The Straits Times: Govt Mouthpiece Conjures Opinion. Govt Still Not Taking Singaporeans Seriously.

The Straits Times had reported today that Singaporeans are concerned about income inequality and they want more to be done. Firstly, let me congratulate my fellow Singaporeans – the government has heard us, and has responded. We have written numerous critical discussions on the income inequality and low wages growth in Singapore, and the government has heard us.

However, what is most saddening in the article is that, instead of responding to the issues that we have brought out by proposing fresh solutions, The Straits Times had tried to sideline the issue, once again.

(Note: This article is by The Straits Times, but we have to be mindful who actually controls what The Straits Times say.)

Let’s look at the article in The Straits Times in further detail. I will look at the article with a word-by-word analysis. This will illustrate to you how The Straits Times (or perhaps the government?) socially engineers our thinking to one that they would approve of.

The Straits Times had said that,

As many as 8 out of 10 Singaporeans believe the standard of living in Singapore will keep rising, according to a Straits Times survey. Most also see their children’s chances of succeeding in life as better than theirs.

But at the same time, 8 out of 10 worry the income gap will slow social mobility

… while six out of 10 think the Government is not doing enough to help people move up the socio-economic ladder.

So far, this is true. And this is not new. We do not need a survey to find out about this. Singaporeans are unhappy, and all of us know that. The government likes to look at ranking and global studies, and rankings have also used objective measurement to illustrate this:

  1. Singapore has the slowest wage growth in the world: According to the Global MetroMonitor 2011, Singapore is ranked at the bottom of 200 countries, with the lowest changes in income, at -8.9%
  2. Singapore has one of the world’s highest income inequality: At 47.3, Singapore’s Gini Coefficient is ranked 29th out of 136 countries.
  3. Singaporeans are very unhappy: Singapore is ranked 33rd out of 153 countries in the World Happiness Report, 37th out of 159 countries in the World Database of Happiness and 81st out of 155 countries in the Gallup World Poll.

“Cautious Optimism”: Says Who? Not Us!

The Straits Times goes on to report that this is a picture of “cautious optimism“.

Singaporeans, when there are 8 out of 10 people who are unhappy with the standard of living and think that costs will keep rising, and when 8 out of 10 think that there is growing income inequality, this is “cautious optimism”. Am I the only one who thinks that I have my vocabulary redefined once again for us, by The Straits Times?

When 6 out of 10 think that the government is not doing enough, this is “cautious optimism”. 

Doesn’t this remind you of how, during the general elections, when PAP had won 60% of the votes that they claim that this is a “strong mandate“?

The Singapore Dream: Meritocracy. Huh?

The Straits Times had also questioned if the survey thus asks, “whether people still believe in the Singapore dream of advancement through meritocracy amid public concerns about a growing income gap.”

“Meritocracy”, the Straits Times says, is the “Singapore dream”. 

When did “meritocracy” become our dream? I know it is not mine. And I don’t think it is yours too. “Meritocracy” was a principle conjured by the government. Several research has already questioning the principles of meritocracy and how it perpetuates inequality.

In the book, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, Christopher Hayes had analysed that, “Since the 1960s, as the meritocracy elevated a more diverse group of men and women into power, they learned to embrace the accelerating inequality that had placed them near the very top. Their ascension heightened social distance and spawned a new American elite – one more prone to failure and corruption than any that came before it.

Is meritocracy the Singapore dream then? To perpetuate inequality and corruption? This is not our dream. This is what the Singapore government wants us to dream. But for whose sake? 

60% Think Government Not Doing Enough: This is “High Level of Confidence”

Apparently, the survey findings “took observers by surprise”. NUS Sociologist Tan Ern Ser was reported as having said that:

The high levels of confidence were “quite remarkable” given unhappiness in the last few years over the influx of immigrants and the rising cost of living.

“High levels of confidence”? 60% of Singaporeans feel that the “government is not doing enough to help people” – this is “high confidence. Really? You be the judge.

YOU: Take It Or Leave It

The Straits Times then continues with its barrage to, once again, influence our thinking by swaying our thoughts.

Had the government want to reinforce that?,

“Amid the confidence was an awareness that with rising standards comes rising competition.”

The government chides us and wants to remind us – rising competition is the mainstay of Singapore’s lifestyle, whether you like it or not.

The Straits Times then reported:

While 80% say that their children’s standard of living will be higher than theirs, this drops to 60% when asked if their children’s opportunities for success will be better than theirs.

About 4 in 10 said their economic circumstances 10 years from now would be better or much better. The same proportion (4 in 10) said it would be worse and much worse. 

Professor Tan was reported as saying that this that, “current economic worries and fluctuations have not eroded belief in Singapore as a “viable entity” to raise their children.

40% believes that things will get better, but 40% believes things will get worse. “Viable entity”? It looks to me that there isn’t a consensus. But of course, The Straits Times had to position the picture in the government’s favour.

