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The Asia Zone
Singapore is a marvel, a beautiful, successful city/island/state. I have been there many times, and I have always enjoyed my time there. Singapore is clean, punctual, diverse, safe, and attractive with friendly people. It is one of the more expensive places to live, so you have to be lucky to find a way to live there. But it has its dark side.
One can go to the Singapore Democrats website at http://yoursdp.org and click on “truth about” to get some shocking facts. The truth is that the Singapore Democrats are an opposition party in a nation that does not tolerate opposition well. It has been ruled by the People’s Action Party (PAP) since independence in 1959. A parliamentary republic, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, it has, as a nation, flourished economically since that time. Who can argue with success?
Those people in the groups discussed below could. The following facts are quoted directly from the Singapore Democrat Party (SDP) website, and as such are under their copyright. Note that dollars refer to Singapore dollars which are currently worth $0.72 USD.
1. In 1999, nearly 2,000 children did not attend school because their parents could not afford it. Mohammad Hirwan is one such child. His parents earn about US $600 a month, hardly sufficient for a family in Singapore. As a result the boy’s parents had to take him out of school when he was nine. His siblings did not fare any better. All of them dropped out of school because of poverty.
2. Nearly 30 percent of households were not earning enough to afford the minimum standard of living. The Government estimates that the subsistence level in Singapore is US$600 for a household of four people—a conservative figure for a country that is consistently ranked among the most expensive cities in the world to live in.
3. According to the 2000 Census, 12.6 per cent of households earned less than $1,000 per month. A monthly gross total household income of $1,500 and below is considered “poor” in Singapore.
4. In 2004 37,823 households could not afford to buy their own flats or rent homes in the open market.
5. National figures compiled by the Registry of Births and Deaths show that on average, 1 person takes his/her own life in Singapore every day.
6. 20 percent of its citizens indicated that they want to leave the country, predominantly because of the stressful lifestyle and high cost of living. (I have spoken to Singapore citizens who have expressed this sense of dissatisfaction on a number of occasions)
Naturally, as this information comes from a political party one must realize that the data is debatable. However, it does seem that Singapore is not quite the paradise it seems. Now, combine this with the fact that opposition parties rarely win seats in parliament, that opposition candidates have been harassed by strict government regulations, occasionally jailed, and it is not surprising that some citizens are growing upset about the status quo.
The problem is that for people there who are doing well financially the government is doing a good job. Yes, Singapore does have strict laws governing public behavior (chewing gum, feeding birds, smoking in the wrong place, eating in an MRT stations, and more will result in very large fines). Drug trafficking can bring the death penalty, and punishment by beating with a bamboo cane is still practiced. So, Singapore is a low crime nation with enough money to keep itself shiny, clean, and safe.
Singapore is a delight for tourists. For myself, I love going there as a break from Asian life. In Singapore things run on time, there are sidewalks for walking and a fantastic mass transit system, and the water is so clean. You can feel safe from street crime and pollution, and you can meet wonderful people. You will also see some of Asia’s most beautiful women there. (See the photo of a Singapore celebrity above)
As a visitor, I do not want Singapore to change, it’s wonderful. Perhaps it is just time for the government to give more thought to all its citizens, not just business people and investors. Then Singapore will be greater than ever.