Of “Petulant Children”: Are you a customer? Or are you a citizen?

There have been a number of blogs dismissing the forum letter by Lim Sing Tat telling Singaporeans to “stop acting like petulant children” and put forth suggestions instead of merely complaining.

The common message is that it is not the responsibility of the people to come up with solutions when the government and the PAP is paid to do this. Or that suggestions have been given but the government does not listen.

Now, it is true that if you see yourself as a paying customer, then there is no obligation on  you to come up with solutions. Please, go ahead and “bang table” to demand better service.

But I firmly belong to the “Lim Sing Tat” camp. Because I do not see myself as a paying customer of Singapore’s government. I see myself as a citizen of Singapore. Just because the govt is paid to serve me, doesn’t mean that I have absolved myself of the responsibility to contribute to Singapore’s well being.

Being a citizen comes with rights and responsibilities. You have the right to a safe and secure home. You have the right to a HDB flat and afforable healthcare and education. But you also have a responsibility to pay your taxes, defend your country, and look out for your fellow citizens. Hence we have a responsibility not just to complain, but also to constructively offer solutions, and to accept that sometimes, the solutions that we champion may not actually work.

If everyone in Singapore saw themselves as a “customer” of Singapore, then this is not only selfish, it is also dangerous. A democracy requires everyone to respect that different people have different views, and a compromise is needed to accommodate everyone. If we only insist on complaining, how can there be compromise? I will not want to stay in a country where the people behave this way, nor will I want to bring up my kids in this kind of place. Worse still, I will fear that my children will be infected by this “crutch mentality” of being a “customer”. I want my kids to be constructive people in their community, not loud complainers who simply bang table for better service. I want my kids to recognise that they are not always right all the time, and that we should tap on the wisdom of others as well.

So I ask you, my dear reader. Are you a customer of Singapore? Or a citizen of Singapore?


About sgthinker

I'm a 40-year old Singaporean male, and this blog pens down my thoughts and feelings about Singapore's political happenings, government policies and society trends. I hope this blog will provide a moderate voice in the growing online debate about the state of Singapore's society. Some of the posts here won't be solely written by me, since there will be times when other writers are more eloquent at expressing their views, in which case I'll share their insights (along with my comments). The content on this blog is owned by me.If you wish to share or reproduce the content, please attribute it to this blog.
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19 Responses to Of “Petulant Children”: Are you a customer? Or are you a citizen?

  1. Pingback: Beware those who deny change to themselves | sgthinker.wordpress.com

  2. Again, a win-win situation 🙂

    For those of you who consider yourselves as customers of Singapore and are not pleased with the service(s), by all means (and I mean it seriously here), find a better shop …

    For those of you who consider yourselves citizens with a moral obligation to make things better for the country, enjoy your stay, and to borrow / pervert the Vulcan saying, “Live long and contribute ..”

    By the way, Au taxes are high, but my medical is taken care of and I get rebates and other paybacks from government for my high taxes .. 🙂

  3. doulosyap says:

    Hi, just want to ask how you feel about TRS republishing your articles. Did they ask permission?

    They have copied many of mine wholesale, which violates my copyright, and they gain financially from it through their ads. I would expect them to at least ask first, which is the courteous thing to do.

    If they have stolen your content, you can ask Google to cut their ads by filling in this form: https://support.google.com/adsense/bin/request.py?contact_type=violation_report&&rd=1

  4. SM Goh says:

    If Singaporeans “…have a responsibility not just to complain, but also to constructively offer solutions, and to accept that sometimes, the solutions that we champion may not actually work….” then the government, whether they are running a business where we are customers or running a country where we are citizens, have to admit that the solutions that THEY champion may not actually work as well, even though they are supposedly smarter and are paid millons to do it.

    Yes they admitted (somewhat) after GE2011 that their immigration policies were wrong, then came up with 6.9million by 2030.
    Yes they admitted property prices were too high, then implemented loan curbs impacting the very people who needed loans to finance their property, and did nothing to curb the deep-pocketed property speculators.
    Yes they said there are jobs that SIngaporeans won’t do, but refuse to implement Minimum Wage and continue to import cheap labour to do it.
    Yes they claimed that SBS/SMRT are private companies which needs approval from the PTC to increase fares, then decide to dole out billions to them from our reserves.
    Yes they claimed to be committed to be a clean government, but refuse to state how many companies the PAP owns that is doing business with the government.

    We are complaining because WE CARE, whether as a customer or citizen.

    • Ground Sentiments says:

      Following the same train of thoughts,

      Yes. They agreed that there is inflation. But they just twist it that the core inflation is not. Or they just dismiss that those COE increase does not affect non-car owner (My foot! What are inflation index for!). In the end, they did not do anything. The next thing, they raise the rental of JTC, Hawker and etc. They are contemplating increase of train/bus fare.

      Yes. They agreed that HDB should go back to providing affordable housing as a core mission. Then they said that it would affect current HDB owners who rent out their units.

      Yes. They agreed that they should be more transparent. Then they become silence when asked questions that are long lingering on many folks mind (eg. AIMgate), or they just pretend that no one is interested in knowing or asking.

