Friday, July 03, 2009

Alternatives to Emigration for Unhappy Singaporeans.

SM Goh has, once again, brought up the issue of emigration amongst our citizens. There is sufficient finger pointing on the web on how the PAP has socially engineered our society into one which does not value our citizens. The aim of this article is to neither support nor oppose the main thrust of what the web is feeling collectively but to acknowledge that it is within our control to do something about this without taking the drastic step of giving up their NRIC cards.

Here's some suggestions on what I think can be viable alternatives to emigration:

a) Adopt alternative benchmarks.

A lot of emigration arises from feeling insecure as Singapore is perceived to have a very small group of winners versus a collectively larger group of losers. Winners get comfortable jobs in the civil service, live longer lives and have more autonomy and life satisfaction. One way of coping with this is to develop an internal benchmark on what success really is. While you may not excel in the area of achievements, you may excel in relationships or have attained a higher level of spiritual attainment. while you may not be a scholar, you may a very successful raid leader in WOW managing a number of players that a company director would envy.

b) Understand some advantages of being a Singaporean.

Singaporeans are stressed out at work. Local managers are sub-standard and a lot of bad management practices is inculcated during NS. But Singaporeans have low taxes and can save more money. Very few societies makes it so easy to gain access to maids to look after children and estate taxes are no longer a burden for those who wish to pass along money to future generations.

c) Leverage on the free lunches in Singapore.

There are free lunches in Singapore. Ridiculous low income taxes are one. Low corporate taxes and subsequent negligible taxes on dividend income is another. Singaporeans can use it to their advantage provided that they do not make the mistake of over-consuming too much and paying too much GST and subsidising the civil service through paying COE and road taxes. Getting from one point to another in Singapore still costs less than $3 if you plan your journey well and use public transport.

d) Stop thinking about what others feel about careers and family.

A lot of pressure comes from sabotage from one's own family. Many Singaporeans are comfortable being single as it is a very efficient arrangement. Others get married but never have children as they want to take advantage of dual incomes. A lot of stress disappears if you live your life the way you want to. So what if a relative thinks that being single and not having kids is abnormal? if you want to be a couple, have one kid or no kid but you want to travel 4 times a year, so be it.

Anyway, I'll do a post on this item again and examine some other suggestions but keep the feedback coming.


  1. this is a good post, however, the notion of low income/estate tax is, illusion. after accounting for public utils, GLC telco/internet, GLC transportation....and after CPF (the money is yours but you don't have sovereignty on how to use it), i wonder if you are able to save much.

    to get from point a to b can be cheape ($3), but how long? i used to spend at least 3h commuting everyday in singapore, sometimes with bad roadwork, it can be 4h. i did not work/live in ulu places either, and of course, everybody tells me singapore is small. but if it's so small, why take so long? if i drive and traffic is smooth, 2h i can drive to JB liao, why do i spend that to get home/go to work?

    the stress, quality of life, need for space (mental and physical) is what a singaporean life is. and that with the 2nd class citizenship with influx of ridiculously high cheap foreign labour without integration into the society and taxing the already maxed infrastructure.

    i don't know if there is an alternative, just like most of what living in singapore is.....liddat also boh bian.

  2. Xuan,

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Commuting is one of the biggest frustrations of modern living with many psychological surveys ranking it as one of the worse ways to spend your time on the day. My transportation from Kranji to Temasek Avenue and back takes my 3 hours a day.

    I really put in some effort to deal with this problem. Now I have an e-book I bought from ebay and found a route to take that guarantees me a bus seat. This way, I end up getting some personal time to read 3 hours a day.

    I'll see what I can do about telecomms costs and will update everyone about my strategies to cut costs on this blog.

  3. CPF and HDB are large stealth taxes

  4. 99 year leases for public housing make the point about estate taxes irrelevant. Property is not a good way to pass on wealth to your children unless you're rich enough to own private housing.

    Similarly, in more family-friendly countries there are many alternatives for day-care that don't involve hiring lowly paid domestic servants who may not be adequately trained to handle children. I'm not sure that the option of maids is a better one than that of good day-care. Day-care services in Singapore are way behind those in Sweden for example.