Why Singapore Is Breaking Up And Singaporeans Are Still In Denial

Someone had posed a comment on how Singapore doesn’t want to risk what we have, and this was my reply:

I think, and some Singaporeans might agree, that the current system in Singapore is a result of the initial PAP politicians who knew clearly what needed to be done to position Singapore on the world map. Once they did it, it would be difficult to change the position that Singapore had solidified itself onto – because once you get there, two things would make it work is (1) keep maintaining it and (2) as long as other countries don’t “catch up”, Singapore is “safe”.

The question now though is – (1) is the current PAP politicians adept at maintaining the system? Some Singaporeans don’t think so – the public transport system is breaking down, hospitals becoming overcrowded and tents are supposedly built as part of a plan to expand the hospitals’ capacity, instead of actually building additional buildings. Also, (2) the other countries are catching up.

So, the question is – how long can the supposed “head start” that Singapore has last?

The problem now is this – it looks like the current PAP politicians are actually just “maintaining” the system at the minimum they think is necessary. Yet, at the same time, they have also created divisive policies – the invitation of millionaires and billionaires into Singapore and a foreigner/investment-driven economic growth, not coupled with a matching investment in the people to grow Singapore-based industries and growth.

As such, the two-prong skewed investment focus has caused prices to rise way and above the people’s means to afford the lifestyle here and resulted in a hollowing out of our economic base.

You see – an investment-based growth would necessarily create two classes of society, where the government would want to create a market for the rich; and for the rest of Singaporeans, you just need a market to meet their basic needs. As such, the divide among the Singaporean society has thus widened further and further.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the PAP politicians genuinely want to drive this divide. I don’t quite understand their psychology but first and foremost, they had paid themselves extravagant salaries and they want to upkeep that. Second, it looks like as they look towards growing their own wealth, they seem to believe that if they were to grow the wealth of Singaporeans as well, this would eat into their own. As such, there is a tireless focus on ensuring that the wages of Singaporeans do not grow, so that their wealth can be protected.

It is thus ironic that the PAP claims that Singapore does not have a welfare system. Singapore does have a welfare system – but the PAP has created welfare for themselves, and by extension, for the rich. Meanwhile, for the poor and middle class in Singapore, they have to pay for the rich to upkeep their lifestyles – which doesn’t quite make sense. That makes us a slavery class, but it’s unfortunate that Singaporeans don’t seem to realise that.

You see, the bubble that entraps Singaporeans is this – on the outside, the spanking clean buildings which are cleaned every few years and the thorough effort by the PAP to clean out the streets (and the homeless off the streets) – the maintenance of the “clean and green” Singapore has allowed Singapore to keep up with the appearance that there is no poor in Singapore and that life seems to still be good. And thus this deceptive imagery has caused Singaporeans to deny the existence of another side of Singapore, and in that denial, Singaporeans hang on to the idea that Singapore is still a safe place to live in – but we don’t understand how precarious we are holding on to this “idea” of Singapore.

These constructs – that Singapore is “safe”, Singapore is “modern” – these have allowed us to hang on to a delusion, or an oasis, if you may – but these constructs were real in the 1990s, or even the 1980s. Then, Singapore was truly safe and modernising. However, in the Singapore today, there are many fault lines that are appearing, which the PAP has either chosen to either or does not recognise can tear our society apart.

There is much research which already shows how inequality can cause many adverse societal and psychological problems – such as higher risks of mental disorders, suicides, a society that people become more self-centred and less trusting. In the long term, this does not bode well for the Singaporean society. It is also due to the PAP’s policies of gearing Singaporeans towards being more unequal, and thus competitive, that has caused Singaporeans to become more and more self-protective. When you speak to an older Singaporean who still remembers the 1990s, they would be able to remember a time when Singaporeans were kind and willing to help. Yet, on a social level, things deteriorated from the late-1990s and 2000s.

What the current PAP doesn’t understand is this – they believe that “maintenance” refers to only maintaining the policies and balancing the policies that had been created by the first-generation PAP politicians. And they try their best to “balance”, not understanding how to balance. When the first-generation PAP politicians created the policies, even as much as there was the Internal Security Act and media control etc, they knew how else they need to manage the tempers of the people and manipulate the press to great effect. They knew philosophy and they knew psychology. And the truth was under them – the initial PAP politicians – the inequality in Singapore was coming down, and thus our society was becoming a friendlier one.

But the current-installed PAP politicians are unable to maintain this balance, they themselves a by-product of the system that was created by the initial PAP politicians. As much as the then-PAP politicians maintained a good balance, they underestimated the effects of how a controlled education and media, and an elitist pathway can create – their offsprings thus become blinded to the reality that pervades Singapore. They are unable to empathise and “know the ground” because they never lived it and they were never exposed to it. A fake Singapore has created rulers who knew only how to create fake policies.

