Thursday, 11 April 2013

Other Side of The Singapore Story

Updated 30 Jun 2016: Ex-detainee tells his side of Singapore story

A former political detainee who was held for almost two decades launched his memoir yesterday.

In the 406-page book, Dr Poh Soo Kai, former assistant secretary- general of Barisan Sosialis, recounts his personal and political history, and counters the official version of facts that led to his being detained twice, for 17 years in all.

The book, titled Living In A Time Of Deception, also recollects Dr Poh's younger days as a grandson of Chinese community pioneer Tan Kah Kee - his mother's father - and as an activist against the colonial authorities in his student days at the then University of Malaya in Singapore.

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Why do people hate Singapore?

I’ve read all the answers here and I’d just like to give my opinion on this, as a “foreign talent” as an “angmoh” and as someone who grew up in England, eventually moved to the US for my PhD, and then chose to raise my family in Singapore.

As a person who grew up in the west, there’s nothing that gives more credence to the phrase “the grass is greener on the other side” than when a caucasian chooses to move to a predominantly asian country. It gives me great pride to say that I could somehow travel 10 years back in time to that moment I made this decision to move to Singapore with my wife and 5 month old boy, I will choose Singapore again in a heartbeat.

Singapore is an amazing country. That sentence is perhaps more of an understatement than any of the understatements in history, because although many Singaporeans like to rant about its imperfections, Singapore is the closest you can get to a near perfectly run country. I’m saying this objectively, because amid all the freedom, the welfare, the “quality of life” that Singaporeans seem to admire about Scandinavian countries, or for some odd reason, the US and the UK, I sincerely doubt that any person with the desire to be in a competitive, fast-paced, ultra modern, yet clean, safe and economically solvent country would have any other options other than Singapore.

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Poor in the Land of Crazy Rich Asians
An old woman with a cart sits in front of a Buddhist temple Chinatown, Singapore. Mapa Melvin /

Park Royal Hotel along Pickering Street in Singapore is nothing short of spectacular. Lush greenery lines the undulating planes of its facade, mimicking the vibrant green of paddy fields that are common sights in the country’s Southeast Asian neighbours. The building has won numerous architectural and design accolades, and been featured as a location in the Hollywood film Hitman: Agent 47.

But walk a few paces past this impressive glass facade, deeper into the heart of Chinatown, and the surroundings start looking a little different.

Pieces of paper are strewn carelessly on the ground; there’s a seemingly impenetrable layer of grime. Here, the buildings are older, tinted yellow from long exposure to the elements. Come nightfall, men and women, carrying their possessions in backpacks or plastic bags, will discreetly unfurl blankets and newspapers on street corners or stone benches to get some rest for the night.

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Singapore is not paradise on Earth

I refer to the Quora reply you posted up last week, where a certain ang moh foreign talent, in response to the question “Why do people hate Singapore?”, proceeded to wax lyrical about how Singapore was paradise on Earth.

Are you sure that guy isn’t the PAP or a PAP supporter in disguise? Because saying things like “Singapore is the closest you can get to a near perfectly run country” makes it very suspicious. Also, he is probably an expat earning an expat package here in Singapore, so life would be very comfortable and affordable for him. The rest of us do not have that luxury. After reading the reply, which was really nothing short of a love letter to the government / ruling party, I felt compelled to share a commoner’s views on the issues mentioned so as to even out the bullshit a little:

  • Cost of Living
  • Cost of Cars
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Freedom of Expression and democracy

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Singapore story cannot masquerade as history of Singapore: Dr Poh Soo Kai

“One may have different interpretations of the facts, but the facts must be there,” said Dr Poh Soo Kai to a room packed with more than 300 participants, at the launch of his book, Living in a Time of Deception on 13 February at Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium.

The book, said Dr Poh, was not just his personal story, although it was peppered with personal accounts of his grandfather Tan Kah Kee, his extended family, his flight to safety during the Japanese occupation, and his life as a student and a medical doctor.

Dr Poh was also cognisant that his was a historical memoir of how he lived through the early years of Singapore’s history, and as such, he and his co-writers have taken great pains to verify the facts, including drawing from British declassified documents, the Hansard and the National Archives of Singapore, in order to provide as accurate as possible an account of what happened to Barisan Socialis during the arrests of Operation Coldstore.

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The Other Singapore, the one rarely seen


This Post provides glimpses of another Singapore, the less desirable, the seedy, the weird…

To the various people who have sent me photos, captions, videos, etc., thanks! Keep them coming!

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The “other” Singapore

So many of the world’s rich and famous have moved here, as permanent residents or new citizens. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. Australian mining tycoon Nathan Tinkler. India telco tycoon Bhupendra Kumar Modi. New Zealand billionaire Richard Chandler. US investor Jim Rogers, who set up shop there in 2007. Indonesian-born millionaire Frank Cintamani. According to the article, Gina Rinehart, one of the world’s richest women, slapped down $46.3 million for a pair of Singapore condominium units last year. Gosh! And we gasp at $1m price tag for an executive condo!

I suppose we have always known that some of the rich and famous have moved here, (remember the fuss when Gong Li became a citizen?) but they were never put under the spotlight as a collective group. This is probably one of the advantages of re-locating to Singapore. Celebrities, billionaires and luminaries are left alone to do as they please; no paparazzi, no protestors, in a place where it is safe to park their money, pay low taxes, with order strictly enforced. (I wonder if they had to go through a Singapore Citizenship Journey, visiting places of civic interest and attend a block party. Whether their children had to do national service.)

