Discussion on Singapore Population White Paper 2013: Part 8

The 6.9 million population figure – behind all that rhetoric, the government says that we need 6.9 million people in Singapore so that Singaporeans can have a better life. Immediately, any sensible person can tell that this doesn’t quite make sense. How does having more people on this tiny island allow us to have a better life? Even the government is tripping themselves over trying to create logic behind what is essentially illogical.

The real reason? The fundamental reason we need 6.9 million people in Singapore – our government has babied the businesses in Singapore so much that businesses in Singapore expect that to grow in Singapore, the ONLY solution that they have is to get more people in. But hold on a minute! Whose Singapore is this? Does Singapore belong to the businesses or does Singapore belong to Singaporeans?

You see, essentially, the government gave itself two choices – should we pander Singapore to the needs of businesses or should we pander to the needs of Singaporeans? If we pander to businesses, we get more money. If we pander to Singaporeans, we get more love, commitment, passion – huh? OK, let’s get the money in. Let’s make Singapore a business haven. And so, the government has decided.

In a statement that the Singapore Business Federation (SPF) released, they had said that, “The population projections in the Population White Paper are already tough for companies. It is unthinkable if Singaporeans choose to further limit immigration and the number of foreign workers. This will damage our competitiveness and Singapore will lose its shine.” According to the Today newspaper, “THe SBF’s chief executive officer Mr Ho Meng Kit said: “There are many sectors in Singapore which are unattractive to locals for example construction companies.”

And the SBF’s solution? More workers. 7 million in 2030. Even Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office S Iswaran asked Mr Gerald Giam from the Worker’s Party (WP) if, “the WP (would) still advocate zero growth in foreign labour if it means construction and other sectors are unable to hire Singaporeans for the job.” In response, “Mr Giam said he believed Singaporeans could be attracted to various sectors “if wages are raised and if there’s proper retraining (for) workers” and that “one area that is a very important way of increasing the labour force participation rate is to raise wages.”

I think Mr Giam hit the jackpot. With a cost of living that’s increasingly priced beyond the reach of a $1,000 salary, or even a $1,200 or $1,300 salary, many Singaporeans would prospect to find a job that can accord them a standard of living that is at least manageable, or decent. This is something that most of our PAP MPs who earn at least $15,000 monthly would not understand or can even empathise with.

The problem with Singapore is this – we’ve allowed businesses to become so embolden that they think that whatever they want, they get away with. No minimum wage policy. No anti-discrimination laws. The government has pandered so much to them that at this tipping point, the businesses are angry and the government is like toothless nannies trying to put the businesses back into their cots, while asking the Singaporean maid and manservant to work harder and do more so that our businesses can be happy in a country where the people has lost their right to their country. It doesn’t help that, by some estimates, the Singapore government owns possibly 60%, or even more of the Singapore economy, which is the very reason why they are pro-business, in the first place.

A responsible government would tell the businesses to hold their horses, to remember their place in Singapore, and to restructure themselves so that they will continue to grow, even with a stabilising population in Singapore. A responsible government will look out for the people’s needs and welfare, first and foremost, before allowing businesses to trample all over them. By 2030 (chart below), Finland expects to grow their population by 3.9%, from 5.2 million to 5.4 million. Denmark expects their population to grow by 5.6% from 5.4 million to 5.7 million. Even Norway expects their population to grow by only 17.4% from 4.6 million to 5.4 million. Singapore? We want to grow by 30.2%, from 5.3 million to 6.9 million. By our government’s logic and by the SBF’s logic, the Nordic countries will all fail and collapse in 2030. But the Nordic countries have acknowledged what the problem is and how they need to resolve it – they need to reform their labour market.

