Wednesday, 15 February 2012

It may all begin from the Maintenance of Parents Act……

Things cannot be happened overnight. Evolution needs time to progress and develop.  The recent event of not wanting elderly care facilities at neighborhood is the result of turning family relationship from bonding into contracting. 

Due to the negotiation elements and considerations in a contract, residents will have to judge the costs and benefits of having such a facility in their own area.  In this particular case, costs seem to be higher than the benefits.

From a family unit of children taking care of parents to a country level of government looking after its citizens, there is a relationship change from moral responsibility to contractual responsibility.  A contract will have to make up of a consideration, i.e. money, as explained below: 

“The Act provides for Singapore residents aged 60 years old and above, who are unable to subsist on their own, to claim maintenance from their children who are capable of supporting him but are not doing so. Parents can sue their children for maintenance, in the form of monthly allowances or a lump-sum payment.  The Act also establishes the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents to decide on applications made under the Act.”

The Act has in fact established an automatic commercial contract between children and parents.  It has indirectly shifted the state responsibility of taking care of the citizens, especially senior citizens, to the children.  So, when comes to taking care of parents, eldercare, and senior citizens, thinking in commercial terms was the new normal after the introduction of the Act in the 1990s.   

From moral responsibility to contractual responsibility

Senior citizens, staying at the eldercare facilities, have no relationship with the residents, plus there is no commercial contract to look after them at the neighborhood, so to the residents there is no contractual obligation to fulfill the requirements under the Act.  Moreover, if adding such an eldercare facility will affect the economic benefits of the residents, they will have to voice out.  Not to forget, they have a contract to fulfill elsewhere as their parents are staying in other places.  They need to keep and maintain their assets value high so that in case of need, they can have money to maintain their parents.

When you make a moral responsibility into a contractual responsibility, people will begin to ask question: What are the returns? What are the considerations?

I am doing my part to fulfill the contract of parent maintenance, what can the government do in terms of lowering down medical and other costs?

I am paying you million dollars, how much is your contribution to me as a tax payer?

I am voting you to form the government, how much is the government going to help me?

GE due to economic issues

This may justify that the result of last General election is due to economic issues:

“The outcome of last year's Singapore General Election (GE) has been likened by some political commentators as an Arab Spring, noted Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam. However, he felt the results were due to economic issues, as well as specific local issues like housing and transport. Speaking at the Singapore Conference on the topic of "New Directions: Singapore Politics and Foreign Policy" on Wednesday, Mr Shanmugam said the GE results should be viewed in perspective. (Today, 10 Feb 12)

GE 2011 is not an Arab Spring, but the economic issues and rich-poor gap have certainly led to many unhappiness. And after the GE, Singaporeans are now more aware of their rights and their collective power.  Objections to eldercare facilities, objection to compensation of moving out in Rochor, and saving Bukit Borwn cemetery etc. are social movements that will affect future elections.

If the unhappiness continues, the economic issues will become social issues and then political issues. It seems that the PAP is finding it difficult to address the trend.  It is all because there is a broken promise: you want the children to maintain their parents, but you don’t want to look after your citizens, or you only look after selected group of people.  Singaporeans will ask: is this fair?

You passed a law to demand children taking care of parents and at the same time, you promised them a living standard like Switzerland in the 1990s.  Now you break your promise, but the children cannot break the contract.   

Singaporeans may not want to have an Arab Spring but certainly they are more daring to voice out.  As we have noticed that even foreign workers have started to go on strikes if unfair and unjust treatments hit them.  

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