Monday, June 22, 2009

Turning poor Singaporeans into beggars.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Singapore state controlled newspaper, Straits Times, has admitted, which is not very often when the news is bad; that a large swathe of the population are in dire financial straits. Of course, so are most of the other countries in the world in this terrible global recession, but there is one difference. Most developed countries have an established and fair system of social welfare where the poor are given financial help according to established guidelines and family size. The payments are intended to ensure the citizen and his family are able to live basic lifestyles expected of normal human beings. In Singapore, which Lee Kuan Yew claims to be first world, on the other hand, the established welfare payments are so little, it is insufficient even for a decent 3 meals a day, let alone for anything else.

With no money or food to speak of, the poor have no choice but to go to their Members of Parliament to beg for handouts, with the lines of the poor getting longer and longer each day. In order to get help, the citizen has to tell his sad story to his Member of Parliament, which is invariably a Lee Kuan Yew's man, who then decides in a few minutes, if he gets anything if at all. There are no fixed criteria as to the amount of assistance, the Member of Parliament having complete discretion whether to give anything, or nothing at all.

And if he does get anything, which is your guess or mine, the dictator makes sure of getting maximum political capital out of it. The event, where the MP hands out the few dollars or a bag of rice, will be given maximum publicity in the state controlled press, with pictures of the Member of Parliament giving the money or food to the recipient. And then the article would claim that the recipient had said that he loves Lee Kuan Yew and his Member of Parliament so much; they are both the kindest humans that ever lived and how eternally grateful he is etc. etc. The idea of course is to show the Singapore public how charitable, benevolent and kind hearted Lee Kuan Yew and his men are, even if the handout was no more than a couple of dollars or a bag of rice.

What is thoroughly unacceptable and offensive in the way charity is dished out there is this. In other countries the poor are allowed to retain their dignity. If they are unemployed or in financial straits, they can go to a particular government department where their means are tested, according to an established scale, and receive financial assistance. Both the recipient of the aid and the general public do not see any shame in this. It is accepted government responsibility to ensure the all citizens and their children can live at a comfortable basic lifestyle without having to lose their self respect. The rich and able accept their responsibility to those less fortunate by giving their fare share in taxes. Everyone realises there is no shame in being poor, it is a temporary circumstance. Things do get better and everyone is taken care of. Both the poor and the rich have a healthy respect for each other and so does the government. In respectable countries everyone has a stake for the welfare of all.

Singapore is quite the reverse. There is no self respecting dignified way to get financial assistance. In that island, the poor are compelled to plead with the dictator's politicians for financial assistance. In fact they are reduced to being no better than beggars. In the Singapore system, whether they get anything, depends entirely on their Member of Parliament. If they are good in crawling and sobbing, they might get a trifling something. Since their MP has no obligation to pay anyone, numerous complaints can be heard secretly that the government only gives their supporters assistance and not the others. Also the poor Malays and Indians who they claim are discriminated by the Chinese dominated government can be heard to say that they were denied aid.

It is well known in Singapore that thousands upon thousands of families have lost their jobs and have no income. And having families and children to feed, the poor have no choice but to literally try their chances begging their Members of Parliament.

The poor having to beg their politicians instead of a lawful right to assistance as in the developed countries demeans them, destroys their self respect and human dignity. Not only is their self esteem destroyed, their children too end up in the vicious cycle of poverty, crime and desperation.

If this government is serious in what they say, to provide financial assistance to the poor, then they have to be honest about it. The poor should only have to go to government offices and fill up the necessary forms for assistance as human beings would do; and they should be paid decent comfortable unemployment assistance sufficient to maintain themselves and their families, without having to beg for it. This whole idea of having to stand in line before their Members of Parliament has to be be stopped. And this dictator should stop making political capital out the poor among us with drumbeat and fanfare, taking pictures of the MP handing out a few dollars or bags of rice, and splashing it across the state controlled newspapers. Such actions shames them before their fellow citizens.

My message to Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's dictator is this. Stop making political capital out of the less fortunate among us. You look very bad doing it, especially when you pay yourself 5 times the salary of the US President.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

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Anonymous said...

Great article....pity on those old and poor Singaporeans, who are in need of basic needs.

Anonymous said...

Well said. This is what is country all about. Too many selfish acts from the govenment.