By and large, Singaporeans accept the value and import of National Service. Yes, there are genuine situations where things can be done better with far less waste, but as a whole, the long-term benefits of National Service to the citizen, family and country is not in dispute.
The nature of National Service does involve in a big way, the sacrifice of personal time and energy of every able-bodied male 18-year-old for a period of two years. It used to be either two or two-and-a-half years when I did my NS, but it has now been made uniform to just two years. It can be argued whether the length of service should be made even shorter, but that is for another post.
Over the years, we have had a steady inflow of people who took up permanent residency and as the rules go, the children of these PRs (who themselves can become PRs, albeit second generation PRs) are then obligated to do National Service just as any citizen.
That’s the nub of the issue. I know of a couple who moved to Singapore and became PRs and started a family. Because they were PRs, they could buy HDB housing and as luck would have it for them, their block underwent a HDB redevelopment exercise that then resulted in that family getting a brand new HDB unit. That is all well and good. They, even as PRs benefited from the system.
The twist in the story is when their sons (second generation PRs) were due for enlistment, the couple managed to snag some immigration opportunity and moved off to Canada. They then cashed out the HDB apartment, made a killing and now are PRs in Canada and their sons managed to get out of their obligations to do National Service.
We can look at this story (all true, btw) and be disappointed, or look at it positively as they came to this country and worked the system and with all the unintended loop holes, they have benefited immensely.
It is therefore, amusing, to read the suggestion by PAP MP Hri Kumar Nair who suggests a “national defense duty” (NDD) be imposed on all PRs and foreigners living in Singapore.
This from the ruling party MP whose party’s modus operandi in solving issues it to tax things (COE, Road Tax, GST etc).
On the surface, his proposal *might* sound plausible. But there are two significant flaws in it.
Firstly, the NDD cheapens the sweat, blood and economic sacrifice Singaporeans (not only the men, but their families as well) make in doing their National Service and reservist duties. “If you can’t do the work, just pay your way out” seems to be the his rationale. It suggests that we have to tax others (labelling it “duty” is hiding the truth) as a form of imposed misery. Do we have to make our neighbours to be poor(er) in order for us to succeed?
The people who come to our shores came here to make a living for themselves and to be economically active. They do pay taxes like the rest of us. If the government wants to really do the Right Thing, they should have the NS Tax Relief not be a deductible BEFORE tax, but an offset after tax assessment.
I recall doing the NS Tax Relief some years ago and found that since it is a tax relief, the real impact in including the NS Tax Relief and not made very little difference (like less than $20) in the taxable income, at least for me. So, while the NS Tax Relief looks nice on the surface and while might be a sincere attempt, it was not what one would have thought it was.
So, Mr MP, no need to place an extra tax. Do the simple change in the NS Tax Relief and you’ve got a reasonable step forward.
A second flaw in the MP’s proposal is that in the event of a crisis, it is us Singaporeans who would have to stand up and defend, not those who paid “NDD”. They can just as well leave Singapore and return when things are OK. See the difference? Just because they’ve been NDDed, it does not mean that they’ll be picking up anything to help defend. I am sure you are not that naive, or are you Mr MP?