Feb 17, 2007

Political Sleight of Hand

A quick dash of illusion to kick off the Chinese New Year and subliminally hypnotise the unwary masses. Pay attention to the last sentence quoted:
ST Feb 17, 2007
Keep family unit strong and healthy, PM urges
In CNY message, he cites trend of more elderly people living on their own
By Li Xueying

AS FAMILIES gather tonight for their reunion dinners, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans to keep the family unit strong and healthy.

It was not an unusual theme for the Prime Minister to refer to in his traditional Chinese New Year message. But what was unusual this year was that he devoted almost his entire message to how important that was.

There was one disturbing trend which he had observed which might account for this, and which made this year's message more pressing: more elderly Singaporeans living on their own ............

'let us never undermine the traditional responsibilities of the family, especially in looking after the elderly,' he said.

Singapore must avoid the pitfalls of Western-style welfare, where generous state benefits for the jobless and elderly have weakened the family unit, he added.
Awww. PM Lee is so kind and compassionate. He really, really cares for the happiness of your family, and that's why he won't give you any welfare benefits.

Sing me another song, birdie.


Anonymous said...

He is qualifying his advice to look after the jobless and elderly i.e. Singaporeans must look the jobless and elderly members of their family, neither the the state, nor he as prime minister, will do this. He uses the example of his relatives buying him birds nest soup when he was diagnosed with cancer. Don't expect his relatives to pass over the excess birds nest soup to those aged,jobless singles in rented HDB flats or void decks. In other words, get married, produce lots of kids, and you will have relatives to look after you when you are jobless and old. As for the expenses of getting married and raising kids, that will be subject of another pep talk.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how generous welfare state benefits for the elderly would necessarily weaken our family units. Unless helping elderly be more self-sufficient can turn out to be a bad thing, ie. sends a signal to the younger folks that it isn't really necessary to marry and to build up a family to take of you when you're old since the govt is able and willing to do that. It's quite sad to marry for the sake of self-preservation though.

simplesandra said...

marilyn wrote: "Don't expect his relatives to pass over the excess birds nest soup to those aged,jobless singles in rented HDB flats or void decks."

Gee, I wish my relatives were rich (and generous) enough to pass over their birds nest soup when I was sick... But seriously what was Goh Chok Tong saying about charity lately? ;-)

marilyn wrote: "As for the expenses of getting married and raising kids, that will be subject of another pep talk."

But expenses are very much tied to whether people will want to get married and raise kids - unless they want to be accused later of being socially irresponsible.

Besides, having big families and extended ones doesn't guarantee that you'd be well-looked after. Too often we've seen old folks die alone and in poverty because their educated kids feel they're too much of a burden.

In such situations, the govt has an greater duty to step in and help these folks, and I don't mean just handing out small "generous" one-off benefits. Implying that "it's not our problem" isn't the way to go - however nicely worded.

Want improved family ties? Then both govt and people should take a long hard look at the factors (and policies) contributing to its erosion.

simplesandra said...

matt wrote: "It's quite sad to marry for the sake of self-preservation though."

Which might explain why Singaporeans are turning to foreign brides, as local girls becoming more unavailable. Unfortunately, many of these girls turn out to be more trouble than they're worth.

So much for country being as "extended family" here.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang,

I love the way you ended the post.
Ha, ha, talk bird words ...

So, classic, sir.

Anonymous said...

