PM Lee and Lim Swee Say: Revealing the Truth With Real Statistics

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister without any portfolio Lim Swee Say made some bold claims on May Day this year. (The real reason for not having a named portfolio is because it would be ironic to have a Minister for Unions, wouldn’t it? The government shouldn’t be interfering in union affairs, rightfully!)

A look at the statistics will bulldoze their claims.

Mr Lim laid claim to his famous tagline of how workers should be ‘Cheaper, Better and Faster (CBF)‘. Imagine this coming from the person who is supposed to head the labour union – precisely the person who should be protecting us and helping us fight for higher wages. But no, he wants us to be cheaper. (Dear readers, please also see at the bottom of this article a clarification on Mr Lim’s definition of CBF.)

So, let’s take a look at the statistics to see if Mr Lim’s CBF is statistically sound.

Now, come with me as we go through the following charts. They are very easy to read. I’d written simple, direct statements describing the charts and have linked them up, so that they form a story. Focus on the red bars – these represent where Singapore stand.

Mr Lim says cheaper workers are better. Is that so? In Chart 1, you can see that Singapore workers are paid the lowest wages in the developed countries. Indeed, we are damn cheap.

20130503-225514.jpg
Chart 1

(Source: UBS Prices and Earnings 2011 Report)

How do we measure, “better”? I looked at productivity. According to Mr Lim’s logic, we should be better – so, highly productive, right?

Chart 2 shows the labour productivity of the developed countries. You can see that Singapore has one of the lowest productivity rates in the world.

Slide1

Chart 2

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS))

Cheaper and better? Not really. Mr Lim’s claims go up in smoke here.

How about “faster and better”? Maybe Mr Lim will get it right here. In Chart 3, you will see the average weekly work hours that workers put in in the developed countries. Do Singaporeans work faster?

20130503-225554.jpg
Chart 3

(Source: OECD StatExtractsSingapore Yearbook of Manpower Statistics, 2012)

In Chart 3, you can see that Singaporeans are made to work the longest hours in developed world. Hardly the fastest that Mr Lim claims. Chart 2 shows that Singapore workers are also one of the most unproductive.

Faster and better? Again, Mr Lim makes a very bold claim, which cannot substantiated by the statistics. In fact, the statistics go the other way of Mr Lim’s claims.

If you look at the countries with higher productivity, they are the countries that will they pay their workers higher wages and have shorter hours.

Mr Lim’s SBF holds no water at all and is erroneous. To be better, we need to be dearer, not cheaper. And faster? Definitely – which means the government needs to shorten work hours. Will they do it? Go ahead, laugh.

Now, if you remember in May Day last year, PM Lee had made the claim that if Singapore workers are able to increase productivity by 30%, the government will let wages go up by 30%.

Look at Chart 2 again. Singapore’s productivity is very low. Chart 1 shows our wages are the lowest.

PM Lee had said himself that our productivity growth has slowed down decade-on-decade over the past 3 decades. It is unlikely that Singapore’s productivity will go up. So, why in the world did the government tell us that they will increase our wages if Singapore’s productivity goes up? They know productivity won’t increase so why make a promise which they know they cannot fulfill and won’t come true?

So, since their productivity promise didn’t come true, this year, PM Lee has tried a new tack, so he had said – to grow our wages, we should grow the economy. Laughable.

I’ve written about this before [link] and I will illustrate it here again.

In Chart 4, you can see that Singapore’s GDP per capita is the highest among the developed countries.

20130503-225807.jpg
Chart 4

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS))

In Chart 1, you’d already seen that Singapore workers are paid the lowest wages. So, grow the economy to grow our wages right? Our GDP per capita is one of the highest in the world – is our wages similarly one of the highest? In the past decade when there was economic growth, our wages never grew with it. In fact, our wages remained stagnant and the real worth even decreased for some.

Grow the economy to grow our wages. It has never happened before – the government wasn’t interested to do so. What makes you think the government will do it in future?

So, why did the government make another claim, knowing yet again that it’s one that they won’t be able to keep, or won’t be interested to keep?

In fact, when you look at the countries with the highest GDP per capita, they are also more likely to pay their workers higher wages and let them work shorter hours. But why didn’t Singapore? Our country is the richest and the people are the poorest.

Why didn’t the government return the money to the people?

It is thus unsurprising that Singaporeans have become the least happy people in the world, as you can see in Chart 5.

20130503-225848.jpg
Chart 5

(Source: Gallup)

We are made to slog long work hours at terribly low wages, even as we help our country earn so much.

Is it any wonder why Singapore’s productivity is so low? When you have such unhappy people who are made to work long hours and paid such low wages, they feel so demoralized that they are not motivated and committed to their work. Do you even need to be a rocket scientist to understand this?

Shelley Prevost, director of happiness at Lamp Post Group, said it best when she said that, “the happiest workplaces are the ones that seriously honor the humanity of their people. “When you ‘get’ that employees are human beings first and worker bees second, you say something about their worth. Companies with happily engaged employees laugh at the rules that are more about upholding policy than caring about the well-being of others. They hire people with a capacity to care for one another, foster connectedness at every level of the company, give an inspiring vision not laced with b.s. platitudes, but about real possibilities. You want to work in these places because they make you feel purposeful, connected, and valued.”

So, when we talk about how Singaporeans are discontented, is it understandable? Chart 6 shows that we have one of the developed countries’ lowest life satisfaction. I’m not surprised.

20130503-230249.jpg
Chart 6

(Source: Human Development Report 2013)

The sad state of affairs is that the government doesn’t care. In Chart 7, you can see that before taxes and transfers, many developed countries have higher income inequality than Singapore.

20130503-230345.jpg
Chart 7

(Source: OECD StatExtractsKey Household Income Trends 2012 report)

Yet, after taxes and transfers, Singapore becomes the most unequal (Chart 8).

20130503-230430.jpg
Chart 8

(Source: OECD StatExtractsKey Household Income Trends 2012 report)

Why is this the case? Because as you can in Chart 9, the government does the least for its people. It helps us the least, even though its arguably the country best able to help its people.

20130503-230531.jpg
Chart 9

(Source: OECD StatExtractsKey Household Income Trends 2012 report)

Already, you’ve seen in Chart 4 that we are amongst the richest countries in the developed world, so the government is very capable of helping the people.

And in Chart 10, Singapore has the world’s highest reserves per capita and at a staggering amount! Yet, why is the government not interested in helping the people more?

20130503-230723.jpg
Chart 10

(Source: The World Bank)

To be clear, the government is more than willing to help – it’s not whether they want to help. It’s who they want to help.

In Chart 11, you can see that the government pays themselves the highest salaries in the entire world.

20130503-230629.jpg
Chart 11

In per capita terms, the magnitude of the richness of the salary is even more stark (Chart 12).

20130503-230848.jpg
Chart 12

Which explains why Singapore’s in me inequality is so wide. The huge divide is caused by the government and our politicians themselves.

So, we are made to pay one of the highest prices in the world (Chart 13).

20130503-231026.jpg
Chart 13

(Source: UBS Prices and Earnings 2011 Report)

And our purchasing power is thus the lowest in the developed world (Chart 14) and comparable to that of much poorer countries.

20130503-231119.jpg
Chart 14

(Source: UBS Prices and Earnings 2011 Report)

But even as the government gives us very low wages and prices goods above the value of our wages, they continue to spend very little on our aspects of our basic necessities.

Our government spends the lowest proportion of GDP on health among the developed countries, and indeed among the lowest in the world (Chart 15).

20130503-231253.jpg
Chart 15

(Source: World Health Statistics 2012)

Not only that, the government spends the lowest proportion for our healthcare bills (Chart 16).

20130503-231335.jpg
Chart 16

(Source: World Health Statistics 2012)

And on top of our low wages and low purchasing power, we are made to foot the largest proportion of our healthcare bills by ourselves – the highest among the developed countries and one of the highest in the world (Chart 17).

20130503-231440.jpg
Chart 17

(Source: World Health Statistics 2012)

We don’t even have enough doctors (Chart 18). No wonder waiting times at the hospitals have become so long!

20130503-231520.jpg
Chart 18

(Source: World Health Statistics 2012)

All these when Singapore is one of the richest country, where we have the highest reserves per capita and where our government deems that it has earn enough to pay itself such staggering high wages but that it doesn’t have enough to give to the people.

Worse still, housing prices are one of the highest in the world (Chart 19).

20130503-231711.jpg
Chart 19

(Source: Global Property Guide)

And even as our country is so rich, our people have one of the lowest pension index, which means that our pension “has major risks and/or shortcomings” (Chart 20).

20130503-231753.jpg
Chart 20

(Source: The Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index 2012)

Is it any wonder why we are the world’s people with the least emotions (Chart 21)?

20130503-231908.jpg
Chart 21

(Source: Gallup)

We’ve learnt to suppressed our inner feelings. We are being cheated and squeezed left, right, centre.

We are given the lowest wages and made to pay the one of the highest prices. We thus have so little to save for our retirement and all these while the rich get richer, our ministers become richer and the poor becomes poorer.

All these while the many other responsibilities in our lives such as housing and healthcare continues to be so expensive, where we receive so little support and our government expects us to pay out of our own pockets, from the already meager wages that we are forced to receive.

Is it any wonder why Singapore has the world’s lowest fertility rate (Chart 22).

20130503-231946.jpg
Chart 22

Would we dare bring a child into this world when we do not even have enough for ourselves? How would we expect the child to fend for itself in a Singapore where our government has become so heartless, and where they continue to expound a meritocracy that benefits themselves and helps themselves, all this while telling the people that the people should rely on themselves and shouldn’t expect the government to help them. All this self-reliance bull when the government helps itself.

It all falls into place, doesn’t it? Rich country but low wages and long working hours. Which results in people being unhappy and thus have low productivity. Very high income inequality where government pays itself handsomely while refusing to help the people, making them pay for basic necessities, thus giving the people such dissatisfaction in their lives. With little left for themselves for their retirement and after spending so much on housing, and all these add together, people aren’t really in the mood to reproduce. And Singaporeans have thus learnt to suppress our oppression at the hands of PAP so much so that we’ve learnt to either not express ourselves, or burst out, like many of the drivers on our roads nowadays. It’s very clear what’s happening in Singapore, but why doesn’t the government want to do anything about it?

Singapore is in a very sad state. We have a government which wants the people to live in a make-believe world where they believe that the government has the interests of Singaporeans at heart. Sure, the government has the interests of Singaporeans – not all, not some but only a few who continue to help each other in their small elitist world, while the rest of us slog to help them earn a good living, while the rest of us continue to allow ourselves to pretend that all is fine, while we are being cheated and robbed the living daylights out of us.

The statistics speak for themselves. I don’t know how else or what else I need to say to convince Singaporeans of the truth. Some Singaporeans continue to fear – we live in a fear that the government tells us to believe in and we make it so real that we don’t dare to question them because we are scared as to what might happen to us.

But what we don’t realise is that when we question, we will only make things better for ourselves.

Many Singaporeans still don’t realise that it is because of what people like us – civil society, bloggers, online commenters, Facebook administrators etc – that have forced the government to change so that Budget 2013 was decidedly more helpful for Singaporeans, ever so slightly. I can bet you that if not for the Singaporeans who question and force the government’s hand, prices will continue to spiral this year and we will continue to feel stifled by our stagnant wages.

Why else would the government try to keep coming out with new ways of telling us that our wages will increase. They are panicking! Yet, they still haven’t offered any real solutions. What are progressive wages? What is the Workfare Income Supplement? Will these actually work? What will really work are minimum wages and strong independent unions. Ask the 90% of the countries in this world with minimum wages and the Nordic countries and Switzerland which have strong unions.

It cannot be that Singaporeans are still waiting for the government to make things better. I’ve shown you the statistics! What more do I need to show you? We keep giving away our rights to the government. I still hear people say – why are you thinking or questioning so much? Or people who believe in thinking in a self-defeatist mode – but the opposition isn’t good enough, they say.

If you haven’t realised by now, it doesn’t matter who is in government. As long as people in government have power, the politics they play will deny us our right. If you want your lives to be better, then you make it better. You speak up and you tell the government what to do. You help the government run the country. It really doesn’t matter who is in government. What matters is a government where all parties work together and where we make sure the government works for us.

It’s time we realise this and not wait until the cows come home. Because the cows are never gonna come home. This is not New Zealand.

If I cannot convince you with these statistics, then you have to get out of your own fear. It’s time we take power into our own hands and remake our destiny, as our forefathers had made theirs in 1959 and 1965. It’s about time.

You know, I miss Mr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam and Mr Toh Chin Chye. None of the current PAP politicians have the moral integrity, courage and non-corruptibility that these great leaders of fore who had truly built Singapore for what it is today had.

We need a new batch of leaders among our Singaporeans now to lead Singapore into another truly memorable chapter, one that we will all share together.

Advertisements

206 comments

  1. YK Kwan

    You have written an extremely logical and well-researched article. I especially like your last two paragraphs! Keep it up!

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Alan,

        Good question. We work longer hours than they do.

        I didn’t include them in this illustration because first, Hong Kong wasn’t included in the comparison as I didn’t have a complete enough set of statistics and second, because for Japan, the OECD statistics that I had obtained all the information on weekly work hours didn’t have the information. Please click on the link to see.

        Otherwise, if you do a search online, you will see that Singapore works longer hours than Hong Kong and Japan.

        Thanks.

        Roy

      • Bob

        Singapore works longer hours than Japan solely because ‘Japan’ includes its rural farm areas and countrysides. As a foreigner who has served my NS and become a Citizen, I would like to say while I agree to a certain extent with what you are saying, especially about the parts that Singaporeans need to stand up and be heard, I assure you the situation is not nearly as bleak as you endeavor to show with your statistics. You have chosen numbers which fit your story and not those that go against. For example, there is another poll published which establishes Singaporeans as positive, happy people. Also, your methodology of combining statistics from different organizations and trying to paint a coherent picture is questionable to say the least.

        I support your ideas that we should ask questions, and that bloggers, social media and the Internet are the platform for these questions to arise as the Press and public domain in Singapore do not support such activities. However it is important to do things properly and not resort to scare tactics by painting such a depressing picture and drawing connections when all the statistics can show are correlations at best. Admit what is good with Singapore. Discuss what can be done better. Only then will the masses appreciate and support what you have to say. Otherwise you will be left with a supporter base of fear-mongering, anti-PAP people who throw only biased viewpoints and will quite your graphs as ‘evidence’ that the PAP is a terrible government and should be overthrown.

        Keep up the good work and keep posting! It is in the interest of all Singaporeans that things change for the better. We cannot sit on our loins and decide just because we are doing well now, things cannot be better.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Bob,

        It is perhaps unfortunate that this article might be premised to be based on using scare tactics.
        As most curious thinkers of Singapore, many would understand that it is our government who is in the game of fear mongering and using scare tactics, especially in the mainstream media. It was just released that Singapore is ranked 19th in press freedom. We are ranked lower than Malaysia and just above Myanmar.

        For discerning readers, we’ve learnt to read The Straits Times to distill the news, to understand what are facts and which is distorted information. It is very hard to digest information in the mainstream media and understand how you should appreciate the news.

        As an established news organisation, you would expect honesty and a certain rigour in news reporting that is critical of multiple perspectives. However, it’s not and it’s left to Singaporeans who have to go online to report the other side of the story.

        Do I have the complete picture? I’m not. I have a job. But I try my best. Scare tactics? I’ve looked at many statistics. At times, I explain why the government does certain things because I understand where they are coming from. Yet, at other times, I’m highly critical of them because I’ve seen the half-truths.

        I’ve been similarly accused of pandering to PAP. But like I’ve said many times in other comments, I believe in being pro-Singapore. I believe in being fair and balanced, and this is why I write the articles that I write. We can find balance and if anywhere, Singapore is the best place to achieve that balance.

        Unfortunately this isn’t happening and I will continue to advocate.

        With regards to the happiness survey that you have read the ranked Singapore as the happiest country, I’ve written an article on this before. This survey was performed in Singapore and it compared only Malaysia, Philippines, India and if I’m not wrong, Indonesia. The survey methodology is questionable and it compares only 5 countries. Multiple surveys on happiness have said contrary to the results that this Singapore-based survey had purported. If you look at the tactic the Singapore government uses, where other rankings put Singapore as being ranked lower, it is a tactic for our government to create their own survey to say otherwise. Does our government speak the truth?
        I do not want to chastise the government because it’s fun to do so or because I’m too free. I want a better place for the people – a more balanced and happy place, and I know that Singapore is in a very good position to achieve this, which saddens me why this isn’t done. And why is why it is my responsibility and the responsibility of many to work together to achieve a Singapore which we can truly call home.

        Roy

      • friend

        Hi, I think it might be useful if we could have some information about the possible trade-offs that other countries have – like for example – in Spain, youth unemployment is close to 60 per cent and many do not find jobs till they are in their 30s, even though they could be more generous in terms of healthcare subsidies.

        I believe that there are no perfect model – not America, not Europe, not in East Asia – and every country in this world have their own set of problems. It is our duty as a Singaporean to decide what kind of society we want to be, which are the areas that we want to improve, what are the options or solutions that we think are suitable, and ultimately what are the trade-offs we need to make.

        If this is so, perhaps it might be more productive we could do lay out our options, the assorted pros and cons, so that we can have a more fruitful discussion. In many areas, Singapore is far from perfect (like some things that you have mentioned like healthcare, education system, and transport network). But there are also many areas that i really enjoy about Singapore – like the public safety and vibrant society.

        Personally, i feel it is only through a holistic, rational, and non-partisan discussion, we can make the better choice.

        An example could perhaps be – lets compare our education system with a basket of countries (maybe china, USA, Japan, HK ….). we can see in Japan, there are no exams for the first three years of elementary school studies to help foster moral education. it might be something that we want to learn, but i think our university education system with its global mindset and Asian perspective are still valuable.

        Objective comparisons where we learn from both the best and the worst of the world, while remaining cognizant of our strength, will definitely enrich and enhance our policy decisions. And in this regard, I fully agree with Bob, the government don’t have and should not have a monopoly of ideas nor power, the civil society can do our part.

        Just my two cents.

        Thanks!

      • My Right to Love

        Hi friend,

        I will try to write an article about this. But just a note, there are actually many articles which have done comparisons of our healthcare, CPF etc, which do offer solutions to improve our system, and not only solutions, but like you say, where Singapore fares favourably as well.