And now, in government, it’s thoroughly difficult for them to understand how the rest of Singaporeans feel. It’s immensely difficult to do so when your whole life, you had lived in a glass bubble on the top of the hill. Not only that, they were thought that they needed to protect their lavish glass bubble, and had to prop up one another’s glass bubbles. As such, we now have a system where the elites are propping one another up, while the rest of Singaporeans are left to hang on to the pieces that we have and scavenge.

I think it’s unfortunate. It’s very unfortunate. Singaporeans don’t realise this, or they can’t see this – or choose not to. The bubble that we have encapsulate ourselves in will burst soon. In the 1990s, our lives were real – Singapore was fair, a modern society, a country to be proud of – these were all real.

But towards the end of that decade and in our era now, all these are façades of a past world that we hang on to. And indeed, why not? To envision yourself going down, and knowing it but not doing anything about it, it’s a scary thought. And for a Singaporean population which have been groomed to believe that we should fear and that we should be superficial – to see only what is on the outside and pursue it, it’s very difficult for us to look the other way – to see the reality.

So, it is as much that Singaporeans are in denial as much as it is difficult for Singaporeans to realise that the façade would soon fall off, and that the reality of things would smack us right in the face. But as long as reality doesn’t materialise, people are quite happy hanging on to their floats.

You know, so what if Singapore has a sparkling clean modern façade, when beneath it, we are empty and hollowed out – when we are the world’s most unhappy and most emotionless people, and where we are the least trusting and where there is the highest rate of poverty in Singapore, as compared to any developed country or most countries in East Asia. These are just symptoms of the reality that would come to Singapore soon. But still, Singaporeans hang on to the delusion.

But having said all that, if you are rich, by all means, come to Singapore. Your wealth will be protected. It will grow faster than anywhere else, and it will grow at the expense of the poor and middle class.

But this is just it – for the rich who are principled, moral and upright, do you think they would come to Singapore? They wouldn’t. Well, most of them wouldn’t anyway. They would stay where they are in the Nordic countries, for example, because they know that there, even as they cannot be as rich as someone in Singapore, they have a society which is equal, where everyone is happy, and where society as a whole grows together.

Unfortunately, in Singapore, we attract a rich who want to keep their wealth, and hang on to it, for fear of losing it. And thus they come to Singapore – and it’s very easy to keep to yourself here and hang on to what you have here.

But the question we have to ask – is this the kind of Singapore we want – where the rich are self-centred? But this is the kind of Singapore the PAP wants – in their want to grow rich themselves, it’s fine that they attract the kind of rich people who think like them. And to them, they think it’s fine.

But it’s not fine for the rest of Singaporeans. And perhaps this is something the PAP does not understand. When your people become divided and when they are not with you, they will not work with you to build the society you want.

What the PAP does not realise and what many Singaporeans have yet to understood is this – one day, soon, when the people no longer feel proud for this country, as they already are gradually not, they would not upkeep the country, they would not play their part, they would not work together. And when that happens, things will just fall apart. Whatever the first-generation PAP politicians have so tirelessly built up will fall apart under the leadership of the current PAP politicians.

This is why so many Singaporeans are leaving – they see this one way or another. They know that Singapore has lost its soul, some of them might not understand why or how. And thus they have left to be able to still be in touch with their inner selves.

But for many of us poor, or are unable to leave, what can we do? That is the question many Singaporeans ask.

Well, don’t vote for the PAP! Speak up! Write, talk to your friends! When thousands and thousands of Singaporeans speak up, do you think they are going to throw all of us into jail? Do you think there is enough space for all of us? Do you think the Singaporeans who are guarding these cells would allow the PAP to be so defiant to the wishes of Singaporeans?

What Singaporeans don’t understand is that we have a very powerful tool – ourselves. Once we speak out, once we step out, the PAP wouldn’t dare to what it dares now. Once thousands and thousands of us go onto the streets, the PAP will whimper at our feet. They might be rich but we have the numbers.

Instead of getting out of our country, we have one last chance at the next election – we can fight it out with them and take back what is ours, or we can give our rights away once again, believing that maybe one day the PAP will do what is right.

They stopped doing what is right 30 years ago. And this current PAP generation is even less likely to turn it around.

I say, let’s take a stand and let’s do something about it. If either way you look at it, things are going to be broken soon, then it’s better to be prepared to let it break and then fix it together, instead of turn a blind eye to what might break and then run away.

Surely, if our grandparents and theirs could build Singapore up from what is was after World War Two, as the children and grandchildren or our forebearers, Singaporeans should have enough guts and pride than what we believe ourselves to be?

