Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hougang's Story: Upgrading abode but downgrading quality of life

In the recent by-election episode, Hougang residents highlighted a paradox of our quality of life.

Upgrading our public flats, provisions of sheltered walkways, lift access to each level of our abode bring about an improvement of our quality of life no doubt, at least from the day-to-day aspect.

Such provisions of hardware are invariably associated to our political choice in our unique political climate. In simple words, we have to sell our votes during election in return for these hardware even though some of them, such as lift access and sheltered walkways will never be part of our personal possessions but the public. 

As such,  do we then gaze beyond the facade and usefulness of these hardware and think of some other aspects that impact the quality of our life deeper and wider?

Such as the persistent inflation, meaning high cost of living including medical care and education which form an essential part of living, especially to young couples for family planning and care for their parents.

When we enjoy the shade of the walkways on our way to the nearest bus stop or train station, have we given up on the reliability of our public transport which was once our pride; is the possibility of a price hike by the transport operator always at the back of our minds? Can the shade of the walkways shelter us from the ominous dark clouds of cheaper foreign influx that loom above our heads as these immigrants will replace us imminently?And when that unfortunate day does come, will there be  re-employment opportunities of the same pay and benefits for us? If not, how do we invest in our young and support our old?

While admiring the refurbished look of our public flats and estates, do we not feel the stress of the increasing cost of goods and services that seep into all aspects of our lives? In education, in medical care, in transport and in retirement. That will eventually erode our retirement funds, if we still have any left for retirement after combating the rising cost of living with our existing salaries, and on the assumption that we could still hold on to our jobs till our retirement.

I love modern and convenient hardware like any other residents. However, I cannot overlook the harsh reality on the grounds that will ultimately eliminate the meagre, short-lived benefits that come with the refurbishment. In fact, these votes-exchanged hardware provisions will invite more nightmares to our lives in the long run as our endorsement at the ballot box endorsed the direction which the current ruling party is bringing our nation to.

The sheltered walkways offer no comfort when I am thrust with a big medical bill of my parents that will inevitably eat into my retirement funds. I'd rather shelter myself with an umbrella in exchange for a more affordable medical care. I'd rather have a less pleasing looking estate in exchange for the current price of my food and services. The inflation rate for April is 5.4% (Here) and this is the rate that is here to stay for years. Can you imagine the price of my rice in twenty year's time when I retire based on the current pace of inflation?

Voters do have the ultimate right in deciding the kind of quality that they would like for their lives.

However, Hougang residents value their quality of life over the longer term than superficial hardware benefits. At the ballot box, they manifested their objections to the policies formulated by the current political party that inflict long term pain and stress on our citizens--young, mature and old alike. The Hougang residents saw through deficiencies of the current policies.

The Hougang residents opened my eyes to the hidden price tag of the hardware provisions that will be ultimately borne by all the people of this nation.