        🙂

        Roy

    • H_Chen

      Totally agree that this is a well written article and I too agree that the last 2 paragraphs are important. I definitely need to share these with my students and talk about it. They need to be ready and equip themselves properly. I also have a bunch of peers who are sandwiched – going through extreme pain in their lives now because they just can’t get anywhere – rising costs, poor job prospects, stagnating pay, horrible management in workplaces, etc. Those happened because of the way policies have been made, the way the country is being run. Everyone wants to create that cocoon for themselves so that they can benefit from it – hence all the selfishness, stress, etc. Going through the comments, there are those who are trying to displace the reality that the unhappiness and stress that many are going through, and trying to say that it isn’t that bleak – but fact is it is that bleak. Especially those with kids – all those in my circles are very frustrated, ain’t happy at all. Unless we are referring to the rich – with their fancy private properties and material gains. And that lead me to believe that perhaps those who are only keen to see the “bright side” and, perhaps, wanting the negativity to be diluted possessed ulterior motives, or they themselves are the rich or both.

  2. eremarf

    This brings back memories of teaching Development Geography – we were looking at charts of human development metrics. It’s really sad how we’ve fallen behind so much on some metrics. I remember teaching my students how to explain metrics like physicians per 10,000 people (you can still find that question in the TYS if you scrounge up an old copy). And the questions on how quality of life went beyond standard of living metrics.

    Thanks for putting these things in charts, Roy. I hope my ex-students, and other young Singaporeans, will come across these, and that what we teachers have taught them will be useful, will help them be active citizens and all that, beyond just preparing them for examinations.

    It’s times like these that make me miss teaching, makes me think of all the ways I could have taught my classes better.

  3. rocky kwan

    assuming that both PM Lee and Lim SS are intelligent, smart, and responsible leaders, why can’t they derive the same logic and arrive at similar findings and conclusions from the statistics shown in the charts?

    • eremarf

      First, why do you assume they are intelligent and smart?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor

      Second, assuming they are intelligent and smart, it must then mean they are malicious (caveat: definitions of “good” and hence “malice” are subjective). Obviously they value some things over other things. They value things like economic growth, the welfare of the elites, staying in power, etc over other things like the happiness of Singaporeans, the welfare of ordinary and marginalised people, and democratic, transparent, open, free government.

      And it’s not hard to imagine why they think this way – they’re out of touch, they’re surrounded by fellow elites (segregationist school systems, scholar systems, etc – in spite of Chan Chun Sing or Tin Pei Ling or Koh Poh Koon – the fact is that elites identify with their current social status, not their backgrounds – look at former MEWR Perm Sec Tan Yong Soon and his school cohort – http://intelligentsingaporean.wordpress.com/2007/08/21/deconstructing-the-singapore-dream/ ; http://singaporemind.blogspot.sg/2009/01/dont-be-harsh-on-tan-yong-soon.html), they don’t come into contact enough with ordinary people, the flawed meritocratic narrative they tell themselves justifies their rich rewards and the crumbs the poor subsist on. They tell themselves and us that what we (don’t!) have today, is what we deserve. (But they’re wrong! Wages are not determined in a free market – they’re determined in a not-so-free market shaped by global political forces.)

      The burning questions I have are: Why have Singaporeans put up with so much for so long? (Other than those who have succeeded out-of-proportion under the system and might be complicit with it.) Why are Singaporeans so short-sighted and selfish? Why do Singaporeans make so little effort towards securing their future and the future of their children? (This question is for even those who have succeeded.)

      (Do note that I’m not anti-business, or anti-growth – don’t slot me into false dichotomies. Taking care of people is not mutually exclusive with doing business. Democratic government is not mutually exclusive with political stability.)

    • injustice

      Oh! they do arrive to the same conclusions!
      Despite that, they know how that piece of bread is buttered!

      So, they have to present their beliefs in another way… inject fear, invoke past horrors, make motherhood statements.
      Why? oh! why?

      When you suckle on sweet honey for a long time, you cannot stop. They have made more money that you & I would take 10 life times to do! ( assuming your annual salary is 60K )
      They have power, authority and enjoy all the perks that their office have… would you give it up… for such a noble cause as ” help the people” ??

      Believe me, you would do the same..

    • Hero

      Therefore something must be amiss right? Perhaps it is because what you read here did not give a full account of what they actually said?

  4. David Wong

    Intriguing and interesting article! I have one question though: Could you justify the different sample sizes (20 countries for chart 2; 12 for chart 20), levels of analysis (countries vs cities in different charts); and why you chose static levels (instead of changes in the indicators) for some of your charts? Especially for the latter, I find that some of your claims would be better justified and defended using changes over time, instead of static levels.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi David,

      Thanks for asking. The reason is because the data is unavailable, or that I wasn’t able to locate the data in time to publish by today.

      Thanks for asking!

      Roy

      • GoDoSomethingThatReallyMatters

        he’s just bull shitting and nit picking data that helps his justification.
        Observe the choice of sample and his notion of developed country which varies even slightly from chart to chart.

        Just see how many SEA or even Asia countries he chooses in the end.

        Comparing us against countries and economies with drastically different demographics and policies is simply an unfair comparison.
        And the entire measurement of emotional well being is a new area of measurement which many countries do not actively seek to compete on.

        Sure there are labor, bread a& butter issues and it is sad to see real issues being gloss-ed over in the writer’s pursuit to subjectively portray his own whatever agenda.

        If you truly care, i’ll suggest some time volunteering at NGOs, say once a week. I’m sure your intelligence in being about to deliberately pick biased information can be put to better use to help these NGOs who are there really to try and make a difference instead of numerous writers like yourself which just continues to sow discord.

      • My Right to Love

        What rubbish are you talking about? Read my other comments before you comment here, so that we save the readers time reading your comment.

        You want to compare Singapore with the neighbouring countries? Then why are our prices so much higher and why are our wages so low that we have a similar purchasing power to Malaysia?

        Doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t make mathematical science. You have a rich country, high prices and people who are given low wages. Doesn’t make sense. Simple as that.

        So, if you want to give a clear, logical argument and want to prove that you are not just the machinery to wipe out dissent, then come back with clear, evident statistics.

        Not wispy statements which hold no ground.

        Thank you.

        Roy

  5. Anthony Sim

    This is the sad truth about of current government. Having the highest reserves per capita cannot formulate simple policies to make its citizens happy. Statistics do not lie.

    I do not understand why the government is so selfish as to not share the wealth by providing the best for the people who have/had so obediently work hard to where Singapore is now.

    Have they forgotten there are more highly educated citizens now than before. Those who are absolutely grounded and not elitist and will make better leaders to carry Singapore into the next century.

    Roy, this is an excellent article while researched.

    • Odette

      I don’t understand you government haters. What has the government not given you? What is it that made you say that the government is selfish and unfair to you? Are you a homeless soul living in dirty streets? Are you putting up with crimes in the wee hours of the night because of improper lighting all over the island? Or are you complaining because you have a solid transport system that takes you to anywhere you want to go at with a maximum of only 15 min by foot?
      I mean, here you are upset about the fact that our MRTs stall once in awhile. Or maybe your cars and houses are expensive. But in what ways are that the government’s fault? If you have to blame something to make your whines heard, blame it on the fact that our island is small! Not every little imperfection is the government’s fault.

      I see that you are complaining about the rich government not giving you enough to make you happy and no offense, but I assume that you are not a high income earner. If so, do you know that the income tax structure has been made even more progressive these years? You are paying close to peanuts on income tax – the only form of contribution you made for Singapore. Who are you to accept the luxuries our country have to offer and whine about the wee bit contribution you make? Please don’t make yourself sound noble – you only care about you, yourself and your money. I’m sorry but have you been travelling? Do you know that in statistics other countries may sound better off but have you actually experienced them? The shelter-less bus stops and even more over-crowded trains? When in the city the traffic NEVER moves? Where homeless people litter the streets? And those are developed countries no less.

      I really you bunch of people can take a look at the world and count your blessings instead of complaining that that government is rich than you, who can already afford to have a house, a car and a safe, bright country to live in. Where you don’t have to worry if you child will be able to make it home everyday or your daughter would get raped on the streets if she’s headed for home after 8pm every night.

      I don’t know what else to say but actually, the government have been sharing the revenue they collect from the MAIN TAXPAYERS to benefit YOU by giving your kids an almost free but world-class education, beautiful malls, a solid air-conditioned transport system that costs like 3 times lower than any other transport system elsewhere, and clean, safe streets.

      What else do you want? Last thing I have to say, if you ever find a country who will take less from you and give you more security, cleanliness, lighting and whatever more, feel free to leave. Nobody is holding a gun at your temples forcing you to root here. My country don’t need haters like you who cannot make Singapore better for me and my future.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Odette,

        I will let others reply to you. I know that many would raze your comment, simply because of its elitist slant.

        No, I don’t earn a low pay and no, I’m not a cleaner. Are you suggesting that I shouldn’t be speaking up for them?

        It’s precisely that there are people like you and people with elitist mindsets that has caused Singapore to become so unequal now.

        I will let others critique your comment. Good luck on that.

        Roy

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Odette,

        For the record, I don’t hate the government.

        As I’ve mentioned many times and I will state here categorically again, I am pro-Singapore. Whoever is in government, it is in Singaporeans’ interests to make sure they voice out their concerns to the government to ensure the government works in their interests.

        And it is my belief that no matter who which party is in government, they need to work together for the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans.

        Roy

      • AnonSg

        Mostly of these achievements you’ve mentioned have been done back in the 80s and 90s. We are happy with all of that. But looking at the “solid” transport system now, I beg to differ. I suppose you have not taken public transport to know enough of the woes of the common folks. We don’t expect much, and we are sucking up to these circumstances every single day waiting for a solution. About cars and houses being expensive, it is not just expensive. Just by looking at housing, on average people are paying around 24% of their monthly household income for a house and they have to pay it for an excruciating 30 years or more. This is not including utility bills, daily expenditure, childcare expenses and many more. There is no wonder why our fertility rate is so low. In what way is it the government’s fault? The government makes policies that shapes our economy, our demography, etc. If it is not the government’s responsibility, then who is to bear the responsibility? Should the people just let Singapore become a less and less desirable place to live in by keeping our mouths shut for all the problems we are facing? For what purpose do we pay politicians such high salaries? Not for the responsibility of improving the country?

        On low income earners paying peanuts in income tax, this is not the only way they contribute to singapore. Low income earners contribute through participating in the workforce, nurturing their kids and for males, national service. If not for the low income earners doing jobs that you would otherwise not want to do, will you be still able to enjoy your comfortable life on top? And regarding the comparisons to worse off examples of other countries, it is only because we don’t want to end up like them that we are voicing our opinion!!!

        It is not that we think the government is bad and we are hating. The government has done its fair share of good and not so good. Just that recently, there are several indicators of inefficiencies and one prominent one would be the choice of reaction rather than prevention as in the case of SMRT. This shows us that people are getting complacent and the government is no exception. And should we just tolerate and ignore it? My answer to you is NO.

        There is a chinese proverb: 无风不起浪 (there wouldn’t be waves if there was no wind)
        Stop living in your myopic world and open your eyes. Just because other people have opposing views doesn’t make them a hater.

        If you still insist on your opinions, I cannot force you to change. But if you are willing to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, I believe that will greatly help the rest of us Singaporeans.

        Peace out.

      • Anthony Sim

        Hi Odette

        I have read most articles of Roy and find that he nor I are Government haters. It is admirable for someone who cares to contribute his thoughts intelligently to provoke for balance and improvements for the the future of Singapore. Are you willing to do that ? or are you a limmy and think you are well taken care of for the moment, then very short sighted of you. If you are doing well, good on you but do spend time to think what you can contribute to improve the lives of those who are doing it tough and providing inputs so at least the government can implement some balance.

        Try some compassion, and think about how you will feel if you were on the side of the spectrum. Nobody should expect or demand handouts. I was not advocating this. By voicing my thoughts, these might provide some impetus for the government to come out with a sensible solution.

        The tone you have projected on your reply appears that you are pissed off. There is no reason for this strife. I may assume that you are a very unhappy person and pretty dissatisfied because you are contributing a higher tax than others. Now where is the love for life? or are you working so hard to maintain your status that you have dismissed the quality of live. How about your children? Are you pushing them hard so they will not end at the bottom rung of society?

        I agree Singapore is a very safe city, so is Sydney where I am currently residing for decades. I still have family members in Singapore and I can tell you comparatively my kids a better off, contented and well rounded. However, my roots are in Singapore where some day I wish to return. And that’s the reason for my passion to ensure there is a Singapore worth returning to.

      • Youarepitiful

        I think you are the one who have never been travelling. Please go and stay at some developed countries before you shoot out these rubbish! I think those countries you had visited are all just developing or underdeveloped countries, and you are comparing those countries with Singapore?!! That would not be a fair comparison.

        I think you are one of those who have never took MRT for a long long time. Gone are the days where you will reach the destination in 15mins. It happens almost everyday that I could not squeeze in the train and gotta wait for like 3 or 4 trains, sometimes even 5 trains before I can get into it. You think Singapore trains are not crowded?!! I think you have been staying in your cave and have not took trains for dunno how many donkey years. I have been staying in Italy for the past few months, the traffic is much better than Singapore where it will take one hour to just drive from Novena to Aljunied after work because of the traffic jam.

        You said we paid peanuts taxes so we dun deserve to accept the luxuries our country have to offer??!!! And let me ask you. Singapore is just so small with only 5milliom of population, who gave the right for our ministers to receive the world’s highest pay when Singapore is not even difficult to administer!! (Its such a small country, small population and the citizens dun even stage a emotional protest!!)

        And hello, world class education is just exams every year and keep stressing your kids out on academic results. I think Singapore should actually re-looked into their education system. So obsessed with academic results does not good to kids, it is too practical and the kids does not realize that morals are more important than those papers and what, you wanna produce a country full of robots? And who told you that the government in the other developed countries did not benefit their citizens by providing them with education??!!

        Lastly, to reply to your last paragraph.My country dun need puppets who is blind as you who cannot make a better Singapore for our future and our future generations.

        Thank you.

  6. Wee Wu

    I dont think you have provided a perfect statistic. Nonetheless the number is comprehensive enough for a good logical argument. Sad enough, i do agree most of the points.

  7. Han

    I wonder if you might have confused cause and effect? People are paid more when they are more productive, as opposed to “people are more productive when they are paid more”.

    Also as I mentioned in a previous comment to a previous post of yours, healthcare expenditure on it’s own is a meaningless statistic. You only get meaning out of it by comparing against healthcare outcomes. By that measure our healthcare system is among the best in the world.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Han,

      There is countless research which describes how workers who are more motivated are more productive – and motivation can come in all forms of incentives, and in this instance, fairer (and I’m not just asking for higher for the sake of it but because it’s fairer) wages, and better work-life balance, through shorter hours etc.

      When you talk about cause and effect, I believe you need to base it on the avaliable evidence avaliable to justify your assumptions.

      In terms of healthcare, it is very different when you are talking about quality and affordability. Our healthcare system is of a good quality and I don’t deny that.

      But is it affordable? Affordability works in both ways – (1) Is the price set right, or rather equitable? (2) Are people renumerated with fair wages to ensure that are able to afford healthcare? (3) And does the government provide adequate support by ensuring adequate financial assistance for the people for their healthcare?

      The answer for all 3 questions is NO. (1) Prices in Singapore is one of the highest in the world. (2) People are paid the lowest wages among the developed countries. (3) The government provides the least financial assistance for the people among the developed countries and one of the lowest in the world!

      I’m not sure who’s the one who’s very confused in his comment – to equate a good quality healthcare system to suggest that people have it good when many people do not dare even seek healthcare because they cannot afford it means nothing when the poor and the old do not dare to visit these ‘quality’ healthcare.

      Of course our system is perfect when it doesn’t account for the people who cannot afford the system and thus are not measured by the system.

      Thank you.

      Roy

      • Han

        On wages:

        I agree that wages (and various other examples you gave) can be a motivating factor for productivity, and as Yrong pointed out below, the Efficiency Wage Theory. However, I assume you’d have read Dan Ariely’s research on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. The latter works well and good for rote tasks but for those requiring higher order cognitive skills, extrinsic motivation actually lowers productivity. Put that together with existing research, that tells you that once wages reach a certain level, you have 2 effects depending on the type of worker. For workers engaged in rote tasks, their productivity may increases, however once their cost outweighs the cost of automation, their jobs are gone forever. For workers in higher order tasks, their job performance worsens.

        Have Singaporean workers reached that wage level? I don’t know. But I’m not sure if I want to experiment with raising wages through the force of legislation because once unskilled and low skilled workers lose their jobs, those jobs aren’t coming back. I don’t think it is ethical to experiment with people’s livelihoods to test a theory.

        On healthcare:

        Note that the word “perfect” does not appear anywhere in my comment.

        The healthcare metrics I’m referring to (using the same source as you) are commonly used by health experts to measure outcome, and are captured whether across the population and are not specific to whether people go through the healthcare system. They are life expectancy, infant mortality rates, maternal mortality rates, etc.

        These metrics are important because it sets the foundation for the purpose of healthcare spending. Does the spending make people healthier? How do we know if it does? By testing the spending against improvements in those metrics. That’s why I said, for the current expenditure by the government, the outcomes are extremely good. Other countries spend far more and do significantly worse by those metrics.

        I’m not saying the government shouldn’t spend more, in fact I think they should, just not in the areas people normally complain about. Everybody wants the government to help out in their healthcare spending but I think the focus should be primarily un2 areas: preventative medicine and child nutrition.

        For the latter, there’s no point treating symptoms when disease has already occurred. Money would be directed at preventing diseases from occurring in the first place and helping people stay healthy.

        For the latter, the latest research shows that many a diseases prevalent in our population actually begins at childhood and in particular affects people from lower socioeconomic strata. This means they suffer from a double whammy of poor health and economic disadvantage. Rather than helping people who make bad decisions (smoking, drinking, bad diet, no exercise) with their costs, the money should be directed towards those who really need it.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Han,

        Actually I agree with you on some points.

        Thanks for bringing up Dan Ariely’s. I’ve read some of what he has said but I haven’t read about this.

        Though I agree with you – what is the balance we need to have to ensure that wages to not inadvertently affect economic growth adversely and the key is to find that balance.

        Like you, I do think about what the impact will be. But, what I can be clear about is that we do not have that balance – workers’ wages are not on their parity. Below that parity, productivity will decrease. And in your line of reasoning, productivity will decrease as well. So, what is this middle line that we should try to work towards to ensure optimal productivity and economic growth? I would say the balance is now tilted in favour of the companies and against the workers.