I guess we should be glad that we are such a playground, an Asian Monaco. Hopefully, these rich people-turned-PRs, or PRs- turned-new citizens will leave some business or money behind to filter to the rest of us. That they wouldn’t keep their wherewithal to themselves, but would put what they can into a country that provides them with better comforts than their own home country. Wealth-X, a private consultancy that provides intelligence on the world’s uber-rich, estimates some 1,400 ultra-high-net-worth individuals now hold more than $160 billion of wealth in Singapore, reported WSJ.

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Aung San Suu Kyi: Singapore seems to be a "Workforce Oriented". What is the purpose of work?

Of Singapore, Private Tuition, and Aung San Suu Kyi

It was a leading question posed by a journalist to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her first visit to Singapore: what aspects of the Lion City might “The Lady” like to recreate in Myanmar? The question seemed fairly innocuous, albeit arguably loaded. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate dodged the bullet and fired a salvo of her own.

“I don’t think ‘recreate’ is the word, ‘learn’ yes,” said Ms Suu Kyi.

Singapore’s “work-oriented” education system, for example, leaves something to be desired.

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Singapore poverty in the spotlight

Poverty in Singapore affects an unknown number of families [Xu Yuan Duan/Growing Up with Less]

Begging is illegal here, under the island-nation's Destitute Persons Act, carrying a fine of up to $3,000 or imprisonment for up to two years for repeat offenders

But Singapore's poor still can be found, often selling packets of tissues outside food centres. Or spending the night on benches near their jobs to save the transport fare home - they are commonly called "sleepers". Or collecting empty soft drink cans out of trash bins. 

The poor have no place in Singapore's vaunted success story, but there are growing calls for one of the wealthiest countries in the world to acknowledge rapidly rising income inequality by setting an official poverty line. Hong Kong's recent decision to set a poverty line as a way to better identify and assist its poor has prompted a similar debate in Singapore's parliament.

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"Working poor" in Singapore can't make ends meet: NUS
"Working poor" in Singapore can't make ends meet: NUS

A new study has shown that the working poor in Singapore are not getting enough pay to make ends meet. "Working poor" is defined as someone earning less than half of the average monthly income of a Singaporean, which now stands at S$3,000

The survey by the National University of Singapore's Social Work Department showed that those who need money want to work and that there are jobs available for them.

The survey, which seeks to examine Singaporeans' attitudes toward poverty, also showed that Singaporeans are willing to accept higher taxes if it means more help for the needy.

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Poor little rich city

Reports abound about Singapore being one of the world’s richest cities. But with its growing wealth, poverty is also increasing.

Some time ago, a friend of mine complained to me after I quoted Western reports in a column describing Singapore as one of the world’s richest cities.

It was less than reflective of the truth, he said. The mythical headlines, as he called them, included the following:

related: Old and abandoned

Don't come home to soulless Singapore
SINGAPORE, Singapore : Smog lies above the financial highrises as haze worsens in Singapore on June 19, 2013. Singapore's Pollutant Standards Index again shot above the "unhealthy" threshold of 152. AFP PHOTO/Roslan Rahman
AFP News - SINGAPORE, Singapore : Smog lies above the financial highrises as haze worsens in Singapore on June 19, 2013. Singapore's Pollutant Standards Index again shot above the "unhealthy" threshold of 152. AFP PHOTO/Roslan Rahman

A few weeks ago my sister returned to Singapore with her husband and two sons for a short holiday. She was born here but went to live in Sri Lanka when she was still a baby. She grew up there, got married and is now an outstanding teacher at one of the most prestigious schools in the country. She wants to come back and reclaim her Singapore citizenship. Her husband is a CEO in one of the world's largest advertising agencies so the two of them should have no problem qualifying as people of talent.

I thought it was not a good idea for her to relocate here and told her so. Sri Lanka may not be as wealthy as Singapore but it has great potential for development and she already makes a good living there. The government may be corrupt an inefficient but the private sector is thriving and dynamic.

In Sri Lanka she lives in a house considered huge by Singapore standards. Her sons are top students at one of the best schools in town and the pace of life is so much more relaxing than here in Singapore. They have all the mod cons they need and the comfort of having all that space. Why would she want to give up all that?

I'm not ashamed of being gay, but I'm ashamed to be Singaporean
The Pink Dot mascot between the mascots for fear and ignorance. Singapore's High Court upheld the controversial Section 377A law criminalising sex between two men, as the LGBT movement continues in Singapore (Yahoo! file photo)
Yahoo! Newsroom - The Pink Dot mascot between the mascots for fear and ignorance. Singapore's High Court upheld the controversial Section 377A law criminalising sex between two men, as the LGBT movement continues in Singapore (Yahoo! file photo)

I'm gay. I'm not ashamed of it, not by a long shot.

What I am ashamed of, however, is being part of a country that has the temerity to decry another country's human rights records, while at the same time making homosexuality a criminal offence. I am ashamed to be associated with a Government that boasts of its democratic freedoms while outlawing public assembly. I am ashamed to walk amongst a people who are so widely traveled and yet so parochial, so narrow-minded and so infuriatingly judgmental.

In short, I am ashamed to be a Singaporean.

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Senior Citizen Singapore

We are a group of senior citizens, retired and congregating in Chinatown almost daily to lament our pathetic state of existence consequent of flawed government policies.

