Saturday, September 7, 2013

Singapore's ungrateful "quitters"

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Tiny Singapore island's major gripe with a mere 2 million or so local born citizens, is it's unstoppable and growing brain drain to the West. Senior Minister Goh Chock Tong coined the derisory term "quitters" some years ago when referring to educated and skilled Singaporean's who decide to be educated in the island but leave for settlement to the West after graduation. He wants them to stay behind since just as any other country, needs it's skilled educated citizens. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore dictator, had once called them "ungrateful" for abandoning their island in time of need. He is reported to have lamented that "no matter what I do for them, they are never satisfied".

A look around Singapore will convince anyone that it has it's notable achievements, the outstanding one being housing. The Lee government has successfully managed to provide clean and modern housing to every single Singaporean, although they come at exorbitant prices and are no bigger than pigeonholes. But nevertheless a great achievement if you compare how a person in Havana Cuba, or San Salvador or Guatemala City lives. One cannot deny him that.

Not just housing, the island also provides a quality education ( albeit with a stress on supporting the ruling party in government and re-writing history) to all with a major plus point for it being in English. An English education makes one far more mobile than a non -English educated person as it opens up to him Australia, New Zealand and all the other very attractive English speaking countries in the world.

But while Lee Kuan Yew and his son does all the good things such as providing a good education to all with clean decent housing with running water and plumbing, at the same time it does itself a grave disservice by denying a free press, subverting the rule of law, denying free speech expression and assembly and literally strutting around the island in an arrogant you-listen-to-me-or-else mentality. And after behaving this way, both Lee Kuan Yew and his side kick Goh Chock Tong appear to wonder why the educated and skilled among Singaporeans wish to leave his island paradise.

The answer to this question must be obvious to anyone. For a Singaporean Chinese illiterate noodle seller, lets call him Tan Ah Kow, with no English proficiency or any other skill or knowledge at the local food court who has a wife and family to support, I won't be surprised that he is very grateful to Lee Kuan Yew and what he has done for him. Tan realizes that unlike others in similar circumstances in third world countries, he has a decent place to live, good transportation and communications and a reasonably safe society to live in. He is unlikely to want to leave Singapore and would be counting his blessings that the island has produced a man such as Lee Kuan Yew who has given him this good life.

On the other hand, take a person like Gopalan Nair, English educated with an British degree, capable of finding a job anywhere else in the world. In spite of good housing and clean running water in the island, he is aware that in places like Australia, he can live in a much bigger house with a garden and a car which he may not afford in Singapore with it's astronomical car prices.

And more importantly in Australia there is freedom of speech expression and assembly which Lee Kuan Yew disallows in his island. Moreover unlike Singapore, Australia has wide open spaces, animals, goats, horses and cows, mountains deserts and all sorts of interesting things which does not exist in Lee's island.

And most important of all, in Australia, he can call the Prime Minister a rat if he thought so, while in Singapore he will end up in jail. In Australia you can live as a free man. You cannot in Singapore.

So an educated confident skilled and worldly person who puts Singapore on a scale with other democracies in the world, would probably choose to live in the West rather in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore where success has a price which is being loyal to a dictatorship, whereas we need not pay such a disagreeable price in a Western democracy.

As a result Lee's actions, which are in many respects undoubtedly admirable, sadly has a down side. Good that he builds the apartments for his people, but bad that he demands that they live like slaves in them.

One has to feel sorry for Lee Kuan Yew's government. The tragedy for them is the fact that despite all that they do for their people, the young skilled and educated give him a slap across the face, once they have had their education, by saying thanks but no thanks, I am leaving. Lee has to realize that human beings once skilled and educated and able to survive anywhere in the world are not going to be satisfied with three meals a day and housing. They need their freedom, they need to achieve their fullest potential and this they cannot get in a dictatorship like Singapore.

Today, there is not a single person in Singapore whom I know or used to know in the professions who has not either left himself or at least sent his children abroad. In fact every single person that I knew has actually themselves emigrated to Australia or elsewhere or at least have sent their children abroad and who have decided to stay abroad. And these are the best qualified and educated talent among Singaporeans and a great loss to Singapore.

Of course the bus drivers, the food peddlers , the office clerks and the messenger boys are all still in Singapore. They are of course very happy with Lee Kuan Yew and count themselves lucky to be able to live in decent housing with clean running water and plumbing. They are aware that they may not have these things had they been living in Phnom Penh Cambodia.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California, USA
Tel: 510 491 4375


Anonymous said...

GN: Of course the bus drivers, the food peddlers , the office clerks and the messenger boys are all still in Singapore.

You left out LKY's indentured servants, his cadre of Scholars. Educated at the world's best universities but bonded to work for LKY for 7+ years.

By the time you factor in NS (for males) these Scholars become too old to migrate to the West.

Instead, they come up with stupid ideas to torture the bus drivers, hawkers, office clerks.

E.g. 6.9 million.

Anonymous said...

Despite the country's massive wealth, it is not shared by its citizens. Singapore has the highest country reserve per capita than any other country in the world, although they refuse to acknowledge the size and magnitude. Yet there are many 80 year old people working in food courts and on the street and many do not have any retirement saving despite having the highest forced savings during their working life. Indeed, the country has been building its massive reserve from ordinary working people and leaving many living in poverty in their old age.

Anonymous said...

I read from a source stating that Goh's Daughter married a White guy and has renounced her Singapore Citizenship so, i would like to know what is a quitter?

Anonymous said...

Goh's daughter married a British man. So yes, she has 'quit' on Singapore as well. Peotic justice, isn't it?