Friday, March 22, 2013

Singapore, miserable lives in Lee's paradise island

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the one hand, the Singapore strongman Lee Kuan Yew touts his Island as the single most paradise anywhere on earth; it has a huge GDP, gleaming skyscrapers that shoot out into the equatorial sky in close quarters, modern roads, modern telephones, modern everything.

Yet it appears nobody wants to live there! Singapore’s skilled and talented people are emigrating in droves to the West making its brain drain one of the highest in the world. A few years ago, the 91 year old Singapore superman –at least that is how many perceive him- had gone around the world where Singaporeans had fled pleading that they return. Yet nobody has ever shown the slightest interest in coming back. As if the intolerable brain drain was not bad enough, its fertility rate is the lowest in the world because no one wants to have any babies.

Contrary to what many thought about the mighty or presently invalid, as his is now, 91 year old Singapore superman as being God's answer to the entire world's problems, yet it appears he is somehow not able to solve this one.

You don’t need to be smart to know why. Even a cursory knowledge of the goings on in that island of his will immediately tell you why. It’s like this. If anyone is thinking of raising a family and children in a place, you first have to have some hope, some confidence in the future, some financial security, because without these things, bringing up children can be very tricky.

The problem with the Lee Kuan Yew dictatorship is that their plans have only one thing in mind, economic competitiveness, raising the GDP and making the island attractive to foreign investors. With this sole purpose in mind, their policies and rules simply are not conducive to family life. Here is why.

People are crammed into tiny pigeon hole high rise apartments there one above the other. Each room is so small; it can hardly fit 2 people, not a family of 5. There is no room for privacy at all. Land scarce Singapore with a government hell bent on cramming it like sardines simply allows no room for comfortable living in government housing where almost every Singaporean lives.

The government simply does not believe in any welfare or a government safety net for those in need. Therefore for each child you have, you have to pay school fees, food, clothes, transport and everything else. Every other child you add adds to your expense. Without money you are simply dead. If you have children, they too are dead. Not an attractive place to have children, let alone one.

As for the adults, there is no job security. Lee Kuan Yew's thought police are everywhere keeping an eye. Any wrong move or wrong sentiment, over heard by someone can cost you your job. Therefore the need to be politically correct at all times, in both mind and speech.

As for labor rights there are none. The idea is to make it as attractive as possible for foreign investment. This means there are no free trade unions, there is no legally binding minimum wage, and no right under law to security of employment. How does anyone dare to bring up children in a society where you can be fired the next minute and made penniless?

The government deliberately keeps the wages permanently low, so as to compete with other cheap labor countries. So when your wages are just enough to make ends meet while at the same time, costs continue to escalate for necessities, you are lucky if you can keep yourself going, never mind keeping a family of 5 going.

But the government has made it very clear they are not going to change these ridiculous policies. Their claim is that unless you continue to make the wages of Singaporeans perpetually low and their lives always miserable, you will not be able to compete in the global marketplace of cheap labor. And every other policy that makes the workers rights more secure and comfortable such as minimum wage laws, and strong unions are never allowed because for them, these things causes the island to become less competitive and therefore undesirable. Another often quoted mantra is that if you allowed even the slightest social welfare, everyone will become lazy and the whole economy will collapse.

You can see the problem here. The government's policies are simply not favorable for families and children. They are simply nonsensical. And as long as such harebrained Alice in Disneyland policies remain, the island will continue to lose its skilled people, no more children will be born and it would have to continue relying on migrant workers as they do now, until the local population either disappears completely or it is overrun entirely by foreigners. And that is not a good thing because it means the Singapore way of life would have gone forever.

As long as the government resists introducing some form of social security, some form of wage guarantees, some security of employment and a minimum wage that allows people to live a decent life, the doing away with Lee’s Kangaroo courts, and not forgetting restoring the people’s human rights, it has no hope whatsoever of correcting the abysmal decline in their fertility rates and it’s highest brain drain from Lee Kuan Yew’s paradise island.

And you don’t need the brains of a rocket scientist to see this.

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

1 comment:

Linda Kosmanto said...

Even contemplating starting a family with my Western boyfriend, we find it difficult to see how we can raise kids in Singapore. A really tough environment.