‘Experts’ in Singapore Do Not Understand Singaporeans and Are Not Well Read

Finally – wait for this, wait for this!:

Most surprising to the experts, however, was the reaction to the income gap, and the strong consensus that a big income gap will slow mobility. 

The experts are surprised that Singaporeans are unhappy that the income inequality is creating injustice to Singaporeans! I have already illustrated above, with objective statistics on how (i) Singapore’s wage growth is the slowest in the world, (ii) how the income inequality is one of the highest in the developed world and how (iii) Singaporeans are a very unhappy lot.

Yet, the experts are surprised? There are clear statistics which have illustrated these facts. Either the experts have not been reading enough or The Straits Times had steered this article towards what they want us to believe. I think it’s pretty clear which it is. And I worry for Professor Tan’s reputation.

How the National Media Pitches Singaporeans Against One Another

At the end of the article, did The Straits Times try to drive a wedge between Singaporeans? Let’s see what was further said at the end:

NUS sociologist Dr Irene Ng noted that in countries like Britain, only a minority are in favour of income redistribution to help the poor while in Singapore, most think the Government is not doing enough.

“Only a minority” are in favour of income redistribution in Britain. Any British in the house? Are you all up in arms?

Rubbish. That’s all that I can say. A quick look at the recent news from Britain – from the horse’s mouth – will show how Dr Ng had pluck this information out of, well, nowhere. The British are not in favour of income distribution. Why does The Straits Times presented fallacious information?

Income inequality among working-age people has risen faster in Britain than in any other rich nation since the mid-1970s… To rebalance society “for the 99%”, the authors call for a series of measures focusing on job creation, “increased redistributive effects” and “freely accessible and high-quality public services in education, health and family care”.

Guardian 5 December 2011

 Such analysis has triggered a wide-ranging debate about the broader social and economic consequences of greater income inequality. Some now argue that it’s a cause of financial instability as the international super-rich shift their wealth around the world… Awareness of inequality and its consequences has triggered increased political debate in Britain and elsewhere.

BBC 17 January 2012

Research shows that Britain is a highly unequal society, with income inequality rising faster any other rich nation since the mid-1970s. Researchers also widely claim that opportunities for the poor in Britain to better themselves are harder to come by than almost any other developed nation… Campaigners warned that “UK income inequality has already reached levels that has adverse impacts on our economy and society”. Duncan Exley of One Society, a charity which promotes equality, said “It is now increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that excessive inequality is a huge barrier to social mobility.

Guardian 24 May 2012

Tackling these issues would at least start us on the road to a better “pre-distribution” of income. A more equal society is within our grasp – there are many countries in the world with a far fairer distribution of wealth than the UK. But at the moment we are not only failing to make progress, we are heading in the wrong direction. There is something seriously wrong with a country where a quarter of all households can’t afford £6 a week on children’s shoes, but directors earning £1m a year achieve pay rises of close to 10%. Let’s hope today’s stark findings help to change that.

Guardian 10 July 2012

Once again, The Straits Times uses the tactic of comparing Singapore to another country and then uses fallacious information to justify that based on this fallacious information, Singaporeans should be grateful.

“In this instance, The Straits Times wants us to think: the British believe in income inequality, so Singaporeans should too.”

Has The Straits Times hope to encourage Singaporeans to think with discriminatory attitudes? Singaporeans, can you see now why Singaporeans are often perceived as selfish and uncaring? Can you see where this stems from?

In a time when there was no Internet, this would have worked perfectly in the government’s favour. Singaporeans would believe in anything that The Straits Times would say since there wasn’t any other sources of news except the few mainstream papers which act as the government’s mouthpiece.

However, if the government is the master of disguises and distorted thinking, Singaporeans have also learnt to become critical readers.

How Writing is Used to Manipulate Our Thinking

Thankfully, at the end, it is reported that Mr Yeoh Lam Keong, vice-president of the Economic Society had said:

People are correctly perceiving the impact of a wide income gap. And they are sending a clear message that they are uncomfortable with it.

The Straits Times had started off and ended off the article by saying the truth about what Singaporeans are saying and thinking, to make us feel as if we have been heard and can be vindicated. But within the article itself, The Straits Times had presented the story in a convoluted mess to steer Singaporeans to a thinking that is favourable towards the ruling party.

  1. As you can see, in most parts of the article, The Straits Times had presented a certain ‘objective’ statistic and then ‘analyse’ it from a ‘subjective’ angle to influence us to think in the direction that is deemed favourable to the government. 
  2. The Straits Times would illustrate how ‘experts’ would express shock at the findings to try to use ‘authority’ to present a viewpoint that we should listen to – Singaporeans do not know how to think. Experts do. 
  3. Finally, The Straits Times used comparison to pitch Singapore against another country and then conjures up a story about this country from the viewpoint that they want us to think, and indirectly tells us – this is how you should think.

The Straits Times had thus used different writing styles to teach Singaporeans how you should think.

So, how would you think?

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  1. Pingback: Income Inequality in Singapore. Govt: So What? Climb Your Way Up « The Heart Truths
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