Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Of Wild Goats and New Citizens- Not a fairy tale

The Goatherd and the Wild Goats (An Aesop’s Fable)

A Goatherd, driving his flock from their pasture at eventide, found some Wild Goats mingled among them, and shut them up together with his own for the night. The next day it snowed very hard, so that he could not take the herd to their usual feeding places, but was obliged to keep them in the fold.

He gave his own goats just sufficient food to keep them alive, but fed the strangers more abundantly in the hope of enticing them to stay with him and of making them his own. When the thaw set in, he led them all out to feed, and the Wild Goats scampered away as fast as they could to the mountains.

The Goatherd scolded them for their ingratitude in leaving him, when during the storm he had taken more care of them than of his own herd.

One of them, turning about, said to him: "That is the very reason why we are so cautious; for if you yesterday treated us better than the Goats you have had so long, it is plain also that if others came after us, you would in the same manner prefer them to ourselves."

Moral of the story: Old friends cannot with impunity be sacrificed for new ones.


In my profession, Singapore's decreasing birth-rate has been a reality for some time.

My paediatrician (baby specialist) colleagues have been complaining of decreasing workload for more than half a decade. This is worsened by perceived competition from government hospitals for an already shrinking “pie”.

Seah Chiang Nee, a veteran columnist and Singapore-watcher, who was once an editor of the now defunct Singapore Monitor, made these observations in a recent article:

Declining births for the past 30 years are threatening Singapore's long-term survival as a nation. Last year 36,000 babies were delivered, far short of the 60,000 needed to replace the population.
Economists fear that at this rate Singapore could - like Japan - one day become extinct.
To make matters worse, Singaporeans are ageing rapidly, which would require more young people to support retirees, and that, of course, is not happening.
At the same time, many of its own citizens are migrating to the West for a better life
. “

This anxiety is worsened by well-publicised hiccups (albeit paper losses) involving Singapore’s investments in Shin Corp and Standard Chartered Bank.

Procreation policies have been failures

It is widely recognized that the policies to reverse the damage originating from our “Stop at Two” campaigns have been dismal failures. Thrasymachus of is one of many commentators who concur with me. In fact he felt that Minister Lim Hng Kiang’s goals were not realistic and his task “suicidal”.

Now that the government has concluded that for some strange reasons, Singaporeans do not like to make babies, what is next?

To resort to this drastic measure of opening the gates widely for more migrants is in itself a tacit admission that the previous policies had failed.

Henceforth the government would concentrate on “picking and choosing” Singapore’s future gene pool from around the region, with the bulk coming from China and the Indian subcontinent. In some ways, they probably have given up on trying to prevent further brain drain and to a lesser extent on increasing birth-rates.

About the Goats…

Although there are some who will remain vehemently opposed to this more generous immigration policy, most of us could probably be persuaded to accept it (albeit reluctantly) if we feel that it is done for the long term benefit of our society.

Most of us are peeved (or some say pissed) that the government seems to go to extra-ordinary lengths to please these potential immigrants. Even to the extent of treating them better than her own citizens. How else can one explain away the facts that money is being spent on scholarships for non-Singaporeans and that new male citizens do not need to serve National Service? It is no wonder that this Aesop’s fable will strike a chord with many.

National Service is good for all.. isn’t it?

In the case of a brilliant high school student and potential citizen, let him/her serve his/her new country –either in National Service or in equivalent capacity if female, convert to a pink IC, then they can proudly go to Stanford or Cambridge with all our blessings. By then,how can we not welcome them with open arms as they will be Singaporeans, no matter their origins ?

For the mature new citizen, the logistics is more complex but not impossible. The younger ones, say less than 30 years, can be inducted into normal National Service ( or modified NS) and the older ones ( up to say 40 years) can be made to contribute either pro-rata or on a part-time basis. There is much that these new citizens can teach us and vice versa. There will then be no doubt about where their loyalties will lie when the clarion call sounds.

National Service, to most of us, is a rite of passage and an opportunity for all races and all social classes to be treated as one (notwithstanding the hilarious White Horse anomaly).

I am not advocating equal misery but proposing an equal opportunity for all to gel together to serve a common cause. To this day, I feel that my days in Officer Cadet School (after A levels) and then as a Medical Officer in various units, had been purposeful and definitely not a “waste of time”.

Let the government not be inconsistent. If National Service is good, then it is good for all- old or new citizens alike. If such a requirement deters some from trading in their old passports, so be it!

What makes the government think that if these same new citizens will not serve NS now, that their children will?

The logistical challenges for such a new policy are not insurmountable, as there are so many brilliant scholars and highly paid civil servants just waiting to prove their worth.


Don’t let this old goat say, "I told you so.The wild goats were just taking you for the ride…!!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


Whispers from the heart said...

Hi Doc,

I totally agree! Instead of a one and zero mindset (PM really is into digital mode), we should think of ways to allow these new immigrants to gel with us and our children. We could expand your proposals further.

No amount of propagander will help to dispel fears on both sides.

Worse, the MSM has been doing the policy a disfavour by highlighting all the wrong things ...

Singaporeans don't like having foreigners to lord over us, having them feeling luckier and being more recognised than us who continue to toil silently for the nation.

Even old fogey like me feels offended. (Mind you, I had worked with scores of foreign talents during the 80s and 90s in the banking sector and don't have problems with immigration).

I think it's pure disrespect for us to put it so in the face. In return, the citizens will not respect the government. One begets what one gives ...

Contrast this to the early years of PAP. They were seen as caring for us and thus commanded a higher moral authority then.

