes into account MY income, it is likely that my parents will hardly qualify for any subsidies. The probability that my hard-earned savings will be wiped out is a very real one. And then, when I myself grow old and remain unmarried and childless, then what? What is going to happen to me? Despite all my hard work, despite all my planning, will I end up collecting newspaper and cardboards to make ends meet in my old age? Seriously, if I have the opportunity, I will leave Singapore - I just cannot accept that the government is taking a "self-help" mentality to such extremes. I need some place with more compassion and heart to call home.

Anonymous said...

This Government has no compassion at all, only interested in finding ways to squeeze the last penny from its citizens. At the same time the Government is pushing away ever more responsibility of taking care of its own citizens, pronouncing it as self-help, which actually means 'you die your own business and don't come to the Government for help.' We have been screwed through and through.

Anonymous said...

Now Singaporeans are waking up big time just gauging from this blog and hearing what many people in the streets are saying.

As the previous poster correctly pointed out: 'We have been screwed through and through."

Who could have thought PAP was so thoroughly soulless? There seems to be no love at all for the people.

Just look at all the policies coming out : mean-testing at hospitals, don't die in the hospitals (who wants that but due to necessity like medical reasons?), upping of CPF draw-down age, higher super salaries for themselves, work till you die, uncontrolled foreign talent/worker influx.

And to rub salt into the wound PAP says that all these are really, really for our own good. They keep repeating this hypocritical hogwash.

PAP does not appreciate the people; the people will shock them in the next elections.

Already one GRC is seeing 45% vote going to the opposition. Just a few GRCs lost will send PAP into at tailspin and in total reverse gear.

PAP is not as brave as it looks.

But by that time it would all be too late; the tide will not be turned around anymore just like all change in major trends in the markets.

This is how I see it.

Anonymous said...

Previous anon. I think you are too optimistic :P

S'poreans say that every GE and nothing ever happens. When the govt pay $ out next GE, S'poreans will forget abt the past and take the sweets only to be screwed again once the GE is over.

Anonymous said...

I suppose what is you say is very true. Well we must hope against hope, otherwise life is hopeless.

Anonymous said...

The PAP leaders always talk cock :-

1) "Million dollar salaries is to prevent corruption" - corruption legalised at the very least.

2) 2% GST increase is to help the poor - poor ends up poorer.

3) "CPF monies are not invested by GIC" - no risk to CPF contributors therefore extra profits cannot be shared or returned, govt only acting same like commercial banks.

4) FT will create more jobs for the people - take away jobs instead.

5) "Gays are people like you and me" - but under the law they are criminals, cannot have picnic, cannot jog.

6) "Conservative society cannot accept homosexuals" - but same conservative society is OK with 2 casinos.

7) "Opposition WP's outdoor cycling event is dangerous to society" - but not dangerous if organised by PAP or grassroots organisations.

8) "Bus/MRT Fare increases necessary to improve service" - even when SBS/SMRT making huge profits.

9) "Govt don't depend on CPF monies as a source of cheap funds" - why don't agree to return to the Malaysians.

10) The list is endless ....

Capt_Canuck said...

Kenneth - Thanks for the eloquent way of writing, though Lucky Tan might be trying to point out that Singapore cant be a 1st world like the gov't says but have poor people. The PM himself even states that:

"To have a society where everybody is equal, that's a recipe for poverty, it doesn't work. There will be inequalities in society but we must make sure that the majority of people have a good standard of living and improving standards from year to year,"

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/301420/1/.html

If Singapore treated everyone as equal, then obviously all would be in poverty. So, for the majority of the people in Singapore (probably the 66.6% voting for PAP) to be middle class there has to be the pop can/cardboard recycled elders and there has to be political leaders making millions.