It’s now or never, my friends. We let this go, and we let our lives go. It’s now or never.


  1. Anon

    You wrote a load but could be easily summarized in a paragraph. Nothing has not been said before though. Problem here is, still no clear vision of the next power grid. The one book that could shed light is now interpreted by ding dongs and supported by ding dongs every Sunday.

    In Sin, you tell them they are ding dongs, they will bring out their TULIP and hammer you. Then they strip your pants and see whether you are clean down there. You see, they wash every day – down there you know.

    That’s why, no revelation. 🙂

  2. Eason

    Singaporeans are kiasi. That’s why nothing has changed. You want to make them change, help them peep into the future. What it would be like if PAP continue to rule and what it would be like if the opposition took over. The fear of change makes them scared. The fear that one day they find that there is nothing in their reserve. Remember what Ong Teng Cheong tried to do but failed. Remember what Nathan has not done. And remember what Tony Tan did to cover up. What if one day, you wake up and realize that your CPF is gone? Is it there in the first place or is it a number that you saw? Why does the CPF board keep raising the retirement age? Why is our national debt greater than 100% of our GDP? Does it make sense? Well, one thing for sure. We will all find out when the opposition took over and dig out all skeletons in the cupboard. But, are Singaporeans prepared for the truth? OR would they rather believe in LKY’s version of “hard truth”? Why does he put his son in power if there is nothing to hide?

  3. kohkeesenmatthew

    It is true that life has become hard. Things are more expensive and Singapore is the most costly place to live in. It is essential to convince Singaporeans to vote for the Opposition; the reason they usually don’t is because MIW sell themselves very well and have big promises. MIW have a brand name that is hardly rivalled except for perhaps Workers’ Party. But the truth of Opposition Politics in Singapore is that the Opposition Parties need to be united to avoid Multi-cornered fights and eventually if they come into power, to form a coalition government. The electorate needs convincing that an Opposition Coalition government can work better than the MIW. This is something no individual writer or activist can vouch for.

  4. Danny Ooi

    Hi Roy,

    Thanks for the great response. Though i think you will find the answers to the questions you asked. From my point of view,
    (1) is the current PAP politicians adept at maintaining the system? Some Singaporeans don’t think so – the public transport system is breaking down, hospitals becoming overcrowded and tents are supposedly built as part of a plan to expand the hospitals’ capacity, instead of actually building additional buildings. Also, (2) the other countries are catching up.

    So, the question is – how long can the supposed “head start” that Singapore has last?

    (1) I cannot give an answer on whether the politicians are adept at maintaining the system – sure public transport systems break down, but then again – it is still the best public transport system in the region. Hospitals becoming overcrowded? Why? Is Singapore becoming unhealthy? Or I hate to say this like Eason mentioned Kiasi/Kiasu, where any small issue we sent to the hospitals. Back in the days, when there were no such thing as medical cards – people don’t admit into hospitals for fever, flu. So some dissents – could be a small number to the current government. (2) If the other countries catch up, you get less influx of foreigners as there are better opportunities else where and Singapore would not be burdened by foreigners. So isn’t that good? When other countries catch up, they do not need to come snatch your cake so to speak. As an eg, even finding a maid is tough nowadays in Malaysia. Why? As Malaysians can’t afford to pay higher wages, and their wage in their own country is catching up. There is no need to actually work abroad for many Indonesians as domestic maids/hard labourers. If other countries don’t catch up, oh well Singapore’s dilemma would be a never ending cycle.

    Then it comes to politicians, you mentioned “I don’t quite understand their psychology but first and foremost, they had paid themselves extravagant salaries and they want to upkeep that. Second, it looks like as they look towards growing their own wealth, they seem to believe that if they were to grow the wealth of Singaporeans as well, this would eat into their own. As such, there is a tireless focus on ensuring that the wages of Singaporeans do not grow, so that their wealth can be protected.” This psychology is quite easy to understand actually. Look at the CEOs, the directors, the bus drivers, the McDonalds worker. Everyone desire more. Which of the above would actually say, look I have earned enough… Next year I’m gonna asked my boss to deduct my pay to give to the toilet cleaner, or the clerk that prepares my presentation. NO!! Our education does not work this way, it is YOU need to be the BEST!! So be more self centered and make sure you climb as high as you can. I’ve not seen where a student who was average but willing to put in the time to help out fellow students who are weaker get rewarded a higher achievement. You see our education never thought us to care for one another. It thought a student to be the best at whatever they do. So it is a matter of fact that people cared about themselves more than others. But i asked to think of this, “We are only as fast as our slowest runner.” So until people think that yes collaboratively they can achieve something incredible together rather than I can achieve, there will always be a divide between classes. Assuming to have a decent life in Singapore cost us SGD2K. How many that earn SGD20K would willing to forego 50% and still enjoy a reasonably upscale living and get to help say 10 families have a decent living. This is a tough question to answer even for my ownself. Requires some soul searching. But i would say spending SGD10K to provide for 10 families would nourish our soul more than spending the money on ourselves. I’ve come to realised this. So maybe this is more of a people mindset than politicians.

