Right now, I am living near an MRT station. So every morning I take the MRT to work. The station is almost brand new - it's on the Circle Line which only started operating last year - and in terms of aesthetics, it is quite pleasing. The colours and the materials they have chosen are rather nice.
However, the ceiling leaks water. Every time it rains, the ceiling leaks water. I am not talking about the heavy, torrential kind of rain that we get once in a while. I am talking about moderate rain - that's already sufficient to cause a leak, a steady drip-drip-drip of water that falls down to the platform waiting area.
Then the MRT station officers place a large piece of canvas on the floor to soak up the water, and on top of the canvas, they put a big plastic pail to catch the water, and next to the canvas, they place a big sign - "WARNING - WET FLOOR" - so that passengers don't slip and fall.
This isn't the only MRT station where I have noticed such leaking. I have also seen the leakage problem at the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station (note that this is a major train interchange, in the heart of town, where three MRT lines intersect). In fact the leakage is so bad that you can see - at the area where the rain falls through - that the floor tiles have become stained and discoloured (rain water is not pure water, so constant exposure to rainwater causes the marble tiles to discolour).
To me, the leakage at these stations - and who knows how many other stations - is like a poetic metaphor of Singapore today. Superficially, things look okay, even nice. In truth, the system is breaking down, and leaking water.
There was a time in Singapore, when the idea of having a wet MRT station was just unimaginable. Back then, as a nation we were known as efficient and productive, and to take pride (an almost-obsessive pride) in our basic public infrastructure - trains, airports, housing, schools, hospitals and so on. Things worked. The basic things, at least, worked, and worked well. The thought that our clean, modern train system could leak water on a rainy day would just not have been acceptable.
That has changed. I suspect that many Singaporeans have not actually noticed, because many Singaporeans have short memories (that is my polite euphemism for saying that many Singaporeans are actually quite stupid).
Every year, the Singapore government announces some new grand plans - to be an international hub for this, or that, or something else - but the truth is that the Singapore government has been failing. Let's not even talk about the grand plans. The Singapore government has been failing on the basic, basic stuff .... such as:
(1) providing affordable public housing;
(2) providing affordable healthcare;
(3) narrowing the income gap;
(4) creating an environment where Singaporeans feel it's actually safe and okay to have children.
What is the use of having world-class casinos? What is the use of paying ministers their world-class salaries? What is the use of hosting the Grand Prix, or becoming a medical tourism hub, or giving foreigners scholarships to study in Singapore? What is the use of spending $1 billion to build beautiful flower gardens at Marina Bay?
When you cannot even get the basic things right.