This is my last ditch attempt to share with you the truth about our government’s management of Singapore. I have taken the statistics that I know of and put them together here. I have hyperlinked all the statistics, so you can go into the links to see for yourself the statistics, and understand them.
Please join the dots. If you are not willing to do so, there is not much that I can help you with anymore. We are apparently tops in the world in mathematics. Please don’t let me down.
How Much Are We Really Paying in Taxes?
In 2011, Singaporeans paid a personal income tax of $6,679 million and GST tax of $8,914 million. In 2011, Singaporeans contributed $22,909 million to the CPF. The CPF accumulated assets in 2011 thus far is $209,766 million.
The government claims that they do not want to increase our income tax because we wouldn’t like it, and so they claim that they are unable to increase their spending in social services to benefit Singaporeans. But actually, we are already paying $15,593 million in taxes to the government every year. What the government doesn’t say explicitly is that we are also paying another $22,909 million to CPF – this is 1.5 times more than the taxes that we pay.
Our income tax is between 0% to 20% and the GST tax rate is 7%. This means that between 7% to 27% of the tax produces $15,593 million. If we include the $22,909 million from CPF, this means that we are paying to the government $38,502 million in 2011. Our CPF employee contributions is between 5% to 20%. What this means is that the ‘tax’ we effectively pay is between 12% to 47%, if you add the income tax, GST tax and CPF contributions together.
And if you look at the total CPF accumulated assets, the $209,766 million is 13 times higher than the income and GST tax we pay to the government last year. Where is all this money going? Of this $209,766 million, only $10,436 million is withdrawn by the members (Singaporeans), which represents only 5% of the total CPF assets. Where is the rest of the 95% of our CPF monies going?
What’s more, according to IRAS’s website, Singaporeans have to pay more in income tax in 2012. Do you know that the income tax is only raised for those earning up to $160,000 annually? For the richest in Singapore, the income tax isn’t raised. This is exactly what the Republicans are arguing for in America – to protect the rich. The government raised income tax in 2012, but only for the low and middle income groups.
Up to here, are you still with me? In short, the government says we have a low personal income tax. But actually, if you see what we are really giving our government, the ‘tax’ is a lot higher.
Not only that, taxes were increased but only for the low and middle income groups, and not for the high income earners. Do we have the money for more social spending? I will leave that for you to decide. But, not before I share more with you next.
Where is Our CPF Monies Going?
So, where is the 95% of our CPF monies going, you ask? According to the Ministry of Finance (MOF), “CPF monies are invested in bonds that are issued and guaranteed by the Singapore Government – Singapore Government Securities (SGS) and Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS).”
According to CPF, for the Ordinary Account (OA) “the computed CPF interest rate (is) derived from the major banks’ interest rates for the three-mont6h period, 1 August 2012 to 31 October 2012, worked out to be 0.21% per annum. As this is below the legislated minimum of 2.50% per annum, the OA interest rate for January 2013 to March 2013 will remain unchanged at the legislated minimum of 2.50% per annum.
According to CPF, “savings in the Special, Medisave and Retirement Account (SMRA) have been invested in Special Government Securities (SSGS) which earn an interest rate pegged to the 12-month average yield of 10-year Singapore Government Securities (10YSGS) plus 1%.” The average yield of the 10YSGS from September 2011 to August 2012 is 1.55%. Thus the SMRA interest rate is 1.55% + 1% = 2.55%. But “in view of the continuing uncertainty in the global economy and low interest rate environment, the Government has decided to further extend the 4% floor rate for interest earned on all SMRA monies for another year until 31 December 2013.”
Everything sounds good up to now right? The government helps us to invest our money. And on top of what the prevailing interest rates are, they continue to assure us of a higher interest rate. All sounds well right? Well, explain to me then:
- If our “CPF monies are invested in bonds that are issued and guaranteed by the Singapore Government”, then why is our OA interest rates pegged to the bank’s interest rates and not to the interest rates of these bonds?
- Also, where does the government magically get the additional interest rates to give us? They have to invest our CPF monies elsewhere.
And this is where it all gets tricky, and where they choose to fumble our minds. You actually have to search through a few websites to get the following information.
Where is Our CPF Monies Actually Really Going?
According to MOF, “no Government borrowings are for spending”, “all borrowing proceeds are therefore invested”.