        Of course, is it favourable if the government institutes a forced action of wage increment? Like you, I understand where the government is coming from. I’ve written an article before that the government might want to use the Progressive Wage Structure and the Workfare Income Supplement as a way to phase in the increase in wages.

        But the flaw in the Progressive Wage Structure is this – you need to be promoted in order for you to obtain a higher wage. How many cleaners and labourers do companies need to be in higher positions? The flaw in the Workfare Income Supplement is that whether workers’ wages grow lie entirely in the companies’ hands. And a survey done after Budget 2013 has shown that most companies are not likely to be influenced by this supplement to increase workers’ wages.

        Last, Hong Kong had implemented a minimum wage law in 2011 and it was shown that there weren’t job losses. In fact, companies were forced to increase wages because workers were able to move to another company to obtain higher wages. We are talking about the so-called low-skilled jobs such as cleaners, which is not a threat to economic growth. Without adversely affecting economic growth, the most disadvantaged sector in society was able to achieve higher wages. A good deal? I think so.

        Last, some countries which have not instituted minimum wages but are still able to give their workers high wages are the Nordic countries. Why? Because they have unions which protect workers. And herein lies the crux of the debate on wages. In 1963, under the Internal Security Act, the government had arrested union members who had aligned themselves to the opposition. These arrests were held under Operation Coldstore. This left NTUC to be the only union in Singapore and which was controlled by PAP. This effectively eliminated another independent unions in Singapore since then.

        In many instances over the past few years, there have been several examples of NTUC asking workers to accept their businesses are in difficult positions and to empathise with the businesses. But who will empathise with the workers?

        Unions have their history in the 1700s and 1800s when workers were earning 18 hours everyday and in terrible work conditions. Unions were formed by workers to fight for their right to be respected. In fact, it was found that workers who were not autonomous or had their rights curbed were actually much less productive. In a similar rein, it was also understand then why slaves were also thus not the best way to manage a company.

        We are in a similar situation now in Singapore. How can we find that balance to allow people to achieve autonomy and so that they would yet be able to increase productivity?

        I would say this as well. In a capitalistic business, there are business owners who own the modes of production – so the raw materials, for example. However, they buy their raw materials from other business owners who set a certain price on these raw materials. So if you are a business owner who wants the raw material, you will have to pay ‘balanced’ prices, negotiated between two business owners of equal standing.

        But if we look at the workers, who will protect them or how can they be able to negotiate on an equal standing? A business is simply a lot more powerful than a worker and thus unions need to develop so that they can represent workers collectively.

        And unions need to exist independently. Once a union is influenced by a business, then where does it stand? And once a union is controlled by a government which is itself a business owner, where will the union stand? This is where Singapore is at right now. So who will protect the workers?

        To put it in perspective, our government is a business owner – it owns may businesses through Temasek Holdings. It decides how much rent companies need to pay, how much raw materials should be charged and how much wages should be earned. Now, if a government who is a business owner has to decide how to earn the highest profits, what does it need to do?

        High rents, low costs and low wages. The argument on wages rest not on productivity or economic growth. It rests on will and it rests on who controls how wages are determined.

        It is not in the how that wages should be decided, but by the who.

        Roy

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Han,

        On your comment on healthcare, I have to be honest here – I was not aware of the metrics that you had shared. Please allow me to do more research on them so that I can add to the debate better.

        But I do have two points to make – first, Dan Ariely had also discussed about the irrational logic of how governments structure healthcare. And one way of how the government had managed to curb the use of financial assistance for healthcare is precisely in this idea – if we create a system that is complicated enough, it will put people off applying for their usage and thus we have the 3Ms. I personally believe that they have prevented people who truly need financial assistance to step forward to apply for them. For example, the application for Medifund prevents some people from wanting to apply for it. Also, Medisave doesn’t cover outpatient treatment, so if it gets too expensive, if someone cannot afford to pay, will the person choose to seek medical treatment?

        I agree that we need to be more focused on preventive health. But – because our system was premised previously on treating illnesses, we have a huge pool of people who did not have the opportunity to undergo strong preventive health programmes – they need to pay thousands for surgeries and medicine. We still need to continue to cater for them, and we still need to ensure that there is enough for them.

        More importantly, when you are old and most likely to be sick, and when you are an elderly who have been receiving low stagnating wages for the past many years, you simply don’t have enough savings in cash or in your CPF. How can they seek medical help?

        Roy

      • Reply

        Wait till you live overseas. Then you’ll understand the extreme inconvenience of strikes and demonstrations, all of which have more impact on society than the claimed “depressed wages” of workers

        Ever tried going to work when public transport isn’t available for multiple days in a row? Ever had a flight delayed for days because of strikes?

        Unions need to exist independently, indeed.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi,

        Has these cities become less productive or competitive because of such demonstrations?

        Unfortunately, most Singaporeans have bought into the idea that we should surrender our rights to our government because they say so.

        As long as a government is capable as fair, this is perhaps not as dire and issue.

        Now, wait until the government becomes weak, unbalanced or corrupt and we are seeing signs of that.

        When that happens, we need a strong civil society and strong responsible electorate and citizens who come out with alterative policies, to chart the way forward for the country.

        History has too many examples where as governments become irrelevant to the people’s needs, the people needed to start offering solutions for the country.

        It’s too simplistic to say that we shouldn’t have unions or demonstrations because it would cause disruptions. Disruptions occur, regardless. The key is to identify how we can allow civil society to grow, yet be able to ensure that it grows in a responsible manner. That will determine how you are able to be able to obtain strong feedback from the people to help the country function well.

        In the Nordic countries, governments run as consolidate entities, where different parties work harmoniously within the government. And the people expect the government to work harmoniously which otherwise the people won’t take it sitting down.

        And at the same time, the people play their part by being the most informed people in Europe, and to help make decisions to run the country together.

        This is a country where it’s government and people can work collectively towards the good of the country. Not a country where people the government and the people are divided.

        Roy

      • Han

        On health:

        AFAIK Ariely’s analysis relates to the US government and not ours. I believe then an accurate metric would be relative complexity: how complex is it to claim medical benefits in Singapore relative to that same process in other countries?

        On wages:

        In some circumstances a minimum wage of sorts may not cause unemployment but unless you believe that the demand for labour is somehow upwards sloping, that cannot possibly be correct across all situations.

        http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2013/03/the_vice_of_sel.html

    • Yrong

      I think it actually goes both ways, an increase in pay can lead to an increase in productivity. This is because people would feel that they are treated more fairly and are also less willing to lose their higher paying job. Therefore, they are more motivated to work harder to keep the job. It is called the Efficiency Wage Theory. Employees could have already been heavily demoralized in the first place as they work the most hours but get paid poorly. Therefore, they begin to shirk and become less productive.

  8. Yong Sheng

    You made a convincing, well-thought, and good effort research.
    But your data is incomparable… :/
    And that worries me because you paint an extremely sad picture to your readers, which further creates unwarranted unhappiness…
    As David Wong has pointed out, comparing countries with a small city Singapore is simply unfair.
    For example, in Total Fertility Rates, Berlin(Germany) is quite similar to us; and, Tokyo(Japan) and Seoul(South Korea) is doing worst than us.
    If we consider that countries with countrysides/towns/rural areas have lesser challenges and differences in culture than cities; we have to acknowledge that most of your data cannot be compared to Singapore unless you are comparing cities similar to Singapore. In fact, even if you were to take cities to compare, a country that is liberal in the migration between cities and non-cities already changes the playing field as compared to limited Singapore.

    Few cities (perhaps only Hong Kong) can be comparable. Almost all of the countries have vast land and natural resources to pay off their high operational costs. What does Singapore has? Then, if we look at how Singapore had survived in the last decade, you will find value in our high reserve that IMF and the Eurozone is trying to emulate.

    There is a very deep debate over what Singapore is doing is right or wrong; while it is easy to make comparison; it is hard to tell whether we are going in the right or wrong direction. The Singapore incumbent government is right in one thing, however, is that Singapore needs to make their own strategy instead of following other countries.

    And we must remember, regretfully, that WE ARE NOT THE SCANDINAVIANS.

    • Reply

      WYS? Yes. Of course. Wait till this guy lives in Scandinavia and finds out that on paper his salary is twice that of his subordinate, but the take-home pay is the same due to tax.

      The only reason they’re working is probably because of a homogenous society and pride in their work… which is difficult to emulate in Singapore given our different backgrounds

      • Guest

        The Scandivanian need not be worried. For his medicare and education(his kids) expenses are taken care off. What he takes home, he can dare spend every single penny of it without worrying.

      • My Right to Love

        Yes, because they believe in equality and because their government, their society and their people believe in the notion of equality.

        In Singapore, equality is enshrined in the pledge but we practice a form of meritocracy that has bred elitism and has divided the people. There are many books and articles written on such forms of meritocracy. Even DPM Tharman himself has discussed how we need to move towards a meritocracy that’s more equal. I say we need to move decisively into equality.

        It took time for the Nordic countries to reach a stage where they truly believe in equality and believing that others need to be respected as well.

        They pay the so-called low-skilled workers higher pay because they believe in valuing people as people, and not just as economic digits where they are then valued as unimportant.

        The question we need to ask ourselves is – do we want to be treated as people with respected rights or economic digits?

        We can achieve equality and at the stage of our development currently, Singaporeans are saying that they want to move to a new era of equality. We will get there. It’s only a matter of how long, whether the government, people and society is willing.

        This will determine whether our society will rupture before we find a balance, or if we will transit peacefully.

        Roy

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Han,

        Thanks for the link. It’s very useful. Will look through it!

        On a side note, the Nordic countries might not be homogenous but what they have done well above the rest is their common notion of enshrining equality in their societies and governance.

        Roy

    • I want to know

      I really agree with your point about the writer’s unfair comparison. He is comparing Singapore city, to countries.
      And i really want to know what the writer have to say about this.

      • eremarf

        Bro there’re 170+ comments by now, and I understand it’s not easy to trawl through all of them – but the writer (Roy) HAS addressed this (whether it’s satisfactory to you or not – at least read his response).

        Engaging in debate does take time – and I’m not saying we should all punish each other by writing for and reading each other poorly (I think Singaporeans could do a lot more to be better writers and readers both). But I just think if you bother to engage here – at least make some basic effort?

        Note to Roy: I think you could write with more clarity (you tend to verbosity). If not, this won’t be a good site for engagement. But then again – poor readers/responders who pull down the quality of the debate are just as bad as poor writing from original authors. I do recognize however that it takes time to cultivate this debate thing and I can see your writing and our responses as a work-in-progress I guess.

    • Zheng

      Don’t forget HK has father China to prop them up during the 1997 Asian Financial crisis! Singapore does NOT have that luxury. Singapore depends on its huge reserve and escape almost unscathed. Our currency went down 40 % against the Aussies dollar but up against RM by 60%.

  9. Leonard

    Cheaper Better Faster refers to companies competing with other companies, not to labour and salaries. The other parts of his speech talks about paying workers more salary and making jobs easier, smarter and safer.

    Check out Miyagi.sg — at least he got it right.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Leonard,

      I’ve read many articles. I don’t think that’s the impression that I had gotten.

      And that’s not the impression that many people have gotten.

      And may I ask – if indeed the government is even sincere about paying higher wages, why have our wages remained stagnant for more than 10 years and for some people, especially the poor and those considered to be low skilled, have even dropped? Can you imagine how our poor and elderly feel right now as they simply do not have enough to retire because the CPF is locked out from them and they simply haven’t been paid enough to save enough any retirement to speak of?

      And why is it when our government keeps championing how high our GDP per capita is and how rich we are when our people are getting the lowest wages among the developed countries, when it can obviously pay so much more and even if not that much higher, but all I ask for, and all of us are asking for – fairer wages?

      Why is it our purchasing power is worse than Malaysia when our GDP per capita is several times theirs and we are many more times richer?

      It doesn’t make any sense however way I look at it.

      Now, I ask of anyone trying to still argue differently to have a complete and holistic argument about the issue as a whole.

      I am honestly quite dissatisfied and perhaps, pissed with the many people who choose to argue on one point, whilst neglecting all the others, because they know they have no come back for the rest of the points.

      They know that they government is not fair to the people and in their aim to try to justify the other way, they simply cannot and try to pick on one or two points.

      That’s too incomplete. That’s not holistic, not strategic. And that is dishonest to Singaporeans and marginalise the people.

      I think, enough is enough.

      Change needs to happen and if the government won’t change, Singaporeans will change them.
      Thank you.

      Roy

      • Crious U

        What are your comments on these statistics that you seem to have missed?

        PPP:
        http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.PP.CD?order=wbapi_data_value_2011+wbapi_data_value+wbapi_data_value-last&sort=desc

        Wages:
        http://sfgsa.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=8456

        Healthcare costs:
        http://www.who.int/gho/publications/world_health_statistics/EN_WHS2012_Full.pdf

        Per capita total expenditure on health (PPP int. $):
        Netherlands: $4881, Denmark: $4345, Norway $5353, UK:$3438, USA: $7960
        Note: examples based on Chart 17
        Singapore: $2111
        Does government expenditure on healthcare lead to inefficiency?

        Life expectancy:
        That while austria has the most number of physicians per 10,000 population and Singapore has the least. Singapore beats it in both improvement of life expectancy from 1990-2009 and in current life expectancy at birth SG:82 vs AUST:80. You may compare other indicators.

        So is it possible that we have better trained doctors and a more efficient healthcare system that utilizes manpower more effectively?

        Average usual working hours:
        Singapore’s primary resource is it’s population, to achieve the same GDP per capita as other large countries, wouldn’t it be somewhat natural that we work longer hours? Let’s just use norway as an example as you have in Chart 3 and 4. I quote from wiki, though it’s not the best source of information, “Shipping has long been a support of Norway’s export sector, but much of Norway’s economic growth has been fueled by an abundance of natural resources, including petroleum exploration and production, hydroelectric power, and fisheries.” I’d highlight abundance of natural resources if I could in bright yellow, but there’s no such function.

        I too wish we had the use of natural resources to spur our economy, sadly we don’t and all we have are our humans and our education system to keep us competitive.

        An excerpt from wiki on the south korean economy “having almost no natural resources and always suffering from overpopulation in its small territory,”. Sounds familiar? Now look at who’s number #2 on your chart for working hours, but then look at the GDP per capita, your opinions please.

        Now I know you said earlier not to pick on only certain points, but to see your entire argument as a whole. But before I continue i’d appreciate it if you’d offer me your comments.

        Thanks,

        U Crious.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi U Crious,

        To answer on why I had not used the statistics that you had mentioned, these are the reasons:

        1) I had not used the PPP and wages that you had brought up because they are based on GNI. I’ve never looked at GNI before and so my understanding on that is not strong. Having said that, let me start exploring that so that I could discuss better on that in future.

        2) For the healthcare statistics, like I had mentioned in another comment, I wasn’t aware that life expectancy is one of the key health metrics used for comparison so I had left that out. I would need to research on its use more. Also, I had not used the per capita expenditure on health because I have not adequately studied it yet.

        Basically, the main reason why I haven’t used the statistics that you had mentioned is because I have not studied them in detail yet and do not yet understand them adequately.

        Having said that, I have thought about doing separate analyses of our micro issues on healthcare, so thanks for bringing this up. I will study this further before I present this to you in a next article.

        Having said that, the main reason why I had brought up the indicators discussed in this article is because they are the indicators that are most often discussed when discussing our healthcare in the media and thus I had looked up on them specifically, more than on any other indicators. I believe that the indicators discussed here are very valid and relevant.

        As for the indicators that you’ve mentioned, let me study them in further detail to understand the sociopolitical circumstance that explains our situation. Though do note, that I might uncover some other information which has been hidden from us, as I’ve had in many of my previous articles on this blog. Feel free to browse through them.

        Your analysis of why Singapore has long working hours because of a lack of natural resources is an interesting take on the issue. But I’m not sure how the evidence would say. Perhaps if you could pull together some evidence and statistics, it might give more justification to the argument.

        However, I would ask then – if we look at the history of work hours, why has the number of work hours across other countries been dropping over the past few decades? And as their work hours dropped, was there a drop in productivity or economic growth?

        You would see that some of the countries with the lowest work hours has the highest productivity and economic growth.

        Why did economies initially worked 18 hour work weeks? If their economic growth was strong, shouldn’t have kept to 18 jour work weeks? Why cut down?

        Because there are other equations to this issue. Work hours tied to economic growth? I don’t look at it that way. I come from a socialist perspective – should workers be made to work long hours simply because of capitalistic justifications? What about work-life balance? What about life satisfaction? You can see in this article that our life satisfaction and subjective well-being is rated one of the lowest, if not the lowest. Clearly, there are other measures to why work hours need to be reduced other than because of economic growth.

        And if you look at a comment above where I had discussed on how work hours were decreased from 18 hours per day to the 8 hours now that we see, and how this is a result of strong independent unions who protected workers’ right, you would also know that in our focus on economic growth and without an existence of independent unions which can protect the workers, we’ve allowed ourselves to impinge our decisions skewed towards economic growth that it has largely forgotten the other aspects of how a society should function. And this is the fundamental flaw of Singapore and our government at this point.

        Roy

      • Crious U

        Please do study the statistics further and on a broader scale and also in future find statistics that reflect purchasing power parity (PPP), it shows a clearer picture due to differing circumstances in various countries. And yes, if you manage to dig up some hidden information, i’d be glad to see them in the next article. But the statistics you have used seem to be biased, though I understand you want to make a stronger point, and that a more balanced view would have been better in understanding how things stand now. If that is your intention.

        Life satisfaction/Happiness:
        ” You can see in this article that our life satisfaction and subjective well-being is rated one of the lowest, if not the lowest. ” – Roy

        Like you questioned, “should workers be made to work long hours simply because of capitalistic justifications?” Well, would you not agree that we are in a capitalist society? And would you agree that the capitalist idea isn’t new? Did not our grand parents and pioneers come here to make money and get a better life? Yes, they did and that capitalist mind set has been passed down. Making money as fast as possible, retiring and enjoying life or what’s left of it. (of course there are other aspects of life)

        When it boils down to life satisfaction, a few things have to be considered in my opinion and I feel that a lot of it boils down to expectations. A person growing up amidst strife and war vs a person growing up in the country side on a farm or in close-knit community vs a person growing up in a competitive society, we would all have different expectations. The lower the standard, the better off we are in the long run it seems in terms of happiness and satisfaction and like it or not, i’m young and I have grown up with high expectations. So fml, it’ll probably be disappointing and i’ll join the masses of unhappy singaporeans and spread dissension by manipulating statistics to fit my purpose.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2251272/Latin-America-worlds-happiest-region-Panama-Paraguay-boasting-cheerful-people.html

        “The people least likely to report positive emotions lived in Singapore, the wealthy and orderly city-state that ranks among the most developed in the world. Other wealthy countries also sat surprisingly low on the list. Germany and France tied with the poor African state of Somaliland for 47th place.

