Monday, August 22, 2011

The return of poverty........

On my way to work, I pass by this condominium called The Marq On Patterson[Link]. The Marq is the most expensive property in Singapore priced upwards of $6000 psf.

"The Marq offers the design features of a good class bungalow; space as a basic tenet of luxury, the airiness of double-volume ceilings and a 15-metre private lap pool cantilevered over the city skyline for each unit within The Signature Tower, luxuries elevated by every amenity expected of an ultra-luxurious condominium from the spectacular panoramas of the city skyline to the attentive service of the Concierge and management team." 

The Marq represents the pinnacle of luxury and opulence in Singapore. While the Marq was constructed, the queue and demand for rented flats also rose. A rising number of Singaporeans cannot afford to own property because prices of public flats have outstripped income growth which has either remained stagnant or fell among the lower income families. The extreme difference in the quality of housing located on an island roughly 700 square kilometers represents the startling economic inequality that has arisen in the past 2 decades. For a short period in the late 80s and early 90s, the HDB was able to stop building rental flats because the demand was too low as even the lower paid workers' real wages for those holding full time jobs was sufficient to own a flat and raise a family. 2 decades later, after so much expansion in our GDP, we find the demand for rental flats growing again. Poverty is back and rising - Singapore workers today are not less skilled than they were in the 1990s, they work longer hours than ever before and have to compete harder than they ever did with the foreign influx. Yet what they got out of their working cheaper, better and faster is rising poverty.

I don't know if you caught this interview of Goh Chok Tong by a reporter during the GE2011 campaign. Goh Chok Tong was asked about the Swiss sstandard of living he set off to achieve as PM. He said people who accused him of failing to achieve the target of Swiss standard of living didn't know what they were talking about - his goal was for Singapore's per capita GDP to  reach the targeted Swiss GDP of 1984 in 1999 (adjusted for inflation). This goal was actually achieved in 1994 ahead of schedule when Singapore's per capita GDP reached US$20.4K  roughly the same as Swiss GDP in 1984 adjusted for inflation to 1994 US dollars. Anyone who has been to and lived in Switzerland for a while will not hesitate to tell you that the quality of life in Singapore is no where near the Swiss standard of living in 1984. Using GDP as a yard stick misses too many things - GDP doesn't say how hard a person have to work to earn his income, it doesn't say if he has access to good health care, public transport and housing,etc. But the most important thing is per capita GDP does not say anything about how wealth is distributed. It could well be that the privileged few are enjoying Donald Trump's opulent lifestyle while many others are struggling as if they are living in a developing country.  In recent years, the PAP govt has tried to attract the rich in the region to take up citizenship here - their wealth and income will be counted in our national statistics and we will show in instant jump in GDP. One striking example of this approach was seen when the govt released figures to show a rapid rise in the income of Indian families. A closer look reveals that the large jump is due purely to the import of Indian professionals who earned higher incomes. How does that benefit local Singapore Indians who saw no significant jump in income?  This numbers game is an illusion and distract us from real viable approaches to improve the lives of Singaporeans.

At the same time the income gap is rising, the govt exacerbates the effects of the inequality by passing as much burden of retirement, health care and education to individuals and their families as possible to keep taxes for the richer segments of society and corporations low.  This approach has resulted in a widening division of our society. Those at the top who are rewarded to the tune of millions and at same time have people who work all day and still cannot afford basic necessities because there is no minimum wage. The playing field its tilted so much in favor of those who are rich, we are probably in a vicious cycle in which the rich get richer faster and the poor get left further behind. Unless the govt intervene meaningfully we, as a society, cannot get out of this cycle. The PAP govt, however is extremely resistant to ideas that can bring about greater equality due to its ideology. Take CPF Life as an example. The govt goes out its way to create a complex scheme to force Singaporeans to shoulder the burden of "ultra-longevity" - people living beyond 80 yrs old . The scheme stretches the already insufficient CPF further resulting a poorer quality of life for those who are poor. They could have funded this tail-end retirement  through progressive taxation - a small increase in the taxes of our top 5-10% would have been sufficient. Lower income Singaporeans are already struggling to with the burden of retirement - through forced savings to the CPF - for them to shoulder the burden of their own retirement means a big cut in their quality of life ...yet the PAP pushes this further because they want to protect the wealth of the rich by keeping their taxes as low as possible and the burden on the sick, poor and disabled as high as possible.