Most of us bought such studio apartments on a 30 years lease filled to the brim with legal encumbrances and cash up-front for the purchase because neither HDB nor any commercial banks would grant us loans given our elderly age and with no income.

We are appalled to learn of the newer 99-years lease flat offered to people above 35-years on a monthly income of no more than $5,000 and at S$75,000 (going to S$16,000 with conditional discount of S$60,000). These flats do not have the tight legal encumbrances that our flats have. We feel cheated and betrayed.

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Singaporeans among world’s top 10 pessimists: survey
SINGAPORE - FEBRUARY 13: People throng the Vivocity shopping mall on February 13, 2013 in Singapore. The government white paper revealed Singapore's population may increase 30% to over 6.9 million by 2030, with nearly half the population expected to be foreign-born. Many local residents are critising the plan concerned about the added strain on housing, transportation and healthcare and the diminishing identity of the Singaporean community. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
Yahoo! Newsroom/Getty Images - SINGAPORE - FEBRUARY 13: People throng the Vivocity shopping mall on February 13, 2013 in Singapore. The government white paper revealed Singapore's population may increase 30% to over 6.9 million by 2030, with nearly half the population expected to be foreign-born. Many local residents are critising the plan concerned about the added strain on housing, transportation and healthcare and the diminishing identity of the Singaporean community. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

Singapore ranks among the 10 countries with the most pessimistic people in the world, according to a survey done by Gallup.

In a report released last week, the international pollster said 24 per cent of the respondents in Singapore rated their future lives lower than their current lives.

The survey was based on telephone and face-to-face-interviews with about 1,000 adults in each of 141 countries and areas last year. It asked respondents to indicate which level they feel best represents the life they have currently and about five years from now.

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Rustic Ubin - A Step Back In Time

The “other” Singapore

There is an article in the Wall Street Journal about Singapore  – and it’s a Singapore I don’t recognise. It is about glitzy nightclubs, private jets, fast cars, high fashion and high-life. It talks about beautiful people togged up in clothes and shoes with names I can’t pronounce. About people who jet into Singapore to play and foreigners who decide the little red dot is the best place to park their money.

It’s about a lifestyle that isn’t reported for local consumption. It sounds like Vegas, but it is actually buttoned-down Singapore. My eyes go wider than wide when I weave through the article. Singapore has a nightclub at Marina Bay Sands which is just a year old, but Pangaea (how do you pronounce this anyway?) is now considered the most profitable club in the world with revenues of more than $100,000 per night in recent months.

It’s also one of the most expensive clubs, with tables costing as much as $15,000, with the uber-rich regularly chalking up six-figures. The jet-set of the world jet in on really serious jets, including an A380 which was converted to include a pool and basketball court, according to its owner, Michael Ault, a blue-blooded pedigreed American who moved from Manhattan to Singapore three years ago.

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What Makes a Great City

If we compare the four predominantly Chinese societies today, Singapore is only less restrictive than China. A saying goes:

In Hong Kong, you can do anything except that which is forbidden by law; In Singapore, you cannot do anything except that which is permitted by law; In Taiwan, you can do anything including that which is forbidden by law; In China, you cannot do anything including that which is permitted by law (original saying in Chinese).”

Time and again, people who push the boundaries in Singapore are singled out and punished when our government thinks we are getting out of hand. The “sticker-lady” incident and the recent arrest of the cartoonist behind Demon-cratic Singapore only affirm what we already know – that Singapore is an inventory of the impossible.

Besides a repressive milieu that stifles creativity, the alacrity with which urban planners destroy our heritage also disturbs me. Of course, Singapore has only a very short history but does that not make it more compelling for us to preserve what little heritage we have? The old National Library building and others were long gone, and Bukit Brown is going. What price progress?

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How it feels like to be a S’porean

The moment you realise you might never retire
Your face when you hear how much Singaporeans spend raising kids/ financing a home/ throwing a wedding banquet
How you feel when you possess a strong sense of self-entitlement

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Singapore is the Promise Land

While many PMEs are moaning for being let off, unemployed, underemployed or having to drive taxis as a last resort, the picture is totally different from the foreigners’ perspective. To the foreigners, from the third world to the developed world of Europe, America and Australia, Singapore is the place to be, Singapore is where fortunes are made.

Many of these foreigners would never have dreamt of the good life in their own countries. Many of these countries would not have given them the opportunity to be rich within a handful of years. Many would be just the average workers, like the average Singaporeans, struggling for a life time to make ends meet if they remain in their home countries. Even the westerners, many would be having a hard time finding good jobs in their home countries.

Singapore is the Promised Land to many of these foreigners. Many will only have to game the system and after a few years, could retire and go home very rich. Singapore is where sweet dreams are made and great hopes could turn into reality for the foreigners

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Are Singapore's poor better off?
Wan Zaleha at the Sunlove Marsiling Neighbourhood Link Centre on 2 February, 2012
Wan Zaleha volunteers at a centre for needy people; she herself lives in low-income public housing

For the last six years, from Mondays to Saturdays, the 72-year-old has served as a volunteer, making tea and coffee for residents living in one-room apartments in the neighbourhood.

She lives in one of the one-room apartments - which average 30 sq.m and cost S$23 ($19, £12) to S$205 ($165, £104) a month to rent from the government depending on household income. She is not employed and receives groceries worth S$70 from individual donors every month.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos recently that although it was ''no fun'' being poor in Singapore, people were still ''less badly off'' than the poor in other countries, including the US.