It's sad.

klimmer said...

i think its cool if someone wants to be a Singaporean but they'll have to accept all aspects of being Singaporean. Warts and all.

klimmer said...

And how does the government knows what's best for the gene pool anyway? It's such an irritating elitist attitude.

It's usually the poor, hungry guys who drive the economy.

lunatic_league said...

Hi Dr Huang,

You have struck a chord in me with your post.

The government is approaching the issue of immigration using IQ instead of EQ. This technocratic manner of using logic (and at times illogical) to argue the benefits of increased immigration to boost up our population fails to address the emotional aspects.

As a nsmen, I am personally offended by the stance taken by the govt to welcome foreigners without taking into consideration the national defence, cohesion and integration issues. At the rate that the immigration policies go, we will end up with a large migrant working population that will ghettorise or create distinct enclaves on racial or country lines e.g. PRC enclave, Indian enclave, Pinoy enclave etc.

National service is already an uneven burden among citizens. I.e. female citizens do not have to serve. Before any feminists shoots me down, National service does not have to be military. It can be social work, volunteer work etc. Why not let women work for AWARE for 2 weeks out of 1 year as National Service? By the same token, I share Dr Huang's ideas of opening up the sharing of the burden of citizenship of newly minted citizens. Make them to Community Involvement Projects. That's what students are doing? Don't tell me the foreign talent (converted to citizens) adults cannot handle what students do routinely as part of their CCA?

As I am about to complete my 10th and final ICT, I have serious doubt about whom am I protecting all this while, my fellow Singaporeans or the 20% (and growing) foreign talent who treat Singapore as a hotel?

Majullah Singapura

nofearSingapore said...

Hi all,
Thanks for your comments:
Whispers:All are welcome so long as they are treated like us- also there must be greater differentiation from non-citizens ( eg PR) & I mean better treatment (not worse).
Klimmer: Yes warts and all- NS and all. If one thinks the price is too high, I would understand. No one is forcing another to be a Singaporean.
lunatic-league- ( I think I should join your league):
Yes there are endless ways of making the new citizens do NS- Hospitals/Military/think-tanks/sweatshops ( ok joking!)
Why can't all these million dollar ministers EVER think out of the box ( or even THINK?)
Keep the ideas coming! When I lose my day job, I am going to start a political party called the LUNATIC FRINGE PARTY!
Ha ha


Rowen said...

It is true as we speak these FT will not be loyal to singapore and stay on.

Once a better opportunity presents itself in another better developed European country or USA, they will hop over to them.

Your Story also reminds me of mobile operators and internet operators. Prior to signing the contract of the line or services, they promise you good freebies and excellent services. Once you are their subscriber, they treat you like dirt.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Rowen,
Aren't we all guilty of trying to attract new customers/clients whilst neglecting existing ones.
When I studied Marketing 101 last yr ( don't ask me why I did). Moorthy my lecturer quoted from Marketing guru (P.Kottler) that it costs many times more to get new client than to keep existing one.
So why we so stupid ah?
Maybe then they can pick & choose and at same time let troublesome pesky ones leave! Also better chance of votes? Maybe?

lunatic_league said...

Dear Dr Huang

There is actually a Monster Raving Loony Party that is a registered political party in the UK.

Check it out. I read about them in the MSM before:


aliendoc said...

I may be opening a can of worms here, but here's a question:

What if the wild goats stay a while in the fold, producing superior goat's milk for the goatherd to sell at a premium. And after some time, the wild goats, who miss the freedom of their mountains decide to return to the mountains. Would it have been worth it for the goatherd to feed them more abundantly in return for their superior milk?


nofearSingapore said...

luny: Ya I knew about Monster Raving Loony Party in UK.
But I am sure their policies are more sane than the PAP's!
aliendoc: Yes the PAP may decide that the new citizens are of superior stock ( genepool/productivity & all) and continue to seek out better ones to replace the lousy stock like us.
I feel so unwanted now! I will start looking for green pastures elsewhere. There must be somewhere else where I will feel more welcome than here!

visceral said...

it takes 2 hands to clap. goats tend to get the goatherd they deserve. after all. if you dont decide what type of environment you want your children to be bred in, others will decide for you

Anthony said...

All the above considerations aside, has anyone thought about looking at this whole immigration issue from another angle?

It seems obvious that most people emigrate for economic reasons, seeking greener pastures and a better livelihood. And that’s understandable. Isn’t that what the free market is all about?

But the thing that bugs me is: why are so many governments actively encouraging immigrants? Simply for economic reasons? Why are stable and prosperous countries experiencing such a heavy influx of foreigners?

Western Europe is housing an sizeable Muslim minority that worries many Europeans. Someone has even suggested that Europe will soon become Eurabia. And in the States, thousands of Mexicans easily sneak into Gringoland where in many regions Spanish is now the main language. I’m not talking here about single individuals who take the high road to adventure in a foreign land. I’m talking about an entire village in Pakistan that ends up in Hounslow, London.

Why is this being allowed by the governments concerned? If immigrants come looking for a better life, are governments that magnanimous that they welcome these foreigners with open arms? Do you open your door to everyone that comes knocking?

Something subtle and sneaky is at play here. As most of the above comments suggest, foreigners create discontent and resentment in the local population. AND THEY CREATE FEAR, as foreigners in a stable society are often looked upon as a potentially disruptive force. And where there is fear, the need for security becomes imperative, and the local people soon start clamouring for it.

And who, then, is going to use this fear to control and manipulate us? To provide us with “security?” Why, the State, of course! You need not be a Rhodes Scholar to work that out, do you?

Is this why so much immigration is taking place in stable societies with the tacit approval of the powers that be? Go figure…

Dr Oz bloke said...