"Singapore must avoid the pitfalls of Western-style welfare,where generous state benefits for the jobless and elderly have weakened the family unit"

In this sentence, it appears to me that PM Lee is sublimally (to use same word from Mr Wang) saying that:

A)That the welfare that people have been asking/hoping for but not considered now by the government is a Western-style welfare concept and it is one that is bad and
irrational because it borders on being luxurious and generous...
...My retort is that this linkage is not strong if we examine the feedbacks from the masses and that they are quite bare minimum comprising the 2 such calls below:
- reduce living costs,fees
- provide real and not half-baked kind of help to the poor and out people so that they would not develop hopelessness/despondency just like the series of cases who jump into the MRT track with only a couple of remaining dollars in their pocket. My second retort to this linkage is that if our singapore system have been working so well, how come do such despondency happen and did rise despite all the wealth creation from the inevitable globalisation of singapore economy. Wonder where have all the wealth-creation been doing.. without an iota of effect to reduce poverty and despondency ...
In this, our system so far has not been exactly successful and still have remaining signs of failures

ii)That the welfare we are hoping/ asking for (refer above point) is bad for another reason - it weakens the family unit. This logic and linkage is weak as it runs contrary to the traditional and univeral value of welfare been equated to kindness and generosity of soul and spirit. To be fair, it would not be right and strong to argue that welfare strenghtens family units either but it's definitely quite weak to maintain that welfare weakens a family unit. The foundation for that logic is debatable!

Also, there are another counter-argument as in the example of Hong-Kong capitalism and welfare that relate to these presumed-claim contained in this sentence in another blog. That post is http://singaporemind.blogspot.com/2007/02/pap-govt-has-kind-heart.html#links and the counter-argument I am drawing from that post is that here is the example of HongKong extending out substantial welfare to her people and she is by no means a more Western-Society than Singapore. HongKongers probably speak,write and think less English or less Western than us Singaporean !

Anonymous said...

Does anyone really listen to him these days? He is living in a world of his own completely out of touch with the ground. His sister's assessment of Philip Yeo being in an ivory tower applies to him too.

Anonymous said...

He is living in a world of his own completely out of touch with the ground.

which is what happens when you eat mee siam with hums.

Anonymous said...

Welfare need not be a dirty word at all. It's based on the false assumption that welfare destroys the incentive to work, and therefore erodes the island's competitiveness.

Welfare is the duty of every government to look after the little people who find themselves in need of help through no fault of their own. Even more so with an ageing population.

Look around your neighbourhood. See those old folks scavenging for empty drink cans and cardboard boxes? I dare you to look them in the eyes and tell them they are wonderful for continuing to work and not retiring. Still have a conscience? Still know the meaning of shame?

Singapore boasts world number one minister salaries, but almost next to none welfare. Here's a dirty little secret: the PAP government likes to depress wages through the CPF, the absence of any minimum wage laws or real labour unions with balls so as to keep people on the treadmill and prostitute the cheapened labour force to MNCs. Maximises profits for the GLCs too.

They have to keep insisting and repeating welfare as taboo, so that the unthinking can believe the often repeated lie and thus governmental responsibility is conveniently shirked.

BTW, those who watched the Budget Speech should realise that about a third of the GDP is spent on defense. The defense budget increases year after year... especially after 911 which provided a convenient excuse to justify the phony war on terror.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Anonymous said...

New phrase

"Bird Nest Politics"

Anonymous said...

Picked up from another forum regarding our govt's attitude to families.

Its no secret that while the govt is trying to increase Singapore's population in whatevevr way they can, many couples are having great difficulty conceiving because of age and medical problems.

Broadly speaking, the problems usually lie with the lack of quality sperm(men) and/or eggs(woman), both of which, though really in abundant supply by most healthy people, are very hard to come by. In fact, its probably easier to get a donor kidney (HOTA act) than donor eggs.

In the US, its possible to buy eggs/sperms from donors so couples can go for assisted reproduction. It is time Singapore followed. The govt can be a middle man to regulate the process and ensure proper guidlines are established.

Hopefully, some minister will read this and take action.

Anonymous said...

Whilst focusing on 'filial piety', one ought not to lose sight of western-style welfarism's 'communal piety'. This is the 'generic piety' that has knock-on effects on all types of piety. Where 'filial piety' is observed in a blinkered fashion, 'communal piety' and all subsidiary pieties are compromised. This is that which turns the virtue of 'filial piety' into an evil.

