Last week, TODAY reader Mr. Derek Low replied to my post / letter “Time To Open Up Effective Feedback Channels For National Servicemen” (here), contending (emphasis mine):
There is clearly no real basis to say that our servicemen are underpaid. If we consider the views in the two letters in this light, what is interesting about both is how they seem to reveal an underlying sentiment towards NS. The issue may not be about the adequacy of remuneration or opening up sufficient channels for dialogue. More fundamentally, are we beginning to lose the “threat perspective” facing Singapore and forget the relevance of NS? If so, that, in my view, is the topic of primary importance.
This was my reply:
I was the writer of “Boost feedback from NSmen”, and even though the concerns over remuneration and allowance were not my main contentions, I thought you raised interesting perspectives that I should follow-up with.
I think the two notions presented here are not mutually exclusive; that is (and this is my proposition as well), I can remain cognisant of the “threat perspective” and reaffirm my faith in the institution of defence, (because frankly, no other alternative seems plausible at the present moment) while believing that this contribution deserves a higher level of monetary benefits. You have advanced two arguments: that – comparatively – our conscript soldiers are paid rather well; and that if we believe the threat is pervasive, then this service cannot be quantified financially.
What has changed in recent years? The biggest, notable difference is the rapid influx of immigrants, which has made the disadvantages of conscription more pronounced when enlistees compare their circumstances to their foreign counterparts, and hence are increasingly aware of the disadvantages. This immigration phenomenon in Singapore is a relatively new development, and the aforementioned comparison happens in the classroom and at the workplace. Furthermore, the burden on each NSman will only increase, as the number of servicemen decreases while the country’s population is projected to increase.
You could posit that higher amounts of allowances would make it difficult to attract regular soldiers to sign on. But if MINDEF has recognised that it cannot afford to be idealistic (that is, lure applicants on the sole basis of contributing for a higher cause) when dealing with these individuals, why can’t it employ the same pragmatism with NSFs?