Haha! Get the wild goats to impregnate all the old goats and then they can leave!

Woo hoo! Sow your oats here!

That would be terrifying wouldn't it? One day govt says that they have found the best men of the region and world to come to Singapore and female citizens have to give up their wombs to create new citizens. Men will have to work hard to support these new talents.

What a frightening but possible concept.

nofearSingapore said...

visceral: yes there are some who still feel that it is worthwhile staying back..(despite the imperfections). I am STILL one of these.
anthony and oz dr bloke: you guys are amazingly imaginative & skeptical . But if there aren't skeptics like us, this place would be any even worse place.
Keep your creative juices flowing!

visceral said...

Dr Oz.its not a new idea \
Dr H. I am inclined to believe that the singaporean dream is not unlike modern judaism and it is best served by a dispora community seeking the ideals of freedom, truth & love
`Looking across the road at the new Nanyang Girls' High School, an idea struck me. I suggested to the Principal to hold joint activities between his boys and Nanyang Girls’. If his boys have girl friends in Singapore, that may pull them back to Singapore! But what if the girls too go overseas?` 1999 NDR Speech

visceral said...

Anthony >
I believe that the goatherds know that this is not a sustainable model. but it may be the one that yields the most rewards given the lifespan of the kingdom. But then they are only emulating the white Rajas of old
`I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change`

Anonymous said...

The kind of immigrants that Singapore wants to attract are mostly highly educated professionals who have other options like USA, Australia, Europe, Thailand, Canada, Hong Kong etc. If you impose NS on them, they may find Singapore less attractive.

We must not assume that these immigrants are desperados escaping poverty in their home countries. I think Singaporeans should count themselves lucky that the government has good judgement and foresight.

visceral said...

anon. High costs of entry does not necessarily mean that we are unable to attract the type of human resources we want. Rodney Stark explains this adequately in his studies on christianity & cults. What matters is that that membership should be exclusive, yield valued benefits that arent easily found outside the group, with disincentives applied to deter freeloaders. a group that is unable to inspire loyalty will not last long enough to yield any benefits for potential recruits
`Because it makes me sad when I see old people carrying plates and cleaning the table at food courts`

Kev said...

Do we want quality or quantity? If these people are not sufficiently intellectual to understand the merits of serving one's new home, then I suggest we can do without such mindless sheep.

Observer said...

A new angle which they should consider is that are they bastardizing ethnic purity for rampant indulgences of some self appointed elitist class? Or does meritocracy grant them that right to wash off someone's skin color to serve a common objective and "religion" - consumerism?
If our creator meant for the races,religions and their unique cultures to be diluted and or dissolved, because of economic integration, why create these diferent races, religions and cultures IN THEIR hinterland in the first place?
By coming together in a single/common language/agenda to erect a monumental tower in bricks and mortars against the wishes of the landowner, we may invite the inevitable as seen in many other countries . It appears that every city will reach a crescendo before it begins to disintegrate.

Some say there are no two ways, only one or the other.

We are living in denial!

nofearSingapore said...

There are 3 threads going on at the same time: nofearsingapore.blogpost/

Dear friends,

Going back to Aesop , the perception is that old goats are treated worse than wild(new) goats.

Our new goats (new or future citizens) get to enjoy all the benefits without having to shoulder any major responsibilities of nationhood- ok.. they contribute to the economy whilst earning a salary… multiplier effect of economics/Adam Smith ,,blahblah

NS is a bugbear for many- not just the 2 years but the annual reservist call-ups which put them at perceived disadvantage with employers. It is not impossible to believe that some “unenlightened” employers actually discriminate against male S’poreans for this reason. (But of course we can never prove this).

If Sg is such a wonderful place/can walk in the night without fear of mug or molestation/clean green and sterile/now hip and happ’ning etc- then let them show some commitment. If this place is worth keeping, it is worth serving. When the call comes, who will be the one looking for the old green uniform to see if it still fits… me!!

My contention is that since NS is so wonderful, then let all new citizens also enjoy it, all of us putting our shoulders onto the yoke and ploughing together… It also helps us weed out the less than true blue-goats.

If we want those brilliant kids’ brains (& genes) (from HCM city/Mumbai etc), make them citizens first/ serve out some ( or all) NS , then put them on the fast-track career or politics .. whatever.

I am not against immigration. We also go to other countries right? They come, we go.
Just don’t be stupid and cheapen our citizenship. It becomes a joke if it gets any cheaper!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Dr Oz bloke said...

I totally agree with you Dr H!

If you want to be a citizen, then you should be treated like a citizen. Not have special dispensations.

I don't see Singaporeans migrating to Australia and being told they get special benefits because they are foreign talents?

Nor do you get that in Taiwan, or Israel!

Let's just treat all our people the same, regardless of whether they are foreigners turned citizens or born citizens.

Of course many would say that if that is the case, then no one will want to become citizens. Well then that reveals the whole truth doesn't it?

jun said...

Hi Doc,

How about the possibility that the wild goats may take along with them the Goatherd's own flock when they leave the next day?

Or that when the Goatherd brought back the wild goats, his own flock might have found the fold smaller, more packed and that over the night, some of the goats from the Goatherd's flock left?

A declining birth rate does not warrant an increase in the import of immigrants. The root of the problem has not been addressed at all. The fundamental question to be asked is - What are the factors that led to the lack of numbers of new babies?

As a local graduate in my late twenties, married and holding a relatively good job, I don't want to have children. The same goes for many many many of my friends.

Our rationale?

It is not that we are selfish, that we want personal freedom, that we pursue a corporate career relentlessly, that we do not care for the future of our country.

