[POLL] GE2015: Will You Vote Opposition or PAP for Singapore’s Future?

VOTE OPPOSITION. Vote for Your Future.

The next Singapore General Election 2015 is widely expected to be held on 12 September 2015, or before the year is out. Take part in this poll to find out how Singaporeans will vote at this upcoming election.

There are only 10 questions in this poll. The first 3 questions will look at how Singaporeans voted in the last three elections. The 4th question asks how Singaporeans will vote at this upcoming election. The last question looks at the support for the opposition parties among Singaporeans. The last 5 questions are questions on the demographic profile of the respondents to see if they are representative of the general electoral population in Singapore.

*Also, please only take this survey if you are Singaporean, due to the nature of the Singapore general elections. 

So let’s get started. For the first three question, please select the political party which you voted for in the last 3 elections in 2001, 2006 and 2011.

For the next question, please select which party you will be voting for at the upcoming election this year. 

And finally, which is the Opposition Party that you support?

The following demographic questions are asked to see if the poll results are representative of the general electoral population in Singapore

(The demographic indicators used in this poll are based on Population Trends 2014 report from the Department of Singapore Statistics.)

Do you remember the article I wrote yesterday, asking what kind of government Singaporeans want to have? I asked if you would want a government where the Opposition would have only one-third of the seats, or where the Opposition forms the government with a slim majority of the seats, or if the Opposition wins two-thirds of the seats.

As of this morning, the majority of the respondents want a government where the Opposition forms the government decisively, by winning two-thirds of the seats.

According to The Online Citizen, in order for the Opposition parties to win two-thirds of the seats, they would need as much as 83.3% of the total votes. So far, based on the poll in this article, are there 83.3% of the respondents who have said that they would vote Opposition in the upcoming election?

If so, this means that there is a chance that we can work towards a government where the Opposition wins a two-thirds majority.

If not, this means that for some Singaporeans who are still undecided, we have to vote decisively for the Opposition to let the Opposition win, so that the Opposition can win at least 83.3% of the total votes.

Now, why do we need to vote for the Opposition to win a two-thirds majority of the seats, to form the government decisively? As I explained, if the Opposition only takes up one-third of the seats, the PAP will still be the government and can find ways to implement or change policies without going through parliament, and therefore bypassing the Opposition. If the Opposition wins by a slim majority, the PAP will then be in a position to block any policies that the Opposition wants to implement.

The only way the Opposition will be able to form a new government and to create policies to protect Singaporeans is when they are able to win two-thirds of the seats. This way, they will be able to implement policies without the PAP blocking them. And only when the Opposition wins two-thirds of the seats will they be able to implement policies to take care of and protect Singaporeans.

Also, take note that this poll is done with a online audience. There is still a portion of Singaporeans who do not come online often and who might vote slightly differently. As such, this would mean that we would need to speak to our family and friends who might not be online, to vote decisively for the Opposition, so that together, we can work towards a having a new government, where the Opposition takes up at least two-thirds of the seats, so that finally, Singaporeans will be able to have a new government which will implement policies to take care of and protect Singaporeans.

As I have also said many times, this would mean that for Singaporeans, there would finally be minimum wage to increase the wages of low- and middle-income Singaporeans, healthcare costs will finally go down, and Singaporeans might even only need to pay a cap on hospital bills – SDP has proposed that Singaporeans will not pay more than $2,000 every year. Education will be free from childcare to university, as is the case in the Nordic and some Western countries – countries where Singapore have the same GDP per capita. For Singaporeans who have lost their jobs, they will be able to receive unemployment benefits, and a new government will finally enact legislation to protect the jobs of Singaporeans. HDB flats will become cheaper and so will public transport travel concessions. The interest that the PAP takes from our CPF will finally be returned, Singaporeans’s CPF will finally grow and not only that, a new government will provide an old-age pension alongside the CPF, to supplement our retirement needs, so that elderly Singaporeans will finally be able to retire.

In short, lives will get better for all Singaporeans and Singapore will become a better and happier place to be.

Do you want this for your children and our future generations? Then, the answer is simple.

#VoteOpposition #VoteforYourFuture

GE2015: What Kind of Government Do You Want and How Do You Vote for It?

Singapore Electoral Boundaries 2015 @ Opposition Parties

This looks like how things are shaping up for the Singapore General Election 2015. What are your thoughts on this?

(1) I do believe that the Worker’s Party (WP) will be able to win at least 2 GRCs, maybe 3, and 2 SMCs (their current ones) and maybe 1 more.

(2) I do believe that the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) can win at least 1 GRC, maybe 2. I look forward to Dr Chee Soon Juan running again, with his A Team, including Paul Tambyah. The SDP was the fastest improving opposition party at the last election.

(3) The Singapore People’s Party (SPP), which is under Mr Chiam See Tong, has a chance of winning 1 GRC and either one or both the SMCs that it will be contesting, with Ms Lina Chiam in Potong Pasir and Ms Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss in Mountbatten.

(4) With Hazel Poa back as Acting Secretary-General, I do think that if the National Solidarity Party (NSP) concentrates their efforts in the Choa Chu Kang GRC, they have a chance at winning it. The PAP also seems to take Steve Chia seriously, which means they know he has a good chance at the Pioneer SMC.

(5) SingFirst, with Tan Jee Say and Ang Yong Guan as the leads, seem to be a formidable pair. I would not be surprised if they would be able to win a GRC, with a good team. Would Tanjong Pagar or Pasir Ris-Punggol give them a better chance?

(6) The Reform Party (RP)’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam is respected among many Singaporeans as being a strong economist. The Reform Party plans to run in a few GRCs and SMCs. Where do you think would give Kenneth a good chance? Will standing in the Ang Mo Kio GRC against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong be a good idea? Or should Kenneth go for a single seat ward in the Radin Mas SMC?

(7) The People’s Power Party (PPP) is a new party started by opposition veteran Goh Meng Seng. He ran in the Tampines GRC at the last election. Will he have another go at Tampines again?

I have left out the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) because I have written them off, SDA for obvious reasons and DPP because it is obviously a mole party sent to attack the SPP.

And let’s be quite clear here. The PAP will now go on their propaganda and rhetoric, as Chan Chun Sing has dared say, that “your hearts must be pure”.

Chan Chun Sing Your hearts must be pure

But you can be sure that at the back, the PAP thinks quite differently and has already planned how they want to run, and even how to smear the opposition.

As I have shown you, the PAP has changed the boundaries also according to which areas they want to develop for themselves, for their businesses, in future. So, right from the start, the changing of the boundaries is clearly not in the interests of Singaporeans or the residents, but really about where the PAP wants to give the best deal to itself.

So, it’s not a fight about who will take care of the residents better. The PAP does not think like this and it would be naive for us to think like this, or vote like this. In other words, it is not a fair fight right from the start, so Singaporeans, we have to play smart.

Simply put, Singapore is a small country. We are voting for a government which will implement policies to protect Singaporeans, or in other words, to set things right.

There have been too many things under the PAP which have gone wrong – depressed wages of Singaporeans, too expensive the cost of living, unaffordable HDB flats, flats with falling pieces and concrete slabs falling off buildings, train breakdowns, healthcare that is so expensive that Singaporeans have to choose to die, $400 million given by the PAP to sponsor foreign students to study in Singapore but Singaporeans who have to pay the most expensive university tuition fees in the world, and of course CPF interest rates which are so low, and a PAP which takes our CPF to earn but not return our money, so much so that elderly Singaporeans have to work until their deaths – all these have caused the lives of Singaporeans to worsen over the past one to two decades.

It is Time for a New Government

So what we really need in Singapore this time round is a new government that will take care of and protect Singaporeans, by implementing new policies to do so. And what are these new policies? The opposition parties have already talked about them – minimum wage to increase the wages of low- and middle-income Singaporeans, unemployment benefits to protect Singaporeans who lose their jobs, cheaper (not just “affordable”) housing, free education from childcare to university, healthcare subsidies to increase enormously so and even a cap so that Singaporeans don’t have to pay over a certain amount for healthcare, and an old-age pension fund alongside the CPF to fund the retirement of elderly Singaporeans. There are more, of course, do go to these political parties’ websites or their Facebook pages to read more about them.

Of course, the PAP keeps threatening Singaporeans that to do all of the above, they would have to increase tax. This is not true, as several of the opposition parties have shown and calculated. First, the government has $20 billion to $30 billion in surplus every year, which the PAP does not declare to Singaporeans. This is more than enough to cover for the better policies proposed by the opposition. Second, the government collects about 8 times more indirect tax and CPF from Singaporeans, as compared with personal income tax. No other developed country collects so much more money over personal income tax, which means there are billions more in excess that can be used. Third, Singaporeans are made to pay Medisave and MediShield but do you know that we are only allowed to use a very small percentage of these every year while the rest go into surplus which the PAP takes to invest and earn?

Clearly, there is a lot of money, and not just a lot of money, but a lot of money that the PAP does not want to give back to Singaporeans. But is the PAP serving itself or should a government serve the people?

Well, it looks like the PAP has gotten its priorities wrong. Too many years in government has taught the PAP not only to be complacent but to take Singaporeans for granted. The PAP actually believes that they can keep taking your money to use and earn and you won’t make a single noise about it.

Well, we proved them wrong with #ReturnOurCPF and now we are going to prove them wrong with the coming general election, widely believed would be held on 12 September 2015.

How Do We Vote Strategically for A New Government?

I have read comments online about how some people only want one, two or three opposition parties to contest because they do not want three-corner fights. Let’s take a look at the numbers first, and the party’s priorities before we worry over this.

First, all the political parties do not have enough members to run in all the constituencies. Even the PAP is grappling at straws and have to move even the “Always Here for You” Desmond Choo out from the Hougang SMC to contest in the Tampines GRC (so that he’s no longer here for you) and the so-called “Son of Punggol” Koh Poh Koon out from the Punggol East SMC into the Ang Mo Kio GRC (so he;s now a deserter of Punggol). So, the PAP is desperate as well.

Second, the main three parties – and I will put them to be WP, SPP and SDP – have their priority areas, WP in the East, SPP in the central area and SDP is the Northwest, so this still leaves other seats that need to be contested. As such these are where the other parties come in.

