Third-World Citizens?

by Patrick Liew on October 3, 2019

I have tons of respect for Professor Tommy Koh and I’ve personally written to him to tell him so, and to also express some of my concerns to him.

Without sounding overly-defensive of Singaporeans, do we really have a third-world mentality?

Bad drivers and road rages are everywhere. Are we ranked among the worst drivers?

Which country has people that willingly queue up and queue up politely to be served without being told to do so?

Also, which country in the world has no explicit or implicit class differences.

Even in the most homogeneous of societies, welfare states, and communist countries, there’re class divisions.

Professor Koh has been arguing for a poverty line and minimum wage but there’s no evidence to support that these provisions will resolve socioeconomic issues.

Case in point, if the authorities
draw $1300 as the poverty line, and offer more incentives to those below the line, those earning slightly above $1300 will find ways to lower their salaries to enjoy similar incentives.

Mr Lim Boon Heng has told Tommy Koh that Singapore has somewhat of a minimum wage scheme but it’s implemented differently to those in other countries.

The question is how much more money should the government offer to those in the lowest socioeconomic sector. To the best of my knowledge, the good Professor has yet to offer a response.

For some of his comments, I would like to believe that Professor Tommy Koh is exhibiting a favorite pastime of many Singaporeans – grumbling.

To put things in perspective, many Singaporeans grumble a lot.

When we are in Singapore, we grumble about Singapore.

But when we go overseas, we continue to grumble.

We grumble about why the other countries are not like our Singapore.

Our grumbling spirit is both a strength and a weakness.

We grumble because we believe in and take ownership of our country, otherwise why do we care?

We grumble because we set a high standard in this country.

It takes great commitment to achieve these standards and that leads to grumbling if these standards are sometimes not within our grasp.

We grumble because we know that we can change and make things happen so as to achieve the standards we set for ourselves.

If we don’t, we will just accept and live with status quo.

While it’s true that Singapore has people who grumble, it’s also equally true that many of these people who grumble also took action.

That’s why, in Singapore, there are many success stories to inspire those who visit our shores.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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