Sophie

Almost regular musings of a (somewhat confused) graphic designer.

Archive for the tag “foreigners”

The Yesteryears of Singapore

I was actually doing a lot of reflection on my life during the long weekend of National Day and Eid. I can only say one thing; I’m pretty lucky than most people. I’m lucky to be a Singaporean. I’m lucky to have grandparents who lived way before Independence, experienced WWII, the Japanese Occupation and grew along the ever-changing faces of Singapore. From a poor nothing in the 50s, it became one of the leading financial centre in Asia today. Which is no wonder why my grandparents still have such high regards for the Lee Kwan Yew government.

I’m lucky to be able to hear stories from Olden Day Singapore. And to hear their stories they’ve heard when they were a child. Contrary to what people think, anyone who isn’t Malay or Chinese are relatively new to this country. I could trace back my bloodline, at least 4 generations ago. Even I, as today get asked if I am from India. My answer is no. I couldn’t identify with Indians. I could only identify with Singapore and Singaporeans. Singaporeans like me, who are at least in the 4th generation of immigrants/Malayan-Singaporeans. Lucky enough to see our first Premier stepping down, lucky enough to experience chewing gum before it was banned. Lucky enough to experience retail therapy before GST was introduced.

Growing up in the 90s, never felt stressful. Even for my parents. There were no social problems like a wide income gap, poor wages, sky rocketing property prices, most of all what I felt a lot was the Singaporean togetherness. It didn’t matter to much people then if they were rich or poor. In fact, among the ordinary, neighbourhood school-going Singaporeans, no one was really that rich, and no one was terribly poor. The word “elitism” was pretty much unheard of.

Right up till the mid-noughties, then it was the first time I actually realised a significant change. The 2006 elections was a pretty ugly one, taking note of the gerrymandering issues, and how the government tried to justify cheap labour, effectively removing many Singaporeans from work in those industries. This was just two years after the second Premier changed hands with the son of the first Premier. It was around that time, when property prices suddenly went high with the increase of GST. And suddenly the term, “foreign talent” was coined by some minister who told us why we need them.

Now today, we have a Singapore… that was rapidly developed in that span of 6 years. Flat lands that no longer exists due to urban development. Malls everywhere. A  tight squeeze in the train every morning – because honestly, our infrastructure was never prepared for this influx. And today, there are angrier Singaporeans than happier Singaporeans. Sometimes I ask myself why are many Singaporeans in my generation so angry? Felt cheated maybe? Is it because that Singaporean identity is now lost? Is it because everywhere you turn, there’s an unfamiliar, unfriendly foreign face? Is it because we cannot accept that our city-state is basically a playground for the wealthy, whilst we wonder how we’re going to pay our increasingly expensive flat? Is it because once upon a time we felt comfortable with our neighbours (whom we grew up with), but not anymore?

Sometimes I feel this way, but I realised that it’ll come to a point where it’s all about acceptance that this is actually one of the changing faces of Singapore. Sometimes I wonder how my parents and grandparents would’ve felt back then, when the URA got rid of all the kampong dwellings to make way for tar and concrete. How would they have felt then?

I can understand it totally, because my parents reminisce about their days nearly all the time. Sometimes I feel a pang of jealousy because I never actually felt what they’ve felt. Some of my foreign friends even at my age, had their share of the “country life”. As Singapore grows older, the lines on her face will get even finer, more  refined, hopefully it will age gracefully with happier citizens.

As Singapore turns 48, I’m thinking to myself, what challenges will life hold for the future generation. What delightful stories of Singapore would we tell our children? How do we remind ourselves of our roots? Maybe it’s time we start preserving them in our hearts. Like Morgan says; the best photographs are the ones in your memories.

Me during a train ride in 1988 when SMRT first opened its lines in 1987. This is what kids love to do then. There was plenty of seats back then.

