Winnie Lim shares the issues that are on her mind leading up to Singapore’s general elections this Saturday, 7 May.
I’ve been trying to express my views on Twitter but I guess that micro-format doesn’t put my words in context and it makes me seem like I’m so insecure, xenophobic person. If you know me personally as a friend, you’ll know this to be untrue.
I cannot be proud of much, but I am definitely one of those who will actually speak up for our foreign workers and talent. I certainly don’t like picking on people based on stereotypes and the country they come from. To me, it is very simple, don’t do to people what you don’t wish to be done to you. I don’t like being stereotyped, why should I do the same?
Anyway, I will clarify my position once and for all, and hopefully, those people who care enough will read.
1. I don’t have issues with foreigners.
We are all immigrants. How many of us can claim to have aboriginal ancestors?
Perhaps I do think the population number needs to be managed, but that’s because Singapore is feeling like it is about to burst its seams any moment.
2. The education of our youth
The reason why we depend a lot (I mean, a lot) on foreign talent, especially in the tech sector, is because there are not many local talents around. If this is true, then why are we not examining why? I’m constantly being asked to refer good independent designers. Oh come on. Why do talented designers go “freelance” or independent here, when the standards of living are so high, and in all seriousness, most clients here do not want to pay for quality? They ask for free pitches and mockups, GeBiz is setting the best example for this. Ask any design agency. How would an independent designer survive here?
In all honesty, if not because I have an international client base, as well as an increasing number of tech startups who are willing to pay for quality (though still rare), I myself wouldn’t have survived. In fact, I am having issues trying to afford my rent and pursue my goals at the same time.
I can probably write another 10,000 word essay on education, but I don’t want to dilute the points I am trying to make here. However, it is a fact that we’re encouraged to have a herd mentality from young. We’re taught to pride academic success. We’re conditioned into thinking that having money and security is more important than anything else. So, can anybody tell me why we have a lack of talent here? It all stems down from the roots, isn’t it?
3. The Internal Security Act
Along with many other people, I was not aware of how unjust this was until very recently. I am appalled. I am also upset that we were deprived this part of Singapore’s history. Why? Google “Operation Spectrum”.
“You dun care because you dun have friends who were imprisoned without trial for doing social work and helping the poor,” I replied. “You dun have friends who cannot come home to Singapore, you dun have friends who were made bankrupt and had their lives destroyed by the PAP government.” (source)
4. Public Housing
Okay, being pragmatic. I don’t expect Singapore’s property prices to be affordable because we really don’t have much land. That’s fine.
I can accept that because I am unmarried, I have to work harder in order to either purchase my own resale HDB flat when I am 35, or expensive private property.
But I cannot accept Public Housing prices being pegged to market prices because public housing are precisely for people who cannot afford property otherwise. I can’t help but think, what are they trying to achieve here? Make people work very hard so that they cannot do anything else?
5. Ministers’ Salaries
I didn’t feel comfortable when I found out that all our ministers earn at least US$1.57m, more than Barack Obama, who has to take shit on a per-minute basis. But I can perhaps learn to accept that if this is what it takes to have a non-corrupt government.
What I cannot accept, is there are tonnes of under-performing ministers drawing that sort of salary! They want to compare our ministers to CEOs, sure. CEOs definitely have to justify their performances to the board. Who do our ministers justify themselves to? They all belong to one party and I cannot help but feel like they’re all shielding each other. Even the ones who don’t perform. Can you imagine that happening in a proper board? This may as well be a family-run business!
Redrawing boundaries to dilute the opposition is just not cool. Why can’t we just have a fair fight?
If the PAP are truly capable, why do they have to resort to such tactics?
7. State of animal welfare
If you are into animal welfare in Singapore, you’ll know there isn’t much effort from the government.
Then again, they’re deemed to be lacking in human welfare, so I guess we can’t even talk about animals.
I struggle to call us a progressed society.
8. Personal reasons
I would say that growing up here made me depressed and suicidal. And that it is very painful to be not part of the mainstream. It is not funny at all when you’re insulted, looked down upon on a frequent basis because of academic non-success. My own mother thought of me as a disappointment. I was not accepted for the child I was. I survived it all, but I wonder, does it have to be this way for other kids like me? And it is not even about being gay. It is not buying into the whole “Straight As” concept. Why can’t our individuality be celebrated? We suppress our kids’ individualities, then go proclaim a foreigner’s individuality as “talent”.
This is personal and biased, I am not afraid to say. Perhaps some other kid less emotionally sensitive wouldn’t be suicidal, I wouldn’t know. But I do know of other young people who have become either detached, or they just try to numb themselves with substance abuse. These are not delinquents, but truly bright minds, albeit emotionally sensitive.
I would also like to add, if not for the horribly inflated housing prices, I would be travelling around the world right now, exposing myself to different cultures and learning as I go along. I would also have more time for the non-profit work I am doing. I just find it difficult to stomach that people with a heart are forced to be concerned over survival when they can be spending their time over more meaningful issues.
I earn a comfortable income, but I am not comfortable at all. I don’t even drink and party. 60% of my income (if I work my ass off) goes to rent. If that is the case for me, I shudder to think of the genuinely poor. Three years ago, a small HDB flat would have cost S$1.2k to rent. Now it is about S$2k and upwards, depending on location. This only intensified during the past two years. Why?
The rich are indeed very comfortable here. The poor are getting poorer. We’re performing strongly economically, but the people are suffering.
At what expense, I would like to ask. All for our GDP.
I am not saying that the Opposition will do better. But let’s give them a chance before threatening the voters that the value of their flats will become worthless. Can’t PAP talk in concrete terms, exactly how they will ‘take care of us’? Why do they have to make it sound like we’re voting for the mafia? If the Opposition is shit, let time tell. But based on my personal observation in Parliament, I’ll take Sylvia Lim, Chiam See Tong, Low Thia Kiang, over 90% of PAP MPs anytime. Most of them don’t even bother to debate on national issues. Those who do, get silenced into submission.
As a human being with integrity, it is difficult to support a party that jailed people without trials and sued people into bankruptcy.
Can we have a government who truly cares about the people? That is all I ask for. And not have our leaders think of us like animals. I’ll leave you with this quote to chew on:
“I have always thought that humanity was animal-like,” he says. “The Confucian theory was man could be improved, but I’m not sure he can be. He can be trained, he can be disciplined.” — MM Lee (source)
Winnie is an independent nomadic designer who believes economic growth is not mutually exclusive with compassion and empathy. She also hopes that young kids will be empowered to make educated choices one day, not based on conventional wisdom and society’s expectations. She feels her thoughts are severely fragmented — and defragments them at her blog, and hopes that somehow, some way, with a touch of serendipity, her blog would benefit some souls, just like how she was inspired by the words of many before.