Imagine this scenario. A terrorist bomb goes off near a government building. Dozens of people are badly injured. Some have died. There is panic. You are a doctor who happens to be nearby and quickly runs to the scene to help. Everyone around you comes in to help, cleaning wounds, bandaging, comforting victims, calling their families, carrying them to safety. Everyone performs superbly. Selflessness everywhere.
But among the onlookers, there is one retired uncle who is not doing anything. While we are all busy trying to salvage the situation, he is hovering around over us, going on and on about how it is all the Government’s fault, he knows terrorism was going to happen sooner or later. We should have done this. We should have done that. And then he asks you, “Are you going to apologise for all these now?’’
Recently, an NMP with an activist background asked if the government would apologise to the foreign workers for the conditions of their dorms. Previously, she had asked government to give migrant workers GST relief money.
Let’s put aside several glaring facts.
One, that an apology would not help the workers themselves at this moment. And indeed, if there is evidence and ground to show that an apology is needed, is this even the time to discuss it? The government already said it will review the whole crisis.
Two, that the dorms were actually built to provide enough facilities for the workers, and that they are much better than the unregulated cramped dwellings workers live in elsewhere. The FWs would have seen pictures from their compatriots before they chose to come here. Activists insist on blowing up only the cases with bad conditions, and linking them to Covid spread with little evidence, to misrepresent the entire situation.
Three, that we are spending our taxpayers’ money to feed, entertain and heal the FWs, unlike some countries. Many FWs have openly praised and thanked the government for this. Actually, many cash-strapped Singaporeans are already begrudging this, without the expensive changes that the activists are asking for. For god’s sake, they are getting assured salary, free wifi, recreation facilities, ATMs inside dormitory premises, food delivered to their premises. Check with their compatriots in Malaysia where employers are asked to pay for testing for workers.
I could go on and on.
But what I really want to do, is to think about what scenario the activists are asking for.
From TWC2’s website:
– “A little more living space and a few more showers won’t fix it.”
– “With some 300,000 workers in dormitories of all kinds, we will need to move about 150,000 out to reduce density by 50%.”
– The root problem is “(Singapore’s) addiction to cheap labour”.
TWC2 suggests using carparks and bomb shelters to house workers. Are those exactly great living conditions? And what about after the pandemic? After all, they are the ones who say conditions must improve permanently. 150,000 is the same size as Ang Mo Kio town. Do we use taxpayers’ money to house them in HDB flats? Sell and rent to them at discount? Do we give them the same subsidies we get in polyclinics and public hospitals? Send their kids to compete with us for primary school places? Queues will lengthen, taxes will go up, and if we mandate employers to do more, prices will also go up significantly.
I have actually heard an old schoolmate suggest that we give all FWs citizenship because they built our nation. Actually the PAP might be happy about that- the FWs know how it is to have corrupt infighting governments, and will overwhelmingly vote PAP. Let’s see what the activists say then. Bet you the same activists will go ballistic and accuse the PAP of using foreigners to win votes.
Too unrealistic? Let me give you a more realistic scenario then- the activists will actually get what they want. The dorms will be thinned out- not because of any activism, but because the economy will slow down significantly, especially construction.
To mandate better dorm conditions in a hurting economy will actually incentivise employers to cut corners in other ways. Fewer FWs, lower wages, less training, less safety precautions. It will also mean a double whammy to our economy, and higher prices at a time when many Singaporeans will be jobless.
And all for what? To change something that most FWs willingly chose and are grateful for?
Back to the busybody uncle. If you are not helping, if you don’t have better workable ideas that also take into account the costs, please step aside. And shut up.