Today we need a balanced approach to break this vicious cycle of rising poverty in our society. While the PAP refuses to stop allocating advantages to the rich and burdening the poor, Singaporeans in general do not share this philosophy of protecting the rich. We are tired of labor policies that gives big corporations unfettered access to cheap foreign labor so they can make higher profits while depressing the wages of ordinary Singaporeans. We are tired of the system that PAP put in place that does not result in a shared prosperity. It is now 3rd world living stardard for the underclass vs living in the Marq for the richest in our society.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

pap will stay and will continue to stay for next twenty years. thus, my advice to anyone not happy with pap is to migrate and pull out all your cpf monies. first, you can stop being a pap slave and second, your cpf monies can stop being use as a betting tool for pap.

Lye Khuen Way said...

Lucky, what a superb article. Just wondering if our elite care a hoot about the "Great Divide"......

Anonymous said...

"Return of poverty..." or whatever lah, just make sure that at least 60.1% are not poor. Or at least rich enough to be happy. The country will then be very stable peaceful and also prosperous.

In other countries, the govt there do not know how to make majority happy. That's why they have so much unrest and chaos.

Or maybe their countries too big - big population, big land area so not so easy.

But let's say with only 5 million on 700 sq km, I think not that difficult lah. Even 6.5 million also no problem.

So what is 6000 psf condo when you have the world's richest as your market?

Not only foreign talent but also foreign wealth!

Anonymous said...

Sad to say (because I used to support PAP) but PAP is the problem.

In a democracy, you just have to keep voting wisely.

Keep convincing your friends and relatives to vote wisely.

Anonymous said...

This is Capitalism.
As much as the market can bear.

And the market can bear $50,000 for a COE to own a car.

And the market can bear $35million for a Sentosa Cove bunglow.

And the market can bear $18 for UOB shares.

But the market cannot bear $4 million pay for the President
or $2million for the Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, really enjoy this article.

Put our reality in concise perspective.

Bravo.

Anonymous said...

"So what is 6000 psf condo when you have the world's richest as your market?"

depending where you are coming from. for those who are able to capitalize, good as you get to benefit.

for those who do not have the ability and capability to take advantage but may have to pay for things that are generally inflated by the filthy rich, so what if the world riches are here but does not really help your own cause.

Anonymous said...

"But the market cannot bear $4 million pay for the President or $2million for the Prime Minister."

if you do not when to stop, it will collapse fast when the time comes.

the moral of the story, do not be too greedy and like what they say you need to have some sense of proportion. now who said this before.

Anonymous said...

As reported in the Business Times front page on 22 Aug 2011, Singapore Citizens should 99.99999999% expect that under the pressure of employers and bosses, the minimum salary for employment pass holders will be greatly reduced back to the old $2500 in the very near future.

Never mind that the jobs belonging to Singapore Citizens are replaced by cheaper foreigners, never mind that Singapore Citizens cannot get any job offer due to cheaper foreigners offering themselves cheaply as long as the purpose of this reduction in minimum salary of employment pass holders is to cut cost of companies to boost the profit of companies.

With greater and higher profit, bosses, chairmen, CEO, vice presidents, directors, senior managements pay themselves higher salaries, higher bonus, higher allowances, higher stock options.

In the words of bosses, chairmen, CEO, vice presidents, directors and senior managements, together known as "boss",
Boss: We only think about ourselves.
Boss: We want ourselves to be richer and richer.
Boss: We do not care about the rest of Singapore Citizens, even if the rest of Singapore Citizens become poorer and poorer.
Boss: The above are our mindsets, mentalities and attitudes.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...22/8/11 22:46

The tile goes.

///They cite shortage of professional staff, unwillingness of Singaporeans to take up certain jobs.///

Then, the first paragraph goes : -

///Construction and logistics firms, restaurants and retailers - all hit by successive rounds of measures aimed at tightening the flow of foreign workers into Singapore - are hoping policymakers can make allowances for industry realities.///

I wonder what professionals these companies are talking about and the pay scale they are offering for these so-called professionals.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...22/8/11 22:46

There is very high chance that "the minimum salary for employment pass holders will be greatly reduced back to the old $2500" very soon after the president election.