- You actually have to go to another page to understand that this ‘Government borrowings’ is actually from our CPF, where they then say that, “Borrowings are not for spending. Singapore Government Securities (SGS) are issued to develop the domestic debt market and Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS) are non-tradable bonds issued specifically to meet the investment needs of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board.”
- Then, they make you jump to another page before they reveal to you where our CPF monies is actually invested – “All the proceeds from the Government’s borrowing must therefore be invested in reserves … (then they say) The Government’s assets are mainly managed by the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC). The Moneytary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which is a statutory board, manages its own assets. Temasek Holdings (Temasek), which is wholly owned by the Government, also manages its own assets.” Does it sound confusing at this point? Don’t worry, you are not the only one who is confused.
- And then, they divert you to another page. And then it makes more sense: “Our reserves are managed by three agencies – the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), Temasek Holdings (Temasek) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). The Government’s assets, other than its deposits with MAS and its stake in Temasek, are mainly managed by the GIC. The MAS, which is a statutory board, manages its own assets. Temasek, which is wholly owned by the Government, also manages its own assets.
In short, our CPF monies are invested in GIC and Temasek. The CPF website stops short of saying that – it says our CPF monies are invested in government bonds which give low returns. But you have to dig several pages of information before you find out where our CPF monies are really going.
How Much is Our CPF Monies Really Earning?
So, the CPF says that our CPF monies is actually earning only 0.21% for the OA and 1.55% on SMRA?
Not really. Our CPF monies is eventually invested in GIC and Temasek. According to MOF, “the real rate of return on the GIC-managed portfolio, i.e. in excess of global inflation (over the 20 years to 31 March 2012), was 3.9%.” Also, “Temasek’s Total Shareholder Return since inception (1974) was 17% p.a. in SGD terms.” Do you notice that MOF/GIC was quite sneaky – the nominal rate of return for GIC is actually 6.8% but they choose to highlight the real rate of return.
In short, our CPF monies is actually earning an interest of 6.8% and 17% from GIC and Temasek respectively. Why did they tell us that it was only earning 0.21% from the banks and 1.55% from the bonds? So that they can choose not to give us our returns back?
By now, you should be able to see that our government has constructed some half-truths.
Firstly, the government has collected more ‘taxes’ than what they have put out.
Not only that, they have increased taxes for the low to middle income groups but not of high income earners.The government can afford to increase social spending. Why did it not?
Also, the amount of CPF monies collated is actually significantly higher than the taxes collected. The CPF monies is actually earning interest significantly higher than what the government tells us. Why did the government choose to lie to us? Why did it not want us to see clearly how much our CPF monies is actually earning?
What is the truth behind GIC and Temasek that the government wants to hide? The GIC and Temasek are both owned by the government. What does the government want to hide?
The Truth About GIC and Temasek
You should know by now that under Temasek’s portfolio, there are many Singapore-owned companies involved in the management of essential public services, such as in Finance (DBS Group), telecommunications (Mediacorp, Singtel and Starhub (through Singapore Technologies Telemedia)), transportation (Keppel Corporation, NOL, PSA, Sembcorp, ST Engineering, Singapore Airlines, SMRT), electricity (Singapore Power) and real estate (Capitaland, Mapletree), among others.
Do you know that Temasek has total assets of $303 billion – which is about 1.5 times more than our CPF total assets? Do you know that in 2012, Temasek earned a revenue of $83.5 billion and net profit of $10.7 billion?
Do you know that most of the Singapore-owned companies under Temasek also earned millions and billions in revenue and profits?
Here’s the list:
Capitaland ($7.4 billion; $1.1 billion)
DBS Group (Revenue: $7.1 billion; Net profit: $2.6 billion)
Keppel Corporation ($10.1 billion; $1.5 billion)
Mapletree ($574 million; $807 million)
NOL ($9.2 billion; -$474 million)
PSA ($4.3 billion; $1.2 billion)
SATS ($1.7 billion; $185 million)
Singtel ($18.8 billion; $4.0 billion)
Sembcorp ($8.8 billion; $793 million)
Singapore Airlines ($14.9 billion; $336 million)
Singapore Power ($7.8 billion; $893 million)
SMRT ($1.1 billion, $120 million)
Starhub ($2.3 billion; $315 million)
ST Engineering ($6.0 billion; $528 billion)
In total, the companies earn more than $100 billion in revenue and nearly $15 billion in profits. I will not even go into the CEO salaries which runs into the millions. I hope that I do not need to go into how reducing the wages of workers working in these companies and increasing the prices (and fares) of goods and services in these companies will allow the companies to continue to profit from Singaporeans.
