Seeing the Truth About Our Singapore Government

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I was having a discussion with a Malaysian guy, Lee, on Facebook on the state of politics in Singapore. I’ve decided to share the discussion on my blog.

*****

Lee: Why are you anti-government?

Me: I won’t say I’m anti-government. I’ve tried my best to provide a balanced view over the past few months. But recent events has shown that no matter how Singaporeans try to accommodate and work with the government, the government is still focused on earning more while taxing the people more, and this is simply not right. I’m very disappointed with my government and I’ve decided to be open and critical. Images and words I put up are aimed at igniting the thinking in people. The government needs to learn that it needs to respect the people, not only in areas they want to or are comfortable with, but truly in respect of people, in totality.

Lee: Ur tax is one of the lowest…. Give me example how government of sg to absort ur money through any type of channel?

Me: Ah that’s when you do not understand the economics behind how it works. Our government is smart. They’ve created a perception that with low tax, there’s as much as they can do. But they siphoned off our money from CPF and the privatized public services, where people’s money are channelled into higher and higher revenue and profits, as well as higher pay for their management. You need to look only at our finances to understand how the personal income tax we pay represents only a very small proportion of the otherwise massive amount of money that they’ve taken away through other institutionalised ways of absorbing our money. You have to look beyond the government rhetoric to see the truth.

Lee: U have the confident that ur opposition can do much better than pap?

Me: The rhetoric that the opposition cannot perform is created by the PAP. The rhetoric that our reserves need to be accumulated at all costs is created by the PAP. And you’ve bought into all of that. You really think Singapore will collapse once PAP falls? It won’t. There are thousands and thousands of people engaged in the civil service who are doing the real work. If 90 people disappear from PAP, these people are still going to do the work. These people will still endure the government functions. The main reason why the opposition doesn’t seem to be attracting people is because the government has created an environment where people feel that they cannot partake in politics, because of the fear that they might have something to lose. We have managed to put in place structural fear which underlines the motivations of how people think or behave.

Lee: U will know the true color once sg fall. Make it simple, convince the pap n stop importing foreign labour fr all level. Just try it… U got the good svc ? U got the safe environment? U got the steady economy? What do u expect

Me: Well, of course, of course I appreciate the safety and security of my country. Of course I appreciate the structural security and peace of my country. Does it mean I’m a hypocrite for speaking up about what can be done better for my country? Does it mean that I’m a hypocrite for wanting my government to change? Every country and every government has its good and bad. Every country goes through their individual challenges. Does it mean that because we have structural security and safety that we should be accepting and contended, and allow our government to exploit us, because we should be grateful for what they’ve given us? All societies grow and do their best to grow. Of course I’m grateful. But when people are not being treated fairly, they will not be fair. This is a common grouse, whether you are in Singapore, Malaysia or anywhere else. It’s about fairness and equality. Of course, from an outsider perspective, Singapore has it going for them – why are Singaporeans ungrateful? Well, why are the Americans unhappy, why are the Japanese unhappy? Why are the rich Malaysians unhappy? Justice and equality is something that pervades all of humanity. We all want to be treated with a sense of respect, fairness and autonomy. And when you are not, regardless of the economic situation or wealth that you are in, you will feel compelled to act.

Lee: This is simple. Once stop importing foreign n all ind with all jobs filled up by local……. u will know.

Me: Well, I will leave it up to you and others whether we continue to buy into the rhetoric that PAP creates. We have opportunities to think differently. Do we want to look at the opportunities and think about how we can create a different society, or do we want to continue to buy into a fear-based politics, which prevent us from moving beyond our current comfort zone? Am I saying – overhaul things? I’m not. We might possibly have to do that. But what I’m saying is this – treat the people fair. They know they are not paid fair wages. The recent ‘strike’ by the bus drivers – you seriously think it’s only the China bus drivers who are unhappy? Because we’ve allowed their wages to be repressed, we’ve allowed our own wages to be depressed. Lower wages is a chronic structural problem that pervades the lower income group in society. And it has boiled over for those at the lowest economic strata. And because Singaporeans have bought into the fear-based policies and climate, we wouldn’t dare even thinking of doing what we had to rely on the China bus drivers to do for us – to make a statement.

