Why Critical Spectator Is Dead Wrong On Foreign Workers

A Section-by-section review of Critical Spectator’s Moral and Intellectual Bankruptcy.

There are very few people who annoy me more than all the “caring” do-gooders crawling out of the woodwork to preach and parade their moral superiority whenever some crisis happens.

So what? We don’t get to talk about morals and ethics anymore ever again? Go take down 377A first then.

Years have gone by but now, all of a sudden, dorms for migrant workers in Singapore are a huge problem. Right.

Nope. Organisations like TWC2 and Home have been raising these issues for the longest time. You’ve just been in your insipid status quo worshipping bubble.

Well, let me put this quite straight – save for a tiny, tiny group of activists nobody gave a damn about how low-wage workers live, what they do, eat, where they go to the toilet until the press showed a few photos of a bunch of bunk beds.

This is somewhat true; but it just reflects the level of ignorance and indifference people have.

Sadly, the side effect of the existence of social media is that it provides an outlet for all the armchair preachers to voice their ever-growing list of demands. As usual, it follows the same style – government should do this, government should do that – it should do everything! Heal the sick, hire the jobless, anticipate disasters, prevent diseases, build comfortable homes for migrant workers and so on.

That’s what social media and the government are for? The point of government is to serve the people, and social media is a way of getting our voices heard. Unless you’re suggesting we should be run by a dictatorship which takes no feedback from the people which honestly I would not be surprised by.

Basically, when you run through the list of demands voiced by people on various occasions, the government should provide everybody with everything – a job, a house, good holidays, education, full healthcare coverage, pensions, food and good mood. Now these demands extend onto the foreign workers that some feel bad about – and so to feel good about themselves they have to pin the blame on someone.

No idea what is going on here…quite a fair bit of gibberish.

Let’s make something else clear too – one of the reasons why Singaporean government can throw S$60 billion in to prop up the economy this year, is that it has for decades been able to employ relatively cheap foreign labor and save billions of dollars on building roads, subways, apartment buildings that it then passes for good investment to GIC (+ make some more from levies collected for their employment).

Every billion saved turns into $1.7 billion over 10 years, at nominal 5.5% annual return from GIC. Over 20 years it becomes nearly $3 billion, over 30 it’s $5 billion. So $10 billion turns into 50, 100 turns into 500.

Some cry out – “it’s EXPLOITATION! It’s all built on the back-breaking work of the poor migrants! Singapore should be ashamed of itself!”

So you DO know it’s exploitative

Really? Show me how good low-wage laborers have it elsewhere, first, perhaps?.

Nobody is actually forcing them to come to Singapore. They do because it’s a good deal for them – much better than relying on meager paychecks in India, Bangladesh or wherever. They came to the city-state because they wanted to – and because it was a good opportunity for them.

Yes, their situation back home is as bad or worse. SO? We can’t make it better? We can’t, though we claim to be one of the richest and smartest nations in the world, do better for them?

It’s not slavery, nobody smuggled them in a cargo container here, taking away their passports and forcing them into hard labor for a bowl of soup.

If your moral benchmark is slavery boy do I have something to tell you about your moral compass.

They make decent money which they send back home, supporting their families and even their entire countries. It’s a free market win-win situation, where everybody gets what they wanted.

Again, just because an individual’s other options are bad, does not give us the moral leeway to offer them equally bad options.

Nobody promised them comforts, though – they have come here to work, not to reside. They’ve been hired for specific jobs that the city needs done. With scarce land Singapore cannot afford to build entire towns for non-residents occupying the lowest layers on the social ladder. The only reason this arrangement works is because they work here but ultimately will move to live where they came from. As a result not only is there no alternative to dorms – they are actually serving their purpose very well.

Of course, it may be discussed whether some additional comforts are needed – more toilets, a bit more space here and there, fewer beds in a single room etc. But the inescapable reality is that the only way for the system to work is to house workers together.

That’s not the point, idiot. The point is the shitty conditions they live in. Yes communal housing is fine, the conditions are just fucking terrible.

Land is scarce in Singapore. At 300,000 people the dorm population is on par with the biggest planning areas in the country – like Bedok, Jurong West or Tampines. Even if you wanted to give each person a room of their own it would increase the space currently needed by 5-10 times. You can build upwards, of course, but then you require greater investment in construction and maintenance of lifts, of sewage, roads that can handle traffic and so on.

5-10 times the space means pretty much 5-10 times the cost. Add greater sophistication to the mix and the factor goes only higher. As it does for regular expenses on utilities and maintenance.

And because the land is in fixed – and very low – supply, then to accomplish that the government would have to sacrifice space for local citizens and their children.

Yup, I see nothing wrong here. We’re able to provide spaces for animal shelters, old folks homes, and centers for the differently-abled, etc. It’s simply about who and what we value. Sacrifices and cuts have to be made, and a little less luxury on my plate is entirely fine with me because unlike you, I’m not a soft pampered brat.

There’s no magic solution, these things add up to absolutely humongous costs borne by the entire population of the city – and could very well eradicate all the benefits coming from savings on labor in the first place.

YES. I would rather give up some of the savings to give these workers a better standard of living.

And now the current system also has – as I wrote in the post yesterday – proved to shield the local population from the spread of a serious disease.

The current system CAUSED the fucking outbreak. The lack of sanitation, access to healthcare, an environment of fear, etc, all contributed to it. IF we had had a better, cleaner, more dignified system this would NOT have happened.

Let’s ask a simple question – if not dorms, then what?

It’s quite clear that providing FWs with something like an HDB apartment is not possible – after all, locals pay good money to live in them themselves. So, what would happen if these dorms were not provided? What would happen if we simply left it to the free market?

Well, it doesn’t take long to find an answer – just look at how foreign migrants live in the West. Eastern Europeans who flooded UK, France or Germany after EU expanded east in 2004 usually rent apartments between several people – as many as 5 or 10, just to save on the rental expenses and maximize savings.

Yes compare some more. Next time go tell your mother that even though you got a D, other people got an F. Then tell me whether she slapped you or not.

Ultimately, I have to conclude that Critical Spectator is a sheer and utter moron. Either Singapore is smart, wealthy, and can do better for our migrant workers, or it is struggling, uninnovative, and has not other way of making ends meet than exploitation.

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