Monday, February 02, 2009

Economic woes spilling into society and politics...

Just a quick scan of the newspapers during the weekend shows there is increased instability around the world[ Google links]. There were protests in tightly controlled Russia as the opposition, Other Russia, took advantage of the financial turmoil to organise protests around the country. In Britain, there were protests against the hiring of non-British nationals in govt contracts. There are riots everyday in China as workers are laid off by the thousands if not millions.
During the good times, people are willing to overlook the various things the govts do, mistakes and violation of human rights are forgiven. In times of economic trouble, everything swings the other way. A man fearing for his family and his job begins to ask questions that he does not normally ask....he begins to ponder about things he usually does not think about. When times were good, a British worker does think too much about the Italian foreign talent but today he feels insecure about his job and the Italian guy appears to be taking it away. Outlandish CEO salaries and bonuses were tolerated in the past have become incendiary in recent months as people come to realise that these CEOs are not so capable to be paid 500 times that of an ordinary worker - something is wrong with the system.
While great positive change can come in times like this because people reexamine policies and govts are more prepared to change, the uncertain and unstable economic climate can lead to social instability. In Singapore there is a growing angry and even resentment as the economy deteriorates. I was in particular shocked by the lack for sympathy for Seng Han Thong, I had to sit and listened more than once as people speculated about what his has done wrong to spite his constituents as if he deserved what he got. A number of blogs fuelled the anger further with negative stories about the man when he laid in hospital. There is already plenty of anger going around, there is no need to stir up more.
“Whatever it is, one way or another, we will make sure that anyone who needs help, gets help,” - PM Lee [United, we stand out]
I applaud PM Lee's pledge yesterday to give out help to anyone who needs help. Whatever the PAP govt has done in the past, raise fees, raise their own salaries, Mas Selamat, the pro-business budget etc, the fulfilment of this powerful pledge will go a long way to win back the support of the people. The PAP has often told us that we do not have to think about issues such as justice, equality, human rights and democracy because at the end of the day the PAP will do what is right for the people. This crisis is their chance to demonstrate this and that the PAP system ultimately deliver what is good for the people.

I hope this crisis gets people thinking and that people become more enlightened. Recently, MP Inderjit Singh spoke in his personal capacity supporting a minimum wage and rejecting the relentless pursuit of GDP growth[Link]. The first time I heard about minimum wage by a Singapore politician was 2 elections ago - but they were more interested in suing him for defamation at that time so his call for a minimum wage was lost in the confusion. I hope this crisis will Singaporean open the eyes of Singaporeans to alternative ideas and that change will come to Singapore peacefully.


Clear eyed said...

Agree with you and hope the govt really helps in concrete ways. Otherwise more fires will be started and the walls will be decorated with more love messages.

Anonymous said...

I guess for most Singaporean, the right question to ask is: why should Singaporean have such a high salary, compare with developing countries.

Anonymous said...

because we are a chinese majority country where everyone works, very, very, very hard.

not saying that chinese are good or anything, personally, I think they are stupid to spend so much of their 1 life working and worrying abt money, but such habits tend to make confucian societies very rich. Can't think of an exception.

Anonymous said...

It's about time the gvt limits the number of PRs being given out. The reportd queue outside ICA looks terribly long.. each PR issued is additional competition for the unemployed but equally qualified Singaporean in this job market. The potential PRs can always pack up and go home but where can the unemployed white collar Singaporean go to?

Having worked in middle mgmt in several MNCs, I noticed that dept heads have a tendency to hire their own kind (aka same nationality) even though there are Singaporeans who are qualified to do the job locally and are willing to do it for the same pay. We are talking about white collar jobs in management, sales, project management, IT etc.. these foreign talent from India, America, Europe, China, Philippines are not necessary much cheaper and better for these middle management roles... it's an enormous effort to educate them and assimilating them into the working culture of the company, the Asian/SG work mentality etc..

Anonymous said...

I applaud the statement of PM Lee today.

Now I hope the thing can be operationalised quickly. More people will be retrenched and I hope they will prepare a handbook for all retrenched workers -
where to get help for your kids schoooling
-where to get help for PUB / utility vouchers
- where to get help for the next meal.

All these without having to feel a sense of Shame as it was the govt who led us all into this economic crisis - by linking high pay to ministers, high civil service pay, high GST
rates and high inflation.

These need to be operationalised at the lower levels, and I hope the percentage of suicide rates / MRT jumpers will not increase over the next months.

Gila Babi said...

Oh Singapore, Singapore. When will we wake up?

The PAP govt has been creating jobs, yes. They mostly in the service & construction industry, or elecronics manufacturing. So they tell us not to be fussy & take cleaners' jobs. Come on, don't we have aspirations & hopes? Can't we hope for better jobs & pay?

The way the labour policies have been designed, the employer is king. THEY are the fussy ones! What is there to say that Singaporeans can't take lower pay, as long as it is above a living wage? Its the employers that reject Singaporeans in favour of FTs, all because it is made more cost-effective for them to do so by the govt FT policy.

