Our Ooops Moment

Singapore has just won something it doesn’t want to win. It has become the country in Southeast Asia with the greatest number of Covid-19 cases thanks to a record spike of 1,426 cases on 20 April 2020. Singapore had been lauded as a model of how to manage the pandemic. The government implemented contact tracing policies and somehow, our numbers remained relatively low without a full lockdown. Then things changed. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen our numbers jump. From two-digit daily increases, we started seeing daily increases of three digits on a daily basis.

What happened? How did Singapore’s thus far “Gold Standard” management suddenly collapse? For me, I don’t think it’s a case of the Singapore government’s lack of capability in crisis management. Rather, it’s a case of the neglected part of Singapore coming to bite us back.

If you look at the dramatic rise in the number of infected cases, you will note that its primarily from the foreign worker population who are concentrated in foreign worker dormitories. As mentioned in a previous posting, these workers are primarily from South Asia, working in labour intensive industries and for the most part live in a different, more brutal reality from the rest of us. A second cousin once removed said it best in an article in the Washington Post: [LINK]

Whatever is said of how the government has managed the pandemic, I’m inclined to agree with Professor Donald Low of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, who argued that the one area in which the government should be blamed in the area of foreign worker management. Professor Low’s analysis of the government’s handling of the pandemic can be found at: [LINK]

Professor Low rightly distinguishes between “known Unknowns” and “Unknown Known.” Everything about the virus was based on “known unknowns,” in as much decisions were based on available information at the time and the decision makers had to do with what they had.

The issue of foreign worker dormitories is however, is a “unknown known.” This is an old issue and NGO’s such as TWC2 have raised this issue before in the public domain. This is not the first time that foreign workers have died from diseases due to unhygienic living conditions as a 2012 article from the Straits Times reveals: [LINK]

The system as they say, is stacked against the foreign worker and employers do have the right to view foreign workers as an exploitable asset. Getting medical leave, for example, can be perilous for the worker’s economic well being as the list from TWC2’s website points out: [LINK]

There is no possible way that the government could not have been aware of this potential time bomb. One can only attribute the lack of serious action in this area to “self-interest.” These workers are the ones who keep strategic industries like ship building and construction running. Hence, the government has not been willing to “raise costs” for employers.

The more worrying trend, is that the population, particularly among the older Chinese are inclined to think of our dark-skinned workers (the proverbial “darkies”) as dispensable too. The Chinese daily, Lianhe Zaobao published a forum letter from a reader that blamed the migrant workers for the current situation: [LINK]

While Singaporeans have come out, calling out this writer for obvious racist attitudes, the frightening thing is that plenty of people seemed to agree. The following article from Rice Media provides some valuable insight into what the letter reveals about society: [LINK]

The Law Minister, Mr. K Shanmugam has gone public to decry the underlying racist attitudes, but as welcome as having a high-profile minister come out to state the obvious, this sounds like rushing into the ICU for a problem that was diagnosed a decade ago.

Singapore’s mortality rate from the virus remains relatively low. While the government has done a relatively competent job, in as much as it has taken care of the population that votes. However, it has completely disregarded a segment of the population which does not have a voice.

A government that is renowned for having superb foresight has been caught by a glaring blind spot. This is an organization that holds a lot of power. It could have tried to listen to the voiceless. As a society we need to understand that treating people like humans is in our self-interest.

Too much energy is focused on international window dressing. In the early days of this pandemic, our ministers became prone to comparing our well-disciplined machinery to the “idiots” in Hong Kong, which up to that point was racked with street protests. Just as Singapore recorded its first four digit increase in cases; Hong Kong recorded its first day without a new case. As Professor Donald Low argued, humility and humanity should be the lessons we learn from this virus.

 

Tang Li

*The author blogs at http://beautifullyincoherent.blogspot.com/
.

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22 Responses to “Our Ooops Moment”

  • FW Numbers:

    The virus has revealed Singapore weakness.
    Sad but true.
    Need to learn from this expensive episode…
    Do the right thing….Change our manpower Policy.

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  • COI:

    Halimah’s “approval” to allow National Flag to be displayed from now, is a scam to distract Singaporeans from the real issues.

    Singaporeans, don’t fall for this scam.

