In his 17 May FB post, LHL highlighted how
“DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam spoke of the Singapore ‘trampoline’…how we got here over the last 50 years, how we learnt and adapted from other countries, and how our social safety nets (e.g. HDB home ownership) encourage people to help themselves…we mustn’t be afraid to find our own way forward, and to defend policies and values which work well in Singapore.”
As of today, 30 May 2015, there are 224 comments, almost every one complimentary of DPM’s performance, some insanely so and in particular the ‘trampoline’ remark.
Let me state upfront my admiration and respect for Mr Tharman. He has a steady hand (however disagreeable I may find some of his policies) and, having spoken and corresponded with him, I feel that he’s a sincere person but constrained on many matters by the party he’s pledged personal allegiance to.
Now, here’s how the soundbite developed.
“…there are ways in which an active govt can intervene in to support social mobility, to develop opp and to take care of the old which doesn’t undermine personal and family responsibility. And that’s the compact we are trying to achieve. ….we’re achieving a paradox of active government support for personal responsibility, rather than active government support to take over personal responsibility or community responsibility. “ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpwPciW74b8 – fr 21:45min
Tharman was replying to Sackur’s question about the sustainability of the SG govt’s outsize role and massive state intervention in the SG economy. Sackcur then asked if he believed in the concept of a safety net. Tharman responded with ‘I believe in the concept of support for you taking up opportunities’.
Sackur persisted, “Does Singapore believe in the notion of a safety net for those who fall between the cracks of a successful economy?” To which, Tharman retorted, ‘I believe in the notion of a trampoline.’
The audience responded with polite, not wild, applause and Tharman kept his left hand slightly up in abeyance, looking somewhat snuggly into Sackur’s eyes, as if savouring his own takeaway soundbite moment.
Separating Truth From Beauty
Let’s examine Tharman’s seemingly brilliant ‘trampoline’ retort to try ‘to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief’.
The obvious truth is that Tharman did not answer Sackur’s question.
And if he, PM Lee and all those doe-eyed supporters (incl, one accomplished local musician who commented on LHL FB) thought that he socked it to Sackur, they could not be more wrong. Sackur referred specifically to ‘a safety net for those who fall between the cracks of a successful economy?
How, dear DPM, do you place a ‘trampoline’ ‘between the cracks’ in the first place?
When our less fortunate Singaporeans, including those amongst us who are born with infirmities, physical, mental, emotional or cognitive defects or family circumstances that serve to invariably bind us in with less to get by, the most basic of help needed is indeed, first and foremost, a safety net to see such citizens through another day.
Those who ‘fall between the cracks of a successful economy’ include also our blue-collar compatriots, clearly unable to survive with the barest of minimum wage to get by 3 meals daily.
Well, Sackur may not know that PM Lee dismissed the need for a poverty line (as if, without one, Singapore will then not have the poor amongst us) while pushing for a fanciful ‘kueh lapis’ approach. When what needy citizens require are basic necessities plain rice, congee and bread, our scholar, elitist leaders prefer instead to patronize us with talk of ‘kueh lapis’, a luxury item not within our reach. Now, instead of a simple safety net, they try to impress us, insult us with a trampoline.
Separating Meaning From Belief
If we ask ISIS members what’s their belief, what they believe in. They’ll answer, ‘We believe in the establishment of an Islamic State covering parts of Iraq and Syria.’ But what is the meaning, what does that belief mean in practical terms? The answer, ‘“America and its allies won’t approve of an Islamic State and will do their best to prevent it. Therefore, the way to establishing one must be paved with skulls and blood.’
Don’t stop when people tell you what they believe in. Ask, what is the meaning of your belief translated into practical terms.
We put Tharman’s belief to the ‘meaning’ test.
Aside from help for study and work, he elaborated
“…we are very generous in our grants for home ownership, which is why we have 90 per cent home ownership and, among the low-income population, more than 80 per cent own their homes — it transforms culture.….it’s about keeping alive a culture where I feel proud that I own my home and I earn my own success through my job. I feel proud that I’m raising my family. And keeping that culture going is what keeps a society vibrant.” (ref also PM Lee’s FB, ‘our social safety nets e.g. HDB home ownership)
Let’s quickly dispatch Tharman’s claim about help for study and work. What kind of help with study when his government shows more interest to spend millions to educate foreigners for free while forcing our own into pricer overseas alternative due to reduced intake for citizens and constantly increasing our children’s tertiary tuition fees for those admitted?
And for those willing to take up a job, do we really need policies that force us to compete with the almost unlimited, continuous global competition of manual, skilled and knowledge workers? To the tune of 60,000 FT per year in recent years? If it’s so darn good a culture that keeps our society vibrant, why not allow foreigners into top civil service and political offices instead of saving those S$mil jobs for themselves?
Finally, housing. Let me illustrate the emptiness of his boast, ‘it’s about keeping alive a culture where I feel proud that I own my home and I earn my own success through my job’, with a typical and representative example. My pa bought his 3-room flat in the open market in mid-70’s, costing S$17k. He was a ‘mee-chiang-kueh’ hawker and my ma an office help. While raising my younger sis and I, they were able to pay off the loan within 8 years.
They needed no grants. They were proud to have been able to do so. That was the ‘culture’ – then.
Now, those who aspire to a 3-room HDB can count on the PAP government’s faux largesse of Additional CPF Housing Grant (fr 6 Feb 2009 up to max $40k) and Special CPF Housing Grant (fr July 2013 sales launch up to max $20k).
I have 2 pertinent questions for DPM Tharman.
1. Whereas our parents could achieve HDB ownership without subsidy, our better educated children now need not one but two subsidies – Is this ‘progress’ and new culture not ironic?
2. Which culture, pray tell, is worth propagating – your new culture of greater dependence on government handouts for a basic roof over our low-to-middle income earners’ heads or the one that your PAP ancestors achieved for our parents?
And to add insult to grievious injury, if my HDB-owner parents (91 and 76) savings are insufficient, you now force (‘encourage’ is bull) them to either move out from where they would have lived half their lives or to live with a rent-paying stranger in order to fund their retirement.
How heartless can this government be?
PAP‘s Trampoline = Citizens On A Precarious And Perpetual Tightrope
If indeed we are provided with a trampoline, it is but for us lower and middle-income citizens to serve as bouncing-up-and-down digits in PAP elitist’s social engineering experiments so that PAP leaders may enjoy the accolades of a worldwide audience duped into believing what talents they are in creating a so-claimed ‘successful economy’ with limited resources.
The truth then, my fellow citizens, behind the beauty and the meaning of the PAP’s belief in the notion of a trampoline is: PAP want us all to be precariously balancing – ceaselessly, day-in, day-out – atop a tightrope from cradle to hearse even as they bask in the limelight of worldwide approbation.
And, that includes you, dear Ms/Mr PAP Supporter.
See, it’s all about GDP growth @ all costs…and see also, they even have a Foreign Talent to help with the tightrope
Change we Must.
End PAP’s dominance.
Law Kim Hwee aka 2cents