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  1. 本文章转载自管委议员郭晓韵小姐于200731日在国会关于水费涨价30%发言。

本文章刊于201733日郭晓韵小姐facebook个人网页;

2.本中文翻译与作者英文稿如有任何不符或者词不达意之处,均以英文原稿作为最后的解释权。

3.本文章网址:

  1. 郭晓韵小姐个人脸书网页:https://www.facebook.com/notes/shiao-yin-kuik/the-ones-who-walk-towards-2017/10155014195068427

  2. 郭晓韵小姐国会现场演讲视频:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/specialreports/parliament/videos/budget-2017-kuik-shiao-yin-speaks-in-parliament-on-mar-1/3559542.html?tab=6&day=1

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财政部长先生,

很高兴见到您回来了。我受许多新加坡人善意的支持与鼓励向您表达良好的祝愿——尤其是不同政治派别的组织especially across political divides.

团结是一个国家拥有的最宝贵的资产。我一直以来都为此感到骄傲,此仍然是让新加坡在进步中。

这是我们从先辈们继承下来最珍贵的遗产之一。我衷心祈祷我们不会将之遗弃。

向前迈进是世界成长不可分割的一部分

2017年的财政预算报告宣誓了我们国家的未来是与向前迈进联系在一起的。

但是,它的真正的意义是什么?

议长女士、财政部长先生,

美国人的口号是“我的合众国”——“合众为一”。

这是刻印在他们的每一个硬币上。它放在所有的公民的兜里,作为时时提醒它的公民:团结是他们货币的统一的制度。然而,就是这个国家最近公民通过群体投票彻底否定了这个制度。他们认为不再信任这个制度了。

大部分美国人认为,这个制度不再是与美国队共和党和民主党之间的政治主张的问题了。人们对这两个政党所编造的各种共同向前迈进的神话故事已经不再相信了。投票期间,40%的选民很不情愿地留在家里不去投票。哪些在投票站出现的选民把自己当成是局外人,把自己的命运当成赌注。他们把赌注放在哪些宣称“只有我们当中一些向前迈进咱们才得以进步”

在美国选举过后,如潮水般的文章涌现。美国人尝试要了解为什么选民的投票意愿似乎与自己的利益相左。一个共同的威胁呈现的是:他们感觉到的是,这些首要真正的故事是制度的问题。人们已经做出简单决定:进行一场赌博游戏,因为他们相信这个制度出卖了他们。

在任何的国家,人民的信心,并不应反映在纸币或者硬币上,而是反映在信任上。

事实上,一直以来就是信任的问题。

每一个国家起落的代价,仍然是它所拥有遗留的信任问题以及被信任的水平——个人、机构和国际水平。

目前在这个网络密集的世界里,与货币相比,信任是最重要的。这并不是一个最新的观察点。许多在新经济领域工作的聪明总裁都可以告诉您这个观点。许多受高深教育的政策制定者也可以告诉这个观点。但是,他们的这一切预见观点很显然地被决策者接受的很少,导致目前世界正在被巨大的信任危机所牵制着。

爱德曼信任调查机构(The Edelman Trust Barometer)在跟踪有关确定信任时是依据四个重要机构的表现——商业、政府、非政府组织和传媒机构。从2002年开始,年复一年,爱德曼调查机构已经在28个国家进行调查,他们看到这些机构的信任程度在下降中。全球愤怒的民粹主义和针对精英是今天我们所看到的的结果是,从过去信任不受侵蚀加上当今对变化的速度赶到担忧。

去年,爱德曼调查机构发表报告说,在他们调查的4个机构的范围里,许多国家的信任水平大幅度的下降,其中17个国家在媒体传播机构的信任水平长期以来一直就处于低水平;在市场信任水平方面,有14个国家的政府机构已经下降了,这是现在接受调查的28个国家政府机构的一半;在全球,执行人员的可信度在每一个国家长期都是以来处于下降的情况;人们现在更倾向于信任哪些独立的机构、社会改造者的人权编辑搜索引擎,高于保存现状。全球53%的人反应是,对现有的制度感到失望和不公平的。这些制度给予他们是一个极其渺茫的未来希望,只有15%的人相信这些制度是可行的,其他人都认为这些制度是不确定的。

好了,我们如何看待爱德曼调查机构的指数?明显的,新加坡是5个应得最高被信任的国家? Apparently, Singapore is the 5th most High-Trust nation,被排除在信任水平排名榜上的国家只有印度、中国、印尼和阿拉伯酋长国。与超过50%全球平均信任指数相比,在新加坡只有30%的人相信这个制度是失败的,43%的人认为是不确定的。作为一个国家,在目前这个不确定的世界里,人民对于4个机构在信任水平方面仍然获得超过50%是具有很高的价值地位的。我们可以充分地利用这个罕见的高信任度氛围给予我们的契机。

