Does Singapore have a ‘kindness problem’?

3 weeks ago 88

SINGAPORE: The day before Mr Lawrence Wong was sworn-in as Prime Minister, an opinion piece was published on Bloomberg titled “Can a New PM Fix Singapore’s Kindness Problem?”

Over a week later, the piece was published again in The Malaysian Reserve. In it, Bloomberg Opinion columnist Karishma Vaswani noted that Singapore is ushering a new era with Mr Wong at the helm, and recognised the enormous success Singapore has had so far.

“But this moment is also an opportunity for new leader Lawrence Wong to build a more compassionate society in one of the world’s most competitive cities. Whether he embraces that challenge with the sincerity and enthusiasm that his predecessors exhibited in lifting Singapore from third world to first will determine how well the tiny island state survives in the coming decades,” Ms Vaswani wrote.

Citing the example of the elderly in Singapore who still need to work in order to cope with rising living costs, she also pointed out that many in Singapore have been expressing the desire for more meaning in life than what the 5 Cs can give, and said that the new Prime Minister would do well to listen to more alternative views.

Ms Vaswani specifically cited the different approach to government that the opposition Workers’ Party has demonstrated in Parliament. She quoted a 2023 speech on poverty from Assoc Prof Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC).

“If we can all agree that a good life includes opportunities to education and decent healthcare employment with work-life balance, and a sense of inclusion when one participates in social, cultural and religious activities, then why do we not extend these to the most economically vulnerable in our mid? Life is not just about making it day to day, but about thriving. All humans — poor or not — have aspirations.”

Which is not to say that Singaporeans are not, by nature, kind.

The Singapore Kindness Movement has been around since the 1990s. There are a good number of charitable organizations, and many express compassion toward animals and are outraged at stories of mistreatment, many others volunteer and donate regularly, and the ordinary Singaporean one meets in the street will, in general, be friendly and even helpful if, say, appealed to for directions.


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