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Part 1: The Under Privileged In Singapore

On the surface, our homeland Singapore is a beautiful, peace-loving, orderly place. Almost everything from public transport, taxi services, hawker centres, food centres, roads, parks, bus-stops, taxi-stands, schools and so on are well organised and maintained.

Moving around from place to place, one cannot helped but be impressed by the level of attention and meticulous planning in many aspects. Plants are well trimmed, watered regularly and surrounding road and pavement areas cleared of fallen leaves. Such meticulousness is not just seen on one or two streets but practically every street and corner in Singapore

Obviously, such cleanliness and well-organised features inherently built-in in the system are not by default or accidental. They are man-made. Purposefully and conscientiously planned, organised, carried out, maintained, supervised and monitored on a regular basis. Such are the amazing plus points of the highly successful institutionalisation of many functions and entities in the local scene.

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STOMPer reader "deepsecret", who reported the incident, said her fiancé had chased after a man in a hoodie who was seen vandalising the Cenotaph at Esplanade Park.

She said that he was wearing headphones, was dressed in a dark blue hoodie and dark jeans and carried a brown/black backpack. The STOMPer also said that the vandal had mentioned his act as being a "revolution".

The Cenotaph is a war memorial that was built in memory of men in Singapore who gave their lives in World War I and World War II.

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Longest Retirements Fuel Pressure for Singapore Remodel

Singaporean men live an average 20.8 years after retirement while their female counterparts have 25.6 years, according to the Bloomberg Sunset Index. Photographer: Sam Kang Li/Bloomberg

Singaporean Richard Mui joined the ranks of the world’s longest-living retirees when his career ended in 2010. Three years on, the 54-year-old can no longer afford to pay his father’s medical bills, and worries about putting his two children through university.

Almost half a century after independence, Singaporeans now live the most number of years after leaving the workforce, according to the Global Sunset Index of 68 countries compiled by Bloomberg. In the world’s sixth-most expensive city, 41 percent of more than 1,000 residents surveyed by HSBC Holdings Plc (5) said they haven’t saved for retirement, with nearly half of them blaming living costs for hampering efforts.

“The standard of living has improved, but the cost of living, we’re feeling the pinch,” said Mui, who’s made S$4,000 ($3,240) in the past six months as a part-time taxi driver, compared with S$12,000 a month at digital-storage device company SM Summit Holdings Ltd. before a corporate takeover put him out of a job. “The Singapore government is one of the richest in the world but yet the people don’t feel they are rich.”

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A Wealthy Nation That Can't Afford to Retire

The Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore may boast of the highest percentage of millionaires in the world, but retiring in this wealthy financial hub is becoming even more difficult for the common man.

According to a latest study by HSBC, the citizens of this country, which has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, face the grim prospect of running out of their savings almost halfway through retirement as the high cost of living and increased life expectancy eats into their nest egg.

Singapore has gradually moved up human resources firm Mercer's global rankings of the world's most expensive cities, moving to sixth place in 2012 from eighth in 2011 and eleventh in 2010.

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Poor in Rich Singapore

This is probably the third time I saw the old granny, probably in her seventies, searching and taking out drink cans and old newspapers scraps from the rubbish bin and putting them in her large nylon bag, while on my way to my office in the morning.

I believe this is not the first time any Singaporean have seen this. Try walking along some streets of Singapore (even at the underpasses of Orchard Road), sometimes you could find old grannies and uncles selling "tissue paper" to the passer-bys, or collecting drink cans and old newspapers from the trash bins and rubbish chute.

"Auntie, good morning." I plucked up a little bit of courage and speak to her in Mandarin, while she continues searching for more drink cans in the bin.

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When I first moved to Bangkok,Thailand I needed to do a visa run (leave Thailand to get a new visa, then come back) and a friend recommended Singapore. I'd never been to Singapore, heard it had good English bookstores and, with a two hour flight from Thailand it was convenient, so I booked a trip. But, two days after arriving in this 'island state', I couldn't wait to leave Singapore and, since then, I've never been back. In fact, if you're thinking of traveling to Singapore on business or vacation, these five big reasons might make you think, like I do, Singapore is definitely a country to avoid.

1. Singapore Is The World's Most Boring Country
2. Singapore Is Expensive
3. Everything in Singapore Is Regulated
4. Singaporean Culture is Conformist
5. Singapore Is One of the World's Most Censored Countries

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Singaporeans less gracious this year: survey
Dr William Wan, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movementt summarising the findings of Graciousness Index. (Photo by Singapore Kindess Movement)
Yahoo! Newsroom - Dr William Wan, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movementt summarising the findings of Graciousness Index. (Photo by Singapore Kindess Movement)

Singaporeans were less gracious this year as compared to the year before, according to the latest Graciousness Index issued Tuesday.

1,200 survey respondents were polled between January and February about the experience and perception of kindness and graciousness they experienced during the same period last year. Out of the number, slightly over 70 percent polled were Singapore citizens, with permanent residents and long-term pass holders making up the rest.

Respondents who said they have been on the receiving end of graciousness fell from 65 percent in 2012, to 41 percent this year. They also reported doing fewer acts of graciousness, dropping from 83 percent to 62 percent.

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Jobless in the republic

A sales and marketing manager loses his S$7,000 (RM17,145) job and turns to driving a taxi – a fallback profession for Singapore’s rising army of unemployed educated.

In another case, an engineer, married with children, who cannot find a job after being retrenched, spends some desperate months working as a S$4 (RM9.80)-an-hour librarian.