议长女士,这不仅仅是我们过去拥有深厚的金融资本储备必去进行投资、保护和繁殖。

每一个国家都希望能够摆脱全球性的信任危机时,不仅仅是要支持这个信任制度而已。它们需要采取认真和诚实的态度去看待信任危机已经在制度中破坏了和给予高度的重视、必须采取决定性的步骤重建人民对制度的信任信心。

智慧城市应关注庞大的数据

在有关信任调查机构的报告里,引起我关注的区别是有关大众知情权和广大人们的反馈的反应。

全球有关信任度在被告知者和广大群众之间的认可的差距已经进一步明显扩大了!特别是在美国、英国和法国这些国家。因此,假设爱德曼信任调查机构所得出的调查报告是可以接受的,对法国人选举的结果看到自己的看法与英国的退欧或者特朗普获选造成的结局的冲击,我们就不感到后悔惊讶了!

您可能会同时会感到惊讶的是,事实上,在美国,公众被告知权的制度的水平,与我们的公众被告知权制度的水平近乎一样的高。但是,广大美国群众对于美国制度的反应是深深地产生不信任的!这就可以解释华盛顿和其他几个沿海富裕的城市在这次选举的结果所感到震撼的!

在新加坡这样的情况混不是很明显。我们的广大群众的反应还仍然对信任水平能够处于列于前5名。

但是,在2017年第一次我们的广大群众对信任者的级别里首次稍微滑落到中间级别。尽管这样的滑落是属于很小的波动,但是这是值得我们关注的。这些对信任水平的反应是广大群众主要担忧的是,他们的职业被外来移民剥夺了,以及本国商家无法与外国商业商家竞争,并失去了商业机会。就此而言,绝大多数人,那就是约70%的人认为,在商业与工业领域的转变速度太快了。

我看到政府每年都在尽力减少(商家)经营成本的增加。例如银髮计划、健保双全、劳动人力等各方面都是属于好的和进步的措施。这些措施都是朝向加强社会安全网的目标。但是,

同时看到这些计划对于协助新加坡人民来说仍然的还有一段很大的差距。人民仍然感觉自己被抛在这些计划的后面。例如,消费税节省券、水电费回扣、教育费津贴、周日食物捐助……这些计划说来都是好的——我们应该大大地感激!——但是,对于一些在生活线上挣扎的家庭来说,这一切好计划和有用的帮助似乎是装进了一个破洞的裤带。

我是在为贫穷的劳动阶级说话。那就是生活在10%夹心层sandwiched class 的人们。这些人是全职工作的劳动阶级。他们每天很努力地工作来支撑自己的家庭经济。但是,他们仍然无法看到自己摆脱贫穷的厄运。这些每年都被抛弃在社会后面的人被冠以是“非技术工人”、“国际化”、“创新”造成的结果。他们目前所处的境地并不是因为他们自己不会照顾自己、不是因为他们懒惰。那是因为他们一直在尽力尝试挣扎着不让自己在一波又一波新的社会新要求——新增加的社会成本(生活费)和对他们而言的世界新事物的涌现。

对于哪些面对着一波又一波溺水者,甚至懦弱着来说,在技术层面上最合理的解释就是为什么要调高水价和摩多单车的价格?无疑这是让他们感觉到这是等于在他们的伤口上撒盐巴。

因为当他们在溺水时,他们所需要的不是岸上的人对他们说三道四,而是在溺毙前有人跳下水把他们拉上岸。

您并不需要理会有关制定哪些政策的事实——甭管有关的辩论结果有意义与否,对他们而言这一切都是贪婪的。对您而言,这一切的实际和有关的问题就是极其简单的!——目前我所拥有还是不足够、我永远都不足够、我不足够。但是,你们却不理会这一切。

当你生活在产生焦虑和稀缺性的幽闭空间时,他们处于夹心层的精神上根本就没有足够的空间去处理任何比起每天必须解决的三餐问题。对他们而言,能够拥有一个可选择性的未来或者计划简直就是一个豪华的贫穷没有工作的天方夜谭的故事。

这就是为什么具有温馨的交流是解决问题所必备的条件 ,而不是像哪些前线工作人员在面对人民要求解决困难时的口头禅:“我不知道。你自己去找国会议员解决”。

这就是为什么需要寻求通过一个普及的政策去支持孩童护理、老人护理、最快速捷径负担得起的住房政策、给予所有阶层人民照顾等等……

因为这一切措施和政策是有助于为夹心层创造一个环境——那就是在他们面对沉溺时,他们仍然还有喘息的一线机会。

我们是进入了一个很大的误差:

