Singapore in 2083: Kow-Tow to Malaysia

It is the Year 2083. Singapore is now the 8th largest city in Malaysia, and has been renamed Pulau Selatan, or Southern Island. After years of infighting, Singapore was unable to catch up in the new economic world system and had to ask Malaysia to buy off its fortune. Iskandar is now the largest port in Southeast Asia. Bintan now rivals Iskandar as the regional hub, after the Indonesian government poured in millions to develop the Riau Islands in the late 2030s.

There are now about 500,000 people living in Singapore, not bad for a country which once was the shining beacon of Southeast Asia, where at its heyday when it had nearly 6.5 million people on the island. Most ex-Singaporeans had migrated to Kuala Lumpur, Iskandar and Penang to work in the service sectors there, after Singapore underwent waves of recession and collapsed. Most of the MRT lines built in the early part of the century had gone into disuse and had to be closed down. They provide refuge for the many homeless people who are now allowed to roam free on the island.

Things weren’t always like this. If you speak to an elderly sleeping in one of the disused MRT tunnels, he would tell you that in its days of glory, Singapore was the richest country in the world. It’s GDP per capita was the highest in the world in the 2020s, for at least over a decade. However, he also remembered how the income inequality was so high that it got people very angry. The government wasn’t able to appease the people and had turned to a strategy of chastising the people for not appreciating the government. This only got the people even angrier and the squabble just went downhill.

The government had turned back on its policy of welcoming foreigners into Singapore in the early 2010s, as a result of its people’s demands. By the late 2010s, there were only less than 10,000 people accepted as Singaporeans and PRs annually. Singaporeans had mostly cheered but what also happened was that industries in Singapore starting facing a shortage of labour and started to move their investments to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Instead of improving the work-life conditions of its people and increasing funding for fertility programmes, the government refused to do so but made a sudden U-turn instead, as it had done in 2005, to allow for an influx of foreigners without a well thought-through policy. It got the people angry once again as once again, incomes in the lower wage groups became depressed and Singaporeans felt slighted.

By the 2030s, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia were prospering with the investments that were leaving Singapore. It would be another two decades when their GDP per capita outgrew Singapore’s. Meanwhile, Singaporeans continued to go online to complain about the government and the government continued to fight back with self-appreciating remarks, not realizing that their outdated PR strategy wasn’t working for them anymore. No one had any solutions. Mass demonstrations were legalized in the late 2020s. But as Singaporeans were new to the concept, they took to the streets and continued their avalanche of complaints. The years of controlling Singapore had now created Singaporeans who knew nothing about critical social and political thinking and could only degenerate themselves into loudmouths who had nothing useful to say but with anger spewing out in every direction.

By then, the “silent majority” started to speak up. They tried to mediate among the angry people and the government. But even then, it was too late. There was very little trust between the people and the government and nothing the “silent majority” tried could bridge the differences. They started offering solutions and taking things into their own hands to fix things. But they continued to face the wrath of the angry Singaporeans, who turned onto them, thinking that they were the government’s lackey.

In the general elections of the 2040s, PAP finally lost power to the opposition. The people were overjoyed and finally, for once, we thought that things were going to get better. The people might actually work with the government to change things! But as it is, the angry people continued to be angry. Only then were we starting to realise that they were angry because they simply were. Sure, it was the PAP government which they were initially angry with but it snowballed and they couldn’t hold back. By then, a newly minted opposition-led party tried to introduce policies which appeased the people, but these policies were less effective than what they would have been if they could be hard-hitting and did what was necessary. In the next few elections, new governments were voted in and as they continued to try to appease Singaporeans, and rendered the government useless.

By the late 2070s, Singapore was long forgotten in the world economy. It ranked in the nineties in terms of GDP per capita. Malaysia’s GDP was several times higher than Singapore’s. Many Singaporeans had started leaving Singapore from the 2050s – at least for those who could still afford to do so. By the early 2080s, the government started negotiating with Malaysia for a buy-back deal, where Malaysia would take Singapore back, in exchange for cheaper labour for Malaysia’s service industries. The deal was finalised by the late 2080s and Singapore started sending its first batch of workers to mainland Malaysia.