I personally have confidence in WP, SPP and SDP in winning some seats each at the next election. For the other parties, I believe that it would be wise for them to consolidate an A Team each, or even a B Team, to run in their own stronghold(s), to win them. There will be a good chance that if they do so, they can each win a GRC. Ironically, even though the GRC was created by the PAP to help themselves win, the GRC system is now proving to be the Achilles heel for them, as the Worker’s Party has shown the PAP in Aljunied GRC. So it is time for the rest of Singaporeans to show the PAP as well, that we mean business.

If you are not going to protect Singaporeans and you are going to take us for granted, and if you keep stabbing Singaporeans in the back, then PAP, out you go.

Very simply, this next coming election, Singaporeans have to vote strategically. Really, it is not about our own feelings or our own likes and dislikes over certain candidates. What will these do for Singapore and Singaporeans? How will our personal liking for someone help to change Singapore?

I think, let’s be quite honest about the situation in Singapore. We know that things are getting worse. We know we are worried. Of course, the PAP wants to tell you that without the PAP, Singapore will collapse. As I have said many times, Singapore is actually being run by the civil service, Singapore companies, civil society etc. In short, Singapore is actually being run by you, so unless all 3.5 million Singaporeans collapse at the same time, and unless all 5.3 million people in Singapore collapse at the same time, Singapore is not going to collapse.

Just changing 90 people in government will not cause Singapore to change drastically. What will happen though is that the PAP will try to sabotage Singapore. This is when we need to think about what we want in Singapore and how we need to get there.

Three Scenarios: How Do You Want the Next Government to Look Like?

So, I have heard from people who say that we should deny the PAP a two-thirds majority, so that the PAP will not be able to pass laws without enough votes. Well, reality check here. The PAP has been able to change the laws without going through parliament in the past. So denying them a two-thirds majority isn’t going to change things. What will change is that the PAP will spend more time and resources to try to fix the opposition. So instead of a few hundred IBs, the PAP might hire a few thousands. The PAP might also then create more “mole” parties. (As I have said, I did not include DPP in this map because they are obviously a mole party sent to attack SPP.)

So, what is the next option? The next option is to let the opposition form a government on a slim majority, with the opposition getting slightly more than 50% of the votes. And what then will happen? The opposition, which by then, will be the government, can try to push through policies, as outlined above, to protect Singaporeans. But the PAP can keep blocking the new government in parliament. Then, for the next 5 years, you will have the PAP keep blocking policies that can protect Singaporeans.

In the first scenario, you will have a situation where the PAP will find ways to change policies to hurt Singaporeans, without going through parliament. In the second scenario, you will have a situation where the PAP will keep blocking policies that a new government will want to propose to protect Singaporeans.

So what’s the third scenario? Well, the third is where the opposition wins two-thirds of the seats and form a majority government where they would be able to implement policies without the PAP’s blockage. When that happens, the new government will be able to implement policies to protect Singaporeans.

So, I have shown you three scenarios. What will you choose?

I think, at this point, it is time we stop and think for ourselves, what it is we really want. Do we want policies to protect Singaporeans or not? This is a very simple question.

We have to stop going through the back and fro, and first saying that we want things to change but then saying things cannot change too much, and we should still have PAP.

So, let’s stop for a moment and think – let’s be quite honest, the PAP hasn’t been willing to implement policies to protect Singaporeans for the past decade, or two. It is only in the last few weeks that the PAP suddenly say it will do this, it will do that. But we have been here before. This happened in 2011, it happened in 2006 and in 2001. The PAP can promise you the sky just before the election, and then it will turn its back on you after the election. We have been through this over and over again, and we have been stabbed in the back by the PAP over and over again.

Even for the boy who cried wolf, the villagers knew not to trust the boy after the second time. So, what are you waiting for? Another 50 years under the PAP? We know that the PAP won’t suddenly change its spots. The PAP is not going to change. It wants a 10 million population in Singapore.

The Old Guards have gone. The PAP we used to know have died. There is no point hanging on to the PAP, not when the PAP has moved on from Singaporeans.

Plainly put, you either change the government or you don’t. You either have policies to protect Singaporeans or you don’t. So, you have to make a choice. What’s yours?

The reality is, only the opposition will implement policies to protect Singaporeans. So, you decide. Do you want to continue under the PAP which wants to keep making money off you, or do you want a new government which will protect you? You decide.

Are You Ready for Change?

Now, to be clear, when a new government comes on board, it’s not going to be smooth sailing, because first the PAP will definitely sabotage the new government and second, it will take the new government several years to try to undo the bad policies that the PAP has done. You can bet that the PAP will do what it can to make the new government look bad, so that it can win back government at the next election after, and continue its policies of making money off Singaporeans. So, the question is, are you willing to be patient with the new government? Or will you fall for the PAP’s trickery?

Of course, there is another alternative. The other alternative is to stick with the PAP. But the thing is, things will also not be smooth sailing either. You have seen for yourself how Singapore has been going for the last 5 to 10 years. Wages have been depressed, productivity have gone into the negative, the PAP is stuck on how to reverse some things and yet it is not bold enough to change things, too scared to rock its own boat, and what about the cronies it is trying to feed? So, how will all this end? Well, collapse. Ironically, the very collapse the PAP wants to scare Singaporeans into believing, is what will happen if we continue under the PAP. So, really, it’s up to you. What do you want? And what do you want to believe in? It’s all in your hands now.

Are you ready for change? Well, I am. And when change happens, at least I can work with the new government to make things better. At least I will have a voice. And at least I will have a say, not like now where the PAP can persecute you just for speaking up. So, you choose.

Finally, some speak of a coalition government. Yes, this is what I look forward to as well – a coalition made up of the opposition parties, to form a new government.

How will this happen? The opposition will be meeting this Friday to discuss which constituencies to run in. Well, yes, they need to. As much as I believe in democracy, Singapore is at a transitionary stage. Simply, the situation is unfair right now – the PAP has made it unfair, and an unequal playing field. We need to be strategic, if we want change to happen. We cannot let it be random. The opposition will have to discuss to prevent three-corner fights. Anyone who enters into a three-corner fight is likely a mole and should be written off. You should not vote for this person.

Singaporeans also need to be strategic. We need to vote to bring the opposition into the government, to form a new government which will implement policies to protect us. What does this mean? This mean that we need to look broadly at the election, and at the electoral boundaries, to see how we should vote, to have the majority government we want. Once enough opposition parties are voted into government, they would be able to form a coalition government.

It’s simple.

How Should You Vote?

Singapore Electoral Boundaries 2015 @ Opposition Parties Two-Thirds a

If we want the opposition to win two-thirds of the seats, to form a majority government, then these are the constituencies which we should vote opposition:

(A) Constituencies which Opposition have already won:
– Aljunied GRC (5 seats)
– Hougang SMC (1 seat)
– Punggol East SMC (1 seat)

(B) Constituencies which Opposition won more than 40% of the votes at the last election:
– Bishan-Toa Poyah GRC (5 seats)
– East Coast GRC (4 seats)
– Marine Parade GRC (5 seats)
– Mountbatten SMC (1 seat)
– Nee Soon GRC (5 seats)
– Potong Pasir SMC (1 seat)
– Sengkang West SMC (1 seat)
– Tampines GRC (5 seats)

(C) New constituencies carved out from constituencies which the Opposition won more than 40% of the votes at the last election:
– Fengshan SMCs (1 seat)
– Jalan Besar GRC (4 seats)
– MacPherson SMCs (1 seat)

(D) Constituencies where the Opposition won more than 35% of the votes at the last election:
– Choa Chu Kang GRC (4 seats)
– Holland-Bukit Timah GRC (4 seats)
– Marsiling-Yee Tee GRC (4 seats)
– Sembawang GRC (5 seats)

(F) Constituencies which the PAP has absorbed new areas because it wants to continue developing these areas for its businesses:
– Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC (6 seats)

In short, vote for the constituencies where the Opposition have already won and the constituencies where the Opposition won more than 40% of the votes at the last election – the PAP has calculated that they are likely to lose another 10% of the votes at this coming election and over the past three elections, in constituencies where the boundaries did not change, the Opposition has also gained by an average of 10% at each election. Thus the constituencies where the Opposition has won more than 40% of the votes at the last election are likely where they can win. To make up enough numbers for a two-thirds majority government led by the Opposition, you would also need to vote for constituencies where the Opposition won more than 35% of the votes at the last election.

(Additionally, if you want Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to take responsibility for the failings in Singapore, then vote PAP out of the Ang Mo Kio GRC, where there are 6 seats. In addition, the PAP’s designated prime minister-in-waiting Chan Chun Sing helms the Tanjong Pagar GRC and if you think he should also take responsibility (e.g. he refused to define a poverty line to help Singaporeans), then he should be rooted out as well. There are 5 seats there.)

Accordingly, the parties will take up the following number of seats::
– WP: 28 seats
– PAP:20 seats
– SDP: 13 seats
– SPP: 7 seats
– SingFirst: 6 seats
– RP: 6 seats
– PPP: 5 seats
– NSP: 4 seats

This way, the Opposition will win 63 seats (70.1% of the seats) and be able to form a new coalition government which will then be able to implement new policies to finally protect Singaporeans.

And do you know what’s good about this new government? You get to keep the PAP ministers who oversee the financial aspects of Singapore and the economy – Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran. The rest of the other PAP ministers are pretty much redundant, really. You actually get to have your cake and eat it.

A Spoilt Vote is Loss for Singapore. Don’t Spoil Your Vote.

And one last note, if you intent to spoil your vote, please think again. If you spoil your vote, the PAP can take your spoilt vote as a vote for themselves. Also, let me share with you what the larger implications of you doing so are. When you spoil your vote, you are potentially letting the PAP win one more vote. You are letting the opposition lose one more vote. If the PAP still gets a seat and have enough to form the government, it will continue to create policies to hurt Singaporeans – and that means you. This means you still will still be adversely affected. So, we cannot choose to don’t care anymore. Your vote matters.

So, you have to understand that spoiling your vote is not just about you making a statement. No one knows what statement you are making. Only you will know it yourself. And the PAP gets your vote. It’s pointless. You want to make a statement, Vote Opposition. Change our future.

So, before we make the vote, it’s not about what we personally think or how we personally feel about one particular candidate. In Singapore, at this point in time, it is about being strategic. It is about what we want for Singapore, how we want to get there, and how we should then vote.

I have tried to outline this for you in this article, so hopefully we can digest this a bit, think about the government that we want, and decide how we should vote to get there.

