It’s the cost of living, stupid

February 16, 2004
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

Below are two articles: the first a Reuters report on the sickening depths the PAP has dragged the country into in terms of social engineering and micromanagement. The second is a piece that Mr Robert Ho has composed, giving simple insights to the problem of falling birthrates in Singapore that the PAP seem incapable of comprehending.

Singapore Searches for Romance as Birth Rate Falls

13 February 2004
Reuters
Jason Szep

Fragrances designed to boost fertility, rock climbing for couples, and a love boat river raft race advertised to “fan the flames of romance” from state-sponsored match-making to a “lover’s challenge” foot race, Singapore is approaching Valentine’s Day on Saturday with unprecedented ardour this year, transforming the event into a year-long campaign to arrest the sliding birth rate.

Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong set the mood last week, holding a traditional match-making event in front of thousands.

Standing on a wide red stage festooned with gold ribbons and yellow lights, a group of 10 women handpicked by Lee and his wife tossed red silk balls known as “xiu-qiu” to a pack of men, also selected by the Lees, in the hope of successful couplings.

“We are trying all ways,” said Lee, son of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, citing government incentives to revitalise Singapore’s libido and encourage families to make more babies.

In 1990, Singaporean women, on average, gave birth to 1.87 babies in a lifetime. That fell to 1.42 by 2001 and to 1.37 in 2002 – far below the 2.1 rate needed for a population to replace itself. Last year saw another drop to a record low.

“Lovers’ challenge”

As childless couples become more common – their proportion tripling since 1980 to six percent of the population – the latest answer is to make Valentine’s Day every day.

A state-run “Romancing Singapore” campaign has a full-year calendar of events and gimmicks designed to revive the love life of a country ranked last for two straight years in a global survey of most sexually active nations by condom-maker Durex.

Couples can build makeshift rafts from bamboo or rubber tyres in a “Love Boat” river race or, holding hands, run up a 43-storey office tower in a “Lovers’ Challenge.”

Karaoke, drive-in movies, hotel discounts and “love meals” at restaurants are also part of the campaign, as are Singapore-made fragrances, a musk for men and a floral one for women, bottled and given away as “Romancing Singapore eau de parfum.”

“Love is all around, all year round” reads an events program. A web site – http://www.romancingsingapore.com.sg- offers tips on dating such as this for the “intellectual artsy man”: “Discuss music, art and books with him to feed his creative juices or give him limited edition DVDs or collector series graphic novels, which he’ll definitely appreciate.”

Many Singaporeans, accustomed to the government’s heavy hand in social engineering, welcome the new emphasis on romance.

Some question whether the strait-laced censors who routinely snip nudity from commercial movies, ban “Playboy” magazine and have kept the U.S. hit TV series “Sex and the City” off air, should shoulder some of the blame.

“I think Romancing Singapore is good but if they want us to be on a par with other major countries they should let us watch ‘Sex and the City’ or read magazines like Cosmopolitan,” said 28-year-old marketing executive Tan Min Yee.

Cosmopolitan was famously banned in 1982 for allegedly promoting promiscuous values among women. Censors lifted the ban in September but the magazine has yet to go on sale.

Others explain the lack of babies by citing stress over the flagging economy. A National University of Singapore survey showed this was one reason why Singaporeans below the age of 40 had sex six times a month, far lower than many other societies.

“Sex is still taboo in the Singapore government, and that could rub off a bit,” said Zap Chan, a 39-year-old hair stylist who is divorced with no children. “But I think the reason why a lot of people have stopped making babies is fear about the economy and jobs and the cost of raising children.”

Many remember a “two is enough” government campaign nearly three decades ago to curb sizes of families.

“For some people that was drilled in very, very deep. It becomes hard to go beyond that even now,” he said.”

Singaporeans becoming extinct
Robert Ho
9 Feb 2004

The problem, as I see it, is not about sex. It’s about the security of life and lifestyle, about a sense of stability and minimum standards of living that is conducive to having babies.

For example, if a survey is done, I am quite willing to bet that rich or high income couples have more children than lower income ones.

The reason is not difficult to understand.

In Singapore, even the minimum lifestyle is expensive, with the highest cost in the world for owning a car, even taxis are quite expensive and public transport creepingly expensive.

Even if you forego the car, the costs of bringing up children can be very expensive what with everything from diapers to infant formula milk.