假设我们说:“是的。人民必须面对自己目前所处的情况。而不是以为自己不应该处于这样的境地。”事实求是地说,没有人会了解他们所处的生活事实。这是一个智慧者的幻想相信。它相信我们是完全理性和重视事实的。大多数人在对事情做出决定时是依据自己对事实的感受。假设我们重视,确保人们在听到关于国家处于艰难时刻的事实情况,那么,我们必须开始与所有相关联系的各阶层人民进行沟通:他们的感受是什么?即便是他们的感受是存在着不同意见、或者对我们的提出的政策感到愤怒的。假设我们不是这么做,那么,您必须接受:您说的话是不可能在国会外给任何人造成冲击的。

假设我们不把自己提出解决问题的方案与生活在深入的现实和实际的感触上联系在一起,我们不可能有效地提升我们的低效率工作。

我们欢迎有关智慧城市这个概念,它使用大数据去解决我们面对的许多邪恶问题。但是,我衷心的希望我们在热爱一个成为智慧城市理想的同时,我们要同时关注深一层的数据。这样才可以确保这些政策的制定不仅仅是属于技术上的解决方案,而是属于善解人意和具有人情味的方案。它最终是能够与我们所服务的社会各阶层取共鸣得的。

我不是一名经济学者, 我不会使用足够的数字数据来确定,需要多少资金投入到劳动队伍和需要投入多少资金支持老年人计划,只有哪些在这个议事大厅内外提出令人信服数据的专家才有可能做到。尽管是这样,但是,为了不让我们国家和世界其他国家地区的信任度制度一样滑入灾难区,我将会尽力地为此做出自己的判断。我们必须离开那些原地踏步于安全与小增长量圈子。最低限度,在我们的国家土地上,在系统层面上必须采取一些有助于更大一些变化的政策。

与此同时,我们切勿迟疑,必须珍惜现在还有解决这些问题的时间。

我需要大家考虑的就是:说出他们所知道的、说出他们所看到的。假设华盛顿(美国首都)的精英们在过去有时间旅游,哪怕是4年一次、2年一次,甚至是一年一次?那么,他们国家目前的贫穷情况将会不同。假设)唐灵街(英国首相府在过去有时间旅游,那么,他们对国家最贫穷地区做出决策就可以避免退出欧盟了。回头看,当时一些决定看来是高风险和滑稽的。我敢肯定,当我们回首时,突然发现现在是值得投资的。因为我们最终看到了高回报。

但是,他们无法回去了。他们永远都无法回去了。

属于他们创新的机会已经失去了。

但是,其他人尚未过去。

我们能够做些什么?我们将能够做些什么?——以避免未来冲击我们的情况出现?

财政预算报告宣称:“假设我们努力地协助每一个愿意到劳动职场上找工作的人,我们可以达到2-3%增长……”

财政预算报告也宣称:“在社会前线,2017年财政预算支持那些有意购买住房靠近父母住家的人和协助他们的孩子在中学毕业后的未来。”

好了。对于哪些穷苦的劳动阶级,特别是单亲父、母的家庭或者夹心层家庭我们能够做些什么?他们可能也期待着在2017年财政预算中,自己会也会受到关切。

请思考一个活生生的现实故事,这个故事是真实。

它是我们本地的社会工作者叙述的真实的一个家庭的故事。这是一名已经离婚的妇女的故事。

她赢得了抚养三个孩子的抚养权,但是,没有获得赡养费的承诺。她申请一套租赁住房。前线的职员告诉她说,由于她每月收入1600元,已经超越有关政府租房条件规定每月收入150元的顶额了。

为了符合达到当局这个租房收入最高的要求,前线职员给提供的意见是停止目前的工作才进行申请租赁住房,在获得批准后再找工作。但是,她并没有辞去工作。她喜欢这份工作。必须要有一份工作。即便是她的国会议员同情她的处境,提出选择不领取一个月的薪金也不行。这样经过了往返20封复函,以及耗费了无数小时会见国会议员。包括她的国会议员在内,始终都无法找出一个可以解决从的方案。

为什么对于她这样的个案就不能特案特办呢?她是没有能力支付购买住房的预付款的。她没有任何亲戚或者朋友有空余的房子容纳她的这个小家庭的。她在公开市场租赁一套房子价格租金是相当高昂和租赁期是短暂的。她在5年搬了四次家。因此她的积蓄已经耗尽。

当她的雇主提供给高新工作的机会时。她无法接受,她拒绝了。因为,她工作地点离开她的学前教育孩子的学校太远了,她说无法准时在孩子放学接他回家。她没有能力长期支付(乘搭校车)车费的。与此同时,由于她有三个孩子,而这家公司是需要做夜班工作的。这是她无法选择的条件。

接着就是健康问题出现了。

首先是她的孩子生病问题,接着是她的父母生病问题。再接下来是供电表的电箱烧毁了。面对着这样的情况,她必须在购买一个新的供电箱或者买一些好的食物给孩子吃的问题作出抉择?有些时候,她陷入了极其困扰的境地时,真的想要自寻短路!

