PM Goh’s remarks disconcerting

March 18, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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The letter below was written to Mellanie Hewlitt, Editor, Singapore Review. We reproduce it here.

Dear Ms Hewlitt,

It is disconcerting that a person holding a senior public position can make a remark like this especially during these bad times. Perhaps PM Goh will never have the privilege of actually experiencing the “benefits” of being retrenched.

Well, let me share this unique experience with him. I am in my mid 30s and was “lucky” enough to be retrenched in September last year due to corporate down sizing and cost cuts in an off-shore bank. Let me confess here and now that being laid-off is a first experience for me. With the depressed economy, this possibility was always on the back of my mind. But no amount of mental preparation can ever prepare you for that fateful golden handshake. I bore no grudge to bank management, after all this was part and parcel of doing business, and my boss had also given me plenty of warning.

It has been six months (and a few hundred applications) since that fateful day and I have not been able to find gainful employment. My ego and self-confidence took a huge beating. In the mean time, my wife (a teacher) has to support our two children, pay bills, and settle financial commitments for a house and car from her meager salary.

We have savings, but its will run dry in perhaps another 6 months. In the mean time we sold of the car and are now trying to liquidate the apartment. But that would mean realising a paper loss of some SGD200,000/- and there is also the balance of the loan to be settled with OCBC. We also got rid of the maid. We did not need one with me becoming a full time housewife.

By and large, I would say that we have “survived” the retrenchments in better state then some of our friends who were more highly geared. But let’s not mince word here. The process has been a long and painful one. We do not question the economic merits of retrenchments from a company perspective. But the benefits are so obvious they really do not need to be mentioned at all, unless of cause you work in HDB and the retrenchment exercise itself can cost an arm and a leg. And the “benefits” are only from the perspective of the company as an on-going viable entity. I can assure you that there are no benefits for those retrenched.

PM Goh’s focus on the welfare of the company also indicates the priorities the government has. For Singapore Inc, retaining MNC and attracting foreign companies take precedent over the immediate welfare of the man on the street.

I am sure my letters to the Straits Times will be ignored so I hope that you will publish this mild expression of discontent, from one who has experienced the retrenchment process first hand.

I repeat that it is indeed unsettling that a person of PM Goh’s stature and office can utter such remarks during these times. And it is even more disconcerting that Straits Times have printed his remarks in full without also publishing the many letters of rebuke sent to them. This can only happen here in Singapore. A politician who is so careless with his public statements will surely invite rebuke from opposition parties as well as the press in other democratic countries.

Yours faithfully,

Name withheld at request of writer
15 March 2003