4G leaders please speak in plain English?

Putting the statistics to the rhetoric of politicians makes interesting reading!

I refer to the article “Ministers, please speak plainly to the people” (Sunday Times, Jun 3).

It states that “But there is also a place for leaders to use the language of ordinary people when they talk to each other about their problems and hopes.

How to do this?

Here is one suggestion: Imagine there is a real person in front of you, a typical Singaporean with real problems trying to cope with making ends meet, stressed about his children doing well in school, worried over his sick mother running up medical bills.

He must believe you understand his anxieties before he will listen to what your thinking and plans are to make his life better.

I think many Singaporeans would have liked for their leaders to say something like this:

“We know life is tough for you (150,000 full-time resident workers earn less than $1,300 basic salary). You are barely making enough to cope with your expenses (most expensive city in the world for the fifth consecutive year)- paying the mortgage (how many have been in arrears on their HDB mortgage in the history of the HDB?), tuition for your two children (inequality in Singapore), the occasional entertainment and replacing that old mobile phone (one study indicated that about 30% of household’s expenses exceeded incomes). You worry about your job (very little of the jobs growth may have gone to true-blue Singaporeans after adjusting for the average of 30,000 new PRs and 20,000 new citizens per year), the pay has not gone up much the last few years (587,200 resident workers’ gross wages below $2,000) and you don’t know if you will still have it in two years’ time (unemployment rate for citizens may be higher than the reported 3% if we make an adjustment for new citizens and underemployment seems to be increasing). You and your wife worry all the time about whether the children are doing well enough in school and how you can help them (the procreation tax benefits favour the higher income relatively more than the lower-income), especially the elder one sitting the PSLE this year.

“We understand you are anxious too about your mother’s health and the mounting medical bills (from a cashflow perspective – the Government may not be spending any money on healthcare).”

(Note: I have inserted some issues in brackets in the above statement)

“That’s quite a load to worry about. But we want to assure you that we have a plan to lessen your anxieties and make sure you will be able to cope. We promise you that if you do your part (highest proportion of lower-income workers among all developed countries), we will do ours (highest paid politicians in the world) so you and your children will have a great future (the increase in the real starting salaries of fresh graduates in the universities, polytechnics and ITE have been negative for about the last eight years).”

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.