Wednesday, October 15, 2008

5 reasons why Singaporeans return to Singapore - part 2 of 2

This is a continuation of an earlier post.

3. Health care


There is no free health care in Singapore. That being said, the people aren't taxed for it either. At least you don't see it as a separate category in your income tax form, and yes, I am having UK's National Health Services (NHS) in mind when I say this.

However, there is a subsidy (read: not free) for the most basic healthcare. For those who cannot afford to to go to private GP or private hospitals, there are polyclinics and public hospitals. With the money saved from lower taxes, individuals have the choice of where they would prefer to seek medical advice when the need arises.

As a result of which, there is a variety of choices ranging from local GPs (normally a couple within an estate) to polyclinics and hospitals (public and private) staffed with competant medical staff. The same can be said of dental clinics.

In fact, this is one main thing that I miss sorely. After hearing some not so pleasant tales about NHS, I look forward to my visit back home when I will pay my local GP and dentist a visit to iron out any medical issues. Believe me, I'm not the only one. Needless to say, I was horrified to hear that some Britons have been resorting to using pliers to remove their decayed teeth.

4. Standard of living


There was a big hoohah when it was thought that Singapore has been elevated to a 'first world' status a couple of years back - it was clarified afterward that Singapore being removed from the 'Third World countries' list doesn't qualify her as a First World country. Guess that she's just somewhere in between.

After being granted independence by the British Crown in 1965 and with the remnants of British forces moved out in 1972, Singapore was left to fend for herself. With the communist regime looming in the background and the US fighting a losing battle in Vietname, It was a bleak time indeed.

Fast forward four decades, Singapore is currently sporting a GDP per capita of just over US$41,000 with population literacy of over 90%. Most (>80%) of her population reside in flats constructed by Housing Development Board (HDB), with most actually owning a 99 year lease on the property. The rest live in private properties that cost anything from US$300,000 to a couple of million dollars - a tidy fortune in local context.

During one of my trips to southern Europe, I met a French woman who exclaimed that Singapore is known to be an 'expensive place to live in'. Apparently, she has never been there before but has 'heard it from someone else'. Let there be no doubt, it's rather pricy if you wish to live comfortably in Singapore. Otherwise, it is just as expensive as any city of comparable size.

5. Efficiency


One of Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew (now the Minister Mentor in the cabinet) wrote in his memoir that he recalled pressing on a doorbell during a visit to friend's house in the 1950s and found it not working. He told himself that when he become the Prime Minister (he was from 1959 to 1990), he would make sure that everything in Singapore 'works'.

An author, whose name I can't recall, wrote in his travel book about Singapore being an 'frighteningly efficient' and went on to lambaste it as artificial. Well, it is in a way. Everything in the island state seem to work like clockwork, most of it anyway.

Breakdowns in trains and buses are far and few, luggage loss in the airport is rare, bus drivers don't terminate bus services for no good reason and even the postmen are on time. To a certain extent, Singaporeans are getting somewhat complacent such that they get very frustrated when there is a glitch in the system.

That efficiency comes with a price however; deadlines and targets set at every level are expected to be met and fulfilled, which of course lead to unwarranted stress that would eventually cause some Singaporeans to leave.

* * *

That concludes the 5 reasons why Singaporeans return to Singapore. But wait, that's not all, for there is one final reason, which I am certain that all Singaporeans will agree with me, why the tiny isle still beckons. Look out for the next post on The REAL reason why Singaporeans are heading home. Any guesses?

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Read also...
5 reasons why Singaporeans return to Singapore - part 1 of 2

6 reasons why Singaporeans leave Singapore
Behold! - The REAL reason why Singaporeans are flocking back to Singapore

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Eaststopper said...

Hey, I am seriously contemplating moving back to SG - terribly homesick.

C K said...

Serious? Care to share your reasons for thinking so? Would love hear them.

SheR. said...

Wise words my dear.
Let me give you my 6th reason. It is the only country where different races can live in comfort without being treated as a foreigner forever!!!

Yes we do look at some Chinese and Indian nationals in SG and scorn at them for squeezing into our tiny country. But over 5 years, we make friends with them and where they come from is no longer important. However in any other country, UK or the primitive Balkans, no matter how long one lives here, they are forever FOREIGN!

That's racism and backward I say.

C K said...

I think that comes from the fact that Singapore was basically populated by immigrants. Well, my maternal grandfather is from China and so is my paternal great grandfather.... and a number of my relatives are from Malaysia so that helps quite a bit.

