September 27th, 2012
I was looking forward to the forum between PM Lee and members of the public, ostensibly to discuss the future we Singaporeans envisioned for ourselves, that was broadcast on television recently.
I was disappointed. It seemed to me that the questions were tame, as if they had been screened beforehand for unfavourable or incendiary content. I also felt that a lot of important questions did not get asked; questions on issues that seem to divide society almost right down the middle now.
Singapore was already considered a success story 20-30 years ago. We were known as one of the Asian Tigers then and the productivity of our workforce was up there among the best in the world.
In those days the MRT had just been built and made travelling so easy. Our kids were doing well in school, health care was of a high standard and still improving, while wages for blue collar employees were rising steadily. Year by year more and more HDB dwellers were able to afford to move into bigger and better flats.
This was us Singaporeans enjoying the fruits of our success.
Nowadays things seem to have gone lop-sided. The public transport system is straining at the seams, the cost of health-care is rising while our children are under unrelenting pressure in school and university.
The darlings of our economy, the blue-collar guy, is losing his job to cheap foreign labor while prices for HDB flats are now ridiculously high.
One Minister, I forget which one, shrugged it off by saying that we are “victims of our own success”.
How did we get from “enjoying the fruits” to being “victims” of our own success? If the government can answer that they would have found the answer to this dilemma that Singapore is in.
Yes we have all these millionaires, which is not a bad thing, and, yes, we are very good in a lot of things.
The PAP must not forget, however, that they only won 60% of the votes at the last elections and that four out of 10 electors rejected them and their policies.
They have not been given an absolute “yea” to do as they please. If they want to keep this country from being divided down the middle, they have to listen intently and ask themselves some hard questions.
We have not come to the stage where people are taking to rioting in the streets but judging from comments made online I see that there is a chasm dividing public opinion that does not bode well for Singapore.
Merely accusing people of being “xenophobic”, “intolerant” and “rude” does not do anyone any good whatsoever.
It is the government’s policies that have caused this breakdown. Is this what we worked so long and so hard for?
Brian Vittachi, 55
* The letter first appeared on http://sg.news.yahoo.com/yourview/