        Many of the seven countries which were most positive do poorly in traditional measures of well-being, like Guatemala, a country torn by decades of civil war followed by waves of gang-driven criminality that give it one of the highest homicide rates in the world.”

        I’d trade happiness for the state of stability, healthcare, peace and other factors, that we enjoy as compared to all these happiest countries in the world you seem to want to live in.

        Also please read the rest of the daily mail article about how cultural bias, how cultural affects things, and like your article suggest we love to complain in Singapore. Complain king, it’s a cultural factor.

        Life is short and there are no reasons to be sad because even if we were rich, there would still be problems,’ she said while selling herbs used for making tea. ‘We have to laugh at ourselves.’

        http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2013/

        Based on your human development report, the human development index (HDI) ranks Singapore at 18 in the world. With reference to chart 6, all the countries with a score of 7.0 and above beat Singapore’s HDI rankings (after which it’s a slight mix about the same HDI rank), is it surprising they’re so satisfied?

        But honestly, we’re ranked 18 in the world and there is a correlation between the life satisfaction in chart 6 and the HDI rank, if you would go look. If we aren’t satisfied being ranked 18 in the world for human development, then it boils down to expectations again.

        http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.TOTL.ZS

        Honestly, when we look at unemployment levels overseas and compare it to Singapore, I think it’s fair. Though you may say foreign labor has squeezed jobs, has depressed wages, but the work is still there. And if you look at the GNI per capita (PPP) our salary isn’t too shitty.

        But yes, we are unsatisfied and unhappy, so ultimately with HDI ranked 18, GNI per Capita (PPP) ranked 4, nothing will please us because of our culture and expectation. Maybe if everyone knows what to do in 2016, we’ll be happier, personally I don’t see an alternative and I don’t know what to do. It’s my first time voting, so you can see how young I am. I have attended the may day rally, so I have heard the statistics and the stories and personally, I can see why there is unhappiness. But on the other hand, comparing us to other countries as you have done, i’m quite happy being here.

        Would you want our reserves to make Singapore a welfare state as in the UK? Have you ever been to the UK to study or heard of experiences in using the NHS there? You can wait 3 days for an appointment to see a doctor over a fever or a flu. So most people self medicate or seek private healthcare which costs a bomb. Ultimately unless you want to sit in the big chair and say “I can make a better decision”, I don’t see the point of stirring dissension. And if you can, please stand in the 2016, maybe then i’ll know what to do in 2016.

  10. Daniel

    I’m sorry, but I don’t follow your argument.

    Mr. Lim says we _should be_ ‘Cheaper, Better, Faster’, he didn’t say we _are_.

    Yet, your entire argument is about trying to draw a correlation between CBF, and calling Mr. Lim out on making a false statement since there is an opposing correlation.

    He said we _should be_, which implies we _are not_. Your research, which is commendable for its thoroughness, is actually in agreement with him.

    Many Singaporeans are unhappy because we don’t get paid enough. The government makes an offer to pay us more if we become more productive, but instead we complain and maintain the status quo. Then we blame the government for not paying us more.

    In order to be paid more you need to be worth more. The government can’t simply raise our wages, because that will encourage a culture of no self-improvement. Note that more productive doesn’t mean working longer hours – it means producing more value in the same or lesser amount of time.

    This is why other countries can justify higher pay for more productive workers.

    I say it’s time Singaporeans stood up for themselves, rather than blame the government. Earn your right to be paid more, don’t cheat ourselves by getting a free pass. Our forefathers (including our parents/grandparents) worked hard to bring us to where we are today, let’s not throw that away.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Daniel,

      Wow, I am so going to prove you wrong. Give me some time to the research and trending and I will show you how we are not getting our wages back what it should be worth.

      Now, if you can show me the statistics, I will believe in your line of reasoning.

      But where are your statistics, which if you have none, is only purporting a line of thinking that’s perpetuated by this government. The statistics that I have currently presented shows clearly the government hasn’t protected the people.

      In fact, in the past decade, when there was economic growth or productivity growth, did this translate into wage growth? You will see that wage growth still fell behind productivity growth. Go look at the statistics. I have an article written somewhere. Let me dig that out.

      Dude, it never happened in the past decade. It never did. What is the government trying to do, telling us that it would do something it never did and never believed in?

      I can’t phantom what you mean when you say that the people should increase their productivity so that wages will grow up. So, we are lazy and unwilling, you say? Dude, do we run companies? Do we get to decide that companies can restructure themselves and our job roles so that we can become more productive in our jobs? We might have the will but do we have the opportunity?

      As it is, the very reason why companies are unwilling to become more productive is simply because there is no need to – they can simply import cheap labour to substitute for any productivity increase. To have economic growth, you either increase productivity or you increase the output – by increasing the number of workers to do the same work.

      And who is responsible for allowing the companies to employ cheap labour? Obviously, the government allowed it to happen by their policies which pegged a certain wage at a minimum which allowed companies to depress the wages of Singaporeans to that level.

      Now, I might sound quite unhappy at the moment in this comment but as it is – Singaporeans are divided along two lines. Those who are aligned to the views that I have expounded here and those aligned to the government. Yours is clearly more aligned to the government.

      I’m not saying whether it’s right or wrong. I come from this point of view – what do we need to do to ensure that people have a balanced life? Right now, the people don’t and my question is – can we achieve that? Can we find that balance?

      The government has veered off this balance and now we are putting the blame one against the other, me against you and you against me. This isn’t healthy.

      But we need balance. The question is – is this government willing to find that?

      Like I say, give me some time to do more research and trending and I can prove to you that the government isn’t balanced.

      And like I said, and like you’ve said and the previous commenter had mentioned, productivity isn’t a zero-sum game. But if we only give incentives to companies to increase productivity by subsiding their costs etc while not giving additional support for workers as well, by helping them find more motivation, then we are only putting in half-hearted attempts at increasing productivity, and I’m talking about the government here.

      I think you and I agree that what needs to happen is that we need to find a balance. But what we might disagree is on how to find the balance. Can we identify a common ground? I think we can. But when the conversation is limited to the government setting a discourse, where we do not have civil society actors who also able to shape it from the ground up, the balance is institutionally lopsided.

      Roy

      • Reply

        I’ll reply for Daniel here. What he means is that instead of wasting time writing out stuff on the internet to stir public discontent, you should go find a job and contribute to Singapore’s economy.

        This is called productivity. You’re not only being unproductive; you’re being counterproductive by causing unhappiness.

        There are plenty of hardworking people who earned their high incomes. They did not strike lottery consistently. They did not get rich by sitting in front of a computer thinking of how to present statistics in a way to prove their point.

        Are you starving? Are you homeless? No. The government is only obliged to provide necessities.

        Why is there a need for income redistribution? To make incomes more fair so people can buy their luxury home/car or fashionable items? And why should the government satisfy people’s wants? Wants are unlimited and human greed will never be satiated.

        Instead of complaining about low income, go upgrade your skills to get a better job. Unless you’re handicapped or are in a family who lost the sole breadwinner, there is absolutely no reason for society to help.

        I’m still waiting for the day someone writes a balanced article with both praise and criticisms instead of a slanted article purely criticising the government.

      • Reply

        1000 pounds a month and I live in central London. I live on sandwiches, bread and water. I don’t buy clothes unless mine are spoilt and unpatchable. I don’t complain, because there are plenty of homeless people on the streets. Singaporeans have it better in Singapore and there is a need to realise it.

        The grass is always greener on the other side, no? Until you get to the other side.

    • Sgcynic

      Since you talked about productivity, tell that to Lee Hsien Loong who had how many ministers in his PMO? Nine at one time? Highest paid ministers supporting the highest paid PM? And another reader had talked about extrinsic motivation actually lowering productivity especially for those who engaged in higher order tasks. I really don’t know what these ministers are doing then.

  11. VY

    Comparing the statistics for cities in some places, and entire countries in others, it seems like you’ve only picked statistics that favour your argument. It is often the case in larger countries that the citizens in the capitals are much better off compared to those in other areas. Hong Kong, perhaps the most-similar city to our nation, is not mentioned.

    Your use of statistics warps the state of affairs into making readers think that we are much worse off than what we really are. In addition, the tendency for us (in modern day discourse) to think that statistics are better, that they portray ‘clearer views of the world’ worries me as to how many people will be influenced by your poor and biased choice of data. Instead of relying on only one statistic to conclude on a policy area (be it healthcare, income inequality, prices), it would be more helpful to engage in the actual contextual circumstances. Policy making is not easy. Issues are not black and white. Blind thinking and action into “Spend more on income equality! Tax the rich more! Pay for my healthcare!” has consequences for other areas of our economy and for our future welfare.

    There is wisdom and reason for policy positions. Please first ask WHY policies are the way they are, before complaining about them. Engage in the details of policies. They may not be perfect, I agree, but serious and educated consideration needs to be made before we purport to change anything.

    It is really disheartening to see that more and more people are expressing sweeping unhappiness about policies and the govt in sg without considering the actual state of affairs. We are behaving as if things are supposed to be perfect, and that the govt owes us everything short of that. Open your eyes wide, the world is not perfect. Live with what we can have, and be happy that we as a people are lucky to be so much better than many others in the world.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi,

      To address your assumptions:

      1) I had not included Hong Kong in this article simply because there wasn’t available data in the starting point for my analysis. Please read many of my other comparisons, which I would include Hong Kong.

      2) I’ve written more than 150 articles on the sociopolitical issues of Singapore in the past one year. I’ve analysed and tried to understand their policy decisions very carefully and have tried different approaches of thinking about them, as well as reading and speaking to different people about them. So unless you have a policy issue you want to discuss here and which you can explain the reasoning behind the policy decision, I suggest we leave discussions of my aptitude of the analysis behind policy decisions out of the question. I welcome debate on policy matters.

      3) I’ve also looked at the GDP per capita of the major cities of the countries in this article. Even as we look at the GDP per capita of the cities, Singapore is still ranked second after Oslo, Norway, in terms of GDP per capita. The whole analysis in this article will still stand.

      Perhaps, instead of making sweeping statements, you would like to engage in actual discussion on policy matters. And if you’ve read my commentary, my comments are quite different towards commenters who make sweeping statements and those who have clear analysis.

      Roy

      • Reply

        150 articles… Does that make you a trusted academic? No. If so, I would be an Emeritus professor because I wrote 151 articles!

        Can you make feasible solutions? “Oh, that’s up to the politicans to do, because they’re so highly paid.” – But isn’t this directly contradicting the fact that you claim to be smart?

        So, you’re smart enough to criticise but not to offer workable solutions? Thanks for providing a case study on why our productivity is so low

        Now, if you did provide workable solutions with zero renumeration, I’d be highly impressed because this would mean work without wages – the best form of productivity

  12. JL

    You seem to have done some pretty intensive research, and I broadly agree with you.

    I haven’t read this post in detail, I just wish to mention one thing that’s always bothered me which is the comparison between Singapore and other countries, rather than other *cities*. (Almost everyone, from ST to online articles like these does that).

    My point is that Singapore, above all, has the characteristics of a city (meaning urban environment) rather than a country with a rural/urban mix which gives rise to different wage levels, costs of living and job opportunities in the different regions. As such, I believe a comparison of statistics with major world cities would give some different conclusions:

    1. GDP per capita – Singapore’s is one of the highest in the world. Yet compared to *cities* in Europe, North America (and possibly Japan/Korea), we are nowhere near the top – this is perhaps reflected in our wage levels and purchasing power which you did compare with major developed cities.

    2. Income inequality – I think this is one area where Singapore actually does quite a bit better than other cities. Inequality is a lot more pronounced in urban areas and comparatively low in rural towns/villages. Countries in the west have less equality because of the latter. Visit London, Berlin or New York, however, and it becomes very obvious that there are seriously deprived areas (and even entire districts) where poverty and urban decay are far worse that what is (mostly) seen in Singapore. I don’t have the stats, but if you can find any measure of inequality in urban areas I’m reasonably confident that Singapore does somewhat respectably.

    (That said, I remain someone who strongly believes that the government is doing far from enough in this, and I rage about it from time to time. But living in London currently makes me realise that in certain ways, Singapore has it better)

    3. Immigration – This is not the point of your post, I realise, so just let me be quick. Immigration rates of urban centres in the west are also very high; London and New York both approach 50%. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect Singapore to have a low percentage of foreigners and still be an open, global city. (That doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our immigration policy, again it’s just looking at things from a more, shall we say, worldly perspective).

    So those are my thoughts. I differ from the govt ideologically, sometimes very strongly; just wanted to provide another perspective which I think highlights some important differences without drawing away (too much) from the issues you’re making. Cheers!

    • Aaron

      I guess the (raging) point, as you and the author has mentioned, is that the govt is more than capable of providing for the people, with the people’s money, but CHOSE not to do so with it’s policies, all the while propagandising about how much it has done and continues to do for the people, which are statistically untrue (if this article is to be believed). The author has posited that this is a result of the govt having too much power over the people, and coupled with policies that do not have the interest of the majority at its heart. Hence, the conclusion can only be that the govt (read PAP) is already corrupted at its core, serving not for the people but for themselves with elaborate policies that does nothing but siphon money from the people into their coffers.

      • sgcynic

        Amen. Concise summary.
        Judging by the number of naysayers, PAP IB out in force.

      • Han

        @sgcynic if you think people who disagree with you must definitely be PAP IB, how different are you from the PAP then?

      • sgcynic

        Dear Han,
        *They* sow the seeds of distrust by setting up an IB to “engage” critics. I am fine with disagreements but frustrated with the red herrings and nitpicks thrown up in an attempt to discredit. At least this writer supports his arguments with data and references, more so than a purported national white paper does. Cynically yours.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi JL,

      I agree with you.

      I agree that we need to look at Singapore more as a city than as a country, because of the fundamental working of Singapore.

      This article has been compiled based on statistics which I could locate. I’ve been wanting to fins statistics of other cities for comparison but haven’t done so.

      Let me try to locate them, so that perhaps a more comparative picture can be painted as well.

      Though comparison of city statistics are harder to come by because most comparisons are done on a country level.

      Thank you!

      Roy

  13. Hi there

    Our salary is low but our income tax regime is one of the lowerst in the world. The tax regimes in Europe & US are crazy, 40%-75%. Check the income tax regime of SG. Why didn’t he highlight this??

    In the data, Singapore’s productivity is one of the lowest in the world along with Japan and South Korea (which fared worse than us???). That’s bloody fishy….
    Productivity is measured by GDP and hours worked according to that data (not the best way definitely). Singaporeans, Japanese and South Koreans are notorious workaholics, hence the hours worked are incredibly high, resulting in so called low productivity.

    Singapore’s GDP/capita is the 2nd highest according to the data sources that this blog writer chose. However he only chose to select data that help him blemish the SG govt.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi,

      I’ve written before about the tax structure in Singapore.

      On the surface, it looks like our tax rate is low but you haven’t accounted for our CPF. As I’ve explained, we can choose to look at tax and CPF as separate instruments but even as they are, clearly, the government sees them as the same thing – revenue.

      In other countries, taxes and CPF, in that sense, is counted as tax where the government has to take this accumulated tax and redistribute it back to the people, so there’s more to use for the people.

      But in Singapore, the government is very smart. They tell the people – look, we are going to collect very low tax from you, so we simply don’t have enough to give back to you.

      And then they collect our CPF. Now, the CPF is used by the government to invest in private companies. In other countries, the government would have transferred the CPF back.

      Some people have told me – that’s nonsense, we get our CPF back. Well, look at the statistics again – (1) Our CPF helps the government earn a much higher interest of 7% to 17% but the government gives us a significantly lower interest rate of 2.5% to 4%. We aren’t getting our value back. (2) If you use your CPF to pay for housing, the interest you pay on the loan effectively wipes out the interest earned in your CPF, which means your CPF doesn’t grow. (3) Since 2001, the amount that Singaporeans have been withdrawing from their CPF has been decreasing even though the number of people who should be withdrawing it should be increasing. So, where did the money go if people can’t draw it out?

      We can’t because the government has put more curbs in our CPF to prevent us from withdrawing our CPF so that they can use the money for investments. They’ve changed the way we can withdraw out CPF several times and the minimum sum that we need to maintain in our CPF and Medisave has been increasing at a faster rate than wages or prices have been increasing.

      If you speak to the older and poorer Singaporeans, they will tell you how hard it is for them and how they feel that they cannot draw from their CPF. This is real.

      So, if we choose to live within the belief that our CPF will come back to us, without looking at the statistics, then we are terribly mistaken.

      And if we choose to see that our tax rate is low, without including our CPF, then we will think that government cannot afford to do more. But if you look at how much CPF we have in asset, it’s actually several times higher than the annual revenue. And the interest earned from CPF which is not given back to the people goes into to the reserves, which some estimate is more than $600 or $900 billion. But this money is locked from Singaporeans.

      Some estimate that our surplus annually is $30 billion.

      No matter how you look at it, Singapore has too much money which it can help the people with and I’ve not included other instruments, such as the COE.

      Whereas other governments collect high taxes and give back to the people, our government has split it up, so that they can give lesser back to the people and use the rest for their own investments in private companies, where the interest earned goes back to a reserves which cannot be accessed by the people.

      Most importantly – what is the reason for not wanting to include taxes? We are worried the rich won’t come. The government is worried for the rich. So, fundamentally, the decision made favours the rich over the rest, and not just the poor.

      Roy

    • Han

      On CPF:

      Thinking of the CPF as a tax is fundamentally wrong because tax revenues are not spent proportionately based on contribution, whereas the money in CPF is what you put in. You argue that because the restrictions on getting back the CPF money increased over time (minimum sum, retirement age, etc) it therefore doesn’t qualify as “our own money”, however this is simply a response to managing a longer lifespan. Every other developed nation with an ageing population has had to face this problem and raising the retirement age and tightening the requirements to obtain retirement support. This is not a feature unique to Singapore so you cannot leave that out in your comparison.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Han,

        I’m not at retirement age yet. I’m not sure if you are. Perhaps the elderly who have been earning low income could fill you in on their difficulties better than I can.