Anonymous said...

to say that generousity destroy homes is akin to saying love is the root of all evil.
people, not having any exceptional qualities except to accumulate other peoples money for themselves and their empire through exploitation, with almost no heart and soul( 0.5% is almost close to nil) should at least be sensitive enough not to shame their own friends/families/country men for being the "murderous monster" who withhold LIFE from the poor/destitute/outcast/downtrodden/sinners etc when it is in their power to GIVE and LIBERATE!

Jimmy Mun said...

The world must avoid the pitfalls of Singapore-style welfare, where generous state benefits for the elite ministers have weakened their ability to connect to the people.

Anonymous said...

given that a normal rate of unemployment in most western economies hovers around 4%, I believe that the introduction of a limited degree of unemployment insurance for those retrenched that gives half the previously drawn salary for a few months or until a job is found, in order to cushion some hardship would actually be a better idea than investing in Shin Corp.

very slippery slope logic. in America, when you hit 18 and head to college you are expected to "grow up" and start supporting yourself to (at least) a certain degree, whilst in Singapore the high costs of rent and property and the low paying options for recent graduates force our 20 something year olds to usually live with their parents until marriage - maybe even beyond that.

The family unit in Singapore naturally gravitates to a cloistered function of togetherness. Its other social factors or economic externalities that eventually cause the marginalisation of the elderly - and not so much of welfare. How does the support of the state for those elderly in western-nations erode the family structure? Giving some measure of nominal income is highly unlikely to start the breakdown of the family unit and the severing of family ties.

Besides, I'm personally in favor of some direct welfare to those poor elderly who have to take care and fend for themselves - or take up odd jobs in their golden years. Time are changing, welfare is not as dirty or taboo the word as it should be. Its just the moral and ethical thing for an "Asian Society" that defers respect to the elders to take care of those elderly that can't really take care of themselves.

The emphasis on the family is once again an onus of control that the state desires over its own people. Confucius did have many good and wise thoughts - but not all of his thoughts and political philosophies are compatible with the more educated, western-oriented, open-minded and deterministic individual. It is sad indeed, everyday the government loses just a little bit more credibility.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if his relatives would still be that caring if he is just a low-income earner with no power, relying on "progress packages" to alleviate the impact of all kinds of monetary hikes.

Anonymous said...

Too much of birds nest soup I supposed.

Anonymous said...

Bird nest soup with Hum ! Yippee!

Anonymous said...

Hey, at least his mistakes in speech aren't as bad as George Bush's...

Anonymous said...

I think its really embarrassing to have LHL as our PM. I mean he doesn't have much charisma. The things he says really sounds shallow and superficial at times even when it's prepared speech. He makes a mockery of himself and singapore when he's overseas. I mean how can someone like him lead a country into greater heights? I'm really embarrassed to have him as our PM. Not that SMGoh was any better. Are there really no more good men out there anymore?

Anonymous said...

Good men? you mean good as in capable or as in a clean and honest heart to serve?

The latter would be a rare find.

Anonymous said...

To February 18, 2007 11:29 PM:

The Bush administration often made a mockery out of English language (He's the decider and head of the Republic Party!!) whereas Minilee often makes a gaffe out of logic.....(To fix opponents and eat mee siam with hum, what the heck?) His speech is empty and void.....of logic and compassion.

utwt said...

mr wang, u highlight the sentence by bolding and italicising it, but what do u think of the statement made by the PM?

Anonymous said...

I think it is great PM Lee is rich and is fed with Bird nest. While the poorer ones (his citizens) have to wait 7 months for a check on possible renal failure, which might just fail tomorrow. And we spend one third of budget on Defence, and yes, you can fast track the waiting time if your poor kids can upgrade their parents to Class A ward. Please spend one third of our budget on the people, not on defence hardware, and spend the reserves on the people, not on some shincorp deal and R and D ($2 billion).

Kukuboy - what do you think of his speech?

Anonymous said...

PM is talking rocks!

Must be the rock sugar that comes with the bird nest. He swallowed too much ...