    And I’m not even sure if I’ll be screwed by the Singaporean government for saying this, but from a political perspective, you need to understand that there are a lot of naturalize citizens. And these citizens, woah in their eyes, the Singaporean government is the epitome of what they want in their country. Take Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, China, etc etc…. In comparison to their birth country, Singapore have saved them from their own hole. Will these people ever vote for the opposition? In the meantime, with the lower birthrate of the working class Singaporeans… well i think you get my point… It is tough to beat them at their game, their policies, their divide

    But let’s not loose hope, for everyone will live through the consequence of their own choice.. So what can Singaporeans do?

    “What Singaporeans don’t understand is that we have a very powerful tool – ourselves. Once we speak out, once we step out, the PAP wouldn’t dare to what it dares now. Once thousands and thousands of us go onto the streets, the PAP will whimper at our feet. They might be rich but we have the numbers.” <- Looks desperate and trying to take down the G by force? Will go nowhere la, look at Egypt, Thailand. (And they have got alot of supporters on each side – Opposition in Malaysia took 52% of the vote in election still not enough to change government) In Singapore's case, it is always 5%<-( I don't know the figure, so just say) of people giving trouble. ( Don't look cool to PAP supporters, foreigners, politically neutral, or peace loving people )

    Maybe start thinking of ways to lower the cost of living. Research more methods on sustainable living.. Afterall, if we can't make other people to change for us, why not we change ourselves. If we cheapen our lives, we don't need as much to live. and if we don't need as much to live, we don't need to work as hard. And if we don't work as hard, maybe we got more time to spend with our families, friends, strangers, people in need. then maybe we'll be happier? And when not as many people work as hard, the economy shakes, the government coffers get affected. They will start to notice. And hopefully some policy which would benefit the people will be in place. But the game now is simple, the more expensive your life is, the more sucked into their system you are, the more you spend, the more they earned, the more you make, the more they earned. Afterall if the "ELITIST" are so suck up on money. Then you hit them where it hurts. So make cheap cool!! Because cheap is definitely not cool with the Elitist. Small steps. Maybe loose the ipods and start talking to one another in MRT? When I was in Singapore. I look left and right Out of 10 people 8 people have got a headset in their ears. ONE BIG SILENT COMMUNITY. Silent people are hard to work with one another as we don't know each other.. Back in the days, people talk to each other. They understand each others issues and try to work it out. In a big silent community – everyone is working on their own issues, they don't have the time to see the bigger issues affecting them – I'm guessing here.

    You want the numbers to promote friendship, to promote society living. to help one another… More number would be added… if 5% of the people can take care of themselves collaborating among themselves to achieve a better Singapore, more would join in… and before your know it, the 5% would grow and encompass of people of different profession and skills that may contribute in crowd sourced projects for the benefit of the greater good.

    I know this may seem far fetched, but if we remind ourselves to do a good deed and to communicate freely with one another, we would understand each other better and would have helped to create a better place if not for us, for our future generations. The question is do we want to change ourselves? Why wanna wait for PAP to do what is right?? We just need to do what is right ourselves.

    On the question of moving out of Singapore. If we want to move out to say Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, etc etc… and live a simple life. Country side living. Even if they can afford it would they move?? Many dream of places like US, Australia, UK, where it may be expensive for an average Singaporean. But what about less developed places? I'm sure many Singaporeans can afford it. I was talking to a Pakistani the other day, and he told me the cost of living back home SGD400 can get through a month comfortably. In Malaysia i reckon if you don't choose the big cities, i think SGD1K would suffice for a decent living, the minimum wage here is RM900 = SGD350.

    Anyway, thanks for having a post specifically to reply my commend. I'm greatly honoured. Hopefully we shall find ways to make the place we live in a better place for the community around us.



  5. Max

    1 sentence to sum up.”Vote for Opposition!!!” is that really that hard to type it out? Since it’s really tiring just by reading the article blog

  6. Kyo

    in Indo when the ruler who ruled for over 50 years got brought down by his ppl, he intentionally smashed the grid and tried to bring everyone down with him. How will this look like in Singapore. The ppl can rise but whats next? Shad more light and unite people. Just complaining with out educating the solution will not change anything. All the best.

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