When the elderly man who was sleeping in the train tunnel was asked why he didn’t have a home to go to, he said that when the government had proposed to build a nursing home next to where he had lived, he had petitioned against it. Now that he was in his 90s, not only does he have a home to go to, the nursing home which would have benefited him wasn’t even built. He regretted his decision for being self-centred and to have thought only of himself. But it didn’t matter anymore then since Singapore was in the down in the dumps anyway.

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120 comments

  1. JD

    Not sure if it was pointed out before, but it certainly is refreshing to the mind, lapping up an article that’s objectively Singaporean.

    Write on!

  2. Ang Teck Huat

    Hi,

    Great article. Good read. I believe I understand where you are coming from. It is true that we see and read a lot of complaints online. Some are frivolous complaints, some constructive feedback. It is the latter the government needs to focus on. But the government’s job is not an easy one. Being in the labour movement, I know.
    Thanks for writing this article.

    • My Right to Love

      Hey Teck Huat,

      Thanks for this. I am beginning to understand the complexity of things as well. I used to work with the government as well, so in a way, I can appreciate some of the complexities.

      I do wish that more of us could understand the complexities, and be able to contribute with more effective solutions though. For example, there can be more economists who could also identify solutions with the government – especially since many of the current challenges have a financial and economics slant to them.

      Roy

  3. Mohammad Nizam Abdul Kadir

    FYI, when Singapore was first independent in 1965, it was a NEWLY MINTED Opposition-led Government (PAP that is) that governed us. It did well to where we are today. Lee Kuan Yew started out as an opposition politician, that is why Singapore is so successful. His party’s newest recruits on the other hand, were never like him, from the opposition, who had to fight for what they believe in. They could not be bothered or lack hunger to make lives better for Singaporeans. I have faith in opposition politicians like Lee Kuan Yew, he has done a lot of good things for this country, to take us where we are today. I am sure the future opposition-led government like his, will make Singapore even more prosperous, because they will be just as hungry as he was back in the 1950s and 1960s.

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  5. YOSHITSUNE

    I think this quote can tells us everything on what leaders and citizens must do together if the country is to survive and prosper.

    What is a failed elite? One afraid of ideas, afraid to talk with the citizenry through ideas, afraid to encourage the wide discussion of ideas in order to find the basis for its actions, unable to act except in a veiled or populist manner, afraid of the idea of power except as an expression of interests. A failed elite would rather sell than buy, rather trade in wealth than create it. They would rather be employees than owners, managers than risk takers…it is fear or mediocrity or both that defines a failed elite. — John Ralston Saul, A Fair Country

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  7. Jackson

    Hey PAPPY,

    I am 27 years old, and at the rate this is going, I probably have only 33 years more to go. So I won’t make it to 2083. I’m happy that my suffering right now, may help those people in the future buy a better car, but why don’t you just kill me right now, and use my body as fertilizers to grow taller trees in SIngapore, so that those Singaporeans who survived, can have fairer skin? Or, maybe we can have less radical policies, like improving the education system, and not rejecting singaporeans from singaporean universities in favor of foreign students, and maybe simply reduce the loud and imprudent PRCs workers by 25%, and so build 25% less flats which wouldn’t have been necessary had the population in sg been lower, and had prices climbed slower? Then maybe the government can also spend 25% more of their parliamentary time contemplating over what exactly is the meaning of life and a good standard of living? Then probably many singaporeans like me wouldn’t be considering killing themselves every other day, and thus start complaining less.

    • Kata

      While I agree that the government can find ways to improve systems in order to meet Singapore’s (and the world’s demands), it is simply no help to complain about this using an arbitrary number that takes into account none of the other factors that may result in an increased demand for housing, jobs, and even education opportunities.

      Housing is also affected by the number of adults who wish to own their own homes, not just dependent on the number of foreigners. There is a growing need for smaller homes for the new generation of youths who plan on having small, affordable families.

