Monday, April 24, 2006

Exporting the old

Growing OldBuild retirement villages in another country for our aging population? The economics are sound when we consider that the cost of living, for example, in Batam or Bintan, will be much lower compared to the same villages located in Singapore. Therefore, whatever limited money and resources that the aged have left can be stretched much much further if they choose to live in lower costs areas.

Sounds great, until you realise that you will be an alien on foreign soil, subject to the laws of a foreign land. It is ironic that a person would choose such a way to live out the rest of his twilight years. That puts into question what we are working for all our lives in hectic and competitive Singapore. Does it mean anything if, at the end of it all, when we retire, we cannot afford a home in the very country to which we have given so much of our time, effort and, yes, our productive lives? Does it mean anything at all if all we can afford is cheap housing in a foreign land at the end of it all? I shudder to think so. This throws into question our assumptions about the rewards of hard work, of dedication, of commitment in making Singapore our home. Is it a home when we would likely not afford the place, come the day when it matters most - when we are old and decrepit and, by the standards we use to measure usefulness and productivity, we have served our purpose? This reminds me of Animal Farm, that satirical novel about how animals toil all their lives but in the end, get nothing.

Singapore's business environment today is less tolerant of the middle aged and the old. As we have been seeing and hearing in the recent past, once a middle aged person loses his job, finding another is as good as having to climb Mount Everest. More often than not, their living standards take a dive, they have to sell off their houses for a smaller one, take jobs, if any, that are usually the preserve of the relatively inexperienced 20-22 year olds starting out their careers.

Perhaps, even as the nation goes to the polls to elect a new government, we should think, in future, about forming a political party that represents the needs of the middle aged and the old, just like the Israelis' Pensioners Party, which represents the hard-put old people:

By now, the basic reasons why the party won seven seats are understood: Voters, especially the young, were fed up with the corruption and hypocrisy that had spread through Israeli politics;it was clear Kadima was going to win the election no matter what; and here was a feisty, unlikely, underdog party with a unanimously popular cause - a better life for Israel's hard-put old people. Jerusalem Post, April 6, 2006

The PAP, or for that matter, existing opposition parties, can't be everything to everybody. That would be unrealistic an expectation. So, instead of thinking about retirement villages that will banish its own citizens to foreign lands to live out the rest of their days, people belonging to these groups should form their own political party in time to come so that they can advance their own causes. They should not simply accept what the government offers now as the only way to retire and die.

1 comment :

Alex said...

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