Went to a block of one-room rental flats to speak to the residents. Initially, some of them were hesitant and did not share the issues that they were facing. But as we spoke longer, they opened up.
An auntie shared how she has learnt to accept her fate that she has to be poor. But I explained to her that there is no reason why Singapore has so much money but there are still so many Singaporeans who have to be poor. Shared with her that the Reform Party has said that it would implement minimum wage to increase the wages of low- and middle-income Singaporeans, if it is the government.
Also met another elderly auntie who lives with her disabled son. The auntie is no longer able to work because of health reasons, but neither can her son. They rely only on a few hundred dollars of social assistance and her CPF. She told me that she hardly goes anywhere except to buy food from downstairs.
There was also another three-generation family of five who only relies on the daughter as the sole breadwinner. She only earns slightly more than $1,000. Her elderly parent has to go to the hospital every month and the bills can go up to more than a thousand dollars in some months. She is saddled with heavy debt.
These are some of the many lives of the low-income families in Singapore. There are many rental one- and two-room flats in Ang Mo Kio itself. I used to stay in a one- and then a two-room flat in Ang Mo Kio myself. But still, life seems to have gotten worse for the poor in Singapore today. And there are many more of these flats around Singapore, where many other low- and middle-income Singaporeans and their families live in.
Really, something is not right when the PAP ministers insist on paying themselves millions of dollars when low-income and even middle-income Singaporean households are struggling with only a few hundred dollars a month. And even then, it is very difficult to apply for social assistance. They have to apply every few months and have to submit a bundle of documents, which they have to submit over and over again each time.
One man asked me why the Resident’s Committee (RC) in his area keeps asking for the same documents even though they have submitted several times. In the end, many of these families choose not to apply for any assistance at all because it can be very demeaning for them. One elderly woman told me that she lives on only a few hundred dollars for herself and her child, and spends very carefully, spreading out her dollars and cents very thinly, because of this.
But why should this happen in Singapore? The photo here looks bleak because it can be very lonely for them. The good thing is that everyone looks out for one another here. A middle-aged man told me that the residents will check on how one another is doing, no matter the race and religion. It is heartwarming to know this.
No matter what, I shared with the residents that Singapore has a lot of money which the PAP government has taken from Singaporeans but doesn’t give back to us. I shared that we need to vote in a government which will increase wages and increase health and education spending, so that Singaporeans do not have to pay so much when they need to see a doctor and do not have to be scared if they need to see one, and so that all our children have a more equal chance at going to university.
And of course, so that the government will #ReturnOurCPF, by returning the interest earned on our CPF and coming out with a public pension scheme to supplement the CPF.
The truth is, when these residents have enough to use, they won’t need to have to keep asking for money. This will allow them to truly have dignity and live proudly. This is how Singapore can then truly be a home to all, and where Singaporeans will know we are taken care of, be happy and give back to our country.
This National Day, this is something for us to ponder about. After 50 years, has our country really improved or has things gotten more challenging over the last 10 years?
If so, it might be a good time to think about whether we need to give ourselves a chance to try something new, to let all Singaporeans have a fair stake in life, and for Singapore to once again be the country we can be proud of, and truly call our home.