And thirdly, a Business graduate with First Class Honours who was replaced by a foreigner seven months ago has failed to land another job

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The unofficial history of the poor in Singapore? (Part 1)

I refer to the article “Initiative to aid HDB residents settle arrears” (My Paper, Apr 15). Someone asked me recently how to we define poverty in Singapore? How many poor people are there? Of course I don’t have the answers. Some people have talked about invariably, the statistics like per capita income, household income, number of people who apply for assistance from Comcare, etc.

After thinking about this for a while, it dawned upon me that perhaps a good measure may be how many people can’t pay for their Service and Conservancy Charges (S & CC). I guess when a family can’t even pay $30 to 60 dollars a month for more than 3 months, they may be really broke and cash-strapped, as they would be subject to constant demands for payment, late penalties, threats of legal action, charged in court, fined, jailed, and having the threat that their flat may be sold as empowered by the Town Council’s Act, etc.

So, here’s some very interesting information which I managed to dig up on the history of S & CC arrears in the 1990s, which may in a way be like a proxy to the “unofficial” history of the poor in Singapore.

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Single mom’s heart-breaking struggle in Singapore

Yahoo! Newsroom Videos - Irfan is one of three children of Madam Salbiah, whose story is told in the multimedia feature documentary "Growing Up With Less". (Screengrab from video)

Most women deliver their babies with blessings from their families, but Madam Salbiah Wahab gave birth to her third child alone in tears and in debt.

Her husband walked out on her barely a month before that painful day. She was saddled with her husband’s debts, payment for their five-room flat and three children to bring up. The then-housewife was at a loss on what to do.

Hers is but one of many stories of low-income families in Singapore. Despite the country’s stellar economic performance, there are still many who are struggling to make ends meet.

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New tables, beds for needy family

Madam Yvonne Chan trying out the beds given by Courts with her sons, Don Corleone Nair, nine (left), and Del Piero Nair, 11. (PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN/THE STRAITS TIMES)

Madam Yvonne Chan, 48, knew for a long time that she needed to buy new furniture, such as tables, for her two children. She would share the kitchen table with her sons, aged nine and 11, who used it to do their school homework.

But as she earns less than $1,000 a month, from the three jobs she juggles - including being a supermarket retail assistant - after her husband died of a heart attack four years ago, Madam Chan never made the purchases in the end.

"My boys are still growing up, so I have to buy essentials such as food first before even thinking about furniture. I have to watch our expenses," she said.

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Singaporeans biggest threat to Singapore's growth

Banking analysts urge government to remove citizens from the island

Singapore's citizens are the biggest threat to national growth, said analysts at Goldman Sachs at an annual wealth conference yesterday, held in Marina Bay Sands.

Speaking at a panel discussion about emerging markets in Asia, the analysts agreed that the increasingly vocal citizenry in the once-orderly island has disrupted economic growth for 2013 and will continue to be a drag on the economy for years to come.

"Let's be honest here. Does Singapore need Singaporeans? No. The children are taken care off by foreign domestic helpers, the hawkers are Malaysian (PRC Chinese), the buildings are constructed by Bangladeshis. All Singaporeans are good for are populating the army, which has never gone to war!" said emerging markets specialist, Thomas Money.

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The Vulnerability of Singapore

What is Singapore’s greatest vulnerability? Is it being surrounded by dangerous nations? Land scarce? No natural resources?

I would argue none of the above. Singapore right now faces a much greater threat. We are in danger of inadvertently becoming dictatorship without realising it.

Why do I say that? How can I know what the future holds? I don’t, I have no idea. And that is part of the problem – no one knows what the future holds for Singapore. Who will be the PM after LHL and how will that person rule – these are huge questions with no obvious answers.

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Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin promises no more flip-flop on foreign manpower polices. Can Singaporeans trust his words anymore?

XIN MSN News, 15 Apr 2013
SINGAPORE: Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said the government will not be changing its decision on the tightening of foreign manpower policies for the foreseeable future.

Mr Tan said: "I think I need to be quite definitive here, so that the signal is clear because I would say for some time, I would say the industry was thinking that government will make a U-turn so therefore the changes perhaps did not quite happen. I think people were hoping that if the pressure was high enough, we will make adjustments and so on. And we notice that as a result of that, the propensity to do the way we do things was not so significant."
He said should affected companies close down, assistance will be provided to them and their workers to find alternatives. Full story 

Also read:
Freezing foreign manpower growth will hurt Singaporeans: Tan Chuan-Jin - Hardwarezone Forum

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People chased away from kopitiam tables to make way for MP and volunteers

Not one but two STOMPers have expressed unhappiness at being chased away from hawker centre tables in Bishan by people claiming to be reserving tables for an MP and volunteers.

STOMPers Tan and Ong both mentioned that the people who warded them off seemed to have 'booked' the tables for the duration of about two hours.

"This picture was taken showing volunteers (in red) 'chasing' people away from the smoking zone just because they said that MP will be coming.

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Exposed personal FB account: 

Silly PAP poster where he exposed her personal FB account accidentally: 

Looks like some one is getting fired real soon 

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Snapshot: PAP MP risks his life to park in danger zone

Full story

  1. Grassroots members chased diners away at Bishan coffeeshop to reserve tables for PAP MP and her entourage - report
  2. We are servants of the people: PM Lee - Yahoo! News Singapore

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Driver of embassy car holds up traffic - then challenges others to call police

STOMPer ACDC says the driver of this embassy car took his time loading goods into his vehicle and held up the traffic outside Mustafa Shopping Centre despite being repeatedly honked at, before challenging another driver to call the cops.

