By Mary Lee
President Tony Tan couldn’t have put it better. He told the alumni of St Joseph’s Institution: “Social reserves are the goodwill that makes us look out for one another during difficult times. They are the resilience to help us overcome challenges and constraints, and (they) give us the tenacity to progress both as individuals and as a nation.” As social reserves are “intangible, we only know how much we have when we need to draw on it.”
I am selfishly delighted with President Tan’s words because they show up what kind of people the ruling party has representing it. It began in January, during the rainy season. I had to take taxis most of the time because of the weather, and health complications compromised my mobility, including opening an umbrella and dashing to the ground floor corridor of my block. That plus having the taxi drivers ask: “Why your block no cover?” One suggested: “Ask your MP! Now, everything they give!”
So I did. My MP sends her constituents who have e-mail regular “bulletins” so, in January, encountering (yet again) a 3m banner advertising a week-long golfing trip to Hainan in June costing $7,000+ each, I wrote to her.
She wrote back to say the money for the trip was paid for by the residents making the trip. The actual words were curt and downright rude.
We haven’t communicated since but let me list ways in which town councils (PAP and WP) can help create better “social reserves”: give people what they really need, not pretentious block names like Chong Pang Vale, Yishun Grove or Khatib Spring. Such names are a total waste of town council reserves and the only people it benefited were the contractors who won the tender to put them up!
In my block there is a free clinic patronized by older people, but there is no covered driveway to the clinic, thanks to really bad planning around the estate. And the town council and HDB spent tons of money upgrading the estate (residents had a choice of doors and grilles but that was all the choice there was).
So President Tan, for your information, the people in the parish I belong to volunteer to visit the sick, aged and lonely at home; we build up our other social reserves because that is what our faith teaches us.
I need my MP to understand what a greying population in her constituency needs – not the golf club members who can take care of their own golfing trips and aren’t even her working class constituents! Which means she isn’t even aware how depleted her constituency’s “social reserves” are. Bad estate planning coupled with uncaring MPs equals zero “social reserves”. The taxi drivers say she has “nothing to draw on”.
Am I generalizing based on one snotty MP? Perhaps. But I think it’s a useful lesson on the Party’s “social reserves”, don’t you?