"贫贱夫妻,百事哀" a cantonese saying I grew up on.

Poverty causes all relationships to fail, eventually. You can't survive on air, no matter how much in love you are.

U want family ties to be strong? make sure they are not always worrying about the lack of money to survive the next day.

PM should have a chat with the late MR TAN who jumped the tracks.

I'm sure he would want to swap relatives with PM. MR TAN could do with some nice birds nest soup.

I hate having to pay millions to someone to talk cock.

Anonymous said...

I think that our PM is a fortunate man, his relatives hovering around him when he was sick. I hope that he thank them in kind only. If my relative is some important guy like him, I would also like to present bird nest's soup every day to him, bird nest's soups are really, really big investments. He is a man of many styles: asian, western, international, capitalist, socialist, unique, and lastly, our Singaporean way.

He only picks the best of the best governmental practices around the world to suit HIS kind of government.

Well done, PM Lee, you have just helped to improve the bird nest retailers' business. I hope that cancer patients have such helpful relatives like his.

Hmmmm, would the bird nest's soup tastes better if it is cooked by a foreign chef...

Anonymous said...

on the proposed gst hike, our birdie man told us he would have taken his medicine all at one shot. yeah right. how i wish he had done his chemotherapy all at one time back then.

Anonymous said...

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, humans must satisfy their basic needs before they seek to satisfy higher needs. Only when the lower order needs are satisfied we will then care about the higher needs. If we can’t satisfy our lower needs or having difficulty in satisfying those, we will not concerned about our higher order needs.

Now, the lowest needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs are physiological needs, which are need for air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc. When all those needs are met, the next level of needs surface. Those needs are security of employment, health, income, family, personal property. After physiological and safety needs are met, the next level of needs are social needs, which are work group, family, affection, relationships needs. Of course, there are two more level of needs, which are quite irrelevant in this case so I will stop at the three lowest of human needs.

What PM Lee has said in his CNY speech was definitely against Maslow’s theory, that is satisfying one’s physiological and/or safety needs by providing welfare benefits, he/she will fail to seek the need to love and be loved by his/her family which leads to weak family ties.

Everyone knows the reason why more and more people has less time for the family is because they are too preoccupied with satisfying their basic needs, which is not an easy thing to do given the high standard of living in Singapore. You can’t expect someone to spend time with family (social needs) when they are having problems in paying their mortgage (safety needs). You can’t expect someone to stay at home to accompany their parents (social needs) when they can’t afford to buy proper meals for themselves (physiological needs)

The motive in PM Lee’s speech may be that he wants to instill in people’s mind that welfare benefits are not a good thing at all. However, to use such an example will question PM Lee’s own wisdom. Moreover, if planned and chose properly according to goal, such welfare benefit is not a bad thing for Singaporean. After all, human resource are the number one resource that Singapore could have since Singapore doesn’t have any natural resource. Taking care of its people’s welfare may ensure that Singapore could retain its people and achieve the goal of 6.5 million populations, with Singaporeans dominate the number of proportion of the populations. Unless the government has other agendas, of course.

Anonymous said...

Now living in another country (a Western society if you must use PM Lee's stereotyping), I sometimes really don't get the logic of PM Lee.

On the one hand, he observed that more and more elderly in Singapore are living on their own. A fair enough observation which could signal societal problems for Singapore. Then he implied that a Western-style welfare society will cause more elderly to live on their own.

But stop and consider. Singapore has never had a welfare society since its independence and is unlikely to ever have one as long as the PAP's fundemental philoposhy does not change. But then, Singapore is still seeing more elderly living alone despite its strong emphasis on 'Asian values'. What's more, statistics could perhaps back me up to show that these elderly living alone are more likely to be destitute and without a family support system.

So what gives? Obviously a welfare society is not what brought about the current situation in the first place. If we are honest, we have to look elsewhere for the reasons. Welfare is just a convenient bogeyman.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous February 19, 2007 2:37 AM
" ..as in a clean and honest heart to serve?" should read up on the HPL case. Most irksome is the part when he refused to donate the illegal discount to charity as suggested by Goh Chok Tong.