Anonymous said...

jus a penny of thoughs, correct me if i am wrong.

warren buffet's 4th law of motion says when there is more motion, investor/owners' returns will decline. This is exactly what is happening to e CPF monies. Motion from various helpers comes in many forms - multi-million $ civil servans ,insurerss, etc to ever-more cpf policies & uses, "help" to maximise e returns. Through these processes, more frictional costs resulted, eroding owners returns in general. However, in fact, there is no erosion to speak of when the rate is already pegged at a low of 2.5% /4% while gic investment returns hovers around 10%?

Floating of smr interest to market rate of 10 years SGS bond + 1% does not help much as the debt market in sg is not a strong market indicator becos sg macro is influenced more using fx monetary policy and there are abundant alternative sources of monies to fund govt projects on e red dot other than borrowing monies from cpf owners, having regard to e possibility that the city state is able to attract so much hot monies from everywhere.

cpf monies in a way, should not be treated like a bank deposits commanding low yields because the owners have absolutely no rights to withdraw any part at any time, use it as a collateral against any loans, or use whole of it for investment.

"structural un-empolyment" hit on human citizens through fast-paced economic development . Some of these elderly u see them picking trash cans may not the case that they are not savings or prudent during their youths but are the by-products of this result.

Anonymous said...

capt_canuck : Singaporeans are only asking the pap government to give them a fair go at a decent life.
As it is the society is skewed very much towards the rich, well connected and gifted.
Foreigners especially those from the West will never appreciate the agony of the poor in Singapore.There is no welfare or free medical like those in other first world countries. Even foreigners from third world has got their cheaper hometown to fall back. The only alternative for Singaporeans is to creat another alternative for themselves when they are young.

James Chia said...

I see more and more such poor people on the streets these days. At my area, I used to see one old lady who would collect empty cans from the rubbish bin at my void deck every night. She would usually have almost filled up her huge plastic bag when she reaches my place but since the start of the year I think, I saw two more old folks doing the same thing in my area. Now her bag is never full. Not even half full. Biz is bad. Very pitiful.

Anonymous said...

hello to every fellow singaporean in this forum, i'm a self employed person , and i contribute my small self retirement fund base onmy own, initiative , and my sincere to every fellow singaporean is to plan for their own retirement ,

my point of view about the current singapore is just a land of great losses .
loss of confidence among singaporean about their identity, worring about how to retire in their later years,

if they is a chance to change once again,
i would advice the older singapore, to voice their will to remain as a british colonyif possible , than the current political ruling ,

being self rule sometimes might be a good choice , but we must see who is holding the yard stick ,

on the pace we are going now we are moving back into time ,
people are marrying but remain childless, a substantial some are remain single , and some people are working oversea after graduating from foreign instituitions, we are losing our social fabric. due to migrations and all these factors ,

i really dont think we can call ourselves a
develope 1st world , and a land of possiblities after having these real life facts , maybe things maybe possible in a better way for some , when more than half of us are already
wipe off in this red dot we call home

Kenneth said...

capt_canuck quoted the PM: "To have a society where everybody is equal, that's a recipe for poverty, it doesn't work."

Well it depends on what the PM means. If he means there will always be equality, I think that is only common knowledge.

So I think he must be questioning the principle of equality. I fear he is just following what his father had always preached and practised.

So let's not be sold on that.

It happened that one British professor did countered that view thus : "It is precisely because there is inequality in society that the principle of equality should be upheld".

Take the law of the land. Just because one is rich and powerful should not mean one should be treated differently from others before the law.

Countries that do not uphold the principle of equality are known otherwise as corrupt and decadent and cannot rise to greatness.

The more the principle of equal treatment is compromised the greater the imbalance and gap between the few rich and the middle-income and poor.

In a rather unique and legal way, however, the many policies of PAP are making the general masses poorer and politically weaker even while enriching PAP and its circles of supporters.

It is not always easy to understand how some new PAP policies might eventually affect us until the impact is felt.

There are also underlying PAP power structures that further empowers the PAP.

In addition to these is the control of the press to influence the thinking of the masses.

All these will take a book to elucidate.

