Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-jin posted on his Facebook that elderly people who collect and sell cardboard are not really that bad off. He wrote:$CUT$
“Some do so to supplement what they have. Some prefer to earn extra monies, treat it as a form of exercise and activity rather than being cooped up at home. They do this to remain independent, so that they can have dignity and not have to ask their families for help.
This is the sad state of affairs in Singapore today. Young ministers like Mr Tan earn salaries that most Singaporeans can only dream of. They cannot empathise how the poor live.
They then try to justify the system that they perpetuate by making it all sound quite harmless – indeed, even pleasant – for the poorest of our poor. Remember Mr Lee Hsien Loong saying that it was just “no fun” being poor in Singapore?
It is not uncommon to see elderly Singaporeans bent over with gnarled hands and feet, pushing carts almost toppling over with cardboard on roads with cars speeding past – just to collect enough to pay for rent and food. One was killed recently when she was run over and pinned under a bus (see here).
And Minister Tan thinks that this is “exercise”.
Is this who we’ve become? A society so segregated where the ruling elite thinks nothing of the elderly poor risking their lives just to survive? Is this what PM Lee Hsien Loong meant when he referred to his type as “natural aristocracy”?
It is disturbing to hear PAP ministers talk like that.
Singaporeans should watch this video and see for yourselves if Mr Tan is correct. The 70-year-old lady featured in it says that she has to compete with other nationals to collect cardboard boxes. She says that some of these foreigners have even staked out their own turf.
She adds that she does this to take care of herself because the Government does not support her. “It’s shameful being a Singaporean!” she cries out at one point.
We don’t know who Mr Tan talks to but the elderly Singaporeans that the SDP meets when we do our walkabouts and house-visits tell a very different story.
Many say they want to rest after having worked all their lives, but they can’t because they have nothing to retire on. They cannot depend on their children because they have their own bills to pay and their own children to feed.
We must stop this foolish talk of maintaining an aristocracy in Singapore who insist that the elderly are just “exercising” when they sell cardboard for a living.
The SDP wants to build a government that cares for the weak and poor of society. Help us achieve this, fellow Singaporeans. We can start at the coming general elections.