Denmark Projected Population 2030

SPF’s Mr Ho had said that, “If businesses go under, jobs will be lost, Singaporeans will be affected. If businesses cannot raise productivity and sustain profits, they cannot afford to pay Singaporeans higher salaries.” Mr Ho got it right there – “if businesses cannot raise productivity”. I don’t get Mr Ho. So, he believes that the more people Singapore gets, the higher our productivity will be? Mathematically, this doesn’t make sense. The more the people, the lower the productivity. If the company wants to become productive, it will restructure itself, employ the same number or lesser number of people, and find ways to become more efficient in their work processes. Then, they will become more productive. 

Increasing the number of people is a lazy way of resolving an issue that businesses in Singapore have come to take for granted in Singapore. The reason why businesses want to come to Singapore? Cheap labour. All your problems are solved by hiring cheap labour. No need to think about new ways of doing things. In the long term? Lower productivity. Because there’s no innovation, no need to think differently, or work differently. More people = lower productivity. The chronic problem of Singapore’s low productivity? An unwillingness to think of new methods but relying on labour, and increasingly relatively cheaper labour to solve all problems.

But what the government doesn’t seemed to have linked is this – businesses are only in any one city for short term interests. There are many cities in this world but there is only one Singapore. Once Singapore becomes irrelevant, businesses can always set up shop in another city. But once Singapore closes shop, Singaporeans have no where else to go but Singapore. Do you want to put businesses first? Or do you want to put Singaporeans first? Who will stay in your country for the long haul? If there isn’t a core citizenry population, who will be your permanent workforce that you need your economy to be rooted in?

Already, at this point, we seem to have come to a breaking point for Singapore’s future. If we do not increase the number of workers in Singapore, businesses are threatening to leave. So, what should we do? 7 million workers in Singapore in 2030. 8 million in 2040? 9 million in 2050? and 10 million in 2060? Is that what businesses want? More and more people, regardless of how the people living here will actually feel? Looks like it. Why, because they think that Singapore is just a city. People come, people go. Who stays here? Well, by 2060, the 20% or so Singaporeans who are still around.

Like Mr Gerald Giam had said at parliament yesterday, “Global cities attract many young migrants from their hinterlands and around the world. Even though their fertility rates are low, their populations continue to increase through immigration. But it is expensive to live in a global city. Many cannot afford to live in such expensive places upon retirement, so they move to other parts of their country with lower costs of living. Will our retirees have such options when they are too old to work, since Singapore does not have any hinterland to speak of?”

Again, Mr Giam has hit the jackpot. How do you want to value your people? How do you want to make Singapore a home, and not just a company? If you look at the countries which have more than 50% of foreigners in their population, you will see that most of them are in the Middle East – Qatar (25%), the United Arab Emirates (30%) and Kuwait (40%). Now, if you truly value your citizens as the core of the country, then you take care of them first before you take care of the businesses. Again, who will be in the country for the long haul? In all these three countries, their measures are almost all the same – free housing, free education, almost free or cheap healthcare and an almost guarantee to a high income in your own country. Indeed, Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, had stated that, “We have a firm belief that a leading position for our emirate and nation can only be achieved in association with an appropriate addressing of national issues and aspirations as a basic theme of our development plans. In this regard, our wise leadership will make every effort to provide integrated development and welfare for our future generations in the educational, medical and social fields that reflect favorably on our country’s development.”

Am I saying that we should provide everything for free in Singapore? Perhaps not. Granted that these Middle Eastern countries have their own human rights transgressions, but what they have in common is a focus on the social welfare, at least in terms of very generous financing of their people. You see, if you want to make money off your country, you make sure your people enjoy the wealth with you, so that they will learn to stay in this country with you for the long haul. This is all the more important when they become less than 50% of the population. According to Ms Sylvia Lim, Chairman of WP, by their estimates, in 2030, there will be less than 50% who will be born in Singapore. What is there for them to want to stay in Singapore if they continue to be treated like workers in an economy where their rights and social welfare rights aren’t observed? What is there for them to want to stay when there are other countries which will treat them better?