You're right actually. I count some Indian nationals as friends. But I'm sure you picked up some pals along the way, no?

Deb said...

the probl with the last pt on efficiency is that when sporeans go overseas they sorta expect the same sort of efficiency. Phils airlines never take off on time, buses have flexi-hours, ppl are so patient they'll wait for hours for some thing to start, and we s'poreans complain till we're blue in the face!

We oughto like realise S'pore is an oddity, that everything works. And the rest of the world is normal. Well, that's why I like coming back home after another trip ;)

C K said...

That's probably why the foreign author (mentioned in my post) described Singapore as artificially efficient. Honestly, I don't think he meant that as a compliment.

Anyway, in order not to get the hopes of visitors, heading towards Singapore, up high, things doesn't always tick in Singapore. I'm sure you'll start to notice that after awhile. :)

I'm sure, through your travels, you have met your fair share of Singaporeans who expect things to work as well (compared to back home) in your travels. Care to share it with us?

lina said...

Nothing wrong with a country being run like a clockwork, I say.
What if some say it's artificial, if it is beneficial for the country.

Dutchie said...

Erm .. 99yr lease .. this concept of home ownership is kinda weird. When u buy a home in Europe, it's yours forever. Relinquishing ur purchase after 99yrs in Sg is like renting it for a hefty price, don't u agree ?

I wonder if Sg'reans r truly conscious of this aspect ? I would like to hear what u all think abt this lease issue as well.

C K said...

I've got absolutely no issue about the 'clockwork' issue. The main concern here is that (some) Singaporeans go overseas and make a big fuss when things doesn't 'happen', if you know what I mean.

I think most Singaporeans just doesn't really think about the 99 year lease. In fact, if you get a resale (pre-owned) HDB flat, there's actually less than 99 years to go.

The main reason for the inherent indifference is due to the mentality that most Singaporeans will eventually 'upgrade' into a bigger flat a couple of years down the road.

What do the others think?

Fëanor said...

to say, I was horrified to hear that some Britons have been resorting to using pliers to remove their decayed teeth.

CK, these Britons first consumed large quantities of Scotch before resorting to said pliers. So that's okay then, heh.

C K said...

Regardless of how drunk I am, I'll never resort to using pliers. Just thinking about it send chills down my spine...

I remembered as a kid, I was terrified of the dentist. Instead, I tried to wobble my milk teeth bit by bit until it was dislodged a couple of days later. Definitely not the thing to do to get a perfect set of deciduous teeth. Sigh.

lina said...

If in Malaysia, I wouldn't buy a house with 99 year lease (because I'll want to keep the house for rental or sell it if I decide to upgrade to a better house. But there are houses with 99 year lease too.

daria369 said...

I really enjoy reading this blog's posts and all the responses - and learning about the country I've never been to...

Cindy King said...

I am from the Bahamas and live in France. There are a lot of things that will make me leave this country and the only reason I am still here is my daughter has to finish school. Next year I'll be looking for my next destination!
Stumbled and included in my blog carnival.

FreemanH said...

Move to Canada. Better than the UK and much much better than Singapore.

I can't think why anyone will want to move back to SG other than for the food.

Healthcare? Give me a break. I rather pay higher taxes than work like shit to finance my "future" medical bills.

Anyone who thinks of going back to SG for health care is making a bloody serious mistake.

SheR - I think your 6th reason is irrelevant in a country like Canada where race is not even an issue anymore. In fact, people are friendlier in Vancouver than locals back in SG. That's my experience.

From a Singapore who is a PR in Canada.

Anonymous said...

Like reading your blog a lot and hope you don't mind my pointing out that you spelt the Minister Mentor's name incorrectly. Perhaps it was a typo but I'm sure you know his middle name's misspelt?

London Chow said...

Thanks for pointing that out! Have made the correction. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned Canada vs Singapore. I thought Canada was cold 9 months in a year and not seeing the sun for months on end can be depressing. Atleast Singapore is always sunny !

dental clinic in singapore said...

I know this is an old post, but I saw some people still commenting so...

About everything seems to work, I think it is a unified opinion of those who has been or lived in Singapore, whether they mean positive or negatively (some people like backpackers actually wants unexpected adventures that imperfect system can only offer)

"That efficiency comes with a price however; deadlines and targets set at every level are expected to be met and fulfilled, which of course lead to unwarranted stress that would eventually cause some Singaporeans to leave." -> I agree. This is a hit for me! Hahaha...