Ahmad Ali

reliable source of wise counsel

What Abah is thinking before voting in General Election 2011

To my kids.

Back in 2011, we had one of the fiercest general election Singapore had ever seen. Well fierce in a couple of areas at least. No physical fighting though. The quality of the opposing candidates was credible and for the first time, our prime minister said sorry! Mr George Yeo, who was the country’s foreign minister had said that the government must change to listen to the people. Things we rarely hear.

So Abah am in a fix. Then I fall back to what I said to your grand uncle. He use to complain to me about rising prices – especially ERP. So one day, I asked him,

“How much does it really affect you?”

Not much actually. He doesnt get billed in the morning or evening and yet he enjoys the small vehicle tax rebate yearly. So I said, now, we can only say things that would affect us. So come this election I had to think at what had mattered to me;


You all are enrolled in public school. We must thank the government for the education that provide. It was affordable and had quality. Abah’s highest public school qualification is a specialist diploma from a Temasek Polytechnic. After years of working, Abah took my Masters offered by UK. Abah applied for admission into NUS and NTU twice but failed both times. Abah didnt do that well for my As – chemistry and me didnt like each other very much – but still did qualify for a handful of courses as stipulated in the course handbook. Abah think that I lost out twice to the foreign students who had their seats reserved by the local university. In the future, Abah will go beg the local public university to give you guys a place. I will bring ummi along so that she can cry.


Abah thank HDB for the roof over our head. Abah and ummi got our house in 2002 – I think. It cost about $130K for a 4rm Design and Build. Is it cheap? Yes it is. So everyone says. Do you know how much the house cost now? BOOM BOOM BOOM! We must thank our ministers for rise in property value. It is certainly an asset. I did not inherit any land or treasure. This and insurance are the only two things I can provide you with. CPF? Well I do not think there will be much left in there when I go. So if have, bonus to you.

But I worry about the cost of house when it is time for you to buy. One of Abah’s soccer players got a house at $245K somewhere in Yew Tee. New design and build flat. To me that is expensive because I think if the combine income is about $3k, how can one afford monthly repayment. Luckily he is a lieutenant in the SAF and his fiance is going to be a teacher.

I discussed this with a cousin, your uncle. He said its not expensive. When later I found out how much was his teacher’s pay, I understand why he said its affordable. Combine that with his fiance who is a teacher as well, they can certainly afford it. Abah had a couple of calls from newly weds who are have a combine income of $3K thereabouts. They have difficulty in balloting as they were rejected for the second time already. And their loan amount is not that great.

So Abah say, you and your future wife must work very hard and earn a combine income of at least $5-6K.

Abah hope that HDB loan still exist for you. I hope that the government changed the policy from twice, to any Singaporean can get as many HDB loans as they want. Your grandfather is paying his HDB house using bank loan. Public housing from a private sector. The interest has risen to 7%. At 70, he cannot refinance the house. He says the bank is getting richer this way because if he cant pay, they will seize it. This is true.


Abah apologised that I cant give you the things that I had plan to give you – yet. Abah was retrenched twice, in 1998 and 1999. The financial crisis time. I started to do my own business. Created and sold Islamic softwares. I had sought the Enterprise board back then to help in expanding but they said that my product doesnt meet their criteria. Since I already had a product they told me to sell it to the mosques. I think they think I am dumb or something. No matter, we did well until SARS strike in 2002 – or was it 2004? Anyway, there was no patronage and I had to close the shop.

During that time, Abah did part-time lecturing at a private school. After you were born in 2002, an opportunity came and Abah went for an interview at the ITE to be a lecturer there. Unfortunately, I was too honest about my business that they said that it will be difficult to employ me. Yes they told me during the interview itself. They also said that my Masters was from a foreign country – nevermind that it is from a Commonwealth country.

When Mira was born, I worked harder to get a job. Abah went for an interview as a programmer where I was willing to accept a $1.5K per month salary. Yes it got so low even though it was a highly sought after vocation. They asked me whether I was married and have kids. I said yes and told them that I can manage. I left and the next interviewee was from India. I didnt hear from them.

In October 2009 I think, I got wind of a job at youth olympics that required an IT person. I prep up and went for the interview. The caucasian lady, who was said to had been hired by countries that organised the olympics, told me about the job scope. Abah didnt think I would have a problem in handling the software and we had a good laugh in the interview which had about another 6 of them. You know lah me. Charming one. However, the only issue would be having to remember all the sports rules and regulations and eligibility – you know being a competition for kids. Come to think of it, I do not think anyone in Singapore would be able to know this. Nonetheless I carried myself well and said that I will hit the books. Alas, I got word that the caucasian lady said that it was already to late to teach someone the rules and regulations and eligibility. So she intends to hire her friend from europe to do it. So I was told.

Another thing was that the budget for YOG had blown. So they wouldnt be able to employ anyone except those from the Singapore Sports Council. You see they will not be paid by YOG but by SCC itself. So no problem.

During the elections, Abah discovered that the YOG budget was $387K. Dr Vivian, who was our MP at Holland Bukit Timah GRC, had presented it to PM Lee Hsien Loong. PM Lee told him not go over that amount. I suppose if they had employed me at $2K a month for a year, that would have been $24K. The budget would have blown to $400K!!! He would have gotten fired! Abah guess that was my sacrifice for Dr Vivian so that he doesnt lose his job. So that he can feed his family.

On hindsight, I should have wrote to Dr Vivian when I applied for the job. I really wanted it because it was new and exciting. Rare. It would have been good on the resume even for a year. But I didnt write because I wrote to Mr Zainuddin Nordin who was CEO of FAS about a job opening but didnt get a respond back.

Election Rally

Abah did not attend any election rally before but on the final day, I decided to attend one by Workers Party at Serangoon Stadium. For the experience more than anything. Abah had to park far far away and walked to the stadium. Almost everyone came with someone. Along the way, a lady, a loner, stopped a man to ask for directions to the stadium – which your mother insist was another way even though everyone was going one way. I was thinking, this woman must had been affected by something to come all the way from her constituency to hear what the opposition had to say. She must be wanting something and had not gotten it. This might be her ticket. This election is about the individual.

When I arrived, I tell ya, the number of attendees was massive. Huge. 30000 people packed the stadium! But at times I do not understand why this people clap or cheered. There was nothing in the candidate speech that warrant such respond. I suppose its the heat of the moment. People are affected by the rising cost of living and are disconnected with the ruling party.

At the end of the rally, we had to say the pledge. Not really had to. Its not the national day and it was not an instruction by Mr Low, Secretary General of WP. He just said that as usual, at the end of the rally, we will all say the pledge. So it was led by Mr Pritam Singh, a post graduate law student who will be a lawyer. Did you know that he has a diploma in Islamic studies? Im impressed. Anyway, what happened after that was amazing. The pledge was a unified one. No belen belen one. It reverberated throughout serangoon. I could hear it echo deep into the estate. I would dare say that almost everyone said it, young and old. Being deep inside the 30000, i shivered, feeling the love for the country. Its been a long time since I felt this. You see, im on a self imposed exiled from National Day. That is another story. So this feeling is rare.

But this. This had no rehearsal. Most were in shorts and singlets. Decorum fit for hawker center. Yet they said it full of gusto. I took a video of it but this video by someone up in his flat speaks volume.

Who I am voting

Well im still thinking. Our ward is PAP against SDP. I like the new doctor from SDP. Capable, vocal and credible. However I do not like SDP because of Dr Chee. At the 2002 hustings, he heckled the PM then Goh Chok Tong. Unbecoming of a doctor. Such things stuck for years. For the PAP, well Dr Vivian, a thank you to me will be nice.

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