Lee: There is not perfect single solution to solve all problem……..

Me: Of course there’s no perfect single solution to solve all problems. Aren’t we saying the same thing here? We are saying that if there are ways to improve things, let’s find ways to do it. Is that any different from what you are saying? If we acknowledge that problems exist and tensions exist, let’s look at them from a broad basis, let’s look at what needs to be done on the whole and let’s find a solution for them. Let’s not look at silo problems and create patches for them. At the end of the day, we have a pot filled with clay patches which will break sooner or later. If there’s a problem, let’s remould this pot and put it into a furnace again to strengthen it, so that the pot can continue to function as it should. This is what we are asking for.

Lee: Do u think the wages increased should be bear by operator or transfer the 100% to the consumer or 50 50 share between operator or consumer or government to subsidise it?

Me: Simply looking at whether the increase in costs should be bourne by the operator, consumer or the government is a very myopic way of looking at the issue and is once again – a mindset bought over by the rhetoric by the government. The real issue behind wage unhappiness, as well as resistance against fare increases is because the government has created a system which has resulted in a privatization of public services, where the government has a 54% stake in this privatized public service – SMRT. High profits of a billion dollars were accumulated in 2011, with possibly billions of dollars of profits over the past few years. And this goes back to the government without coming back to the people. The people are asking – and you are keeping this money for? Instead of channelling it back to us, you want us to pay more for you? Isn’t this logical, what the people are asking for?

Lee: This is the reality! Any improvement involve risk n money

Me: I can tell you this – you cannot outwin this argument against me because you haven’t thought carefully about this issue. You’ve bought into the government rhetoric. The thing is this – if you can convince me of the government’s position in all fairness and logic, I will agree with you. But you are only putting out rhetoric that they’ve been putting out. And this doesn’t hold water. I’ve been looking at their statistics and the structural underpinnings that have taken us to where we are today. Things can be moderated and improved on, and the government needs to do it.

Lee: Honestly, I agree what Pap is doing. Fair competition, transparent …

Me: Lol. Fair and transparent. Lol. Well, I have to rest my case! Fair and transparent. Well, of course, when you are able to legalize corruption, anything becomes fair and transparent. When you are the father of the family, you set your rules and your children abide by it. It might not be the most sensible rules. But your children live in your family. They have to live by rules that you create. Until they grow up and learn other ways of doing things and realise that they might have been trapped within an illusion that you’ve created. And then…

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7 comments

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 17 Dec 2012 | The Singapore Daily
  2. Chiaw Yong

    “When you are the father of the family, you set your rules and your children abide by it. It might not be the most sensible rules. But your children live in your family. They have to live by rules that you create. Until they grow up and learn other ways of doing things and realise that they might have been trapped within an illusion that you’ve created.”

    A case of us, the teenage child, negotiating identity and independence?

    Divergent views are inevitable in any healthy relationship. I sympathize with the frustrations expressed in this blog post. Although, a dialogue that prefaces its discussion as “anti-government” comes forth more antagonistic than it needs to be. I think we all agree that it’s more fair and constructive if the discussion is sensitive and respectful toward the numerous views within the community.

    If we are better than our dad, we really shouldn’t yell at him. For one, we’ve seen how yelling generally doesn’t work. Not for dad, not for children, not for you, definitely not for me. I think we shouldn’t yell back. Regardless of whether his best is relevant to us kids, it is safe to say dad did his best with what he had. However misguided we think dad is, he has build a family that has done well within the goals dad had set out to achieve for his children.

    Seeing how us kids have gotten a pretty decent education, good health, good values and stuff, it’s definitely time to define our own goals and rules. We do not need to see eye to eye with our government. Heck, if we seriously don’t like any of it, I don’t really see any obstacle but ourselves stopping us from outdoing the PAP if there is truly a critical mass that will band together to get it done.

    But as you have pointed out, there is much for us to be grateful for. Enough Singaporeans like the type of peace we have and see positives in how our resources are managed to want things to be done a certain way so that we may continue to enjoy certain aspects of our way of life. No one with a working mind thinks our government can do no wrong, but I’m sure even you’d agree we have a lot of first world problems; problems we’d all much rather deal with than trade with others.