But for a start just look at the extent of govt-linked companies, the control of CPF savings for government ventures that not subject to the people's checks, foreign talent and labour impact and the lack of state social welfare in Singapore.

This is a very interesting country as far as politics is concerned for capt_canuck to do some research.

Chee_Bye_Capt_Canuck said...

i have a funny feeling that this capt. canuck is just a PAP mole.

His logic is damn bloody idiotic: there has to be political leaders making millions.

Siao chee bye this capt. why must it be a necessary condition that leaders make millions? They ain't doing a proper job in the first place.

quitter said...

Myanmar or Burma is a 4th world country ruled by a military junta. Yet the Burmese dared to take to the streets to protest against fuel and public transport hikes.

Conclusion: Sporeans are cowards compared to the Burmese. You guys are just ball-less, all talk and no action. Continue to whine online while your dictatorial rulers continue to step on you.

Anonymous said...

to chee_bye_capt_canuck,

don't get so worked up over him. he is damned cheap angmoh fry, can only afford sgd 800 to 1.1k for accomodation.

it's very obvious that he is helping to sing the pap tune. for a person to regurgitate pinky clown's mee-siam-mai-hum logic, you automatically know his intellectual capacity.

pappies shld confer honorary citizenship to this foreign- meddler-of-local-politics and ask him to serve 2 years of ns as well. see how fast he will slink back to canada.

LOL

Anonymous said...

Where the hell is Wee S.M when you need her? I miss her infamous words...

Capt_Canuck said...

ANON 2:53PM, ANON 10:43AM and chee_bye_capt_canuck:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/301874/1/.html

After hearing about how the MDA censors thoughts on the internet, the law makes it illegal to speak in public and your own MM goes 'brass knuckles street fighting style' against anyone that speaks badly about him, you think now that I am here in Singapore and in the land of the 'intellectually repressed' I am going to say bad things about the PAP? After all, only a coward would speak these powerful hatred words against the PAP/gov't behind ANON names and fake facades, wouldn't you say?

Nice to see Lucky Tan speaking out with irony and wit instead of the mindless racist name callers, like yourself.

Capt_Canuck said...

http://www. channelnewsasia.com/
stories/ singaporelocalnews/
view /301874/1/.html

Let's see if this time the whole news article comes through and doesnt get chopped

Anonymous said...

caught this interesting article:

http://domtheclown.wordpress.com/2007/09/23/u-cant-touch-this/

Anonymous said...

I think Lucky has a kind heart always championing the cause of the poor and destitute.

About Capt Canuck's comments:

Yes there are probably more old people passing time at coffee shops than picking up cans. If it had been the other way round, Singapore must be in real deep trouble.

And what do you suggest those old folks drinking coffee do? Take up the CEO post of DBS bank just left vacant by Jakson Tai? Or jog along East Coast like President Nathan?

The complete equality that you quoted PM Lee is the kind where the hardworking gets the same as the lazy. That's the communist recipe that's proven to be doomed.

So the equality we're asking is not that kind. We're asking for equality of opportunities to pursue a decent living. Just because someone scored 20 more marks than me in PSLE, that person goes on to become the elite while I struggle to make ends meet? That's hardly equality is it?

But I do agree that the situation is improving and the MOE now recognises that talent should not be narrowly defined and there are more avenues for them to catch up later on in life.

But the old folks are probably too old to catch up and perhaps we should give them a bigger helping hand.

About hiding behind a psuedonym, how much more revealing is Capt Canuck compared to "anonymous"?

Also, using anonymous doesn't necessarily mean afraid. We're writing facts here, our opinions are based on conscience, we do not fear repurcussions.

Being anonymous can simply mean you value privacy. As simple as that.

Anonymous said...

By the way I am "Truly Singapore", if you think that's better than "anonymous" and my blog is:

http://trulysingapore.wordpress.com

Anonymous said...

This is going to deviate from what some of you guys said.

I recently engaged the services of a photo studio and the staff were mostly Malaysians and one mainlainder.

