“You Singaporeans are so lucky . . . ”

By Augustine Low

I was having a casual chat with a middle-aged Malaysian visiting his son working in Singapore and his parting shot to me was, “You Singaporeans are so lucky. Your leaders are so frugal, look at the PM and his wife, look at Lee Kuan Yew’s house, furniture that people would have thrown away . . . ”

That was certainly food for thought. On reflection, I guess our leaders do come across as somewhat frugal. PM Lee Hsien Loong and Ho Ching are never flashy and ostentatious; in fact people are often critical of how simply (some call it shabbily) Ho Ching is attired even for state visits.

Images of Lee Kuan Yew’s house, released after his death, showed spartan living spaces with decades-old furniture. We have been told the frugal side of Lee – how he preferred to mend old clothes than buy new ones, how he urged his colleagues to borrow winter clothes for overseas trips, and how he eschewed laundry service by washing his own underwear during hotel stays.

But how does our leaders’ frugality make us “lucky” citizens? To start with, one presumes that leaders with frugal habits are also frugal with government spending, dispensing with the kind of profligacy that could bankrupt government coffers. There are obviously those who disagree, arguing that the profligate spending is the reason why we will see a rise in taxes.

There is also the element of humility in frugality. Images of President Halimah Yacob shopping for 10-ringgit tudungs in a Kuala Lumpur roadside on New Year’s eve went viral and netizens gushed about her humility and down-to-earth nature.

A person frugal in habits could also be frugal with time – and this translates to strong work ethic, making the best use of time. We have been told that Lee Kuan Yew was having weekly Chinese lessons at the age of 90 and working tirelessly till the end.

The remarks about frugality by a Malaysian is particularly poignant because we have read of a foreign leader’s spouse who went on spending sprees in Harrods in London and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, who flaunt Chanel bags and glittering jewellery. In contrast, here in Singapore, Ho Ching’s spartan styling and so-called sloppy sandals worn during overseas state visits created headlines for different reasons.

On the whole, frugality (at least as a public persona, let’s forget about the big fat bank accounts for the moment) may be an underrated virtue. But there is a need to strike a balance – Ho Ching can maintain her frugal image at home but she is better off ditching those sandals and putting her best foot forward (pardon the pun) for state visits with pomp and grandeur.

59 COMMENTS

  1. Balance is the key really. HC’s sloppy dress-code at home and on the international stage is a disgrace! Has nothing to do with frugality.

    It’s just her innate sloppiness and even her outright arrogance to dress the way she does, knowing full well it does not appropriately reflect her place as the wife of a PM of a country! Imagine if our entire cabinet had the same disregard for an appropriate dress code, while conducting state affairs at home and abroad, I wonder if the PM would have something to say! Dumb is dumb!

  2. By the way.. do you see the late LKY and wife looking slopping, despite the frugality in basic creature comforts in the privacy of their own home!!!

  3. Yes, we Singaporean are very lucky.And should stop complaining. Here eveyrhing works and fast….so have some appreciation to those that leads the country and a bit forgiving with a little discomfort.

  4. Alot of Malaysians working here told me the same .. you are lucky to be Singaporean .. my reply was Why are you going back Msia when Sg is offering you a citizenship.. that shuts their mouth

      • …sentence should end as “not SG or its Govt or Singaporeans.

        Do you know that a lot A LOT of them actually scoff at us? They say we are spoilt, but I think they are jealous lah.

    • Fact is they work here and build big houses there. Especially for Malaysian chinese, they have the best deal. Treated well here and settle there. Many mechanics who worked here able to settle there with workshop.

      • Malay Malaysians don’t normally like to come here to work. Chinese Malaysians are the bulk of Malaysians working here. Yup, they have the best of both worlds. Same for PRC nationals btw. They earn what is equal to 3 or 4 times what they could get back in China…

    • Everyone from 3rd World country comes here to build our flats, but we are sold a 3 generation lease at 1st World prices.

      Then they go back using our strong SGD to buy their row of houses at 3rd World prices.

