They’re Drinking Our Beer Here

Well not exactly drinking our beer, but certainly making use of my beer-fridge.


CIMG1017 The beer-fridge was surplus-to-requirements in our flat, and taking up space in the spare room.  Through my involvement with the Breadline Group I managed to find a needy family on the other side of the city that had never had a fridge!  So we took it over there and plugged it in for them.  The father of the house had a Persian name, so I rather doubt that he will be using it to store beer in..

CIMG1018 Anyhow, it was a chance for me to check out how Singapore’s poor live, and I have to say that I am very impressed.  Singapore (or I guess more correctly I should say the People’s Action Party (PAP) ), is socialist in housing, though clearly not in a number of other arenas.  Ninety percent of Singaporeans live in an HDB.  HDB stands for Housing Development Board.  That would be around 3.6 million people.  The government owns all the land, builds all the buildings, and leases or rents them to the population for a reasonable, subsidised, amount.  I would happily live in an HDB, and if I was a citizen of Singapore then I would qualify for the subsidised rent.  Unfortunately I am not a citizen.

I have been in a few HDBs now.  They are spacious, they all have tiled floors, and they have these wide windows that you can slide all the way across so that the wind blows through and keeps things cool without the need for air-conditioning. 

According to history books, before PAP started it’s building programme in the ‘50s, the entire island was one huge Asian slum, without water reticulation, power, sewage, or street-lighting.  You can still find these places on the outskirts of Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, but you won’t find anything like that in Singapore!

CIMG1019 It was difficult to tell that I was in a poor part of town.  Everyone was smartly dressed, and the housing and amenities are the same everywhere in the country.  No litter. No graffiti.  No drugs.  No violence.  No crime.  A safe environment.  The only clues were a few more old people, a few more unemployed people wandering around, and a bit of street-hawker activity.  Apart from that everything was orderly and peaceful and smart.  So I was pretty impressed really.  If that’s as bad as it gets, then I would happily live there.

Even in the pleuty suburb of Albert Park, Melbourne, my local shop-keeper was out once a month painting the graffiti off his shop walls, and there were a couple of smash-and-grab raids for cigarettes every year.  In Remuera when I lived there (the top suburb in NZ), the local TAB was knocked over in an armed stick-up, and women in Mt. Eden said they wouldn’t wander around by themselves.  Singapore is so safe that none of those things are much of a consideration here.  I still find it a bit odd to see a gaggle of schoolgirls in their uniforms wander through Clarke Quay after dark, past all the restaurants and bars.  But my guess is that there is absolutely no danger.  It is just such a safe city, and that is a fantastic thing!

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