Much to gain from slower pace of life

Much to gain from slower pace of life

At a recent forum, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam (above) painted a "stark picture" of the future of Singapore if we should adopt a slower pace of life ("Slower pace of life comes with trade-off, says Shanmugam"; last Saturday).

The problem is that the picture is incomplete.

Our leaders have constantly reminded us that "no one owes us a living". This is why we work tremendously hard to be No. 1, and then work even harder to maintain this position. But what is the unquantifiable price we have paid?

Singapore has the highest number of millionaires per capita, yet our happiness levels are low. Our suicide rate is also at a 20-year high ("Suicide cases rise nearly 30 per cent to hit 20-year high"; last Saturday).

The rich-poor divide is growing, with the poor seeing their incomes rise only 0.1 per cent each year between 2002 and last year ("Real incomes for low-wage earners 'have continued to rise' "; Feb 6).

Last year, we had the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world, yet couples have no confidence to have children, causing the fertility rate to fall below the replacement level.

Our education system churns out students with top grades, but we are low in innovation and creativity.

It seems that the current picture is already stark.

Singapore cannot keep pursuing economic growth at all costs, when this method has already fallen short. Is it not time to try something different?

Teachers should be able to truly nurture young minds, and children should grow up loving to learn and discover.

Parents should be able to spend more time with their children, rather than just ferry them from one enrichment class to another.

Couples should be able to make babies - and not just a living. Adult children should be able to live with their ageing parents and not abandon them. All this requires a slower pace of life and a commitment to people, not numbers.

Quality of life may be lower, but the gains could far outweigh the costs.

Catherine Ho Shull (Ms)

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