They impressed me with their work ethic, professionalism, conscientiousness, service, enthusiasm.

I believe the reason why they are hired is because they are cheap. I also gathered from our conversation that they pay quite a bit for rent. One is paying $260 for a room slightly bigger than a store room just to sleep. Another pays $400 for a proper room with no air con.

And when we reached back the studio at the end of a long days shoot, it was already 8+ and the staff are all still there ...

Yes, we always complain about foreigners taking away our jobs. But I see these people as merely earning a living and they are real human beings like you and me. I don't see why they are less deserving of a job as us. It's not as if they are having an easy life here ...

There are too many unfortunate people around, the old, the poor, those who came to find a better life ...

There's nothing much I can do given I am only a small cog in the wheel too ...

trulysingapore.wordpress.com

chee_bye_capt_canuck said...

capt_canuck:

Please repeat my nick 100 times, if not more, to yourselves daily.

End it with a woof woof!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky,

You should have taken the BMW number, and publicly shame this person.

Joaquim said...

I think the point that Lucky is trying to make is that the growing indifference that we have on the more unfortunate in our society. We are more interested in getting on with our own lives. Lending a helping hand to the poor is most invconvenient to say the least.

I am based in Bangkok and if the old man were to drop the cans in the middle of Sukhumvit causing a massive traffic jam, I will bet my bottom dollar that nobody will horn and there will be at least 20 people helping him.

I have personally witnessed an old lady pushing a cart up a rather steep slope causing the traffic to back up. There were so many trying to help her and not one car made any noise.

It is true that Thailand has its own set of problems - pimples, pot holes and all. What is comforting to me is that Thai people has a sense of grace and compassion that it is difficult to find now in Singapore. The Thais called it NAMJAI which loosely tranlates as consideration for others.

I find that people in Singapore are always in a rush. I think sometimes we need to appreciate the journey. Smell the flowers along the way. The destination may not be where you want to be.

Anonymous said...

The thing is Singaporeans are, by and large, conditioned to be always ahead of our neighbours, that we never realised that in our pursuit of excellence and wealth, we have lost our sense of compassion and spiritual compass along the way. All that is important is a bigger house, bigger car and being counted amount the millionaires. Everything else, like smelling the flowers, is secondary.

Anonymous said...

Joaquim and anoymous after joaquim are right.

But I believe in the Chinese saying "if the beam above isn't straight, it is because the beam below is crooked".

The character of a society is greatly influenced by the character of its leaders.

Lucky, Joachim et al have noticed Singaporeans becoming more go getting but less compassionate. Perhaps this is the tone set by our leaders?

Truly Singapore

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, this was a very good post highlighting the fact that there are many less fortunates in our society which we should help out. The BMW driver also reminded us how ugly some Singaporeans can be.

Unfortunately, there are people who, starting with an anti-government agenda, will eagerly lap up the latest societal misfortune to criticise the government.

There are always poor people around. I applaud Lucky for helping the old man. We should all learn from his example instead of criticising the government. Frankly, the poor would rather receive a Progress Package than listen to cheap words of sympathy which do nothing for their livelihoods.

One person lamented the fact that Singaporeans are ungracious and then rather surprisingly put the blame on our leaders for setting bad examples. Notwithstanding the fact that I've yet to hear of a minister doing something like the BMW driver (and he will be promptly forced to step down if he did so), are we so reliant on the government that they even condition our behaviour towards the poor?

Certainly, this government is far from perfect. But it is also true that many Singaporeans take things for granted. If we had oil like Brunei or Malaysia, true, we would be able to afford all sorts of health care subsidies etc. We don't, yet we are arguably doing a better job than these countries. Give credit where it is due. I think the government has become more and more welcome of constructive criticism so hopefully we will see more help forthcoming to the poor in future.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Singaporean now based in Msia. I feel the same dissonance when I see the clash between affluence and poverty in my very much loved Singapore.

But after living in KL for over a year, I really have to say I'm very pro-Sg.