Anonymous said...

Luxury home prices in Singapore fell during the second quarter. A market relying on expectations is volatile both ways; as with the last time the high end segment will be the worst hit. While the newbies are dazed and immobilized, cash flushed speculators will run off in a flash. Nothing is new.

I hate managers said...

If the KPI of these managers, CEO,SVP and executives were to inlcude staff happiness and satisfaction, I believe people will be willing to work for $2500.

Its the KPI of these people and the incentives in place that keeps the lid on salaries and the unhappiness.

Money, Authority and Influence is a very addictive mix.. get the hang of it and you'll never give it up.. think about your current CEO or Head of Department..
greedy people aren't they?

Ser Ming said...

Hi Lucky,

What is your take on the coming Presidential Election?

Anonymous said...

Well said, as the Gini index getting wider and the Govt choose to ignore the sentiment on the ground. Clearly poverty is on the way for future Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Well said, as the Gini index getting wider and the Govt choose to ignore the sentiment on the ground. Clearly poverty is on the way for future Singapore.

Lucky Tan said...

Ser Ming,

I think the vote split will hand the presidency to TT which is not what many people want.

That is why the US has some kind of informal 2 round process...the Republican compete among themselves and the Democrats among themselvss first.

Other countries fix this by have 2 rounds of voting first round to pick the top 2 candidates then these 2 compete against each other.

TT will win by artefact of the system rather than winning the hearts and minds of the electorate. Rightfully, the president has to collect more than 50% of the votes for a mandate, if not conduct another round of voting for the top 2 vote winners.

Anonymous said...

A win is a win, whether by artefact, GRC, SMC, endorsement or walkover.

PAP or PAP endorsed is capable of winning in any type of system.

Of course must have also won some hearts and minds lah, if not how to win 93% seats (in GE) or get 75% endorsement for PE before even a single vote is cast?

Chan JY said...

We've always been told to look at the "big picture". But are we part of that picture?

Anonymous said...

"But are we part of that picture?"
Chan JY 23/8/11 12:50

Of course. For example if you are born here as male citizen, you do National Service (become soldier) as part of the picture.

Or for some, to become President or Defence medical scientist is also part of the picture.

So the big picture consists of many parts. See which part you belong to.

Pui, Pui! said...

Well, in that case, TT is a given.

We should all turn off our TVs when TT is being inagurated and go to botanic gardens instead to watch and listen to peacefull music and appreciate nature.

perhaps wear a black armband to indicate our displeasure.
I for one will not listen to him anymore.

Pui, Pui

Anonymous said...

What to do?? Sinkies already voted for You Die Your Business rule of law. Many billionaires staying in S'pore are already telling govt not to listen to daft sheep, but to continue with the business as usual PAP tactics. Even Jim Rogers has told Bloomberg that Singapore must continue to be open to foreigners otherwise S'pore is finished.

Now before PE, govt is controlling its mouth, don't say so much. Once PE is over, you will hear the same crap like back in 2007 or 2008. And if you don't like it, PAP will tell you to shove it where the sun don't shine.

Anonymous said...

Something else that really perturbs me is the influx of foreign professionals to take up jobs that pay 3-6k per month. I mean FTs that have strong work experience shld command that level of salaries, but why arent sporeans give priorities. We see numerous IT, projects, service managerial roles taken up by FTs, when equally qualified sporeans are depraved of these opportunities. Not right at all.

Winking Doll said...

Even Warren Buffet doesn't agree with policies that coddle the super-rich.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1313406012-LdFPV4bCgoJeCCLcFOOFEw

Quote: "And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation."
-- Warren Buffet

This is one investor who knows his numbers. Singapore policy makers should do well to take heed.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 23/8/11 15:46 above,

Because we don't have enough locals to take those $3-6K per month jobs.

Or because those foreigners are much better quality than locals, so more value for money.

Employers employ foreigners not because they hate Singaporeans and like foreigners but because foreigners are value for money. This will lower business cost and increase profits for the company.