      Still, we must be grateful cos our ancestors were landless peasants without even a lease to talk about 3 generations ago.

      • Those FWs all come from big countries like India, China, Indonesia. Malaysia alone is 450 times the size of Singapore.

        What to do? We kena kicked out of Malaysia.

    • Our ancestors came here when it was a Tradeport belonging to Msia not a sovereign country, most of them owned a land before pap came into power and seized it under the land acquisition act. ( Most of the people weren’t peasants nor SG was a fishing village as probagated by PaP) Our ancestors built this nation together with Pap then .. without them PaP wouldn’t even exist today to rule as one Family.. Its new immigrants , can even say Pap whom should be grateful to us not the other way around .. Land of immigrants, there is a difference between Immigrants making this land into a sovereign country and Immigrants coming into to feed on our sovereign funds created by us .. Jason Chan

      • Agreed. But last time, they played the victim’s card and said they kena discriminated and bullied by the Malays in Malaysia. Chinese Singaporeans were in solidarity with them and offered them jobs.

        Even our government gave them PR very easily, so they can work and live here, and many remained PRs for donkey years but refused to convert to citizenship because they want to keep their Malaysia IC. But secretly, a lot of them talk back about us behind our backs.

    • Dinesh Dev I think every immigrant (or incumbent native’s) experience is unique in its own right. I speak about the majority citizenry, i.e. migrants and their offspring from 1800 to around mid 1980s. Natives are a minority, unfortunately. And the precipitous drop in birth rate in the 70s means that at some point in time in the future, the 20,000+ naturalised citizens per year will overtake this majority I speak of.

      Malaysia as a state did not exist before 1961. In 1961, the majority of today’s SG citizenry are already on SG soil, just still British subjects.

    • True, naturalised citizens already entered even parliament to attract more of them to take citizenship.. what more they aren’t gonna overtake thanks to pap for their own agenda .. Increased in aging Population is also thanks to Pap by offering older Immigrants who 40 to 50 yrs who have contributed almost nth to Sg other than Votebank

    • To add to this, the drop in birth rate is due to the stop at two policy. Anybody who had a 3rd child would be fined. Not all PAP policies are good. We won’t be at this stage if there’s no 2 is enough.

    • Decline in birthrate is just an Excuse to import new citizens for votebank. in Dubai 70% are foreign workers , can’t become Pr or Citizens or Hold high postions and such workers benefits the locals, locals living,careers etc are protected But in Sg their Policies are tuned to only benefits the PaP and their cronies at the expense of its own citizens .. Just becuz Family have small population doesn’t means must adopt others as own child .. LKY is the type who plans policies for Next 50yrs ..- today it’s the result

    • keep whining and moaning only with fake profile by one particular race but use Chinese name for own agenda. We suggest you all if you guys are having hard time living in SG, pls buy a house in JB and migrate there. There is already future planning between this two state for stay and work and travel .Most Singaporean have business in Johor or other state so they can ask their country men to go there and work also . Try to live in Jb or other state then you guys pls do the comparison before start your whining and moaning blaming PAP or Chinese. Then you guys will know if the changing rate is really valuable or not.

    • Jason Chan the cost of living have soared too high to start a family in Sg in today’s context.. those naturalised citizens having babies are for them to use it as a stepping stone to enter Europe.. Pink IC got value

  5. Citizens will benefit if frugal means taking home a smaller salary like SGD500K per year instead of millions. Also, Temasek should release CEO annual salary to reinforce this frugal quality.

  6. Those Malaysians working here make the best deal. Because of favourable exchange. They could find our money stretch there. Same for India, Filipino and China guys. Only we Sinkies are stuck. Elites in Singapore have good time.

  7. All you sinkie dumbasses don’t realise that LKY hasn’t lived in Oxley for decades!!!! He lived in the Istana and he’s not even the president. Go find out the truth about Sri Temasek the huge bungalow with the swimming pool and the biggest landed estate in Singapore before talking please. Such naive and gullible ignorant fools

  8. So my friend’s a hawker, his assistant fm boleh land has 2 landed houses, a few cars, and motorcycles to beat the jams. One nicer house is rented out. 20 plus years on the job. When the kids are done with uni here, of course, the plan is to get on one of bikes and ride it worldwide.