        On CPF, the amount of withdrawn has been decreasing since 2001. Doesn’t make sense. Not when more people should be taking it out.

        Have discussed this in another article people where we should have higher rates of return on our CPF, because our investment arms are earning significantly higher interests and the people can be afforded to be compensated higher.

        Of course many countries are faced with an elderly population. Have discussed in another article – we need to relook how we look at our elderly – they can be productive individuals as well. How can we explore that.

        On CPF, not saying it’s obsolete. Have discussed this in another article before – CPF is a good idea because but the compensation and the returns are favoured towards the investment firms rather than the people.

        This is not new. It has been discussed by other academics and researchers before.

        Roy

      • eremarf

        @Han – CPF functions like a highly regressive “tax” in a sense. Whatever you earn beyond about $5k/month does not add to CPF contributions. So CPF works like a flat tax for the poor to middle income – and your benefits (housing, children’s education, healthcare, pension) are proportional to your contributions – definitely not like usual public spending policies!

        So thinking of CPF like tax or not – well, I can’t quibble technical definitions – I just want to say that it makes life harder (sometimes very hard!) for people with lower incomes. Doesn’t help that foreigners don’t have to pay this tax – which makes local workers more expensive and hence less desirable to employers, for the same take-home pay.

        You can think of it as enforced savings, but as real wages stagnate or even decline, and quality of public services decline (burden starts to shift to private providers – if you can afford them, e.g. healthcare waits at polyclinics and hospitals have become much longer, hospital beds and doctors ratio to population have gone down, similarly in education, private tuition (on top of what public education provides) makes up a bigger and bigger component of educations here, etc), I think we need to check again if “enforced savings” is actually improving the lives of lower income people. Lots of stories have emerged about people who need cash to stay alive today, to get preventive medical care, to have a roof over their heads – but yet have their money locked up in CPF.

        It does bear thinking about, doesn’t it?

        Though – I do recognize my lack of expert knowledge – and it would be great if experts chip in to help ordinary citizens like me understand why CPF and other policies are better than other alternatives.

    • Yahoo

      i believe that the motive of the author is not the make you worried for the future generations. the motive is likely to be the need for check and balances. should there not be check and balances, then there is probably the need to worry when our government is replaced by people less capable in the future.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Yahoo,

        Yes, this is it.

        I do not want to tear the government into bits. But I do want the government to be accountable to the people.

        If the PAP government takes the right steps, it will similarly enjoy support and trust from the people.

        On the same note, it doesn’t matter who is in government and as I have mentioned before – the key is that whoever or which party is in government’s it’s the people’s responsibility to ensure that they help make their government work.

        The problem with Singapore is a government which has too much control and a people who have relinquished their control. The fault lies as much in the people as they do in the government.

        It is important that Singaporeans do not keep waiting and getting angry at the government, but take the right steps to work with the government to find the right balance for Singapore.

        It is also important for the government to be willing to let go of its fear and control, and chart a path to work with Singaporeans to find the right balance.

        As with the economy, competition between political players, civil society and the people will only bode well for a more intellectually stimulating environment in Singapore, where the ideas will only spur Singapore forward, together.

        Thanks!

        Roy

  14. danielt

    everyone can use stats for their own agenda, so unless i understand the assumptions and methodology used here, i will take it with extra pinches of salt.
    “Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics” – Mark Twain

  15. SL

    I think all these statistics are to prove a point (or a few), and perhaps a simple example to prove that same point is that if a typical fresh graduate from say, NUS were to do a typical job here, no way in hell would he be able to afford to rent an apartment, buy a car, and have a decent disposable income after. If the same person did the same job in most other cities, he would. And I think it says a lot when everyone just wants to leave- the above being one of them, the restrictions on a million and one things which prevent a culture which in turn stifles love for home, and the fact that most people here are too busy surviving than living.

  16. dacis2

    There’s a lot of good points raised, but some of your statistics are misleading. For example, the US spends most in the world per captia on its healthcare yet has a horribly inefficient healthcare system with poorer coverage than us due to its sheer inefficiency. We have higher pension security than France, which actually has a mandatory state pension provision system. We have lower productivity than Spain or Italy, yet our economy is more vibrant and healthy, and let’s not forget that Spain now has over 25% unemployment.

    Does this mean the G shouldn’t do more? Certainly not, I think they can and must do more. But such details tend to get lost in statistics (giving you the benefit of the doubt since I don’t think you’re an economist/political scientist), and thus you can also improve if in the future you take a deeper look into the policies and the effects behind the numbers.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi dacis2,

      I agree with you.

      Let me look at the other statistics and information. If I can, I will write another article about it.

      But I might not need to, since there’s a lot of information online. Though sometimes they might not be as accessible.

      Thanks for this!

      Roy

    • eremarf

      Singapore has good healthcare metrics because we’re smart on a lot of things. Prevention is better than cure. Reducing smoking, alcohol, crime, road safety, etc will all improve health metrics (a bit harder to measure possible reduction in happiness from this though). This is overall a good thing, IMHO.

      In terms of health metrics – I think Singapore’s biggest failings are in mental illnesses, stress, depression, etc.

      Also the effects of massive immigration (while healthcare services play catch-up), and increasing income inequality, on health won’t be immediate – expect some time lag before it starts hitting the metrics too.

      Healthcare in the US costs as much as it does because a lot of that money goes to drug manufacturers and insurers – the middle-men, not the care providers.

      I found this informative: http://thehealthcareblog.com/blog/2013/05/02/misunderstanding-oregon/#more-61285

      It talks about the three legs of the stool of healthcare – cost, access and quality. I’m not sure how good Singapore is if you look at these.

      Re: Spain and Italy – they’re victims of undemocratic decisions for austerity (plus lacking a sovereign currency – again undemocratic). The Spaniards and Italians didn’t vote for that. It’s imposed on them from the Europe Central Bank. Goes to show what lack of democracy does for people. Naomi Klein has an interesting thesis on this – check up Shock Doctrine.

      And ultimately – I think Roy is just an ordinary guy. I’m looking for expert opinions but I find very few in Singapore. Nobody goes public with their analyses. Academics are quiscent. This is also an urgent problem in Singapore, isn’t it? That academics and experts (e.g. civil society) don’t feel free to critique and comment? In such a climate, how can ordinary citizens like us obtain good information?

  17. Marc M.

    I’m missing the income tax level comparisons. Living in socialist western countries means the income tax levels are multiple times higher which in turn are used for healthcare, unemployment and welfare expenditures. The net result is pretty much the same. In Singapore you pay less tax, have a higher post tax net, but have to cover healthcare, unemployment and retirement yourself (since from CPF you only get out what you paid in).

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Marc M.,

      You are right. Sorry, I had used the indicator for purchasing power to reflect that.

      Admittedly, I do agree that should be a more in-depth comparison with tax as well. Sorry that I had missed out on it as – the article was conceived as I went through the research and found what I could. Some indicators might not have been included because I had not thought of them or located them at the time of the research for this article.

      I hope readers will understand. Hopefully, I am able to address them at a later article.

      Thank you.

      Roy

  18. Jentrified Citizen

    Reblogged this on Jentrified Citizen and commented:
    Jentrified Citizen – Everyone should share this execellent factual analysis. The facts speak for themselves on why so many things are wrong with Singapore and why we are so unhappy. The facts debunk the myths and spin that have been painted by our government on how well they have been taking care of us. Not! They have been growing Singapore Inc as a business and their own fat salaries, yes. But taking good care of each and every Singaporean? Let the facts speak out loud.

  19. Tuan Hong

    Very impressive long article indeed. But I would like to propose an alternate interpretation of CBF, which is lowest cost per output. Cost should be total costs inclusive of intangible benefits such as space taken up as office, stability at work, environment etc… and cost of quality…. some further indepth thots reqiured here. Labors are commodities in the era of near perfect mobility of businesses, just like memory chips. Prices of memory chips are falling but manufacturers are fighting on cost per mbytes.
    A different perspective of CBF may lead us to think it more positively.
    I have no resoures to verify the truth of all these stats, pardon me. I cannot accept them on face value particularly when a psuedo name is used by the author. Credibility is discounted. If they are real, u should let Swee Say know so that the govt could take strategies to address them very soon. Discrediting Swee Say or PM Lee is simply not addressing the problem enough.

  20. Yappie

    This article with its data has been designed to suit its purpose. the datas are irregular and inconstant. Anyway, I have seen the graph with the highest income n stuffs and most of those countries have tax rate at 40% n above. It is true they have the welfare system but it has created plenty of social problems for them.it has caused their ppl to have offshore accs to avoid being taxed by their gahmen. their locals wont want to have a job at their countries as they will be heavily taxed to support the joblesses or those welfare riders. no one cant have the best of two worlds. if u think sg gahmen system sucks then try working in other countries and have only half ur income to urself and half to the welfare rider and u can compare it urself.

  21. Hero

    Your conclusion about cheaper better faster is wrong. I have set through 3 sessions of hearing the concept explained and never has anyone mentioned the cheaper better faster refers to workers. They are used to describe the macro economy. Whereas China used to produce things cheap, they can now produce quality stuff too. And whereas the US used to be able to produce quality stuff at a certain price level, they can now do so cheaply. So the cheap has become better, and the better gave become cheaper. So Singapore had to innovate faster than other countries to keep ahead. By using a cursory understanding to illustrate your point, you have failed the most basic of academic prudency – getting your facts right. I wish you’d had bothered to use the same conscientiousness in pulling out all those stats to at least keep to the facts than twisting words to suit your point.

    • Hero

      Removed typos.

      Your conclusion about cheaper better faster is wrong. I have sat through 3 sessions of hearing the concept explained and never has anyone mentioned that “cheaper better faster” referred to workers. They are used to describe the macro economy. Whereas China used to produce things cheap, they can now produce quality stuff too. And whereas the US used to be able to produce quality stuff at a certain price level, they can now do so cheaply. So the cheap has become better, and the better have become cheaper. So Singapore has to innovate faster than other countries to keep ahead. By using a cursory understanding of the concept to defend your point, you have failed the most basic of academic prudency – getting your facts right. I wish you’d had bothered to use the same conscientiousness in pulling out all those statistics to at least keep to the facts than twisting words to suit your point.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Hero,

        If you could share any links that you have which could illustrate what you have said, it would be helpful.

        I’ve read through some articles but haven’t read a link which describes clearly what Mr Lim means with CBF.

        Perhaps the lack of clarity in the message arises from the use of the acronyms which do not quite sync with what people believe in.

        If you could share some links, I would be grateful. Meanwhile, I will try to read up more to locate any links as well.

        Out of curiosity, which are the three sessions that you had mentioned which you had attended briefings where you learnt about CBF?

        Thanks.

        Roy

      • eremarf

        In other words – beware equivocation. Doublespeak is alive and kickin’ here in Singapore. George Orwell would be proud.

      • Hero

        Its rather easily searchable, I think if you wanted to write a piece on the subject matter, you would need to at least do a google search? For good academic rigeur, you do need to demonstrate adequate research. Anyway, here’re some I found in 10 minutes of searching. There must be pages of illustrating how CBF is applicable on a macro level. Just pause and think – would it make sense to a bus captain to ask him to be cheaper better faster individually? Lower pay? Drive faster? Drive better buses? But try using the concept on a macro level – distance based pricing is making things cheaper on the whole for commuters, bus route remapping and new types of buses that can “kneel” so that physically disadvantaged people can board easier is making things better, and bringing in engine and chassis types that standardize maintenance processes helps to make the servicing process faster.

        My university professor always encouraged us: if you define the problem too small, you will only be able to draw small conclusions. If you define the problem big, you will see the whole world of solutions. I encourage you to do so.

        Miyagi has written about it http://miyagi.sg/ watch the 25 min mark.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUkv7uBO1DU Watch the 14min mark

        http://www.straitstimes.com/microsites/parliament/story/labour-chief-defends-cheaper-better-faster-slogan

        http://www.ntuc.org.sg/wps/portal/up2/home/workingforu/workingforudetails?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/content_library/ntuc/home/working+for+u/f1b4760048f01dccacc3bf2016918325

        http://www.ntuc.org.sg/wps/portal/up2/home/workingforu/workingforudetails?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/content_library/ntuc/home/working+for+u/f1b4760048f01dccacc3bf2016918325

      • eremarf

        “My university professor always encouraged us: if you define the problem too small, you will only be able to draw small conclusions. If you define the problem big, you will see the whole world of solutions. I encourage you to do so.”

        @Hero: I find it ironic you say this, but yet nitpick at small things in Roy’s article. The meaning of CBF seems a minor thing to me, compared to the general trends Roy highlights – which are very troubling. Let me just put them out to you again and I hope you can give us some insights on the big problems (because I DO want to see a whole world of solutions!)

        1. Huge wealth divide, leading to:

        (a) increasing unaffordability of investment in human beings – namely, more and more Singaporeans find it hard to invest in education and skill-training, find it hard to eat healthily, receive sufficient preventive medical care, etc to stay healthy and productive

        (b) wastage of resources as the rich do not use wealth as well as the poor – marginal returns per dollar spent by rich people on society’s future production is very low (it’s really hard to find something that will provide the rich with utility – you know you’ve run up against the walls of the imagination when people start splurging on wild debauched parties, luxury cars, etc) (contrarily – the argument that the poor will mis-spend their wealth isn’t hard to tackle – just disburse wealth to them in the form of useful public services, e.g. education and healthcare!)

        2. Poor mental health and emotional states in Singapore – however economically well-off “we” are – and “we” is in scare quotes because I’m not sure I can refer to all Singaporeans any more when I use the epithet “well-off” – however economically well-off “we” seem to be, it does seem that Singaporeans are experiencing quite a lot of stress. Talk to older social workers, doctors, teachers, etc people who are meeting the spectrum of society, on the frontlines of dealing with people in distress, and gauge for yourself whether we’ve made any headway in making Singaporeans happier – I don’t think so.

        3. Miscellaneous things like fertility rates, long work hours – I think these are more mysterious, “cultural” things – but definitely worth examining. I’m sure you have friends who report staying in the office to conform, not to get work done. I’m also sure lots of your friends choose not to have children, even if decently salaried. I think more input on these things would be good.

        4. The quality and sincerity of our politicians – I think you kindof addressed this. Thank you! My own opinion, however, is that Lim Swee Say is more than just his words, e.g. CBF. If you look at his policies, as Trade Union poobah, etc – you find that he’s not putting his (OUR?!) money where his mouth is. Because of this I’m more or less with Roy’s verdict that our politicians aren’t sincere to all Singaporeans any more.

  22. JH

    Your article is certainly interesting especially with the use of statistics. Statistics paint a picture of our economy that seems rather bleak. More so than it actually is. My comments on your article are as follows:

    1. Singaporeans and Koreans may work the longest hours but it does not necessarily mean we are the most productive. It
    Is ingrained in our culture and that of the Koreans that an employee must look busy at all times irregardless of whether he has finished his or her work on time and effectively. This is extremely evident in our culture with employers expecting overtime and workers to put in so many hours when it is simple unproductive. Moreover, the culture here is such that the subscribe to the notion if “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it” and many frown upon new ideas that change the status quo making things hard initially which may in the long run lead to increased efficiency. It is the mindset that hours equate to efficiency and this not the case in European and American companies in New York or London. Singaporeans need to realise that working hard is a good quality but only when it is efficient. Pretending to put in the hours that many do is simply a waste of time and money. As an employer, why should I pay someone more when he is inefficient in his work. If someone has to work overtime everyday it means either I give too much work or the employee is simply inefficient.

    2. Your statistics on wages do not take into account that of taxes. Wages in European and American cities are higher and I do not disagree but taxes in these places go up to 40%. Singapore’s income tax is extremely low and out cost of living is nowhere close to the global cities around the world. Singaporeans also expect to be paid more and I hear recent graduates always complaining about the low salaries without realising that fresh graduates in cities such as London and New York earn less than most fresh grads in Singapore after tax deductions. Precious generations worked hard and we should to and not expect an easier life.

    3. It would have been better if you showed statistical changes over time rather than static ones and the figures would have been better had they all been from a single or few sources rather than the varied ones you used. I do by doubt their accuracy but it’s hard to compare a city state with countries with rural and urban areas.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi JH,

      1) Our perspective of productivity is currently framed from the perspective of employers. Understandably, businesses will do that. But as a government, the government needs to take into account the perspectives of not only the employer but the worker as well. As I’ve said in a previous comment, productivity and wages aren’t a chicken and egg issue. Currently, the argument is framed that once we increase productivity, only then can wages go up. But there is other research which also suggests that productivity is low because wages are low. So, the government needs to step in to provide balance and equalise viewpoints and not take the position of one over the other.

      2) As with wages, is it ok to look at another discussion above – Singapore’s purchasing power will give a very clear indication on the worth of our wages.

      3) I will look into trending at some point. But please understand that I maintaining my blog isn’t what I do full time. I’ve looked briefly at the statistics over time and they don’t appear different from this illustration. But I will try to compile the statistics at a later date and share them with readers here.

      Thanks.

      Roy

  23. Dan

    Hi,

    I would like to say that I found your opinion piece a rather interesting read. I agree with some of your points brought up in this article, although I believe that your comparisons are questionable and that your opinion could perhaps analyze things a little more.

    By comparing cities and countries, the comparison becomes flawed and unfair. You are also comparing singapore to countries with vastly different demographics and who have had a longer time to develop their economy and other such areas you have brought up. I understand that some of the stats are unavailable, however maybe it would be better to have analyzed the stats further and cross referenced them in order to arrive at a conclusion.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Dan,

      Will try to do further follow up pieces on this.

      However, there are actually many articles written online which provide fair comparisons, some of which I’ve included as links in this and other articles.

      The question is, do these statistics and reports get responded to?

      As I’ve shared here and in other articles, the pattern has been for Singapore to exclude itself in reports that make it look bad or to develop our own counter-reports against these reports. This is counterintuitive as we then put ourselves on the back pedal.

      I think for many readers or commenters rather, it is of course easy to criticise me because I allow comments on this blog, unlike some MPs who have disabled or blocked people from commenting on their Facebook pages if there are disagreeing viewpoints. I have been blocked by MP Lee Bee Wah for a logical questioning.

      Truth is, whatever I’ve researched and written about is not many new. Many academics, journalists and researchers have reported on them. They have been silenced, sued, defamed or denied their tenures. This is why we never get to read about them more than we should.

