NDR: Where are you, baby?

Aug 24, 2015 12.25AM |
 
NDR: where are you baby movie poster
Where are you, baby?

2-PART TV SERIES TITLE: Where are you, baby?

Category: Family drama

Director: Singapore Government

Producers: Singapore Parents

Starring: Ronald, Rina, Ronald’s mother

Guest starring: SG50 twins Charlotte and Colette, SG50 mother Tin Pei Ling.

Special thanks to the 20,000 Jubilee babies who made an appearance this year.

PLOT SYNOPSIS: Ronald and Rina are being hounded by his mother to have another baby as all their four children are girls. The old people, both retirees, want a son to carry on the family name. Ronald is convinced that he cannot afford another child while Rina, a stay-at-home mom, wishes her mother-in-law was less often at home.

Season one: Ronald and Rina consider IVF but are worried that this would lead to multiple births. By sheer hard work, Rina manages to conceive. In the meantime, Ronald’s employer refuses to give him more than his one-week paternity leave and wonders how he will be able to pay for Baby No. 5’s milk powder and diapers. But the stork also brought the Baby Bonus for Baby No.5 while Ronald’s employer has a change of heart because the G will foot another week of paternity leave.

Season two: Rina and her mother-in-law have the mother of all quarrels over her management of their foreign help. Rina wants her mother-in-law to move into another son’s home, but the filial Ronald disapproves. The not-so-old lady, bored out of mind, wants to go out to work. She was, after all, a high-flying human resources manager before she retired. Then in 2017, she got the greenlight: the re-employment age was raised from 65 to 67.

REVIEW: The population issue is still one with no solution in sight so far, but it burns slower and is much less in-your-face than, say transport woes. Having already identified it as Singapore’s greatest challenge in 25 years, PM Lee gave it a good airing at the NDR. Lots of feel-good, lots of goodies, but still no definitive solutions.

Overall, quite a let-down.

PM Lee was awfully cheery about the 33,200 new babies in 2014, and the expectation that there will be about the same number again this year. His anecdotes about how he went hunting for SG50 babies in their red slings was fine, but did he really go and ask these new parents “when’s the next one coming?” Oh dear… sounds like that irritating auntie at family gatherings. It’s most likely everyone just smiled politely at him in reply.

Photos of babies may give us a moment of “awwwww, so cute”, but the overall picture is more ugly than adorable. This National Day saw the highest number of births since 2007 – 127. Total births for 2014? 33,200, which is the highest we’ve ever hit in the last 10 years, and it’s the same as our last dragon year, in 2012, but is it anywhere near good? Singapore’s TFR in 2012 was a miserable 1.29. It seems terrible to think that we are celebrating our biggest failures at NDR. Even if you look at the population trend from 2000 until now, 2012-2014 looks more like a bottoming out than a recovery.

Why is it being portrayed thus? Maybe it flowed better for what came next – the announcement of a raft of goodies.

For starters, more baby bonus. The scheme will be extended to all Singaporean children born after January 2015, not just the first to fourth children. This is to help support larger families.

It is bad form to complain about handouts per se, but as far as good policymaking goes, this one makes little sense. The Baby Bonus Scheme is a dead-end for TFR. It’s like saying that you can improve a rubbish action movie plot by adding more explosions and effects and more fight scenes. Sure, it might LOOK better, but the end product is just going to be a more expensive crappy movie.

And that’s what our fertility rate is. Why throw good money after bad? This is starting to look like an election plot.

PM also announced more Medisave for newborns, to cover their Medishield Life premiums until they turn 21. It’s nice to know that basic medical is paid for from birth to adulthood (and thank you for the goodies) but is this supposed to address the population issue, or the cost of living issue? It is certainly a boon to the latter, but PM Lee tagged it firmly under the population issue, and we already know full well that money isn’t the most important consideration for those thinking of having children.

Another borrowed plot device?

Then there was the non-starter, the Proximity Housing Grant. First-time flat buyers already have a $10,000 grant as an incentive to live near their parents (or vice versa). Now this will be extended to all Singaporean households – not just first-timers. No details about the really important things like changes in distance or quantum. Maybe the biggest news is that it will be given a new name… in the entertainment world, this would be news of a reboot of an old TV series. Sounds boring unless there’s something in the details.

Great excuse to move out and still be within spying/helping distance of the in-laws? Not really, if the lack of applause during the rally was anything to go by.

The G might be on to something (somewhat) with the increased G-paid paternity leave, though. It will be upped from one week to two, and phased in voluntarily, with the public service taking the lead (awkward hint-hint joke at the end from PM urging civil servants to have more kids). This signals that the G is finally catching up to the shared parenting role that is becoming very common in young families today. It is also hopefully a hint that the G recognises that parenting is about values, not money.

Keep pushing that values button please – this country needs to have its population woes put on a much more solid footing, and fast.

Problems with the in-laws? Probably best that the G doesn’t interfere with that.

 

This is the third piece for our National Day Rally coverage. Read the rest of our four-part series on what happened at the National Day Rally on August 23, 2015.
Part 1: 生活费 – Cost of living
Part 2: A home to call our own
Part 4: Space EduCity 2020
Bonus: Dear PM

Text by Daniel Yap.

Image source: Flickr user 44444 U.A.E, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo Illustration by The Middle Ground.

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