For me, I would go for a the third scenario, a two-thirds majority made up of the opposition parties, to form a new government. For me, there’s no two ways about it. We either continue to let the PAP keep hurting Singaporeans, or we vote for a new government with the power to change things for the better.

So, what will you do? It’s time for change, don’t you think? If you have decided, then vote decisively for change, so that we can protect ourselves, our children, and our future generations. So that we can protect Singapore.

#VoteOpposition #VoteforYourFuture

Roy Ngerng Leong Sze Hian

Singapore’s Economic Growth and Social Development Story (My Article for Oxford Round Table Journal)

I have co-written the journal article below with Leong Sze Hian which was published in the Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table. The article can be read at the journal here.

The Singapore Economic Growth and Social Development Story: Miracle or Nightmare?

Abstract

Singapore has arguably been the most admired and talked about economic growth miracle over the last 50 years or so. It has managed to create relentless employment growth at almost perpetual near full employment, over the 48 years of its nationhood, and transform a country rife with corruption to a top five ranking in Transparency International.

According to a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) study, it was ranked as the richest country in the world.

Practically every other week, some head-of-state would pronounce that his or her country would like to emulate Singapore’s success.

However, no country, province or city has been able to emulate Singapore with any significant measurable degree of success, despite droves of civil servants from all over the world coming to Singapore for training, including hundreds of mayors of cities from China, under the Singapore Cooperation Programme in collaboration with the World Bank.

Why is this so?

This presentation will discuss a balanced analysis of the pros and cons, the good, the bad and the ugly, of Singapore’s economic and social development model. And more importantly, how it may be adapted to any city, province or country?

Introduction

The starting point of this paper is the startling fact that from a cashflow perspective – the Singapore government does not spend a single cent on healthcare, pensions or public housing. Singaporeans pay about $10 billion of pension contributions and interest a year into Medisave (which is part of the national pension scheme called the Central Provident Fund (CPF)), and the government spends $4.9 billion a year on healthcare – which in a sense, means that the government does not spend a single cent on healthcare. The CPF is entirely contributed by the citizens from their salaries – which means that the government does not spend a single cent on pensions. Public housing is sold at a profit – which means that the government does not spend a single cent on public housing as well.

Singapore is often cited as the growth miracle of the late 20th century, as she moved from a Third World to First World country, within a span of less than 50 years. The Wealth Report in 2012 had also ranked Singapore as the richest country in the world[1]. Goh (2005)[2] had charted Singapore’s industrialisation evolution from one of being labour-intensive in the 1960s to an export-orientation policy in the 1970s, which relied heavily on attracting Multinational Companies (MNCs) to invest in Singapore. The 1985 economic recession exposed Singapore’s weakness in the over-reliance on foreign capital, investments and trade, and explained the shift towards encouraging local entrepreneurship in the 1990s.

Singapore’s pursuit of labour-intensive industries and capital investment from MNCs allowed Singapore’s GDP to grow at 8.5% every year in the early 1980s[3]. However, the shift towards a knowledge and innovation-driven economy seems to have been put on a backburner in recent years. Government officials have spoken up against the pursuit of higher education, which has been seen as the backbone for the development of a knowledge economy. Just last year, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said, “If they cannot find jobs, what is the point? You own a degree, but so what? That you can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.[4]” The government’s support of entrepreneurship has also been put into question, as the Singapore economy suffers from a drain of local investments. The substitution with cheap foreign labour and a high prevalence of crony capitalism has led to an anti-competitive business environment, which has driven down wages and created a discontented populace, leading to the largest protests in Singapore over the past two years, since the country’s independence.

Indeed, since the early 2000s, the government has pursued a “growth-at-all-costs” strategy, which reversed Singapore’s economic evolution to one akin to the 1960s and 1970s. The “growth-at-all-costs” strategy relied on a GDP-growth-driven agenda, underpinned by three key pillars, of a cheap labour substitution and wage depression model, a high tax-based revenue and low government transfers model, and an internal debt-fuelled investment model.

Chart 1 Growth-at-all-costs strategy

Chart 1: “Growth-at-all-costs” strategy

Cheap Labour Substitution and Wage Depression Model

Since 2004, the spike in foreign worker numbers have increased unabated, leading to a depression of wages. In 2004, in a bid to increase the foreign worker workflow, Acting Minister for Manpower and Minister of State for Education Dr Ng Eng Hen had said, “What we want to do is disseminate some information to the workers before they come (here).”There is no need for you to part with your money before coming to Singapore. You can come on your own. We will supply you with a work permit (when you come to Singapore). There is no fee for the work permit.”[5]

The creation of the employment passes also had the effect of dampening wages. The Work Permit, S Pass and Employment Pass are unofficially pegged to the secondary and below, polytechnic diploma and university degree educational levels, and salary bases are imposed with which companies are required to hire foreign workers on these salary bases at pass level. However, because the S Pass and Employment Pass base salaries were never changed at $1,800 for the S Pass (from 2004 to 2011) and $2,500 for the Employment Pass (for even longer for 11 years, from 2001 to 2011)[6], this resulted in a wage stagnation for workers in Singapore, as companies had the choice to hire foreign workers at lower wages, and Singaporeans were unable to negotiate their wages upwards, as the base salaries at each pass level (and thus educational level) also acted as a de facto starting pay that Singaporeans have to adhere to. Also, before 2013, employers were only allowed to hire foreign workers if they pay full-time local workers $850. This salary threshold was only increased to $1,000 in 2013[7], which means that prior to July 2013, low-income workers in Singapore were faced with a de-facto minimum wage of $850, but where a household of four needs about S$1,700 per month to cover the basic costs of living[8], a single-earner family would not have been able to cover their daily expenses and a dual-earner family would be barely able to make ends meet. The depressed wages are further compounded by the fact that the CPF that employers have to pay to Singaporean workers made them more expensive than foreign workers, even as employers had to pay for the foreign worker levies[9]. As such, the employment passes had the effect of holding down wages for at least 8 years, even as prices grew at their fastest from 2004.

As such, in 1997, the real median monthly wage of the bottom 10th percentile workers was $559. By 2009, it had actually fallen to $520[10]. The effect of cheap labour substitution and wage depression thus caused Singapore to have the lowest wage share of 42.5% among the developed countries[11]. However, prices soared tremendously, such that from being ranked the 97th most expensive city in the world in 2001[12], Singapore became the most expensive city to live in last year, according to The Economist[13].

Chart 2 Real median monthly wage of the bottom 20th percentile remained stagnant

Chart 2: Real median monthly wage of the bottom 20th percentile remained stagnant

Today, Singaporeans continue to earn one the lowest wages among the high-income countries[14] and work the longest work hours in the world[15]. Often compared to Hong Kong, Singapore has seen a faster growth in GDP per capita, to become one of the richest in the world. However, household spending per capita at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) in Singapore has grown at a much slower rate[16]. Personal consumption expenditure as a percentage of GDP has also dwindled from nearly 60% in 1977 to only 35% last year, or half that of Hong Kong’s[17]. This has led to an anomaly where Singapore is today one of the richest and most expensive countries in the world, but with the lowest purchasing power among the developed countries[18].

As such, the high income inequality – the highest among the developed countries[19] – and the huge disparity has led Singaporeans to question the government’s ‘growth at all costs’ strategy, which has led to a languishing standard of living. Similarly, the demands by Singaporeans to implement a minimum wage and to define a poverty line has been strongly resisted by the government. Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing had remarked that defining a poverty line would lead to a ““cliff effect” where those below the line are guaranteed a whole range of help and those above receive none, regardless of actual needs.[20]

In 2010, the government set up the Economic Strategies Committee, which recommended veering away from the “growth-at-all-costs” model to pursue a productivity-growth model, aimed at also increasing wages in tandem with productivity[21]. However, the intended outcomes were not achieved.

Over the past few years, to mitigate the effect of wage depression and low productivity, the government introduced a slew of measures – however to little success and have arguably been counter-productive. The Wage Credit Scheme (WCS), introduced last year, where the government would “co-fund 40% of wage increases given to Singaporean employees earning a gross monthly wage of $4,000 and below”[22], was defeated in its purpose as it was reported that “most large firms are unlikely to hand the money directly to employees” but would instead “channel the funds towards training and skills upgrading for staff”[23]. Similarly, the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), which the government claimed as being “better than introducing a national minimum wage”[24], sets an “entry-level wage” of $1,000 for low-income workers (only for cleaners at this point) and a cleaner would be able to earn up to $1,600 only if he/she is promoted[25]. The $1,000 de facto minimum wage would place Singapore as having the lowest minimum wage among the high-income countries, as a ratio to “median wage”.

In fact, Singapore is today one of only 10% of the countries which still do not have a minimum wage[26]. In comparison to countries with a similar cost of living, Japan has a minimum wage of $2,000[27], $3,000 in Australia[28] and low-income workers earn a minimum of $5,000 in Norway[29].

The Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC), introduced in 2010 to boost productivity[30], was also met with failure, when productivity shrank by 2% and 2.6% in 2011 and 2012 respectively and was zero in 2013[31].

Chart 3 Singapore’s productivity from 2011 to 2013

Chart 3: Singapore’s productivity from 2011 to 2013

Even as wages were depressed, the income share that went to the richest 10% in Singapore actually rose from 30% in 1995 to 42% in 2011[32]. The government’s self-imposed increment of their own salaries in 1994 and 2000[33] resulted in them seeing their salaries jump exponentially and with them being the highest paid politicians in the world. The widening income disparity then becomes questionable, when seen in light of how the ministerial salaries are also dependent on the real GDP growth rate[34]. The “growth-at-all-costs” strategy might thus benefit the salaries of the government ministers but where wages of the rest of Singaporeans have been depressed, this strategy seems counterproductive[35].

Chart 4 Income Share of the richest 10% in Singapore from 1995 to 2011

Chart 4: Income Share of the richest 10% in Singapore from 1995 to 2011

High Tax-Based Revenue and low Government Transfers Model

The second pillar of the “growth-at-all-costs” strategy rely on Singapore having the lowest overall public expenditure and the lowest government expenditure on social protection among the developed countries.

The Singapore government has strenuously resisted shifting into becoming a “welfare state” and has justified that for public spending to increase, taxes would need to be increased. However, Singaporeans already pay more than 2 times into indirect taxes and more than 4 times into social security (Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution[36], as compared to personal income tax and Singapore has accumulated vast Budget surpluses.

