Structural Reform – no lazy way out

[In between Mother’s Day and Vesak Day, more
compassion and hard thinking are needed to solve the
problems of low wage and older workers. The lazy
thinking of the PAP is not only outdated but will add
more pressures to citizens.]

My neighbor, a good and loyal senior citizen, still insists
on working without complaining. To the PAP, she is
really a model citizen. However, our work and business
structure have forced her to quit her job.

She told me she is going to work until 26
of this
month. Why? Her cleaning company has lost the tender.
But according to market practice, she can still work with
the new tender winner as she is more familiar with work
environment and condition. Her answer is the new
cleaning contractor wants workers to work for 2 blocks
of buildings instead of the current arrangement of 1
block 1 worker. Physically, she said she couldn’t handle
2 blocks of cleaning work in one go.

In fact, as she told me, the condo management (MCST)
has just increased the conservancy fees and she thought
she not only could keep her job perhaps with a pay
increase. However, the result is just the opposite. A
senior citizen lost her cleaning job while the cleaning
industry is under restructure with new licensing

This is the reality of the PAP job reform and economic
re-structure. Everyone must be fit even senior citizens
must be fit to compete in a physical demand environment.
Apparently, the new contract winner must be able to cut
cost by giving extra money or overtime pay to younger
workers by covering the cleaning work of 2 blocks. If the
contractor cannot find local workers willing to do the job,
then the contractor will have reasons to bring in foreign

This is logical and it seems reasonable explanations on
why we need to bring in foreign workers. But is it a lazy
way of thinking and solving problems? The lazy
thinking provides straight forward solutions but also
creates problems at the same time.

Singapore is already a first world country and as what the
Minster for Trade and Industry had said we could no
longer paying our workers third world wages. We need
hard creative thinking not lazy direct thinking to solve
our complicated problems, especially when we want to
increase the retirement age. What kinds of suitable jobs
are we going to offer to senior citizens, in addition to fair

The PAP has been using this lazy way of thinking to
solve problems since independence. This explains why
the wages of lower income workers have not increased
for more than 10 years. Our economic policymaking is a
very straight and lazy thinking. We use low wages to
stimulate the growth and in many ways we seek to
achieve growth rate above our local potentials.

How can the minister offer first world wages to our old-
age cleaners? How can the reformed cleaning industry
continue to provide jobs match the physical condition of
senior citizens?

Another example: CPF

If you look at the CPF minimum sum, it is again another
lazy thinking. In anticipation of future inflation, living
longer and higher living costs, the retirement funds will
certainly increase. As the payout is not inflation-adjusted
but a fit sum, so this minimum sum has to increase not
decrease. Is this another lazy thinking? Like the cleaning
lady, by increasing the minimum sum is the easiest way
to solve the problem. Whether you have physical or
intellectual ability to meet the minimum sum is not the
problem of the government. You find your own solutions
and the government is not helping you at all.

So, when the cleaning lady is running out of money, and
she wants to enter the labor market again, she will have
to offer herself at a lower rate, a rate lower than her
current employment. And you know there is no
minimum wage here, even there is a so-called guideline
for cleaning industry, the cleaning contractors will want
to find the productive workers and unfortunately this has
to come from outside Singapore or willing younger

How to give a fair value to senior citizen cleaning
workers, and how to cover the retirement needs (either
minimum sum or some combinations) are hard thinking
questions. The PAP’s lazy thinking solution may work
well in the past but certainly Singapore needs hard and
creative thinking now and in future.

Other lazy thinking examples include:

Hospital beds: The lazy thinking is if you can’t wait, you
can either upgrade or go to private hospitals. To make it
one step lazier, once you upgrade, you can’t downgrade.
Once you go out, it is hard to return to public hospitals.
Your financial burdens are your problems.

The Toa Payoh graffiti: The lazy thinking of the
mainstream media is to alter the picture so that readers
will not be able to read the right messages. There is no
hard thinking on why this happens. There is no hard
thinking why the truth cannot be reported. In placing
charges, will the persecutors take the lazy way to skip the
key words in the graffiti?

The Little India Riot: The lazy thinking is to blame the
alcohol. The lazy thinking is to move foreign workers to
a remote area and contains them there.

Jubilee Baby Gift and Golden Birth Certificates: To
celebrate SG50, the lazy thinking is to give all new born
babies something in 2015 and ignore other babies. Are
they caring the minority or the majority?

You can find more examples if you take a closer look at
the PAP and how they run Singapore. They are solving
problems in a lazy way. However, Singapore has become
more complicated and sophisticated, and the lazy
thinking of one-party rule has gone. Singapore can no
longer solve our problems like the past – only the PAP
doing the lazy thinking. Lazy thinking is not creative

It is time to do the hard thinking, difficult thinking and
involving more parties. And in between Mother’s Day
and Vesak Day, we shall not be so lazy in thinking,
rather we must think in a compassion way.