It is the fact that we have had struggled hard enough to put ourselves through university, pay off our tuition fees, spend more time in the office than in our property (which will take us almost 20 years to pay off - be it a flat or condo or house), manage the ever-increasing cost of living against a ever-declining income value, safe-guard ourselves from sky-high medical costs by eating well and spending money on the 'right' insurance policies, ensure that our parents who are either retired or recently retrenched have a comfortable life, protect our not-so-secure-ricebowl by investing in upgrading ourselves through professional courses which are not in anyway cheaper than our degree courses, and more.

And now that the issue of globalisation has been brought up, the welcome of new immigrants, of foreign talents, of so-called native speakers of English or any other professionals who by right-of-their-birth-country are deemed to be more capable than us Singaporeans, how secure do we feel?

Not secure at all.

We would say that insecurity is the main reason - not financials - why many Singaporeans are not having kids.

As a Singaporean, I do not feel secure at all. In fact, now, I feel very much unwanted by this country. At any moment, I can be replaced easily by a new immigrant - someone who is held on a higher regard by the team who runs this country - and I can simply vanish and who would care?

Would you want a child to suffer the same you did?

There are many solutions to address this problem. You don't need a scholar or scholars or foreign talents to help you on it. The solutions are simple, direct and effective. But, is the team willing to listen? Is the team willing to accept these solutions? Solutions which have already been feedbacked to the team many times. Solutions which the ordinary citizen in the streets will be able to give.

Think about it.

This is also the one and only reason why many Singaporeans who are overseas do not want to return. And why many Singaporeans choose to retire somewhere else than Singapore. And this is also why many foreign talents come and go.

Make people feel secure and they will stay and they will grow.

Isn't it ironic that one of the safest city in the world instills a feeling of insecurity?

visceral said...

Dr.Oz. you'd have to look at the history of eugenics in singapore.
"We must encourage those who earn less than $200 per month and cannot afford to nurture and educate many children never to have more than two`

visceral said...

Jun. I dont think anyone would feel secure when they've been made to feel that they've overstayed their welcome in the hotel
`There are other countries with people who are more hungry for jobs. They too want a better life and a higher standard of living. They are eager to learn, willing to do more`

nofearSingapore said...

Hi all,
I really love this discourse on issues like this. It is so vital that all of us have an opinion!
You love them or hate them but don't tell me you don't know what to think about the PAp & their regulations! You guys make my day!
The silent majority don't!

jun: nice to know you.
I beg you to reconsider. Have kids! It is very nice to see them grow up. They make you so proud about everything they do. Make it more tolerable to stay in such a stifling place as this! Your kids can follow you even if you choose to migrate. Delay your bungalow or your new car. But have your kids first! You won't regret.. if you do, contact me and I will give you a treat to make up for bad advice!
I really feel that we Singaporeans can think of a better way.. with or without the PAP. Just haven't figure the whole thing out yet! ha ha

visceral/dr oz: we need strong opinions like yours. Don't stop!
Cheers! Will catch up with you guys on the home com!

visceral said...

Martin Luther railed at the catholic church because he was at heart a papal loyalist who cared deeply for it. In the same vein, the indignation that many of us feel stems from something deeper than self-interest. after all, the expedient thing to do is to leave for greener pastures. The difficult choice is to stay on to keep the show running at your own detriment though you have the means to leave
`By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise`

Dr Oz bloke said...

Hey Dr H,

Do u have a brother known as Dr H S W?

I saw his name on the table today and it looked very familiar.

Eugenics? Well its is still happening today! ALthough we say we want more babies, it doesn't apply to EVERYBODY although they don't say it so obviously.

Anthony said...

Sorry, Doc! It is Jun’s selfish and fundamental right not to have children, whatever his/her reasons. Isn’t it wonderful that a human can choose NOT to have children? It’s a fundamental, human choice. I have great admiration for people like Jun who go against the grain and make difficult choices. And there are few things as difficult as deciding not to have children, especially in an Asian society.

But I am saddened by what Jun says next:

“It is the fact that we have had struggled hard enough to put ourselves through university, pay off our tuition fees, spend more time in the office than in our property (which will take us almost 20 years to pay off - be it a flat or condo or house), manage the ever-increasing cost of living against a ever-declining income value, safe-guard ourselves from sky-high medical costs by eating well and spending money on the 'right' insurance policies, ensure that our parents who are either retired or recently retrenched have a comfortable life, protect our not-so-secure-ricebowl by investing in upgrading ourselves through professional courses which are not in anyway cheaper than our degree courses, and more.”

The effort and courage seem almost inhuman and, yet, the main result seems to be insecurity. How is this possible? Am I missing something here? Is there no joy and happiness after so much effort and sacrifice? I am thoroughly perplexed! Why go through so much if the main outcome is insecurity? Perhaps you could enlighten me?

nofearSingapore said...

Hi tony,
Yes I am also sincerely sad for her ( followed her profile and Jun is a she).
I am sad that there are so many young S'poreans who feel negative effects of Sg's policies ( or is it just modern life?)
Eh, it's 4.30am now and I got a surgery at 8am!
Will catch up with you and rest of the world ( cyber & real) at a more earthly hour.
I wish there is more we can help pple like Jun.

jun said...

Hi Doc,

While there is indeed much joy and indescrible happiness in having a child of your own, there are many things for consideration too.

Even though I may not have seen much of the world, I've seen more than my fair share of unhappy Singaporeans.

