Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review of National Service

This letter was sent to the Straits Times Forum on 11 August, and placed under consideration for over 2 weeks (pehaps waiting for clearance from somewhere up there). I assume that it has been rejected, although there was no formal reply.

Straits Times

I refer to the letter by Xiao Fuchen entitled “NS for adult new citizens not practical” (ST 11 Aug).

I agree with Xiao Fuchen from another angle. If this is made mandatory, very few foreigners will want to take up citizenship, precisely for the reason that it will disrupt their careers and earning power. This is a burden that is now being shouldered by male Singaporeans, who are not given any choice on this matter.

After 44 years of independence and prosperity, I hope that it is time to review the role of national service. Perhaps we should now have a professional army to defend our nation. Already, we are spending a large budget on the purchase of military hardware. The current budget could be re-allocated to allow payment of competitive salaries to career soldiers. Modern defence does not require a large number of infantry soldiers anyway.

If there is still the need to continue with a citizen army, I argue that the citizens serving full time National Service should be paid an adequate allowance, similar to what they would earn in the private sector. They should not be required to shoulder an unfair burden to defend the nation, when citizenships are offered to foreigners without a similar responsibility.

If this increases the defence budget, I suggest that the Government considers adopting the Swiss model which requires residents exempt from the compulsory military service to pay a 3% additional annual income tax, popularly known as the “defence tax”, until the age of 30.

Tan Kin Lian


Michael Lim said...

I fully agree with your thoughts. I hope the government will review the defense strategy/policy in view of modern technology. The current monetary compensation doesn't do justice. Ministers are benchmark to the top 5%. Where then is the benchmark for national servicemen - foreign workers?? Dont get me wrong, I am for a strong national defense team Just don't forget our young men whom are required under the law to serve their duty be adequately compensated.

Michael Lim

Anonymous said...

Of course, NS for new citizen not practical. No excuse why they can't do community work. Contribute to the nation of their choice. Understand the notion: "Give and Take".

Sobri said...

There is one point to consider. Malays and Indians are very positive about being a soldier. This is because being a `pahlawan' or a `kshatriya' ( or the Malay word from the Sanskrit: Syatria = a hero in Malay) is an honour. A professional army may therefore have a higher percentage of Malay and Indian applicants. This will change the composition of the army.

Anonymous said...

Providing the option of "Defense Tax" is not feasible. Once the responsibility is translated into financial option, it only cause more problems to the lower income group. Why should the kids of the lower income group be exposed to such risks? Simply because that they are poor? :)

In a Total Defense model, NS for new citizen can take other forms. For example, let the Financial Experts conduct voluntary financial awareness program for the public.

National service should be measured in term of commitment. Not by $.

Anonymous said...

Sobri 9.23 am

Not really. If the pay is attractive enough, regardless of race, many will be tempted by the offer.

Just like if the pay for cleaners is attractive enough, many will want to do it, despite it being perceived as "dirty" or "menial".

IN UK, graduates have turned plumbers because it pays much better than managers and executives.

I would even say that if serving NS comes with attractive pay, many would not mind even serving throughout their life!

Tan Kin Lian said...

Here is my reply to 11:08 AM
Under the Swiss model, military service is compulsory for certain groups, say males of certain age. For those are exempted, due to disability or other reasons, are required to pay the defence tax. It is not a matter of choice for people to pay money to be exempted. Do read carefully, and do not mis-interprete what other people say.

There is an expression, "give a dog a bad name and hang him", or something like that. Do not make this mistake.

Anonymous said...

It does not mean that if the letter does not get published, people are not aware of the issue.

Anonymous said...

I remembered there was a time day off was awarded to all the soldiers of company who did well during the in-camp training - the best company. But, this scheme was scrapped, perhaps due to high cost as MINDEF is supposed to reimburse employers salay of their employees underwnet in-camp training. Knowing that there is no way of doing away with NS, we should therefore think of ways to compensate our NS men adequately. Suggest that for every in-camp training, our soldiers to be given 3 days off, for which they can spend catch-up time with their loved ones.

Majulah Singapura!

treeee said...

every policy is shaped by past analysis and tradition. it's not so easy to implement radical changes to big organisation (too many stakeholders).

the mark of a good "consultant" is to have max impact with min changes to status quo.