It is as simple as that.

And who cares whether you are perturbed or not by this, if 60.1% voters are OK with it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the 60% are happy with foreigners and they are happily employed.

Its the remaining 40% that feel threatend and have experienced some sort of displacement by foreigners. They also feel the added pressure of the 60% who can afford high home prices and cost of living.

It will be an interesting scene with this economic weakness that is coming.
I wonder if the 60% will still be happy and faithfull

In typical Singapore style... lets wait & see...

Anonymous said...

Something else that really perturbs me ...Not right at all.

23/8/11 15:46

...who cares whether you are perturbed or not by this..

23/8/11 16:02



If it affects me, of course I care, but why give 2 hoots about something that doesnt concerns me? This is the fking wisdom you should learn from them cocksuckers who dun do NS.

Anonymous said...

As all the elections, that is GE2011 and PE2011, that need to be held in year 2011 are over, there is no more worry about what Singaporeans can do in the ballot box after the election.

At least for the next 3 years, there is no need to bother about Singaporeans; Singaporeans have to swallow whatever that is given to them.

For one thing that is certainly will happen is:
after the president election, the floodgate to flood Singapore will be opened much much wider again.

What can Singaporeans do?
Singaporeans cannot do anything since all the elections are over.

Anonymous said...

Mr Tan,

There are many of my teacher friends who are in their late 20s and they went to get married and were to told to wait 4-5 years for their hdb flats bto.

These teachers are mad!

They went to the resale market and they can't afford to pay for the rising COV prices.

One teacher had to wait for 2 years for a BTO hdb flat and complained to hdb as to why she was still not issued a flat number.

In that 2 years, husband and wife were living by themselves in their parents' homes.

There is no space in their respective homes to be together.

So you now have teachers who can't afford hdb flats. Married yet still dating?

This is the future.

The sad thing is the 60.1% are selfish.

Anonymous said...

"Employers employ foreigners not because they hate Singaporeans and like foreigners but because foreigners are value for money."

Value for money ? Bingo ..... It's all about costs.

So what do you think of the many foreigners (not those high powered professionals who are really talented) that you see here.

Don't you think while we have to pay the high cost (not only monetary but also in terms of ns sacrifice & cpf contribution the moment we start work) & over a longer period to maintain the good & stable environment for also foreigners who can easily slide into our high cost environment (most services are more or less provided by GLCS) & offer better value (lower cost).

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The problem is that the highest levers of power in both the political and judicial systems in the West have been taken over by criminals. When the system can no longer provide justice, then revolution is the only answer. We need to arrest at most a few thousands, probably in fact only a few dozen, oligarchs in order to save Western civilization from the criminal, fascist class that has used murder, bribery and lies to seize power.

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Anonymous said...

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The world knows that the US corporate government headquartered in the mini-state of Washington D.C. is doomed. The leaders of the world know this corporation posing as a government murdered close to 3,000 of its own citizens in order to create a fake pretext for a massive oil grab in central Asia. The countries of the world have also decided not to finance this monstrous regime any longer. The result has been a steady and accelerating decline in the power of the military industrial complex. Their criminal corporate leadership is now carrying out a battle of the bulge style offensive that is mathematically doomed to failure no matter what they do.

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Anonymous said...

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Weekly Geopolitical News and Analys

Anonymous said...

Mr Lucky

Isn't it time u get off your butt and actually do something? U r a thought leader u know. Come on! Show some leadership! Pick a leader! Otherwise TT is going to win.

Actually TT is certain to win but hey make him sweat a little. Otherwise PAP will treat it as another mandate to punish the poor and middle class...

Anonymous said...

Mr white dragon member

The western civilization is now liberal and anti-religion.
Mr Lucky thinks it is perfect now.

Anonymous said...