Just to share, for some years, I took up part-time teaching and also did some volunteer work in a girls' home. Children and young people are always lovable, no matter how naughty they are or what mistakes they've done. What pained me was the unhappiness they felt at that tender young age. I taught a class of kids between the ages of seven to eleven for three hours weekly. The class had about 12 kids and all from different social background. At first, I didn't know better and for one assignment which was after a school holiday, I asked them to write and then present about what they've done during the holidays.

Some kids talked about their trips to Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Genting. They presented lovely family pictures taken during the trips. They brought sweets to share with the class.

Some kids talked about spending most of their time in the national libraries, shopping with their parents at Orchard, trying out new food courts and restaurants. They presented a recite on some of the books they had read and a review of the best shopping centre/ food.

There was this little girl, whose parents did odd-jobs and her sister was in JC at that time. She didn't go anywhere during the school holidays because her parents had to work - to pay for her class fees (which is quite expensive) and her sister's JC expenses. This little girl was only 7 years old. All her mother brought her to...was the wet-market in the morning. That was all. Before I had a chance to say anything, she told me this, "Teacher, don't feel sorry for me. I know that my family is not rich for holidays. So I will study hard and bring my parents for holidays when I work."

A child at seven years of age! Some would say she is mature and understanding.

Yes, she is.

But even when she said those sentences with a smile, the look in her eyes...

I was really sorry that I had brought up the holidays topic. The lesson ended. She came up to me and said this, "Teacher, don't feel bad ok. I am used to this already. My school teachers always ask this question after the holidays. My friends always ask this question too. So you don't feel bad ok. I can understand."

It hurts to hear a child say this. While she can be understanding of her parents and of the people around her, who understands her?

As her teacher, I didn't. And I had hurt her again.

Adults are too caught up in the rat race and monetary-materials. The kids suffer.
While all parents want the best for their children, I'd ask what is the best anyway?


Hi Anthony,

Well, there isn't really another way out at the moment given that both my hubby and me have parents to support. We'd love to be like some of our friends who have been living overseas for the past decade. We'd love to take up mission trips to less-developed countries or post-disaster zones.
Not to say that there isn't any joy or happiness...we are happy as a couple together, we are happy to have our parents around, we are happy with our jobs, we are happy to have friends who are still in Singapore. Being happy now or after, doesn't mean you feel totally secure. There is still the fear of losing our jobs. Maybe not now...but in the near future when our qualifications are not up to the new-standard, when our experiences work against us, when our salaries are too high for bosses to maintain us.

Issue of a need and a want.

Note this - the more time you spend working on a 'career' or self-improvement, is time away from your loved ones, like your parents, your siblings, your immediate family.

I'd love to have a kid too. But not in Singapore. I wouldn't want to give my kid branded clothings, expensive gifts, holiday trips abroad...but all I NEED is to spend more time with the kid. However, with so many adults all heading towards the 'WANT' direction, how can I be sure that my kid will not feel the same way as the seven year old little girl I once taught?

You see, it is not the superficial policies that are negative. For parents who can afford or even barely-to-but-still-can-afford to buy their kids prada-kids, dkny-kids they care whether it is a need or want?


I am not sure if any readers of Doc's blog earn a household income of less than S$3,000. (sorry, I'm being very long-winded but let's see this scenerio.)

Mr & Mrs Weng (both 25 years old) together has a household income of S$2,500. They are eligible to buy a new HDB 3-room flat for S$150,000. They have S$30,000 in their combined CPF Ordinary Account. After deducting all their CPF OA and calculating in the mortage loan they need to take out, they have a monthly repayment of S$475 to service. Their combined CPF OA each month is S$550. So their monthly repayment is well covered by their CPF OA.
From S$2,500 of household income, they have S$2,000 in cash.
For the flat, they've also taken out a renovation loan of S$10,000 to be serviced over 5 years (each monthly repayment is S$250).
Each month, they will be able to save S$2,000 - S$250(reno loan) - S$400 (upkeep of parents [this is a very conservative amount!]) - S$100 (utilities like water, electricity, phone) - S$200 (public transportation fees for Mr & Mrs Weng to&fro work) - S$150 (lunch money for the couple) - S$300 (groceries, toiletries) = S$600.

For 5 years, if both Mr & Mrs Weng's salaries do not increase, they will only be able to save S$600 a month (S$36,000 = 5 years savings), with an excess of S$5,000 in their CPF OA.

Mr & Mrs Weng would like to have 2 kids before they turn 30. So, at 27, Mrs Weng got pregnant! And the next thing, she lost her job. One of the elderly fell critically sick and need a huge amount of medical fees.


nay..i'm being very negative here..presenting the worst case scenerio..but this is what is happening to many ordinary Singaporean families everyday.

most of us would not be able to really understand the plight of people who are really poor and in need (i'm diverting from the main topic, i know. sorry doc!) because we are not them.
just like, Mr & Mrs Weng when they went to apply for their HDB flat, because they don't have a credit card, they had to pay S$20 at the HDB for the application. Credit card holders can apply through the internet for a fee of S$10 only.
who cares about people like Mr & Mrs Weng. when I mentioned how unfair this is to people who are already poor, most of my friends said, "why do you bother? you have a credit card. you save S$10 already."

Don't you feel sad?

because i feel for them, i feel insecure about the future.

Dr Oz bloke said...


You're absolutely right!

And for that reason I can understand why people dun have kids.

As a doctor I make a good income and yet I think it is not practical to have more than 2 children! My neighbour who is a taxi driver has 3 kids of which one is handicapped.

I think the main difference between people with a higher income and those with a lower income is financial security and fallback.

The ones with a higher income can plan for retirement, buy insurance and if they suddenly became paralysed from an accident or were struck with illness can still tide through with their savings. Those who live from pay check to pay check will suffer badly if misfortune sets on them.