      If anyone does a search online, they can find many, many articles. Again, question is, would the government care?

      I don’t come out with these statements simply because I feel like it. I’ve read many research, reports and studies. Many of them make the same conclusions. And many of them are ignored. Perhaps I should leave it to discerning Singaporeans to figure out for themselves what the truth is, by doing our own online searches to understand what’s really going on in Singapore. There’s more than enough available information online.

      Roy

  24. weijiezheng

    You have made a seemingly logical argument there. But what exactly do you propose? It is pointless to say this and that and dig up all the statistics without concrete action to push for change.

    How reliable are the statistics? On what basis are they measured against? Do they really tell the whole story? Is there any correlation between the different trends observed? How do you prove? What are the consequences of such trends?

    I hope you don’t mind that I ask those questions. I just want you to be a responsible person when it comes to making such sweeping remarks and quote statistics to back you up. The sad truth is that it will go no where if you just rant with statistics.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi weijiezhang,

      Please please read my other comments and articles.

      Offered plenty of solutions

      In fact, many Singaporeans had offered many solutions as well.

      Question is, has the government responded?

      Roy

      • weijiezheng

        I guess the most effective way is to address it to the right people 🙂 I know of ways to get there, and I have tried before with much success. You can let me know via email and I would love to share with you. To be honest, posting on a blog can only go as far as posting on a Facebook wall does, which is likely to end up pretty much where you were initially. I apologize if my previous post has been blunt, that’s probably because I’ve seen one too many Singaporeans posting about the government and not making much sense of themselves.

      • weijiezheng

        But actually, the real problem I have with your article is your very use of stats. They seem to only serve what you’re trying to convince your readers, ie you pick what you like, forgoing the real picture. In case you haven’t already noticed, most people are questioning you on that and you have not really replied them properly.

    • guanyinmiao

      @Roy, to further Wei Jie’s point:

      For instance, for chart 15, USA spends so much on healthcare! That must be good right? We should totally emulate it, don’t you think so?

      Jin Yao

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Jin Yao,

        No, still not an intelligible comment. So, you’ve nit picked another statistic and hope to discredit this article.

        Now, tell me, in all logic, would you do that? Any sensible person would tell you that it’s not. C’mon, you want to discredit this article, you gotta try a lot harder than this. Try harder and win a prize.

        The government needs to increase its proportion expenditure on the people but to increase it to what America is doing isn’t logical.

        Your question is fatally flawed. Try asking a more sensible question.

        Roy

      • guanyinmiao

        Now you know how we feel (wrt *nitpicking). Hooray for that!

        You made the point: “Our government spends the lowest proportion of GDP on health among the developed countries, and indeed among the lowest in the world”. And that’s it?

        If you had used the chart properly, you would have done a few things: explain the mean and deviations, the maximum and minimum, and establish your point clearly. When I used the America example, I did the exact same thing you did: show that Singapore is at the bottom, and suggest that it is unsatisfactory. So?

        Jin Yao

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Jin Yao,

        Like I’d said, I will plan for some articles to discuss the other indicators.

        More than 20 charts with statistics. Nit picking? I’m not so sure.

        But let’s be prepared to discuss my future articles, which will look at the indicators.

        Roy

      • eremarf

        Hi Jin Yao

        It’s easy to destroy, hard to create. I would appreciate if you could do more than just say Roy is nitpicking and imply that everything he’s writing is of no relevance?

        IMHO, Roy might not be presenting the most objective picture of things, but what he points is is still worthy of attention, and should be discussed.

        For starters – give your perspective on any of these metrics? Any other metrics Roy has left out? Suggest good sources?

        Thank you for contributing to building our nation.

      • guanyinmiao

        Hi!

        Definitely hard to create.

        I never did imply that “everything he’s writing is of no relevance” (and by extension, not destroying here). The point in the many comments is that his use of statistics is far from the best, and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

        Can I see the point he’s making? Why not? These socio-economic issues have been persistent, and we in the blogosphere have been involved in discussions for years. We respect the views.

        But can we do more than just brandish figures? Besides accounting for assumptions and questioning the sources, graphs and statistics are only useful if they are accompanied by narratives (and by that, I don’t mean convenient one-liners). This chart on healthcare for instance: he could have explained the differences in expenditure, and the reasons for the disparities. Why do we spend so little (even though our system has been heralded as one of the best)? Should we spend more?

        It’s not about the metrics per se; it’s about how they are presented, explained, and justified.

        Jin Yao

      • Sgcynic

        Guanyinmiao, I understand where you are coming from. I just hope the same people can hold this government to a higher degree of accountability than a lone blogger. Care to share the same degree of civility to a fellow blogger as you would to those in authority as you usually do?

      • guanyinmiao

        Thanks Sgcynic. I accept that, and I do apologise if any (Roy in particular) have been offended. Civility and respect (and I believe I’m stood by my perspectives in a cordial manner) should be extended to all regardless of backgrounds.

        Greater rigour can only be beneficial for all of us, as we continue to challenge the status quo.

        Jin Yao

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Jin Yao,

        My apologies too, that I might have been harsh in my eagerness to protect the integrity of this article.

        It is not my intention to devalue PAP. Rather, my intention is to hope that with some statistics, I can try to paint a coherent picture that some of us might not realise.

        Is this complete. It’s not. And like some commenters here have shown, they have as well brought put statistics to argue differently.

        I would need to research more to be able to provide a more in-depth to some of the points, if I’ve not already done so.

        I hope that people can understand that I’m trying to do my part and what I can. My intention is to add to the diversity, and hopefully when our institutions are ready for such rigour, we can have think tanks and media which are more representative to a wide selection of views.

        Again, it is not my intention to devalue or relegate any party as being inferior. My aim is to promote intellectual discussion. I don’t have all the points but collectively, we can only add to the discussion and help people to think in more diverse and expansive ways.

        Thank you for this, and thank you to Sgcynic for moderating 🙂

        Roy

      • Sgcynic

        Thank you both for your civility. I push back hard only because that is how I am conditioned by the “system”. We have all seen how well-meaning proposals have been denigrated and put down by those that we have been exhorted to engage “constructively”. It is impossible not to be cynical when the other party engages in contradictory (duplicitous) actions. How do you encourage trust and respect if on the one hand, one purports to be civil, and the other hand, intimidate, sue and sets up a shadow IB brigade? I am curious how many posters here are genuinely engaging in seeking the truth and how many are hyenas lured by the title of this post.exceptional number of comments for this post cause it struck a raw nerve? I apologise of I offend the genuine posters. I mince no words that the PAP is screwing the country and the credibility of the institutions and system with crap like AIM-gate and the follow-up “exoneration” by a committee.

  25. JW

    Cherry-pickers gonna cherry pick.
    Wage levels: Comparing cities to Singapore (a country), when cities concentrate upper tier occupations – and very little lower tier industrial activity. Compare entire countries (the data is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AlOeRaLhfZBydG1yaVhrS1FUaS1nTV9Kbkp5aDZqUnc) and you can see that Singapore has one of the highest incomes (average and median) in the developed world, and our average Joe has possibly the highest spending power after deducting income and consumption tax.

    Productivity and weekly work hours: Our push for productivity is only a couple of years old, coming from the government trying to wean us off cheap foreign labour. Also, who’s to say the statistics do not include the million-plus foreign workers labouring away in our shipyards, construction sites and our 300,000 maids (we’re truly a nation of spoiled crybabies, ha!) who work round the clock for 6 days a week – all on a pittance for OUR companies which pay OUR tax, half of which is used on US, and the other half, SAVED.

    Happiness and overall life satisfaction: So long as you keep coveting the wealth of your neighbours, you’ll never be happy.

    Income inequality: When the rich get richer, do they make the poor, poorer? When our median income is already pretty damn good, why bother about the rich? After all, what they’re doing is simply paying the vast majority of tax for your roads, schools and hospitals. And you vilify them.

    Reserves: Having no reserves must be the in-thing today. Guess I missed the memo and that we should spend what we have, like Europe. You know, that Europe, the Europe is doing really well, well enough that some of their top economies would take a few hundred years to pay off their debts. /sarcasm.

    Price levels and purchasing power: Again, comparing cities to Singapore – a country; apples to oranges. There is also another metric which the you, the writer left out: PPP, Purchasing Power Parity, and when that metric is transposed over our wages, leaves us in a pretty good position, if only people stopped complaining long enough to notice.

    Healthcare expenditure: I think already covered in one of the comments that budget is in no way an adequate measure of efficiency of bringing healthcare to the masses.

    Housing prices: The source states, “Figures are typically based on the average for a 120 square metre apartment (in most locations – see mouse overs). THE APARTMENTS ARE TYPICALLY IN A PRIME INNER CITY AREA, except in the Caribbean or Pacific.” Fortunately no one lives in a prime inner city area except the rich – so it does not affect “poor, suffering Singaporeans” like yourself, and those who frequent your website, thecherrypickedtruths.com. So, stop the presses, call the cops! Our rich are paying through their noses for a place to live near the CBD – oh wait, no one cares.

    Pension index: Mercer is full of shit, if you read the report it recommends that the government makes your share of the CPF contribution bigger (thus your income smaller), encourage foreigners (which you all hate) to have their own CPF so that they can stay here when they retire and make more old people work.

    Fertility rate: You know what, in Western countries which have “conquered” low fertility, something like close to half of all newborns are born out of wedlock. Swell, I’d like to follow their system and have single mothers everywhere who bring up children who are 4.6 times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away from home, 20 times more likely to have behavioural disorders, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 9 times more likely to drop out of school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 9 times more likely to end up in a state operated institution and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.

    tl;dr, the less you know, the more you believe. When the government stopped having such a hard on for control and stopped telling everyone what to think, people you fill their heads instead. Shame on all of you sock puppets who take this shit at face value.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi Anonymous,

        Doesn’t invalidate the report.

        1) UBS has been conducting their survey for many years now. Do you see other countries or think tanks discrediting it?

        2) The people who are trying to discredit UBS’s report are the think tanks set up by the Singapore government, precisely because the report makes the Singapore government look bad. Isn’t that credible for the Singapore government to critique another, just because they look bad and want to blame another?

        3) The critique that you had posted in the link is made by the Asia Competitiveness Institute. It’s set up by the Singapore government. It has done a study before which compares Singapore’s competitiveness with other countries and rank us as one of the highest when the other comparative rankings don’t even rank Singapore in the top ten. I’ve written about this before.

        Before the Asia Competitiveness Institute can criticise the methodology of another report, they might perhaps do well first to look at their own track record or lack thereof.

        In any case, in the link that you had sent, Singapore still rates very poorly against the other cities, where Singapore has a higher GDP per capita with. Still validates the argument is this article.

        Thanks.

        Roy

      • Kgil

        Yep, let’s all pretend JW’s post never existed. Easiest way to dismiss arguments that you can’t counter-argue.

    • guanyinmiao

      Wish I could like your comment, JW. Can this be “statistics” if we are not cognisant of your assumptions, methodology, and whether the reports you’ve referenced are accurate?

      On the UBS Report: http://spp.nus.edu.sg/aci/docs/20110503_UBS_ACI_Wages_Comparison_report.pdf

      On the Work Hours: how did you get the numbers for Singapore’s work hours? Did you average it from some figures in the MOM report (would be great if you could explain how the figure was derived), and then compared it to the OECD figures? How certain are you that the work hours were measured the same way?

      Jin Yao

      • My Right to Love

        Hi guanyinmiao,

        As for the critique of the UBS report, please read a previous comment. The critique is done by a Singapore agency set up by the government which had wanted to discredit it for obvious reasons.

        And the agency had similarly created a ranking tool which positioned Singapore well. An agency which can play around with methodology can hardly be taken seriously when it critique others on their mythology.

        Also, even as they critique, they go on to prove that Singapore’s wages are still lower, even when compared to other cities with similar GDP per capita. So?

        As for work hours, the OECD statistics had showed the work hours of full time workers, including overtime work. I had looked at the Mom report which has explicit stated the work hours of full time workers and their overtime hours. I don’t have access to the PDF now as I’m on my phone. Will locate the exact page and figures for you when I can. The work hours for full time work is something like 47 hours which overtime hours is about 3 hours – so a total of 50 hours.

        And do an online search – many news reports which discusses how Singaporeans work the longest hours.
        And what would you hope by bringing this up? That if we don’t work the longest but maybe the second or third longest, that Singaporeans should accept that they don’t work the longest hours and should be thankful?
        Roy

      • guanyinmiao

        Eh, no leh. In the PDF file they did not “go on to prove that Singapore’s wages are still lower”.

        You can doubt the credibility of the provenance (that’s your prerogative), but the statistics (buzzword alert!) are certainly not fudged.

        And that’s my point: you’re comparing “work hours” differently. What counts as full-time work, part-time work? They measured the same samples? Across all occupations? How were the weights decided? Onus is on you to corroborate, since you are mixing two separate studies. I never disagreed with your point about working long hours and productivity, but your use of “statistics” is highly suspect.

        Jin Yao

      • guanyinmiao

        What is my hope? That individuals do not brandish “data” and “tables” to prove their “statistical” propositions. Does not help to advance discourse.

        Jin Yao

      • My Right to Love

        No, Jin Yao, that is not my question. Try again.

        Are you saying that if Singaporeans do not work 50 hours, that if we work maybe 49 or 47 hours that it’s acceptable? Are you saying if we don’t work the longest but the second longest that it’s ok?

      • My Right to Love

        No, you still haven’t answered my question.

        Let this be a note to other commenters – if you want to argue on the statistics and prove them otherwise, note too that we might be arguing on the statistics here but there are real life consequences as to the poor and the elderly who have to live in chronic low wage conditions in Singapore where they have to worry day in, day out how their lives are going to be.

        And if we want to argue about how we shouldn’t look at the statistics in such a negative light, because we think that they are perhaps not as bad as they sound, then I suggest we earn as low a pay as a cleaner at $600 for 10, 20 or 30 years and then come back here and tell everyone that it’s ok.

        There’s no reason to pay our ministers or CEOs millions if they can just as well earn $600 and get back.

        Roy

    • eremarf

      @JW – just a quick response: (And Kgil I hope this makes you happy!)

      Re: “Our push for productivity is only a couple of years old, coming from the government trying to wean us off cheap foreign labour.”
      >> You’re obviously not old enough to remember Teamy the Productivity Bee. There you go! http://visualarchive.sg/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Teamy.jpg

      Re: “Happiness and overall life satisfaction: So long as you keep coveting the wealth of your neighbours, you’ll never be happy.”
      >> Eh? I have more to add – the more you covet any wealth beyond what’s necessary for a decent existence, the less happy you’ll be. It’s true. The richest people aren’t the happiest people at all (check up the happiness research, e.g. Easterlin). In fact, psychology research (e.g. Paul Piff) is showing that when people think about money, they become more nasty, ambitious, cruel, etc. All this talk about money is taking us down the wrong path. We need to talk about how to lead rich, meaningful lives. You know, we already produce enough to give everyone rich, meaningful lives. We just don’t know how to get humans to stop thinking about money and hoarding it all.

      Re: “Income inequality: When the rich get richer, do they make the poor, poorer? When our median income is already pretty damn good, why bother about the rich?”
      >> This is a great question! In fact, when the rich get richer, they do make the poor poorer! For example, check up Alan Honick’s anthropological and archaeological work in British Columbia, documenting the rise of inequality in the earliest human settlements. Read anthropologists who document how rich people in tribes, during times of famine, instead of providing succour to poor tribe members, drive them into debt peonage, starvation, or out of the tribe instead. In the ultimate analysis – accumulated surplus (i.e. wealth) is power – and the power-hungry (anthropologists call them aggrandizers) always love exploiting those without power. That’s what small-group cultural-biological co-evolution has left us with.

      Re: “After all, what they’re doing is simply paying the vast majority of tax for your roads, schools and hospitals. And you vilify them.”
      >> Oh yeah, they’re also the ones benefiting most from public services. When a rich guy hires skilled labour educated by state funds, they’re leveraging on society’s public resources (paid for by people other than himself). When he transports products and raw materials globally and locally on roads, rail, ports airports, he does that. When he succeeds in a law-abiding, peaceful and stable society, he is the beneficiary of public funds again. Everyone pays for the police, the army, the public and civic institutions, the “culture” even. Warren Buffett has said so himself – put him in Africa and he wouldn’t have achieved what he has. People who are rich owe their society. They don’t succeed on their own.

      Re: Europe debts – you need a more sophisticated understanding. This is getting too long – why don’t you head over to Naked Capitalism, or look for some Modern Monetary Theorists and pick up some knowledge?

      And that’s all for you tonight. I really recommend Chang Ha-Joon’s (development economist at Cambridge) books – if you’re really interested in how I would respond to your thoughts – pick up one of his laymen books (not the academic publications), such as 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. David Graeber’s Debt is also a good read if you have the stomach for deeper reading. As is The Archdruid Report (John Greer’s blog), Dmitri Orlov (blogs at Club Orlov). And of course Naked Capitalism (Yves Smith and co.)

      Thanks for the exchange of ideas. Cheers! 🙂

  26. Bell

    Hi,

    Let’s compete with statistics shall we?

    6 bloggers who like this article+39 Twitter shares and 3k+ Facebook shares
    Oh please…that many only?
    I also presume that you aren’t a professionally qualified sociopolitical journalists/columnists as well, where’s your credibility? Therefore it’s justified to be assumed that this article is just merely written by a vigourous Blogger who’s stuck behind the computer screen for the whole day in his Mummy’s house simply because Housing costs are too high and ‘we are all given low wages’ with the lack of opportunity to excel in our career. You don’t wait for opportunity. You create opportunity. Have you studied Economics dude? I doubt you do. You only analyse policies based on statistics and trends. You have not seen the balanced rationale for them.

    Oh and ive noticed a pattern in your arguments.
    Step 1) Insist on your claim
    Step 2) Support claims with statistics
    Step 3) Explain rationale
    Step 4) Beat about the bush to manipulate explanations that sees fits
    Step 5) People opposed your arguments? Justify with all statistics and credibility of having written 150+ articles to prove point
    Step 6) Dismiss several parts of opponent’s judgement and claims that you can’t deny
    Step 7) Go back to step 1. Repeat.

    Don’t believe? Look through and analyse your comments. I’m sure you are a smart and highly logical person who can see this. Well, I can commend you for that because this is also what most of the local politicians do when answering difficult queries of the public. If you’ve been through some of their seminars, I’m sure you would have noticed.

