Beneath the facade of “Singapore: World’s richest country”
Posted by temasektimes on August 20, 2012
It is with great alarm that I read the above tag & headline in the Straits Times recently labelling Singapore as the world’s richest nation . Upon further inspection, our widely circumspect government- controlled newspaper proudly proclaimed that “Singapore topped the charts for highest GDP per capita in 2010 at close to SGD $70,000 (USD $56,532), according to a study.In the Wealth Report 2012 published by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank, Singapore is also expected to continue to be the global leader in 2050.GDP per capita refers to the total output of a country divided by the population.
Huh, I immediately thought to myself as I, like many other “sinkis” (those born and bred here) had been living under the roof of the “ world’s richest nation”, let alone earning an average per capita income of S$70,000 per annum! Can this really be true, that the general populace (people) of Singapore, on the average, has more per capita income than the likes of Norway, Switzerland, The U.S. , Canada, Australia etc etc.?? I shudder in disbelief, as I myself, can only manage to earn roughly S$25,000 per annum as a taxidriver these past few years, a far cry from the “national average” of the so-called $70,000 based on the abovesaid Wealth Report.
Hmmmh, maybe I am just one of the unlucky ones, since I am one of those deemed “structurally unemployed” that had to resort to driving taxi despite having an overseas degree and an ex-PMET with over 20 yrs work experience but somehow unable to obtain any clerical or administrative level job of any sort at age 50, so can only drive taxi or work as security guard in this unforgiving job landscape in this gloriously titled world’s richest nation.
I got to qualify the above statements by clarifying that I had never been choosy in my job search these many years since my retrenchment from my PMET post in 2008. I had applied for jobs from all walks of life, including entry level jobs at the IRs, clerical and admin positions of $1,500 monthly asking pay etc. Sadly, I once even got rejected for a car park valet position with MBS despite having relevant work experience as one and also a $6per hour position as a part-time theme park operator with RWS where I was looked over and preferred over by younger pinoy female candidates. Being jobless at an older age is a tormenting experience and one cannot expect any handout or assistance from our illustrious PAP govt during such difficult times because like all things here, everyone has to simply fend for themselves in this unforgiving nation.
Yet when I drive taxi, I see all around me all kinds of foreigners (fts) of all nationalities , both young and old, all flourishing with good paying jobs in this “great” nation of ours, all calling Singapore their home since they get to earn a pretty good living here. This is especially so in a country that has an immigration policy that is so welcoming to fts of any form or qualifications, inviting them to fill up the many available jobs which somehow become more and more exclusively reserved for fts rather than locals in this vibrant economy of ours. Yes, the “foreign talent” policy of this govt is so overwhelmingly skewed that it does not accord a snowball’s-chance-in-hell for locals, esp those in the older age bracket like myself, to compete for any decent jobs. So only other alternative is….Drive Taxi!
As a taxidriver, many-a-times I spent my meal breaks sitting in the many hawker centres and local kopitiams situated in the heartlands or HDB estates. Yet everywhere I observed around me, I see fellow “sinkis” like myself, the local “aunties” and “uncles” all working either as cleaners, kopitaim attendants, dishwashers or those collecting 10cents per entry at the public toilets whilst others earn their living carrying cardboard scarps or collecting cans . Still there are many others, all Singaporeans, always loitering around the kopitiams, haphazardly dressed, mostly unemployed, looking for free meals or a free glass of beer here and there from old familiar faces. Sigh, this is the state of true-blue Singaporeans in this socalled “world’s richest nation” and if I were to do a headcount, I would probably see a few dozen such Singaporeans at each kopitiam, all earning very meagre salaries at most (Yes, I asked one 70yr old “ahpek” how much he earns as a kopitiam assistant and he say $650p.m without CPF or benefits , work 12 hours a day and if absent from work, will be deducted 2 day’s salary).
Unfortunately I see this everyday even in my own neighbourhood in Bedok where the majority of Singaporeans are either working as taxidrivers or cleaners and security guards, mostly all in low income jobs. If I were to guess a ratio or rough estimate, I reckon that only 1 out of 20 Singaporeans I know of is holding a professional job i.e an executive level or managerial position. Sadly, the majority seems to be stuck in the usual “Poverty Trap” ie of being in low income jobs that will never be able to cope with high costs of living or inflation.
So I cannot help but wonder, how is it that we, as a nation, can have a per capita income of $70,000 per annum? Furthermore this is something stretching way into the future, according to the wealth report, until the year 2050? That is nothing short of saying that we do indeed undisputedly live in the world’ wealthiest nation and should be proud that we have a standard of living even better than our Swiss and American counterparts!
Surely, Something must be truly wrong with this picture called Singapore since so many of us are truly left out in the cold , hardly earning an income that is even close to the “national average” or the measured benchmark of 70k p.a???
Alas, I can only come to one conclusion and it is that the extent of the income gap i.e gap between the rich and the poor, is so incredibly large here, it is beyond comprehension! This is to say that, the rich or some of the high income earners or the super-rich is so overwhelmingly so , it makes the ratio so disproportionate. Perhaps one of these millionaires earns so much that it takes several hundred ordinary “heartlanders” like those I described above to equal to the income of ONE! For sure, I can tell you that the average ft that comes here for work (esp those plying their trade in the CBD and Financial District) all earn WAY ABOVE the 70k per annum benchmark . You should see some of the luxurious condos I shuttle them to everyday, the magnificient restaurants and clubs they wine and dine and party at. Yes the average fts here all truly earns at least that amount wheres us locals or “Sinkis” are mostly languishing in the heartlander “ghettos” with our minimal $1,000 per month salary, which , by the way, is enough to own a HDB flat and get by with the high cost of living, according to a very well-known PAP govt Minister!
Truly, I really feel so sad that, as a true son of Singapore, I now live in this nation who boasts itself , without any doubt, to be the world wealthiest nation but yet somehow, I feel I only possess a “second or third world” livelihood that is unable to cope with first world inflation rate!
Whilst so many others come here from foreign lands to so proudly boast that are “almost Singaporean” just because they been living here a few years but enjoying the high life, the rest of us “true Singaporeans” that are born and raised here now feel nothing but a great sense of displacement and being “left out” in this nation’s incessant march towards that inaptly tagged title of being a part of this “world’s wealthiest nation”.!