Which is why it concerns me when at the parliamentary debate, how the discussion on promoting parenthood is panning out. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu, had “stressed that “encouraging marriage and parenthood is fundamental to ensuring a strong Singaporean core, and this is central to our population policies”.” But what is the Singaporean core? According to Ms Fu, “a strong Singaporean core is one where Singaporeans have a sense of well-being and belonging in a place where we can all call ‘home’ … Well-being comes both from the tangibles — having fulfilling jobs and a good quality living environment — as well as the intangibles — strong supportive families, values that connect us and a collective hope for a brighter future.” It’s very easy to pay lip-service to these ideals but in which of her definitions of well-being does Ms Fu expects Singaporeans to feel as she does? The very definitions of “well-being” that she has fashioned is precisely what Singaporeans are saying they are not currently and would not be able to enjoy by 2030 – “a good quality environment and values that connect us and a collective hope for a brighter future.” I am not sure if Ms Fu actually understands the concerns of Singaporeans or if she has become so detached that she can no longer connect with the rest of us, the real Singaporean core.

I reiterate, as I have in many of my articles, that if the government is truly sincere about increasing the fertility rate in Singapore, it needs to reduce work hours, ensure work-life balance truly, allow Singaporeans to feel that they have an ownership in their own lives and in the country, by allowing for them to express themselves and offer solutions to the country, and by feeling that they are not just workers in the Singapore factory, but people in their own home. Indeed, Ms Lim has also mentioned in her speech in parliament that, “The Korean government then set explicit hard targets to remove institutional obstacles to boosting TFR. These targets centred on providing institutional support for family life and promoting gender equity within the family. The government tracked hard statistics such as reducing parents’ share of childrearing costs, increasing GDP share of family-related spending, promoting arrangements for mothers to continue working, and even encouraging fathers to share housework.” She had also said that, “The commitment and approach of the Korean government is worth study.” In fact, Mr Faisal of WP had also suggested that, “The Government should commit to reducing the number of working hours to 40 hours a week.”

Is it all that hard to imagine that in order to build a Singaporean core who will be committed to the country, that you put their interests first, value and respect them, so that with that, they will have a stake in the long term future of Singapore, and put their hearts and soul into making Singapore work not only for them, but for the sake of one another and for their children?

Look, our government has gotten it wrong. You do not put the interests of businesses first because their long-term interests isn’t tied to any city. Their interests are tied to wherever can give them the highest profits. You do not let businesses dictate the decisions you make as a government because the businesses care only for monetary growth and they do not care about the people’s needs. You do not create only policies for business viability and none for the rights of the people because if the people feel marginalised, they will lose their motivations to work and contribute. They will not be productive. They will not stay. You do not put the people in second or third place, make them work like horses, and expect them to feel loved by Singapore, to love Singapore, to feel that they have a stake in Singapore, and feel that they are so committed to Singapore that they are willing to produce more babies for the country. You simply do not. Is it so hard to understand? This is logical, practical human psychology. This is common sense. If you are human, your basic human needs and wants will tell you this.

But unfortunately, our government is so blinded by their own power and their own rule, that the principles that they have so attached themselves to – in making money, and more money – have created this bubble that they’ve learnt to live with, that they aren’t able to see the reality of what the other real Singaporeans are feeling. They’ve grown up in a fanciful world they’ve created for their own, where life is all smooth-sailing, where their believe that their policies are unfailing and require only tweaks, that they do not realise how disfranchised the large part of Singaporeans are feeling from the effects of their policies. A government which claims to have foresight, but foresight of only 30% or 35% of the devoted PAP supporters who have voted ardently for them, and the other Singaporeans who feel isolated and cheated by policies which set them back in their own country.

We can debate, but where will this debate go, if PAP continues to live in their own padded world, unaware of how the people are feeling and the moods are swinging. How can PAP continue to ask the people to trust them when the very trust that the people are nested in is no longer built in the same nest that PAP has laid all its eggs in? And that’s why the people have started to put their eggs in another basket, or baskets.

