Sunday, August 2, 2009

Saying goodbye to Singapore

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The state controlled Singapore newspaper (all of them are state controlled)the Straits Times online edition of Aug 3, 2009 has this article "Lure of foreign degrees. More apply to varsities in the US, Australia and Britain despite recession".

The article is about a civil servant mother and her businessman husband sending their daughter 19, to Boston University to read English Literature. They have another daughter 16, who I suppose will wait her turn to leave Singapore. There is a nice picture of the family.

The article states the reason for her going abroad instead of the state controlled Singapore University (everything is state controlled in Singapore)is for greater exposure to the outside world. This is correct but I reckon only one of the reasons why this young woman is going away. All the other reasons are conveniently not stated, as this may not only hurt but heighten the number leaving Singapore.

I tell you what it is. This family, like the thousands upon thousands of families in Lee Kuan Yew's fear ridden island want their precious daughter to grow up and educated as a normal human being, with her normal human faculties intact, not the robot that Lee Kuan Yew's education system churns out. Second, with the CPF system already bankrupt and soon to see the entire system kaput, they feel at least their daughter should be given an even chance to succeed in life outside the prison island. And third, with this daughter out there in the free world, this would help in the re-location of the entire family to the United States, since once she becomes a citizen, she will be able to get her parents to re-locate followed by her younger sister.

And I tell you one thing more. The girl is good looking, and intelligent which means that any American young man would be quite ready to marry her.

With that I end with Adios Singapore, Adios Lee Kuan Yew, you bully. One more educated family out of Singapore. I can take a bet on this. She will not return to Singapore, ever. Which reminds me of what Goh Chock Tong had admitted only 2 weeks ago speaking to a school audience, that 2 out of 3 students who go abroad never return. From the looks of it, it is more like none return. Thanks for reading.

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

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Nafnaf said...

Hi Gopalan,

This blog entry you wrote about the ST article, it could very well have been about me.

I left Singapore to study at Boston University 4 years ago too, despite (or rather, in spite of) qualifying for local universities. I witnessed the passionless automatons the Singaporean education system produced and it scared me that I might develop into one of those when adulthood came knocking.

I've graduated, and not surprisingly, I have decided to stay. I married a really nice American boy and as of today I have taken my first step toward American citizenship via the green card. Hopefully I can sponsor my sister (who's a sophomore at a college in Seattle) when she graduates. In this economy, I personally know of so many who have had their working visas rejected, only to have to bow their heads in dejection and head home to the land they wanted so bad to leave.

So you see, your prediction about this girl, is eerily close to my story. Very eerily close.

I love life here - the opportunities abound, political discourse is uninhibited and prevalent, and life just generally feels larger than life compared to what I had before.

However, I've always come to realize that things aren't simply painted in black and white. Not everything about the country I fought so hard to leave was bad. Every single time I have some health care issue/problem to deal with, I still head back to Singapore for consultation and treatment with doctors and specialists. As much as I'd hate to admit, some government policies, inadvertently or not, have had some positive effects. The cost of consultation and medication when you visit a general practitioner in Singapore for a relatively uncomplicated situation, costs on average, SGD$30.

In the US, when I developed some strange but nagging jaw pains, I had to go to hospital emergency rooms to wait for 4 or 5 hours before even getting to see the doctor. The ER fees cost slightly over US250, even though I had insurance. That would've never happened in Singapore. Granted, I live in an urban environment where health care providers and institutions are known to be over-burdened, but Singapore is far more densely populated than any US city yet overcrowding, overconsumption and exorbitant medical costs are largely non-existent.

You live, you learn. I am a dissident (maybe more of a skeptic) but I'm also practical at the end of the day. Like Obama and the democratic majority, I believe that health care is a basic human right, not a responsibility and certainly not a privilege. My opinions will continually evolve, as I understand that there is no perfect system. For now though, would I still live here in the US of A?

Absolutely. The health care situation isn't enough of a reason to lure me back to Singapore. I love the way Americans embrace the notion of liberty in all senses of the word. But if I were to be so unlucky to acquire something like Lyme Disease, Singapore might not be too bad of a place to live after all.


Gopalan Nair said...

Hello Nafnaf,
People do not normally run back to Singapore just becasue they have jaw pains! I am sorry to hear of your situation, which must be painful. The general reason why people leave Singaproe is becasue there is no freedom, even if very cheap 2 penny jaw pain doctors abound at every street corner in Singapore. As for me, if I had jaw pains like you, I may also go to a cheap jaw pain doctor in Singapore or Bangkok or anywhere else. But the reaosn for living in Singapore should not be because there are plentiful cheap jaw pain doctors. I trust you see my point.

Thank God I have strong jaws and touch wood, I hope I don't get it ever. The answer lies I think in sufficient calium. And a strong positive outlook to life.

Nafnaf said...

Hi Gopalan,

The jaw pain I spoke of was really a wisdom tooth incident, which was one-off. Nevertheless, the health care model that Singapore employs is better than what the US has right now. That much is undeniable, based on data and statistics (indicators like infant mortality rate and GDP spending on health care), and even on personal anecdotes.

I do value freedom - that is why I left Singapore and why I chose to live in America. But freedom has a price sometimes, not just in the bloodshed of soldiers fighting wars abroad but in a more abstract sense, the ineffective and inefficient American model of health care which, as I said before, is really a human right. I do agree with you that the reason not to live in Singapore should not be because of cheap but good quality medical care. But then again, if I ever get cancer and it's a life or death situation, I would give up that freedom anytime and opt to live instead by returning to Singapore where at least I won't have to declare bankruptcy as a result of a suite of life-saving cancer treatments.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Nafnaf,

I am not sure I see your point. If it is that the US health system is broken, I entirely agree. I would also agree that in certain areas of Bronx, there is a crime problem. For that matter I would also agree that in certain areas of the Midwest there are tornadoes and that Florida is hit with a serious problem oh hurricanes!

And finally I would also agree that if the Republic of Mali or Timbutoo will give me free medical care if I am dying of the bubonic plague, I would be very happy to be there too.

But truly, I hope you understand what I am trying to say which is this. I refuse to live in Singapore because there is no freedom. Period.

I hope the American education that you have has given you clarity of thinking, not confused it.


Anonymous said...

One day....just like that lucky woman,i hope to leave singapore...and to finally experience what true democracy feels like and being able to go to the elections,knowing that you have more than one candidate to vote for and that there is always a strong opposition for you to vote for

Anonymous said...

Nafnaf, Gopalan- Interesting discussion, but you've all missed the point. Health care in a socialist/Democrat-run state like MA is what US and Obama is steering the country towards. Singapore is small, autocratic, and, with over 60% GDP (I may be exaggerating) derived from GICs and Temasek Holdings, it is expected to run efficiently to treat the less-than-serious ailment but not enough to handle innovative/progressive medicine without a free-and-competitive market. There are plenty of other exemplary US cities besides Boston that offers good health-care.

Key to health care is, it incentivizes Americans to hold-down jobs to get insurance rather than free-for-all, pan-handling-and-still-get-health-care situation.

As for Freedom and Democracy, check-and-balance is effective in a society/people that knows to discern facts from fiction. This is absent in Singapore.

Finally, Democracy also encourages people to be objective and debates alternative and challenging ideas. Who is to say that Singapore cannot progress faster than the past forty years with opposing or alternate ideas?

Having had a one-party communism for the past 40 yrs, we will never know, will we?