Dear Editors,

Going over the news from both MSM and independent media, a quote from Sylvia Lim of the WP struck a chord with me… a statement that I agree unreservedly.

“We want to underscore the point that even if you are an opposition supporter, you can be as loyal to Singapore as any PAP supporter.”

Loyalty to Singapore is to wake up every morning, watch my kids prepare for school and send them off with a wish for another great day ahead while at the back of my mind entertaining a worry that the society is fast becoming one where good is never good enough. Considering that my kids will in a couple of years sit for their ‘O’ levels, then maybe ‘A’s after that… and if all goes well maybe to a local University. It’ll be many more years before they may eventually graduate and hold a degree… yet in the mean time… the Manpower Minister has just dismissed their efforts even before they begin… because Manila graduates can do better the jobs that my kids will take time to learn
to do and at a quarter of the cost. This worry escalates everyday with the thought that in the years that my kids eventually graduate, hundreds of thousands of graduates from China, India and other parts of the world will be entering Singapore’s shores for a stint to that pink i/c. I will bring that worry along with me as I leave home for the day to get my tasks for the day done.

Loyalty to Singapore is to go home every evening and be greeted with my kids doing their homework. As I come up to them checking how they are doing, they may pause to hand me a few forms to read and sign. Often they’ll take a few more minutes to share some stories, a new youtube video they watched or a complaint they have about something they experienced that day… just as they are getting into the conversation, the wall clock dings and my kids will jump back into homework mode with a little anxiety and worryful expressions shown on their faces, afraid they may not complete everything on time.

As hours pass, and it is time to switch off the lights, I get back to the worry I left hanging in the morning. I wonder what are the cost to put my kids through university. Will they need extra tuition in future just to ace their subject? Will I have to split the loan with them and have them riddled in debt even before starting their first job? Cheekily, I wonder if I should settle them with enrolling into a university in Manila, afterall it costs under 40000 pesos for the most expensive degree programme there and that is under SGD$3500… I may not have to take a loan at all and the Manpower Minister has accredited the quality. Getting back to reality… I wonder why do we put our kids through the rigour of education here, one that starts at 7 in the morning and won’t end till 10 in the evening with the homework and all…

I wonder how long will they take to repay the loans if they are to settle for a pay packet that is not far from that of the hundreds and thousands of Manila quality graduates from China, India and elsewhere… I wonder when they eventually get hired and have to work alongside the many Manila quality graduates who have just received their pink I/Cs, without debts on their back, without lost time from National Service, without having to look back at the world they left behind… can my kids start the day with a smile and end the day with laughter like their colleagues? Loyalty to Singapore is to worry if this reality will bite the life out of my kids even before they begin. Loyalty to Singapore is to reflect upon the question… How did all this happen?

As I ask and continue to ask, I began to read to find some answers. So I read that Singapore today has an ageing population, that the TFR is way below what is needed for natural population replacement and without natural population replacement, the economy will stall, Singapore’s wealth will be used up to support the aged. The economically active will need to work harder to support the expenditure to upkeep the older generation while at the same generating new revenue to keep Singapore going. I also read that at one point, the TFR was way above replacement… but then, the situation was the reverse. Then, to upkeep a younger population boom would mean more infrastructure, better planning, more schools, better curriculum… so to make things easy… the government introduced a Stop at Two policy… along with steps to penalize women who gets pregnant more than twice… to top that up, the Graduate Mothers Scheme came in, injecting into the society a deep fearful perception that Graduate Babies are the only worthy presence in Singapore. Yet today, decades later, we learnt that it was a grave mistake and now even with all citizens from fresh grads to former-retirees engaging actively in work, there is still not enough manpower to keep the economy going… so I read that Singapore needs more talents in to create new jobs, to improve productivity, to ensure continued progress for Singapore… and not just any talent… but Cheaper Manila Quality graduates.

As I read and continue to read, I started to ask again… why did the government then took the easy way out? Suppressing birthrates instead of working harder to ensure the necessary infrastructure to support the high birth was installed with a long term view that every individual citizen counts. Wasn’t there a middle ground? Was their foresight too short?

As I turn off my nightlight just before I close my eyes, I ask myself for one more time… is the fate that is going to beset by children a result of taking the easy way out policy-making yet again? As I close my eyes and scroll through the flashes in my mind of the day’s events… I am convinced that it is injustice to my children if they and their peers, the young generation of Singaporeans today, have to start their worklife burdened with debt. I become more convinced that to much of my worries for my kids, the opening of Singapore’s shores to Manila quality graduates is yet another poor easy way out taken by a simplictic government.

I know I am loyal to Singapore. Because I was brought up to love the country and my fellow citizens with the pledge I recite every morning when still in blue and white uniform as a student to green fatigue of the army. I know I have to be loyal to Singapore and continue to love the country and my fellow citizens because that is what I teach my kids.

However, how do I show my love for the country and fellow citizens when by all calculations my peers are struggling as I am to raise our children. Our children are struggling to ace their education so as not to fall short of a graduate level citizen. Yet, by all calculations our children will eventually be just a poor citizen who has to accept a lower pay packet or risk losing it to a Manila quality graduate from China, India and elsewhere… struggle to smile in the morning and unable to laugh in the evening from the low morale of not having enough to save for that MBA so that they won’t risk losing their job before the age of forty to a younger degree-mill quality MBA holder.

I have to assert my loyalty to Singapore, the country and my fellow citizens, for now and the future. Today and every day, as I clear my final thoughts before I sleep, I remind myself that to be loyal is to not allow another easy way out population policy take effect. Come this GE, I will express my loyalty to Singapore by for a new government who is loyal to Singapore and its citizens, for now and the future.

*received a message after posting up a draft notifying me that the Minister responsible for crediting Manila graduates is no longer the Manpower minister as of May 2015. Well, my bad. with Ministers changing portfolios faster than I can read Harry Potter books, it is difficult to keep up. In any case, do share if you know another parent who is thinking the same way… maybe, we can start a support group or start a Singapore Manila Concerned Parents Scholarship.

The Other Loyal Singapore Citizen.

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