Chart 5 Singapore’s personal income tax revenue vs indirect tax revenue vs social security contributions

Chart 5: Singapore’s personal income tax revenue vs indirect tax revenue vs social security contributions

In 2012, the government reported a surplus of $36.1 billion using International Monetary Fund (IMF) fiscal reporting guidelines against a $3.9 billion surplus in the government’s budget statement[37]. The current social protection expenditure seems greatly inadequate, in light of the massive accumulated surpluses which are estimated to be about $950 billion in the country’s Reserves[38]. It would seem that the Singapore government is in a position to increase social protection expenditure for Singaporeans, without even needing to increase taxes.

Chart 6 Singapore’s budget surplus

Chart 6: Singapore’s budget surplus

In fact, Singapore’s tax system is rated as one of the most regressive among the developed countries[39]. After including the CPF contribution of 37% of salaries, which is the highest social security rate in the world and the taxes that Singaporeans have to pay[40], total citizens’ “cash outflows” is amongst the highest “taxed” countries in the world.

Chart 7 Social security rates in the world

Chart 7: Social security rates in the world

The International Monetary Fund has this year recommended more progressive taxes and more redistributive policies to reduce income inequality[41]. However, the Singapore government’s response has perhaps been somewhat perplexing. In the respective 2008, 2010 and 2013 reports, the income inequality in Singapore over a span of a decade, as measured by the Gini coefficient, was “pushed lower” over each new subsequent report, seemingly portraying a more equal Singapore[42]. However, the lack of transparency to the computation and the sudden adjustment downwards bring to question the accuracy of the reporting, and honesty of the statistics.

Chart 8 The Singapore government changed Singapore’s Gini coefficient over subsequent reports

Chart 8: The Singapore government changed Singapore’s Gini coefficient over subsequent reports

When seen in light of the exact cash flow patterns in specific sectors, the inadequacy of the government’s expenditure in social protection becomes more glaring. Singapore is only one of two countries where the farebox recovery ratio is more than 100%[43]. Where transport fares are sufficient to cover for the operational costs for the transport operators, this calls into question why Singaporeans still have to pay taxes to subsidise public transport. As also highlighted in the opening, Singaporeans pay about $10 billion into Medisave a year (for the public health insurance scheme via the national pension scheme, CPF), however where the government spends only $4.9 billion a year on healthcare[44], not only does the government thus not fork out a single cent, this also means that Singaporeans are paying additional in taxes for healthcare which isn’t returned. Not only that, public housing is sold at a profit by the government, and subsidised by Singaporeans through a number of mechanisms, which thus does not cost the government any money to build these flats, since the burden is shouldered by Singaporeans. And also, in education, where the public universities have accumulated more than $400 million in surpluses last year[45] while Singaporean students have to pay about $400 million in university tuition fees[46] and where the government would spend $400 million for foreign students to study in Singapore[47], not only are Singaporeans short-changed in the taxes that are not being redistributed back to Singaporeans, this heavily exposes the government’s misplaced priorities on its citizens, or lack thereof.

Due to the Singapore government’s severe underspending on basic essential services, Singaporeans thus spend the highest out-of-pocket health expenditure, nominally and as a proportion of total health expenditure[48], so much so that some Singaporeans have to choose to die than seek medical treatment[49]. Singaporeans also pay one of the highest university tuition fees in the world[50]. Finally, for Singaporeans’ retirement funds, they pay the highest contribution of their wages into the CPF in the world but receive one of the least adequate retirement funds in the world[51]. Such a disjoint can be explained by the lack of the transparent accounting processes and use of the CPF. Effectively, Singaporeans are not only paying tax, but also paying into subsidiary schemes for essential services, with the effect of double-paying or even triple-paying into these services. The government’s creation of these duplicated revenue collection measures, the lack of transparent accounting and the lack of complementary transfers back to Singaporeans thus results in consistent budget surpluses for the government, but declining purchasing powers for Singaporeans.

In 2013, Singaporeans contributed $29 billion into the CPF but were only able to withdraw $15 billion[52] – annual contributions exceed withdrawals by a ratio of 1.9. In total, the CPF had accumulated $253 billion in balance but Singaporeans were only able to withdraw less than 6%[53]. In sum, the CPF which is entirely contributed by Singaporeans means that the government also doesn’t fork out any money for Singaporeans’ retirement.

The CPF is borrowed for investments in two of the government’s investment firms, the Government Investment Corporation (GIC) and Temasek Holdings[54]. While GIC and Temasek Holdings earn 5.0% (annualised 20-year return in SGD terms)[55] and 16% (annualised 39-year return in SGD terms) respectively[56], the CPF only earns 2.5% to 4% (interest paid per annum)[57]. According to the Asian Development Bank Institute, the interest that is not returned to Singaporeans is akin to an implicit tax on CPF wealth, which is fairly large and regressive[58]. Clearly, the excessive intake of taxes by the government with a corresponding low level of returns via subsidies and payouts, and the resulting profit earned aids in fuelling the “growth-at-all-costs” strategy but only further entrench the income inequality among Singaporeans.

Chart 9 Singapore’s CPF and sovereign wealth funds returns

Chart 9: Singapore’s CPF and sovereign wealth funds returns

It is evident that the inequality in Singapore has resulted in significant social problems. With Singapore having the highest inequality among the developed countries, the second highest prisoner rate, one of the lowest social mobility, highest self-enhancement rate and the second lowest trust levels[59] – the ‘growth at all costs’ strategy is eating into the social fabric of Singapore.

Internal Debt-Fuelled Investment Model

Underpinning the ‘growth at all costs’ strategy is an investment-fuelled strategy based upon Singaporeans’ pension funds as the financial bedrock of the government’s key source of funds. Singapore is renowned in not having any external national debt. The national debt is very high – about 105% of GDP is almost entirely domestic debt, with the national pension funds borrowed by the government at very low interest rates of between 2.5 to 4% forming the bulk of the national debt. The Singapore government borrows Singaporeans’ pension funds, or the CPF, for their investments via the GIC, and previously with Temasek Holdings. The implication is that the government borrows from Singaporeans’ CPF but the “cost” of this borrowing is also shouldered by Singaporeans, by way of receiving the lowest real rate of return historically of all national pension funds in the world. In this regard, since inflation for the last decade, from 2003 to 2013 was about 2.7% per annum – we estimate the real return on CPF to be less than one per cent per annum. Consequently, Singaporeans are in a sense, put into continuous work to generate sustained funding via the CPF for the government’s investments.

Several policies changes were devised to entrench this model. In 1984, the government introduced the Medisave, to apportion part of the CPF to pay for healthcare. At that time, ex-minister Toh Chin Chye had questioned the need for the government to create a parallel welfare scheme[60], where Singaporeans would pay into tax and Medisave for healthcare, when the payment of tax alone would suffice. Two years after the introduction of Medisave, government subsidies on healthcare were reduced while the usage of Medisave increased[61]. Today, there is a total of $66 billion in Medisave, of which only 6% was used last year[62].

Following that, in 1986, the government introduced the CPF Minimum Sum, to put in place a minimum amount that Singaporeans should keep inside the CPF before they are allowed to withdraw it at retirement. The CPF Minimum Sum was to have grown with inflation. However, from 1996 onwards, the CPF Minimum Sum grew by more than 7% annually, even as inflation only grew by 2.5%. As wages only grew by slightly above 2.5% and the CPF itself, by between 2.5% to 4%, this meant that most Singaporeans would face the near impossible feat of being able to save enough in their CPF to reach the CPF Minimum Sum.

The CPF was also ‘liberalised’ to be used for housing and education. In Parliament in July 2014, Minister for National Development also admitted that, “Firstly, we control the construction programmes. Secondly, we set the price (for the public housing flats).” Where the government controls public housing in Singapore and 85% of Singaporeans live in public housing – the key change in 1994 which allowed Singaporeans to use their CPF to pay for resale public housing allowed prices of older public flats to be speculated upwards, which in turn gave the opportunity for prices of new flats to be also adjusted upwards. It is estimated that today, construction costs for new flats only account for 40% of the flat price with land costs at about 60%, whereas in the past, flat prices were pegged in greater proportion (relative to land costs) to construction costs. Singapore’s public housing are thus the most expensive in the world when measured on the basis of the ratio of price to wages. Indeed, while incomes grew by only an average of only 5.3% every year from 2008 to last year, prices of HDB resale flats actually grew by a much higher 9.1%[63]. On top of that, land costs have grown by 18.2% but where Singaporeans do not own their flats, since the government has also admitted in January this year that the public flats are leased from the Housing Development Board (HDB) and not owned by Singaporeans, will have zero value at the end of their leases and will be returned to the HDB at the end of their leases[64], it is illogical that Singaporeans have to pay for land costs to lease the public housing flats. In addition, with Singaporeans also pay one of the highest university tuition fees in the world, and coupled with dramatically increasing housing and education costs and the availability for Singaporeans to use the CPF to fund these purchases, this has led to an even more rapid depletion of Singaporeans’ pension funds.

Today, we face a momentous period in Singapore’s history, where Singaporeans are now demanding for the transparency and accountability of the government’s management of their CPF. Where the government had at one time resisted acknowledgement of their use of Singaporeans’ CPF for investment in the GIC and Temasek Holdings, they were arguably forced to admit so this year when evidence of the investment trail was traced. Significantly, several cabinet ministers are on the board (including the chairman) of the GIC, but the GIC had claimed last year that it is not made “explicit” to them how they are using the CPF for investment, and that the government does not “interfere” in their operations[65]. This was followed by an about turn in June this year where the government and the GIC both admitted for the first time that Singaporeans’ CPF is invested in the GIC. Similarly, Temasek Holdings announced this year that they do not use the CPF for investments when it has been mentioned that since the 1970s, the CPF was “co-mingled” with the government’s funds[66].

Chart 10 Admission of the government and the GIC to the use of Singaporeans’ CPF in the GIC

Chart 10: Admission of the government and the GIC to the use of Singaporeans’ CPF in the GIC

Clearly, the government’s use of Singaporeans’ CPF to prop up an investment-fuelled strategy to sustain growth is called into question when the lack of transparency and accountability, and inconsistencies may indicate flaws in the management of the CPF.

