Sam Tan tells of a troubled family and old men with determination
By Jeremy Au Yong
It was not the sort of message expected during a debate on the country's fiscal policy, but that was what emerged when Mr Sam Tan (Tanjong Pagar GRC) took the floor at Parliament yesterday.
'Marriage is not all about money. You don't need to wait for the Finance Minister to dish out incentives to get married.'
He went on: 'If you dream of starting a family, of a baby in your arms, just go for it. Do what is necessary and don't worry about enrichment classes.
'Don't overworry that your child won't be able to score all As in school. One or two overzealous schools may need four As to make their key performance indicators, but your child doesn't need to do anything but (be) the best that he can be. You don't need to wait for the Education Minister. You make your own guidelines about what grades mean to you and your children.'
The message, he said, is a response to those who tend to view the Budget in terms of what is in it for them: Those, for instance, who complain that they cannot get married if the Government does not help them buy a flat, or those who ask why the Budget has no goodies for those living in landed properties.
'My point is that we can each live our dreams, with or without help. If there is help, we get there faster. But if there isn't, we should keep trying anyway.'
Mr Tan, who titled his speech 'We don't need a fat Budget to live our dreams', was inspired, in part, by a video on YouTube. It detailed the exploits of a group of Taiwanese motorcyclists - of average age 81 - on a 13-day trip around the island.
'These old men, shaky on their legs but steady on their machines, shouting with joy in their old age as they revved their motorbikes,' he said, recalling the video of the group called the Dream Rangers. And even though it turned out to be an advertisement for a bank, he said, its message held true.
Mr Tan also told the story of a man here called Hans, whose family sought help from the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC). Mr Tan was its executive director from 1997 to 2009.
Hans' family is besieged by problems. His mother - a single mother for more than 10 years - has to battle illnesses and a depressive disorder. Hans was a slow starter in school, while his brother is dyslexic. They live in a two-room rental flat.
Yet the family never gave up. The mother has been offered a job and will start work as soon as she recovers. His brother has completed his O levels and is entering a polytechnic. Hans bounced back from a poor PSLE score to get into a junior college. He is applying for scholarships to study life sciences at a local university.
The CDAC and Budget helped, but Mr Tan said the core of their success is in their determination.
'The victorious overcoming of this family cannot be solely attributed to the goodies that the Budget has given them,' was his message.
In a similar vein, Dr Ong Seh Hong (Marine Parade GRC) and Mrs Josephine Teo (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) spoke about looking beyond the Budget goodies.
Dr Ong said he is concerned that Singaporeans have come to expect bonuses in every Budget. He wonders if the country is at the start of a 'long slide down to a culture of demand'. He said: 'During a bad year, one expects a relief and assistance package. This, I understand. During a good year, one also expects goodies and bonuses. This indeed is not a healthy national culture.'
Mrs Teo spoke on the legacy of the Budgets and how throughout the years, they have had consistent themes. Among them: do not overtax; use resources wisely; save for a rainy day; give relief in tough times; invest in skills; build capabilities; and grow the economic pie.
'But the real message for Singaporeans is this: Each Budget on its own does not transform a country. But consistent and tenacious management of our Budget over time help to make Singapore a much better home for all of us,' she said, adding that the labour movement fully supports Budget 2011.