Strangely, I am not able to see the portfolio that GIC manages, except to see Lee Kuan Yew’s face on their report. I suppose they think that that would suffice – I mean, you learn not to question anymore when faced with Lee Kuan Yew. Though, according to MOF, “GIC manages well over US$100 billion.” I don’t know what’s with the secrecy, but I no longer buy their reason that, “it is not in our national interest to publish the full size of our reserves. If we do so, it will make it easier for markets to mount speculative attacks on the Singapore dollar during periods of vulnerability.”
Of course, you might say – but you know, the government does use the money from the reserves to provide for us on rainy days. Sure, they might have given back to Singaporeans $7.8 billion through the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC) in FY2010, which MOF says has “has allowed the Government to make further investments for the long term, such as in education, R&D, healthcare and improving our physical environment.” This $7.8 billion is only a puny 0.1% of the possibly more than $600 billion that the government has in the reserves!
To me, the ridiculously high amount of money that they are taking from us, and yet not returning it, signifies that we have a lot more money than we need. Telling us that they cannot give us back the money because of the reserves, and yet paying the management of the companies under their portfolio such high salaries while having billions in revenue and profits, just doesn’t quite gel with how we need to ensure we protect our reserves. If that’s the case, it would seem to me to be common sense that we ensure we put the money back into the reserves instead of into their and their shareholders’ pockets. It just doesn’t sound right anymore.
The veil have lifted over my eyes. I will leave it to your judgment and imagination whether you want to lift the veil over yours.
Up to this point, I hope you understand what I’m trying to get across. The government takes a ridiculous amount of money from us, but claim that they do not have enough to give us back for social spending. Yet, they continue to have enough to increase the profits of the government-linked companies and salaries of the management of these companies. In short, the poor in Singapore can suffer while the rich become richer. We are moreover a capitalistic government afterall, despite how we pretend to be a democracy, or meritocracy, or whatever.
Richest Country in the World But Money No Enough for the People
But it’s fair if they earn that much money and give us back our money anyway, right, you say?
OK, let’s look at what we are getting back.
According the The Wealth Report 2012, Singapore has the highest GDP per capita in the world in 2010. Our GDP per capita is more than S$70,000. Since the government is so rich – they are taking away so much of our money and we now have the highest GDP per capita, that means the government has more to give, right?
According to the World Health Organisation, in 2009, the general government expenditure on health as % of total expenditure on health is 36.1%. This actually went down from 51.4% in 2000. Compare this with countries in a similar economic progress as Singapore and you will get a shock. In South Korea, government expenditure accounts for 58.2% of total expenditure on health, an increase from the 48.6% in 2000. In Australia, government expenditure accounts for 68.0%, up from 66.8%. In Canada, government expenditure accounts for 70.6%, up from 70.4%. In Japan, government expenditure accounts for 82.3%, up from 80.8%.
The richest country in the world damn world, and you have to make your people fork out money from their own pockets like idiots? You are kidding me, right?
Even in the second richest country in the world, in Norway, government expenditure accounts for 84.1%, up from 82.5%. America, which is third, could also increase the government expenditure from 43.2% in 2000 to 47.7% in 2009. And in our so-called poorer neighbouring countries, in Malaysia, government expenditure accounts for 55.7%, and in Thailand, it’s 74.6%.
You are telling me that all the other ‘poorer’ countries in the world can afford to subsidise for the healthcare of their citizens by a much larger proportion than Singapore can, even though we are the richest country in the world?
Remind me again, why are we thumping our chests and letting the world know why we are so proud that we have so much money when the kind of treatment we give to our people is even worse than in third world countries? You are kidding me, right?
You are freaking kidding me, right? Not only could we not pay more than all the other countries which are poorer than us, there was a 15% dip in the proportion that the government is willing to pay. Then why on earth are we paying so much to the government??
Negative Wage Growth and A Quarter of Singaporeans Earning Less than $1,500
At this point, I will throw out a few other statistics to help you make up your mind, or not. It’s up to you.