Many have said that PAP needs to change its mindset, but some have given up that PAP can. For the sake of Singapore’s future, it should be hoped for that PAP learns and moulds itself with new ideologies. But when power has ruled the head, and the ego has filled the soul, one wonders if a attachment to the riches of power can allow anyone to find a sane way out of the muddles they’ve created.

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10 comments

  1. Din

    Let’s remember that NTUC labour chief has the mantra “Cheaper, Better, Faster” workforce. The current govt leaders are bankrupt of new solutions or rather any solutions at all. Their mental models of S’pore are stuck to the 70s or 80s era.

  2. James N

    Glad to have read your multi-part discussion. Although, i found myself differing with some of your opinion. It however had been really informative on “why” decisions where made. I reckon most Singaporeans had already known this in their psyche. Hence, the ever inventive coining of money centric terms (pay & pay).
    it really summaries how Singaporean had a naive misinterpretation of how Ruling party’s goal for a better Singapore are in-line and the same. it is as you have pointed out essentially different.
    To the ruling party, Singapore is first and foremost view as a City and as a Country after -similarly Singaporean is view as a Worker first and a citizen after?
    I don’t really see a problem being view this way. There are Good company out there that take care of it’s employee’s welfare. There are however also Company that value low-cost labor over retaining & betterment of employees.
    When Govt’s goals for Singapore for is vastly different from its people. The needs of the people will never be met.
    Thanks again for the write-up. its an awesome read.

    • My Right to Love

      Dear James,

      Actually, as I write, I realised too that Singaporeans actually already do have a good idea of what’s wrong, sometimes they know in detail what it is, and sometimes an inkling. I hope that these articles provide them with more perspectives.

      And I agree too, that a place can function both as a country and as a city and if ruled well, can function with its dual purposes. However, what has occurred in Singapore is that we do not have leaders who understand the philosophies of leadership and the philosophies of the differences in the concept of places, in this illustration on country vs city, and thus they are not able to govern Singapore with a philosophically, socially and politically complex mindset. And thus the current impediments and failures.

      And finally, yes, a government must always remember that it’s role is not to make every decision because it believes it knows everything and what is right. A government’s role should be to always listen, gather feedback and input from all stakeholders, and together with them, formulate ideas, thoughts and policies which are truly representative. These processes are currently stunted in Singapore, and again, thus the failure of governance and thus the current fixture we are now placed in.

      Thanks!

      Roy

  3. Ken Chong

    I beg to differ from what was written in the article.
    1. Why would investors invest in Singapore as we have no natural resources and the cost of operation here is so high. One of the main reasons is the stability of the government and the ease of business operation here, as well as, the excellent infrastructure. Do you think by calling for an anti-government protest is hurting or benefiting Singapore?
    2. Looking at the transformation of our country from the 70s to now where economic improvements for the individual is very evident. How did this come about? Isn’t this the result of economic policies? What the people want is better wages, etc. But how to achieve that? Importantly to continue to attract investments and maintain the current ones. By increasing operating cost will drive them away. Have you consider the pros of having foreign workers in Singapore?
    3. I have personally witnessed the following. A coffee shop wanted to hire a Singaporean to work and the salary is 1200 and the starting hour is 6am. The Singaporean asked for 1500 and the starting hour is 8am. A Chinese national quickly secured the job at 1200 and starting hour at 6am. Don;t you think that Singaporeans should be more hardworking instead of asking for more and at the same time complaining more? I think the formula to success is to wake up to reality around the world (financially and politically) and be more hardworking and productive.
    4. Without flourishment of businesses, do you think the people will get good salary and be happy? I sincerely doubt so.
    5. To side track. Concerning the issue of high property cost. For the parents who sold their HDB flats at high price, reaping good profits. Nothing mentioned. After keeping profits, they complain it is expensive for the children to acquire a HDB flat. If they fork out part of their profits to help their children, I am sure the children will have no problem getting one. What is the logic of after pocketing the profits and demand the prices to go down.

