Singapore — In an Aug 10 opinion piece for Bloomberg, Mr Daniel Moss wrote that when he was having lunch before the latest restrictions were implemented last month, there was hardly anyone checking on him to ensure that he was following rules.
In contrast, he noted that the more “well-heeled parts of the city” are more rigorously checked by “Safe distancing ambassadors — civilians with red shirts and ID lanyards known as SDAs.”
Mr Moss wrote, “Some have observed the high level of scrutiny cosmopolitan spots downtown receive relative to the hawker centers and food halls that dot housing estates and suburbs.”
When he had lunch at Kallang, he did not see any SDAs, underlining the main point of his piece—that the pandemic has strengthened the social inequalities in Singaporean society.
Furthermore, “nobody asked for my temperature or checked I had signed in using TraceTogether, Singapore’s contact tracing app. I struggled to even locate the barcode on a nondescript girder somewhere in the vicinity of the front of the hall. The only person taking photos as I tucked into a delicious nasi padang plate was me,” he wrote.
He added that TraceTogether sign-in has since been made mandatory at Hawker centres, but wondered why it took so long.
And while Mr Moss notes that some of the social divisions that have deepened are racial in character, with Singaporeans worried about job security and their children’s futures in an economically uncertain climate, the main divide he underlines in his piece is between the haves and the have-nots.
“Beneath the growing unease with foreigners is a sentiment that gets far less attention: class anxieties,” writes Mr Moss, adding that “there may be more common ground between expats and well-to-do locals than the prevailing narrative suggests.”
He writes that he knows “plenty of Singaporeans” who are keen on traveling abroad, who are feeling as much frustration “as any European or American.”
And whether Singapore “continues its ascent as a magnet for business or succumbs to populist-tinged currents” depends on how the ruling People’s Action Party’s fourth generation of leaders navigates these waters.
“Does the state, already a huge influence on the economy by determining land use, housing and shares in some of the biggest companies, become more redistributive? The head of the central bank last month gently floated the merits of a wealth tax and minimum wage“, he asked. /TISG
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