There’s a flurry of discussion on the internet on how the opposition will cripple Singapore by turning it into a welfare state and how it’s ultimately bad for Singapore and that the ruling government is compelled to go that way too, albeit reluctantly and unwisely so.
Where do you draw the middle line, some may ask.
Do Singaporeans really want to go that extreme way. No, not from my conversations with folks on the ground.
Singaporeans just want a more caring government. Let me explain through a few scenarios and take away the scary doomsday scenario that Singapore will become bankrupt this way. Very few people know the actual reserves of Singapore. I don’t. Official numbers don’t tell the whole figure just like how some spouse don’t tell their partner of their “secret” stash. So we cannot conclude if the “welfare” proposed by the opposition will bankrupt the nation.
Let there be a fictional government called Empower Advisory Singapore Inc ruled by that grinning chap up there and his band of merry people. Let’s illustrate how this government can be caring without bankrupting the country. There are many scenarios but I’ll just elaborate on 3 to drive home the point.
Scenario 1 – Mr Tan (Singaporean): I have just been retrenched! Here is my retrenchment letter.
Caring Government: Don’t worry Mr Tan, you can go for any of our free skill upgrading programme to retrain yourself to have more options. In addition this period must be a very stressful time for you and your family. Do take care of your health. For the next 6 mths, or until you find a new job, whichever is earlier, you will get free medical attention at any of our polyclinics should you fall ill. You will also have free access to all public gyms and recreational facilities to keep fit and be in good mental health while looking for your next job.
By the way you will be going for many interviews. Here is a special biometric ezlink card that can only be activated with your fingerprint. You have up to 4 free trips a day for up to 6 mths , or until you find a new job, whichever comes first.
Extension will be considered on a case by case basis.
All the best in your job search, Mr Tan!
BIG HAIRY QUESTION: Will this bankrupt Singapore? Do people purposely fall sick to take advantage of free medical attention? Do people want to be retrenched just to get free public transport trips?
Scenario 2 – Ms Lee (Singaporean): I’m concerned about the cost of raising children in Singapore
Caring Government: Don’t worry Ms Lee, your children are the future of Singapore and will form the new core. We understand that your main concerns are the cost of education and healthcare for your children.
The first three children of yours will get heavily subsidised nursery childcare at our public facilities. They will be well run and be of a good standard. Free education will be provided up till secondary level at any public school that he/she qualifies for. We hope that this will help you to save up for their tertiary education.
As for health care, we agree that your child’s health is of utmost importance. All basic medical attention will be provided free (up to 12 appointments per year) at all our public hospitals and polyclinics till your child is of the age of 12 when his/her immune system is stronger.
If surgery and hospital stay is required, your children will get heavily subsidized rates up to the age of 16. We hope this peace of mind will reassure you. Meanwhile do keep them fit and stay clear of avoidable accidents.
Delivery cost and regular gynealogical check ups for your first 3 births at our public hospitals will be heavily subsidized.
If your children do not use any of the free medical services, your family will be rewarded as a token of appreciation for your efforts to keep them healthy.
BIG HAIRY QUESTION: Will parents wish that their children be born with poor health just to take advantage of free basic medical treatment? Will parents wish that their children get into serious accidents just to enjoy surgery subsidies? Will this bankrupt Singapore?
Subsidised nursery childcare will cost quite a bit but is this not worth government expenditure? Isn’t encouraging a sustainable core of Singaporean as important as military defence? When broad based services are operated on a common platform, cost savings can be achieved by economies of scale and standardisd procurement. We won’t be spending like there’s no tomorrow.
Mr Chan (Singaporean): I’m single and cannot get a flat bigger than a 2 room flat direct from HDB. It’s so unfair.
Caring Government: Mr Chan, this will change. We recognize that singles are no different from married couples who choose to be childless yet can buy bigger flats because the ultimate goal of having children is not met. Yes, you will now be allowed to buy bigger flats direct from HDB now as long as you don’t compete head-on with married couples. All unsold balanced flats leftover will be available for you to choose. Of course, we do hope that the bigger flat will help you start a family (with children) should you meet your life partner, saving the hassle to move to a bigger place.
And there you go. Scary “Singapore will go bankrupt fears” deflated. We need smarter regulations and policies that ringfence against abuse. We need to spend on what’s important wihout being wantonly wasteful. You can be a caring government without squandering your reserves. That’s what the chap smiling on his humble armrest will strive for.
My Best Always,
Douglas Chow (Principal Coach)
Formerly served at the Ministry of Trade and Industry