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  • Sg is doomed with 4Gs:

    Thanks to our beloved minister Josephine Teo!

    We should have more such ministers to bring Singapore to the world map as how good we really are.

    Mrs Teo, well done!

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  • Milk of human kindness:

    FW Numbers:
    The virus has revealed Singapore weakness.
    Sad but true.
    Need to learn from this expensive episode…
    Do the right thing….Change our manpower Policy.

    Pinky said Sg belongs to everyone!

    So migrant workers are part of our community. Pleas treat them as decent human beings.

    Don’t just give lip service to their India PM and FW families that they will be well taken care after this breakout has spread to them.

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  • Too late:

    This writer says it is not that the govt lacks the capability. How then, does he explain the numerous flip flops in advice and instructions to the people? Blame it all on the WHO? Countries like Australia knew better and declared a pandemic before the whole world admitted it. This writer is talking cock!

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  • John Richards:

    As I’ve said before, we need wartime leadership. This is a war against a very cunning and deceptive enemy. Decisive action not wishy-washy talk from a bunch of namby-pamby Ministers will help us win. Our Ministers don’t even recognise the enemy for what it is or the deadly threat it poses. PM thinks he can trip it up with a ‘circuit-breaker.’

    The foreign workers are viewed as mere casualties of war. Hollywood should release a new movie as a sequel to Stallone’s ‘The Expendables’ and call it ‘The NEW Expendables.’ It would be very cheap to produce. No CGI or multi-million dollar star fees for actors who are readily available. That said, the quality of acting would be comparable to Stallone’s star studded cast.

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  • Bobo:

    Everything will remain the same since 2015. Same ruling party, same non stop price hikes, same more FTs and more FWs needed to survive, same more PRs and fake citizen needed, and same more fake news etc. One thing should be different is hearing more from lady boss perhaps.

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  • MarBowling:

    For the 1st time I have to give credit when credit is due to Lee Kayu when years before he kicked the bucket, when he commented that the eventual DOWNFALL or LOSS of CONFIDENCE in the PAPIGS Coverment, would be when COMPLACENCY SET IN! This is the ONLY NOBLE ACT he got it RIGHT. His BIGGEST HONEST MISTAKE is to justify himself and the rest of his so-called World Class Ministers should be paid the World Highest $alarie$$$$$$$$! All the LOONG WAY down the hierarchy, top guns, especially top scholars are also being paid World Class Civil Servants HIGHEST salaries. The saying: Money is the ROOT of all EVILS is no JOKE one. BAD and AMBITIOUS individuals who are RUTHLESS(like Trump)will try their very best to get themselves into TOP COVERMENT appointment! End result would be GOOD and Less Ambitious, and Also Good and Ambitious civil servants got muscle out! To cut LOONG story short, SinKapore is in such a dire situation since Mai Hum took over the Imperial Throne from Woody. The same type of Art of War tactics also are present in our SinKapore SWFs such as TH and GIC setup!
    COMPLACENCY in fact has been CREEPING in all the sectors of the Coverment during Woody as the PeeM but getting from BAD to WORSE under the Imperial Rule of Mai Hum!

    So voters in the coming GE, a REGIME CHANGE is the ONLY solution to Make Singapore Great Again(MSGA)period.

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  • You don’t know:

    The good news is, we are the country in south east Asia which is far ahead in the course of attaining “herd immunity “!

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  • Whitewashers:

    Both Low and Li trying hard to whitewash the terrible mistakes.

    The task force was wrong straight from the beginning, and they had all the hindsight they could have used, but didn’t.

    China provided the hindsight. China was weeks ahead in handling the pandemic. But the task force learned nothing from China. The critical mistakes that they understand only after 2 months in their job: mask, asymptomatic infection, social distancing. They could have learned these from day minus 20 from China.

    Singapore lost 2 to 3 months in fighting the pandemic, because the task force could not learn from other places. Another example: old folks homes in other countries were heavily infected but the task force did nothing about Singapore’s old folks homes, until the same heavy infection hit. Many old folks died, likely preventable.

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  • oxygen:

    @ FW Numbers

    EXACTLY RIGHT! They are spending $60 billion on this coronavirus fight, If they spent the same in the last 10 years restructuring the economy (and thus much reduced reliance on endless and ever-escalating labor-intensive construction of artificial beauties etc etc), WE MIGHT HAVE SOWN THE SEEDS OF GERMINATION OF FUTURE RICH HARVESTS down the economic pathway.