Parka said...

If you really want to make this work, you first have to understand the motivation of the army.

The army can carry on what it does forever until it is motivated not to do so.

Yes the army has huge budget. But that doesn't mean that they are should be motivated to pay opportunity-cost salaries to its NS soldiers. Analogy-> Just because you have $10 doesn't mean you have to pay $10 for an apple.

First, I suggest studying why the government made NS 2 years instead of 2.5 years.

Basically, if you're not going to give the army benefits out of all these suggestions, they are not going to give you benefits also.

Anonymous said...

NO to NS for S'poreans and jobs for foreigners (including PRs)!!!

Anonymous said...

NS is an intergal part of defending our country were there are other countries practising, and everyone(both Singapore citizens whether born locally or not, Men or women)should do their part for Singapore.

Remuneration should be adquate everyone (NSFs and regulars), are putting in the same hard work and committment to defend our country and should should not be treated indifferently in terms of Remuneration.

Mar said...

Why do foreigners have to serve NS?
I want to renounce my citizenship, since I have another. I don't want a PR.
Why? I'm already set to become a foreigner but I must serve to become one ?! And what benefits... I haven't lived in Singapore since I was 10...over 10 years..

I've been told I had to decide before I was 11. Wow, make kids decide. Fantastic.
Can someone explain how this is logical so that I get my peace of mind while I'm in NS..
From wikipedia (

"Male dual citizens are also not allowed to renounce Singaporean citizenship after the age of 11 and before attaining majority at the age of 21, such that they have to serve National Service at the age of 18 for a country to whom allegiance they may almost immediately abjure"

haha yea exactly.

HearyeHearye said...

I sympathize with Mar. But there is an ironic situation which was published in the Forum Page recently (Sep 14) - young men who have lived overseas for most of their lives, came back ready to do their duties as Singaporeans and due to "capacity constraint" were slated for enlistment next year. That would further delay their education by another year due to different term start from local universities. Having disregarded their plights and appeals, does Mindef really think that these young men would want to return to Singapore once they leave after their national service?

Yan said...

My 2 malaysian frens, one a banker and the other a lawyer are 2 1/2 years ahead of me (i was from the older batch).

They earn 5k, 8k respectively and annual bonus can go up to 8 months.

Myself? When i graduate, i told my employer that i m serve NS, they said thank you for my service but they do not consider higher pay to compensate singaporean males as they are American MNCs. (I sorta got that hint: you should count your lucky stars that we are even considering to hire you over a FT, probably because a local is more suited for a sales job locally).

Back to my frens, both of them laughed when we talked about our NS experience, in their opinion, they are NOT anywhere less "man" than Singaporean males and infact, attract more females because of their earning power and also having a more advanced stage of career as opposed to the same age singaporean males.

Do they appreciate us? let's just say that they do not wish to take up citizenship and will migrate overseas; over their dead bodies was the reply if they even ever consider to let their children go through time-wasting (quoted from them) NS.

Simply put across, Singapore who has given them an opportunity to live, work and yes, scholarship for their education got this as a reply when queried if they will stay rooted to singapore, ->

"I would say I have developed a fondness of Singapore but would definitely move to other countries if there's better opportunities"

*end of story*

goomba said...

If the government refused to up the pay of NSF to those similar of the private sectors, at least give them the equivalent in maybe something called NSDollars. For eg, those who completed 2.5 yrs NSF should be given 30 X (Private sector salary - NS allowance) = 30 x (say 2000 - 500) = NSD45,000

This NSDollars could in turn be used to offset HDB, private house, education, medical, vacation, etc or even converted to cash in maybe a 2:1 ratio.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I find NS and the many people who are running the army too inflexible.

Just because a subject has long been identified as heresy or taboo does not mean we should not talk about it or be afraid to voice out our opinion.

People with the decision power to make a change and who are running the government would never re-look into this matter if in the first place singaporeans do not even dare or bother to voice out. we cannot expect anyone to take real action if we do not raise the alarm.

it is contradicting to say how national service is vital to us singapore when we do not even review the policy, practicality, budget, Ns liability, etc on a regular basis.

if total defence has 5 aspects with none higher or more important than the other, why cant singaporean males or females do ns in other aspects?

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