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My name is Amin. I am a technician in my early forties, married with three school-going children. I tied the knot with my beloved Fatimah at the age of 28. My wife used to work as a clerk in a statutory board but is now my minister for domestic affairs.
We live in a four-room flat which we bought some years ago in the northern part of Singapore. I am servicing my flat installments through my CPF.
Two of our older children are in secondary school while the youngest is in primary four. I travel to my work place by motor bike to escape the hassle of travelling by feeder bus and the MRT.
I am often told, not too subtly by government and union leaders, that I should consider myself fortunate because I am still gainfully employed. Although my monthly income is about $2,000 my take home amount is less than $1,700.
Besides putting food on the table I also have to take care of other expenses, which include my children’s school expenses, utilities, transportation, etc. Occasionally we have to cope with the unexpected such as when the children fall sick.
At the end of each month we can barely make ends meet.
Life in Singapore is becoming more and more expensive. It is really tough to raise a family. My wife and I also make it a point to keep in touch with our elderly parents and chip in whatever we can to make their retirement less painful. We pray very hard that we never have to be hospitalized because we cannot afford the expenses.
I am nonetheless supposed to be “fortunate”. The frightening thing is that there are other ordinary workers who earn even less but have financial obligations no less daunting than mine.
But are we not supposed to be living in the First World and enjoying the Swiss standard of living? Every now and then we are told that Singapore is number one in something or other. Our port is the world’s busiest, SIA is the number one airline, our so-called sovereign fund is among the biggest in the world etc, etc.
I used to feel proud of these achievements. But over the last couple of years I have begun to have second thoughts. I ask myself what have these achievements got to do with me?
The fact that Changi is number one really has nothing to do with me. The fact that our reserves amount to a few hundred billions has done nothing for the average Singaporean like me. We are still ourselves and still toiling away day in and day out for an income that is not commensurate with the amount of work we put in.
On the other hand, our ministers are the most highly paid in the world as their salaries are pegged to the country’s top earners.
Worse, we now have to compete with foreign workers who threaten our livelihood. We also have the largest number of foreign immigrants percentage wise. No ordinary worker – at least the people I know – feels secure with his or her job. Any talk of increased wages will inevitably be countered by the threat of being retrenched.
The temptation for employers to hire cheaper foreign labour is too attractive to resist. There is absolutely no job security for us.
Should we lose our jobs we are expected to downgrade. This is what I don’t understand, we are supposed to be No. 1 in this and that but we constantly face the propsect of having to downgrade.
Worse many have to resort to begging and queueing for free food. This is our country. We have served our country in many ways. Our parents too have done their share in making Singapore what it is today. Surely we deserve better. But alas this is the real situation that exists in Singapore today.
A Government leader tried to make us believe that I as a Malay enjoy special privileges under the constitution. In fact we Malays have not received any special treatment. We identify ourselves with Singaporeans of other races and share the same hardship as all other citizens.
Unfortunately, our loyalty to Singapore has always been questioned to the extent that we have been deprived of many opportunities to serve our nation. But despite this we will join our fellow Singaporeans and put our shoulders to the wheel to build a better nation for all.
We see little hope for a better life in Singapore unless there is a drastic change in the way this country is being run. What good can our country’s multi-billion reserves do for ordinary people like us? We are beginning to feel that the Singapore of today is only meant for the rich and powerful – many of whom are not Singaporeans.Ordinary Singaporeans like myself exist only to serve their interests.
We truly long for change. Ordinary Singaporeans deserve to be treated better in our own country.
This piece written by Mr Jufrie Mahmood is an amalgamation of several discussions with ordinary Singaporeans.