The government has a role to play too

“[The government] hides behind the mantras of self-reliance and filial piety to justify its relatively low expenditure on healthcare for the elderly.” – Gerald Giam, 18 October 2011.

The PAP has always prided Singapore in having one of the most open economies in the world with a steady GDP growth, strong resilience in times of recession, low inflation and unemployment rates. They pride themselves in providing houses, jobs, transport, stability and education for all Singaporeans. On the surface, Singapore seems to have done well.

In achieving these goals, the PAP constantly credits their values of meritocracy and self-resilience. They tell us that if we work hard, if we have good qualifications, we can make a decent living for ourselves and our family. They paint a gloomy picture of welfare states, the Europe and US debt crises to justify their lack of social support for the less fortunate. Should we adopt similar policies as these welfare states, those receiving support will be less motivated to work.

“This regressive transfer of risks from government to citizens must count as the PAP government’s biggest policy failures in the last decade.” – Gerald Giam, 18 October 2011

While their fears are not unfounded, the government cannot hide behind the values of meritocracy, self-resilience and in the case of health care support for the elderly, filial piety, when its citizens are in need of help. We must not forget that while it is essential that the individual takes responsibility for his/her life and the lives of his/her family, we also cannot forget that the government is elected by the people and is therefore answerable to them.

Not everyone who stretches out a hand for support is a lazy unemployed man. Single parents, the handicapped and elderly – are they not deserving of our help? In promoting highly-laudable values such as meritocracy and self-resilience, shouldn’t we also encourage altruism and compassion for the fellow man?

“Securing a better future for Singapore.” PAP manifesto 2011

What is a better future? In spite of economic growth, Singaporeans are increasingly worried about basic needs such as housing, transport and healthcare. As mentioned by Minister of State for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Halimah Yacob, there is a “disconnect between what the government is doing for the people and the people’s perception of it.” As mentioned in previous entries, it is my belief that in thinking Singapore first, our government has failed to think Singaporeans first.
“Back home, our children pledge every day to achieve “happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation”.

Since independence, Singapore has focused on achieving prosperity and progress. Has happiness been forgotten, despite the words in our pledge? Or maybe it has been assumed that once there is prosperity and progress, happiness would automatically follow.

But has it? Does prosperity and progress come sometimes at the expense of happiness? Prosperity and progress are certainly important, but they cannot be ends in themselves. Surely they should be the means to an end – the happiness of Singaporeans as a whole.” – Sylvia Lim, 17 October 2011

Perhaps it is time for us to adopt other indicators for success, as suggested by Ms Sylvia Lim. Indicators such as Gross National Happiness (GNH), which the PAP themselves supported. We have to realise and accept the fact that economic indicators such as the GDP cannot be our sole measurement of success. We have to understand why, in spite of economic growth, we are still struggling to pay for housing and healthcare. Does the PAP not see a need to address concerns of Singporeans who believe it is better to die than to fall sick in Singapore? Is it not worrying that this is an axiom commonly uttered by Singaporeans?

I applaud the PAP’s good work in propelling Singspore from third-world to first-world in a mere 46 years. I applaud their efforts in ensuring a safe, secure and open economy to do business in. I applaud their focus on education so that our future generations can stand on the shoulders of our forefathers. However, when the common man is still worrying about basic needs such as housing, transport and healthcare, I appeal to our government to consider more avenues for support and alternative measurements of success to ensure that we can indeed achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.

Posted on by angmohlian in The Idealist, The Social Maverick

One Response to The government has a role to play too

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 19 Oct 2011 « The Singapore Daily

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