Long queues at hawker centres don’t show we are enjoying good life

I refer to the 7 Feb 2013 Straits Times letter “Yes, we are enjoying the good life” by Mr Rajasegaran Ramasamy [1].

The long queues at hawker centres and food courts made Mr Ramasamy question the validity of complains about high cost of living: if people are genuinely concerned about high cost of living, shouldn’t they cook and eat at home instead?

Mr Ramasamy should understand that eating at hawker centres doesn’t necessarily imply a good, affordable lifestyle but could instead be a necessity born out of working ever longer hours or even working two jobs to cope with ever increasing cost of living leaving little time for cooking. This is a view supported by Makasutra founder Mr K F Seetoh [2] who said:
• more people tend to work longer, they have no time to cook and they eat out
• when stress levels increase, there is also the natural desire to want to hang out over a cheap, simple comfort meal

Straits Times also reported in 1988 (25 years ago) that most Singaporeans and their children eat hawker food, more out of necessity than choice because working wives are tired after work and their maids cannot cook a decent meal [3]. The fact that many families can no longer afford to have the mother stay at home to cook for the family is itself an indication of our high cost of living. The report went on to mention high density living and high volume tourist arrivals, both of which provide a clue to the long queues Mr Ramasamy observed. The mass import of foreign workers in recent years may have led to queues becoming longer as there are now more people queuing for food.

Finally, Mr Ramasamy wants Singaporeans to see that we are better off than people in many other countries because we have no mass unemployment, no rampant crime, no one denied decent healthcare, no one denied education and that we have made great strides over the last 30 years.

The so-called many other countries that Singapore is better than are essentially Third World countries, not First World countries. Why is our starting point for comparison always Third World nations? Do rich men in Bukit Timah constantly compare themselves with poor men staying in HDB rental flats? Do the Germans, the Japanese and the Swiss constantly compare themselves with people in Third World countries? Why are we singularly unique in being the only rich nation that constantly compares itself with Third World nations? Or do we have a Third World mindset that implicitly accepts that we are of Third World caliber unworthy of First World status?

It is funny how Mr Ramasamy’s list of us being better than many other countries doesn’t include cost of living even though cost of living is the key issue here. All else being equal, we can lower unemployment rate by lowering salaries which in turn impacts cost of living. Finally, Mr Ramasamy’s list was already achieved 30 years ago. If the list remains the same as it was 30 years ago, how do we tell if we have made great strides over the last 30 years?

[1] Straits Times, Yes, we are enjoying the good life, 7 Feb 2013, Rajasegaran Ramasamy

[2] Straits Times, Dining Out – Singaporeans are region’s top spenders, 9 May 2013

[3] Straits Times, As more people eat out, more must be done to raise hygiene standards, 21 Mar 1988


4 Responses to “Long queues at hawker centres don’t show we are enjoying good life”

  1. Lors Seela Says:

    Bravo! Ramasamy sounds like IB.

  2. ;Annonymous Says:

    You are right to get worked up. It is part of the MSM’s agenda to publish such rubbish. Our millionare Ministers line up at hawker centres. Does anyone suggest that they are not having the good life?

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