Record suicide rate – what’s ailing Singapore

July 16, 2013
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Singapore recorded 467 suicides in2012 – the highest number in 20 years. On average, more than one person took his/her own life everyday inSingapore last year. That’s a30 percent jump from 2011.$CUT$

The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), anorganisation that works to prevent suicides, attributes the tragedy to extremes in stressful living conditions in Singapore.

Such a trend is but one manifestationof the quality of life in this country where our people are drivenharder and harder by the Government to pump up GDP growth, often at our own expense.

The Government recently launched itspopulation white paper announcing its plans to increase Singapore’spopulation to 6.9 million. One of the reasons for such a drasticincrement is the need to expand GDP figures.

Read also Why the SDP does not propose a target population

What ails this country is the Government’s obsession with GDP growth, wrongly interpreted as a measure of wealth and progress. The latest suicide statistic attests to the degeneration of the quality of life in Singapore. The continued inability and unwillingness of the PAP to re-evaluate the definition of economic progress is much cause for concern. 

Pushing upGDP figures for its own sake often leads to a deterioration of lifefor Singaporeans. As we strive to generate wealth, wemust also ensure that this is not done at the expense of our health,both mental and physical.

Work-life balance, familyvalues, and social relationships must also be taken into account when we measure success. Without these non-economic andlife-affirming aspects of our well-being, we cannot claim to be aprosperous nation.

This is why the SDP advocates that weintroduce another index to measure success – the Genuine ProgressIndex, or GPI. The GPI, like the GDP, is an economic indicator. Butunlike the GDP which only takes into account the production of goodsand services in monetary terms, the GPI also measures factors likepublic health, pollution, juvenile delinquency, family breakups and,of course, suicide rates.

Read also GDP – a cancer causing agent?

The gains that we make in GDP are counter-balanced by losses we incur from deterioration of our quality of life. The result, captured in the GPI, will give us a more accurate and holistic reading of our progress.

A high GPI would mean that as we get materially richer, our quality of life is also improving. Governments, in particular cabinet ministers, should notmeasure their success (and the size of their salaries) by justpointing to GDP growth but rather to the growth of the well-beingof Singaporeans.

The happiness of our people should bethe main driver of government policy. There is hardly any point inregistering record GDP figures when our people continue to live under stressful conditions to the point where the only way to relieve the burden is to end life itself.