Sunday, August 07, 2016

What Singapore can learn from Donald Trump ?

As a follow-up to the article on the Absurdity of the Singapore Dream and the upcoming National Day Celebrations, I would just like to talk about policies at a macro-level. I wish to extend the argument that Singapore can learn a little bit from the rise of Donald Trump.

As a disclaimer, when I say that the government can channel Donald Trump when drafting policies, I was not referring to his racists, seditious and xenophobic rants. Instead, Singapore can do something to prevent the hijack of the existing government if they figured out why Donald Trump is edging closely to Hilary Clinton today in the Presidential elections.

More importantly, Singapore is not safe from a demagogue. Roy Ngerng is an inadequately informed citizen and was prone to massage his data to make the CPF programme look bad. Even though he lost a series of lawsuits, just look at how urgently the government is reforming the CPF program today with the introduction of LRIS and escalating payments in CPF Life. Now imagine what would happen if a highly-educated Roy Ngerng like character started making sense when addressing the Singapore crowds but also was opportunistic enough to channel dissatisfaction towards foreigners and minorities.

My hypothesis is as follows : If the absurdities of living in Singapore grow to a point whereby Chinese non-degree males become dissatisfied with living here, the ground will be ripe for a revolution.

This is the reason why Donald Trump is so popular today. He tapped into a wellspring of anger from white blue-collared men who have beens sidelined by elites. In America is very wrong to call someone a nigger, but calling someone a hillbilly or a redneck is ok and considered politically correct. Right up till this year, white blue-collared men have no voice until Donald Trump step forth and started addressing their concerns.

This lies at the root of my suggestions for what our government can do.

The government needs to study Chinese non-degree men very carefully while the going is good in Singapore. The cost of this study does not need to be borne by all Singaporean tax-payers because it can be paid for by CDAC or even part of NTUC. The last time I checked, CDAC still takes $1 off my paycheck every month.

What do these folks do in their spare time ?
Are they married, do they have children ?
Do they have adequate savings ?
Do they really need to own their home ?
Do they hold permanent or contract jobs ?
What are their aspirations ?
What are their hobbies ?
What is their life satisfaction levels ?

Upon personal reflection, the only time I get to meet these folks is when I am doing my reservist but we tend to create our own cliques very carefully once we settle down in camp, so I do not have a very conclusive idea of what they want out of life.

I cannot imagine our Admin officers and Philosopher Kings having a firm grasp of the working class Chinese men either.

But I do know this :

It is a very bad mistake to think that these folks want what we want. Social science studies already show that some guys just want to plug into the virtual world and not settle down.

Singapore as a Smart City can also do this way better than other countries. Anonymized data collected by surveyors can be uploaded as a dataset and then processed by members of the public and hackers. We can even build a new business around their needs.

Of course, my suggestion is certainly not for Singapore to detract from the excellent work already done on minorities. When I was a government officer, there was indeed some evidence that this has always been quite big in the policy maker's minds.

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