Friday, April 24, 2015

Singapore ≠ Singaporeans

It used to be a simple equation where nation is a representation of its citizens, where Singapore=Singaporeans.

It is therefore imprinted in us, that the welfare of our country must precede the interest of individuals. Therefore, in the early days of nation building, public servants were coerced into switching pension scheme to CPF scheme to avoid burdening the country; no freedom of speech for our people; no public protests against the establishment, all in the name of the country's interest. 

In our political context, our people are negligible, only our country matters. Mandatory for our people to sacrifice for our country while keeping away the fruit of hardwork from our people. 

It took PAP decades to acknowledge, albeit reluctantly, the contribution of our pioneer generation, in the presence of pressure from the ballot box.

We were brought up to assume that whatever is good for our country will naturally translate into goodness for us/future generations in the near or far future. That is the carrot to persuade us to swallow the bitter pill in the short/long term. 

We believe CPF contribution rate cut during recession is painful but necessary. However, after all the pain and after our GDP figures rose by 300% from when the cut was introduced, our people were never compensated. The rate that was slashed is not restored to the original rate, after 15 years. And will never be restored. The intention is just not there.

We faithfully believe in the myth that a good economy will do everyone in the country good that we are willing to sacrifice any short term benefits.

But for who is the sacrifice for? In this era when our country no longer belongs solely to our citizens, what is good for the country may be detrimental to its citizens.

Higher GDP figures is good for our country

So much so that our GDP grew 3 times between the period of 1998 to 2013, from US$85.71 billion to US$297.94 billion (Source: World Bank). In a period of 16 years. Now, that would “put Singapore on the world map” as it swiftly rises in the global GDP per capita ranking. By 2013, Sgp has already reached top 9 position, one notch above the US (Source:World Bank).

Hundreds of billions were generated from our economy. Good for those who own a giant bulk of our country’s wealth. But is the wealth generated swiftly and evenly distributed to our people? As decisively as our CPF contribution rate cuts?

High GDP figures benefit the country by creating business opportunities that will in turn bring about more jobs, better jobs and higher purchasing power…. That was part of the equation we assumed. Apart from property-related professions, business owners, private practice, civil servants on scholarly track, politicians of the right party, how does the stellar GDP figures benefit the citizens in general? Did the stellar GDP translate into even a 100% increase in wages for the common people in these 16 years?

In reality, where did the bulk of the GDP go to? For who is the economy for?

¤ Higher inflation?
Shopping malls of all sizes mushroomed everywhere is the evident of a booming economy. But the service jobs created from these malls mainly go to foreigners from our region while prices of goods in these malls, such as the food at food courts, boomed as well, and at a higher extent than our wage growth. As consumers, do we benefit from high GDP figures when our wages could not keep up with the inflation?

¤ Fewer Good Jobs?
Booming economy generated jobs but for who are the jobs created for?

Looking at the lower-, middle- and higher-end job creation for the past 10 years, what we can see from our own eyes are the positions in F&B, constructions, public transport, public healthcare largely staffed by foreigners. Foreign PMETs are on the increase too. The highest positions of MNCs, local companies, national banks, GLCs mostly went to foreigners of the West. If Singaporeans are “shunning” away from jobs across all income levels, then how would jobs creation which is a result from a booming economy even benefit this country’s very own citizens? 

For every job that goes to a citizen (PRs are not citizens), how many went to the foreigners? And what is the average income level of these so called good jobs created for Singaporeans? 

The whole point of generating economic growth is to provide for the people of the nation, which should be rightly the citizens.

¤ Growing Size of the Poor?
The irony of the stellar GDP figures is the growing size of poor amidst our own citizens. As our nation accumulates riches, more proportion of our citizens are growing poorer. The size of our poor embarrass CCC to the extent of refusing a poverty line to identify those poor. If stellar GDP figures bring about a better quality life and even though there will always be a relative group of poor in any economy, why should there be growing poor when our GDP is soaring? GDP enriches some or a few but berefting more?

¤ Lower Quality Life
Good economy should bring about a better quality life for the citizens, otherwise, it is pointless to drive an economy to an extent of killing ourselves. Our GDP figures climbed whilst our quality life slumped. During this 16 year period, our 3 basic needs in the form of transport, healthcare and accommodation have deteriorated.

Transport: lower reliability at a higher cost; healthcare: even longer wait time, glaring shortage of hospital beds and higher medical costs; housing: smaller living space at a price that has surpassed our GDP percentage growth. And education: even more competition with foreigners parachuted into our schools, all for a higher cost.

By contrast, pre-2000s era has seen better quality life when GDP figures were much lower. After the mid-2000s, the standards of our 3 basic needs have fallen into the dark hole.

GDP success does warrant better quality life, unfortunately to be restricted to a small group of people. In reality, when the GDP under-perform, all of us have to bear the brunt; when GDP outperform, only a small group of our people stand to benefit.

All sacrifices that are imposed upon our people are meant to serve that small group of people. What is good for the country, that is, good for this group of people, are not necessarily good for the average peasants.

Greater population is good for our ageing country

What was not mentioned in the PWP is the unlimited pool of adult foreigners to staff the increasing growing businesses, retails, property units created for the targeted population increase. 

Good for the country's GDP but bad news for our citizens.

¤ Housing & retail
More foreigners will help to enrich landlords; consumption increases for business owners, feeding the demand for properties and retails and the price that comes with it.

Again the same group of people who will benefit from booming economy will benefit from this population growth. Business owners and the property players will smile their way to the bank. Besides benefiting business owners and landlords, influx of immigrants are to benefit the immigrants themselves where jobs are created in abundance specifically for them in mind.

¤ Transport
Higher ridership swelled by a growing population on our public transport did not help to tame the rising fares but did the contrary and further added fuel to the frequent breakdowns and the crowdedness.

¤ Healthcare
Did the growing size of foreigners help to mitigate our hospital bed crunch or shorten our waiting period and appointment time? My next dental appointment at our polyclinic is a 10-month wait. Is an 8-hour-wait to get a bed at SGH, even with a GP's referral an improvement? The "benefits" that a growing population will bring to average citizens are INVISIBLE. But what the average citizens have to endure with the population explosion, is real.

Growing Singapore but marginalizing majority of Singaporeans

Think again, when our economy is driven not with the priorities of the citizens in mind, it is a delusion to believe that what is good for a country will be good for its people. Notwithstanding the fact that our country no longer belongs to her people.

Thus, a noble but a deceptive notion conveniently used to justify some policies that are intended for exclusive groups of people.

We keep harping on the need of a strong economy for the country. A good economy is only good when it can provide quality living and retirement for its citizens. Not when soaring GDP figures bring an actual lower quality life for the majority of its citizen. Having a good GDP is thus meaningless when the majority of our citizens are made to bear the tradeoffs.

In the late 90s and the early 2000s Singapore when breakdowns of trains were rare, hospital crunch was unheard of, housing prices have not soared through the roof, that was the period before the unrestrained influx of immigrants and when GDP was very much lower.

As Singapore continues to climb high in wealth accumulation and international profile, remember, CITIZENS ARE EXCLUDED.