April 28th, 2012
Travelling on my own in China for two months was a revelation as I instinctively made comparisons with Singapore. To be sure, China is repressive as Singapore, if not more so. However, some observations may be of interest to Singaporeans.
As a driver, naturally a few things about parking struck me. Roadside parking was generally free and parking lots even on main roads in mega cities like Shanghai, Chengdu, Xian were generally absent unlike in Singapore where paid parking lots are seen even in residential areas. Parking wardens were rarely seen. Despite free parking, drivers I noticed did not cause obstruction to others.
The Chinese government could easily make billions from car park operations if LTA were their model.
I asked the locals if they had to pay any annual road tax for their motorbikes or electric bikes, of which there are miliions. They shook their heads and said, “Nothing.”
Chinese public parks are good places to observe how the locals spend their leisure hours. What struck me was how the elderly enjoyed themselves dancing, singing or playing musical instruments. No permits were needed for these activities unlike in Singapore. I couldn’t help bemoaning how our elderly are slaving away as cleaners.
At shopping malls, restaurants, fast food eateries, public buildings and so on the cleaners were mostly the young or middle-aged. China employs an army of cleaners to sweep away the litter, and elderly ones are a rarity.
And for those who drink, they might be amazed by the fact that a big bottle of Tsingtao at a supermarket costs about 70 cents! And cigarettes are dirt cheap.
I’m perturbed by the fact that in Singapore our seniors, some in their 70s, still need to slave away at menial jobs. Another thing that irks many people is that the government here finds every excuse to squeeze every cent from the public in the form of all sorts of fees and taxes. One of the most ridiculous is the exit toll for motorists leaving Singapore at Tuas or Woodlands.
Relating my experience to an Indian friend about the free parking everywhere in China triggered an angry response: “F*** bloody government. You know, now they’ve introduced paid parking even at night in Little India”.
Travel, as they say, broadens the mind but it also invites the inevitable comparison with your own country. And it may make you wonder whether your government has conned you all along.
Now they are discarded by the govt as their productivity go down with age, and the primary responsibility, the govt says, lies on their children to support them financially. But the govt does not realise that the children THEMSELVES, are having a difficult time paying for their own upkeep, let alone their parents. And the govt does not realise that some of these old people have no children, or children that are alienated from them, for whatever reasons.
Some of these old people still have some human dignity in them, and they refuse public handouts. They rather live rough and work until their bones give in totally. Currently, none of the old-folks homes are govt operated, all are organised by private charities, albeit with govt subsidies. As a recent article by a learned professor pointed out, no provisions are made by the govt for intermediate and long term care for the aged in Singapore; only hospital bills. This is going to be a critical problem for ALL OF US, SINGAPOREANS! Its not just a problem for the old people now. It will be our problem when we grow old as well, and we will certainly grow old!
When I see these old people slogging away like this, I somehow think, will I be like them later?