Saturday, June 18, 2005

You don't know what it's like

This post at Commentary Singapore accurately reflects a lot of what I truly feel about the ministers having completely lost touch with ordinary Singaporeans.

The minister did not seem to feel that there was anything wrong with an old man being charged $64 for treatment of a common cold and fever.In fact he pointed out to the old man's son-in-law that it was his duty to take care of the old man.

In other developed countries, most people expect some kind of a pension when they retire or get old. In many of them,health care for the elderly is free or heavily subsidised. Here, we have neither despite the fact that we pay comparable taxes.( Yes we do, not in terms of income tax but we pay so many hidden taxes on everything else.)

If one is expected to take care of one's aged parents, support a wife and a young growing family of three (which is the government's current magic number for kids), all this during a time when the country's economy is frankly not doing well then one is inclined to think that the government is asking for too much.

It's something I've noticed for awhile now; this growing ministerial insensitivity to the needs of ordinary families in Singapore. It was not so long ago that the Public Transport Council found that the “ordinary Singaporean family” only spends less than $150 a month on transport. And when I saw the calculations behind that figure, my eyes nearly fell out.How many Singaporean families fit into that strange model they gave us?

Also, very strangely, that report only included the transport to and fro from work and school. Tell me this, what happens when children fall ill or if the family goes on a trip to the zoo? Or do they expect us to only work and go home?

What on earth is happening? How is it no one in a government chock full of hyper intelligent scholars noticed the lacuna in that calculation?

The truth is I've always felt that the million dollar ministerial salaries were a mistake. Or that the government tended to recruit from the high flyers in the private sector. Ten years of making 5 figure monthly salaries would tend to make one feel that $64 for a doctor's visit is reasonable and that our transport system is really very cheap.They've just been at the top level for so long they've completely forgotten what it's like at the bottom.

I can understand if a CEO of an MNC doesn't understand the needs and concerns of ordinary people. His job is to make money for the company. In return for that he gets a huge salary and the ability to live a lavish lifestyle.As part of his job, he does a cost benefit analysis of everything the company does and makes sure it stays in the black.

Maybe paying our ministers CEO type pay makes them think exactly like CEOs too.It gives birth to a Cabinet of ministers who apply cost-benefit thinking to everything to justify raising transport costs when the economy is still not doing well and an inability to even imagine what life is like supporting a family on one medium sized pay cheque.

And maybe it trickles down to a nation of people who like to apply cost benefit analysis to everything too.

Which is probably one of the biggest reasons so many people are refusing to have more children or even any children. Children just don't fit into a cost-benefit equation.


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