The driver had also apparently made rude gestures at other motorists and pointed his middle finger at the STOMPer.

ACDC said: "I witnessed a case of road rage by the chauffeur of a diplomatic vehicle.

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Ex-SMRT China bus driver on working in S'pore: It's like we were lesser people

“From what I’ve seen, experienced and heard personally, Singaporeans don’t view people from the mainland in a very positive light,” he said. “Some of them look down on us… there is a breakdown in communication between Singaporeans and Chinese people.”

He related incidents where he and several of his ex-colleagues faced harsh criticism on their driving from elderly passengers, some of whom told them to return to China if they couldn't drive properly. 

“These incidents gave us the impression that some Singaporeans really didn’t welcome us,” said He.

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Attorney-General warns former SMRT drivers against making more unfounded allegations
The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) on Saturday warned that it will take action against the two former SMRT drivers from China if they continue to make unfounded allegations. 

The drivers, Chinese nationals He Jun Ling and Liu Xiangying, had alleged in an online video clip posted in January that they were slapped, punched and threatened by police officers while in custody. The police Internal Affairs Office (IAO), however, has since examined all available evidence related to the case and concluded that the charges were baseless. 

Responding to media queries following the IAO findings, an AGC spokesman said:"He and Liu did not raise their allegations in court when they had the opportunity to do so, and when they were represented by their lawyers.

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High-rollers from China make Singapore casinos see red
Guests leave the lobby area of the Sentosa Resorts World Casino in Singapore April 8, 2013. High-rollers get lavish treatment and hefty credit lines at Singapore's two casinos, like any other gaming house in the world. But here, more of them skip town without paying their debt, a matter of increasing concern for investors. REUTERS-Edgar Su

High-rollers get lavish treatment and hefty credit lines at Singapore's two casinos, like any other gaming house in the world. But here, more of them skip town without paying their debt, a matter of increasing concern for investors.

Three years after Singapore allowed casinos to open, Genting Singapore PLC's Resorts World Sentosa and Las Vegas Sands Corp's Marina Bay Sands have become the world's most profitable. Chinese nationals account for around half of the VIP gaming volume at their tables.

An examination of court documents by Reuters and a series of interviews with lawyers and industry executives reveal that several of the gamblers have run up millions of dollars in debt and then scampered back to China, where they are effectively untouchable. 

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Drug courier in S’pore escapes death penalty after reforms

The sentencing of the pair on Wednesday set off a courtroom drama when Abdul Haleem demanded to be hanged along with his friend, also a Singaporean, The Straits Times newspaper reported.

"If you are sparing my life and not sparing his life, I'd rather go down with him," Abdul Haleem was quoted as telling Justice Tay Yong Kwang.

The legal reforms were passed following a year-long review of the mandatory death penalties for murder and drug trafficking

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Ghanaian caught with “ice” in Singapore to face a death penalty

A Ghanaian national has been arrested by Singapore authorities for allegedly trying to traffic crystal methamphetamine also known as “Ice” at the country’s Changi Airport.

The four kilogrammes of “Ice” worth $800,000 was intercepted by Singapore’s Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) during a joint operation on April 5, 2013.

According to officials, the Ghanaian man (name withheld) was acting suspiciously at the Changi Airport and CNB officers pulled him aside for further checks after he had collected his luggage.

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The PAP And The People: Bread-And-Butter Concerns And Much More

I was much interested in and appreciative of, the quick, frank responses of readers to my article ‘The PAP in Critical Transition: Regaining Lost Trust‘, especially the point made by many about the primacy of bread-and-butter concerns over all others, including politically-based ones. I feel it is a point worth taking up and expanding, which I have tried to do in the follow-up article below.

In the current troubled transition following the General Election of 2011, the people’s voice is strongest and most anguished, understandably, when it comes to matters affecting the very sustainability of day-to-day living—unaffordable housing, increasing cost of living and decreasing incomes, loss of jobs, etc. Indeed, these basic bread-and-butter issues have taken on an emotional urgency that demands nothing less than immediate corrective action on the part of the PAP government.

It must be said, in all fairness to the government, that since GE 2011, it has been responding with a plethora of these remedial measures. Almost on a daily basis, one reads about this or that decision to provide more housing, improve transport, build more schools and child care centres, provide subsidies to employers to enable them to raise the wages of employees, tweak existing laws for the hiring of foreign workers to ensure fairness for citizens in the workforce, etc.

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A crisis of leadership at the PAP

There is a crisis of leadership at the People’s Action Party (PAP). For many years now, the PAP has suffered from the lack of ability to recruit candidates of ministerial or MP caliber. The PAP’s self-renewal is under threat, as can be seen by the declining quality of candidates offered at each succeeding general election. There is a crisis of confidence in the PAP, and the matter is not going to be resolved anytime soon.

It is not surprising that things have turned out this way for the PAP, given that the party’s image has taken a severe beating in recent years. It is increasingly recognized that PAP’s policies have resulted in a declining standard of living and quality of life for Singaporeans, for example, overcrowding, structural underemployment faced by PMETs over the age of 40, lost of jobs and wage depression caused by having too much foreign labour, frequent breakdowns in the public transport system, and a property market that has gone haywire.