    Just my two cents worth. Do comment.

    • My Right to Love

      Dear Ken,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with the idea behind some of your points, but not some of the reasoning. I hope you will be ok with it. Do let me explain.

      1) I agree with you on the reasons why companies choose to invest in Singapore. In fact, according to Novartis, as reported in Today today, Singapore “has other qualities besides a skilled workforce which Novartis is leveraging on, such as its location. In addition, the reliable economic, legal and regulatory structure “safeguards patents and thus creates the environment that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship”. My question though is this – all the top financial centres as I have mentioned are able to allow their citizens to express themselves and to criticise their governments. Has that caused the financial centres to collapse? It has not. So, the question we need to ask is – is the government’s reason to not allow freedom of speech because of economic stability? Or is it because of something else.

      2) I agree with you again on this as well when you had said, “Importantly to continue to attract investments and maintain the current ones. By increasing operating cost will drive them away.” In the next part of my article, you will see that I agree with you. How do we reduce operating cost? Well, businesses are saying they want a reduction in rental. And who controls that? With regards to your question, “Have you consider the pros of having foreign workers in Singapore?”, if you see my trend of discussion, I believe mobility is very important to people. We need migrants because first, we need manpower, but on a more fundamental level, it’s a human right for social mobility to be a right of anyone. Next, why are Singaporeans unhappy with foreigners? The problem isn’t with foreigners. The problem is with the policies that stagnate wages. If the policy doesn’t allow wages to stagnate or even have fair wages, like other developed countries have, will Singaporeans be unhappy? I doubt so. Problem solved. Fundamentally, I don’t think Singaporeans disagree with having foreigners or economic growth. They disagree with the fundamental approach which the government refuses to tackle, and this is something you have to ask the government why.

      3) I had read another commentary by someone else – there are many Singaporeans who are willing to work in the service sector but because the pay doesn’t allow them to have a manageable, or at least basic standard of living, they cannot see it fit for themselves to take on the job. Is it fair to blame Singaporeans for being lazy or wanting to have a higher pay, when the circumstance is that they need to earn enough to survive in an environment which prices them out? I think the answer is clear. Now, my question to you is this – will you take this job of $1,200 which requires you wake up at 6am and work until what time? 10pm?

      4) You mentioned that there are parents who sell their flats at higher prices, so that they can reap profits. You also asked why they do not share their profits with their children. I do not have the statistics, so I cannot comment. But what I can phantom a guess is this – after the parents sell their flats, they do have to purchase another place to live still. This place would cost a lot more than what they had paid for their previous flat. Would they still have enough left, even if they had earned a profit from the sale of the previous flat? Also, in an illustration by someone else on Facebook, he showed that if you use your CPF to pay for your flat, you actually fork out more money to pay for the flat. Again, would you still have enough? Then my question to you is this – aside from housing, when the parents grow old, their CPF doesn’t afford them enough to use because CPF withdrawals have been decreasing since 2001, so they do not have enough from CPF because of lower withdrawals, because their money is used to pay for their flat, and if they are in the low income group, their real wages haven’t increased for more than a decade, they do not have enough savings because their wages haven’t kept pace with inflation, and they have to continue to work as cleaners at hawkers centres and food courts, when South Korean aunties and uncles go trekking on mountains on weekends to keep fit and healthy, instead of have to be forced to work because they do not have enough money, what do you say to that?

      Thanks!