Of course there is that group of high earning people who live on pay check to pay check too because they buy all the BMWs with 90% loans, condos etc.

But back to the point about having children. I really don't think it is in the best interests of Singaporeans to have more than 2 children really.

Just ask the younger ministers lah. How many kids are they having? And what do these guys earn? $100K a month? Have more lah?

Walk the talk man. Like real!

visceral said...

I'd like to think that anyone who assents to the ideals of the singaporean dream - freedom, truth & love, is a singaporean at heart. you dont have to be born in Israel to be a zionist. For many singaporeans, their singapore and future lies beyond south east asia
`Even the people would not want us to keep the promise. In short, circumstances must have changed
so drastically that only a naive person or a knave would argue for the promise to be kept`

Anonymous said...

Hello Doc,

I am Anonymous. One of your first or the first few to view your blog,leave comments and recommended you to advertise at popular blogs like Singabloodypore.

It has been a while since I visited your blog and now you have some following and grown,keep it up.

Remember to show PAP we can rebel by the book and still win.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi all (Jun/anthony/dr oz bloke/visceral/anon)
It is obvious that u guys really have a passion about what's happ'ning around us.
Isn't it just so pathetic that the overwhelming majority is totally numb to all the things that we are concerned about!
Altho the docs in Gleneagles Hospital where I work are incredibly independent minded (wrt to Sg social issues) the truly passionate ones are still a minority.
The rest are equally divided amongst cynics and the pragmatics.
Jun, it is ok to feel that perhaps Sg is not your cup of tea ( I know I am contradicting myself as you guys think I am so kind of nut nationalist), but as Socrates says,," I am not Greek or Athenian, I am a citizen of the world",
Let us not let where we are born determine where our bones will finally lie. The world is our oyster .
Just do what you must and go where your heart brings you.
I feel sad when I hear about friends and relations who migrate cos their homeland does not provide security ( as Jun as said), but I understand.
If your country don't have you in their plans, then why should we consider her in our plans?
Onefine day, I may finally wake up from my naive idealism and realise that I have been a victim of some sophisticated mind-game played by our own govt.
Don't want to sound too dark and pessimistic to Jun and other younger friends here.
I am gonna rest now as I am on call and the A&E may call me any moment,

Anthony said...

You know, Doc, leaving one’s country, like choosing not to have children, is a terribly hard decision. But there are moments in one’s life when a difficult choice becomes imperative, and one simply gives in.

I was born and raised in Singapore, and the Singapore of my childhood was an enchanting place. God! What wonderful days under the tropical sun! Sneaking into a “kampong” to steal sugar-cane, walking leisurely to church on a Sunday morning, and inventing all sorts of adventures with the other kids in the neighbourhood. No computers, no television, no Playstation, but, wow, what fun we kids had. It was simply magic. I know I am being arrogant and conceited here, but I think few things can equal a Singapore childhood in the early sixties.

And then something happened. I grew up, and everything changed. It began with Singapore being kicked out of Malaysia and forced into independence. And then the British left and Singapore’s birth pangs began. I could understand the need for hard work and the collective effort at nation-building but, as the years passed, I became stifled and disillusioned with Singapore’s intellectual, political and social atmosphere.

I was sick of being constantly harassed by cops because my hair was slightly longer than the norm; I was sick of the pathetic bookshops that could not provide the books that I wanted to read; and I was thoroughly disgusted with the fatuous people around me who could not see beyond their noses, people “who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

I had to leave. It broke my mother’s heart, as I was her youngest son and her favourite, but it had to be done. It was a heart-wrenching decision, but it had to be done. I was simply going crazy remaining in my beloved but no longer recognisable Singapore.

And so, I stuffed a few clothes and some books into a back-pack and struck out into the unknown. No fixed destination, and no friends outside Singapore. Just some vague notion about casting my anchor somewhere. And I ended up in Europe, learning a new language and adapting myself to a new culture. What an experience!

Singaporeans label people like me “quitters”, but let me say one thing. It’s so easy to stay back and accept the status quo, but it’s so very, very hard to leave and entire life behind and sally forth into the unknown. So much courage and self-reliance needed to confront the anguish and the anxiety, the unfriendly and endless unknown! And it makes me profoundly sad to think that all this courage and energy could have been put to use in Singapore. But, as you say, Doc, if my country has no interest in me, why should I be interested my country? I’m never been comfortable with Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do you, but what you can do for your country”. It sounds like jingoistic nonsense.

And so, here I am living quietly and modestly in the small European city that I have come to cherish as my home, wondering what my life would have been if the British had delayed their departure or if some other political force had dominated the Singapore scene. What a tragedy that so many Singaporeans have left or are contemplating leaving the country of their birth! But can you blame them? I, for one, salute their courage.

Singaporeans seem to emigrate mainly for economic or political reasons. But perhaps it’s also in our genes that we have this wanderlust in us. My parents, like so many others, were immigrants who came to Singapore in search of the “better” life. And they apparently made it. How ironic that, many years later, I quit Singapore for the same reasons, even though my idea of a “better” life had no similarities with theirs!

visceral said...

A quitter is someone who gives up on himself, and on making life better for himself and his loved ones. You cant be a quitter for seeking greener pastures. But you can led into a false security by thinking that the grass is always greener on all other pastures
`So I don't think l have anything more to add. I have moved on`

Anonymous said...

