Recently Dr Mahathir made a remark about “a neighbouring country” saying that it had a high salary or wage rate but it was not a rich country (I paraphrase of course). Of course, we all make a good guess and can be 99.9% sure he was talking about Singapore.
I don’t know about you, but it sure made me stop in my footsteps and reflect for a long moment about whether I felt rich or poor, but as usual, because I am a Singaporean of ethnic Chinese descent (not PRC hor), my inner thoughts will always be “money no enough”, because when I was young my mother said, you need to work hard and earn a lot of money. She never said how much was enough though. Anyway I digress.
So back to this state of “richness” or “poorness” in Singapore, as compared to our friends up North.
Firstly, how rich or how poor one feels is subjective. Earning “Enough” is subjective as a feeling. A banker can earn $30K a month and still don’t feel “enough”, while some taxi drivers (like former actor Peter Yu) do think how much he has is “enough”. Most of us have wants and needs that supersedes our earning power, because we have such aspirations, which are not necessarily bad, then we never feel that it is enough. We want to earn more, we want to move up.
Another point that is not reflected in this thinking is that dollars and cents should not be the only measurement of a country’s richness. The total wealth of this country is not just in the tangible, but in the intangible. People come here to live and work and raise their families for reasons beyond wage rates. This country offers a safe place to raise children. It offers sanitation and hygiene standards that are high, especially in this part of the world. And efficiency.
The experience in Singapore is one that is safe, clean and mostly efficient (because nowadays trains still get delayed).
So in reaction to Dr M’s implied statement that we are not rich, I say yes, we are not as rich as we would like to be, and the cost of living is stressing us out. That said, we cannot be sure that cost of living won’t go up in their country in the years to come either! I would also confidently say that I would not trade my Singapore Citizenship for the Malaysian passport, because of all the intangibles here in Singapore – I can park my car at my carpark and wake up to find it still there; my children can walk to school in the morning without worries about getting taken away, my wife can come home late without me having to go to the bus stop to wait for her, just to name a few.
Can we do better? Sure. Can Malaysia do better? Sure.
So Dr M, you cite us as an example, that is fine. I just thought you should know that implying that Singaporeans are poor so that Malaysians don’t feel so bad about themselves is like me getting 48 marks in my maths test and telling my mother that my other classmate only got 45 marks. Only make myself feel better.
So unless you can guarantee that YOUR cost of living isn’t going to catch up with ours at some point, then don’t keep taking slingshots at us liao lah.
And by the way, you know what? We do like buying along the streets, so don’t feel so bad for us okay? At least our streetfood eat already won’t laosai lah!