The article below has been submitted by Elaina Chong.
During the early 1930s and 40s, many of our ancestors came to Singapore looking for a better life. Knowing poverty, they worked hard and saved everything they had so their children would be able to afford a good education and a life much more than theirs.
Many of these values are still with us today.
Being Asian, as parents, saving for future generations is not just a primal tendency. For some, in order to make ends meet, the sacrifices made by the household can be brutal. Such is the extent of love for one’s child.
As young sons and daughters of a young nation, we can misconstrue prudence as being selfish or greedy. Some believe our Government coffers are hoarding Singaporean’s monies in CPF and Medisave and spending just too little back on Singaporeans. There is a sense that not enough is given to welfare (even though more than $30 billion has been given to the needy, charity and for social assistance). In a world where once economic powerhouses are now crippling under mountains of debt, such liberal social spending has become highly unusual.
So it comes back to fundamentals of what it means to “care”. The Singaporean-style of Government may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Put crassly, we may think scrimping and hoarding is something only our Grandparents do. But they did so to pay it forward, so their children would always be able to have money to fall back on later in life. They warned us the shameful costs of negligence and being spend-thrifty will make us poor. There is great wisdom in that. Singapore’s wealth came about because of careful and clever money management. For this reason, the Singapore Constitution cannot allow the Government to go on a wild spending spree, it caps how much exactly is allowed to be expended through our National Budget. (This is why our fiscal revenues look more on IMF reports than it does in our Budget.)
It is not a politically savvy move to do this, some say. Why can’t this Government give us more? Perhaps, it is voter-friendly to spend everything today. But what would doing this say of Government that is supposed to care? I remember how hard it was to understand why our grandparents would choose to eat less well or dress simply. Even when we gave them money and they could live better, they would rather save it up and give it to you later. Much later if they knew you would live a long time.
Sensible fiscal management means spending only what we have and not money belonging to others or those meant for our future generations. GIC’s investment returns gives the PAP Government about $8 billion to spend every year in our National Budget and that has prevented us from slipping into the red. There is no building of debt by borrowing to spend all this money on us.
In fact, all of the Government’s investment returns made it actually possible for a single big ticket $8 billion handout through this year’s Pioneer Generation Package – to say thank you to the very ancestors who built up this nation.