According to the Global MetroMonitor 2011, which PM Lee Hsien Loong had quoted at a speech to the Economic Society, Singapore registered the lowest income growth rate among 200 countries. In fact, we registered a negative growth, or lack thereof, of -8.9%.
According to the CPF, there are 294,364 Singaporeans earning below $1,000 (or 17% of the Singaporean workers) and 458,617 Singaporeans earning below $1,500 (or 26% of the Singaporean workers). According to the report, “Unmet Social Needs in Singapore“, by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation , “today, there still is no official poverty line but it is identified to be in the range of gross income of $1,500-$1,700 per household per month.” According to the same report, from the General Household Survey 2005, there are between 21,000 and 88,000 that could be “managed single-handedly by single women, single men or divorcees and are residing in smaller HDB flats or earning a per capita income that is below the subsistence level.”
Singapore is the richest country in the world. The government has created an institutionalised system where they are able to take money from us not only from our income and GST taxes, but also from our CPF. We are not told the full extend as to how the CPF monies are used but they are actually invested with high returns, though only a puny amount returns back to us. At the same times, our wages register a negative growth – our wages do not grow but in fact, dip, yet we are made to pay ever increasing prices of goods, and recently, proposed fare increases for transport. Yet, in spite of all this, the government refuses to help Singaporeans foot the ever increasing costs of healthcare. At the same time, the proportionate spending by the government on healthcare has dropped significantly, by 15%, and Singaporeans are made to take on the burden of the exorbitant increase in healthcare costs. 17% of Singaporeans earn below $1,000 every month, and a quarter of Singaporeans earn below $1,500. A minimum of $1,500 is needed for a Singaporean household to survive adequately. How many of these families are actually able to make ends meet? While the rich keep earning more and more, and while their tax rates do not increase, while only the tax rates for those in the low and middle income group increase, the income inequality is only getting higher and higher (Singapore has the second highest income gap between the rich and the poor, as indicated by the Gini coefficient, among the 38 countries with very high human development, according to the 2009 United Nations Development Report). We are the richest country in the world but we cannot, or rather, the government doesn’t want to do what it can to help the people, and at the same time, help the rich get richer, while expecting the poor to makeup for the rich’s increase in their income.
Is this fair? The whole of Singapore has been talking about how unfair the government is towards is people. Are we saying it for fun? Are we saying it because we are just angry people who have nothing better to do but to tear our government apart? Are we crazy lunatics who rant online because we do not know how to be contended?
I am telling you this – the statistics are all online for you to see. See for yourself what the truth is. Yes, I might put this picture together in this article, but there are many other statistics that you can look at. If you are a poor person, you most probably won’t have access to a computer or the Internet on a daily basis and you wouldn’t be able to access this information. For the rest of us who are reading this and reading everything else online, do we have a responsibility to help make the lot of those who are poorer than us better? And the answer is yes. Sure, we can continue to live our lives and blame the poor for not helping themselves, for not picking themselves up and doing something about their lives. Sure, we could do that – are you telling me that all 17% or 26% of the population are useless bums who do not know how else to live their lives except to suck off others? Are you telling me that when the government is subsidising only 36.1% of healthcare costs that we should really blame the poor for not doing something about their lives? The elderly are coming out to work because they do not have enough money in their pockets to make ends meet, and how do we expect them to foot their medical bills? If I am an elderly, I might just choose to die quietly at home. It’s so much easier than to beg the government to give you more when they are so hard-pressed to allow the money they’ve accumulated to be used for anything, other the the betterment of Singaporeans!
Are we crazy to continue to support a government which continues to suck us dry and yet returns puny amounts back to us? This is the richest country in the world, with the highest per capita reserves in the world, and we cannot afford to do better for our people? And yet, every other day, we hear that there are more and more millionaires, and that the income inequality is becoming higher and higher? Are we crazy not to help the poor? Yes, we are – the 60% of you who voted for the PAP. What will you do to ensure the PAP does what it said that it will do?
I am utterly, utterly disappointed with my government. You have enough money and yet you want to make more money. No one is saying stop making the money. What we are saying is – care a bit more for the hearts and minds of those of us who are making this money for you. Do you have no heart at all? Do you? How much more do you want to earn before it’s enough for you? How many more generations of Singaporeans do you want to enslave before it is enough for you? How many more stressed up kids who grow up not knowing how to be happy do you want to create? All because you want money? All because you want to be rich?