Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ironies of Efficiencies of Singapore Public Infrastructure

This week, Singaporeans witnessed 3 train services breakdown (2 on the North-South Line and 1 along the Circle Line). In the same week, a bus service also took its passengers on a "destination-free"journey as the bus driver who alleged that he was merely following instructions and SOP lost his way.

These lapses are not acceptable in a small country to which basic transport infrastructure is paramount. Over the years, we have invested billions of dollars in developing a more comprehensive and more networked railway infrastructure to save time for passengers commuting from one destination to the another. However these intended goals are not achieved as passengers waste even more of their valuable time when railway services breakdown so often and when they cannot get into the trains which are packed at all times of the day!

Floods, which were common in Singapore during the 1970s to 1980s are so common these days. Whenever it rains, there will bound to be floods in parts of Singapore. Though the authorities attribute the flooding to Climate Change, I do not believe that the rain intensity and duration has changed over the years. Why is it when it rained many years back, there is no flood despites the rain intensity and duration to be the same as the rain of now?

Marina Barrage which is touted to relieve and alleviate flooding in Singapore, in my opinion, seems not to work. On the contrary, after the commission of Marina Barrage, I think there are more incidences of flooding in Singapore. I truly believe the floodings we witness in Singapore is due to the intense tunneling as our country digs further and further underground to create more space for an increasing population. If we stop the floodgate of foreigners into our shores, we would not need to keep looking for space. Anyway, many Singaporeans find the influx of foreigners into our country a bit troubling as they are not used to their cultures and there is fierce competition of them with locals for jobs,housing, education and some say even mates!

I believe I have digressed a bit. Beside our MRT services and Marina Barrage which do not seem to work well despites billions of dollars being pumped in; another public infrastructure, which I think does not serve its purpose is the Esplanade.
The Esplanade is suppose to promote a sense of appreciation of arts among Singaporeans and which will lead to a more gracious society and more civilised society which should be the hallmarks of a developed country.

Is Singapore in the league of a cultured and developed country like Switzerland and Japan? Far from it. Everyday, the scenes play out: young punks hogging the reserved seats of the MRT train, pretending to sleep, oblivious to the needy who needs the seats more than them and who are just standing in front of them. Also, a cultured society will have high service standards. In so many instances, I have to resort to using the language of the foreign staff serving me just because he or she cannot understand English!

Last but not least, I believe the worst icon that Singapore has is its two Casinos in Marina Bay Sands and Resorts Worlds. I know that these casinos were built to boost tourism and the economy, but there are stories of how the building of casinos have caused many Singaporeans to lose monies too and become poorer and financially less stable as a result.

To be honest, I really love the life of Singapore in the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, that was where life in Singapore is beautiful and there is a balanced development of the nation with the preservation of our traditional and cultural places which hold our collective memories and which bind us Singaporeans to this country. For the sake of development, places like the old National Library, the old Van Kleef Aquarium, the old railway network, the dozens of our ancestors' houses in Bukit Brown, and coming up, in Tengah and Bidadari; the iconic landmarks such as the hawker centres, colourful flats and the good old shops with the affectionate shop owners in Rocher Canal.....all these are or will be just memories that will just go. In place of them, stood the same gigantic shopping centres replicated across the island, from Changi City Point, to Nex, to Clementi Point as well as integrated buildings like the one in Toa Payoh and etc.

I find that there is nothing to bind me to Singapore anymore. All the old things that we cherish, all the old places which hold our collective memories are already giving way to more HDB flats, more condominiums, en-blocs, gigantic shopping centres, integrated buildings and more.

And to top the decline in sense of belonging to this country, we have more and more foreigners in our midst. Sometimes, I feel second-class in this country as I am at times being scolded by foreigners who are here mainly because they are rich and can contribute to the nation. I have become a forgotten face in a country which has more and more unfamilar places and more unfamilar faces.

I just watched Jack Neo's movie re-telecasted last Saturday on National TV. Jack, an award winning director who was conferred PBM (Public Service Medal) has kept a low profile after his personal affairs were brought out into the limelight. Jack has further caused the ire of netizens with his analogy of something to do with an MRT train. Anyway I have digressed again. I believe Jack's theme of his movies which resonate well with Singaporeans is really true and that theme is MONEY. This is because in Singapore, money is really very very important, so much important that money is the oft-discussed topics in every conversation. Singapore has over 80,000 Singaporeans with a NET asset of US $1 million but the proportion of Singaporeans earning less than $2,000 is also significant.

Hence when the MRT system breaks down yet again, I am definitely irked because this system which has billions of dollars invested in should not fail so easily. Irked as I have no money, as I become a forgotten face in a country with more and more unfamilar places and faces. Irked as all the places and things which hold me to this tiny island are just distant memories. Irked as the cost of living has gone so high. But maybe nor IRKED as Ms Saw who may now be seriously thinking why her MRT system fails so many times this week!
After saying so much, I still believe the Singapore from 1985 to 1996 is the most beautiful. I think 1997 to 2005 was the period of transformation and since then, Singapore is no longer beautiful! I believe Singapore can once again be beautiful!

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