Read yet another article on the importance of foreign talent.
The common misconception is that Singaporeans hate the presence of foreign talent because they steal our jobs from us. I doubt this is honestly the case. Most Singaporeans are sensible and rational enough to realise that we do need foreign talent in order to remain economically competitive, especially given our declining birth rates and ageing population. With the increasing government checks and regulations on ensuring that employers prioritise Singaporeans over foreigners, competition for jobs, while is still a concern, isn’t the main issue.
What then is the problem?
The problem is that the average Singaporean suffers from overwhelming social problems that impact our standards of living severely, to the point where it is completely disproportionate to the costs of living.
Let me give you a simple example.
In order to get to work every day, I have to take 969 in the morning. It costs me $1.40 to travel the 6 stops that it takes to get me to work and the journey should ideally take about 10 minutes. In reality, the journey takes me close to 20 minutes. When I first reach the bus stop, it is packed, with easily 50 people (I kid you not), waiting for the bus. Easily 80% of them would have been waiting for 969 and are foreign workers. When the bus arrives, the foreign workers, who are used to pushing and jostling dash for the bus, pushing every one of us aside. I either have to fight through the crowd, or wait and risk not being able to enter the bus at all. It is the most uncomfortable of experiences for a girl to have to fight with a bunch of men and squeeze in with them.
Inside the bus, this unpleasant experience is replicated, where we get pushed and trampled on.
I do not blame the foreign workers in any way, because how else are they to get to work?
But that does not change the fact that it is a nightmare bus journey not just for myself, but for most other people who have to board the bus at the bus stop. And this is one bus stop, in one district during one time period. I have yet to even get started on train rides in the morning. The few times I have had to take trains in the morning, I can barely breathe. So most people have gotten used to this and accept it as a part of their daily commute.
And I would think much of the anger stems from having to pay first world prices for third world experiences on public transport.
Ok forget public transport. What about hygiene? From campaigns to a complete ban on chewing gum (that we have fervently believed in despite mockery from the rest of the world), we have always prided ourselves on being a clean and green city.
In the book “Giants of Asia – Conversations with Lee Kuan Yew”, Tom Plate describes Singapore as such:
“You glance out a car window. The scene is not quite right. Something is missing. It bothers you, but what bothers you worse is you can’t quite put your finger on it. And you think may be it should hit you right in the face.
But then you get it – It’s what is NOT visible. There are no McDonald’s bags, no KFC containers, no abandoned cars…It’s absolutely, totally, amazingly and unbelievably…clean!”
This was written in 2009.
I would feel utterly humiliated to invite him back and have him comment on the state of cleanliness in Singapore right now. From littering on the streets, to spittle on the sidewalks, to unbearably disgusting public washrooms, to the coughing and sneezing without regard for someone else’s personal space. I wouldn’t dare say that Singaporeans do not contribute to the mess. I have seen for myself the despicable disregard for hygiene some have. However, the fact that all of this is further exacerbated by the proximity we have to each other due to the constant congestion is undeniable.
I love my country, and I will be one of the Singaporeans staying behind despite the long weekend to celebrate her 50th Birthday. The first generation of Singaporeans and leaders have done such a tremendous job of turning Singapore into a roaring success, and for this, I will always be grateful. But this is the cold hard reality, macro economics and long term interests none withstanding, life is getting harder here for the average Singaporean.