`Because it makes me sad when I see old people carrying plates and cleaning the table at food courts`

actually I read it somewhere written by some pple from china that if u have old pple carrying plates and cleaning tables, it means that ur country have jobs for them.
Compare to a situation where the country does not have jobs for pple who need them, at least we still have jobs available for these pple despite their old age. Of course we like to look at US and say that it is wonderful that their country look after their aged, but it is a sad economic truth that it will only be an economic burden on a country. One, which if we are realistic, that Singapore does not have the strength to carry.

visceral said...

Anon. I'd have to agree with you. there are no easy answers, but its assuring that someone has thought of a great plan to send our parents to gulags in neighboring lands to lessen our load
`What are we going to do? They are not going to conveniently die off`

Anonymous said...

The below comment is by a senior medical student of NUS who prefers to remain anonymous. I have got his permission to post this.

“Dear Dr. Huang,

Thank you for your kind words.

You certainly may post it on your blog. In fact, i've tried provide for a more complete opinion below.

I do wish to preserve anonymity for now. This is a domain i'm extremely wary of, not because of repurcussion but the responsibility and open mindedness of the reader.

I do wish i could write more but it has become increasingly difficult with clinical years.

Thank you for inspiring this and for the opportunity.

Sr.Medical Student”

His Comments:
I strongly agree with the contents of your latest post. Having served my NS before entering my undergraduate studies, my experience taught me valuable lessons. In fact, I can safely say it has helped me discover myself as an individual because I chose to enter it with an open mind and complete it. That has helped me decide on my further life choices thereafter, including my choice of course at the undergraduate level. I am most grateful for that experience. An experience that I do believe every Singaporean should have some association with and anyone choosing to accept citizenship to this country too.

At the end of the day, as much as I do believe good foreign talent keeps Singaporeans on their toes and prevents complacency among our ranks. There is a strong desire within our population to have a more transparent system to vet the talent among these foreigners. Alot of the frustration stems from the fact that we are admitting foreigners who place uneccesary burden and stress to a system which already limits opportunities due to resource constraints.

Furthermore, many of us do not believe many of these foreigners benefitting from MOE scholarships and concessions at pre-tertiary level and subsequently Public Service Commision and statutory board scholarships will stay committed and serve well within the ranks of public service which requires a bigger dose of patriotism and service.

The many one-off examples provided by our daily though heart-warming, does not truly reflect the numbers of foreigners who have only used our resources and infrastructure to further their own pursuit in reaching greener pastures in the US or Europe. For that one anecdote featured in our dailies, I know many more foreign scholars who have left for an Ivy-league or Oxbridge education. Many might i say at the expense of Singaporeans who I do believe could have easily stepped up to take the precious slots provided by our education system easily. They at least would have stronger bonds to return to serve this country.

These foreigners merely benefitted from the rigorous and established system of education provided for at our secondary and JC level. That not only ensured their grades but provided for leverage in their application process, as our brand of education at that level is well recognised by admissions officers of these universities. This is most swiftly countered by arguments that we as a country are making long-term investments with these foreigners who will eventually remember our kind grace when in high and mighty positions overseas will return in kind due.

The premise of this counter-argument is definitely logical and may appeal to the more rational of us in this debate. In order for it to be completely convincing to one and all, this has to be substantiated with objective evidence and numbers. Maybe an independent study should be commissioned for this purpose.

Then again, a similar argument can be used to counter this defense. For every foreign student that used OUR educational platform to project themselves overseas. That could easily be another Singaporean who we could have value-added for, That Singaporean student would be in that similar position that the foreign student is in and serve as a stonger beacon or advertisement for Singaporean interest. After all, the rest of his family was also born and bred in our country.

Nonetheless, take for example, having had the ASEAN scholarship for two decades, it would be most constructive to trace the COMPLETE numbers who have benefitted from this scheme and have or are continuing to provide for our country who has done well to have put them in good stead. Hopefully, it will show evidence that this policy of welcoming foreigners and treating them well is indeed beneficial for this country.

If it shows otherwise, it may be wise for policy-makers to not carry on the same policy with other nationalities like the new breed of PRC scholars who are adding to the already pre-existing ASEAN scholar numbers in our top schools. Having such clear evidence will justify the diversion of valuable taxpayers money and efforts in providing for these foreign students as worthy investments for this country in the future.

One shining example in our newspapers will not convince the many who have sat through classes with the many other foreign scholars who lept at the first better opportunity overseas whether provided to them by Singapore or through other means. This does a great disservice to the morale of our children and the parents who have to pass through the de rigeurs of the system because we see ourselves as Singaporeans.

After all, we can easily argue that those resources can be easily placed in the many Singaporean peers and students who could secure a place in an overseas Ivy-League school or Oxbridge course but were unable to secure scholarships due to the high standards of the awarding bodies or were unwilling to place such a setback on their families or sibling's tertiary education opportunities, considering the amount an overseas education costs.

Or these resources can easily be invested in the many Singaporeans who struggle working part-time through their education to ease the financial burden and inadvertently having to take a longer path to a decent tertiary level qualification.

Singaporeans are certainly not insular or xenophobic. Neither can we be accused of being whiners. Most of all, we do not want to be forced to become any of those as a matter of circumstance. We merely love this country and love being an irrational thing, mere cajoling and talk will not be convincing. It will only breed further frustration and discontent.

Losing this love for sustenance in economic reform will jeapordise many national institutions such as Education, National Service and Public Healthcare which depend on public service, patriotism and love for this country. These institutions will serve this country well in time of need as well as in economic prosperity. We must act fast to preserve them and respond to the calls from Singaporeans who are concerned.

Singaporean feedback to the latest drive to recruit foreign talent cannot be merely dismissed as unsubstantiated and will disproved by long-term prospects. After all, we have been providing for foreign talent for numerous years before this and yet the ends are still not justifiable and completely digestable to the populace, let us truly appreciate the objectivity of this current hard-sell policy by producing objective evidence to validate the methods. We can then move on as a nation together into new and exciting times with opportunities for one and all equally.

