The West Coast tragedy

Single Parent. Disabled son. Elderly grandmother earning $1000.

IMG_20130603_115640Unfortunately for 31 years old Rebecca Loh Chui Lai, she had them all. The single mother had a son born out of wedlock when she was 22 years old. Her 9 year old son, Gabriel Loh Zhen Jie, was unfortunately diagnosed with liver disorder and very weak legs due to unknown medical reasons that Rebecca ferried him around in a pram wherever she is. As a result of her son’s serious medical conditions, Rebecca was not able to seek employment and her mother has to be the sole breadwinner of the family on a $1000 paycheck. Her neighbors said they often hear violent quarrels from the household which alerted the police several times. The family is also often in adverse financial difficulties due to Gabriel’s high medical costs.

IMG_20130603_115537On the 5th of February, Gabriel fell to his death from the 5th floor of Block 704, West Coast Road. He died after an hour struggle despite the paramedics’ resuscitation effort.

Rebecca was seen on site by several witnesses screaming hysterically that she has killed her son. She was also seen holding her son’s body in a pool of blood grieving in distraught. Rebecca was shortly arrested and taken away by the police.

Rebecca will be charged with murder today, and based on her economic and mental conditions, it is unknown if she will be having any lawyer in her defense. As Gabriel’s fall was not witnessed by anyone, it is unknown if the depressed mother had pushed him, or if Gabriel committed suicide.

IMG_20130603_115654Although Rebecca’s household qualify for Public Assistance, it is not known if they have received any help from the PA grassroots organizations in West Coast GRC prior to the tragedy. Unlike most first world countries, the handicapped and unemployed are not given any payouts. There is also no pension system to supplement the failed CPF system which explains why most elderly Singaporeans are still working into their 70s or 80s. There is also no Minimum Wage to help protect low income Singaporeans like Rebecca’s mother. Due to the PAP’s obsession with GDP growth, an influx of foreign labor have depressed salaries especially for low income workers over the past 13 years [Source].

In 2010, The Economist published an article criticizing the PAP government’s failure to provide a social safety net for Singaporeans [Source]. To which the shameless PAP government replied:

SIR — I refer to your article “The stingy nanny” of Feb 13th.

Each society has to decide for itself the appropriate balance between unconditional welfare and self-reliance. Singapore has concluded that we cannot afford European-style state welfare, not because of dogma, but because our circumstances are different. We face competition from some of the most vibrant economies in the world, we have no hinterland or natural resources of our own to fall back on, and our future depends on being a dynamic and self-reliant people who strive our utmost to excel and create wealth for ourselves, our families and our society. Each generation must earn and save enough for its entire life cycle.

Our approach is based on time-tested values of hard work, self-reliance, family responsibility and community support for those in need. While we avoid over-generous welfare handouts, we have substantial state subsidies for education, health care and public housing. These are major investments that uplift the skills, promote the health and increase the assets of all Singaporeans. The result has been high growth, low unemployment, high savings and the highest home-ownership rates in the world.

No society has ever succeeded in totally eradicating poverty, nor in eliminating inequality of incomes, not even Communist systems. A generous welfare state, despite its theoretical attractiveness, is not a panacea. Singapore’s system is by no means perfect, but it has produced real results for the vast majority of Singaporeans, and enabled even the poor to live with dignity and hope. The burden of proof is on its critics to demonstrate that their proposals will in fact work, and improve on what Singapore has achieved, given our socio-cultural fabric and economic circumstances.

Michael Eng Cheng Teo
High Commissioner for Singapore

Michael have left out no retirement [Source], highest outstanding housing debt [Source], most well-paid Ministers [Source] and the most unhappy people [Source] in the world.

“If you’re poor in Singapore, it’s no fun, but I think you’re less badly off than in any other country in the world, including in the US”
~Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Do you think Rebecca’s family would be worse off in any other country in the world, including the US?


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