More than chewing gum, she is really not what you think

A response to James Crabtree’s article on Financial Times “Singapore is not quite what Brexiters think it is” published on 4th April 2017.

As a Singaporean, I am surprised to hear that a country with long history and culture will compare herself with a humble tropical island and even explore the possibility of mimicking her development pathways.

However, as much as the future under Brexit remains unclear, I think it is essential to know that, Singapore does not succeed by chance too.

The privileges which the island enjoys today stamped from a series of struggles and hardships. Often, there are attempts incorporating forced choices that her citizens have to adopt without open question or discussion.

Nevertheless, in view of Singapore’s diversity, some of these measures are as importance as the nation’s progress itself. There is also a need to inculcate the importance of not to take things for granted and never fall back to where we once emerged from. All these go beyond to just a simple ban of chewing gum and I am never absolute sure if British will be comfortable.

First of all, there is the Central Provident Fund (CPF), a compulsory saving scheme which all working citizens and permanent residents have to comply whereby a portion of their monthly income will be contributed to fund their housing (i.e., Ordinary account, for the purchase of houses, investment, or education), healthcare (i.e., Medisave account, for hospitalisation and insurance), and retirement (i.e., Special account) needs.

The amount which one has to contribute to CPF differs depending on his/her age, the amount he/she earns, and also if he/she is on a fixed term employment etc. With the same amount contributed by the employee, employers will also have to slice their shares by contributing some amount to their employees’ accounts. The older the employees, the higher the CPF contribution rates in preparation for their retirement.

As such, while healthcare and housing are not provided free-of-charge, working individuals are free to withdraw CPF to a certain extent, for their own use. This means that the nation’s healthcare will not have to be owned by the government, people are also free to choose the kind of public or private practices they desired, based on their affordability and the amount they wish to deploy from their Medisave accounts.

Therefore, I wonder if the British are willing to sacrifice the current National Health Service (NHS) system and surrender parts of their monthly income, for something which is assumed to be more sustainable and avoid the possibility of medical staff exploitation?

Next, every year, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) is building an ample amount of new flats, coming in different layouts to accommodate one’s family size and budget. All of these flats are sold at a much lower price as compared to units built by private developers. Adequate financial assistances are also made available for individuals to deploy their CPF or receive loans from banks/HDB to make their purchases. All these were done so as to avoid slums and prevent people from sleeping on streets.

More than 80% of Singapore’s population live in HDB flats, hence by telling others that you own a HDB will never fully revealed your social status or financial power. In the recent years, some of these HDB flats are as high as 50 floors so as to cater to the growing population in a land scare country and most of the them are built in a precinct manner, meaning all basic amenities are constructed together with the flats so that residents do not have to travel far to get what they need.

Hence will British ever want to give up their gardens and live in areas with high-rise but cheap?

Third, Singapore is a city state, meaning her size and population put her in a better position for a more desired and precise control. It is not surprising to why some individuals would ask for London’s independence after Brexit in order to turn her into the “Singapore of Europe” or the 4th sovereign city state of the World.

While this may sound absurd but smaller regime implies easier implementation of new rules and regulations without the fear of facing strong and never ending debates or oppositions, a narrower income gap, and ensuring balance development and equability in terms of living standard.

A city state also makes it easier for the authority to battle against crimes especially corruption. Singapore remains the 5th least corrupted country in the World, but on the other hand, she ranks 154th in terms of media freedom because the government does not like us to sway too far. I am not even talking about Amos Yee or Han Hui Hui now but the ability to express freely is something which needs to be look into these days.

Singaporeans are not kiasu (i.e., afraid to lose out) because we want to be, it is more of the circumstantial reasons that turn us into the way we are. There is always a give and take in every pie and a silver lining for every cloud.

At the end of the day, it is the people who matter, it is whether the people who are living in the country want to do something for the country and see her progresses. If everyone is selfish with their own agenda and wish to benefit at the expense of others, there is not much we can do, regardless of how high the opposition voice is.

If Singapore, a little red dot on map with no natural resources and no long history can do so, I believe the British can do much more.