    At the end of your piece, I’m still quite unsure of what you are asking our government to do. Because if being “trapped within an illusion that [the government has] created” is the problem, then we’ve grown up now and we’ve learnt different ways of seeing things and thinking about things. So logically, we are in an excellent position to negotiate and implement our part of the deal. And with our new liberated and enlightened perspectives, aren’t we better equipped to meet our self-defined challenges, while being respectful towards all we claim to want to take care of, including dad? We must not forget, all dads, whoever they may be, are part of our community.

    I think, if we are going to call the shots, it’s reasonable for those who will be affected by our policies to have a clear idea of what we have in store for them. What do you think?

    • My Right to Love

      Dear Chiaw Yong,

      Agreed with you. I do tend to get quite frustrated, and this is something people on my Facebook has commented to me about. I suppose my frustrations come from feeling that I have been taken for a ride – that in spite of the balanced approach that I had taken to come towards a compromise between the government and the people, the government is not quite willing to match up on its responsibilities.

      Simply put – within this family, the father is treating his kids like slaves and making money of them. He is not concerned about their emotional and psychological well-being. He wants his kids to slave away so that he can earn as much as he can off them. At the same time, he pays them what he as low a wage as he can, yet not too low such that they are kept at a level which doesn’t upset them so much that they will rebel. The father has also put in place a system where if the kid rebels, the father will immediately throw him into the storeroom until he ‘learns his lesson’ or he will be kicked out of the house. So, the kid doesn’t know his rights, and he continues to slave away, fearful that if his father kicks him out, that he has no where to go.

      All this time, the father keeps telling him – our neighbours hates us. The kid doesn’t know why, but the father always goes over to their neighbours’ house and scolds the neighbours, then comes home and say how worried he is that the neighbours will hurt them. And the kid grows up fearful that he will lose his life if he doesn’t fight for his father, makes enough money for his father and toil away for his father. All this while, the father has grown several bank accounts and his wealth keeps growing, but the kid doesn’t know how much that is. He only knows dad is quite happy, dressing up and going for lavish parties, while he works day and night to earn enough for dad’s bank account.

      Yet, when he asked if his father could give him more money to take a bus ride, his father said that he would cut the bus fare off his allowance.

      The kid got angry. Really angry.

      What can he do?

      *****

      At this point, I do not know. If you ask me, at this point, I want to speak up, I want us to gather together and let the government know how upset, disappointed and unhappy we are that they have chosen to put out their discourse in the mainstream papers, and covered the eyes of Singaporeans from the truths. They have effectively prevented our ability to gather ourselves to visually pressure them into doing what is respectable to us.

      One reason why I have been forceful in my writings (on Facebook – I have not been as involved in writing long articles) is because I want to shock Singaporeans – shock them from realising how we have allowed ourselves to be blindfolded, and to shock us into taking off the veil.

      *****

      What can be done? Off hand, these are the basic things that need to be done. It’s nothing new. It’s what everyone has been championing. To some, it might sound like I am repeating and I have nothing new to offer. Because I do not. Initially, I never got why people kept asking for what I would describe below. Why can’t they be satisfied? As I looked into the statistics, I understood for myself the implications and how we have been taken advantaged on. And then I realised what they say is truly what needs to be done.

      1) Ensure that Singaporeans and all workers, regardless of nationality, are paid fair wages. Our wages are currently repressed, and the government puts it out that it’s because of a demand-supply equation. This is not true. The government determines the demand-supply equation, some ways of which is to determine costs for rental of space, and transportation costs. Companies determine how much to pay according to this. Also, the government is willing to bend backwards for companies, so companies know they can get away with paying low wages.

      2) Channel more budget into healthcare and education costs. It is known that compared to other countries, Singaporeans pay more out of their own pocket for healthcare costs. This is a burden that Singaporeans shouldn’t have to shoulder, especially for the poor, elderly and disabled – who are already earning low wages. We need to provide for them more than what we are already doing.

      3) Allow for freedom of speech and peaceful demonstrations. Right now, I see for myself how the curbing of how speech has prevented us from allowing our voice to be adequately heard. Sure, it is very easy for us to champion our viewpoints online – but is this heard? It’s still kept within a select group of people. The government still defines what is reported in the mainstream media, and is able to angle news to frame themselves in a positive light. We do not have a sensing of what the people really think or feel because the government creates and maintains the discourse. We believe what the government says and we continue to falsely believe in the fear that they propagate. Is this healthy?

