Ladies and Gentlemen,
Among the midst of opulence and plenty with modern roads, classy hotels inhabited by the recently arrived Chinese millionaires who embezzled state owned China corporations and Indonesian millionaire bank thieves, a large percentage of ordinary Singapore can only afford to drool in envy.
As for them it is a daily struggle just to make ends meet.
The Guardian newspaper report of Feb 13, 2014 titled "Unaffordable Cities: Singapore workers tread on millionaire island" tells the story which is by no means uncommon, talks of a young woman Patricia who has to pay the bulk of her monthly income for rent for her tiny room where she lives with her partner Sam. Please see http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/feb/13/unaffordable-cities-singapore-workers-millionaire-island
Because she is unmarried, she is unable to receive a state owned one room apartment leaving her to rely on unscrupulous private landlords who take advantage of the property shortage in the overcrowded island by charging sky high rent for tiny cubicles.
Even a tiny 2 room apartment will require a rent of as much as S$5,000.00! Patricia left with no choice has to rent a tiny room in an apartment for S$850.00 which is more than 2/3 of her salary of just $1250.00 per month as a nurses assistant.
One reason why nurses assistants are paid so low is because huge numbers of mainly Filipinas, known around the work for their work in the medical industry, are brought in and paid minimum wage to maximize profits for the hospitals. Although the Filipinas are happy since it is far more than they get in the Philippines, the miserably low wages are simply insufficient to survive for Singaporeans in a country which is said to have the fourth highest cost of living in the world!
The government justifies these miserable wages by claiming the need to be globally competitive, never mind if people like Patricia, citizens of Singapore, have to eat grass.
Lee and Son, the rulers of Singapore, using this reason as an excuse, refuse to even enact a minimum wage law, something any self respecting country should have, while allowing the "free market" to fleece unfortunate citizens such as Patricia, turning the island into a paradise for profiteers, racketeers and speculators and a nightmare for the ordinary Singaporean.
As a result, thanks to lee Kuan Yew's free market, prices in Singapore have gone way way ahead while wages, thanks to the government's determination to be "competitive", like a horse in blinkers, is simply making life a nightmare for the ordinary folk .
And the hopelessness and despair that you see in the eyes of Singaporeans such as Patricia is because they have no chance to better themselves, once they have missed the boat.
What Singapore literally tells their citizens in lower paid jobs, as in Patricia's case is simply "It's your own fault if you don't have an education" while they refuse to those who ask.
Everyone is given one chance at getting an education when young. And education in Singapore's Asian context means becoming a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer; in other words safe professions where one can making a living all your life.
Those unable to get into these safe professions, are destined to a life of misery, because unlike the developed world, manual work is mainly done by imported cheap labor from other Asian countries and like them you too will get pittance.
In the case of Patricia her crime was not to have achieved good grades in school. Now she is older and it is too late to make amends. The island does not provide any meaningful opportunity for adult education. In fact this lack of educational opportunity is deliberate because firstly, the island needs these manual workers and secondly, in an island where almost every child yearns for an education, greater numbers of educated people may threaten the power base of the island dictatorship.
Most dictators of the world preferred dumb peasants. Remember Pol Pot. He murdered even people who wore spectacles. In Lee Kuan Yew's case it may not be possible to murder Singaporeans. But at least it helps if too many are not highly educated.
For instance, I, Gopalan Nair would not have been a constant irritant to the regime had I not received an education. I would probably be happily running around the island arresting innocent citizens at the orders of the Lee family as an ignorant low level policeman, God forbid.
The lower ranks of the Singapore Police Force has a disproportionally large number of Malays, who are the least educated among the races. Their lack of an education or an awareness of their rights makes them excellent goons for the Lee dictatorship, who willingly run around like obedient dogs, to arrest and imprison citizens whom the regime does not like. Had they had more education they would probably be less willing to do the dirty work.
For Patricia who, sadly did not do well in school, there are no government assistance or scholarships to train to be a doctor, an engineer or a biologist.
For her, alas, it is simply too late. There is no such thing as a second chance. She has missed the boat. She could if she wanted to, train for another manual job with equally poor wages. But if she is thinking of something big, like being a doctor, it is not possible. There is no hope for people like Patricia in Singapore and that sadly is the long and short of it.
Patricia's sense of hopelessness becomes unbearable especially in an island where huge numbers of the tiny population are millionaires, the largest number in any city the size of Singapore, mostly recently arrived Chinese who go around flaunting their wealth in their Porches and Ferraris.
This unbearable sense of hopelessness among a large segment of the island population, I fear, will probably result in some catastrophe, not experienced in the island before.
This is the sort of people the Russian peasants were in 1917 who overthrew the Czar since according to Marx, "they had nothing to lose but their chains".
Or even if it does not result in a revolution, it is already manifesting itself in other ways, as for instance, the recent riots in Little India, a locality in Singapore; many instances of poorly paid maids attacking their bosses; serious gang violence; beheadings and serious crime at a level unheard of before.
In the US where I live, on the other hand, people are not reduced to this life of misery and hopelessness. People in any station in life, no matter how low, can still dream, and if you work hard enough, you may even make it work.
Even if you missed the chance at school, there are always limitless opportunities to advance. There are adult courses, fully funded by the state where at any age you can study further. And it is this realization and hope, that you can if you want, makes the life of anyone, no matter in what station you may be, far more hopeful and worthwhile. Life itself becomes worth living.
In life one has to have hope. Without hope there is no point in living. In America you have hope. In America, the 40 year old housewife one day can suddenly say she has decided to go to college and become the President. And why not. She may not become the President but at least she can still get her college degree in astronomy.
But Singapore's Patricia has no chance. She has no chance not because Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore can't afford it (they have billions, and each minister is paid millions) but because they deliberately want to make sure that Patricia does not climb the ladder, because she is needed to do that low paid low level job to satisfy the Lee family's social and economic plan to keep everyone in their right places.
They don't want Patricia turning out to be another troublesome Gopalan Nair and pointing out to them why they are violating their Constitution. If she did, just imagine all the time and effort they would have to spend in charging her in court for writing a blog about their judges and disbarring her from practicing law in their island.
Oh no, it is far better for Patricia to remain a nurse's assistant with N level certificate, the slightly lower qualification school certificate than an O Level.
Caveat: By the way if anyone is wondering how despite the dangers inherent in criticizing the Lees, I can do it, it is only because I am physically in the USA while I write this. Had I been in Singapore now, I would, as you know be mincemeat.
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California, USA
Tel: 510 491 8525