This week has been a weird mix of the prime minister addressing Singaporeans about the pressures of cost of living, and the release of Crazy Rich Asians in Singapore.
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National Day Rally
Last Sunday was the National Day Rally, the big annual speech delivered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. It didn’t present any deviation from the norm, and was more about reinforcing current policy directions with goodies that feed speculation that the election will be called next year. Highlights: Singapore is nominating hawker culture for Unesco's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, there’s going to be a Merdeka Generation package to subsidise healthcare and other expenses for Singaporeans born in the 1950s, and a Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) that will be introduced in 20 years to allow Singaporeans to let the government compensate them and take back their HDB flats earlier. More HDB blocks will also be eligible for the Home Improvement Programme.
Although he announced these nice-sounding new things, there are lots of details that still need to be filled in. Details for the Merdeka Generation package will only come next year, and Singaporeans will also have to wait for more information about VERS. The chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development has also raised concerns that VERS could trigger “acrimony” among neighbours.
Some have said that this year’s NDR is just same ol’ same ol’. Veteran journalist P N Balji points out that, if things keep going on this way, we’re just cultivating a transactional population constantly looking out for what goodies the PAP can throw our way in exchange for votes.
Oh yes, and Lee also gave Singaporeans some handy tips on dealing with the cost of living, such as using WiFi instead of our data plans to stream videos, and refraining from buying the most expensive milk powder. Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah emphasised this too. But considering how much they pay themselves, they are very much the wrong people to be saying this to Singaporeans.
Housing and eldercare
80% of Singaporeans live in public housing, so we really care about what’s going on with those HDB flats. Public housing flats come with a 99-year lease, and the question of what happens when the lease runs out is getting ever more urgent.
As Singapore ages, eldercare is going to become more and more of an issue. For many families, the option that works best financially is to hire a domestic worker, but people need to have better choices. TODAY takes a look.
If Tatler had a lovechild with STB
I watched Crazy Rich Asians with nine other Fairly Sceptical Singaporeans on Wednesday morning, and thank goodness I did; it would have been an infuriating experience if I hadn’t had people to talk about it with immediately afterwards. I’ve already said plenty about the film and its representation issues, but was also struck by the way that the film portrayed Singapore as a Chinese country. (For New Naratif’s next episode of Political Agenda—out tomorrow night!—I discussed representation and inequality in the light of Crazy Rich Asians with Ruby Thiagarajan of Mynah Magazine, Aisyah Amir of The Local Rebel and New Naratif contributor Faris Joraimi. So keep an eye out for it!)
The news that Kevin Kwan is wanted for defaulting on his National Service obligations has also caused a stir. Shibani Mahtani at The Washington Post draws the link between this and Ben Davis’ NS woes to take a look at the draft in Singapore (welcome back to writing about Singapore, Shibani!)
Also, everyone look at this beautiful photo of Sukki Singapora at the premiere of Crazy Rich Asians! ✊🏼✊🏼✊🏼
Too Young To Die
The Singapore Heritage Society has released its position paper on Singapore’s modernist buildings. Architects have also started a petition to conserve Golden Mile Complex and People’s Park Complex.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said that the 4G will be ready to lead “in a few years’ time”. Granted, this is way less foot-in-mouth than his comment on ministerial salaries, but it also doesn’t really tell us much. He also said, “Thankfully, Singapore does not need a former PM to come to its rescue.” Basically, he’s not about to do a Mahathir.
Liddat also investigate ah?
The police are apparently investigating an image of a T-shirt featuring a pair of hands ripping a Singapore flag in half to reveal an Indian flag underneath. The guy who posted it in a Facebook group said he saw the image circulate on social media, so decided to share it. It looks like one of those auto-generated images to me; I don’t get why it’s worth investigating.
If anyone fancies a plane…
…Jho Low’s jet could get auctioned off if someone doesn’t pony up and pay the hangar that’s been storing it for 18 months.
How’s Roy doing?
In our last episode of Southeast Asia Dispatches, blogger Roy Ngerng reflects on his blogging, his activism, and being sued by Lee Hsien Loong.
And now for a visual break…
Singaporeans are good at parodies. So here are two for you this week.
Events and announcements
Bukit Brown Index #132: Triptych of the Unseen and Too Young To Die: Singapore’s Modernist Icons are still on at the Substation.
The Carnival of Poetry will be at the Esplanade concourse on 26 August, featuring migrant and Singaporean poets.
Literature as Dissent
Sonny Liew and Tan Tarn How are talking to Simon Vincent about writing and politics and dissent at WeWork on 28 August.