  5. As long as the country is run like a corporation, then yes indeed, I am a customer.

  6. Ground Sentiments says:

    There are different approaches to engaging the government out there, with respects with feedback, suggestions, compliant, or other duties as active citizens of Singapore as there are many different folks. There are just different approaches.

    There are these folks who have been giving feedback and suggestions of possible solutions to the governments … but do the political leaders listen, or even acknowledge them? or do they just dismiss them?

    There are these folks who have been asking for more data from the government, in order for them to make sensible suggestions to solutions … but do the political leader ever response with data, or do they simply dismiss them the way they dismiss the alternative parties questions in parliament?

    Of course, there are the folks who complains, without giving suggestions. Why do they do choose this approach? They probably don’t know what to suggest. They probably have no access to data to understand the extend and depth of the problem, before a suggestion to possible solution can be made. They probably have no access to data to be able to assess the impact of their suggested solution, as they understand every suggested possible solution create different impact to different constituency.

    Or they are simply tired of not being acknowledged, not being listened, not being engaged … for so long … that they become frustrated, disengaged and lost total trust of the current government. Yet, they continue to raise issues, to “complain”, to suggest, as they cannot close an eye to what they see, a deteriorating situation or problem, as they feel that, no matter what the government actions or non-actions, they have a stake the well-beings of the country. And they care.

    Be it in family, company or government relationship, it starts from the top. The parents, the senior management and the political leaders, needs to set the tone, to set the example, to set the culture …. for their children, their employees and their citizens.

  7. EY says:

    In any society there are those who are firmly in support of the ruling party and those who are firmly against. And those in the middle who may choose the path of lesser evil. Which are you sgthinker?

    Until recently, I feel that the government has been high handed in many of its approaches. In the early years of Singapore’s independence, it was a good thing and boded well for Singapore.

    But in today’s society, there are many suggestions for improvements and ways of doing things. To be fair, with what are being suggested out there, it may not be possible for the government to appease everyone, and neither should they try to. Nonetheless, it is only till recently that the government acknowledged ideas from back benchers.. this is a good start. Let’s see if the government is gracious enough to acknowledge ideas that first came out from the opposition in time to come. And if the government is able to admit policy mistakes and correct them too.

    Your article seems to finger those who criticize the government and challenge them to come up with suggestions instead of just complaining. But it does not address those who only agree with everything the government does without question. Are Singaporean supposed to act like that? Accept without question?

    So to those who do suggest improvements, they should continue. And they should not always be lambasted by people from both ends of the spectrum.

    • sgthinker says:

      My posting history speaks for itself. I will let the reader judge if I am either firmly supporting or against the government. Or whether I stay in the middle.

  8. Citizen turned customer says:

    i see myself as customer the moment PAP admitted Singapore is SINGAPORE INC, before that I thought we have a stake in this island but the HIFALUTIN message from LKY is a smack on citizens’ face to know our place in this society.

  9. JBJ says:

    “Because I do not see myself as a paying customer of Singapore’s government. I see myself as a citizen of Singapore. ”
    For your information, EVERYONE sees themselves as a citizen of Singapore. Thats why you and I pay taxes, serve NS and contribute to the society.
    However, it is PAP who DO NOT see us as citizens,
    removing social security,
    establishing a weak workers union that has a highest paid worker union head that OPPOSE minial wage,
    gambled and lost our money through buy-high-sell-low tactic via GIC / Temasek but kept quiet
    Open floodgates without checks where even prostitudes can get Sg citizenship.
    Bring in non-talented PMETs to replace our PMETs causing extreme structural unemployment while hiding the statistics
    Jack up Housing prices so high, maximizing their profits on citizens high debt rates

    And if any one dares oppose,use the ISA to curb, clamp, arrest and frame.

    At this point of time sgthinker, you said that “…the solutions that we champion may not actually work.”, but to me it is still much batter than their current FAILED solutions.

    Think about it.

    While we see ourselves as citizens, does PAP see us as citizens too, or just GDP enhacing digits? Their polices say for themselves.

  10. AA says:

    Excellent article. I think the point is that we are all in this together. We need to work together, instead of sitting back and saying, “I don’t like this, I don’t like that” as if we are customers in a restaurant. There are problems in every country, but the question is whether we will work together to solve them, or we will simply push the blame around.

    • JBJ says:

      “There are problems in every country, but the question is whether we will work together to solve them, or we will simply push the blame around.”

      Well said, AA!

      Bukit Timah Flood : “act-of-God”, “once in 50years”
      Terrorist escape: “Citizens are getting complacent”
      Proposal to bring down HDB pricing : “Oppositon are raiding our reserves!”
      Too many competition causing structural unemployment in Singaporeans: “Citizens need spurs in their hide”

      Pleas to Gov not to delay CPF claims: “If given too early, retiress will spend it on PRC women!”

      Anything and everything the people or oppoosition proposes, it is 100% pushed away or rejected by PAP.

      It is the PAP that should really stop pushing the blame. Not the citizens

  11. JBJ says:

    This is one of your most ironic post, sgthinker.

    You specifically mentioned that “The common message is that…suggestions have been given but the government does not listen.”

    After which, you forgot what you had wrote, and said that “…we have a responsibility not just to complain, but also to constructively offer solutions”

    Your top don’t fit your backside, bro.

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