SDA May Day 2023

On Behalf of Common Singaporean Workers, A Letter to the Gov on Labour Day 2023

Dear Ivory Tower Officials,

Perhaps from your lofty perch, you have lost sight of the plight of the average Common Singaporean worker.

Here is a Malay saying as a reminder, “Malu bertanya sesat jalan, malu berkayuh perahu hanyut”.

If you’re ashamed to ask you will lose your way, if you’re afraid to paddle your boat will go nowhere.

Unfortunately, top scholars and former generals living in their plush landed homes are too stubborn to engage fellow Singaporeans and emphatise with our plight.

Or, they are too afraid to rock the boat and effect proper change.

This is already giving them some benefit of the doubt.

Pent-up resentment against government policies that worsen the lives of our everyday working men and women was already plain to see 12 years ago.

For sure, the tens of thousands that flooded Hong Lim Park protesting the Population White Paper could not have escaped the Ivory Tower’s watchful eye.

Singaporeans are not against foreigners – we are not xenophobes as some would like to paint us out to be.

Rather, that watershed protest was a plea for help, a cry that our quality of life was worsening and intervention was needed.

Yet, 12 years later, it appears that festering sores have progressed to become open wounds.

As a principal engineer, I have to say that policies enacted have been stop-gap measures at best without addressing core structural problems.

Retrenchment rates are climbing, with more capable Singaporeans given the cruel boot at arguably the prime of their lives.

Underemployment persists, while many talented Singaporeans are fed the common refrain that Singapore needs foreign “talent” because we are not good enough.

Our graduates from the universities, polytechnics and technical schools find that wages have barely risen over the past 12 years while cost of living has sky-rocketed.

Middle-income families find it even more difficult to improve the lives of their families due to government’s stance on housing and transport.

Most of our elderly cannot retire comfortably and, even if they just wanted to “exercise”, do not have the dignity of working in jobs that capitalise of their strengths as pioneers and custodians of Singapore.

The SDA knows this because we give our best effort to engage all Common Singaporeans during our walkabouts and house visits.

We want to understand their concerns, and it is saddening to see that many are fearful for their childrens’ future because of their present circumstances.

Amidst this bleak backdrop, there is little wonder why the fertility rate amongst Singaporeans ranks amongst the lowest in the world today.

Things must change, with the emphasis on improving workers’ quality of life.

A living wage must be enacted, so that disposable income for working class Singaporeans is enough to meet the challenges of daily living.

Tiering of housing and COE purchases must be vastly revamped so that our middle-class have a shot at improving their lot in life.

Tighter policies governing age discrimination at the workplace must be enforced.

A mandated retrenchment insurance fund would be a structured way of helping Common Singaporeans help fellow citizens who have fallen on tough times get back on their feet.

The SDA will elaborate further on our stance to tackle these issues in our upcoming white paper.

Perhaps if you had read our current White Paper, drawn up from engagement with thousands of Singaporeans, you would not be so quick to dismiss the opposition’s recommendations as being populist without any concrete solutions.

Our very own Common Singaporeans strive very hard every day just to give their family a better life.

All of us should have such opportunities, instead of listening to the nagging blare of “meritocracy” while social inequality worsens as each day passes.

Singapore’s governance must not descend further into a state where “天高皇帝遠” – the emperor sits on his throne too distant to hear the pleas of us commoners.

Put aside politics and self-interest, have a heart for the people.

Let’s do right by all of our capable and hardworking Common Singaporean workers.

Desmond Lim
Singapore Democratic Alliance

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