And when the kids grow older, there’s the [need for] money for piano lessons, Math and Chinese tuition, etc.

Then, unless your children are scholarship material, there’s the university fees to consider.

Of course, one can say, why worry? God will provide. And some parents do, especially the Malay families who have a refreshingly simple attitude to life and don’t bother to plan and budget [and give up on having kids when money no enough], which explains why Malays have bigger families with more children. The Chinese, who are the real targets of PAP intervention, are real worriers.

They worry that they may not be able to give their children the headstart they want, so they end up having few or no kids. The reasoning of the Chinese is simple, if you can’t pay for your children to university level [overseas if they are not good enough for the local Us], then don’t have any, or have only one [like I did].

This is extremely Chinese and most other countries wouldn’t understand this. It is easier to believe that insufficient sex is the problem and more sex the answer.

The true answer to producing more children in Singapore [at least among the Chinese because the Malays are happily producing many], is to so shape the economic environment [the Chinese are economic animals and a race of shopkeepers], that every child can be assured of being taken care of all the way up to JC level. I believe that that is the very minimum level that most Chinese parents will demand before they commit themselves to have children.

Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening soon. Thanks to the famous PAP policy of “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

If you look at the Scandinvian countries, there is a baby boom happening because many of the lifestyle securities are guaranteed, from creches to university, sometimes from cradle to grave welfare. In Singapore, the PAP looks after itself [first], then the rich and high income taxpayer [second] and the ordinary folks a distant third.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

So people don’t procreate on an empty stomach, so no babies.

So all this SDU and SDS are, as usual, barking up the wrong tree.

It is not a shortage of romance but a shortage of lifestyle security. As long as the ordinary folk cannot guarantee their income, meaning their job, they don’t feel they can have more children.

Having creches and nurseries, etc, are a minimum start. Then schools have to be free, not even a token few dollars a month – why bother to collect when it costs more to collect these few token dollars than to give it all away for free?

Thus, school should be free up to JC level.

If this is done, more parents will be encouraged and embolden to have more children.

Oh, and by the way, throw in free or low cost pre-natal care, free or low-cost delivery of baby by qualified midwife or gynae, etc. Free medical care as long as the child is in school.

All this sounds too radical?

All this have been done and the result is baby booms in those countries who have tried.

Of course, the PAP cannot have this. Too radical. Too much money spent on the people. Better to keep it all under LKY control instead. So, the result, more SDU activities, etc, which do not address the root problems.

People want to have sex. People want children. The Chinese have always wanted large families, if only so there are enough children to look after them when they age. Children are better than the CPF. But LKY thought otherwise so the problem persists today and getting critical. There has never been a Chinese society where children are unwanted. Only in Singapore under LKY. LKY has created many problems, and this is only one of them.

If LKY feels self-congratulatory, thinking he has done much for Singapoore, ha, ha, think again. What he has done is merely postpone some problems so they crop up in the next generations, especially now with GCT and LHL. Other problems simply take on another facade or come in another guise and this baby shortage is just one of them. When you create economic insecurity and basically make babies expensive to care for and to grow; when you make people pay for everything they need [including maids about which much has been written, suffice to say that the govt levy is more than the maid’s salary], then the problem surfaces in another guise, as a shortage of babies.

The business of govt has long been studied and thought about by a great many minds and even great minds. Does LKY really think that he has the genius to invent a new model of govt that is really better than say, Britain’s? That he has succeeded in making a Singapore that defies the history and tradition of govts everywhere? That his “no free lunch’ and ‘save every dollar’ and ‘tax everything that moves’ policies can be continued indefinitely without divine retribution?

Ha. The comeuppance may not come in his lifetime but it will come. It may not come as a direct consequence but come disguised as some other, equally severe problem. Like this Baby Shortage.

No. There is nothing new in govt. The Welfare State may not work but LKY’s alternative doesn’t either. The problems and consequences surface in another guise, that’s all.

It’s a zero sum game. If you squeeze the people for all the money they have, other problems surface – problems over and above having an impoverished people who cannot spend and hence reduce the velocity of money to zero, with a retail sector that keeps shrinking, thereby reducing other sectors.

It’s a zero sum game. What you win on the roundabouts, you lose on the swings.

And with that depressing thought, I leave LKY to ruminate on his success, which is actually a delayed failure. In govt and politics, success is usually merely delayed failure.

Thus, my quote for today, “Success in government is often only delayed failure.”