40+ Singaporean said...

Dr H, this is a good post and many of the comments are great too.

Let me add my 2 cents worth here.

As a country, should we offer a number of scholarships to deserving students from less well off countries, particularly those around us? We most definitely should. Should we do at at the expense of our own citizens, we definitely should not.

The core issue as I see and concur with is the treatment of FTs vs citizens, be it NS or other matters. It is obvious that our policies are skewed towards attracting FT (and I'll put a big ? after the Talent). The net is cast so wide now that the FTs are not limited to people who can truly make a difference and not just someone competing with the citizens for limited employment opportunities.

We go to a painful extent of 'planning' the industries we will support, restricting our children in what course of studies they should undertake, only to end up with serious structural unemployment years later and bringing in FTs to solve the problems. Meanwhile, where is the person or the committee responsible for the earlier plan? He/she has probably been promoted 3 times and now hold some very senior position(s) in a government or GLC organisation, while the citizens are told to take the bitter pill.

Some will disagree with my views and said it is extreme or unfair but you 'll have to admit there is much truth. How many times have you seen accountability being publicised for errors in policies of earlier years?

As mentioned in one of the comments, we are so successful with our 2 child policy, we are now suffering the negative effects of that policy. What about the empty HDB flats, the congested roads when planners know to the last figure how many cars there will be on the road every year, the inability of laid off workers to meet their payment commitment for the property they had thought they could afford through the use of CPF? I can go on with many more examples.

Whispers from the Heart has a blog (which I frequent) entry on the $50 million loss as a result of the country investment in some bio venture with a US hospital. The EMAS system put up by LTA on our expressway is the biggest electronic greeting card system in the world. It does so little for our motorists and absolutely nothing to improve traffic conditions. How many millions did that cost? Who was behind that hare-brain idea? How high has he been promoted to?

Sorry for the digression. Treat our citizens right and treat us fair, in relation to FTs. Look after our citizens, particularly when they get old. While I buy the argument that a welfare state like some in the west is not the best model, no welfare and 'survival of the fittest' and the 'law of the jungle' are not the correct policies to adopt in treating our citizens, particularly the poor and the elderlies, as the now infamous Wee SM had suggested our society is/should be. We are not animals in the jungle, albeit we live in a garden-city-state-concrete-jungle.

We may have the material trappings of a 'first world' country, but where is the humane and gracious manners of a civilisation? Let's not have a situation where the privileges of citizenship is no more than making our nation safe for FTs (by serving in NS) and have our senior citizens looking forward to a retirement job in McD or clearing tables at a local food court, to pay off their housing loans, as their CPF is insufficient to meet their needs as a result of involuntary early retirement.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi 40+ S'porean,
Thanks for comments.
The nation's dilemma is how to rejuvenate the population with new migrants and yet not alienate the old migrants ( esply those who are displaced by the new economy and some by these very new migrants.)
No doubt we cannot ignore decreasing birth rates and competition for gene pool factors, but the challenge is how to take care of the poor and disenfranchised ( retrenched and unable to find work people) and yet not make hand-out attitude a habit. I will admit that this is difficult with no solution in sight.
I still feel that the new migrants should bear the burden of national security which the old migrants are bearing , sometimes to the detriment of their workplace.
Better still, modify or shorten NS requirements further if we really don't need soldiers as before.


40+ Singaporean said...

NS certainly can be shorter and it can take different forms. We are not just building an army but we are also building arms! Do we really need a arm industry for national security? Is the arms building business a viable one?

NS is a sacred cow, and it is unnecessarily so. I have done my service and my reservist too. I'm still liable for a few years but I can tell you most of it is a waste of time. Don't get me wrong, I took my duties seriously and responsibly and the SAF knows it. How did they know? They gave me more responsibilites! Yes, you do a good job and they 'reward' you with more work.

We have an aging population problem. Make sure the older workers are kept in the workforce, not push them out to a so-call 'second career'. For many of them, there is no second careers. Actively encourage and legislate if necessary the composition of workers by age group. Afterall, which aspects of our economy and life in general don't the government already exercise some control over? The government can set an example. It is the largest employer in the country. (And no, I don't work for the government.)

I am not against bringing in talents. It is how this is being done. Yes, I am against it being done at the expense of citizens' employment prospects. Most countries' policies recognise this aspect and don't do it to their citizens.

With regards to baby making. This must be viewed holistically. I do not profess to know the all the answers but we have to start with the quality of life. I have 3 children and it is my fortune that they are relatively good children and reasonable academically. If quality of life do not improved, fewer babies will be born. If one cannot spend time and enjoy the times with their children, why have children?

The government only address the economic aspects of cost of bringing up babies through 'baby bonus' and such. It is indeed very costly to bring up a child in Singapore but the quality, the time needed and the responsibilities of being a parent are not addressed, because issues relating to improving the quality of life are ignored.

In very typical Singapore government fashion, the solution is one of monetary penalties or rewards or a combination - baby bonus. It reminds me of the saying, "if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem look like a nail". It is quite evident and widespread in our country. After all, Singapore is a 'fine' city. Littering - fine $500, smoking - fine $500, the list goes on. Congestions on our roads? Set up ERP gantries and increase tolls. LTA knows how many vehicles will be added to our roads each year. They have full control over all transport related matters. HDB planned years ahead for new towns but planning is not evident in our road capacity provisions. I don't think highly paid senior civil servants are needed if all solutions for any problems revolved around financial penalties.