Sunday 22 July 2012

Singapore chose the right road

IN HIS letter ('The road not taken: Singapore must pause and reflect'; Wednesday), Mr Kenneth Ling says that the 'Government has chosen the path of monetary and materialistic emphasis' which is largely responsible for the social imbalances and pressure on our infrastructure and resulting poorer quality of life.

My rejoinder to Mr Ling is to ask whether Singapore was better off in the years 2001 to 2005 when the economy grew slowly, property prices fell, the city lacked buzz and Singaporeans were looking to leave for greener pastures.

The median household income in 2001 was $4,363 and in 2005 it was $4,270.

So Singaporeans were getting poorer.

Last year, the median household income was $6,307, which was possible only because Singapore chose to actively pursue growth.

Had it not been successful in becoming a regional financial hub and in developing the integrated resorts which were part of the measures to drive the economy, Singapore would not have had the resources to battle the financial crisis between 2008 and 2009 and could have plunged into serious recession.

Ultimately, what is more important? Empty buses and trains or a secure, well-paying job?

The latter is possible only when the economy continues growing at a healthy pace.

Citizens' quality of life and growth are strongly correlated.

Singapore is fortunate in having the problem of high growth and managing its side effects such as pressure on infrastructure and environment.

The reverse is much more serious.

Think the Arab Spring and the current unemployment situation in the United States.

The Soviet Union prior to 1991 had teachers, engineers, astronauts and cleaners who were paid the same wages. Utilities were practically free, the infrastructure was good, there were no foreigners competing for resources and there was plenty of open space. Yet, why were the people unhappy?

Let us not blame the Government for something that is entirely in our hands.

We can choose to run at the pace we want.
Bobby Jayaraman
ST Forum, 21 Jul 2012

Singapore must pause and reflect

I COULDN'T agree more with last Saturday's article ('The little reddening dot'), which highlighted that anger, impatience, a sense of entitlement and rudeness are steadily on the rise here.

When I came to Singapore in 1992 on an overseas work transfer, I saw at that time a small country that was well-managed, had a vision and direction, with one of the more civilised cultures in Asia.

I even became a Singapore citizen in 2008 as I regarded this country as home. However, in the past five years, there has been a remarkable shift in the opposite direction, which does not bode well for the long-term future of Singapore.

In fact, if this trend continues, many of the desirable talent Singapore worked so hard to attract and cultivate - citizens as well as foreigners - will think of leaving.

After all, when the level of frustration, high cost of living, crime, corruption and unhappiness reach the levels seen in New York, Sydney or other global cities, one might as well go to these places to live.

Singapore has been a special place to raise a family and have a good career, but maybe not so in future.

The article refers to the Government being able to make a choice.

To me, the Government has chosen the path of monetary and materialistic emphasis, plus enhancing its global image, over its citizens' quality of life.

The surge in population, which strains infrastructure; rising costs as people compete for jobs, goods and services; and the emphasis on casinos and wealthy foreigners to drive growth, all impress on young people the need to increase their material wealth, and they are then trapped in a rat race to achieve this.

A social imbalance emerges, with accompanying behavioural consequences that are hard to reverse now.

When you add poor planning, and one-dimensional solutions focused mainly on financial outcomes, things may worsen in the coming years.

It is too shallow and unstable a platform for long-term viability.

I am sad to witness this trend and I hope Mr Leslie Koh's article may be the starting point for Singapore to see that a bright future starts from a more balanced, happy and sustainable lifestyle.
Kenneth Ling
ST Forum, 18 Jul 2012

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