2012 and beyond: Worsening times for Singaporeans

2012 has turned out to be one of the worst years for the poor and middle class in Singapore. In a recent household income survey conducted by the Department of Statistics, real income growth for the bottom 10% income earners see a -1.5% real income growth. This is the 12th year Singapore’s lowest rung have saw dipping income growth. The key reason behind such trend is inflation, propped up mainly by the increase in population which ironically have brought the city-state record GDP growth over the past decade. It has become apparent that economic growth have only beneficed the rich, with a notable 4.6% increase in real income growth in 2012.

Anedoctally, more elderly and handicapped(the unemployed class below the 10% income earners) are taking to the streets surviving on the charity of the better-off commoners on the street. Old people are often seen touting for tissue papers and those on wheelchairs would be playing instruments basking for a living. Such social phenomenons are not even seen in equivalent economies like Taiwan, Hongkong and Malaysia. The thriving entrepot which serves as a gateway to many international routes just couldn’t see wealth trickle down, despite the PAP government’s claim that “nobody is left behind”.

From the PAP government’s point of view, they do not see the widening income gap as a worrying social trend because they have set in place draconian laws to arrest anyone who “upset racial and social peace”. The Internal Security Act allows the PAP government to detain anyone without trial for an indefinite period. Defamation lawsuits are commonly used by the leaders in power to silence critics. Just barely a year after a watershed election in which the Prime Minister apologized and promised “change”, an editor from popular social-civic news site Temasek Review Emeritus, was sued by the Prime Minister and his brother for allegations of nepotism. Another popular news site, The Online Citizen, was also gazzetted and just recently, the Minister of Manpower sent a letter of demand to social activist, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, and the Minister of Law sent a letter of demand to another popular news site, The Real Singapore. Through the senior counsels engaged by the most well-paid Ministers in the world, the PAP have never once lose a defamation suit in Singapore Court. Foreign presses like the Far Eastern Economic Review under the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune were also sued and made to pay compensation to the PAP leaders amounting to millions. With such fear-mongering antics, the PAP weakened the local opposition parties and kept themselves in power for the past 48 years since Independence. As such, unlike other countries, a rising income gap will not result in political turnmoils like a coup or assasination. Henceforth, the PAP government ignores pleas by both the opposition parties and people to distribute wealth.

A population White Paper was recently endorsed by the Parliament by 77 to 13 votes. All 77 ayes were from the PAP MPs, who take up 80 seats in Parliament. The population White Paper intends to increase Singapore’s population further to 6 million by 2020, with foreigners forming the core of the country’s workforce. Currently there are 2 million foreigners, or 38% of the total population, living in Singapore on a permanent basis. This ratio is poised to increase to 45% by 2020 should the PAP bulldozed their way into 2020. Infrastructures are already seeing signs of buckling with the MRT trains seeing a series of breakdowns for the first time in 2012 since its inception some 25 years ago. Subsidized university places have also gone largely to Permanent Residents and foreign students, and foreign students are often offered comprehensive scholarships without any bond. Singaporenstudents especially those graduated from the Polytechnics are discriminated in local universities despite having the males being forced to serve National Service. With the foreign labor influx, businesses and employers get to enjoy an international buffet of labor market. The loose labor market resulted in salary depression and lowering productivity as Singapore employers become addicted to cheap foreign labor to keep their businesses profitable. Jobs from all walks of life have been dominated by foreigners, which have resulted in many Singaporeans turning to some form of self-employment like driving taxis, selling insurance, selling credit card memberships or even selling tissue papers. Singaporean employees are stereotyped as demanding, lazy and unqualified by employers and even the PAP leaders. Former Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew once said: “Singaporeans are falling behind because the spurs are not stuck into the hide”.

Aside from facing the squeeze everywhere and having lesser employment opportunities, the influx of foregners have also resulted in a spike in inflation. Public housing have seen some 8% year-to-year growth every year for the past decade, pricing many young Singaporeans out of home ownership. The PAP government profit off newly-built government housing by pegging the price to the resale market. A 4 room Build-to-order(BTO) flat in Punggol cost $280K during 2011, just a year in the same precint, the BTO unit cost $300K. Such unethical practice by the PAP goes unchecked because they refuse to declare the breakdown of the public housing construction costs. Land costs, which is highly suspected as the major component in propping up BTO prices, is covered up and not declared despite many calls for accountabiity and transparency. Interestingly, the PAP government managed to put themselves as one of the cleanest government in the Corruption Index. The lack of transparency and accountability is largely fueled by the citizens’ blind trust in the PAP government. The national reserves is unknown even to the elected President, and the PAP is able to committ any billion of loan to any organization without the Parliament’s approval.

Living under an elitist uncaring government is bad, but the real problem facing Singaporeans is their inability to change. More than 60% of the citizens voted for the PAP government in the recent election, and it is unlikely the PAP will be put out of power by 2016. There are too many naive Singaporeans who still believe in the PAP government because of their upbringing in a propagandized environment. The PAP control the textbooks and wroe the history of Singapore themselves. A good example is the origin of Singapore. It is often misquoted by PAP supporters that the PAP government brought Singapore to first world from third world. Back before there is PAP or before Singapore gained Independence, Singapore was already a thriving entreport with the busiest port, sitting in the centre of most international sea routes, Singapore, like Hongkong, was already a gateway between the West and East. There were infrastructures like roads, airports and even high-rise buildings(seen in Balestier Road and Anson Road) then before the PAP came to power. Some PAP supporters gone to the extent of claiming that the PAP government invented the HDB and MRT. Do not be surprised if they say Lee Kuan Yew invented the wheel and Democracy. Such absurdity and insolence is mainly the fault of the PAP-controlled and only mainstream media. The Straits Times have “opinion editors” like Chua Mui Hoong and even the editor Warren Fernandez himself, often weigh in to contentious national issues like CPF Life and the Population in a bid to propagandized the public. The PAP also kept up with times, like making a movie to support National Service in a bid to shore up morale for Singaporean soldiers who do not see a purpose of serving NS. An online internet bridgade was also created to “neutralize and correct fallacious views” in the internet. The PAP are very focus on keepng themselves in power, to the extent of penalizing and intimidating voters, so much so that real issues on the grounds are ignored and “managed” instead of finding real solutions.

If you are rich, congratulations, Singapore is your playground. If you are middle class, you can choose to get out before you become one of those on the streets in your twilight years. If you are poor, too bad, you’ re stuck here.

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