Conclusion

For some time now, Singaporeans were agreeable to receiving low wages in return for the “promise” of economic growth. However, the glaring disparity in income and the inability to afford purchases for the majority of Singaporeans – the bottom 30% households spend 105% to 151% of their incomes[67] while two-thirds of the middle-income are able to afford what they need but not what they want[68] – has led Singaporeans to question the excesses in surpluses and the government’s high remuneration of their own salaries. The narrowing middle class and growing poverty class is beginning to put a heavy strain on Singapore’s social balance.

The Economist’s ranking of Singapore as 5th on the crony capitalism index[69] further reinforced the explicable link between the government and its role in business. The government’s involvement in business, as evident from its ownership of Temasek Holdings and the latter’s major investments in the real estate, telecommunications, transportation and public utilities[70] – the functions of basic necessities – further evidenced itself in the anti-competitive results of the government’s direct intervention. The companies owned by the government are some of the largest companies in Singapore[71] and it is a reasonable question to ask if the government’s involvement in these businesses is also what drives its ‘growth at all costs’ strategy.

Indeed, the reversal of Singapore’s industrialisation backwards into the methods of the 1960s and 1970s, through the use of cheap foreign labour substitution and attraction of foreign investment is now putting in danger Singapore’s economic growth. Since 2004, the spike in immigration and cheap foreign labour substitution model has resulted in a depression of wages to sustain the growth model. The lack of investment in growing Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), coupled with the government’s interest in profit accumulation, also means that this direct competition from the government has resulted in high costs, and especially high rental costs, which have been highlighted as the number one concern for businesses and a major impediment to their workflow[72].

The philosophical question then has to be asked – is the government’s role to regulate the business environment for the protection of its citizens or is the government’s role one of direct involvement in business, which in Singapore’s case, has created a landscape of high profits for businesses and high prices, but low wages and low purchasing power for the citizens. Such a model is clearly unsustainable, as evident by the crippling of Singapore’s social compact – a distrust in the government’s operandi modus in that Singaporeans are demanding the return of the “excess returns kept by the government” on their CPF monies. Arguably, the level of distrust towards the government and its economic model, is growing.

The “growth-at-all-costs” strategy, fuelled by the government’s involvement and direct anti-competitive interests in major businesses in Singapore and the pegging of the ministerial salaries to GDP growth has the effect of gearing Singapore’s economy to perform for a GDP-enhancement approach, but such an approach which requires a profit-centred government mindset, thus aimed at depressing wages and government spending on social protection, whilst devising methods to get citizens to double-pay on basic necessities, so as to also earn profit, is unsustainable, as this has increased the government’s coffers, at the expense of reducing the purchasing powers of Singaporeans over the long term. The low and decreasing productivity and consumer spending is only a symptom of the cracks in the economy that is brewing. Finally, the borrowing of Singaporeans’ pension funds as a cheap source of funding for the government allows the government to accumulate profit and growth, at the citizen’s expense, and only further entrap the citizens into a long-term debt-downward spiral. The government’s approach towards a GDP-focused growth-at-all-costs is detrimental to the Singapore society and Singapore’s long term growth and is clearly unsustainable.

For Singapore, the solution is simple but perhaps a difficult one – to “go back to the basics”. The government’s past solutions to problems is to create additional layers of fixes which only create further backlogs and obstacles. The solution for Singapore is thus to address the imbalance in the system by allowing equilibrium to be achieved via market forces and the reduction of the over-intervention by the government. The entrenched behaviour of cronyism has to be rooted out in order for wages and prices to be adjusted towards equilibrium, for the economy to enliven once again and for the trust in the government and the system to be restored. Only with the revival of a transparent system with accountable checks and balances, not hindered by cronyism, will the investment in Singaporeans’ education and innovation flourish once again, to rebuild the lost SMEs which were planned to have grown from the period of the 1990s of enterprise development. If the economic pathway from the 1990s is restarted, to catch up for the two lost decades, Singapore might have a chance at a recovery and a reversion back to what would now be known as the golden age of Singapore’s economic prosperity in the 1990s.

Leong Sze Hian and Roy Ngerng

References

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[9] Leong Sze Hian, “Budget 2013: Real wages will increase? Disposable income drop for some?,” LeongSzeHian.com Blog, February 23, 2013, http://leongszehian.com/?p=3118.

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[11] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “Singaporeans Earn The LOWEST Wages Among The High-Income Countries,” The Heart Truths Blog, November 1, 2013, http://thehearttruths.com/2013/11/01/singaporeans-earn-the-lowest-wages-among-the-high-income-countries/.

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[19] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “No, Lee Hsien Loong, You Be Kinder.,” The Heart Truths Blog, March 17, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/03/17/no-lee-hsien-loong-you-be-kinder/.

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[36] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “Budget 2014: The Government Still Doesn’t Spend A Single Cent (Part 2),” The Heart Truths Blog, February 24, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/02/24/budget-2014-the-government-still-doesnt-spend-a-single-cent-part-2/.

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[38] Leong Sze Hian, “The returns on our Reserves is … ?,” LeongSzeHian.com Blog, April 17, 2014, http://leongszehian.com/?p=8584.

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[40] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “When The PAP Started Turning Against Singaporeans Traced,” The Heart Truths Blog, April 17, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/04/17/when-the-pap-started-turning-against-singaporeans-traced/.

[41] “IMF Policy Paper: Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality,” last modified January 23, 2014, http://www.imf.org/external/np/pp/eng/2014/012314.pdf.

[42] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “The Singapore Government Caught Pretending!,” The Heart Truths Blog, February 19, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/02/19/the-singapore-government-caught-pretending/.

[43] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “Why Are Singaporeans Double-Paying On Fares and Taxes For The Profits Of Transport Operators?,” The Heart Truths Blog, January 20, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/01/20/why-are-singaporeans-double-paying-on-fares-and-taxes-for-the-profits-of-transport-operators/.

[44] Leong Sze Hian, “Alternative news in 1 day? (part 94) – 1% success rate to downgrade to subsidised ward?,” LeongSzeHian.com Blog, March 26, 2014, http://leongszehian.com/?cat=12&paged=3.

[45] Leong Sze Hian, “2 public universities’ surplus for 1 year is 3 times Budget’s increase in education spending?,” LeongSzeHian.com Blog, February 24, 2014, http://leongszehian.com/?p=7910.

[46] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “Singapore Government Spends $400 Million To Invite International Students To Study In Singapore?,” The Heart Truths Blog, January 22, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/01/22/singapore-government-spends-400-million-to-invite-international-students-to-study-in-singapore/.

[47] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “Budget 2014: The Government Still Doesn’t Spend A Single Cent (Part 1),” The Heart Truths Blog, February 23, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/02/23/budget-2014-the-government-still-doesnt-spend-a-single-cent-part-1/.

[48] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, ” It’s Time The Government Spends (A Lot) More For Singaporeans’ Health,” The Heart Truths Blog, October 31, 2013, http://thehearttruths.com/2013/10/31/its-time-the-government-spends-a-lot-more-for-singaporeans-health/.

[49] Salma Kahlik, “Some kidney patients refuse treatment and choose to die,” The Straits Times, March 8, 2014.

[50] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “Singaporeans Pay The Most Expensive University Tuition Fees In The High-Income Countries,” The Heart Truths Blog, November 23, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2013/11/25/singaporeans-pay-the-most-expensive-university-tuition-fees-in-the-rich-countries/.

[51] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, ” Truth Exposed: How The PAP Will Crash The Singapore Economy,” The Heart Truths Blog, March 19, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/03/19/truth-exposed-how-the-pap-will-crash-the-singapore-economy/.

[52] “CPF Statistics,” last modified May 23, 2014, http://mycpf.cpf.gov.sg/CPF/About-Us/CPF-Stats/CPF_Stats.htm.

[53] “CPF Statistics,” last modified May 23, 2014, http://mycpf.cpf.gov.sg/CPF/About-Us/CPF-Stats/CPF_Stats.htm.

[54] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “10 Things Singaporeans Have To Worry About How The Government Uses Our CPF,” The Heart Truths Blog, July 8, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/07/08/10-things-singaporeans-have-to-worry-about-how-the-government-uses-our-cpf/.

[55] “DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s Reply to Parliamentary Questions on CPF Interest Rates and Investment of CPF Funds,” last modified July 8, 2014, http://app.mof.gov.sg/newsroom_details.aspx?type=parliamentary&cmpar_year=2014&news_sid=20140708472434506681.

[56] “Section I: What comprises the reserves and who manages them?,” last modified May 22, 2014, http://app.mof.gov.sg/reserves_sectionone.aspx.

[57] “Interest Rates,” last modified June 30, 2014, http://mycpf.cpf.gov.sg/Members/Gen-Info/Int-Rates.

[58] Mukul G. Asher, The Role of the Global Economy in Financing Old Age: The Case of Singapore, (Japan: ADBI Publishing, 2002), 12.

[59] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “The Singapore Government Caught Pretending!,” The Heart Truths Blog, February 19, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/02/19/the-singapore-government-caught-pretending/.

[60] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “Revealed: How The Pap Uses The Wage-CPF/HDB-Debt Cycle To Stab Singaporeans In The Back,” The Heart Truths Blog, April 16, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/04/16/revealed-how-the-pap-uses-the-wage-cpfhdb-debt-cycle-to-stab-singaporeans-in-the-back/.

[61] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “Revealed: How The Pap Uses The Wage-CPF/HDB-Debt Cycle To Stab Singaporeans In The Back,” The Heart Truths Blog, April 16, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/04/16/revealed-how-the-pap-uses-the-wage-cpfhdb-debt-cycle-to-stab-singaporeans-in-the-back/.

[62] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “When The PAP Started Turning Against Singaporeans Traced,” The Heart Truths Blog, April 17, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/04/17/when-the-pap-started-turning-against-singaporeans-traced/.

[63] Fiona Chan, “Land costs ‘outpaced rise in home prices’,” The Straits Times, September 10, 2013.

[64] “Value of HDB Flats on 99-Year Leases and Flats Undergoing Redevelopment under the SERS Programme,” last modified January 20, 2014, http://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic.jsp?currentTopicID=00005421-WA&currentPubID=00005404-WA&topicKey=00005404-WA.00005421-WA_1%2BhansardContent43a675dd-5000-42da-9fd5-40978d79310f%2B2

[65] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “10 Things Singaporeans Have To Worry About How The Government Uses Our CPF,” The Heart Truths Blog, July 8, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/07/08/10-things-singaporeans-have-to-worry-about-how-the-government-uses-our-cpf/.