为什么她需要这么艰苦的尝试去面对这些问题?它突然间觉得,在这个世界上最聪明和安全的决定就是:为了符合获得一套租赁房子的收入顶限额的条件,自己可以去找一份较低的薪金,以便孩子可以在一个安全的环境里学习。

我说的这个故事,您们听了是否感到厌倦。

因为她确实对生活已经感到厌倦了。

您们一定要赞赏许多类似这样的穷苦家庭。他们始终生活的事实不会感到厌倦的。

这位离婚妇女要做的就是让自己和孩子的生活面向未来。她环顾了自己周边的人,要与他们一起过上好日子。但是,社会上这些架构所造成的障碍一直阻碍着她前进的道路。

她对新加坡经历的经验是什么?我们想要从她经历的新加坡经验得到的是什么?我们期盼她会说哪些新加坡的故事给自己的孩子听吗?这一切经历者所经历的新加坡制度问题是否足以让我们产生一个战略性小组去探讨确保她能够过上一个与过去经历完全不同的生活?

对她和孩子们来说,信任就是给予大学平等就读机会和在机构里能够获得平等机会。

假设她在自己的未来还是继续保持缄默,以及她在面对着困难时,继续坚持维持着对国家信任制度的高度信任,证明的是她的力量,而不是我们。

她应该说对这个信任制度已经失去了信心,谁将帮她找回信心呢?

只有政府可以做到。这是一个简单的答案。

最困难回答的是我们。

这个答案一直都是这样,也永远都是这样。

人们都说,当你成为一个成年人时,你必须认识到世界上没有真正免费的东西。每一件东西都是有其价格的。一切货物的成本就是每个人付出的成本。我们很少有人会为这些货物成本买单的。

每一个权益诉求,都会附带一个必须负起的责任。 说出“每个新加坡人都有平等权益”动听的话。比说出“要每个新加坡人对那些权益 负起责任”的挑战话更容易。听起来,这好像是那些不希望看到更多平等权益的的人心中所要讲的话。

所以就像我希望国家能够保持开放根本的解决方案那样,我同时也看到,我们人民必须站在平等的基础上去面对开放所承担的新责任。这些新的责任可能会加在我们的身上。

假设某一天需要缴交高额税收——正如部长所暗示的那样——为了建立一个更好的制度带领大家一起前进,我想,许多新加坡人将会准备付出。那是因为我们都是慷概的人们,我们付出远远比给自己的还要的多。

但是,麻烦的是:要有非常高的信任度,这事才能发

我相信,在许多纳税人和选民中,那些仍然需要我们更多去诚恳参与和深入地说服他们,这个制度普遍上是有关带领每一个人共同前进的故事,而不是带领我们当中某一些人前进吧了。我们在前线人员需要更多与与人民进行公开和诚恳的对话迈向世界增长的一部分,

迈向世界增长的一部分

我将要以这个故事结束我的讲话。

美国作家娥苏拉·勒瑰恩(Ursula Le Guin)写了一段挑衅性的寓言,叫着“那些离开欧梅拉斯”(“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas)。

在这篇故事里,一个未知名的导游带领我们穿过一座充满幻想的欧美拉斯(Omelas)城市。导游告诉我们,这是一个令人目眩的旅游城市,它有神奇技术和了不起的人们。但是,当我们被带领到这座美丽城市的地下层时,这个旅程即转入了一个黑暗。

在地下底层是一个囚禁室。它关闭了一个虚弱和可怜的小孩。导游告诉我们以某种神秘的方式接受这样情况。整个城市的成功将会因为这个孩子应该会获得自由完全被破吗?

