Your Letters: A young student speaks – population package

Temasek Review
your letters

The article below has been written by Clarissa, a young student working to pay through college:

The government’s recent announcement of the additional pro-family measures received different reactions. Undoubtedly, many couples welcomed the measures while others grumbled the benefits are still insufficient. As I read the news, I shuddered at the thought of what this means for Singapore.

I am a Singaporean, and to the opinions of many, too young to understand the value of money or the difficulties of earning a living. Not true: I understand hardship through experience, perhaps more than many.  I grew up with seven siblings in a single-income home. We survived on a small income. While our toys were mostly given, clothes were hand-me-downs, and overseas holidays almost non-existent (just to Malaysia 3 times in my first 20 years), we grew up fine. We received our basic education (through a private institution without government aid), completed or are completing our bachelors, and all hold professional positions in respectable industries.

As I currently work and study to pay my way through college, I struggle with insufficient time to complete assignments and lack of money to cover other expenses besides school fees. In fact, my journey to become an eye specialist will include many more years of financial opportunity costs. Unlike my privileged classmates, my parents cannot afford to pay my way through school, but I do not resent them for that. The lessons they taught through the experiences I have been through since a child provides me with values no money can buy. My greatest fear then is not of my inability to survive but for the future generations and state of my country.

The government’s role progressively includes a bigger proportion of providing instead of protecting. Yet despite the billions of dollars poured out, couples who refuse to reproduce will remain fixed in their stand. On the other hand, couples who decide that they want a family will do so with or without aid. The government giving additional aid to provide incentive for couples sitting on the fence speaks loudly of the kind of society Singapore is becoming. Has a child’s worth become so tied to money that people feel they will have a child or maybe two or three because they will receive a couple thousand “free” dollars? If one were to calculate the estimated cost, the amount of money given is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount needed to raise a child.

Certainly, I do not contest that the cost of living has escalated so greatly prices (of houses especially) are bordering on robbery. Of course added to that are issues of ERP, COE, housing, transport fares, etc. All these concerns are perfectly legitimate issues any farsighted person would consider before engaging in additional expenses (if a child is an “additional expense” that is). However, the issue is not so much about insufficient finances, as it is about what kind of lifestyle Singaporeans desire and breed their children in. Do children really need every single toy and garment in the store? Must they possess the latest gadgets to be prepared for the future? Are feasts at restaurants and vacations 3 to 4 times a year necessary for survival and development? Are these bestowments excuses to avoid the tantrum scene that requires teaching a child the value of money, or are they a façade parents attempt to uphold so that friends will not belittle the income level? While luxuries of Singapore’s society makes life more pleasant and should be engaged in, adopting it as a lifestyle should not indebt the government to give out more.

By demanding the government to provide more aid, Singaporeans are ushering themselves into a socialist state. Yet without realizing how much they demand of the government, citizens complain “Why can’t the government just lighten up and stop being a nanny?” She could if her citizens stop crying to her every time something happens and acting like they still need someone to take care of them.

A nation, like a family, operates functionally only if everyone does his part. Singaporeans excuse the declining birthrate with cost of living yet grumble at the influx of foreigners. If the citizens do not replace themselves, have they considered the government’s perspective that other measures are necessary to ensure the continued existence of this tiny island?

No perfect government exists, and no law fits every citizen’s liking. I have my own string of grievances and disagreements as well. Nonetheless, if Singaporeans would consider how they got into their comfort zone in the first place, they would realize that the present government has done outstandingly in running this little red dot and is the best option under the circumstances. Again, my opinion would be met with a barrage of opposing, offended views. However, rather than just shoot words around, why not stand up to make a difference? It is easy to sit around criticizing the decisions of others, but if Singaporeans are really concerned about where this country is headed, they would as the PM encouraged in his 2004 swearing-in speech, “Step forward to make a difference to yourselves, to your fellow citizens, and to Singapore.”

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