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Quantity vs Quality

Recently a piece of paper has been causing much uproar around this tiny nation.
If you have been following the news, you would know what I am talking about.
Just about three weeks ago, the Singapore Government released the White Paper on Population.
It initiated with a local news headline, “Population projected at 6.9m by 2030 with strong Singaporean core. – CNA”. I could only picture the unison crescendo of gasps coming from any Singaporean that read it that morning. This release came just after the Punggol East By-Election in which the PAP candidate lost to the WP candidate by 3182 votes. Find out more about the White Paper here.

My first reaction to that headline was a totally “WTF?!” moment. Um, seriously HOW could we possibly fit in a target of 6.9m in this piece of land 710km2???

The answer was apparently, amidst all the angry voices was that the 6.9m was NOT the target to reach but a projection like how the ST vehemently reported. To many people, projection or target, what’s the difference am I right? I’m basically disappointed at the way ST has worded their article on this issue. Clearly it supports the government’s plans but with many vital points missing. The ST reports, just echoes that of the government without maintaining a neutral stand. I could imagine the chief editor waiting for the final nod of approval before publishing news articles about local politics and the government per se.

Lively debate on benefits and dangers of WP’s PWP plan. – ST, Feb 06 2013
For a long time now, I stopped reading ST. I just felt that I have wasted minutes of my life reading a bunch of words that would in the end make me go, ‘huh?’

After the lost in the recent by-elections, the PM said that his party lacked 20/20 vision. So they would try harder.
Not long after, they decided to call out a in my opinion, an unthinkable measure by increasing the population to a projected 6.9m. How is this actually going to improve the current lack in 20/20 vision? Right now there are eminent issues. The income gap is SO BIG, it’s actually obvious enough to see. It would help if more Singaporeans are willing and upfront about their woes. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. And these are real issues right now that need to be addressed ASAP. In a span of 6 years, I’ve basically noticed the change in demographics. In 6 years that is a very rapid change, it’s even more irksome because the country is small.

If taxes are high here too, we might possibly enjoy a better standard of living. Having better welfare especially for our aging population. A better work-life balance. That’s what’s LACKING IN SINGAPORE. We don’t need a world-class airport or a world-class transportation. What people need is security in all form. The fear of a pregnant mum that she might lose her job to a 3rd-world foreigner who’s ever ready to take over her job for much more lower wages. The fear of people not being able to earn enough wages to sustain themselves in future as MORE and MORE people are brought in ultimately driving property prices up and wages are low. How would families want to have more children then? That’s fear.

Many Singaporeans have no problem with immigration OR foreigners. But it becomes a problem when it’s overloaded. Take a look at the country if you have been there. And ask yourself if there is actually space to move around. When I come across job positions that have been filled up my foreigners, I wonder why a Singaporean can’t take up that job position and most likely the reason behind it is the pay package isn’t attractive enough or that it’s too much work for too little pay. High cost of living, flats that are expensive to pay, looking after their elderly, having some savings for themselves, other expenses such as medical and utilities bills, provisions for marriage or future children. A job that is pegged at a low wage rate of $5 – $6 per hour, and no prospects of wages increasing, how could we achieve quality living? These are just some of woes that many of the middle class Singaporeans face.

Most people from 3rd world countries have no hesitation to move to Singapore and sing praises of her, because it’s no denying that Singapore is basically a much better platform for them to grow, as compared to the poverty and the incompetence of their policymakers back in their own homelands. It’s also no denying that these people have flocked here seeking a better life. As much as I think that is fair if you look at it comparatively, because more than likely, this standard of living here would be BETTER for them, then what about the citizens who are already here throughout 2-3 generations? Where are they going to run off to for a better quality of living?

Nearly 5000 Singaporeans turned up at the protest against the PWP.

Nearly 5000 Singaporeans turned up at the protest against the PWP in Hong Lim Park on February 16 2013.

As much as I understand the need by the government to address the need to increase our birth-rate. I do feel that they should start to listen to the people more from now on. Why are people hesitating to have more babies? Why are couples marrying later? Importing foreigners more and more to replace low-birth rates is not the answer, in the end we’ll only end up with a Singapore with a lost identity that is all work and no play.

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