Poverty here exists grimy and pervasive. Clashes between opposites are in every corner of life here.

And the govt really does not have the clout or concern Sg govt has to get these fixed.

Maybe it is impossible to eradicate poverty (or at least not without a long fight our generation has to continue). You see in other First World countries like UK, US and Japan the same scenarios all the time.

But I say in Sg, we as a whole have it darn good. Really. - Skye

Anonymous said...

I fully agree that we should not begin with an anti-govt stance and should not take this opportunity to criticise the govt.

We should judge the govt on the basis of what we can see with our own eyes.

When Lily Neo asked for more financial help for the poor, it was turned down flatly by Bala. In the end, they chose to give themselves astronomical pay increases.

This is a clear example of looking after oneself before looking after others. This is the tone set by our leaders.

As we get more and more affluent, our leaders become more accustomed to such words as elitism, winner takes all, no one owes you a living.

These are the pragmatic philosophies espoused by our govt you often find in papers.

So if the leadership espouses such self interested values, emphasises winning and being number 1 at the expense of social well being, how to fault its followers from behaving likewise?

Truly Singapore

Anonymous said...

Could you tell us more about this episode? What did Lily Neo suggest and why did Bala dismiss it?

Anonymous said...

Could you go read the papers yourself?

I have work to do.

Truly Singapore

Anonymous said...

See here for the parliamentary exchange:

http://theonlinecitizen.com/2007/04/25/parliamentary-exchange-between-lily-neo-and-mcys-minister/

I think the ironic thing from this blog episode is that the people who built our nation from 3rd to 1st world are the very same people who are not enjoying their fruits of labour but instead are out picking cans and cardboards for a living. Didn't they contribute to the society with their hard work and taxes? Then why the society whom they had helped build turn its back on them?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. But Bala mentioned that the gvt shouldnt give too much money as this will encourage people to be dependent on gvt. aid. He also said that aid to the poor is a very flexible system so that if a family finds that the public assistance package is insufficient, it can always ask for more and this will be given if there is really such a need.

This all sounds reasonable to me.

I don't think it's fair to say that the gvt emphasises winning at the expense of societal welfare. Certainly it does encourage winning, but who wants to remain a "loser"? And what of all the packages to help the poor?

Not to belittle the contributions of the people who are now picking cardboard and cans, but it is a great exagerration to say that they built our nation to make it a first world state. We are here because of good people in government, it's as simple as that. I think the real irony is that some Singaporeans fail to see this, which to foreigners is clear as day.

Anonymous said...

I have been to KL before though I never stayed long enough to witness the poverty there. But I believe if I had stayed in India or Afghanistan, I might see even more poverty like mutilated children begging in the streets.

And having witnessed poverty, I must not go to Japan or Switzerland and see old folks strolling in the park and playing with their grand children.

Truly Singapore

Anonymous said...

i wonder how bala decides what is enough and what is not. maybe he and his family should try living with those allowances for 6 months before to appreciate what is or is not enough.

yes the old folks can ask for more, but why in the first place do we subject them to a situation where they do not have enough and have to ask for more? and what procedures must they go through? how much red tape? how much more can they get?

what is reasonable to one may not be reasonable to another. it all depends on whether you would put yourself in the shoes of the old folk.

i think it is fair to say the govt emphasises winning over societal welfare. Ministerial pay hike at the same time as GST increase and rejection of increased funding for old folks is exactly that.

Sure nobody wants to be a loser. In that case, why would the masses subscribe to the 'winner-takes-all' mentality that the govt has?

The packages may go some way in helping the poor. But with increasing prices all around, I'm not so sure how far those packages can stretch.

Even the not-so-poor but not-at-all-rich are not getting much help at all and yet they are facing increasing prices, especially in housing thus leading to a reduced standard of living.