      Roy

  4. Pingback: Discussion on Singapore Population White Paper: Part 10 | The Heart Truths
  5. Ken Chong

    Dear Roy,

    Thanks for your prompt response. I do agree with you on some of the reasons that you have provided but I would still like to clarify a few more points, at the same time, to answer some questions posted by you. 🙂

    1. Pertaining to top financial centres that allow freedom of speech. First, I am for freedom of speech as I too believe that constructive discussions breed innovative and useful ideas which will allow Singapore to grow further. However, I don’t get what do you mean by curbing freedom of speech in Singapore. I think it is a very good idea to get the government to call for a referendum officially (which I have seen several sources of that in action now). However, to call for an ‘anti-government’ protest. Do you think this will be perceived by potential investors as signs of a weakening government. Why must it be ant? It is good to state our stand (not 6.9 million in 2030). There are grounds for negotiations.. why anti-government? Do you think this is actually helpful and segregating the government and the people into 2 camps? Personally, I believe in pressuring the government to hold an official referendum to know exactly the people’s wish. However, before that happens, it is also the duty of the government to explain why 6.9 million (which they are trying to explain) I think ‘anti-government’ initiatives is highly un-called for, as it is not the only expression of the notion of freedom of speech.

    2. Pardon me for my ignorance but are there policies that stagnate wages? Do enlighten me please, As to the control of rental, does the government control rental for commercial buildings that are not owned by the government? Pardon me again because I really do not know of such laws. By allowing migrants to move in or Singaporeans to work overseas is in line with ‘human rights to social mobility’,Isn;t it? Or are you talking about vertical mobility? The frequent complains I heard concerning foreigners are that they have snapped up the jobs that belong to Singaporeans. Are you sure they are happy with foreigners?

    3. I would like to provide an answer to this question. If I have no better qualification and I am in need of a job to survive, I will. How much does an ITE student earn upon graduation? If my educational level is even lower than that then do you think I can get a job which pays me better than them easily? That is why years ago, the government also emphasised on re-training and upgrading of skills to stay relevant and employable. Isn;t the current situation a true reflection of that? It is about supply and demand. If there is a shortage of workers in the service sector and foreigners are not here, the employers will have to raise benefits and salary. So it boils down to availability of foreigners, right? So in line with this scenario, the operating cost will definitely be pushed up and prices will go up and inflation will be worse. Who will the people blame again for inflation – the government of course.

    4. I absolutely agree with you on the decreasing withdrawal of CPF. All the minimum sums actually deprived the retired citizens from leading a life like their Korean counterparts. However, where do our Korean counterparts get their funds for such lifestyle. Do enlighten me on that because I simply can’t figure that out. As to the selling of HDB by parents. If they are selling to upgrade then certainly they have to fork out even more., If they are selling to reap a profit then they probably will stay with their children. If they don;t have an alternative place to stay and they sell their HDB then I really don;t see the logic. Koreans place great emphasis on filial piety and many of them actually stay and take care of their parents. In Singapore, it is a common trend for children to move out to start their own family. In view of that, I find that it is certainly an unfair comparison that you made with regards to this issue.

    5. I am writing to voice out my thoughts and I am not trying to side with any political parties. Do provide feedback and comments for I find such discussions a very good platform to clarify issues and raise workable solutions.

    Ken

    • My Right to Love

      Dear Ken,

      Thank you for your reply again. Here are my thoughts:

      1a) What I mean by the curbing of freedom of speech is this – public peaceful demonstrations are not allowed in Singapore, except at the Hong Lim Park. The government’s strategy has been to concentrate demonstrations there and provide minimal coverage, which is the pseudo allowance of peaceful demonstrations. Is it any surprise why it is hardly used for any protests? Also, the only time Singapore has ever had a referendum was in 1963, before Singapore’s independence. The government is unlikely to allow for any referendums in Singapore. Freedom of speech, public demonstrations and referendums are cornerstones of democracy. As much as this government styles themselves on the democratic practices of elections, this is as far as they would go. They would then rig the electoral system to enact barriers to prevent the opposition from participating. By doing so, the pseudo form of democratic elections has allowed them to be maintained in power. This, by preventing other elements of democracy – demonstrations and referendums – means the government can effectively consolidate their rule. Look, realistically, a referendum will never be allowed in Singapore, as long as PAP is in power and there is not enough representation in parliament to speak up for the people, and the only way to do so is by way of elections, and the government has effectively streamlined our rights to only this.