[66] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “10 Things Singaporeans Have To Worry About How The Government Uses Our CPF,” The Heart Truths Blog, July 8, 2014, http://thehearttruths.com/2014/07/08/10-things-singaporeans-have-to-worry-about-how-the-government-uses-our-cpf/.

[67] Leong Sze Hian, “Alternative news in 1 day? (part 83): 30% of households spend more than earnings?,” LeongSzeHian.com Blog, March 13, 2014, http://leongszehian.com/?p=8226.

[68] Andrea Ong, “Middle-income Singaporeans feel the squeeze, survey finds,” The Straits Times, November 29, 2012.

[69] “Our crony-capitalism index: Planet Plutocrat,” The Economist, March 15, 2014.

[70] “Portfolio Highlights,” last modified 2014, http://www.temasek.com.sg/portfolio/portfolio_highlights.

[71] “Singapore,” http://www.gfmag.com/global-data/country-data/singapore-gdp-country-report#ixzz2fgH5yBb5.

[72] Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, “Are High Rents Stifling Businesses In Singapore?,” The Heart Truths Blog, September 20, 2013, http://thehearttruths.com/2013/09/20/are-high-rents-stifling-businesses-in-singapore/.

How Should You Vote at the Next Singapore General Election 2015?

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(image credit: Channel NewsAsia)

The Singapore general election is coming soon. Some rumours say that the next election will be held on 12 September 2015. It could be earlier, in August after National Day or before the year is out.

The PAP ruling party has gerrymandered and changed the Singapore electoral boundaries yet again.

The changes were announced today.

Here is a quick analysis on the changes in the electoral boundaries.

(1) For my Sembawang friends, Sembawang Central – where I live – was moved from Sembawang GRC in 2006 to Nee Soon GRC in 2011 and back to Sembawang GRC again in 2015.

(2) The PAP believes that it will lose the East Coast GRC to the Worker’s Party. It moved Serangoon Island from the East Coast GRC to Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. Looks like the PAP wants to develop Serangoon Island in the next 5 years and does not want any hindrance.

(3) The PAP also looks like it believes that it will lose Nee Soon GRC to the Worker’s Party. It moved Simpang and Seletar Island to Sembawang GRC, in the hope that it can develop the Woodlands-Sembawang corridor with free rein, which Lee Hsien Loong announced at last year’s National Day Rally.

(4) The PAP also deleted Joo Chiat SMC and Moulmein-Kallang GRC because it knows that it will lose them to the Worker’s Party – the Worker’s Party won more than 40% of the votes in both constituencies at the last election.

(5) For the three other key development areas that the PAP has planned for – Jurong, Tampines and West Coast GRCs – the PAP has consolidated these areas and largely left them intact, which means they will likely field who they consider to be their strong candidates in these areas. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam currently helms the Jurong GRC.

From this, you can see that how the PAP redraws the electoral boundaries is broadly dependent on three things:

– First, it is dependent on making sure that the constituencies which posed the biggest threat to the PAP at the previous election are deleted – which we already know.

– Second, the PAP already has development plans in mind and have redrawn the boundaries to allow it (it hopes) to hold on to certain constituencies so that it can fully develop these areas according to its wants. In that sense, the PAP has parcelled out Singapore into areas it considers important to keep for its growth-at-all-cost model, and those which it considers less important.

And if you understand what it means when the PAP wants to develop these areas, it means that the PAP wants to build more shopping malls, increase rents, increase prices, increase revenue for themselves and allow themselves to get rich. So, you want to let them?

– Third, you can see that the PAP believes that it will lose about 10% of the votes at the next election, as most of the constituencies with boundary changes are those which the opposition won more than 40% at the last election, and which the PAP believes it will lose.

And if you track the past three elections, for constituencies where their boundaries did not change, the PAP lost an average of 10% in these constituencies at each subsequent election, which means that at the next election, the PAP will indeed lose another 10% of the votes.

The PAP won 60% of the total votes at the last election. So going along these lines, based on the PAP’s prediction, it means that they would likely lose 10% of the votes and only win about 50% of the votes at the next election.

It would most likely be a 50-50 at the next election for the PAP and the opposition. This is a chance for us Singaporeans to set things right!

So, Singaporeans, you want to help the PAP lose and help Singaporeans win?

– So for my friends from the East Coast and Nee Soon GRCs, help to fulfil the PAP’s fears. Let them lost these 2 GRCs.

– And for my friends living in the Sembawang and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRCs, do you want to give the PAP free rein to develop your areas? Do you want to let Teo Chee Hean and Khaw Boon Wan win these areas again? If so, vote them out.

– And for my friends in the Joo Chiat SMC and Moulmein-Kallang GRC, these have been absorbed into the Bishan-Toa Poyah GRC, Jalan Besar GRC and Marine Parade GRC. So, help the opposition win these 3 GRCs as well. Vote Opposition.

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In summary, these are the constituencies which you should vote Opposition:

(A) Constituencies which Opposition have already won:
– Aljunied GRC (5 seats)
– Hougang SMC (1 seat)
– Punggol East SMC (1 seat)

(B) Constituencies which Opposition won more than 40% of the votes at the last election:
– Mountbatten SMC (1 seat)
– Potong Pasir SMC (1 seat)
– Sengkang West SMC (1 seat)
– Tampines GRC (5 seats)

(C) Constituencies which Opposition won more than 40% of the votes at the last election, and which the PAP is also trying to “fix”:
– Bishan-Toa Poyah GRC (5 seats)
– East Coast GRC (4 seats) 
– Marine Parade GRC (5 seats)
– Nee Soon GRC (5 seats) 

(D) New constituencies carved out from constituencies which the Opposition won more than 40% of the votes at the last election, which the PAP carved out in a bid to protect themselves:
– Fengshan SMCs (1 seat)
– Jalan Besar GRC (4 seats)
– MacPherson SMCs (1 seat)

(E) Constituencies which the PAP wants to protect to continue to develop these areas for its own want:
– Sembawang GRC (5 seats)
– Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC (6 seats)

Total seats that Opposition should be able to win accordingly: 51 (57% of the seats)

(F) If you want the Opposition to win two-thirds of the seats so that the Opposition can implement policies to protect Singaporeans, then also vote these constituencies where the Opposition won more than 35% of the votes at the last election:
– Choa Chu Kang GRC (4 seats)
– Holland-Bukit Timah GRC (4 seats)
– Marsiling-Yee Tee GRC (4 seats)

(Additionally, if you want Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to take responsibility for the failings in Singapore, then vote PAP out of the Ang Mo Kio GRC, where there are 6 seats.)

This way, the Opposition will win 63 seats (70.1% of the seats) and be able to form a new coalition government which will then be able to implement new policies to finally protect Singaporeans.

– Do you want your wages to increase?
– Do you want the government to increase its health expenditure so that healthcare will become truly affordable to Singaporeans?
– Do you want education to be free to protect your children’s future (instead of the PAP giving $400 million every year to foreign students)
– Do you want the government to provide unemployment benefits for the many Singaporeans who have become unemployed today (because the PAP did not enact policies to protect the jobs of Singaporeans)
– Do you want the government to implement an old-age pension to protect your parents and your own retirement?
– Do you want the government to #ReturnOurCPF?
– Do you want the government to be transparent and accountable to Singaporeans, to let us know what they have been taking our money to use?
– Do you want to stop the PAP’s use of the law to persecute our children unfairly?
– Do you want to stop the PAP from abusing power further?

Then #VoteOpposition #VoteforYourFuture

Vote for a new government to protect your future, and your children’s future. Vote for a new government for Singapore’s future. For our country’s future. For our home.

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Apology and Undertaking to Lee Hsien Loong

I, Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, republish this apology on my blog, in recognition of having published Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Demand Letter to me, on my blog, which included links to the Article on my blog, links to the Article on my Facebook page and on The Heart Truths’ Facebook page, and links to the other websites as stated in Paragraph 11 of the Demand Letter. I have since removed the above-mentioned portions from the article where the Demand Letter can be found and have republished this apology on my blog again. As I had explained in court, I did not realise that there were links inside the Demand Letter which would lead to the Article, and the related links and republication. (The Article was published online from 15 May 2014 to 21 May 2014. The Demand Letter was published from 19 May 2014 henceforth.) It was never my intention to defame the Singapore Prime Minister and I hope that by voluntarily republishing this apology on my blog, that I can show my sincerity to the Singapore Prime Minister. Thank you. 

1.On or around 15 May 2014, I, Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, published on my blog (at http://thehearttruths.com/), an article entitled“Where your CPF Money Is Going: Learning From The City Harvest Trial” (the “Article”). I also published links to the Article on my Facebook page (at https://www.facebook.com/sexiespider) and on The Heart Truths’ Facebook page (athttps://www.facebook.com/pages/I-want-the-government-and-people-to-work-together-for-Singapores-future/185331834935656).

2.I recognise that the Article means and is understood to mean that Mr Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore and Chairman of GIC, is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the Central Provident Fund.

3.I admit and acknowledge that this allegation is false and completely without foundation.

4.I unreservedly apologise to Mr Lee Hsien Loong for the distress and embarrassment caused to him by this allegation.

5.I have removed the Article and the links to the Article and undertake not to make any further allegations to the same or similar effect.

Tomorrow, My Hearing with the Singapore Prime Minister Begins for the Defamation Suit

Free Amos Yee Return Our CPF

Hello everyone, I will be busy with my defamation suit for the next 3 days.

I will be at the hearing with the Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, to decide how much I have to pay him.

(The prime minister has filed for the defamation suit in the High Court which oversees cases of more than S$250,000.)

The hearing will be held from 1 to 3 July, from Wednesday to Friday, from 10am everyday at Court 4D. It will be an open trial.

I won’t be able to post as many updates on Amos Yee due to this.

Do keep up with the advocacy.

There will be an event of solidarity for Amos tomorrow in Penang in Malaysia.

Earlier today, the people in Hong Kong held a protest outside the Consulate-General of the Republic of Singapore, and last Friday, the Taiwanese also did it outside the Singapore Trade office in Taipei.

They have submitted their protest to the official government overseas missions.

We must continue to speak up against the wrongful persecution of Amos Yee.

He has to be released.

And we must continue to speak up so that the citizens of Singapore can be protected.

Today, Singaporeans earn one of the lowest wages among the highest-income countries while the ministers earn the highest salaries in the world.