I am of the opinion that good govt has been over emphasised. firstly, our govt inherited a very good british governing system so if there had been any good govt, it would have been a continuation of what the british put in place. secondly, when you look at hong kong, the british govt had been pretty hands off and yet the country prospered just the same. in other words, had Singapore's government had not been so pervasive in controlling the economy but had left it in the hands of the private sector, we would have prospered just the same.

so it is not so simple and only fools continue to believe that the govt single handedly built singapore.

Anonymous said...

I just had an idea. Maybe we should implement the same scheme for ministerial salaries.

Pay them say $300 a month. If that is not enough, they can request for more. The people can decide if they need more and the rationale for doing so is so that they do not become overly complacent.

Anonymous said...

How the old person ended up like that is one thing, but being treated lower than a dog is another. Hopefully the BMW driver earns a place in hell.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 6:22pm,

If you have did volunteer work before you will know that what looks good on paper may not be what it is on application...

Anonymous said...

Yes, seeing folks (and not all of them are elderly) collecting old cardboards / cans and pushing them across the roads is not uncommon. It pains my heart each time but I also see the dignity in their struggles. I once spoke to an old lady collecting cardboards in my estate and she said that as long as she could walk, she would continue to do so. Self-reliance, just as the government has promoted.
Yet, I wonder if we as Singaporeans in general have become hardened that we turn a blind eye to this disenfranchised segment of society. Or do we choose not to "see" them because they represent a reality we find hard to acknowledge in an economically affluent nation.

Anonymous said...

I've not been to Japan or Switzerland, but please bear in mind that those countries were built up over centuries while we are an immigrant society of people with different racial and religious backgrounds and with less than 50 years of independence.

If you think our government's ability is over-emphasised, it is then kind of strange that most foreigners think very highly of our government. If you think Britian left behind a fantastic system, take a look at the National Health Service in Britain where queues are so long that the government flies patients to France for hip replacement surgery and where you have to wait for more than a week before you can get an appointment to see a doctor for a common cold.

If you think HK is fantastic then you have not witnessed the pollution there, nor the extreme poverty in some areas, nor the frantic pace of life and the crammed living space. And HK people in general work much harder for success, so that's credit to their people, not their government.

The suggestion about paying ministers $300 a month is outrageous and for all our sakes I hope you were just joking.

About looking good on paper- well the implementation is another issue. Of course wish that schemes are well implemented so the poor get the assistance readily.

And I fully agree with the last post that this thing about helping poor people should come from us as well as the government.

Anonymous said...

so we acknowledge that Japan and Switzeland have longer histories than us and are ahead of us in terms of the standard of living of the common folk. so we should not be satisfied with the status of quo of having so many old folks collecting rubbish for a living. we should look up to Japan and Switzerland and strive to give a decent life to our old folks like the Japanese and Swiss have. we should not always be comparing ourselves with india or malaysia and be happy with the fact that we have less beggars than them.

the fact that we are an immigrant society does not necessarily mean we are disadvantaged or that it is more difficult for us to achieve prosperity. the fact that america was and still is an immigrant society didn't prevent it from becoming prosperous.

it is not at all strange. foreigners only get to know singapore through official media that are controlled by the govt and hence sings praises about the govt. it knows the accomplishments of the country but it doesn't know who pays the price for these accomplishments. they come and they see the glitter and the glamour at the airport and orchard road but they don't see the poor, old folk rummaging through rubbish in the HDB heartland.

it is possible that the british are a lot more enlightened of drastic procedures like hip replacement and are more willing to try it. hence the overwhelming demand. it is also possible that many old folks here don't even read and write and don't know what hip replacement is all about and are afraid to try - hence the lower demand.

i was told before that you can get cold medicine easily from dispensaries in the UK so there's no need to see the doctor. so their system is good in the sense that doctors don't get bogged down with minor ailments like cold and can focus on more serious sicknesses. so maybe the person that waited one week to see the doctor for cold is because he refused to get his medicine for cold from the dispensary?

the pollution in hong kong does not come from within hong kong but from outside. just like we get haze every once in a while and when we cannot wish it away, do we say we are incompetent?

