Someone asked me what I hope for Singapore on my Facebook page. This is my answer:
Hello, what I want is not different from what most Singaporeans want – for a government that is responsible and that will take care of Singaporeans.
Currently, it is estimated that 30% of Singaporeans are living in poverty, that they cannot earn enough to live even a basic standard of living, there is still no minimum wage and when it comes to housing, healthcare and education, some Singaporeans are also not adequately protected because they these are simply too expensive.
By defining a poverty line, implementing a minimum wage and increasing housing, health and education subsidies, the wider proportion of Singaporeans will be protected.
And of course, increasing wages and the CPF interest rates will ensure that Singaporeans will be able to save enough to retire.
Are we asking for the spending to be frivolous? No. First, there is more than enough surplus that can ensure long term spending on these. Second, compared to the other high-income countries, the PAP government has reneged on its responsibility.
The PAP government currently spends the lowest on health and education, as a percentage of GDP, among the developed countries, and also spends the least on social protection.
Singaporeans are made to give up the largest proportion of our wages into social security, or CPF, in the world but because we earn the lowest interest rates on the CPF, we also have the least adequate retirement funds among the OECD and Asia-Pacific countries.
Meanwhile, the richest in Singapore earn the highest salaries among the developed countries and pay the lowest tax while the poor and middle-income earn the lowest wages and pay the highest social security contribution.
Combined with Singapore being the most expensive country in the world and where the government spends the least on social protection, Singaporeans thus have the lowest purchasing power among the developed countries.
And Singaporeans thus also have the highest poverty rate and income inequality among the developed countries.
And because Singapore has the highest income inequality, it has also resulted in Singapore having the lowest levels of trust, the highest prisoner rate after America and one of the lowest social mobilities among the developed countries.
This is worrying.
Why am I concerned about Singapore? Once Singaporeans are protected, where there are policies and government expenditure that takes care of and protect Singaporeans, our society will also improve and advance. Our people will become kinder, happier and more supportive of one another.
Already, Singaporeans have been ranked by several surveys as being one of the most unhappy people in the world.
Do I think the government should provide for everything for Singaporeans? Of course, not.
But the government has to identify which are the basic areas where people’s lives need to be taken care of, namely in housing, healthcare, education and retirement, as well as in employment and wages, so that people are able to function effectively.
Once we are able to do so, productivity will increase, there will be greater innovation, entrepreneurship and we will be able to develop local brands that will be able to compete globally.
Singapore will be able to make a mark in the world, like Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and even the Nordic countries, when it comes to international brands.
But for this to happen, the government has to be transparent, accountable and honest. For this to happen, we need to address the conflict of interest in the government and with the government-linked companies.
Why does the government claim that it does not interfere in the GIC when it sits on the board of the GIC, for example?
The estates of governance need to be independent, so that they can check on one another, and so that the different estates can compete and we can improve our system.
The different political parties should be allowed to run freely and on equal ground, so that we are able to have a competitive government that will address the people’s needs and ensure that policies are developed for the people. This is not the case now, where the government monopolises the decisions and controls all sectors of government.
This is also not the case now where the opposition parties are not allowed to run equally where in the past they were arrested even if they won a parliamentary seat and where they were sued, bankrupt and even lost their jobs. And of course, there is gerrymandering.
What we want is a country and people who do not live in fear, and who partake in our country’s growth and development together, so that we can put our heads together, to make our country a better place, so that our country can be sustained into the future, where we become truly a developed country, where Singaporeans are committed to the country, happy to be part of the country and will be proud to be Singaporean and do our part to grow our country.
This is what I believe in. And it starts with a government that is transparent, honest and fair and it starts with a people and Singaporeans who are willing to be courageous and to step up, take a stand and work together with belief and commitment to one another, to make our country a better place.
What I hope is for a kinder Singapore, where if we want to be a shining example to the world, this is it, where we have happy, proud and fulfilled people who are allowed to grow to their greatest potential and become the best of the people we can be.
This is all I want and hope for, and all I believe in, and in truth, what most Singaporeans believe in.
We just want a fair, just and peaceful society which is equal and together.