      The issue of the availability of jobs is quite debateable. While there are many Singaporeans who might be willing to work; their expertise is not matched to the kinds of jobs that have vacancies, which is where foreign labour would fill the gaps. Singaporeans like you might not have the right kind of skills, or experience, for your dream jobs. Foreign labour would come into every industry that would require their expertise, be it in the healthcare sector or in service industries, and these people who have left their own country to come work in ours would need homes (however temporary). We must feel somewhat proud that many of them would want to live here for a much longer term, and accept these new citizens, even though the cultural differences would be at first, hard to get used to.

      The meritocratic values that Singapore’s society practices might seem overly harsh when one is unable to secure a place in any of the nation’s 5 main universities (not to mention the scores of accredited, private institutions that one might sign up with), but it is no reason to reject hardworking and brilliant students from abroad, if only to fill places with students who may not be (as yet) suited for a rigorous education. While I agree that some adjustments could be made with regards to the numbers of foreign students being admitted into these institutions ahead of Singaporeans, I certainly do not approve of a system that prioritises solely nationality over results as it would result in a deep-seated complacency among youths.

      I also understand that you probably meant “impudent” instead of “imprudent” for I simply can’t find an example in your words that would suggest that the “PRCs” are incautious or rash— for indeed, that is what “imprudence” means– a While I know that my answer will most certainly not be a satisfactory reply to your opinion, I would like to say that your views are not the minority. A growing number of youths today have ideas of what Singapore should be, but unfortunately, overlook the key factor that will affect their own lives first—themselves.

      This is why I suggest that you and others like you calmly look yourself in the mirror and wonder if it is simply you who are not working hard enough (as yet) for your own future, before contemplating something as drastic as suicide.

      • Yan

        Well said, Kata. Also pointing out that this attitude(the previous comment) is exactly what the writer was talking about. Things are simply NOT that simple. and I could not agree more with what you said, and could not have written it any better.

        Myopia is also one of the things we singaporeans have no lack of, in both senses.

    • James Westhart

      That really sucks. I live in California and think that in the end I will be a Dr. Jack Kavorkian candidate. Even this mad house things seem tons better than slingapore. From what I have read, that place is a hell hole. I was there in 1988 when there were old Chinese cheap hotels and it was way cool. Every time I visited there after it seemed to go down hill. Can’t even begin to imagine what it is like now. Hard work, Hard work, Hard work, and shopping malls. Maybe the food still good, but my guess is that it is not as good as when I went there the first time in the late 80’s.

  8. Simon

    I think you give Singaporeans less credit than they deserve. This won’t happen because Singaporeans are an increasingly politically aware and intelligent bunch of people.

  9. Wei Lun

    I appreciate this article. Exactly what I have thought about what may be happening to Singapore in the future. The short sighted ness of Singaporeans will affect the long term project that the government is building. Policies take time, but Singaporeans being Singaporeans, are impatient and demand result in 5 years! Olympics take 4 years to train an athlete, but policies ,ah take even a longer term. Housing, traffics cannot be changed overnight.

    On another note, the government should take note of the constructive comments and ignored those who complain for the sake of complaining. Just because these people are not contented with their life, where they may not be working as hard as others, they get others to be as agitated as them, concentrating on the negative points of the government, hitting them up over and over again just like roti prata, but ignoring what the government has done positively.

    Eg, a few month ago, citizens complained about the traffic in Singapore being too congested, too much cars are on the road. Just 2 days ago, a bill is drafted to control the no of cars on the road, by increasing the upfront amount to be paid. So what happen next? The citizens domain again…

    Summary, being in the government isn’t easy here. I do think government should continue with what they think is best for Singapore. Decrease the income gap, fix the traffic and public transport problems, as well as the housing, for the next few years and thereafter we’ll chase growth again. Stopping or decreasing speed in this real world at this time isn’t going to help Singapore in the long term but may cause more unemployment and affect the real income in the future.

    Please follow your heart, government.

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