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‘Everything is expensive’

Submitted by admin on March 31, 2011 - 4:57pm


In Yuhua SMC, the main concern is the high cost of living, with some asking for more help for stay-home mums. This is the ninth in our 12-part series on single-member constituencies (SMCs)

WANT me to have more babies?

Then give stay-home mums more help, said Madam Maria Ng, 29, who has a two-year-old daughter.

"In my circle, most people's complaints are about the cost of living. Most people think that it's impossible to have a kid and a house at the same time," said the Yuhua SMC resident.

Madam Ng, who lives in Jurong East St 31, used to be a stay-home mum until a month ago when she started working part-time as an admin assistant.

She said: "People asked me how I survive on my husband's pay. I have only one kid so it's still affordable. But if I have a second kid, it may not be as easy as it is now."

Her husband works as a senior manager at a retail shop. They have applied for a flat which will be ready next year. They are currently living with her parents.

She said with her husband's income of $4,000, they are coping well, but they don't have any savings.

She took up a part-time job so that she can save enough to pay for the furniture and renovations for the flat.

She asked for more help, such as subsidies, to be given to stay-home mums to help them cope with the rising cost of living and the high cost of raising a child.

She is not the only resident in Yuhua SMC to raise this concern.

Housewife Vimala Gurunathan, 56, has four children, aged 18 to 23. Her husband is a supervisor at a logistics company. They live in a three-room HDB flat at Jurong East St 24.

She recalled how difficult it was for her to raise four children and how she used to cry when she could not afford tuition classes for her children when they were younger.

Although her children have grown up, she is still careful about how she spends her money.

"Now I'm more careful because everything is expensive. I try to budget no matter what," she said.

Mrs Vimala Gurunathan, a housewife, was one Yuhua SMC resident who was concerned about the high cost of living and bringing up children.

No new dresses

"Even if I have extra money, such as if the Government gives extra money, I would use it to buy useful things that I need, not things like beautiful dresses."

To cut costs, the family dines out only on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, and only at hawker centres.

In a poll of 100 Yuhua SMC residents, cost of living was the most important issue that residents said they would raise with candidates. Nearly one in three residents said cost of living was the top concern. (See poll below.)

Among them is retiree Teo Koon Seng, 76, a Jurong East Street 13 resident, who lives in a three-room HDB flat. He said: "I think the Government should control inflation. Currently, I am worried about my medical bills."

Political analyst Dr Derek da Cunha, author of the book The Price of Victory: The 1997 Singapore General Election and Beyond, said he was not "entirely surprised" by the poll results.

He said: "The common complaint by a significant proportion of lower-income and working-class people is that their wages have over recent years been depressed, and this, they feel, has largely been due to the influx of cheap foreign labour.

"At the same time it would not be accurate to say that cost of living is the only main concern of voters.

"Some in the survey could well have found it too awkward to mention that the influx of immigrants...and their concerns about the constant changes to the CPF schemes... (which) are equally important issues with people."

Ms Grace Fu, who has been taking care of the Yuhua ward since 2006, understands the many concerns of the residents in this new constituency.

In last month's electoral boundaries report, Yuhua was carved out of Jurong GRC to form an SMC.

What does she foresee as her greatest challenge if she were to contest in Yuhua SMC?

Ms Fu told The New Paper in an e-mail interview: "In whatever we decide or do for our residents, we could not please everyone."

She gave examples of how during one house visit, she met a resident who asked for a tree to be cut down and another who asked for more to be planted. Some residents also asked for more carpark lots while others asked why there was a need to build more.

She added: "I hope that the voters will understand and look for qualities like ability, leadership and sincerity. I hope to convince my residents that I have a better chance in addressing their concerns than my counterpart from other parties."

Two opposition parties, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), have indicated interest in contesting in Yuhua SMC.

NSP secretary-general Goh Meng Seng said that talks with SDP are still ongoing and they hope to finalise things by next week.

He said: "For candidacy in Yuhua or any other SMCs, we will only be announcing them during our upcoming media conferences."

Asked what issue NSP is likely to focus on in Yuhua, he said that if Ms Fu is representing the People's Action Party (PAP) there, HDB issues would be one because she is the Senior Minister of State for National Development.
SDP did not respond by press time.

If Ms Fu is fielded in Yuhua SMC, it would be her first solo fight in a general election.


She may also be one of two female PAP candidates to be fielded in SMCs, the other being Dr Amy Khor whose Hong Kah North ward has also been carved out to form an SMC.

Dr da Cunha did not think that Ms Fu's gender would be an issue.What's more important to voters are candidates they can easily identify with.

"If a candidate is perceived as being too aloof, then that would count against that person in the minds of some voters. Here, it is clearly an issue of perception. Many a time, candidates are completely unaware of how they come across to the electorate...And for them the sober reality only emerges on election night.

"I believe that in this forthcoming election a few candidates will be startled by the extent to which they had failed to connect with voters."

We asked 100 Yuhua residents: What is the most important issue you would raise with the candidates when they visit you?

Cleanliness: 11%
Lack of amenities: 9%
Noise: 9%
Upgrading: 7%
Transport: 5%
Too dusty: 3%
Inconsiderate neighbours: 3%
Parking: 2%
Security: 2%
Others: 2%

Cost of living: 28%
Overcrowding: 11%
Influx of foreigners: 4%
Elderly issues: 2%
Jobs: 1%
Unhappiness with HDB policy: 1%


The coffee shop where I frequent raised their 'teh' 10-cents after renovation months ago, and recently again another 10-cents for god-know-what reason.

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