Of Hope, Heart and Home
Someone asked me why I am still subscribing the ST, on weekends only, when many refused to touch it for their many reasons. The answer is simple. You need to know what it is, what it is printing and what it is not printing. You must know the subject or you can’t make a fair comment or judgement of it. Likewise many have openly declared that they would shun Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally Speech. I did not, or else I would not know what I am writing about the speech.
It is not very normal to see someone speak in three languages at the same time and on a very serious subject like the nation’s future. Other than his command of the languages, his elephant memory is abnormal, to be able to speak through a couple of hours without making a glitch. It was scripted and rehearsed many times, true, but even a news reader would make mistakes here and there for such a long script.
Many of the misgivings and gripes of the people were tackled satisfactorily with many yeses instead of the usual no’s in the past. Many were happy that the govt is listening to their grouses and willing to act on them positively. What was not so good is that it was kind of reactionary. The govt was simply reacting to the cries and the problems raised by the people. And many of these problems needed not happen if govt policies were implemented with a heart. Yes, the heart was missing or misplaced for many years.
Hsien Loong’s main themes were the heart, hope and home. When the heart was not there, hope was dashed, and home became a big burden and a troublesome factor in their lives. Many pains were inflicted on the people because of the missing heart. Policies were shafted down the people’s throat in a very arrogant way, dismissing the people as non entities. This is how I am going to do it. Like it or not, the people just have to live with it.
What is really needed, instead of reactionary piece meal solutions, is to flush the slimy little heart, if it is still there, with sulphuric acid to get rid of the black stains of the past, to start with a new heart. Instal a new set of heartware into the system and hope and home will fall into place.
The old mindset of dictating to the people, not giving the people any choice, or real choices, must stop. Take the CPF scheme. Many would continue to keep their money in the CPF after retirement. Many would want to buy some medical or annuity insurance for their own good. There is no need for compulsion when a scheme is really good for the people. Some will get their money out, some more, some less. But with a good scheme in place, with better terms, interest rates, the people will make choices that are to their advantage. There is no need to compel the people by compulsory schemes. Give the people the choice, let the people decide what is good for them.
The missing heart is most evident in housing policies. All the blocks, deciding who can buy or cannot buy, what they can buy and cannot buy, are simply arrogant and dismissive. Get back to the basics of public housing, build homes for the people. The affordability issue should be more about people wanting to buy beyond their means, wanting to commit to bigger units when they could not afford so. And not forcing people to buy bigger units, or into the private sector, deciding their affordability and how much they must spend, with no regards to their commitments, retirement plans and prudence.
The same applies to mean testing in hospitals. The hospitals must meet the needs of the people. And if more people wanting to opt for lower quality services, provide them. Why compel people to spend more and consume higher quality services when they don’t need and don’t want? Silly isn’t. And the mean testing must go. It only reflects how mean policymakers are.
As for hope, education is where the govt is pointing. We need to provide the places for our children in the universities. Lawrence Wong’s recommendation to offer more places for marketable degrees is sound. Take care of our children instead of other nation’s children. Forget about gaming those impractical and silly ranking systems. A good university is in its products, the graduates. Not the number of foreigners.
And the reality is that our education system is a flop from schools to universities. The fact, we cannot produce good quality grads to fill up many top positions and have to rely on third world grads, from poorly equipped schools and universities, to fill up these top positions. I said our schools failed despite the straight As because these straight As, when sent overseas and returned, were also found wanting. So what is the craze about gaming to score high in those silly rankings? Make sure that our grads are in demand and good enough for all the top positions in the country. If they are not, then it says the system is not good enough. Hope is missing or misplaced when our world class universities could not train our grads to be world class. When foreigners are sought after and walked in to replace our locals in good jobs.
Hope and Home will follow when the heart is in the right place. It is frightening when sometimes one wonders if there is even a heart.