Opinion: Why Do Paper Generals and SMRT Technicians Have Different Views About Singaporeans’ Lives

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These two commentaries made their rounds in Facebook recently and they probably touched a few nerves. They were opposite viewpoints about Singaporeans’ lives.

On one hand, one complained about Singaporeans having unreasonable expectations of our Government – citing that we want Singapore to be the best in the world for numerous aspects. It alluded that Singaporeans’ source of unhappiness is over-expectations and the solution would be to lower the expectations in order to be happy. So simple!

The other commenter complained about a typical Singaporean’s life whereby he works a lot but achieves very little financially, and he cannot afford to stop working because there are needs in the family to be taken care of. So depressing!

So who’s right since both seemed to paint some truth to the situation and hence there were supporters who resonated with each narrative.

I guess it depends on the circumstances of your life.

If you are leading a comfortable life financially speaking, you probably don’t have the problems of commenter 2 and hence you might be wondering why Singaporeans complain so much because life isn’t that bad after all. It must be their expectations that are doing evil to their heads.

If you are struggling to make ends meet, you would complain about the cost of living and wouldn’t even say you have unreasonable expectations!

Maybe this is a small social evidence of a widening rich-poor gap in Singapore.

There was another discussion on a Social Studies book that mentioned the lifestyle differences between High Social Economic Status (SES) and Low SES. It made rounds on social media and it got many people upset because the descriptions were derogatory.

Coincidentally, Prof Ng Kok Hoe of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, contributed a piece in our local newspaper, Today, citing that the way we calculated the GINI Coefficient (to determine rich-poor gap) was not consistent with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). We have excluded non-working households which could have taken out the the bottom and the very top of the wealth pyramid in our country. This is because the wealthy may not work but could have large streams of income through investing their capital. He thinks that the rich-poor gap could be wider than what our official numbers suggested.

The concern about the rich-poor gap is growing.

My view is that both of the commenters are right – where you are in life would shape the way you see the Singapore society.

Here’s my favourite comic which is apt to end off my view: