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Donald Low’s reply to Josephine (small space) Teo: Two Points

So, many of us know that former civil servant and current associate dean at the LKY School of Public Policy Donald Low isn’t afraid to call out the government for its mistakes.

He just did it again.

And oh boy, what a great reply.

In a widely shared Facebook post, Donald Low addressed some of remarks that were made by Josephine (small space) Teo earlier this week, calling her remarks “incoherent and inconsistent”.

We summarised the main points of his post:

Teo made a mistake in comparing us with France and the Nordic countries

  • Teo implied that Singaporeans could be more “relaxed” about making babies like some of the Ang Mo countries.
  • Low pointed out that these Ang Mo countries have comprehensive welfare systems that guarantee them cheap healthcare, long maternity (of up to two years) and paternity leave, very affordable childcare, affordable rental housing. Of course easier to have baby, lah!
  • It might be the case that Singaporeans are unwilling to have comprehensive welfare systems because it means very high taxes, or that Singapore simply can’t afford to do so. Nothing right or wrong about this.
  • But we have to take into account the realities of having kids in Singapore. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
  • If you want Singaporeans to have more babies, you need to have far-reaching policy changes that can bring about that change. Talk is cheap.

Want more babies? Promote gender equality, social equality and income equality

  • Low also pointed out that Nordic countries have much higher levels of gender equality, social equality and income equality that Singapore.
  • According to Low, their higher levels of equality and egalitarianism build social capital (i.e. social trust) and reduce (the sense of) competition and conflict between social classes.
  • Low added that higher social trust also translates into higher levels of well-being – which in turn gives people confidence in the future and encourages child-bearing. I.e. in Singapore, some people might not want to have kids because they don’t want their kids to grow up being peasants, and serving the children of those born into rich families.
  • Again, nothing right or wrong about this – this is after all our choice and what we voted for. But we need to realise that there are trade-offs to everything decision we make.

Josephine Teo said she wanted to have an honest conversation.


Well, Josephine, you just got one. Game on.

That is all.

The end.

1 Comment

  1. Josephine Two’s message actually is straightforward and echoing what the late Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong have been pleading.
    Ms Teo could have done herself favor by studying the 2 men’s logic and applied in Toto and she would never go wrong.

    The question that triggered all the uproar centred on proper accommodation for couples. She could have easily zoomed in on HDB main rules that only allow couples who have registered their marriages to apply.
    In my case, my 2 sons registered their marriage first and in no time got their spacious flats even without producing any babies.
    But no, Ms Two beat about the bush with Words of wisdom on little space to make love and citing the Nordic examples. These are basically frills that has now make see the wood difficulty for the trees.
    And now we have this Donald Low putting his whole weight on such Nordic frills. Let him wait for the wrath.

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