Singapore is in the midst of the worst economic crisis with unemployment near 4 percent and close to 100,000 jobs are expected to be lost this year. So what are we celebrating this August 9th National Day in the shadows of the unprecedented economic crisis?
Making Singapore a better place for you and for me
2009 will be remembered as a year of double whammy for Singapore. The U.S financial meltdown and the onslaught of the AH1N1 influenza has dramatically attacked the economic and physical well-being of Singaporeans. The government has promised through its rheotorics that no Singaporean would be left behind or let down by the crises. This government has also boasted its convictions of ensuring skills retraining, jobs creation and health care subsidies to tide Singaporeans through this dark patch.
The dark cloud forewarned last year has descended upon us Click here
The days of heady economic growth that she enjoyed in recent years had ended abruptly, marked by the sudden demise of the venerable American financial megalith, Lehman Brothers, an institution notably older than Singapore's 44 years of age.
In fact, Singapore is in the midst of the worst economic crisis with unemployment near 4 percent and close to 100,000 jobs are expected to be lost this year. So what are we celebrating this August 9th National Day in the shadows of the unprecedented economic crisis? By the way, ASEAN Day is on August 8th, how will ASEAN economic integration create decent jobs for all?
ASEAN and Singapore
It may be a mere coincidence that our national day is celebrated one day after 8th August, a date that commemorates the establishment of ASEAN. But it is no mere chance that Singapore is an intrinsic part of ASEAN through the indisputable fact of geography, common history, strong economic ties and political heritage. The significance is all the more apparent when she played an integral role in encouraging the other members of ASEAN in signing and ratifying the ASEAN Charter, a historic document that confers the regional body a legal status, which allows recognition from international organisations like the European Union and African Union and the United Nations.
The aim of integrating ASEAN economically by 2015, would stand to Singapore's immense benefit as she gets access to a combined market of 570 million people, and even more so when taking into consideration via ASEAN economic linkages with India's and China's markets.
Therefore, in its own country for its 44th National Day wish-list, Think Centre lobbies the government to seriously consider the following policy implementations in the national interest of fellow citizens:
1) Politico-economically, ensure the investments of Temasek Holdings and Government Investment Company be made more transparent and accountable to its citizens. Having delinked itself from the government it should report on its profits and loss at least for each year. There is no need for detailed analysis of the specific investments as we acknowledge that there might be sensitivity. But an overall report on the nett investments of Singaporean's savings with the government, must be accessible to all Singaporeans.
2) Socio-legally, grant equal rights for all citizens regardless of race, language, religion or sexual orientation. Updating of the penal code especially 377A and Internal Security Act is long overdue. If legislation is indeed needed to protect specific interest in the population then it should be crafted so, whether for protection against terrorism or otherwise. It should not be a blanket act to cover the arrest of undesirables of the state.
Each "detainee" must be provided access to a transparent process of trial before conviction of a crime he is accused of. Having a legislation hang over the heads of a significant group of citizens with no clear grounds except to discriminate and criminalize a natural act is against the fundamental rights of any human being. Having justified the continued presence of an archaic legislation and saying it would not be enforced goes against common sense. Saying it guards the morality of the community is an inadequate support for a nation that claims to be built on secularism.
3) Socio-economically, more can be done to support senior citizens during the economic crisis. With the tap on foreign workers turned on, older and less educated citizens are facing greater hardships than before. That they have labored and given their best years to build Singapore must be reason enough for the state to take care of them now during their twilight years. Support programmes are not reaching out to the people who need the services and welfare of the people curtailed in some areas. The CPF scheme had encouraged many citizens who are unfamiliar with complex investment schemes to take up private investment instead of the protected savings once guaranteed by the government. As a result, many older Singapore have lost their nest eggs without even knowing the risk involved in using their life savings in the CPF scheme.
4) Security-politically, support and advocate for an ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights to have enforceable powers. It has to be independent and provided with sufficient funds to look into abuses and not one that merely pays lip service to Human Rights. These includes a peer reviewed protection mechanism, a well structured and transparent complaint mechanism, clearly stipulated forms of recommendations and remedies that covers the various scenarios of abuses. ASEAN can no longer hide behind a policy of non interference, especially when the abuses are blatant and abhorred by the rest of civilized societies.
As ASEAN economically integrates, Singaporeans should lead the way towards building a " caring and sharing" ASEAN Community. In a globalized world, we need to see beyond our borders, to ensure decent working and living conditions for all, go forward to create more decent jobs for all including Singaporeans.
Because only together under a truly caring and sharing government, can we make Singapore and ASEAN a better place for you and for me. For this is where we call home.
Happy Birthday Singapore, Majulah Singapura!
For further information:
President - Think Centre Singapore
Mobile: + 65 9479 1906