I AM writing to share many things Singaporeans take for granted.
Thanks to years of budget surpluses, when the global financial collapse hit, Singapore was able to use more money as a percentage of gross domestic product than any other country, rich or poor. Now, with its economy rebounding at a 20 per cent rate this last quarter, Singapore has recovered from the collapse faster than any other country. This is something only Singapore, with its deep pockets and years of good economic management, could pull off.
My home city, Toronto in Canada, has its rubbish collected only once a week, yet it is considered one of North America's cleaner cities. It is in the 36th day of a rubbish collectors' strike, with rubbish and foul odours on its streets and an increasingly serious problem with rats and insects. Some people even store rubbish in their refrigerators.
In Singapore, our rubbish is collected every day, no questions asked. For a $40 conservancy fee, we get a clean-up that would cost hundreds of dollars a month in the United States or Canada.
Most buildings in the US and Canada have no sheltered walkways to protect residents from rain or snow, unlike most HDB blocks. This is so even though there are Americans and Canadians who freeze to death outside in the cold every year.
Most North American cities I have lived in are cutting bus and train services just to balance their budgets. Singapore plans to add a new MRT line this year and more lines and stations over the next three years.
If a poor person lives in a building without a lift in the US or Canada, that is his tough luck. In Singapore, the Government is upgrading our four-storey HDB blocks with a new staircase and a wheelchair-friendly lift that stops at every floor.
If a poor person cannot afford to pay his mortgage in the US or Canada, he can be turfed out and left homeless. If an HDB dweller cannot pay his mortgage after he loses his job, he can seek a moratorium on payments from his community development council. This mercy, to the best of my knowledge, has no equal anywhere else in the world.
After living and working in six countries, I have known for a long time that no country takes care of its people the way Singapore does.
Eric J. Brooks
For more The Straits Times stories, click here.