Even new citizens and expats think Singapore is having problems. Are you listening Sir?

This poignant and disturbing self-portrait entitled “Let Me Sleep” by a Hwa Chong student won a major art contest recently. The painter said it represented the angst and stress he felt when he went to junior college. It can also aptly represent the frustrations of many Singaporeans.

The  pro-MIW camp and some Ministers here like to diss and dismiss Singaporeans who air their concerns vocally about socio-political issues as being anti-government and daft idiots who don’t understand what is best for the country.

Well, I wonder what they will call expats and new citizens who do likewise (complain about the same things that is)? In recent months, I have been hearing some of my expat friends complain that there are too many foreigners in Singapore! Yes, it’s ironic isn’t it?  And I have heard many complain about the high cost of living here with some of them even posting pictures on their Facebook of products that cost more here than those back in their home countries. And on the internet we have foreigners such as a PRC student, who lives here, questioning if she is in Singapore or China as everywhere she turns these days she hears the voices and accents of her countrymen!

And today, The Straits Times Forum published a letter by a new citizen Kenneth Ling who surprised many people (especially the government, I bet) with his sharp criticisms about Singapore going down the wrong path. http://www.straitstimes.com/STForum/Story/STIStory_823419.html

Kenneth wrote: “I even became a Singapore citizen in 2008 as I regarded this country as home. However, in the past five years, there has been a remarkable shift in the opposite direction, which does not bode well for the long-term future of Singapore. In fact, if this trend continues, many of the desirable talent Singapore worked so hard to attract and cultivate – citizens as well as foreigners – will think of leaving.”

He went on to share his observations of what is wrong with the way Singapore is being governed… “To me, the Government has chosen the path of monetary and materialistic emphasis, plus enhancing its global image, over its citizens’ quality of life. The surge in population, which strains infrastructure; rising costs as people compete for jobs, goods and services; and the emphasis on casinos and wealthy foreigners to drive growth, all impress on young people the need to increase their material wealth, and they are then trapped in a rat race to achieve this.”

“A social imbalance emerges, with accompanying behavioural consequences that are hard to reverse now. When you add poor planning, and one-dimensional solutions focused mainly on financial outcomes, things may worsen in the coming years. It is too shallow and unstable a platform for long-term viability,” added Kenneth.

Everything that this new citizen said is not new as these are all very valid issues and concerns which numerous Singaporeans have raised and which this government stoutly tries to defend all the time, whenever they can, at all sorts of public forums and even at student dialogues.

What is new however is that this is the first time a new citizen has spoken up so publicly about these issues in the mainstream media.

Perhaps, what the “old” locals failed to do in getting the Government to take our complaints seriously, the new citizens and foreigners will succeed in shaking them up to do some deep self-reflection. After all, if  our authorities go all out to attract them here, they will surely want to keep them happy and not turn off future potential foreign talents right?

What our government has failed to realise is that foreign talents and new citizens are human too just like the locals. Many of them share the universal principles of living a meaningful life and they value the intangibles in life. They too want comfort and space and do not appreciate overcrowding. Nor do they feel at home in a country that is constantly in a state of unsettling flux and packed to the gills with a constant stream of foreigners.

I am beginning to wonder if our government has bitten off more than it can chew. They have shown that they can plan and implement new things like building infrastructure but just how good or poor are they in running a country, in long-term planning and in understanding human nature and the extent of the social impact of their policies?

Just look at the poorly anticipated overcrowding issues and the incessant public transport problems including the debacle over the handling of the recent MRT breakdowns. Many of the problems could have been avoided with a big dose of common sense, empowerment, pro-active actions and meticulous long-term planning.

Technocrats, as we know, are good at planning and executing but we need more than that. We need genuine and humane talents in government with both macro and micro abilities to plan for a liveable country and a happy populace.

Running a country is much more than about building roads and iconic structures like Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay, it is also much more than growing the economy, creating jobs and filling jobs. But most of all, good government is Not about expanding and protecting the controlling party’s power base. Party should never ever come before the people and the nation. And something’s got to change if the priority is wrong.

The autocratic control of the people by the government, the relentless pursuit of wealth, materialism, the growing and blatant elitism, kiasuism, rising stress levels starting from student days, the growing over-competitiveness (even among students in branded JCs and local universities), overcrowding, rising crime  levels, constant destruction of beloved historical landmarks, increased racism and race enclaves and the increasingly high cost of living are issues weighing heavily on our minds these days.

And they are also troubling the expats and new citiizens as all these things add up to have a negative impact on the quality of life.

Many of us believe the time has come for our government to step off their high horse and to listen hard to the people. They should share in Our Vision of what we want for our country instead of forcing us to buy into their GDP-driven vision which is causing us increasing stress and pain.

Yes Ministers, despite what you think, it is not about improving your ministries’ communications and doing more hardsell of your policies. And it’s not about trying to “educate” us from young to “understand” what you are trying to do for the country. Can you try to understand us instead and what we really want? We just want to be happy and to feel proud of being a Singaporean. And if you don’t know by now what will make the people of this country happy and what will make us truly proud of this country, then maybe you should search your conscience and ask if you are in the right job.

Will they listen to us locals? Well, if they don’t, maybe they will listen to what new citizens like Kenneth have to say about what will happen if things don’t improve in Singapore: “Ater all, when the level of frustration, high cost of living, crime, corruption and unhappiness reach the levels seen in New York, Sydney or other global cities, one might as well go to these places to live.”  Are you listening sir?

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5 Responses to Even new citizens and expats think Singapore is having problems. Are you listening Sir?

  1. lydiarocks says:

    As a fellow Singaporean, I do agree that there are some questionable areas in new policies / strategic focus set by the government. It is not perfect, yes. But as far as laws and policies goes, there are bound to have 2 camps – the yays and the nays. Give the government some slack, I believe they have done their best to balance each camp. Like you said, it is not easy to run a country. We have to trust our leaders.

    • Trust has to be earned and it is even harder when trust has been broken. Our government has made too many major errors and introduced too many rules and polices that have hurt the interests and psyche of the people. The G’s job btw is not to balance the yays and nays (which would be too simplistic a way to run a country) but to do what is right by the citizens and in the interest of both the citizens and the country. Unfortunately, they have failed in many aspects with regards to doing right by and for the people while they have done a decent job of constructing a modern country.

    • . says:

      I think if they collect so much salary(World record for highest paid leader),then they can’t blame us for expecting a country with less problems. Of course I certainly hope there won’t be any problems because this then make more sense to tally with their salary but given their capability, we should face the truth and its that they can’t

  2. caver38 says:

    The government has had some slack to get things right , a few decades should have been sufficient . Singapore is a city state , not a country with hinterland , and that makes it much easier to organise and control . It would appear in many countries in the world that politicians have forgotten why they are in post in government . Governments are elected to run countries to the best of their abilities for the citizens , nothing more nothing less , and as they have forgotten this , they need a sharp reminder . Unfortunately in Singapore there is no alternative due to active suppression of opposition for decades .

    • And let’s not forget their active oppression of the people’s rights that restrained us form public protests and their gerrymandering. But like many others, I do not believe there is no alternative. There is always a a way when there is a will and now it is a different era that we live in. there is the Internet to open minds and people are much more educated and globalised in world views and political ideas. If anything, it is the PAP that has no alternative but to accept the truth and either start making real changes or be changed eventually.

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