there are two reasons why hong kong is so much more crammed than singapore. firstly they have almost twice as many people as us. if the govt boosts our population to 6.5 million, you can be rest assured we will start to feel more crammed. already as it is, flats are getting smaller and smaller with each generation. and flat prices will shoot up as well as singapore becomes more crammed.

the second reason is that hong kong is mostly mountainous so that the amount of flat land they have to build houses is actually quite little compared to us.

i think the reason why hong kong people work hard is because they are working for themselves. here, most of us end up working, one way or another for the govt, so we're not really working for ourselves. so i would actually credit the hong kong govt for giving the people the freedom to pursue their own success and not be inhibited by the monopoly of state entreprises.

paying ministers $300 is not a joke but a mere reflection of what you're saying. since you say it is entirely acceptable that we pay old folks the bare minimum and 'top up' when they ask for more, we should do the same for the ministers. instead of raising their pay automatically after every election, we should just cap their salary to the minimum and get them to ask and to justify. the problem is, they write their own paycheck but old folks don't.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that, justified or not, they think it is their absolute right to demand the kind of salary they are taking. Can we do anything about it when the next election comes around? I am not at all optimistic.

Anonymous said...

About Switzerland and Japan- Of course we aspire to try to reach their level of social concern for the elderly. What I'm saying is that they have a long history and a more homogenous culture than us. So we should take note before comparing our progress with them because they started off earlier than us and with a more united people in terms of culture.

Why is America so prosperous? Because it constantly attracts the best and the brightest, because the country is huge size wise and population wise, because it has an abundance of natural resources. What does Singapore have? No land, small population, no natural resources. So what do we do? We try to attract the best foreign talent. That sounds like what the gvt's trying to do ain't it?

And for your information, America has a much greater proportion of poor people than us, and their income inequality problems are much worse.

About Britain's health care- their system is a mess, and it's not because there is an especially high demand for hip replacement or that people refuse to buy medicine at a pharmacy. It's because healthcare is free, so demand exceeds supply and thus the long queues.

I admit saying HK is polluted and crammed doesn't imply anything at all, so I'll have to take that back. HK's prosperity has alot to do with the drive of their people. It's just a highly competitive society. Frankly, the pace of life there is too hectic for me, but highly energetic young people will find it challenging and energizing. But I think to settle down, have a comfortable, more relaxed pace of life, Singapore is better. Of course that's just personal opinion. Singapore could be more prosperous in purely monetary terms if our people were that driven- but the price that we will have to pay may be too high for some.

What I don't understand is your argument that HK people work harder because they are working for themselves while Singaporeans work less hard because they are working for the gvt

Foreigners have a good impression of Singapore from what they read? Firstly, alot of what they read is by foreigners, not our own media (why would they read about Singapore from the Straits Times). Second, we're not just talking about tourists. We're also talking about people who decide to settle down here, permanently. Some of these people are from First World countries like England. This place can't be that bad.

I don't understand why the minister salary issue is so persistent. If you were a minister, will you honestly let the people decide your salary? You might just end up with $300/mth. Maybe not all ministers are fantastic or what but some took pay cuts to join the gvt. I think it's entirely fair to pay them a portion of what they could earn outside.

Anonymous said...

Japan's economy was devastated by the second world war and nation rebuilding started only in 1945. By the 60s and 70s, Japan has already become a world economic powerhouse. So their progress was achieved in 15, 25 years. We have had 40 years. How long more do you think we need to become like Japan?

Another example is finland. finland's economy only started to take off after the collapse of the Soviet Union. That's some time around 1990. So finland exploded into the world scene in just 10 years and has done spectacularly well. We have had 40 years. How much more time do you think we need to create a brand equal to that of Nokia?

The fact that America isn't homogenous in terms of culture but yet could become the number 1 nation in the world shows that the homogeneity of switzerland and japan did not account for their successes.