      As said, these are all things that everyone has been talking about. What’s new? After thinking through these things carefully and having looked at the statistics, I am very convinced that the government can do a lot more. I am also very convinced that many of the stories that they have put out is aimed at scaring us, so that we do not dare to venture further or against them, for fear that we will lose everything we have. It won’t happen.

      *****

      Why do I care? Why should I even bother with what the government is doing? Why can’t I be contended with what I have?

      I have seen for myself how true happiness can lead to. I can see for myself, when I am able to think clearly and think for myself, what I can achieve and how I can find true joy. I hope for that for others.

      Of course, not everyone will believe in what I believe in or see. But the things is this – have we been given the opportunity? We have been waylaid to think that if financially and infrastructurally, things are good, then what else should we want?

      But what if we are empty inside? What if we do not have clarity? What if we cannot see for ourselves what the truth really is but have been told stories to keep us away from the truth so that does in power can only continue to keep us from realising the truth?

      For the some of us who understand this, we will see the light of what I have said, because these are things they have thought about. But for others, they cannot because believe in the illusion that the government has created feels safe. I cannot change their minds nor can I force them to change. I only wish that by speaking out more, that we can collectively, someone, regain our rights and find an ability to overcome the current barriers, to find a new way to push through with our rights and regain what is rightfully ours, to begin with.

  3. SM Goh

    I would like to point out that CPF is technically our money, except the government is not returning it to us until we are too old to spent it. A better argument I feel, for perceived low taxes is how they are creaming money off us through other legal means. For e.g. COE, high land prices translating into exorbitant property prices, ERP, utilities tariffs, maid levies etc.

    • My Right to Love

      Dear SM Goh,

      Agree to some extend. What is more complicated is that our CPF is invested in government securities which are then invested in the government investment companies.

      The government chooses to tell us that whatever they give us is equal or more than what the government securities earns in interests. But what they choose to not tell us is that the government investment companies are earning interest far more than what these securities are earning.

      So, the government puts out that they are being fair by helping us invest the money and giving us back whatever the securities are earning. Then why not invest our money in the investment companies direct and give us back that amount of money?

      *****

      The other rhetoric that the governments put out is that as our taxes are low, we cannot afford to have increased social and welfare spending. But the truth is that our CPF is many, many times higher than the personal income tax collected. Where is this money going to? To the investment companies where the money isn’t coming back.

      *****

      And you are right – the government has been able to legally siphoned money off us through legal means. They have privatised the public services and the government investment companies have also taken majority stakes in many of these companies. When you are a privatised company, you have interest to keep wages low and the prices of goods high, so that you can continue to earn. The real wages of Singaporeans are at stake here. Not only are wages artificially repressed by demand-supply forces that the government can control, our wages are also artificially repressed by capitalistic forces which our government controls within their companies.

      It sounds all fair and legal, but our money is being taken away from us – and because it looks legal, it looks like we should accept circumstances as they are.

      But people are waking up to this.

      Roy

    • doggone

      The latest round of hefty tax is the increase in property tax. IN 2011 my property tax was $5.00. For Jan 2013 – Dec 2013, my tax is $96.00, which to me is a cooked-up figure by the PAP govt. After a one-time rebate of $40.00 given by the govt, I still have to pay $56.00. To me that $40.00 rebate is just an eye wash. Come 2014, I still have to pay at least $96.00 or more if the PAP increase the property tax again. This time round, the increase was due to high HDB rentals, which is not logical to me. I stay alone in a 3-room flat, unemployed and without any receiving any financial public assistance. This is my last drop of blood. The PAP betrayed its citizens to pay for the million-dollars salaries of its ministers. Cant the PAP stop sucking or blood? Stop that greed pleased.. PAP and Lee Hsien Loong do hear us.

  4. doggone

    The PAP and the entire PAP cabinet is corrupted, including the civil servants.. incidents like the Principal From River Valley High School, Ng Boon Gay, Peter Lim, RC members, CCC members, People Association, etc

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