Anonymous said...

Clean and Honest heart to serve? Why is it that hard to find? I mean for the kind of salaries the PAP minister are getting, it shouldn't be that difficult to develop such qualities right. Unless they are using their top salaries on too much peanuts. I mean peanuts have become very expensive since PAP came into power. $600,000 for peanuts ain't something folks like us can afford. Only the likes of Mrs Goh Chok Tong can afford such luxuries these days.

Justification for such high pays for ministers are required to prevent corruption, so says the government. This is already a clear confession of the quality and character of the people leading our nation.

Am I the only one here who's wondering how clean and honest our ministers' hearts are???

Anonymous said...

Mr Tan,
Rest assured, you are not the only one. There are aplenty who wonder the same as you!

kukuboy - i am following up from the Anon-19(2007)7:42AM to ask if you would like to answer your own question you post to Mr.Wang. i.e what is your take of that PM Lee's statement?

Anonymous said...

What type of PM Lee logic is that?
I felt a strong sense of unease with his illogical "logic".

It seems that the only way to vote against PAP is to vote with our feet.

I notice also that Mr Wang has a new slogan on this blog. I wonder how much longer he could stay on the red dot.

Not much has changed in Singapore. Whatever the PAP decides, the people must follow. There is nothing much people could do to change anything.

To put it bluntly, it's the classic take it or leave it thing.

Anonymous said...

How clean and honest are the HEARTS of our minister? Sorry, when the new minister Grace Fu spouted the 'truth' about Potong Pasir and Hougang, and later about how PAP town councils absorbs GST -I realised very soon that they are not clean and not honest. Unless these municipals can be excused from paying GST - if not - we do not have an honest government.

Anonymous said...

my grandmother had 7 kids. 4 daughters and 3 sons. she's already in her 80s but her children continue to give her grief. one son's going through a nasty divorce (family was broken up by a China girl, heh heh.... foreign talent) and doesn't bother to visit anymore. he's disinherited his own mother. another's in jail for petty theft (he's been in and out of there a few times). she fell out with one of her daughters over money matters and they don't talk anymore. she lives alone. because she refused to stay with any of her children, just in case more bridges get burnt up. the remaining kids treat her well but she's almost senile and she spends a lot of her time mourning her wayward kids.

exactly how having children equals security in your twilight years?

in her rare moments of lucidity, she wishes she never had children.

simplesandra said...

anon wrote: "Singapore is still seeing more elderly living alone despite its strong emphasis on 'Asian values'"

That's the irony: "asian" or "Confucian" values require that the ruler consider the welfare of his people first.

What he meant was prob that Singapore should reject western welfarism but embrace its capitalism. :-)

Anonymous said...

Ah well, its a sound argument. Taking care of the elderly is the family's responsibility, not the states. Giving incentives for it may be backfire, and the rationale for supporting one's elders may be warped into a goal of welfare gain. I suppose not giving welfare in this context is justified.

simplesandra said...

jc student blcy wrote: "Ah well, its a sound argument. "

No, it isn't. Just because family members should take care of its elderly doesn't mean they will (or can). What then? Besides, there are those who are single or widowed and have no kith or kin to turn to.

the rationale for supporting one's elders may be warped into a goal of welfare gain.

Maybe you can explain more clearly your point? Some of these folks don't even have anyone to support them.

Anonymous said...

Do we unconsciously want to see a hybrid of a Schumpeterian Workfare state and a Keynesian Workfare state type of structure in Singapore?

Anonymous said...

The government actually hands out a lot of goodies and subsidies to the lower income groups. At significant cost to the middle and upper income groups. And the worst part is, the lower income groups are screaming for more handouts. Always. Like the rest of the population.

Anonymous said...

Maslow Hierachy Of Needs! Will they care? Water and Electricity were cut off to many a households and that must be very inhumane and unconscionable actions!