  9. By frugal do you mean no willing to spend a cent helping people who is in need? But can lose billions in investments, construct meaningless things for hundreds of thousand, paying themselves millions of dollar?

  10. Do you think the media really covered the Lee family? It is ridiculous to write about a pseudo conversation with a made up character. Then LKY is a most greedy man. He loves money for the sake of owning it. He hold on to power to his last breathe. Pure greed. Normal kind people would do charity. Normal people who have disabled childten would create ways to help. Normal people who are kind would have sympathy for the poor if like he said he was poor.

  11. Have been hearing it so often from Asians in Australia n HK – many M’sians n former Singaporeans. Most only see what is apparently good from outside, most do not realise the high indirect taxes, abuses or excesses by PUB, SG Power, LTA n all govt/ statutory bodies, losses by Temasek Holdings n GIC because of the lack of transparency n accountability. For a nation that boast it’s huge sovereign funds and budget surplus, it could not subsidize healthcare without increasing taxes. It had recently increased water rates by 30%…. electricity rates too! Now talk of carbon tax…our ministers are the highest paid in the world but they offer no creative solutions like ministers from other countries who earn only 40% of their package. To-date, there are no outstanding economic strategies to propel Singapore in the coming decades, no clear tactical platforms to change or focus of decaying economy in view of growing China n India and the challenges of US corporate tax and trade changes! Where is the exceptional and creative ideas that we Singaporeans paid millions for? Our MRT is a joke – the CEO n Minister of Transport are still hanging around – this is an excellent case of no accountability or nepotism!

  12. Frugality is not a virtual. Generosity is.

    Being frugal is inward looking while generosity is outward looking.

    Paying themselves millions and months of bonus is not “frugality”. But robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    • They are the fucker that spolit market in the first place that why Singapore no choice had to turn to China. Last time Singapore wanna to give them citizenship in order to gain vote, Chinese couple doesn’t wanna to make babies but they play our garment out by becoming PR only so now so many China PRC becoming our citizenship.

  13. Same thing , I went to Hong Kong the other day and one tourist front Dalian told me , you are very lucky , Hong Kong got Li Ka Shing so flithy rich, people driving BMW , in Dalian we are so poor to have three meals a day . Then the same month I went to Delhi , one businessmen from Pakistan sit beside me at the conference and another Indian National on my right , the Pakistani tell the India , you are so fortunate , India is so progressive (speaking in Hindi). Look at Pakistan , 2/10 kids die of incurables diseases or some join AL-Qaeda . So what is the moral of the story ? Never criticise your own kind (especially Singaporean shall love Singaporean) and never ever praise the neighbours countries or worst patronising them every weekend in JB

  14. Sinki , do you know Malaysia Chinese go everywhere, always tell other nationalities “you are damn lucky” because they lost three airlines (vanishes) , their KWSP (CPF) money disappeared overnight , mass migrations (3 millions) workforce in Singapore working . How pity we are !!!
    Haha … and the their superficial elections is around the corner..

  15. Nice words from those without real stake in this country is just nice but superficial.
    Very sure there are many countries that are worse than Singapore.
    Comparison with laggards are just feel good wayangs and nothing to shout for. Singapore as compared with her past has declined.
    Where is our Swiss standard of living and world cup? There are more than enough major screw ups to turn the old man’s grave. Singapore is now lost.

  16. Another thing is that many low-income individuals have run out of money
    and have to go hungry for days on end. This is a terrible thing to know, right?
    What about leaders who are frugal?

  17. >Ho Ching are never flashy and ostentatious; in fact people are often critical of how simply (some call it >shabbily) Ho Ching is attired even for state visits.

    You mean you do not know that Mdm Ho Ching perm her hair at the salon in Shangri-la Hotel? The Lee Family
    already have a lot to enjoy themselves.

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