Nee Soon GRC MP, Lee Bee Wah, has been slammed for seemingly portraying the Government as one that “scrimps on itself” to provide for “stupid wastrels,” through a story she recently told in Parliament about a generous grandfather or “Ah Gong” and his ungrateful grandson, “Ah Seng”.
Expressing her support for Budget 2019 with the story, which has been described as “problematic” by many, Lee very emphatically shared this story in Mandarin:
“I would like to conclude this budget debate with a story: There’s a boy who lives next door to me, his name is Ah Seng. He has an “Ah Gong” (grandpa) who loves him very much.
“Ah Gong would always scrimp on himself. Even when his clothing is torn, he would mend it over and over again. He saved every cents, (sic) one cent at a time. Every 3 or 5 years, Ah Kong would take out a sum of money to give to his dearest Ah Seng.
“For example, when Ah Seng went to the university, Ah Gong gave him a sum of money. When Ah Seng wanted to go overseas to participate in immersion programme, Ah Gong gave him a sum of money. When Ah Seng wanted to get married, Ah Gong gave him a sum of money. When Ah Seng and his friends wanted to start a small business, Ah Gong also gave him a sum of money.
“One day, Ah Seng asked his Ah Gong, “Ah Gong, Ah Gong, why did you always give me money only every 3 or 5 years? Why didn’t you give me money every year?”
“At this moment upon hearing this, Ah Kong was deeply disappointed and also extremely angry. Ah Gong burst out in Hokkien: “You ungrateful child! You’ll ruin our family! You have such a good Ah Gong and you still don’t know it! I have been scrimping on myself, only to help you. Do other people’s Ah Gong do that for them?!”“
As Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat was seen smiling, Lee concluded her story by asserting:
“Mr Speaker, my residents do understand we have a very good government – which very carefully and cautiously manages our finances so that we can have budget and finance surpluses, and Pioneer and Merdeka Generation Packages. Not every government can accomplish this.”
The specific phrases Lee used to characterize his grandson, were phrases like “si gui kia” which means stupid kid, “bai jia zi” which means wastrel.
Pointing out that such harsh words characterise critics of the budget as “ungrateful louts,” award-winning cartoonist Sonny Liew wrote: “The analogy reduces any critics of the budget to the status of ungrateful louts (“si gui kia” – stupid kid, “bai jia zi” – wastrel) who “um zai si” (don’t know what’s good for them, literally “don’t know death”), which is unkind at best.”
Liew also highlighted that the story is “problematic” because of the odd allusion that the Government, like the grandfather in the story, “scrimps” on itself. He said:
“The insistence on benchmarking public sector wages to top private sector salaries makes the narrative about Ah Gong’s “scrimping” (“seng jiak seng cheng” – scrimping on food and clothes) rather odd.”
He also stressed that the story is contentious because “comparisons between household and state finances aren’t as clear cut as sometimes believed.”
Echoing Liew’s views, hundreds of Singaporeans have blasted Lee Bee Wah for the boastful story that openly praises her own party:
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