Property prices have hit record high in recent years. As a result, many were tempted to cash out. Some have cashed out without replacement homes. Among these, there are those who lived irresponsibly and became "poor". In other words, we have created these "poor", who then spiked the demand for rental homes, because of our bouyant property market. If prices do not fall, many of these people will not be able to get back into the market. But if it falls, you will create another worse set of economic and social problems and the vicious cycle repeats.
The only way round this problem is to stop the property cycle. It can be done because we are a small market. When the message becomes clear that once you cash out of your homes(no longer treat it as home but a cash cow), and squander your proceeds, you will unlikely to buy a similar flat again, then perhaps more will value their flats and less will end up in rental homes. If we fail to understand this and rectify this problem, the social divide caused by irresponsible living will widen further and the demand for rental flats will increase. And creating large clusters of rental homes will have long term social implications - bad move.

Anonymous said...

dear fellow singaporeans,
when u cast that vote, u not only decide the president of singapore, the future of the country, but also the future of your offspring.
the current problems we face now, such as housing and education, are not going to be short term. in the long run, it could cause a huge strain in our lives. such may not be a problem to u now, but have u thought of your children, their children, so on and so forth. will they be able to afford housing? will their children be able to get into schools of their choice? will they be able to get a job after they graduate? will they even have standing ground in society?! humans are known to be selfish. let us all be selfish for ourselves and our loved ones. vote for change. we know that voting for Dr Tony Tan is not going to be the solution. yes, it's true that the PAP gives us money every now and then, but how much do they take back from us? our hard earned money, what do they do with them? then again, if Dr Tony Tan does not emerge victorious and another Tan does, how do we know if the other Tan will not provide us with a better future and have our welfares at heart? at least we know for sure that if another Tan wins, we can foresee change and a better future. and I say our safest bet for change is to vote for Mr Tan Jee Say. quoted from his rally held at Toa Payoh Stadium, "although there is a limit to what I can do as a President, there is no limit to what I can do as a Singaporean, for Singapore." quoted from yahoo news on 21st august 2011, Dr Tony Tan said "it (curry issue) was resolved but it shows importance of how singaporeans have to learn to live with non-singaporeans, but also at the same time non-singaporeans have to make the effort to assimilate to the Singapore culture." question, are the non-singaporeans making the effort? and shouldnt it be the non-singaporeans learning to live with us instead? this is our country, our home. if we don't make a wise decision and wake up our idea, our families may very soon be discriminated and condemned by those non-singaporeans, mainly PRCs. people, cast a wise vote tis saturday. vote for Tan Jee Say. let us unite against PAP while we still can. 
note: this is not a chain message from a TJS supporter. it is just someone trying to make an effort to see change. pass this on to people whom u care, if u care.
yours truly, J

Free Thinker said...

In any scenerio, it is good to agree to disagree. Fervently hope that tiny Singapore without any natural resources will survive and become a vibrant economic giant once again.

Anonymous said...

The EP cannot unite the body.
PaP cannot unite the body.
Oppositions cannot unite the body.
Your greedy and self obsessed churches cannot unite the body.
All your noises cannot unite the body.
What future do you have KIASU KIASU and socially inapt Singaporeans?
Mammon rules you, daft people.

Anonymous said...

The EP cannot unite the body.
PaP cannot unite the body.
Oppositions cannot unite the body.
Your greedy and self obsessed churches cannot unite the body.
All your noises cannot unite the body.
What future do you have KIASU KIASI and socially inapt Singaporeans?
Mammon rules you, daft people.

Anonymous said...

"Property prices have hit record high in recent years. As a result, many were tempted to cash out. Some have cashed out without replacement homes."
Anon 24/8/11 01:08

Anon, I think you are right and also spot on. That's one big reason why demand for rental homes has gone up.

Sometimes due to greed or don't use their brain, people make careless judgements and actions that cause them to be homeless or lose their money.

Lucky Tan, have you thought of this when you write this post?

WL said...

vote out the pap. no other way.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Read

People securely in prison pose no threat to those outside the prison walls. Imagine you could construct a prison - a prison of the mind - from which those inside can never threaten your power and control.


What are some of the things a psychologist of mass control might come up with?

1) "Turn the other cheek". If I'm relentlessly hurting you, stealing from you, abusing you, the ideal scenario for me would be for you not to fight back, for you to turn the other cheek and let me keep doing it. Cui bono? The abusers or the abused?