Yet, the Singapore government also spends the least on healthcare, education and social protection on Singaporeans among the developed countries, as a percentage of GDP.

The government also takes the CPF pension funds of Singaporeans to earn in the two government investment firms, GIC and Temasek Holdings.

But where the GIC and Temasek Holdings have become among the 11 richest sovereign wealth funds in the world on the back of Singaporeans’ pension funds, Singaporeans’ own pension funds have instead become one of the least adequate in the world.

So much so that Singaporeans have to pay the most in the world, for out-of-pocket expenditure for healthcare and for university tuition fees and it is estimated that 30% of Singaporeans are living in poverty today.

It is wrong that our elderly Singaporeans are unable to retire today, because they have not been paid enough in wages, and are not given back the returns on their pension funds.

It is wrong that low- and lower middle-income Singaporeans are unable to make ends meet today, because the government refuses to implement a minimum wage to increase their wages and allow them to have enough to use.

It is wrong that our children are unfairly persecuted just for criticising a man whom the government is trying to protect.

It is wrong when our children and ordinary citizens are being persecuted when those close to the ruling party are allowed to go scot-free.

We cannot allow such abuse of power to continue, to threaten the very lives of the citizens.

We cannot allow such unfairness and inequality to persist in our society.

We have to fight back and take a stand.

#FreeAmosYee #ReturnOurCPF

Lee Hsien Loong vs Roy Ngerng Yi Ling Defamation Suit Assessment of Damages

Leong Sze Hian: What are Roy Ngerng’s Questions about the CPF?

CPF GIC Temasek Holdings Transparency and Accountability

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Singapore Blogger Faces ‘Financial Ruin’” (Forbes, Jun 24).

It states that “The blogger now fears the court will deal him a financial punishment from which he may not be able to recover, according to a statement by Committee to Protect Journalists.”

I understand that Roy Ngerng’s court hearing for the assessment of damages on the defamation suit against him (already decided by summary judgement) shall be from 1 to 3 July.

As I have written a few hundred articles, letters published in the newspapers’ forum pages, gave presentations and talks (some of which are on YouTube), etc, in the last decade or so – I thought that it may be interesting and in the public interest, to try to summarise some of the questions on CPF that Roy Ngerng and others have been asking.

  • What is the historical weighted average interest rate per annum of all the different CPF accounts, namely the Ordinary, Special, Medisave and Retirement accounts?
  • What is the GIC’s annualised return from its inception in S$ terms?
  • Is there any other country in the world that keeps so much of the returns from the national pension fund – from the people?
  • Is it true that since 1999, the CPF had the lowest real rate of return amongst all national pension schemes in the world?

If we assume the weighted average CPF interest rate to be 3.5%, and the GIC’s annualised returns from its inception to be 6.5% – it has been calculated that a Singaporean earning $1,000 at age 21 at the current 37% CPF contribution rate, and his salary increasing at 4% per annum – may have lost more than $1 million by age 65, because of the difference in the interest rate. How do Singaporeans feel about this?

Low Thia Kiang Ng Eng Hen GIC CPF

The Finance Minister in a Parliamentary reply in May said that only the GIC managed CPF funds. So, why is that that In 2007, when MP Low Thia Kiang asked, “I would like to seek clarifications from the Minister. Does the GIC use money derived from CPF to invest?” –

Then Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen said, “The answer is no”?

Screenshot (45)

And also why did former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew say in 2001, when he was the chairman of GIC, that “I want to clarify that there is no direct link between the GIC and the CPF.”. The Straits Times carried an article headlined, “GIC does not use CPF funds: SM Lee”?

Then Minister for Labour and Communications Ong Teng Cheong said in 1982 that, “CPF savings form a large portion of Singapore’s savings. These savings are used for capital formation which means the construction of new factories, installation of new plant and equipment, expansion of infrastructure such as roads,’ ports and telecommunications, the building of houses and so on”. Temasek has an annualised return of 16% per annum. Since state companies like SingTel were built with CPF funds and were transferred to Temasek – how can the Finance Minister say that “No. It (Temasek) has never managed CPF funds”?

According to the article “Singapore’s GIC Suffers $41.6 Billion Loss” (The Wall Street Journal, 30 Sep, 2009) – “Government of Singapore Investment Corp. suffered a loss of about 59 billion Singapore dollars (US$41.60 billion) in the fiscal year ended March 31, making it one of the worst years for the sovereign wealth fund since it was started in 1981, people familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

One person said GIC’s portfolio currently stands at around S$265 billion after drops in equity investments and property valuations. GIC, which doesn’t disclose the value of its portfolio or amounts of yearly gains or losses, said in its annual report that its portfolio lost more than 20% in value in the latest fiscal year.”

So, if we add Temasek’s “negative Annual Wealth Added of $68.1 billion in 2009″ to GIC’s estimated loss of $59 billion in 2008/2009 – does it mean that we may have lost about $127 billion?

To put this amount in perspective, does it mean that we may have lost more than double our total Government spending in a year (2008) or about 84 per cent of our total CPF funds then of $151.3 billion in 2008 (CPF Trends, October 2013) in just one year?

Singapore’s total sum of foreign reserves is secret. Some of the reasons given as to why Singapore’s foreign reserves cannot be transparent were:

  • Singapore’s Minister of State for Finance: “You asked how much reserves we have. I’m sorry – I am not able to give you that answer. There are many, many people who are interested in how much we have. It has nothing to do with not wanting Singaporeans to know. It’s only if we go public with you, a lot of other people will know”. (March 15, 2008)
  • Singapore’s finance minister: “People do want to know, there is curiosity, it is a matter of public interest. That is not sufficient reason that there is curiosity and interest that you want to disclose information” ( August 18, 2009).
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Next Week, I will Face the Singapore Prime Minister in Court for the Defamation Suit

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Hello everyone, next week is the hearing for the defamation suit that I am currently facing from the Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The hearing will be held from 1 to 3 July, at 10am everyday, at the Supreme Court, at Court 4D.

The hearing will be an open trial. It is open to the public.

The hearing will be to determine how much I would have to pay the prime minister. The prime minister has filed for the suit in the High Court which oversees cases of more than $250,000, so this is at least how much I might be expected to pay him.

It is with a heavy heart that I go into the trial.

I still believe that there are better ways to allow us to manage this issue.

My intention has never been to defame the prime minister. It has always been to fight for the CPF (Central Provident Fund), the pension funds of Singaporeans.

As such, I am taking this picture to affirm my stand.

#ReturnOurCPF

For the past one year since I got sued, I have written about 100 articles to raise further awareness on how the Singapore government is using the CPF pension funds of Singaporeans to earn and not return it. I have written more than 200 articles on the CPF since I started the blog in 2012.

If you would like to support the fight or to ask the Singapore government to #ReturnOurCPF, you can also take a picture of yourself and send them to me at my Facebook at Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, to The Heart Truths Facebook page or to my email at royngerng@gmail.com.

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When I first started writing about the CPF three years ago, I was concerned about how Singaporeans’ CPF is being used by the government.

There were many rumours that the CPF is invested in the GIC and Temasek Holdings but no one really had the facts to know for sure.

Worse still, over the last decade or so, more and more elderly Singaporeans simply could not save enough inside their CPF and could not meet the CPF Minimum Sum, and could not retire.

The sight of seeing so many elderly Singaporeans work at the hawker centres and toilets as cleaners, and on the roads as cardboard starting becoming a common sight.

How do you help them, really, unless we are able to change the policies to increase their CPF, so as to enable them to be able to retire?

Finally, early this year, the government amended the CPF policy ever so slightly. For elderly Singaporeans, aged 55 and above, they would receive 6% in interest on (only) the first $30,000 of their CPF.

For elderly Singaporeans aged 65 and above, they would receive $300 to $750 every 3 months, but this is only for lower-income Singaporeans, and only if they are eligible.

On the surface, it looked like there were finally changes.

But the PAP hasn’t fundamentally reformed the CPF.

For all Singaporeans, the CPF interest rate is still just between 2.5% to 4% – still the lowest in the world among pension funds. Also, the CPF Minimum Sum underwent a name change to the Full Retirement Sum, but it will continue to increase every year, trapping more of Singaporeans’ CPF inside. This year, it was increased to $161,000.

Also, $300 to $750 given out only once every 3 months is actually just only $100 to $250 every month, which is clearly too little to support the needs of the elderly.

In short, the CPF has not fundamentally changed.

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A few days ago, I met a person who volunteers at the PAP’s Meet-the-People’s sessions.

“But if the CPF is not given to the GIC to use, then the GIC would have much lesser assets,” he said.

Yes, but the CPF monies are the people’s retirement funds.

You cannot take the people’s money and not tell them how you use it, I told him. The GIC has no transparent reporting.

Worse still, when Singaporeans are unable to save enough to retire today, it is even more unreasonable to want to continue to take their money to let the GIC and Temasek Holdings earn.

The CPF monies are hard-earned money which belong to Singaporeans and need to be returned to Singaporeans.

“But where will the money for the GIC come from then,” he asked.

Do you know the government has $20 to $30 billion in surplus, or more, that it does not declare to Singaporeans every year? This money can (and actually is) being invested in the GIC and reserves.

In fact, the Reform’s Party’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam has calculated that the government has accumulated surpluses of a total of more than $300 billion since 1999.

But the government does not report the majority of these surpluses to Singaporeans.

So, it’s not just the CPF. It’s also the tax revenue that the PAP takes from Singaporeans but does not return.

Where has our money gone?

Look, plainly, the CPF is Singaporeans’ retirement savings. You cannot route it somewhere else to earn from it, and not let Singaporeans know where our money is going, or not return it.

The CPF should be invested as it is – with the CPF, whatever returns it earns, whatever is given back to the people (minus the administrative charges). Singaporeans should have the right to decide how the CPF is invested and how it is used, I told him.

The CPF is the people’s money.

The GIC can take whatever tax revenue and surplus to invest and earn. Not the CPF.

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But he said, the government implements the CPF Minimum Sum to ensure that Singaporeans would have enough to retire on.

No, I told him. If you really want to increase people’s retirement funds, you increase the CPF interest rates. Once you do that, everyone will be able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum, every Singaporean would have enough to retire on, and they would be able to withdraw their CPF.

You won’t even need to put in a CPF Minimum Sum.