When so many of PAP’s policies have gone wrong, and the PAP still refuses to change course, then men and women of high caliber start to shun the party and refuse to be recruited into its ranks, no matter how high ministerial or public service salaries are. Good men and women do not want to be associated with a political entity that is increasingly being seen as a creator rather than a solver of problems, a party that is seen as making lives harder for Singaporeans.

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A thought experiment. Imagine a situation where one MP from each constituency resigns, is removed or dies

As you know, our IMF loan case appeal will be heard on Tuesday at 2.30pm in the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court (See here for details) I hope to see you all there but if you are unable to make it let me explain what we stand to lose.

Originally this was about a $5 billion loan pledge to the IMF. I maintained that this breached our Constitution. I still maintain that.

The President pretended that it had nothing to do with him. The MOF tried to shift the responsibility on to MAS and claim it was nothing to do with them. The President  and the Government contorted themselves, hid behind semantics and arcane Latin phrases and did everything they could to evade responsibility for making this loan commitment without due process. However once it got to court it was the AG defending the government and not a private lawyer hired to defend MAS. And once in court the AG brought up something truly astounding. 

No more pensions for Singapore’s civil servants
Civil servants in the elite Administrative Service and in judicial and key statutory appointments will no longer receive pensions, according to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Parliament Monday. (AFP PHOTO/ROSLAN RAHMAN)

Civil servants in the elite Administrative Service and in judicial and key statutory appointments will no longer receive pensions, according to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Parliament Monday.

Teo’s answer was in response to a question by Tampines GRC MP Mr Baey Yam Keng on the completion of the review of salaries of such civil servants by the Public Service Division. The Administrative Service covers 15 ministries and nine organs of state.

Teo said in Parliament that the pensions will be replaced with a long-term retention package for officers in the Admin Service. This would help keep these officers to ensure the policies they are working on have a sense of continuity. 

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The Joys Of Public Service

Why are the salaries of public servants not made more public? That must be the question on every body's mind when Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, concurrently the the Minister in charge of the Civil Service,  sailed forth on the latest revelations about how the top dogs in the civil service are compensated for their sacrifices.

Teo would only divulge that the pension system is about to be replaced with a long-term retention package effective July 1. And all the while we thought the Ministerial Salary Review Committee (MSRC) headed by Gerard Ee in 2012 had already done away with this boondoggle. The Attorney-General, Auditor-General and the chairman of the Public Service Commission even have a special deal, something called a "gratuity plan".

This is not to be confused with the alleged gratification derived by certain top civil servants in SCDF and CNB in parked automobiles. The water gets murkier when Teo said the retention and gratuity plan are "in line with talent retention practices in the private sector and parts of the public sector".  Is he referring to sign-on bonuses and golden parachutes? Without detailed inputs, one's imagination can only run wild.

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A lot has been said about helping the poor in Singapore, and while it’s heartening to see the leadership coming out to encourage people to help the less fortunate, I’m actually skeptical that such appeals to the general public would hold any clout and actually make life better for the poor.

For one, Singaporeans are not known for their spirit of volunteerism. I’m not saying we’re a nation of heartless and inhumane citizens, but let’s do a reality check: how many people actually come forward to volunteer their time and effort on a sustained basis for the benefit of the destitute in Singapore? Most people would probably think it’s a lot easier to simply donate money, and then get on with their lives.

That is if they bother with donations in the first place. I always believed that in addressing poverty issues, one has to take a very realistic approach, instead of the conventional way that seeks to tug at heartstrings– at the end of the day, what the destitute and underprivileged need are not your emphaties (or is it really sympathies?), but rather real solutions that provide for a roof over their heads and putting food on the table.

How do Singapore's poor families get by?

Nurhaida, 29, who is unemployed with six children in Singapore, says it is difficult to make ends meet Nurhaida Binte Jantan is making dinner. She is roasting otah-otah, a Malay dish of fish paste wrapped in banana leaves, over a portable stove.

She is a 29-year-old unemployed single mother with six children from five to 13 years old. She lives in a tiny flat, just 30 square metres, with little furnishing.

There is no dining table, so the children eat their otah-otah with rice and chillies crouched on the floor.


Daily SG: 12 Apr 2013

Daily Disclosure
– FOOD fuels me to talk: Singapore service sucks and
– Under The Angsana Tree: Other Side of The Singapore Story
– WonderPeace: Complicated Polyclinic Billing
– visakan veerasamy: RE: The Sell-Flat-To-Study-Medicine Saga

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Battle for Merger radio talks a 'crucial move': PM Lee
If Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the non-Communist side lost, Singapore's history would have been totally different, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

The radio talks that Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew gave were a crucial move in winning the hearts and minds of the people. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this in a Facebook post on Saturday (Oct 11), after visiting the Battle for Merger exhibition at the National Library.

The exhibition showcases the compilation of the 12 radio talks first published in 1962, that has now been reprinted.

Mr Lee said the radio talks led to Singapore joining Malaysia, then separation and today's independent Singapore. It told the inside story of the fight between the non-Communists and Communists, and explaining to Singaporeans what was at stake. He said had Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the non-Communist side lost, Singapore's history would have been totally different.

related: Reprint of The Battle For Merger launched

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Homeless – the ‘invisible’ people in Singapore

“I have lived in several different countries in my life. However, living in Singapore is the closest thing to paradise that I have ever experienced”, exclaims an expatriate in a blog post and adds “I thought it was interesting that I did not see a single homeless person during my entire stay in the country. I am sure there are homeless people in Singapore”.

