Life on this little red dot

I was born here and have lived here all my life, except for the occasional overseas trip as a tourist in recent years. I must say I have been blessed to be born in a place like Singapore, though in the words of ex-President BJ Habibi of Indonesia, my land of birth is only but a little red dot on the map. With a minimum of 10 years of schooling, I was still able to have a decent career till this very day and have a home called my own, even though it’s only a small 3-room flat. Compare to a lot of places elsewhere, I can be considered very lucky. Everything works here and with such efficiency, but of course it’s not paradise. Paradise is a very abstract term defined by individuals who sees things as perfect only within their scope of view. There are inconveniences in which we have to bear literally on a daily basis but in comparision with the big picture in Singapore’s overall development, I feel they are by and large nothing much to raise so much noise about. Perhaps in politics, issues have to be brought out in to the public domain sometimes disproportionately in order to gain attention. I shall attempt to discuss some of these in the following paragraphs in the hope that those who read this post don’t feel that I’m being biased at any one in particular.

Firstly, let’s look at Singapore’s housing policy.  I’m no authority or expert in town planning but I am of the view the HDB and the private developers have done a great job at providing a nice home for a majority of the people here. From it’s humble beginnings as provider of basic housing for Singaporeans back in the 60’s, HDB have kept up with the aspirations of the people as generations passed. Nowadays when we looked the newer towns, the designs are as good as private condominiums. Of course it’s on a 99-year tenure and build by a statutary board, so the value is not as premium as the neighbour ‘s condo. But…they are are quite good looking aren’t they? And with the multi-storey carparks being situated some distance away, sleeping at night is a lot more quiet than before. As to the constant complaints of high prices even for public housing and unaffordability issues, it’s correct to a certain extent. Instead of grumbling about it, why not temper our expectations and be patient? If everyone really needs a house to start a family, what about families in other countries living in rented premises? Even the foreigners working here who brought over their families, a lot of them are also staying in rented premises. In any case, most young married couples nowadays are dual income earners, so I don’t see why they can’t afford to pay for a HDB flat when it comes along. Perhaps their own lifestyle have them used up their salaries every month such that they don’t have much, if any, savings. I’m guessing the ones who makes the noises are the ones who wants the cake and eat it as well.

Next, our transport network. Travelling in Singapore is arguably one of the most convenient in the world and perhaps also one of the most expensive. By that I mean private transport, cars here easily being one of, if not the, most expensive in the world. As a developed economy, we can expect items deemed a luxury elsewhere becomes a neccessity here and owning that dream car is one of them. With COE prices at such dizziing high nowadays, I wonder sometimes why are there still people out there willing to pay such sums just to own something that will depreciate the moment ownership has been transferred from the car dealer to the individual. As much as the LTA and the transport ministry tries to please, there is a limit to the amount of road that can be build. I take public transport on a daily basis and again I count myself lucky in that in my line of work, sometimes I have the luxury of avoiding the morning and evening rush hours. This may sound crazy but if businesses as well as government bodies staggered their working hours somewhat, perhaps we can ease the pressure on the public transport and make commuting a little less stressful. With the recent  annoucement of more buses being added with the  government’s $800 million bus procurement excercise, I think we should see a slight improvement in service (shorter arrivals times between buses) and perhaps even less crowded buses at peak periods in the not too distant future. This is provided SMRT and SBS finds enough drivers to operate those buses. However, there’s definitely room for improvement in our rail network. What started out as just the North-South and East-West line some 20 years ago has mushroomed to a network that spands to almost all corners in our little island. Where breakdown is concerned, it creates a much bigger inconvenience to commuters than when a bus breaks down. However, the value of properties nearby any mrt station is still much higher than those further away. This just goes to show that despite the hiccups, the mrt is still being viewed with a higher premium than buses. I prefer taking the buses though as there’s a higher chance of me getting a seat then in the train,which has a limited amount of seats per carriage and very often we have to give up our seats (which is a very gracious gesture) to the more needy.

Lastly, foreigners who work and make Singapore their home. The very notion why there are so many here is not because Singapore has that many things to offer but in their own homeland, opportunites are either very limited or none at all. I’m certainly glad to be in a place where there are more jobs available than available manpower. It shows the economy is thriving and there’s plenty of opportunites for all, if one is willing to look for it and be prepared to work for it. Much has been said about these foreigners and a lot of times, they are being frowned upon and labelled as Foreign Tr…. instead of Foreign Talent. They are being blamed from crowding the buses and mrt to “robbing” our jobs. Let’s face it, a lot of those jobs are not wanted by the locals. Be it long and irregular hours, dirty, dangerous or low pay, somebody’s got to do it right? So why shout at the people doing those jobs if locals are not willing to do? Without them, would our mrt be built and nice looking flats for us to stay? Furthermore, they also contribute directly to the economy with their own private consumption. Cultural diversity is also much more vibrant with people of different races celebrating their unique traditions here. It makes great educational materials for our young.

I could go on a lot longer but I think I’ll save them for another day. Life on this little red dot is indeed very interesting and there’s much to appreciate with what has been done so far. Singapore in no paradise but I wouldn’t give up my red passport for anywhere else in the world.




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