Riots in Britain suddenly erupted and many parts of London was set ablaze by protesters. What is going on in Britain and the rest of the world?
Some sociologists attributed the rioting in London to social exclusion, poverty. income gap between the rich and the poor, Earlier this year we witness the Jasmine revolution that saw the toppling of govts in the middle east. The income gap in those countries was on of the major contributing factors. In the Jasmine Revolution, people wanted change to democracy. In England, Greece and Spain, the people already have democracy and are rioting because of the economic conditions in their country. Even in Australia where there is little unemployment it was reported that people of the "lucky country" are extremely dissatisfied.[Link].
Some one posted a comment on my blog with links to reports of massive protests involving more than 200,000 people in Israel Tel Aviv
Israel is one of the most democratic states in the world so they are not protesting for more freedom or democracy. They are unhappy about the rising cost of living, income gap and struggles of the middle class and below. This is the biggest social protest in Israel's history. Many of the young people there are unhappy about the rising home prices - if I'm not wrong, they have a housing bubble of comparable magnitude to the one in Singapore. The majority Jews in Israel, one of the few places in the world where people serve longer NS than Singapore, are perhaps the most resilient group of people in the world given the wars they have fought and tumultuous history - even they find the current situation intolerable.
Because there are no protests in Singapore, people wrongly conclude that things are not so bad in Singapore. The fact is law abiding Singaporeans don't protest no matter how bad things get. Singapore suffers from all the problems people are protesting about around the world - our income gap is higher than that of Israel, our cost of living has risen even faster than many countries where protests have occurred, the same pressures on our middle class and rising poverty among lower income groups. In Britain, the PM said yesterday that the problems runs deep and the growing underclass has led to gang activity and poor communities that feel excluded from society. Remember a few months ago we saw frequent acts of gang violence - such activities are usually the tip of the ice berg that shows up when you have a growing underclass in society. In addition to the problems seen elsewhere, Singapore also has a large foreign influx that has caused overcrowding and intense competition for jobs. There are reasons to believe the unhappiness here is no less than anywhere else in the world.
While strong signals have been sent during the GE, as Singaporeans sit back and wait for change quietly, these issues can easily fall into the background as businesses and economic pressures push govt to pursue policies that will worsen the situation. While part of the root cause is globalisation, we see govts around the world voted out one by one because they failed to address these issues. If globalisation is the cause of the income gap and poverty in Singapore as the PAP MPs and ministers have claimed to be the case, we can argue that the plight of Singaporeans is caused by our open economy and the PAP govt embraces globalization. We can also argue that there is a limit to how much individuals can do to help themselves as the income gap and poverty is build into the system. Rather than calling upon the people to be more resilient and solve their own problems, govt will have to play a bigger role. While the external global economic system is out of the PAP govt hands, our local transport system, medical system, CPF. foreign labor influx, public housing system and taxation are under the govt's control and they have to steer these to lessen the negative effects of globalization. At the end of the day, people everywhere in the world as a simple question - are they better off today then they were yesterday...do they believe things will improve tomorrow. People just won't support a system that won't produce better outcomes when they have already done their part.
In recent days, improving our transport system to deliver high quality of service at a cost that is affordable threw up some very interesting debate. In response to Workers' Party proposal, Minister Liu said it is not right to use tax payers' money on the public transport system because it is not fair - not all tax payers use the public transport so it is unfair to do so. Gerald Giam pointed out that this argument is technically flawed as the govt us tax dollars to construct rails and roads used by public transport. The argument put forth by Minister Liu is ideological in nature - why should the rich who pay more tax subsidize the poor using the public transport. I would argue that it is okay and pragmatic to do so because the rich as never been richer and the poor has not been poorer in the past 2 decades. Public transport is just an example of how the PAP govt can hit its ideological constraints in its search for solutions. If you can spend an extra $300M a year to achieve greater comfort on trains and buses, you elevate the quality of life of millions of Singaporeans - the PAP would stop itself because it sees subsidizing the operating cost which they feel has to be passed on to commuters ideologically incorrect...but spending $10B on defense is okay. Given the choice to raise GST or increase progressive income tax, the PAP chose in 2006 to raise GST. Given the choice to deliver affordable healthcare to Singaporeans vs turning Singapore into a for-profit medical hub for the rich in the region - the PAP chooses "profits over people"....it is just not right for them to stop specialists and surgeons from becoming multi-millioinaires but it is okay for the sick to pay more. For Singapore, our hard working citizens have created large resources for the govt to solve problems that Singaporeans face today - the question is whether the govt can overcome its ideological baggage to do it.