欧米拉斯这个城市的秘密最令人不安的部分不是秘密。而是我们被告知,每一个城市到了一定的年限,就能够看到它们真正的面貌。

故事在一个混合诠释中结束。

它叙述了一小群人选择静悄悄地离开这座城市,朝向一个未知的目的地。导游提醒说,这小群人所要去的目的地可能是不存在。

看完这篇故事令人感到不安的是,因为每一个读完这篇故事的人都本能地知道故事里所叙述世界上的城市生活的真实性。每一个城市都有一个小孩被囚禁在底层里。这是一种挥之不去的感觉,他们都是对保持孩子的共犯。

我经常都感到惊讶,导游所叙说的故事本意是不可靠的。我是不是可以说另一个故事来挑战导游。

当我想到有关于新加坡相似的情况时the parallels to Singapore,我看到需要不断质疑有关的叙述,而不是轻易地视为神圣不可侵犯的的事实。这是真实的。一旦我们同意强制性关闭雇佣外来劳工,将会看到我们的生活和工作失去平衡出现崩溃吗?如果把我们的孩子从早期的教育言流和高风险考试的严格实施制度中释放出来,我们会看到未来的劳动力不会变得那么严格?这是真的吗?

或许是,或许不是。

我们不知道在没有与每一个人进行诚恳的对话,特别是哪些受人民尊敬,但是,不同意我们的政策的人情况是不是这样。

有新加坡人在那里提出了尖锐的问题。那里有新加坡人在外面生活找到了那些尖锐问题的尖锐答案。他们当中一些目前还仍然在这儿、继续公开地和坚持着推向这个边界。但是,他们当中的一些人已经达到突破点了。他们通过尝试和带着那些无奈忍受的破碎心态被动地接受您的不公平。他们的身躯可能仍然在在这儿,但是,他们的精神离开了他们的欧美拉斯城里。

我不晓得如何是好。然而,可以肯定的这是发出内心的纯洁的声音。

但是,我一路来都期盼我们的国家是一个大多数人民能够向那些离开者说:

留下来吧!告诉我们您所看到的一切。请允许我们与您共同分享您所看到的一切。

因为面对着世界在成长的一部分,比起那些过去离开的人,我们这个小城市需要更多像您这样要向前迈进的人。

哪些敢于去少数人敢去的地方的人。

敢于面向对方、敢于面向矛盾、敢于面对问题和敢于提出解决问题的方案的人。

最为深刻的是,面对着仍然留在城市地下层渴望自由的孩子们。

我们的这个城市需要你们。

这个城市需要我们每一个人——或许我们永远也不知道。

财政部长,我支持您的财政预算报告。

但是,请允许我同时拥有一点希望的空间。那就是您每一次的财政预算将会带来一些新的思路,它能够真正协助给哪些一直抱着希望获得援助和期盼在溺水者以及那些被囚禁在城市地下层的孩子们。

因为这也是他们的城市啊!

谢谢。

a rise in water and motorcycle prices is justifiable will feel like salt on a wound.

——The Ones Who Walk Towards (2017)

NCMP Shiao-yin Kuik

Related website:https://www.facebook.com/notes/shiao-yin-kuik/the-ones-who-walk-towards-2017/10155014195068427

Finance Minister,

it is very good to see you back. I was encouraged by the kind support shown to you by many Singaporeans – especially across political divides.

Unity is one of the most precious assets any country can boast of. And I will always be grateful for every year that we still possess that in Singapore.

It is one of the richest parts of the inheritance we have received from our previous generations and I pray we will never squander it.

MOVING FORWARD IN A WORLD GROWING APART

Budget 2017 declares that our future lies in Moving Forward Together.

But what does that really mean?

Madam Speaker, Finance Minister Sir, America’s motto is “e pluribus unum” – “out of many, we are one”.

It is inscribed on every coin they have in circulation. It sat in the pockets of all their citizens as a daily reminder that unity was the very currency of their system. And yet, this is the very same country who just recently voted to take a massive hatchet to a system they felt was no longer trustworthy.

For a large swathe of the American people, the system wasn’t even about Republicans vs. Democrats anymore. Many voters had lost all belief in the story both sides of leaders had told them about Moving Forward Together. 40% of voters were so disheartened that they simply stayed at home. And many who did show up at the polls placed all their bets instead on an outsider who pitched an audacious story of “Let’s just Move Only Some of Us Forward Together”.

A flood of articles have been written since then trying to understand why people would seemingly vote against their interests. And one common thread that was unearthed was this: To those feeling left behind, the story of prioritising Some over All was always the real story of the system anyway. They had simply decided to play the game that they believed had been played on them.

The true currency of any country is not in bills and coins. It’s trust.

It’s always been trust.

The value of every country rises and falls according to the legacy of trust it still possesses and the level of trust it still inspires – on the individual, institutional and international level.