Does America actively seek out the best and the brightest or is it the other way round? The best and the brightest seek out America? Singapore actively seeks the best and brightest but often ends up with second rate imports. So you see, America is not prosperous because it seeks the best and brightest. Rather it is the other way round. Because it is prosperous, the best and brightest go there.

If America is prosperous because the country is huge and populous, then india should be four times as prosperous as USA now. But is it? If you say large land area is why America is prosperous then Russia should be three times as prosperous as USA. Yet Russia isn't even considered first world in terms of per capita GDP.

If you look at the list of richest nations, more likely than not, they are small nations. Holland, Switzerland, finland are all small nations. So smallness is actually an advantage towards achieving prosperity. When you look at Holland, Switzerland, finland, Taiwan and Hong Kong, they have small populations, they have mostly small land areas, and they have little resources compared to the size of their economies. What do they do? Do they attract the best foreign talent? No, that's not what they do primarily. Primarily, they innovate and achieve success for and by themselves. So when you compare what the govt has been doing all this while versus what these countries have done, we fall short miserably.

For your information too, the help that America's poor gets is more generous than the help that our poor gets. Like I mentioned earlier, most of the large and populous countries are plagued by problems of poverty - Brazil, China, Russia, India, you name it. The task of delivering prosperity to everyone in a large, populous country is so many times more difficult compared to that of a small country.

Yet, America does better than us when it comes to social security ...

don't be ridiculous. most of us work and are entitled to free or near free medical benefits. do you find us frequenting hospitals and clinics just because it's free? a person must be nuts to go for free medical treatment when he or she has no problems.

conversely, when an old folk doesn't go to the hospital or the clinic because it isn't free, chances are, the old folk simply cannot afford to and would rather die coughing than see the doctor.

so you see, free medical treatment doesn't necessarily mean abuse of medical resources. Paid medical treatment on the other hand, can mean that poor old folks are put off seeing the doctor despite suffering from illnesses.

If you belong to the higher echelons of society and you have money, yes singapore is a paradise. but if you don't have money and have to slave for a living, i think there isn't much of a difference whether you slave here or you slave in hong kong.

The hong kong economy is free for all. It isn't dominated by state enterprises. there is fair competition. people know they can work hard for themselves. here on the other hand, people are restricted from competiting with state enterprises. yellow top cabs have become a page in history. people can't work hard earning for themselves in a cab they can call their own. they are forced to slave for cab companies instead. that's the difference - of free men and of slaves.

There is this foreign journalist called tom plate. i'm sure westerners read his writings. go read his writings. it sounds a lot like regurgitation from local official press releases.

Yes a lot of people are settling down here now. We pay them good money don't we? They are like gold while we are like shit. When the money's there, of course it can't be bad.

It's not just the minister. who wouldn't want to write their own pay cheques given the choice? but it's plain unfair. It's like the days when kings ruled the world and can demand anything. that's why kings have been overthrown in the first place - people are fed up with them.

we understand that Dr Ng Eng Heng took a severe pay cut to join the govt. but in the first place, what the hell is a top surgeon doing in parliament explaining interest rates to the people? isn't it a bit ridiculous? a lot of money and a lot of years were spent honing his surgical skills, skills that are precious in a society where we have a shortage of medical specialists. the country as a whole suffers because a top surgeon is explaining interest rates in parliament.

Anonymous said...

This argument is going to take very long so I think we can just agree to disagree about this whole issue on whether the gvt is doing a good job. The original post was about the unfortunates in society and at least we are in complete agreement that more should be done to help them.

Leo said...

Whoever say Angmoh f*** off should be kick out of the country and strip of his citizenship or should be send into a labour camp.

Screw you Singapore don't need people like you.

"Anon angmoh, f-off!

10:43 AM"

Clement said...

"chee_bye_capt_canuck said..."
Whoever post this is a loser and sensitive person that need to be lock up in IMH.

Screw you who keep saying foreigner f*** off and blabla bla

Fucking loser