You increase their wages, then they would be able to set aside more into their CPF, and be able to save enough to retire.

But the government doesn’t want to do that, I told him. Wages have been depressed for the past 10 to 20 years and the CPF interest rates have been depressed to 2.5% and 4% since 1999.

The government keeps increasing the CPF Minimum Sum without increasing wages and the CPF interest rates. How then are Singaporeans expected to be able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum?

They would not be able to, I told him.

If so, it looks like the PAP does not want Singaporeans to meet the CPF Minimum Sum, does it?

If the solution is to increase wages and the CPF interest rates, why would the PAP not do it but increase the CPF Minimum Sum to lock up Singaporeans’ CPF instead?

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But do you know many poor people come to the Meet-the-People’s sessions and they would beg for money, he said.

But do you know why they have to do that, I asked him back.

They are too poor. Do you know that poverty is estimated to be 30% in Singapore? 30% of Singaporeans simply cannot earn enough to even spend on basic necessities.

Do you know that research has shown that when people are forced to live in poverty, their brains shrink as they are forced to spend too much time thinking about how to make ends meet. They are then forced to beg for money because they simply are not allowed to earn enough, to have enough to use.

By not paying people enough, we are crippling them!

The PAP knows this, I told him. The PAP knows that people are not earning enough. The PAP can implement a minimum wage to reduce the poverty rate in Singapore, but why doesn’t it want to do so?

Why does it want Singaporeans to beg them, I asked him.

And do you know that research has also shown that where the poor are given more money, they would invest the money in the education of their children, social mobility will increase, and their children will be able to find better jobs and move up the social ladder?

Research has shown all these, I told him.

You don’t want people to keep begging for money at the Meet-the-People’s sessions, the solution is very simply.

Implement minimum wage.

But you have to pay people what they are worth, he said.

How do you determine how much people are worth, I asked him.

Do you think it is right that the PAP ministers earn millions of dollars but pay cleaners only $1,000 a month?

If the PAP so claims that Singapore is in a precarious situation, then shouldn’t they reduce their own salaries? If they don’t, then why don’t they increase the wages of Singaporeans?

I told him, if the government did not increase costs to such an extent, today, minimum wage could be $1,500 and many Singaporeans would be able to benefit.

But as it is, the PAP tells Singaporeans, you cannot be a First World country without having First World costs.

Why then does Singapore have Third World wages, I asked him.

Also, the PAP keeps increasing rents, and then tell Singaporeans it cannot increase our wages because of rising costs.

But when rents increase, who does the profit go to? Who benefits? – the high-income earners, the PAP among them since their salaries are pegged to the high-income earners, and because those who are affiliated to the PAP also controls the largest companies in Singapore.

But do you think it is fair that the PAP pays themselves millions of dollars but refuse to implement minimum wage for Singaporeans? Do you think it is fair that the PAP would not increase health and education expenditure for Singaporeans, I asked him.

Look, I told him, it is very simply. Implement minimum wage, increase health and education expenditure, increase the CPF interest rates and increase social protection expenditure, and the poor and even middle income will be uplifted, I told him.

The solutions are simple. But why won’t the PAP do it?

As it is, the PAP spends the lowest on healthcare and education among the developed countries.

Meanwhile, the PAP also makes Singaporeans pay more than $70 billion in the Medisave but only lets us use less than 1.5% of it every year.

Where has the rest of the money gone?

And not only that, productivity has been negative for the past 4 years. Do you know why, I asked him.

Wages have been so low, working hours so long, how do you expect productivity to increase? And this is why we are seeing what we are seeing today.

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The man I spoke to has a good heart. He believes in reaching out to others, and that’s why he’s volunteering at the Meet-the-People’s sessions.

But I’ve met others like him who volunteer at these sessions, and some who eventually stop doing so.

A friend who had helped out before felt that the PAP does not really care about helping the poor. They keep giving out NTUC vouchers but this is not what I want to do, he told me. I thought that I could really help the poor and that’s why I volunteered, he said.

But he stopped after a while. He doesn’t find it fulfilling volunteering at these sessions. He went to volunteer somewhere else where he could really do good, he felt.

But of course, I might be generalising here.

Yet, I have met another person who was involved with the PAP, working in one of their committees. She too, stopped after a while.

It’s all about making business connections and networking, she told me. This is why people volunteer with the PAP. You get financial benefits and business opportunities.

I haven’t spoken to everyone but this seems to be the general sense I get.

No one is saying that it is wrong to want to benefit from these business connections.

But the PAP is currently the government. A government’s role is supposed to take care of and protect the people.

If the PAP wants to make money, then get out of government.

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But you cannot say that the government is taking the people’s money, the person told me. The money is just sitting in the GIC, he added.

Of course, I told him. But when Singaporeans cannot retire, do you think it is right that the money still sits in the GIC when people do not have enough to retire on, I asked him.

And we are not talking about a GIC which is doing poorly. The GIC has taken Singaporeans’ CPF to do very well, in fact. It is estimated that the GIC has at least $400 billion (of Singaporeans’ money) in assets and that the government has more than $1 trillion in reserves (again, of Singaporeans’ money).

Where has all the money gone?

Why is it not returned to Singaporeans?

Why is it that the money belong to Singaporeans but we do not know where the money has gone to, or even how much of our money there is?

Moreover, the PAP has also tried to hide the information from Singaporeans, that the GIC uses our CPF, I told him.

And the PAP has been trying to hide for the past 15 to 20 years.

Are you sure, he asked me.

So, I told him, in 2001, Lee Kuan Yew said, “there is no direct link between the GIC and the CPF”.

In 2006, Lee Kuan Yew also said, “there is no connection between GIC’s rate of return and the interest paid on CPF accounts”.

In 2007, the Worker’s Party’s Low Thia Kiang asked, “Does the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) use money derived from the CPF to invest?”

But then-Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen also said, “The answer is no.”

What’s more, do you know that it was only after I was sued last year, that the PAP admitted for the first time that the CPF is invested in the GIC, I told him.

Not only that, before that I managed to trace on several government websites how the PAP took our CPF to invest in government bonds, which they take to invest in the reserves.

But do you know after I wrote about this, the PAP then took down the PDF document where I found this information from, deleted the words, “in reserves”, and then uploaded a new PDF document onto a new link, so that Singaporeans wouldn’t be able to know that the bonds are invested in the reserves?

Also, I managed to trace that the reserves are managed by the GIC, Temasek Holdings and the Monetary Authority of Singapore on the Ministry of Finance’s website.

But do you know the PAP then changed the information so that you would not be able to know who actually manages the reserves?

I showed him the before and after screenshots that I took.

He stared at them for a while.

And then he realised that I wasn’t just rambling.

I had evidence to prove what I was saying.

But how many people would believe me?

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Another friend then asked me, have you tried speaking to the civil servants or academics?

But I told her, how many of them would want to speak to me?

When you have a good job, good pay, and when you are within the system, why would you believe what I say?

Truth is, I told her, the many people who come to our protests – more than 10,000 people came to our 4 #ReturnOurCPF protests last year – and those who think alike are people who have lost their jobs, their homes, or who cannot retire or pay for their healthcare bills. Only then would they finally realise the reality of what things are like in Singapore.

Only when you do not have enough to retire on, and when you have to pay tens of thousands in hospitals bills, and when you have to give up your home and become unemployed and struggling, and when you cannot put food on the table, only then will you finally realise the system cripples you.

Only then will you realise what the PAP has been doing to Singapore, and how the PAP does not care for Singaporeans – and there is an estimated 30% of Singaporeans living in poverty today, and this is increasing.

But if you have not suffered, you won’t know it. You won’t feel it. And even then, when you are rich, Singapore is a wonderland for the rich, you won’t feel the pinch, not like the rest of us do.

And when you are an academic or a civil servant and you have seen what happened to those who have spoken up, would you do the same?

Or if you have a high paying job, would you want to threaten your rice bowl, I asked her?

Even if someone is not aware of all these, when we have learnt to conform in our thinking to think along the lines of how the PAP tries to get us to think or when we have learnt not to challenge them, how many of us can be truly aware of what is really going on?

Truth is, how many people understand the plight of the poorest 30% in Singapore, and the middle income after them – and a middle income class which is shrinking?

This is really why I write and why I try to shed light on the issues.

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I have always been concerned about wages, retirement, healthcare and education, because these are things that a government has a responsibility over its people for. And this is why I write about them.

But I have never intended to defame the prime minister, nor would I want to or will ever do. It’s simply against my principles to do that to anyone. I do not know the prime minister personally, nor do I take anything personally against the prime minister.

But if the prime minister feels distressed and embarrassed because of what I had wrote, I do sincerely apologise. I do not believe in causing hurt to another person, personally.

My intention has always been to speak up for Singaporeans, and to advocate for a government that will protect Singaporeans.

As such, yes, I advocate for a new government. I believe that it is time we remove the PAP from power.

Perhaps some within the PAP may feel threatened by me, by such a call. Or some among them would hold me with disdain.

But my belief is simple. If you have taken care of the people, people would continue to support you. Once you stop taking care of the people, the people will know and they will want you to go.

The PAP has stopped taking care of Singaporeans. Their profit and business-oriented motives only mean that they would want to keep earning more and more from Singaporeans and allowing themselves to get rich.

And this means also taking from Singaporeans’ CPF.

I cannot agree with that. As such, I believe we need to Vote Opposition. We need to vote for a new government. We need to vote for change, and for our future.

The PAP may not like this but it is nothing personal, I can only wish they can understand that. But I understand why they wouldn’t.

For them, power and money is at stake.

But my concern is for Singaporeans. At the end of the day, if things improve for Singaporeans, and for our fellow people, that is all that matters.

I wish I do not have to go to court to settle the matter next week.

But I have been found to have defamed the prime minister by the court. It has never been my intention, and never will be.

But I have to accept the consequences, for also speaking up in Singapore.

I can only wish that in time to come, we can see change. Then hopefully, we will see opportunities for us to make things for the better.

The hearing next week is in open court. It is open to the public.

I hope that things will go well. I would like to thank my lawyer, George Hwang, and his team of interns who have been extremely helpful and supportive of me.

I would like to thank them and am deeply appreciative of the work that they have done for me.

No matter what happens, you only live your life once. You can only answer to yourself.

At the end of the day, I believe that I have to be honest with myself and to be true to myself.

And that’s all that really matters.

May things change for the better.

#ReturnOurCPF