In a hyper networked world, trust is the most important currency. This is not a new observation. Many smart CEOs working in the new economy can tell you that. Many well-educated policy makers can tell you that. But all that foreknowledge has apparently done little to arrest the huge crisis of trust that the world is in now.

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been tracking trust in 4 key institutions — business, government, NGOs, and media — since 2012. And year on year, Edelman has seen public trust in these institutions decline across all 28 countries surveyed. The global rise of angry populism and pushback against elites that we see today is a result of unchecked erosion of trust from the past coupled with present-day fears about the pace of change.

Last year, Edelman reported the largest-ever drop in trust across all four institutions. Trust in media is at all-time lows in 17 countries. Trust in government dropped in 14 markets and is now the least trusted institution in half of the 28 countries surveyed. The credibility of CEOs dropped globally to an all- time low in every country studied. People are now more likely to trust search engines over human editors, individuals over institutions, reformers more than preservers of status quo. Globally, 53% of respondents believe the current overall system has failed them and is unfair, offering them little hope for the future. Only 15% believe it is working, the rest are just uncertain.

So how did we do on the Trust Barometer? Apparently, Singapore is the 5th most High-Trust nation, outranked only by India, China, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates. Compared to the global average of more than 50%, only 30% of respondents in Singapore believed the system was failing while 43% said they were uncertain. To be a country where public trust in all 4 institutions is still above 50% is a thing of great value in an uncertain world. Our high trust climate is a rare thing which presents us opportunities we can leverage on.

Madam Speaker, it’s not just deep reserves of financial capital from our past that we must invest in, protect and multiply, it’s our deep reserves of social and emotional capital as well.

Every country that hopes to ride out this global trust crisis must not only actively shore up trust in its system, it needs to also take a hard, honest look at where trust is being broken in its system and take noticeable, decisive steps to build it up again.

A WISE CITY CARES ABOUT DEEP DATA

One of the insights in the report that struck me was the distinction between the responses from the informed public and responses from the mass population.

The global gap between the level of trust felt by the informed public and that felt by the mass population has widened significantly, with the biggest disparities in the U.S., U.K. and France. So if Edelman’s findings are to be believed, we should not be surprised if the French elections sees its own version of a Brexit or Trump shock result.

You might be surprised to also hear that actually, in America, the level of trust the informed public had in their system was almost as high as the level of trust our informed public had in our system. But it was the mass population respondents of America that ranked their system as deeply, deeply untrustworthy. That explains the genuine shock felt by Washington and the wealthier coastal cities at the election results.

In Singapore, the difference is still not so stark. Our mass population respondents still trusted Singapore enough to place it in the top 5.

But, 2017 was also the first time when our mass population respondents slid from being in the category of Trusters to the category of Neutrals. It’s a small dip but still worth paying attention to. These respondents worried most about losing their jobs to immigrants and losing business opportunities to foreign competitors. Overwhelmingly, 70% of them believed the pace of change in business and industry was too fast.

I do see the year-on-year efforts by the government to mitigate the costs of that pace of change. The Silver Support Scheme, MediShield Life, Workfare are all good, progressive moves towards strengthening our social safety nets. But what I also see is that those schemes still have much further to go to help Singaporeans who are feeling left behind. GST U-Save Vouchers, Conservancy Rebates, education subsidies, weekly food donations – these are all good things – greatly greatly appreciated things! – but for some of our struggling families, all these good and helpful gestures still feel like drops in a constantly leaking bucket.

I am speaking especially for our working poor. The bottom 10% sandwiched class who hold full- time jobs, who are making a real effort to support their family but still can’t seem to break their poverty cycle. The ones who feel left out and left behind by our yearly calls to “upskill”, “internationalise” and “innovate”. Not because they don’t care. Not because they are lazy. But because they are just busy trying not to drown under wave after wave of new demands, new costs and new changes to their world.

To those who are drowning, even the calmest, most reasonable technocratic explanation about why a rise in water and motorcycle prices is justifiable will feel like salt on a wound.

Because when you are drowning, all you want is for somebody to just stop talking, dive in and grab you before you sink.

You don’t care about the facts of the policies – debates over what makes sense or doesn’t make sense is all Greek to you. What is most real and relevant to you is simply how those facts are making you feel: I don’t have enough. I’ll never have enough. I’m not enough. And you don’t care.

When you are in that claustrophobic space of anxiety and scarcity, you don’t have enough mental bandwidth to deal with anything more than each day’s demands. Having the breathing space to consider alternative choices or plan for the future is a luxury the working poor do not have.

That’s why compassionate communication of available solutions rather than a “don’t know, go talk to your MP” approach by front-line officers matters so much.

