What Are The Youths Being Told

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By Ethan Guo

My dad has always owned a car since I was young.

His very first, as shown to me in pictures, was the classic yet humble Mini.

The car I remember was the old beat up Toyota Corolla, which was our family car for many years.

When dad finally upgraded to a Ford Laser in my teenage years, my brother and I joined in the discussion on whether it should have automatic transmission or manual, and to get it in silver or white. We even fussed over the possibility of having a lucky number “8” as the first digit of the license plate if our registration timing was right! (It wasn’t).

We were far from being rich. Ours was just a regular average-income family with two working parents.

Those were the days.

The possibility of owning a car is slipping beyond the grasp of even the upper middle class. The cost of purchasing a car without the ability to rely on a substantial long-term loan is already onerous. Then there are the charges incurred in actually driving it on the road.

The situation as it stands is untenable – we understand. We want to avoid the gridlock-type congestion; therefore car population needs to be controlled. Urban planners are putting MRT stations within walking distance of most homes in Singapore so you don’t even need to consider driving.

Beyond the very pragmatic masterplan, I wish the policy makers would stop for a while to realise what they are telling the youths of today.

Children, in your foreseeable future:
– Forget about the concept of a “family car”, even if you have ageing parents and kids in tow. Perhaps you can rent for special occasions but it’s the bus and train for all your transport needs. Driving licenses make nice mementos.

– Housing will be expensive. There will still be cheap (a.k.a. below-marketplace priced) HDBs for mostly everyone, but they will be small and far in the outskirts. Your parents may need to “sellback” their flat to the HDB for their retirement funds so you probably would not get a cent from it. If anyone in your social circle stays in a house or condo, you know they are in a different league – probably a descendent of “old money”.

– “Unnecessary” university education is discouraged. Good jobs and ample opportunities will go to the deserved, you’re assured. But population growth via foreign import is planned and envisaged, many likely to arrive with degrees. Where will the locals stand in this scenario?

– Elderly outnumber the young. Hospital and nursing demand outstrip supply, with responsibility for the older generation still resting upon the traditional but disappearing “family unit”. You care for your parents, but may find yourself homeless and left to fend for yourself after they pass on. It’s your fault for not getting married and having children.

Many policies in themselves seem entirely feasible, even necessary. But it’s when you view them in totality from a youngster’s perspective that everything suddenly seems really bleak. What kind of Singapore is there for youths to look forward to? The “jewel” at the airport? That may be the last thing they look at before leaving their birth land for good. And who can blame them?

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