2) "Wait for the kingdom of heaven to enjoy the rewards of your earthly struggle." If I'm enjoying the pleasures of the world, I don't wish others to take those pleasures from me. How do I ensure they don't? I say to them that they shouldn't trouble themselves with enjoying themselves here and now, on this earth during these lives of theirs. They should keep rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's i.e. they should let the rich keep taking from them. They should have their eyes pointed at some future state (heaven) rather than the state of things right now. Cui bono? Those who already have, or those who don't have?

3) The American dream. If you work hard, you will get your rewards. If you're not getting your rewards ipso facto you're not working hard enough. So, the tens of millions of Americans who work incredibly hard but come home with scarcely a cent in their pockets are at fault, whereas the lazy, inept, privileged investment bankers who walk off into the sunset with tens of millions of dollars obviously fully deserve it for all of their "hard work". (Consider the economic meltdown - who caused it? Not you. Who's paying for it? You, of course. When will you wise up?) Cui bono? Those who are already rich, or those who dream of being rich?
4) In the UK, the national lottery uses a slogan, "It could be you." Yes, it could be, but the odds are 14 million to one against so it almost certainly won't be. The American Dream is the same. You could be one of the handful that comes from nowhere to enjoy spectacular riches. But if the odds are millions to one against, the American Dream is as accessible to you as a lottery win. Stop dreaming. The psychologists of control - those who already have all they wish - are the creators of the American Dream. It is one of their finest levers of control. The American reality is that two mediocre individuals who are no exemplars of hard work - George Bush, senior and junior - became Presidents. How did they manage it? Did they follow the American Dream, or did they happen to be born into an extremely rich and influential family? The American Dream is a fantasy - and a fantastic means of controlling the desperate masses. Only an idiot worships a fantasy.

Are you beginning to see what you're up against?

The psychologists of mass mind control need no concentration camps when people will believe whatever self-serving line they sell them.

Welcome to the Old World Order.

What is the Old World Order's favourite slogan?


"There's a sucker born every minute."
Isn't it time to stop being a sucker?

Anonymous said...

Lucky, you are right to say that votes splitting between the other 3Tans will help TT to win. For those who do not want to have another Nathan as President will have to unite to vote just one of the Tans. From what I gathered from the ground, only TJS and TCB can fight TT. Personally, I am not very confident with TCB (old and ex-PAP), at this moment, my vote goes to TJS. As for TKL, I think he should back off and endorse either TJS or TCB (he is going to lose his deposit anyway and if such move helps to deny TT, he can be from zero to hero). How about helping non-TT voters to vote wisely by conducting a survey to see who is more popular, TCB or TJS. If TCB has better chance, I will vote for him.

Anonymous said...

The political center has shifted. Don't waste your time.

Anonymous said...

TJS, TKL no hope with 60.1%. So they will share 40% between them, and one of them may even lose deposit.

TT and TCB will share the 60.1% with TT having a better edge, around 30 to 40% votes.

Hence overall best chance to win is TT.

Herbalmedicine said...

Wonderful article!I have no word to say.

Anonymous said...

Lucky Tan,
hope that one day when the PAP govt is overthrown, we the Singapore citizens, can honour you with your contribution . Salute !

Anonymous said...

@anon 13:00

Christians took over Rome. And until recently ruled much of the world. And the American dream made Christian USA a superpower.

The decline of the western world started with the rise of the anti-religious liberals. See Dawkins UK. LKY SG.

Thought leaders like Mr Lucky Tan may want think about how to sheperd the sheep in the right direction. Many Christian leaders like the jeffersons and lincolns dun actually believe in Christ. Remember: a lone sheep is a dead sheep.

Anonymous said...

The word talent should only be used to refer to people who earn more than $10k. Anyway, this election is to fish out the hardcore opposition supporters.

hgh review said...

At the same time the income gap is rising, the govt exacerbates the effects of the inequality by passing as much burden of retirement, health care and education to individuals and their families as possible to keep taxes for the richer segments of society and corporations low.

Anonymous said...

Most of the people living in rental flats are foreigners. They rent a room or share a room with another foreigner. Every one of these China and India men and women are coming in to suck us dry. Our country is being prostitued to them and singaporeans are short-changed as a result. In 15 years time, Singapore will collapsed.

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