That’s why finding a way to provide universal support for childcare, eldercare, faster access to affordable housing, caregiver respite across all classes of people matters so much.

Because all of these interventions go a long way to create bandwidth – a space for the drowning to feel like they can breathe again.

We are missing a big point if we say, “Well, people must deal with the facts as they are. Not where they feel they should be.” But honestly, nobody understands their life just according to facts. It’s an intellectual’s fantasy to believe we are perfectly rational, fact-driven beings. Most people make their choices according to their feelings about the facts. If we care about making sure people hear us out on the hard facts about our country’s situation, we must start all our communications with connecting with people where they are: which is how they feel, even if that feeling is disagreeable or irrational to us. If not, you should accept that your words may never impact anyone outside your echo chamber.

We cannot effectively uplift our working poor if we do not connect our solutions more effectively to the deep narratives and emotional realities that they live in.

We love the idea of being a Smart City that uses Big Data to solve our wicked problems. But I sincerely hope we will also fall in love with the idea of being a Wise City that looks at Deep Data as well, to make sure the policies we come up with are not just technical solutions but empathetic, human solutions that resonate with the communities they were meant to serve.

I am not an economist. I don’t know enough numbers to put up an elegant fight to justify a request for $X increase in Workfare and $Y increase in Silver Support. There are far more convincing experts in this room and beyond who can make that case. But I will, nevertheless, go on a limb to state my assessment that if we don’t want our system to slide into the levels of toxic distrust we see elsewhere, we must move away from safe, small, incremental steps and take larger paradigm-shifting changes on a systems level to help the least in our land.

And we should take those steps sooner rather than later. Because right now, we still have time.

All I want us to just consider is this: knowing what they know now, seeing what they see now, what would Washington’s elites have done different for their poorest states if they could time- travel just 4 years, 2 years, or even just 1 year back? If Downing Street could time-travel, what would they have done different for their most depressed regions to prevent Brexit? Some decisions that looked too high-risk, too ridiculous back then, I am sure, suddenly look well worth investing in now because they finally see the high stake consequences at last.

But they can’t go back. They can never go back.

Their time for intervention has passed them by.

But ours has not.

What can we do – What will we do? What must we do? – to stave off a future shock scenario of our own?

The Budget Speech declared “We can aim for quality growth of 2-3%…if we work hard to help everyone who wishes to work find a place in the labour force”.

It also said “On the social front, Budget 2017 supports families who wish to buy a home, experience the joys of parenthood and help their children towards post-secondary education.”

So what can we do for our working poor, especially those in single parent or sandwiched class families, so that they may feel included in those statements as well?

Consider just one kind of life story, a composite based on real stories familiar to our local social workers: A woman gets divorced. She gains custody of her three kids but no promise of maintenance. She applies for a rental flat. The front-line officer tells that her $1600 monthly salary disqualifies her under the $1500 income cap. She is advised to beat the system by stopping work, applying for a rental flat and starting work again. But she doesn’t quit her job because she loves her work, she needs her work. Giving up salary even for a month is not an option. Her sympathetic MP advocates for her but after 20 letters back and forth, and hours of MPS sessions, nobody is any wiser, not even her MP, about why an exception cannot be made for her case. She can’t afford the downpayment for a flat. None of her relatives or friends has room to spare her little familyShe rents on the open market but rates are high and leases are short. She moves four times in five years. Her savings drain down. When her boss offers her a higher paying job opportunity – she turns it down. Because she can’t work far away from her child’s pre-school. She knows she can never pick up her child on time. Not by bus which is all she can afford. Plus they need her to work nights when she has zero childcare options. Then, the health issues crop up. First, her kids. Then, her parents. And then that damn electrical fuse box has to blow up, forcing her to choose between paying for the lights to come back on or buying better food for her kids. And some nights, at the end of some very very very bad days, she considers just giving it all upWhy try so hard? Taking up a lower paying job to at least get a rental flat of her own where her kids can study in peace suddenly feels like the smartest and safest decision in the world.

Are you tired even just listening to the story yet?

Because she sure the heck is tired living it.

You have to appreciate that for many of the poor, they believe that they will never not feel tired.

All she wants is to Move her life Forward again. Together. With everyone else she sees around her. But there are all these structural hurdles that keep coming up her way.

What is the Singapore of her experience? What is the Singapore we want her to experience? What is the Singapore story we hope she’ll pass down to her children? Does this user experience of the Singapore system matter to us enough to form a strategic team and warrant a complete overhaul of her customer journey?

Is her trust, and her children’s trust equally worthy of winning as the trust of a university graduate or a corporate high-flyer?

