Singapore Armchair Critic

A blog about politics and policies in Singapore and beyond

Category: Singapore’s population and immigration woes

Cast Away Like Dirt

I have a soft spot for animals and have been a pescetarian for years. It pains me that thousands of pets are abandoned every year in Singapore, when their novelty wears out, when they become sickly, when their owners relocate, when it’s spring cleaning time, et cetera et cetera . . . the creativity of we homo sapiens knows no bounds when it comes to crafting excuses to dump the poor animals that are at our mercy.

The AVA has been running advertising campaigns to urge pet owners against animal abandonment. One series is particularly heart-wrenching (see photos below). The images of babies dressed in animal costumes deliver a hard-hitting message: Pets are a part of your family; if you won’t abandon your family members, surely, surely you won’t abandon your pets?

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But no. The continued abandonment of pets shows that the message is lost on many.

And it seems that Singaporeans do not just stop at discarding unwanted pets. Some of us also dumped our unwanted aged parent(s). Continue reading…

Poverty as Taboo in Singapore

Earlier I wrote a blogpost on poverty and income inequality in Singapore, which rankled some pro-establishment netizens (read their comments). What struck me most was not their eagerness to stick up for the government – which was nothing extraordinary – but their defensiveness towards poverty.

By their reaction, these netizens seemed to have taken my straight talk on poverty as a personal affront. First they tried to deny that poverty exists in Singapore; then in the face of evidence they began to point fingers at the poor, blaming them for their plight.

Why and how did poverty become a taboo in our society, which, just a few decades ago in the 1970s, had a 55% “lower-working class” population teetering on the brink of indigence (Lim Yun Xin, “Voicing Poverty,” p. 19)? How did the poor become stigmatized over a mere few decades? Continue reading…

The Difference Ten Years Makes

What do you remember of your life and life in Singapore ten years ago?

Today, Singaporeans are the unhappiest people in the world. But according to the World Values Survey (sample size 1,500+), Singaporeans were a very happy lot in 2002. When asked about their feeling of happiness, 28.8% reported that they were “very happy” and 66.2% said they were “quite happy.” In total, 95% of the population were generally happy. Continue reading…

A Singaporean Core?: What Defines a Singaporean (II)

About a week ago I was looking through the Population White Paper and was greatly perturbed by the missing definition of a “Singaporean core.”

Like many of us, I am concerned about a “diluted” Singaporean identity with the proposed influx of new migrants each year: according to the projected target, “Singaporeans” — which includes a substantial number of new citizens — only make up half the total population by 2030.

As I was trying to tabulate the number of “true blue” Singaporeans, i.e. those who are born and raised in Singapore, I was stumped. Continue reading…

Lift the Whip

It’s been a few days into the parliamentary debate over the controversial Population White Paper and we have heard how PAP Members of Parliament (MPs) presented their views, ranging from the strong objection of Inderjit Singh to the near total endorsement of Mah Bow Tan, not to mention the usual scaremongering (businesses fold up, Singaporeans lose jobs, no foreign workers to build flats etc etc) of Amy Khor, Jessica Tan and Khaw Boon Wan.

While we give credit to MPs like Inderjit Singh and Seah Kian Peng who dissented from the party position and were critical of the White Paper, many netizens also rightly pointed out that what matters ultimately is how the MPs vote.

Speaking against such a contentious policy as the Population White Paper and then voting for it seriously undermine a PAP MP’s credibility. How is the MP going to answer to his constituents for negating ground sentiments and voting along his party line instead? Continue reading…

White Paper or White Elephant?

If the clamor of the Punggol East voters was not audible, the uproar over the Population White Paper reverberating on the Internet should be loud enough to be heard, even to those who are habitually hard of hearing.

To the dismay of Singaporeans, the White Paper proposes to take in 15,000-25,000 new citizens and 30,000 new PRs per year, growing the total population to 5.8 – 6 million by 2020 and 6.5 – 6.9 million by 2030 (see infographics).