    Now back to statistics. I don’t really see how the small number of subscribers or likes on your article can prove your credibility, so…I take it as an article full of well-written and fully structured statistical analysis, yet one full of codswallop with poor evaluation. In reality, evidences to prove a statement does not mean it becomes a fact. Statements that does not have any evidences to suppport yet does not mean it is not true eitherGet that straight

      • Bell

        Huh self-contradiction. So is that how you view yourself as well, as according to how you view the government? Well I’m not saying that your view on the governemtn is wrong, I have no right to say that. Being ordinary citizens in a somewhat democratic country reserves everyone the right to have various opinions on their government and political views. Just that, you forgot that action needs to be done to make changes before changes can happen as according to the people’s voice. So don’t make your own life so complicated by contradicting yourself without any suggestions of concrete plans that can be done to achieve ‘YOUR Singapore’

      • Bell

        Sup,

        You haven’t answered my first question yet. Where’s your writing credibility? Where are the documentary proofs of your ‘concrete Action plans’ which you have wisely suggested?

        Oh, I thought you should have realise by logical sense that this viral article emerged out of sensitive controversy, not admiration and fancies.

  27. isthatso?

    the statistics that you have left out, is what was the GDP per capita of all asian countries in 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005, 2012. What is the trend? which country in Asia is moving up the most? Which country is the most desirable country to live in? As voted by migrants. Then that is a statistic of the govt’s performance. That does not mean ppl shld not want changes to govt policies or strategies. Everyone always wants govt policies to change, but what is required is discussion not accusations. Unfortunately, some are still living in 1960s communist era, employing many anti-communist media styles. The Athenian and Pre-Caesar Roman democracy is still the best form of government but very hard to implement.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi isthatso?

      Please read my previous articles. And please read the second last paragraph of this article again.

      I believe that the PAP government of fore has done well for Singapore and taken good care of Singaporeans.

      My critique is against the current government, which over the past decade has allowed Singaporeans’ wages to stagnate, or even drop, while increasing prices, providing lower and lower healthcare subsidies and made people withdraw lesser and lesser from their CPF.

      I have analysed these many times in previous articles.

      It’s utter nonsense to compare the performance of the current PAP politicians with the PAP politicians of fore when the current batch of ministers and MPs are mostly inducted after 2000. I think it wise not to mess up the credibility of our founding leaders with the wanton behaviour of the current batch.

      Roy

      • JW

        “My critique is against the current government, which over the past decade has allowed Singaporeans’ wages to stagnate, or even drop, while increasing prices”

        [Citation needed]

        And not from some theonlinetemasekrealemerituscitizen.com pseudo-blogging/anecdotal evidence website. Empirical is the order of the day.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi JW,

        Please read my previous articles. I’ve written about this before.

        Please read the news. Have you been reading? Our very own manpower minister Tan Chuan- Jin has similarly admitted to this.

        And please look up the manpower reports. Do you expect me to keep spoonfeeding you?

        The statistics are all there. Otherwise, search Mr Leong Sze Hian. He has written many, many articles analysing our wages and their stagnation and drop.

        Roy

    • Kgil

      “the statistics that you have left out, is what was the GDP per capita of all asian countries in 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005, 2012. What is the trend?”

      That’s exactly true. It will seem that the author has forgotten to look at Singaporean’s governance from a macroscopic point of view.

      “It’s utter nonsense to compare the performance of the current PAP politicians with the PAP politicians of fore when the current batch of ministers and MPs are mostly inducted after 2000.?”

      This is really a weak excuse for shrugging off the PAP’s contribution to Singapore in this country’s short history. In statistics, you don’t, and can’t, just take a single value from a single time(not to even mention that this value excludes certain samples) and then claim that it supports whatever argument that you are trying to make. That’s not how statistics work. If you are willing to learn more about it I will refer you to “Thinking fast and slow”, a book written on common fallacies made by people when examining statistics. Daniel Kahneman will probably fall off his chair in shock should he come across this article.

      PS. Don’t bother replying, I won’t return to this page again. Hope you find the advice useful.

  28. Joanne

    Some worthy points raised but you seem to believe your argument is rock solid because it is backed by statistics, and you keep emphasising your statistics as ‘evidence’, when in fact solely focusing on figures to justify complex social structures makes it a weak argument. An average number does not represent the majority, it just shows the average of all figures which can include very high figures and very low figures, or consist of figures across the whole spectrum. You keep emphasising that some statistics were not included because you could not find the data. If that was the case, you should not have written this at all as your data is inherently flawed (which you admitted you know). Or at least you should have included a disclaimer that the data presented here is not representative or conclusive. Even if i ignore the issue of comparing countries too different from Singapore to make a reasonable comparison, i think it is clear that you are merely using statistics to try to make your claims more concrete. There are always different issues impacting any social phenomenon. While statistics can show us one thing, there is also a lot going on that cannot be seen from mere figures. I don’t think it’s right to lump these figures together with social issues that cannot be so easily compartmentalised into convenient figures, and pretend that these figures offer explanations for everything. Another thing, correlation does not imply causation. However, you consistently linked statistics of one (or a few) chart(s) as being the cause of another statistic (eg Happiness). Merely the use of statistics does not make your claims more objective or accurate, on the other hand it helped to make your article more skewed.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Joanne,

      Would you like to write an article as a counterargument to this?

      Perhaps if you could link your statistics with your own analysis of the social circumstance, I would be better able to comment.

      Please look at the other comments and I believe that you have – I am prepared to discuss otherwise and I have agreed with certain viewpoints which others have brought out.

      Thanks.

      Roy

  29. yourstruthfully

    Thank you for enlightening me. Many will probably not understand why the statistics feature countries with wide difference in demographics. However, I get the it that the comparison is made because Singapore is the most developed and fast growing country in SEA (do correct me if I am wrong). Its economic stability and safe political situation has attracted many investments and trade agreement. Personally I think this is the reason why we tolerated government policies because like it or not, we are in the comfort zone although we do not have much rights. Basically, our rights are ‘taken care’ in this peaceful environment. If we want more which is a better life to provide for our family in terms of freedom of choice, financial freedom, academia freedom then Singapore probably cannot provide us that. Hence, reasons that contribute to many intellects who want more out of their life to leave their homeland for a better future. Unfortunately, we forget about those who has not much voice and not much choice but to just push themselves to keep up with life in Singapore. These people that those intellects forget maybe.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi yourstruthfully,

      I think you got it right.

      Sometimes I wonder too if Singapore is able to provide a more intellectually respectful environment. I still believe that it’s possible and that we can find a balance.

      And like I said, Singapore is in a very good stead to do so, and when we are able to achieve that, our people will not only be richer financially but emotionally and psychologically as well.

      I still believe in that.

      Roy

      • sgcynic

        Too bad, those in leadership positions do not lead (by example). Hence the current screwed up state of affairs. We are here to trade barbs as that is what we see in the August Parliament – the red herrings, strawman, condescension, insults, dressing down. Seems some are more than willing to lap up the selective data released by this government and the annecdotes lavishly thrown up during national and may day rallies to *prove* that all is fine and rosy.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi sgcynic,

        I agree with you.

        I mean, preferably, I would like to have a more critical discussion here. Unfortunately, we seem to be trading barbs. And I myself have become somewhat defensive as well. But when faced with a barrage of naysayers of this article, and having to defend them to maintain the integrity of this article, I’ve perhaps learnt to be more snide.

        Yet, our government might have also become more snide in the protection of their own viewpoints. Yet again, who is to say who is right or who is wrong.

        If we have a culture where there is an openness in questioning and exchange of viewpoints, I believe our society will be much the better for that when we exchange opinions, we are able to focus on ideas and not have to defend ourselves so much so that in our defense, the message or information gets lost.

        I’ve tried presenting what I know here, and like some commenters have pointed out, I’m just an ordinary Singaporean trying to make sense of things based on how I can find out more to understand them. As responsible citizens, we need to do that.

        So thank you for your understanding, and for eremarf’s understanding. It’s much appreciated.

        Thank you

        Roy

      • sgcynic

        That explains why I am an anonymous cynic. I am moulded by this government (present batch of *leaders*) over a decade. As Leong Sze Hian states, “we (they) are in denial”. People’s lives are at stake while politicians play their game.

  30. Dav

    I don’t quite understand the point above on cheaper and better/ wage and productivity.
    Isn’t it expected that our low productivity results in low wages?
    So the arugement not be if we want to increase wage, we need to increase productivity more? I.e. Value for money?
    At this era of globalisation, expecting higher wages without productivity gains would just result in jobs being lost?

  31. Kgil

    After the first line one can easily tell where this entire article is going, and the underlying discriminating tone really makes one question the validity and credibility of the arguments presented. While statistics cannot lie, it is so easy to quote them out of context and use them to support any biased and extremely subjective view. Readers should take this article with some pinches of salt.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Kgil,

      I would say readers should make up their own mind as to what they think.

      I have presented my own analysis and viewpoint here. It isn’t perfect and it isn’t complete. It is up to discerning readers to sieve up information from all sources – from the government, researchers, journalists and bloggers, to make up their own mind as to what they should think and understand.

      Roy

  32. YJK.

    Hi Author,

    Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude on behalf of Singapore to see that there are budding Singaporeans making so much effort to try and improve the nation.

    However, I fail to decipher the logic of becoming such an aggressive critic of PAP, the current government of Singapore.

    Quoting one of your statements (comments), “My critique is against the current government, which over the past decade has allowed Singaporeans’ wages to stagnate, or even drop, while increasing prices, providing lower and lower healthcare subsidies and made people withdraw lesser and lesser from their CPF.”

    Let’s face it, these are problems all first-world, developed countries face.

    But I fail to see why Singaporeans today wish to link these occurrences to the government.

    Let me first tackle on the statistics that you have tried to prove in your original post.

    1. Wage Levels:

    I for one, think this is a very cheap statistic to leverage on in your argument. Why should we compare our wages with that of other countries when there are so many other variables that play a role as well?

    Personally, if our wages can ensure sufficiency of the people in the nation, why compare? Why make our lives so difficult? We are not trying to be the BEST in the world, we just want to live peacefully in Singapore. Next.

    2. Productivity:

    I’m sorry, are you blaming the government for low productivity levels?

    I think as Singaporeans, we have to remember, the government can launch policies and encourage people to work harder, or even work longer, albeit that meaning more working hours (which has already caused much controversy and negativity at the risk of the government’s reputation), but it is ultimately up to us to decide how productive we want to be.

    You want higher productivity levels? Get working.

    3. Price Levels:

    Didn’t realise placing close to the middle of the table at only 2.4 above the normal 100 score equates to having to pay “one of the highest prices in the world”.

    If that is the case, shouldn’t the people of Oslo burn down their government already for having price levels of 139.1, 39.1 above the normal of 100?

    Go do some travelling and see what prices are like in countries such as Paris and London for simple necessities such as just a bottle of water before we discuss this further.

    4. Purchasing Power:

    I do not know where the numbers come from, thus I have referred to your source and obtained a separate table for purchasing power (parity) that I could understand.

    Please refer to http://www.bls.gov/ilc/intl_gdp_capita_gdp_hour.htm#table09 as I am not able (or do not know how to, my apologies) for the table I referred to.

    Based on this table, I fail to see how Singapore ranks as the lowest in terms of PPP.

    5. Happiness & Emotional State:

    This is, one of the worst statistics one can pull to prove that the government is not doing right.

    Quoting an external source, “Happiness is not just an emotion; it is a choice. Research has consistently shown that happiness produces success, not the other way round.”

    It is not necessary for Singaporeans to first achieve “success” in getting higher wages, cheaper healthcare, housing and more.

    Singaporeans have to learn to be content with what they have. I think I shall not elaborate too much on this as others before me have done so.

    6. House Buying Prices:

    Demand & supply. You do the maths.

    The more people that can afford and goes ahead to buy houses, the higher the prices.

    So let’s pause a second and interpret that, if Singapore’s houses cost more, it means more Singaporeans have previously bought increasingly more houses.

    Yes, that means a detrimental effect on those that have not bought one yet.

    If you have paid attention to current news, the government has indeed tried to cool down the situation by implementing tighter loan-to-value (LTV) limits on second housing loans.

    Note that there is no one solution that can cover everyone’s butt. The tighter measures will affect everyone, but selfish Singaporeans (and perhaps foreigners for fairness) whom continue to buy properties will nonetheless worsen the situation.

    But why is that the government’s fault? Blame the people that are causing it. We always complain that the government doesn’t do anything, but when it does, none is acknowledged.

    7. Income Gap (as a whole, incl. the low-income situation):

    Singapore is built to be a meritocratic society. For one, it has to be. At least for now, especially since we don’t have natural resources, or the land to support the nation.

    I for one, agree that meritocracy may not be the best policy to keep Singapore going.

    Because in implementing meritocratic policies, while there will be “winners”, so will there be “losers”.

    That is why the income gap increasingly widens.

    But as the saying goes for everyone, when one door/window closes, another opens?

    You may “lose” in one situation, but you probably won’t for life, that is IF YOU TRY.

    For the low-income Singaporeans that are able and healthy, but complain that the government is not doing enough to help, I am sorry that I cannot offer even a slight sense of empathy.

    With an almost world-class education system and loads of opportunities, I fail to see why you are complaining. Go out and explore. The government can equip you with the skills and help you start up, but it is UP TO YOU TO MAKE THE CLIMB.

    For those that belong to the elderly working force or those with special reasons, the government has stepped in to aid as well haven’t they? This is evident from the recent National Budget 2013.

    Source: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/budget-2013–elderly–lower-income-families-welcome-help-105850825.html

    PS: Yahoo does not belong to Singapore. So you can ease the “All Singapore media-related agencies are corrupted” mindset.

    8. The Reason behind keeping such a LARGE reserve:

    Simple. Singapore has few channels to base itself in order to build revenue for the country.

    There are small channels such as via tourism, but this are just sub-channels that are not sufficient to support the country.

    Seen alot of expatriates lately? They are the main force behind Singapore’s survival.

    Foreign investment.

    The Singapore government has implemented many policies in order to ease the otherwise tedious procedures of doing business and investing.

    This has built Singapore to become the No. 1 country in the world to invest or start a business.

    If you have studied anything related to investing, understanding what you are investing in is key to success.

    Let’s assume you are an investor interested in investing in Singapore. You do some market research.

    Any natural resources? No.
    Any land? No.

    The only thing we can leverage on is capital. Yes, capital.

    If we observe the worldwide situation, what worries investors most are issues related to capital.

    I believe I will not have to draw examples.

    You ask why the PAP government keeps such a large capital reserve?

    Simple. Security for the investors.

    I think some Singaporeans share the same thoughts as well. At least, I believe so.

    Remember when Tan Jee Say wanted to spend a hefty S$60 billion of the capital reserves?

    Know why it wasn’t supported? Imagine the impact on Singapore’s hard-earned reputation as an investment powerhouse.

    For your reference:

    http://www.edb.gov.sg/content/edb/en/why-singapore/about-singapore/facts-and-rankings/rankings.html

    (Yes, its a Singapore government website, but statistics are derived from foreign research companies.)

    9. Fertility Rates:

    You’re kidding right?

    So you’re saying the PAP government is causing low fertility rates by its ineffectiveness.

    I assume then if the PAP was to be voted out at the next election, Singaporean women would miraculously decide to start giving birth thanks to immediate new policies that can support their future babies and families.

    Nice thinking. Pardon the sarcasm.

    10. Conclusion

    To end off, I would just like to say this.

    The PAP government has many flaws that they can work better to improve on.

    But that doesn’t mean they are not doing anything.

    Nor does that mean that replacing them with opposition parties such as WP will have a dramatic impact on Singapore’s current situation.

    If Singaporeans wish to gain more freedom and have greater say in the country’s decisions, they have to learn that means less control from the government.

    That means less intervention from the government in the future if problems were to occur then.

    Remember the recession many others face back then? Sure, the government can loosen up. But that means no more guarantee the government will step in next time to cover the situation.

    Think carefully Singaporeans, you can either work with the government and let them continue to have greater say (via providing them sufficient amounts of trust to make decisions), or break the tradition by continuing to oppose and fight for more amounts of so-called “freedom”.

    Because to me, that “freedom” many Singaporeans fight for today sounds more to me like they just want to make more decisions without having to face the pressure of politics.

    If you believe you can do better than the current government, step up and make your say. Not stand back and preach but do not perform.

    I emphasise here that I am neither pro-PAP nor pro-opposition.

    I am pro-Singaporean.

    All criticism towards my above comments will be gladly appreciated.

    But if all you can offer are more statistics to cover the previous, I advise you step out and take a look at the real Singapore.

    Singapore is built on people, not numbers.

    Thanks for the read.

    Best Regards,

    Just a normal Singaporean polytechnic student.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi YJK,

      Thanks for your writing this comment.

      Please allow me some time to read through them, and perhaps address them in subsequent articles. There are many comments here and even if some are disagreeable to the article, have provided me with very good insight and even further understanding to the matter.

      Please give me some time to respond in subsequent articles. Once again, I would like to thank you for writing this comment.

      I myself am turning 32 this week – still young, I hope! And I am very heartened that people who are younger have such in-depth analysis to our country’s situation. At a younger age, I do not think that I have as much understanding of our country.

      So, I find it very admirable and respectable.

      Thank you.

      Roy

  33. Fiona

    I really do enjoy blogs whose writers are truly concerned about the future of society, and it really counts when everyone can chip in with their two cents worth. Your writing is a refreshing argumentative style that many people cannot profess to have – kudos for that!

    There are a few points that I wish to give my few cents worth as well. We are all learning and having a lively discussion here, and questions abound.

    1. Wage levels – I do think Singapore has got good potential to have rising wage levels that are comparable to our western counterparts, as seen in Chart 1. Indeed, Denmark and Norway are good models to follow. A Denmark cleaner’s salary is well-known to many of us, they earn S$5,502/mth, compared to less than S$1,000 in Singapore. A Norwegian cleaner also earns around S$5,470/mth.

