On the heels of the release of Hollywood film Crazy Rich Asians, which has caused debate among some quarters about how accurately Singapore is portrayed, social media star Nas has made a series of videos shedding light on how most people in the country really live.
In three videos posted this week on his popular Facebook page, Nas Daily, during his visit to Singapore, the travel vlogger praises the city-state’s achievements in economic development but also highlights social issues such as wealth inequality and the plight of foreign workers.
He also shines a spotlight on the freegan movement in Singapore, where eco-friendly “dumpster divers” collect food from other people’s rubbish to minimise waste.
26-year-old Nuseir Yassin, who goes by the moniker “Nas” (which means “people” in Arabic), is an Israeli-Palestinian Harvard graduate who has been travelling the world in the past three years, uploading a one-minute video each day on social issues and lesser-known facts about places he visits.
His Facebook page, Nas Daily, has more than 7.6 million followers and his videos can rack up millions of views. He has featured countries such as India, Ethiopia, Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea.
In his first video about Singapore posted on Wednesday (22 August), which has the click-bait title “Why I hate Singapore!”, Nas explains: “I hate Singapore because I’m jealous.”
Saying that this is his fifth trip to Singapore, Nas adds, “In 53 years, these guys built up an insane country. They promoted tolerance and acceptance among people of different religions and ethnicities – Indian, Malay, and Chinese.
“This is also the only country with drinkable tap water in South-east Asia.”
Nas also said, “Despite its problems with high prices, tight security and inequality, it is still one of the best countries to visit and live in.”
In a follow-up video posted on Saturday (25 August), Nas explains that unlike the glitzy, glamorous image of the ultra-rich featured in Crazy Rich Asians, the majority of Singaporeans earn an average income of “US$3,000” (S$4,095) and live in humble public housing in the form of HDB flats.
Nas shows images of both Singapore’s swanky downtown skyline as well as high-rise public housing, saying, “These beautiful amazing buildings are built by foreign workers here in Singapore who get paid US$600 a month on average.”
He adds that these foreign workers are paid “US$1.90 an hour on average” because there is no minimum wage.
Despite drawing attention to Singapore’s social problems, Nas ends the video on a positive note, saying, “I’ve seen the people trying to help each other with food donations, and the government that is helping the low-income, the homeless and the poor with housing and with food.”
Another video features Singapore’s foremost freegan, Daniel Tay, following him on his quest to reduce waste by eating others’ leftover food and salvaging useable items from rubbish.
Nas’ commentary on Singapore has divided netizens, with some Facebook users agreeing with the nuanced picture of the country that he paints, while others were skeptical of the statistics that he cited.
In response, Nas commented that he only relied on “official figures” in carrying out research about the country.
His last video, titled “Crazy Poor Asians”, has drawn 35,000 likes and 2,000 comments as of the time of writing.