So what happened to the 2,500 pieces of feedback the NPTD received over the last year? You mean participants/contributors were all for opening the floodgates wider? Continue reading…

Broken Trust, Broken Policies

Like a sore loser, the PAP quickly attributed its Punggol East defeat to some act of God – the “by-election effect.” We lost, not because we are incompetent but because of forces beyond our control. It appears to be a term (in the league of “ponding” and “freak flood”) PAP spin doctors conjured up to save face, and to mollify its dismayed, hardcore supporters.

PAP would be deceiving itself if it genuinely thought it lost because of the “by-election effect”.

Punggol East voters, among which 76% are below 50 years old, had sent the ruling party a very clear message on behalf of the middle/sandwiched class. The pro-opposition supporters had voted tactically by channeling their ballots to the Workers’ Party, and had stood their ground despite the fatter and juicier carrots dangled by PAP this time round. Continue reading…

Punggol East By-Election: The Campaign So Far


At PAP’s first rally in the Punggol East by-election, party leaders stressed that “the government has listened and learnt.” Education Minister Mr Heng Swee Kiat said, “Listening to you, we’ve learnt much. We share your concerns.” In a similar manner, Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of Law and Education, added that “We have not misread and we have not forgotten the message the electorate has given.”

To reinforce PAP’s message, a slew of measures to tackle Singaporeans’ concerns was splashed across the front pages of our local press over the past week. Singaporeans were told that 200,000 new homes will be built by 2016 and there will be two new MRT lines by 2030. In the more immediate future, the government will increase the number of trains and buses to ease the public transport bottleneck. A new round of property cooling measures was also launched.

While these announcements were no doubt timed to boost PAP’s winning chances in the Punggol East by-election, they would be welcomed by Singaporeans who are facing housing and transport woes amid the relentless rise in cost of living. Perhaps the government has finally heard the people’s voices?

Before we heave a collective sigh of relief, there is reason to be skeptical. Continue reading…

Seeing through Colored Lenses: How Singaporeans View the SMRT Strike

Around end November when Singapore saw its first strike in 26 years by 171 SMRT bus drivers from China, another seemingly innocuous incident, also centering on the beleaguered train service provider, stirred some disquiet among the Singapore community.

An Indian reader and a Malay reader wrote separate letters to the press questioning SMRT’s recent move to announce station names in Mandarin, on top of the usual announcements in English, the lingua franca of multi-ethnic Singapore. SMRT’s explanation that it was acting on “public suggestions” to announce station names in Mandarin riled netizens, including native Chinese who make up 74% of the population.

Surmising that this was a move to accommodate the growing community of non-English speaking Chinese from China, netizens seethed at the slight to Singapore’s racial equality and the alienation of its minority races:

Singapore is turning into a mini China, isn’t it? And as a Singaporean Chinese myself, I would say, please spare me the mandarin announcements! It’s a total turn-off!

…We locals, young and old regardless of race and educational level have learnt and accepted the English announcements, why can’t these newcomers? We are a city-state, not a Chinese state.

Continue reading…

Two Singapores

If you are frustrated about the state of affairs in Singapore and highly critical of our government as I am, you would probably have heard this from your bewildered foreign friends: “What’s so bad about your government?” or “What are you so unhappy about?”. As far as they can see, Singapore is clean, safe, modern, efficient and very liveable. They don’t understand why Singaporeans “complain so much.”

It seems that while some Singaporeans are feeling a sense of disconnect and displacement in our own home, many foreigners have taken to the new Singapore like fish to water.

Local journalist Sumiko Tan, no less smitten than foreigners about how “glamorous” our city has evolved, muses in her article titled “Singapore’s Golden Age” that “Singapore must be doing something right if so many foreigners want to be part of the action.”

Sumiko’s sweeping statement is, of course, flawed. That aside, I have no doubt that Singapore has indeed become the place to be for foreigners, particularly the high-flyers.

This is no happenstance. Our government has been actively courting foreign talents, businesses and investors, redoubling their efforts over the last few years.

Some of these efforts that add to our wow factor – like the creation of enticing, if superficial, “spectacles” such as the Supertrees, the MBS, and the hosting of international events such as F1 – are more visible to ordinary Singaporeans.

What is perhaps unbeknownst to many of us is the formidable marketing campaign to promote Singapore as an ideal location for businesses and investors. Continue reading…

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