Why I’m coming back to you, Singapore

Why I’m coming back to you, Singapore
TODAY file photo.
Published: 3:58 AM, March 19, 2013
Updated: 3:50 AM, March 20, 2013
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In Singapore, as in life, change is the only constant. I am reminded of this fact every time I come home for Chinese New Year, looking out at the CBD skyline as I travel over the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.

More recently, however, it is our politics that have undergone a fair bit of change, and my worry is that the path we are heading down is an all-too-familiar one that democracies lean towards over time — but one that Singapore cannot afford to follow.

The saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” is particularly poignant for me. My grandfather, who practically raised me, passed away just before Chinese New Year, and it evoked strong feelings of regret and guilt, for not having spent more time with him while he was alive.

The event was particularly distressing because I was unable to attend his funeral, being stranded in the United Kingdom, waiting for my visa to be renewed — a process that was already four months in, and would have taken two months more, if not for the unfortunate circumstances which enabled me to expedite my application.

I never appreciated the importance of an efficient public sector, until I actually found myself at the mercy of such inefficiency in a foreign land; such woefully long waiting times are unheard of in Singapore, and even if some might protest that standards are slipping across quasi-public services such as SingPost and SMRT, at least we appear to be addressing these issues, which is more than I can say for my temporary country of residence.


Undoubtedly, it will take time to implement improvements and, yes, the populace will suffer certain costs in the meantime as a result of these policy shortfalls. But hindsight is 20/20 and it is all too easy to criticise.

I am not saying that we should “cut the Government some slack” —we have a right to expect more from those elected to public office, and as public servants they should not be beyond reproach when they let us down. However, the time for protest is done, and the time for constructive dialogue is now; the electorate and the elected alike need to engage to move things forward instead of allowing populist rhetoric to set us back.

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