The expatriate is surely not alone in ‘not seeing a single homeless person here’. The homeless among us are ‘invisible’ to many Singaporeans as well. So where do they live?

The Ministry of Social & Family Development said in Parliament last year that they “regularly patrols beaches and public areas to identify and provide assistance to persons who may be homeless”. Yes, some homeless individuals and families live along our coastal shores.

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Homeless families who camp by the beach

MSF regularly patrols beaches and public areas to identify and provide assistance to persons who may be homeless.  MSF also responds to calls to the ComCare hotline from members of the public who come into contact with Singaporeans who may be homeless.

Between 2011 to 2013, MSF provided support and shelter to 565 individuals and 404 families. About 80% are of low income and have weak social support. Three out of four were previous flat owners who had sold their flats for a variety of reasons, such as settling financial or debt problems, divorces, cashing out to make a profit, etc.  After the sale of their flats, they find themselves not being able to afford to buy or rent another flat.  Another one-quarter had fallen out their families and friends whom they were living with, due to reasons such as strained relationships, anti-social behaviour or addiction-related problems.

Government agencies do their best to help these individuals and families explore sustainable housing options depending on their circumstances. They may purchase a flat within their means. In other instances, social workers help them to reunite and stay with their family members. For those with no options, HDB will assist them with rental flats under the Public Rental Scheme. For those who need temporary rental accommodation while they wait for or work out their longer-term housing option, HDB may refer them to interim rental housing.

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To Singapore, with Love 星国恋

A documentary film on Singapore political exiles who fled the country has been given a "Not Allowed for All Ratings" classification because its contents "undermine national security", the Media Development Authority said in a statement on Wednesday.

This means the documentary, To Singapore, With Love, by award-winning filmmaker Tan Pin Pin, cannot be exhibited or distributed here.

Ms Tan's documentary explores the lives of Singaporeans living in exile - some for as long as 50 years - in places like London and Thailand. It was submitted for classification in May by the National University of Singapore Museum.

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Tent Village: Singapore’s nomad families
More than 10 families live in East Coast Park’s ‘Tent Village’

Chinese newspaper Zaobao reported that East Coast Park is now a “tent village” where not only more than a dozen people have set up camp, but is also headed by a 29-year-old “village headman”. Most campers were forced into this “temporary shelter” while they wait for their rental HDB flat.

Newspaper received readers informed that the area along the east coast there are many large tents, as a self-sufficiency of the “village.”

According to the newspaper, the  “Tent Village” is in a location which is hidden from most members of the public, not far from a construction site, but near public toilets, which is convenient for the campers.

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The Surprising Truth About The Homeless In Singapore

As I was walking through Chinatown last week, I passed a man. His shirt was dirty. He smelled bad. He looked sick and was maybe developmentally challenged. He seemingly carried all his possessions in two plastic bags.

Yes, there are homeless people even in prosperous Singapore.

As he passed I thought about the $50 bill I had in my wallet that I was saving for milk, lunch or a taxi. After a few seconds, I turned around to go give it to him but he was gone.

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Freedom in the World 2019
Overview - Singapore’s parliamentary political system has been dominated by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and the family of current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong since 1959. The electoral and legal framework that the PAP has constructed allows for some political pluralism, but it constrains the growth of credible opposition parties and limits freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.


  • In January, Parliament established a Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods. In March, after a local historian asserted in a submission to the committee that the PAP government had itself disseminated falsehoods by misrepresenting a past crackdown on alleged communist plots against the state, he was questioned for six hours in a public hearing led by the home affairs minister. The combative hearing and others like it raised concerns about freedom of expression and academic freedom.
  • In April, the president signed the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act, which granted the home affairs minister and police enhanced authority in the context of a “serious incident” such as a terrorist attack or mass protest. Officials would be permitted to potentially use lethal force and halt media coverage and online communications surrounding the incident in question.
  • Two PAP-run town councils pressed lawsuits against three members of Parliament (MPs) from the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) for alleged breaches of their fiduciary duties. The cases, which placed the defendants under significant financial pressure, began to be heard in October and were ongoing at year’s end.
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Brad Bowyer July 2 at 6:22 PM

Sadly we are now 133rd in the world freedom index and declining.... And we give that freedom up for what?

Time for us all to seriously think if we need a change from "rulership" to "leadership" to give the majority of us any future outside PAP servitude... or can we tahan this state of affairs a little while longer before it becomes unbearable?

But then what will be left of Singapore if we wait?

Singapore in the 1950s to 1990s
The Surprising Truth About The Homeless In Singapore
Tent Village: Singapore’s nomad families
What is it like to be a Singaporean?
Why do people hate Singapore?
Singapore: Best Place to Live and Work
Plight Of The Tissue Peddlers
Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?
Singapore’s Story: What comes next
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore Good Old Times
The Poor & Homeless in Singapore
Support for the Needy and Elderly
The Singapore Story
Other Side of The Singapore Story

ChasingThe Singapore Dream
To Be Or Not To Be Singaporeans
Longing for the good old days
Singapore: A Sampan or a Cruise ship?
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore is ‘World’s Costliest City To Live In’
Coping with Inflation & Cost Of Living
COL goes Up, Up, Up!
Singapore “Swiss” Standard of Living
Tackling poverty the 'kuih lapis' way
Callings for a Poverty Line
Setting a poverty line may not be helpful
A minimum wage for Singapore?

No homeless,destitute starving people in S'pore:Poverty has been eradicated
Growing Up With Less