    PApypolitics/PAPpynomic, like I keep lamenting- are

    - LOUSY ASSET BUILDERS OF BUSINESS and

    - EVEN WORSE LOUSY ASSET TRADERS (investing)

    all these perpetual self-glorification of ownself-praise-ownself is piling sh*t on top of sh*t.

    HAVEN YOU ALL NOTICE YET? MITI has gone into silent hibernation mode OF AT LEAST TELLING THIS NATION WHERE WILL WE BE HEADING TO if we survive this master of all war pandemic fight.

    REMEMBER THIS – PAST TENSE TOLD US THIS IN 2010, WE GREW THE LAST 5 YEARS SOLELY BY IMPORTING FOREIGN LABOR.

    The whole island is a perpetual construction site BECAUSE OF A BIGGER AND BIGGER POPULATION AGENDA – the White Paper was rammed down our throat post the 2011 election and Punggol by-election.

    NOW WE ARE PAYING THE FARKING PRICE OF ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT AND THIS ENTRAPPED MANPOWER POLICY.

    FW Numbers: The virus has revealed Singapore weakness.
    Sad but true.
    Need to learn from this expensive episode…
    Do the right thing….Change our manpower Policy.

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  • REGIME CHANGE is the solution:

    FW Numbers:
    The virus has revealed Singapore weakness.
    Sad but true.
    Need to learn from this expensive episode…
    Do the right thing….Change our manpower Policy.

    REGIME CHANGE is the BEST AND ONLY solution. Why? Because PAP will never change because of PAP HUBRIS. It considers “change” as an admission of a mistake / failure. Did LKY ever admit he made mistake?

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  • trepofma:

    BAN,

    YES,

    BAN

    FW.

    TRADING AND SELLING OF FW.
    period

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  • What is majorities views:

    The more worrying trend, is that the population, particularly among the older Chinese are inclined to think of our dark-skinned workers (the proverbial “darkies”) as dispensable too. The Chinese daily, Lianhe Zaobao published a forum letter from a reader that blamed the migrant workers for the current situation: [LINK]
    While Singaporeans have come out, calling out this writer for obvious racist attitudes, the frightening thing is that plenty of people seemed to agree. The following article from Rice Media provides some valuable insight into what the letter reveals about society: [LINK]
    ————————————————-
    Tang Li
    I totally disagree with the above comment.
    That’s the minority’s view. Especially the older generation as racists.
    You must remember that these foreign workers are with us for decades. They did not just arrived. Any problems in the past?
    Some of these workers have been working here for more than 10 years.

    You can’t take a conversation between a son and parent or 2 letters in the Zaobao that went viral or only one aggressive person racist comment that went viral as views of the majority.
    That’s exaggerating.

    I give you an example.
    Like during our election rallies when you see huge crowds at the opposition side and in social media, majority of the comments are against the incumbent.
    But the result does not show.
    So in Zaobao’s 2 letters,in social media, maybe that’s only a few hundred people’s views. Is this call majorities views.
    Or please enlighten us how you concluded that is the majorities views.

    I reiterate that the foreign workers are with us for decades, and we have no problems at all in the past.

    So do you think POFMA is very necessary especially in the social media age.

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    OK TangFastic…you are acclimatising to local CONdition and I must admit this is ONE of your best contribution(note that I don’t even spell it with caps for the 1st 3 words)

    be a “THINKER” not an egotistical wannabee for Local CONditions where the Patriots can and will relate to subjects dear to their HEARTS…

    We have had enough of the Egotistical Hypocrites ruling since a Bastard turn our world upside DOWN when he usurps power and placed his BUNCH of Idiots and cronies in the 80s and a son NOT even worth mentioning

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  • oxygen:

    WHY DO WE NEED A MORE BALANCED POLITICAL REPRESENTATION?

    The answer is very simple.

    THE OWNSELF-CHEQQUE-OWNSELF (also CONCURRENTLY ownself-praise ownself of piling itself with sh*t on top of sh*t) EITHER DOES NOT KNOW OR REFUSE TO ADMIT THIS FACT.

    YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.

    COVID-19 PROVES this beyond all doubt. PAPpypolitics/PAPpynomics SCREWED UP BIG TIME in crisis management and MTI ALL DIAM DIAM DIAM on the pathway to the economy road forward i.e. clueless.

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  • Prof. Donald Quack & Tang?:

    Professor Donald Low of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology,and perhaps Tang Li instead should be more concern about Hong Kong’s “Cage” homes. Just compare them to our dormitories, which is worse?

    https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/25/asia/hong-kong-social-distancing-coronavirus-intl-hnk/index.html

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  • Sia:

    Migrant workers doing essential jobs in SG deserve our attention when it comes to health, pandemic, living conditions etc.

    Moving forward after pandemic, the arrogant elitist govt should seriously look into over-reliant & over dependent of employers/companies, on foreign workers in this tiny island.
    I’m not saying zero migrant workers which is impossible. I’m saying Less reliant on vast no. of foreign workers, including maids.

    Govt also must act against greedy employers/companies, dorm operators that take advantage of migrant workers…
    Why is one of the dorm operator able to generate more than $70 millions profit, when living conditions of workers’re so bad??

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  • Done my NS:

    FW Numbers:
    The virus has revealed Singapore weakness.
    Sad but true.
    Need to learn from this expensive episode…
    Do the right thing….Change our manpower Policy.

    Including millister, mos, parl sex.

    We need a fresh and clean start weeding out the incompetent ones.

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  • opposition dude:

    The perennial problem with PAP is always money, money and more money. Money is the root of all evil and the PAP has long looked the other way in regards to dormitories. As we can all see, the dorm operators never bothered with hygiene and MOM never bothered to conduct inspections.

    We might not live in the dorms but we can at least say we have more heart than PAP. The non profit organisations have spoken about this years ago and now more people support them.

    But there is no use trying to advise PAP on cirrecting their mistakes because they just do not want to. They also made another major mistake in letting too many aliens onto the island back then resulting in massive anger in 2011. So it has been one mistake after another.

    So rather than wanting PAP to do right we as citizens must actually do the right thing by voting in more opposition because PAP just cannot get anything done right.

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  • Sojoürner of Truth:

    Just as soon as our country is lucky enough to have the talent of Dr. Dr Leong Hoe Nam and Dr Paul Tambyah, to comfort and reassure us, out pop a Hong Kong Professor, Donald Low with his unsolicited critiques thanks to some East Asians , pretending to be moral patriot humanitarians. But their iconic mantra is “Am I my brother’s keeper?” .

    I read to the latest cockamamie musings of Dr. Donald Low suggesting: “I hope Singaporeans learn from this crisis is that of humility. My good friend, Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, wrote a brave piece at the time, asking Singaporeans whether they should be feeling so smug at the time; it’s worth reading again. None of us should criticise the Singapore government for saying that the crisis has now worsened and it needs to take more drastic measures that it did not think were necessary before.” – Unquote.

    Why is Dr. Donald Low ‘wimping out’ on his comments above? It should be the Singapore government that humiliates his leader earlier in the pandemic. Why is he directing his displeasure at ordinary Singaporeans then ?

    As an objective observer of one who resides south of your country it saddens and greatly disturbs me to seeing your nation imploding right before my very eyes in 2019. Problem is those who can effectively contradict the Singapore government refuse to do so because they don’t want to rock the boat since the resulting economic damage are tilted to favor the wealthy over the needy, and authoritarians throughout the world use widespread fear and suffering to seize power ever more tightly. Whether you are an academia or not, you can’t foretell your own future. You may need to step into Changi airport one day.

    I have no pretensions to rank with the “best”, but in those days the magnet was just as attractive to me as it was to potential Nobel prize winners. The viral pandemic just demonstrates the shear lunacy of it and exposed all the lies of the right/center/left, yet many refuse to acknowledge reality. This article is laughable-way over the top.

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  • AristoCATs - any Clue?:

    Yup, the “Population WhitePaper” – 10m ?

    -
    Double Oops !

    -
    As Rumsfeld highlighted –
    “Known Knowns”? Or
    “Unknown Knowns”?

    -

    To the hi-salary AristoCATs – what say you?

    -
    OpenGate – pack it in???

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