      1b) Am I asking for an ‘anti-government’ protest? No. No where in any of my articles have I ever suggested that we should have an anti-government protests. This is not helpful nor useful at all for Singapore nor Singaporeans. The government is not the problem. PAP is. But is it wise to ask PAP to step down? No. We need a steady and smooth transition of power, and this can only be done through the elections.

      1c) Also, do you understand why there are currently ‘two camps’ in Singapore, as you would so put? Why do you think the two camps have formed? Do you think that Singaporeans decidedly to neatly divide themselves into two camps? I don’t think Singaporeans have the capability at this point to organise themselves, due to the restrictions abound. But I can tell you how the ‘two camps’ emerged. For more than a decade, the government went on a growth trajectory that marginalised a group of people, and like I have mentioned many times, through reducing the monies returned to the people – by way of CPF, Medisave, our wages, housing prices and COE premium, etc. Because of that, and because of the unwillingness of the government to provide for the social welfare of the people, it marginalised a group of Singaporeans who then stopped aligning themselves to the policies of PAP. Did the people decide not to align because they simply felt like it? No. They stopped aligned because they knew that the policies that PAP were instituting weren’t good for them and any person who knows what is not good for them will not continue to allow themselves to be abused. And so, they started parting ways with PAP. Who created the ‘two camps’? Clearly, PAP did so by way of their governing principles and policies. Now, if PAP had ensured that they took care of all Singaporeans, including this group of Singaporeans, would two camps have appeared? It wouldn’t have. This ‘two-camp’ scenario is a new phenomena in Singapore, which emerged over the past decade, as a response to bad policy making by PAP. Would I blame people to do what is right to prevent themselves from getting hurt? I wouldn’t.

      2a) The government controls 60% of the economy, by way of Temasek Holdings and possibly GIC, two of the investment firms owned by the government. The government owns the major real estate companies, by way of Temasek Holdings. The government owns the transport companies, which determines the rental of the vehicles. The government, by way of the civil service, determine land prices for plots of land. For example, AVA determines the rental for the farms etc. In the 1980s, the government privatised the public service companies, such as the telecommunications, media and transportation industries, and the government has been reaping profits from them, by way of majority investment through Temasek Holdings. How does the government controls rental? The government controls the majority of the companies and agencies which determines how much rental is priced – that’s how. And when companies are at the mercy of the government’s rent seeking behaviour which the government won’t budge on, where else can companies cut costs to increase profits? Wages, they form the next big bulk of costs.

      2b) Also, the government employs more than 100,000 people in the civil service. As mentioned, the government owns 60% of the economy. Effectively, the government employs the majority of workers in Singapore and they get to decide how much wages to pay. They get to set the tone.

      2c) Exactly, mobility should be a basic human right – any form of mobility. Right now, we are living in a Singapore where the bad policies which discriminates foreign workers according to price levels, and also even though the government has tightened the tap for foreign workers, companies are still able to employ foreign workers at lower wages than a Singaporean. There is still incentive for companies not to pay higher wages. Thus we are in a situation where Singaporeans will still be accorded differential treatment and where they weren’t be paid fair wages. Look, Singaporeans have two choices – get angry with the government which has enacted the bad policies or get angry at the by-product of the bad policies. They know they cannot get angry at the government because so what if they did? They can’t change the government. They can’t propose solutions to change the policies, because they government won’t hear them. So, they get angry at the by-product of the policies. They can either get angry with the companies or they can get angry with the foreigners. Simply put, you need to under the human mind. When you need to choose an easy battle, what will you choose? It is easy to get angry at another human person than an organisation. That’s how the human mind works, and that’s where Singapore is now. Like I had said, you change the policies, you make it fair and you make sure your policies treat people fairly, whether they are Singaporeans or foreigners, and you people fair wages. Will there still be people angry at foreigners? Well, there would still be because anywhere, there are people who are always angry because they haven’t looked thoroughly at their lives. But there will be a lot more people who will then not be adversely affected by the bad policies, an wouldn’t have to take their anger or unhappiness out on something or someone else.