All the govt talk about FT & foreign companies being good for us is BULLSHIT. What direct benefit do we get, unless you happen to work for one of these companies? In many cases, the foreign companies simply employ FT, NOT Singaporeans. And this has been going on since 2002 or so. And these foreign companies left on their own terms. So what was the big gain to Singaporeans? Only gain was that it looked good for some govt officials - the people at EDB, and the PAP. That's it. It is sickening.

There is so much that is wrong with our labour policy, but even trying to tell the govt of our concerns is not allowed! As has been the case for years, the govt will just brush aside our concerns. Singaporeans, can we put up with this any longer? WE NEED CHANGE! Yes the PAP has done great things in the past, but what of NOW?

The discrimination against Singaporeans must be stopped. We are just economic digits to be manipulated for the benefit of the "elite". As for now we only have the ballot box as our weapon. we can't demonstrate or go on strike like the British & Europeans. VOTE THE PAP OUT NOW!

Anonymous said...

agree with anon 4.13pm

AlphavilleSG said...

...There's nothing to fear but fear itself...

I think we are through with the credit meltdown, hell has now thoroughly froze, the market aren't even miffed about a $3 Citi share.

The positive feedback of fear itself is working through society, how do you stop such primal behavior? How do you get out this funk?

UK cut its VAT, Taiwan gave its citizen vouchers to spend in the shops... Now Singapore can't export its ways out this recession, but it can certainly help the small local business to survive, the PAP govt. should have tried to address and maintain a resilient domestic demand, it could have lowered GST, the single most effective way to return money to your pockets, instead it tried to save jobs that in the climate of fear would still be loss as businesses face inevitable margin squeeze and lower productivity. And the measured of capping the rebates all it does is again depresses wage.

The PAP govt created this inverted tax pyramid, it created this wealth gap, it never succeeded in overcoming the reliance on export, in rolling good time using this one trick pony to vastly reward itself, now all they can do is talk up how this budget is going to 'help'.

Anonymous said...

I can assure you all that there is nothing to fear about so many FTs here taking our jobs and so many wanted to apply for PR.

Why? Because the true bred locals here are not and will not do anything about it. No riots, no demos, no attacks on these FTs etc. Maybe only a mad old man will burn an MP but that's an isolated case and for another issue. So it will be very peaceful. Once things are peaceful, anything can be implemenented by the gahmen. You local folks suffer? Feel depressed? Feel like committing suicide? Doesn't matter. Just be peaceful. And they did. So far so good.

Anonymous said...

This is Singaporeans best chance to force the pap government to amend their dictatorial and greedy ways. Do not let up. To do so will be folly. The pap leaders have over the years make all sorts of promises and forget about them. For e.g. Swiss standard of living, GCT as PM has on more than one assured Singaporeans that no one will be left behind. What did LHL said in his first speech as PM ? He seems to have forgotten about his promise of more freedom for Singaporeans.
So don't be naive that this pap government has repented. They will never change. NEVER. The only way Singaporeans can get them to change is by putting them on the edge. Give them only slightly more than 50% support like the Australian situation. In this way they are forced to be more accountable to Singaporeans. Singaporeans must continue to put on the pressure on the pap government. Change is never peaceful. But change is necessary for the wellbeing and future of Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

Are they going to have election soon?

Either we become worse
or they become worse.

The choice is yours.

Anonymous said...

"because we are a chinese majority country where everyone works, very, very, very hard.

not saying that chinese are good or anything, personally, I think they are stupid to spend so much of their 1 life working and worrying abt money, but such habits tend to make confucian societies very rich. Can't think of an exception."

without oil, we have no choice but to extract ..."human oil" for wealth.

if you understand that, you'll understand our policies and laws are designed to do just that.....produce human fuel.

at the end of the day, you are valued according to the work you produce. and i read somewhere that people whose identity and self worth comes from work are....warped.

so you have alot of...sick people here. lol.

Jon said...

These woes must come,
These woes will pass,
Winter has come,
Winter will pass,
To make way for spring,
And the promises it brings!!!

Qualifier - Winter has just started and spring is some way off.
(It's Good To Be Optimistic, But It's Bad to be Stupid)

Anonymous said...

haha! remember the last time they tried to help?

the poor- raise gst
traffic - raise erp
public transport - raise fee
better govt - increase pay

tolong lah!
just stay the fuxx out can already, whenever they help we suffer!

Anonymous said...

Do you notice how suddenly they are really into helping the poor and needy now?

I suspect it's 1 of 2 things:

1. They realised their "sins" and are "repenting" hoping that the change of ways will bring the country back together. If that's the case, it's strange seeing that they are atheists in the first place.

2. Propaganda for elections. To leave a good and lasting memory in the minds of SGeans on their "help" and "hard work" now, in the next elections.

Flamed. said...

Yes, you are right and I agree with you, that there is already a lot of anger and resentment in the hearts of the people, and there is no need to stir up more, e.g. by name-calling and branding the people as "lesser mortals", "bacteria" or whatever!

Educated and responsible people in our society should know how and when to shut up their gaps, instead of allowing their jaws to go loose, in such a time of high tension, which if handled wrongly can simply bursts into flame and turns very ugly like the burnt marks on Mr Seng Han Thong's neck and arms.