Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Building an Inclusive Society in Singapore

Indranee Rajah brought up several good points about groups of Singaporeans "not feeling included."

1. Those who drop of school at a young age and find it difficult to integrate into society because they cannot get into skills upgrading courses e.g. courses which require 'O'-levels are not accessible to those without the academic qualification - someone with relevant work skills and experience cannot attend a course which he/she is skilled or experienced in.

Her proposal was to remove this 'O'-level barrier for such courses, and to take into account relevant work experience.

2. Singaporeans (mostly males) with foreign spouses who cannot purchase a flat because the spouse is a foreigner - because policy makes it difficult for them to get a secure roof over their heads. So these Singaporeans find it difficult to settle down and have a family and... make babies.

Solution: Don't disallow them to rent the hdb flats altogether

3. Single unwed mothers who are not allowed to rent HDB flats - an outdated policy. MND does not want to encourage them to have babies out of wedlock.

Solution: Get the mother and child in a stable environment where the child can be educated and where the mother does not have to worry about extraneous circumstances

4. Can only rent if 2 singles above 35 - elderly's friends pass away and they cannot rent flat.

Solution: find rental housing for the elderly - integrate the elderly into the rest of society where there are young people etc.

All solutions proposed by Indranee are good ones, but there are deeper underlying structural problems with society and government that need to be addressed:

A. The first issue brought up about the O-level barrier is symptomatic of a society that has a myopic definition of talent and skills and only recognises academic performance, not practical life skills and other talents which are just as crucial to the functioning of a balanced society as are academic skills. In fact, given that the education system mostly focuses on dumb memorisation and rote learning, I would argue that those who have dropped out of school and have acquired real work experience and skills e.g. mechanics, cooks etc. have made better use of their time outside the education system than within it.

The focus on academic skills is simply too narrow minded and fails to take into take account multiple intelligences (musical, artistic, athletic, technical etc.) that make up a diverse humanity and that can contribute to the building of a richer society than a unidimensional one that is absurdly skewed towards 'scholars.'

It is this mindset that permeates the Singaporean psyche that needs to be purged and destroyed - and it is this mindset that is the real problem.

B. Issues 2,3, and 4 are HDB problems, and Indranee's proposed solutions are good, but they are only short term problems that, once again, attack the symptoms, not the underlying problems.

These problems arise because the government has this 'daddy knows best' attitude that is downright condescending, and often, completely wrong. It comes from misguided attitude that the government can socially engineer Singapore society into a utopia without single mothers and where the elderly find friends easily and where singaporeans only marry singaporeans.

What needs to be fixed is this arrogant attitude of the ministers who think they know everything, when in fact they only create more problems in the social fabric of singapore with their dysfunctional policies. Somebody needs to teach these people that the forces of nature are larger and more powerful than them and their arrogant 'philosopher king' attitude should be trashed. Lee Kuan Yew is one person in particular who harbours this attitude and the fastest way to see change in parliament is to kick the bugger out.

A longer term solution is to just abolish these stupid social engineering policies and just let nature take its course. The private sector and a free market can do fine to accomodate single mothers, foreign spouses, and the elderly. It does not need egotistical bureaucrats to mess things up - many of the problems Singapore faces could have been avoided if not for the meddling hand of the government.

All in all the government needs to be weakened and the private sector needs to get stronger. It is time for change to get under way.

And as can clearly be seen, the PAP's vision of a society where 'nobody is left behind' is so flawed, it's almost delusional. these groups of people are just a small number of the numerous groups are being left behind and Lee Hsien Loong had better get cracking on these problems in order to justify his cabinet's multi-million dollar salaries.

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