      3) Well, look, this is a philosophical question – do you pay people wages according to how economically, they are useful, or not? Or do you pay people wages because of their human worth, because of what we should treat them like, as a human and how we should pay them so that at least they have a decent standard of living? In the world right now, we operate on capitalistic principles, where companies want to profit at all costs and so they will cut costs on wages as much as they can, and that means for jobs which you treat with little respect, you pay them as low the wages as you can. And that’s how Singapore operates. We pay workers according to how economically, they should be treated. Now, look at Australia, the workers are paid $3,000 or $4,000. Look at the Nordic countries. The cleaners are paid $2,000 or more. The bus drivers are paid $2,000 or $4,000. Why are we paying them so much if they should be undervalued? Because in those countries, they respect the right of the people, as people, and not as workers. They know that regardless of your educational level or your status in life, we have to treat you with respect and we will pay you what you need to live a humane life. So, this is it. In Sweden, before taxes, there is a 26% poverty rate. After taxes, the poverty rate is reduced to 5%. Why does the government do it? As a government, you make sure you protect the people. You make sure you protect the people’s rights and their right to live a basic standard of living. And you help to make life easier for them. What does our government do? Our government owns 60% of the economy. They are the businesses and they want their businesses to profit. When you think like that, will you still think about protecting the rights of your people? Something has to give, and the government has decided – the rights of the people have to give.

      3b) Like I say, we need foreigners. Let’s not even call them foreigners. Anywhere in the world, we need people. for innovation, for diversity, for vibrancy, for growth, etc. So, your point is that with more foreigners, the operating costs will go up, and there will be inflation. Well, exactly, the people are saying cut it down! In the Nordic countries, other than Iceland which has only 300,000 people now, all the other countries are looking at very modest growth in their populations by 2030 – on average, not more than 10%. The government wants a 30% increase by 2030. So, exactly, like you say, people are saying, look, we need people but are people the real issue here? We cannot look at people as the main problem when what is the main problem? The problem here is that we need more people, because our productivity is low. Our productivity is low because companies already feel that their profit margin is very low and there is no incentive for them to invest in technology or profits to boost productivity. And why is their profit margin low when salaries are already so low? Rental, and who controls the rental/ Look, if the government lets businesses breathe, businesses can let their workers breathe, and that means higher wages, and businesses will have more incentive to invest in alternate ways of working, and to find competitive ways to increase their revenue and profits. And, like I had said, the government needs to educate people more broadly and in more diverse ways. Then you will create a local population which will be creative and innovative, and they will be the ones driving innovation, and you would not need to rely on a constant overflow of foreigners just to do that. Now, question is again, why is the government unwilling to have a broader education which allows our population to have more critical thinking skills? What do they think that a population which is critically engaged can to do them?

      4) You said it yourself – “If they don;t have an alternative place to stay and they sell their HDB then I really don’t see the logic.” I hardly think that many people sell their flats that often. If they do, they most probably have multiple properties. I have heard of a few people like that, and I don’t think the scenario you presented would suffice, where the parents did not share their money. Now, my comparisons with the Koreans wasn’t on housing, so don’t take that out of context. But I would ask this of you – if the Koreans do place “great emphasis on filial piety”, why do you think Singaporeans do not have as strong cultural values and emotive ties with their community? I have an answer for this. You know what the problem is, so what do you think the solution is?

      Sure, I do welcome your feedback and I find the discussion useful. Many things can be understood in Singapore once you are able to understand the fundamentals behind how the government makes its decisions, and once you are able to understand that, many things fall into place.

      Thanks!

      Roy

  6. Pingback: Discussion on Singapore Population White Paper 2013: Part 13 | The Heart Truths
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