Ng Eng Heng: Higher aspirations one reason Singaporeans find cost of living high

SINGAPORE — Having higher aspirations in life is a reason why Singaporeans find the cost of living here expensive, despite real wages having gone up, said Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen yesterday (May 10).

But Singapore has to ensure that opportunities to get out of poverty must not be priced out and remain abundant to fulfil the dreams of younger Singaporeans, said Dr Ng.

The Defence Minister was speaking at a Singapore Medical Association dinner and responding to a question from the audience concerned over the rising cost of living in Singapore.“If you look at household goods, per household, what people have – handphone, TV – has actually gone up,” said Dr Ng. Unlike the past, mobile phones are almost an essential item for children, he added.

That Singaporeans find costs of living expensive due to higher aspirations is a reason that will not please people, including himself, said Dr Ng, as the reason is “objective” and does not address “issues of the heart.”

Dr Ng added that while the Government makes sure that nobody should have their potential stunted just because their family cannot afford it, this is “difficult argument” to sell as some parents pay large sums of money to provide tuition for their children.

The dinner, attended by 450 medical professionals, celebrated the 55th anniversary of the Singapore Medical Association. At the dinner, Dr Ng said the healthcare needs to make three shifts.

Firstly, Singapore needs to shift from living long to living well, said Dr Ng. As patients age, they will see many doctors including both general practitioners and specialists, and their families are exasperated that such a care is not integrated, said Dr Ng. Medical care for patients should also be contexualised and take into account patients’ social settings, he added.

Secondly, there should also be more scope for general practitioners in the healthcare system as hospitals will be inundated with exponential growth in the number of patients.

Lastly, Dr Ng said Singapore should make a big push to make healthcare jobs a much sought after career for Singaporeans, as the large increase in healthcare spending by 2020 will create many jobs.Dr Ng, a former consultant surgeon himself, said doctors are bright and should be socially conscious and should have a say what values should be maintained. “You have a view, you have an opinion, you can multiply opinions,” he said.

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