If she still stays resilient all the way through, and if she still maintains her high trust in our system despite every trouble she’s endured, is that not more of a testament of strength on her part – rather than ours?

And should she lose trust in our system, whose job will it be to help her find it again?

I do not believe the answer is the government alone. That’s the easiest answer.

The hardest answer is all of us.

It always has been, always will be.

They say you become an adult the first time you realise that nothing is truly free. Everything worthy comes at a price. Everything good costs someone something. We just seldom want to be the one footing the bill.

In every request for a right, there is always a correlated offer of responsibility. It is easier to say moving words about the equal rights we want every Singaporean to have than to say the challenging words about the equal responsibilities those rights do require every Singaporean to take on. But if we who request for those rights are not prepared to take on some measure of the correlated responsibilities demanded of us – either through taxes, or donations, or volunteering time – then our request feels that much less honest, and that much less powerful.

So just as much as I wish for the state to stay open to radical solutions, I also see we the people have to stay equally open to the radical new responsibilities that those solutions may place on us.

If there is a need to pay higher taxes someday – as the Minister hinted – in order to build a better system that Moves Everyone Forward together, I think many Singaporeans will be prepared to bite that bullet because we are a more far generous people than we give ourselves credit for.

But that’s the catch. Trust has to be very high for that to happen.

I believe there are many taxpayers and voters on the ground who still need to be more honestly engaged and deeply convinced that this system’s story is genuinely about Moving Everyone Forward Together not just Moving Some of Us Forward Together. We need more open and honest conversations on this front.

MOVING TOWARDS IN A WORLD GROWING APART

I will close with a story.

American author Ursula Le Guin wrote a provocative little parable called “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”. In that story, an unnamed narrator guides us through the fantastical city of Omelas, taking us on a dizzying tour of the city’s amazing technology and wonderful people. But the journey takes a dark turn when we are led down into a basement tucked beneath this beautiful city.

Imprisoned in that basement, is a weak and wretched child. And the narrator tells us to accept that in some mysterious way, should this child ever be set free, the whole city’s success will be utterly compromised. We are asked to accept that all the freedoms the many enjoy above is wholly and inarguably dependent on the oppression of this one beneath.

The most disturbing part about Omelas’ secret is that it isn’t a secret. We are told that every citizen there who comes of age has been ushered into this very room to see the truth for themselves. Though all get upset, most eventually accept that Life is just about terrible trade-offs. And so, the status quo continues.

The tale ends on a mixed note, talking about a small handful of citizens who choose to walk silently away from the city, towards an unknown destination that the narrator warns may not even exist.

The story is disturbing because everyone who reads it knows instinctively how true to life that story is for every city in the world. Every city has a child in the basement and a nagging feeling that they all share in the complicity of keeping that child there.

I’ve always wondered whether the narrator of the story was meant to be an unreliable narrator, pushing out a narrative that deserves to be challenged.

When I think about the parallels to Singapore, I see narratives that need to be constantly questioned rather than casually accepted as sacrosanct. Is it really true that once we give mandatory off-days to our foreign domestic workers, we will see the collapse of our work-life balance? Is it for real that if we free our children from the tyranny of early streaming and high stakes exams, we will see our future workforce become that much less rigorous? Is it for certain that if we uplift our poorest through more generous welfare, we will see the decimation of Singapore’s culture of hard work?

Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

We don’t know without engaging in honest conversation with everyone – especially the ones who respectfully but deeply disagree with us.

There are Singaporeans out there who ask hard questions. There are Singaporeans out there who even live out their hard answers to those hard questions. Some of them are still here, still open, still pushing the boundaries. But some of them have already reached their breaking points where they have decided they are done with this city. They are done with trusting, done with trying and done with the heartbreak of putting up with those who passively accept the unfairness. They may still be here in body but in spirit, they are already walking away from their Omelas.

I don’t know how. And certainly this will sound naive.

But I will always hope that we can be that country where more of us are able to say to The Ones Who Walk Away:

 

Stay. Help me see what you see. And permit me to share what I see too.

Because in a world threatening to grow apart, our small city needs more Ones Who Walk Towards than Ones Who Walk Away more than ever.

The ones who dare to go where few want to go.

Towards each other. Towards the conflicts. Towards the problems. Towards the solutions.

And most profoundly, towards the children in the basement who still long to be free.

Our city needs us.

It has always needed every one of us – perhaps more than we will ever know.

Finance Minister, I do support your Bill.

But allow me also the space to hope that each new Budget you bring will be one that finds new ways to bring ever more help and ever more hope to the drowning ones and the ones in the basement that need it most.

Because this is their city too.

Thank you.

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