    2. Productivity (Chart 2) – It is appalling that Singapore’s productivity is ranked behind so many countries. Norway’s productivity is nearly twice that of ours, & Denmark, more than 10 points higher. Drawing on your linkages between wages and productivity, we should be thinking of pro-rating our cleaners (& the rest of us too!) according to productivity statistics comparatively, and our cleaners should be getting close to S$2,500 at least. (for being half as productive as our western counterparts)

    3. This leads us to wonder – if we pay ourselves more (to encourage us to be more productive workers), companies will want to make up for this sudden loss in profit margins. This will need to be compensated in terms of prices (passed to us consumers). I like your Chart 13, as it does show that once you jack up the salaries, the price levels shoot up as well! Our western friends are indeed tops, with Norway, Denmark being much much more expensive than us. I think we can expect to be paid more but to get charged more as well, which is what we know as inflation. So the only solution out of this, it seems, is to convince our companies to accept lower profit margins so that we all get to earn more but our prices dont shoot up. Perhaps we need to rethink the company as a profit-generating machine…

    4. Average Usual Weekly Work Hours (Chart 3) – my favourite! I just find it interesting because I recall experiences of travelling in the EU, and the regulated working hours almost left our coach stranded in the middle of nowhere when our driver hit his maximum number of working hours according to EU regulations. I guess the only explanation for Singaporeans to work such long hours is simply that we are too kiasu, and we dare not leave early from work because it is within our culture to value long working hours as = hardworking. This is probably not a productivity issue per se, but a cultural norm that you and I should combat.

    There are plenty of other interesting points in your article, which some of you have already pointed out above. I did enjoy reading your article, and I find it truly commendable that it has reached so many likes and shares on facebook, twitter. The Opposition needs you to help expose the heart truths about our government. Perhaps you can consider joining the WP and join the ranks of blogger-NCMPs Yee Jenn Jong & Gerald Giam? 😉

    Cheers!

    • JW

      ” A Denmark cleaner’s salary is well-known to many of us, they earn S$5,502/mth, compared to less than S$1,000 in Singapore.”

      ~35% of that 5 grand will be taken by tax, another 25% by VAT (GST), another 20-30% eroded by the disparity in living costs.

      Yeah, what fantastic job in a fantastic country.

      • My Right to Love

        Erm. Do the maths. 25% of $5,000 still make $3,750 – much higher than $1,000.

        Where did you get the erosion of 20% to 30% due to living costs from?

        Look at the charts – Denmark has a much higher purchasing power.

        So, what are you saying. Doesn’t make sense.

        Tommy Koh had similarly compared Singapore with the Nordic countries and spoke of how we need to emulate them.

      • JW

        @My Right to Love
        “Erm. Do the maths. 25% of $5,000 still make $3,750 – much higher than $1,000.”

        Half of half, of half somehow nets you more than half. $5,500 * 0.25 = $1,100.

        No wonder red flags aren’t raised in your mind when you’re lied to your face (postscript: you know what, I just realised that you ARE the author. How do you feel when you twist the truth and lie? Does your face get flushed, do you sweat, do you feel ashamed?)

        “Where did you get the erosion of 20% to 30% due to living costs from? ”

        How did I get that? By estimation; by figuring the difference between the PPP conversion factor sourced from the OECD and the Danish exchange rate.

        Why do you keep using charts that have been debunked as erroneous as your defence? No matter how hard you try, the square peg (your logic) isn’t going to fit into the round hole (reality).

        “Tommy Koh had similarly compared Singapore with the Nordic countries and spoke of how we need to emulate them.”
        That’s a really broad sweeping statement without context. For all we know he could be speaking on the need to emulate their innovation or their independence. Hell, I could reuse it to say that the PAP supports the building of a giant snow maker so that we get snow, to better “emulate” the Nordic countries. Context.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi JW,

        Erm, yeah, I’m the author of this blog. Did you just realise? Erm… The information is freely available here, so… I don’t know… It’s funny. 🙂

        Anyway, thanks for your comment.

        Roy

  34. My Right to Love

    Dear readers,

    I have received feedback from the comments on this article and on Facebook that I have misunderstood Mr Lim’s definition of CBF. Please see below a comment that a reader had sent to me on Facebook:

    “Roy sweetheart. Great article but started on the wrong footing. Cheaper Better and Faster does not refer to the workers, and definitely not salaries. If you’ll give the man a chance, you should watch this video.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgUfq4IoVtM&feature=player_embedded

    Another person had also shared the following on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=321982824597254&set=a.222570187871852.49478.100003566175899&type=1&ref=nf

    You can read more about Mr Lim’s clarification of CBF: http://www.ntuc.org.sg/wps/portal/up2/home/aboutntuc/newsroom/newshighlights/newshighlightsdetails?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/content_library/ntuc/home/about+ntuc/newsroom/news+highlights/f1b4760048f01dccacc3bf2016918325

    I apologise for the misinterpretation of Mr Lim’s concept of CBF. The misinterpretation had arose as I was unable to have a complete understanding of CBF from the articles that I have read online.

    Please note however, that the content of this article remains relevant, as aside from the misinterpretation, it remains that workers’ wages in Singapore are lowest among the developed countries, that Singapore has one of the lowest productivity and that Singapore workers work the longest hours among the developed countries.

    In the pursuit to be “Cheaper”, it can be worrying to workers’ wages can inadvertently be compromised.

    The article had also been amended to reflect this correction.

    Thank you.

    Roy

    • Crious U

      You’re still saying in your article “Mr Lim laid claim to his famous tagline of how workers should be ‘Cheaper, Better and Faster (CBF)‘.” Please don’t give an apology saying you have have misinterpreted it and have made edits. Your edit should have been to edit that statement and not add a clarification. You should clarify with people who have already read the article and amend the statement so that future readers would not have to seek clarification.

      His claim and I quote is “the NTUC, what the tripartite partners are calling for, is to pursue ‘Cheaper, Better, Faster’ products and services, pursue a ‘Cheaper, Better, Faster’ economy, not a ‘Cheaper, Better, Faster’ workforce.”

      In fact all the later chunks attacking his CBF (btw you used SBF once) should be amended, not sure how you’re going to get your message across without wronging him though, but don’t say it has been amended to reflect the correction.

      I re-iterate, he is not talking about workers. Give the man a real chance, you’re still misquoting him and taking things out of context and you know it.

      • Sgcynic

        I note that Lim Swee Say first floated the catchphrase CBF as early as Oct 2009. His clarification that CBF refers to products and services and not workers came as late as Jun 2010. I could be mistaken (in which case I stand corrected), why did he take 8 months to make his clarification? Or he had rethink? In either case, he should have role modeled a CBF response.

    • YJK.

      Quoting your words: “workers’ wages in Singapore are lowest among the developed countries, that Singapore has one of the lowest productivity and that Singapore workers work the longest hours among the developed countries.”

      So if we break down your story:

      Singaporean workers are least productive, you place the blame on the government.

      Hello, the government cannot decide how productive the people are in their work. Additionally, it is a matter of fact the government rolls out more policies over time encouraging lifelong learning. Why? To keep people on track. I believe this is evident in most workplace environments.

      Common economic theory: less productivity means less produce.

      So if there is less production, naturally you will get paid less, no?

      And since the country has to survive either way or another, the people has to compensate by working longer hours.

      So lets piece it up.

      Less productive people = lower wages (or harder to raise wages) & longer working hours.

      People, stop complaining.

      Be more productive, instead of calling for the government to raise wages repeatedly. You can do your part by working productively.

      And sure, the government can take out the capital reserves to help “raise” the wages.

      Do remember that if they do that, productivity growth will become stagnant, because people will become complacent.

      Meritocracy will be broken. The capital reserves will deplete over time.

      Investors will lose confidence, and the story that unfolds from here is obvious.

      (Refer to my earlier comment if it is not obvious enough.)

  35. Crious U

    In your reply to comments you have mentioned purchasing power many times and i believe used that statistic out of context.

    Using the UBS purchasing power as a gauge requires you to understand how it’s calculated. I believe that you have not looked into this matter. I quote from UBS Price and Earnings 2012 report “The weightings of these main categories were set in accordance with the European Union’s (Eurostat, 2012) harmonized index of consumer prices (HICP)” This is with reference to how the basket of goods is measured by UBS, which is a swiss bank and thus it would naturally use european prices.

    HCIP:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonised_Index_of_Consumer_Prices
    “It is a consumer price index which is compiled according to a methodology that has been harmonised across EU countries. The euro area HICP is a weighted average of price indices of member states who have adopted the euro.”

    So when you compare our Singapore wages to a European basket of goods, not adjusted for the the Purchasing power parity (PPP), it isn’t a very accurate picture. Like how if you were to ever go to Europe for a holiday or live there over a period of time, you’d learn to forget the currency conversions or how Singaporeans would go to Malaysia/Thailand and find food and shopping cheap.

    Rather than looking at purchasing power as i’ve said before look at things like GDP per capita (PPP) or GNI per capita (PPP) which are traditionally preferred and more accurate in depicting a true picture with real statistics.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

    Not the best source, but the most convenient and they show you 3 list to cross reference.

    Cheers,

    CUrious

    • My Right to Love

      Hi CUrious,

      I have done some research after comments posted about the use of UBS’s report.

      This reply is in response to you, as well as some commenters who have brought out this issue.

      I agree that the use of the UBS report might need to be interpreted carefully.

      A study by the Intergovernmental Committee for Economic and Labour Force Development in Toronto (the ICE Committee)had said:

      “The writer Norman Mailer once distinguished between facts and “factoids,” which he defined as “facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper.” City ranking studies are factoid generators par excellence. They feed the appetite of news outlets for information that requires no resources to report and needs not be verified. That this coinage was made in Mailer’s biography of Marilyn Monroe is appropriate — both city ranking studies and Ms. Monroe are blank canvases onto which people can project their own desires and aspirations.
      This report is critical of the methods used in executing city ranking studies and how their results are interpreted. This being said, city ranking studies can be useful if read carefully and in proper context.

      If properly interpreted, city ranking studies are useful diagnostic tools. In light of their methodological flaws — which this report has exhaustively assessed — they should, however, be taken with a grain of salt. City ranking studies should be the start of research and analysis by policymakers, not the end. They can help policymakers decide what questions to ask and what issues to focus on. Ultimately, however, they should be supplemented by other tools, such as in-depth local and comparative research on pressing issues, discussions with public- and private-sector professionals active in other places, and research on the changing internal geographies and structures of the metropolitan economy and society.”

      The report can be found here: http://www.metapolis.ca/index_files/ICE_City_Ranking_Report.pdf

      Thus the rankings can be used as a broad comparison tool, but needs to be understood for their methodological inadequacies, and should be used to help us identify how we can improve ourselves.

      I agree that the rankings should be used carefully and I will be more careful in my use of the rankings in future.

      However, I would also like to point out that in Singapore’s counterargument to the UBS report (http://spp.nus.edu.sg/aci/docs/20110503_UBS_ACI_Wages_Comparison_report.pdf), Singapore still compares less favourably and worse off as the other cities of comparable standing, in terms of GDP per capita – New York, London and Tokyo. Singapore scored 70.1 for our purchasing power, as compared to 100.0, 106.7 and 105.8 respectively when “adjusted by UBS’s price index and market
      exchange rates”, or 79.1 as compared to 100.0, 88.3 and 88.1 respectively when “adjusted by IMF’s PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) exchange rates.

      So, we can still do better – a lot better.

      The use of the UBS report, and indeed other ranking reports, should thus be used in discerning ways, but when compared to with a similar basket of goods with other countries, do provide us with a gauge as to where Singapore stand, how we might not be as equitable and how we can adjust ourselves to achieve better overall outcomes.

      Thank you.

      Roy

      • Crious U

        1. Have you interpreted the UBS correctly in the use of it’s statistics? By now i’m sure you have realised something called purchasing power parity exists, which as i’ve explained is why you could go to thailand and find things cheap and go to europe and find things more pricey. So unless you’ve adjusted wages and income for that, have you been fair in your analysis? Have you given the big picture or are you just trying to stir dissension and spread more untruths?

        Note: If you want to say the government is deceiving us, you shouldn’t be throwing these statistics around without have carefully interpreting it yourself, you’re just another agent of deception.

        2. Quoting you: “Singapore still compares less favourably and worse off as the other cities of comparable standing, in terms of GDP per capita – New York, London and Tokyo”

        Nowhere have you shown us the GDP per capita of New York, London and Tokyo. You have shown us that Singapore has the 2nd highest GDP per capita when comparing countries and I have tried to explain that when adjusting for PPP (I hope by now you can see why you should have done so), Singapore’s wages are not as bleak as you have shown.

        Thus debunking your statement: “Our GDP per capita is one of the highest in the world – is our wages similarly one of the highest?” But please defend it, i’ve shown you the world bank statistic:

        http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.PP.CD?order=wbapi_data_value_2011+wbapi_data_value+wbapi_data_value-last&sort=desc

        I have given you the US government study:

        http://sfgsa.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=8456

        They’ve already mentioned in your quote from the Intergovernmental Committee for Economic and Labour Force Development in Toronto (the ICE Committee) “they should, however, be taken with a grain of salt.” Cause to what geographical extent do these city studies include? Do they include the slums of New York and London, the depression areas around the growth centers? So a pinch of salt is needed, would you want to compare our CBD to London?

        One question remains, after responding to all these comments -not just by me- how do you feel standing by all your statistical claims? Yes, our government is not prefect. In fact, if you look across the world, which I hope many Singaporeans have…there is no government that is free from criticism. I feel the problems faced overseas are much worse off than what we are experiencing here, but people like you will always champion for perfection, even though the alternative may be much worse off for us.

        In your canadian study that you’ve shown, there’s a comparison shown in the PWC Cities of Opportunity – overall ranking (2009 and 2011). New York has gone from 20 to 26, London from 20 to 21, while Singapore has gone from 19 to 18.

        At the end of it all, what was your aim of your article? I’m just…

        CUrious

    • My Right to Love

      As I have also mentioned previously, I would be careful with how the Asia Competitiveness Institute (ACI) counterargues to international reports or findings.

      I have done an analysis previously on the Global Liveable Cities Index which they had created: https://thehearttruths.com/2012/07/10/singapore-ranks-3rd-in-singapore-developed-livability-index-is-this-the-truth/

      Also, in ACI’s rebuttal to UBS’s report, they had wanted to frame Singapore in a more favourable light.

      Also, in rebuttal to how expensive Singapore is, they had aimed to do the same: http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/aci/docs/010812_ST_Singapore_a_costly_city_It_depends.pdf

      I am supportive of protecting Singapore’s credibility and standing, but I do have doubts when ACI tries to frame its analysis differently, when its analysis is the only one to counter all other rankings. Then, something is not quite right here.

      Is it then biased? Or is it fair and honest?

      Roy

  36. eremarf

    There are lots of things I disagree with in comments, but I’m not going to spend too much time here, so here’s just a general one on “productivity”:

    You don’t get more productivity by exhorting workers to work harder (and it’s also quite dubious to ask them to acquire skills). Historically huge productivity gains come in tandem with implementation of technology. The industrial revolution greatly raised productivity in England (from skilled craftsmen to de-skilled assembly line workers working machines to maybe in the near future cornucopia robots who manufacture everything we need without human labour) and then the rest of the world. Ditto for the Green Revolution (from seasonal farmhands and cow manure to combine harvesters, fertilizers and pesticides).

    In today’s contexts, there are few spurts in productivity because there are no game-changing technologies emerging (maybe the internet/IT is one – and Singapore – I’m not sure if we’re on it.) There’re small improvements over the years as capitalists improve industrial processes, switch from filing cabinets to hard drives to cloud storage, from handwriting to typewriters to word processors, make small tweaks to manufacturing plants to gain some efficiency etc. But economists seem not to really know how to improve productivity.

    (Another side-note – consider the effect of plague in Europe – how as people were wiped out, there was a general labour shortage, and labour prices went up, while capital i.e. land became plentiful – resulting in a huge burst of productivity for a while.)

    What I can see from my own observations are that (labour) productivity tends to be high in places where labour is expensive, and low where labour is cheap. I think (pardon me I’m just a layman) some economist (Tobin?) talked about how labour substitutes for capital and vice versa – and the cheaper your labour, the less attractive it is to invest in capital – ergo, less improvements in productivity per unit labour (and vice versa – when labour is pricier – people substitute capital for labour).

    You can exhort people who are in management, who have power, to improve productivty, but it doesn’t make sense to me to exhort ordinary workers to learn skills, if they have no idea whether their skills will be of use to firms, or work longer hours (in fact working longer hours tends to make labour cheap – the opposite effect)! (Indeed the trend today is towards de-skilling people to do assembly line jobs, or replacing them with automation – which makes re-training people to new skills a huge challenge.)

    So now we have two theories: Do wages have to go up, before businesses have the incentive to substitute capital for labour? Or do businesses have to first make investments in capital, before they use their increased earnings to pay labour higher wages?

    Which makes sense to you people? If you believe in free markets and invisible hands, why do you think businesses, if they can earn more, will distribute more to labour (remember Henry Ford himself got sued by his shareholders for trying to raise his workers’ wages too much)? Why do people here think, without any “incentive” (i.e. high labour prices), businesses will do the “less efficient” thing and substitute costlier capital in place of cheaper labour?

    • Han

      eremarf:

      what do think is going to happen to the unskilled and low skilled labour when their cost isn’t justified by their productivity, and technological equivalent are cheaper?

      • eremarf

        I think it depends on the state. Nordic states give out unemployment benefits for a while and then fund workers’ retraining for new industries. This is kindof what results – http://www.voxeu.org/article/nordic-innovation-cuddly-capitalism-really-less-innovative . More creative destruction of both firms and jobs – more innovation.

        In less “interventionist” regimes, they would face either short or long term unemployment. They would have good incentives to retrain for other industries – but access to training, and whether there are any jobs globally, is uncertain. If people fail to stay employed in the short-term, they tend to be less employable in the long term (a la Spain, Greece, Italy etc). That would be disastrous – so I support government intervention in managing transitions.

        Some suggestions:

        1. Keep “transitory workers” economically afloat – their healths, their children’s education, should not be compromised by transition.

        2. Give businesses incentives to raise wages for a while, a la WCS. Force businesses to provide decent training (hard to enforce though).

        3. Gov’t trains workers – and govt’ should use its “foresight” to prepare workers for industries the gov’t intends to attract.

        4. Gov’t as employer of last resort – so long as there are useful things people can do, gov’t can pay unemployed people to keep their skills relevant and updated, maintain their dignity as they have jobs, and cut back on such employment when the economy booms and creates a labour crunch again. (In other words, use our reserves to smooth out economic cycles.)

        5. Singapore – having so many GLCs – can direct them to make short-term reductions in profit by making investments in productivity. If GLCs are not completely private entities, and are partially public ones, then this can be part of their strategic function – to shape and goad the texture of our industrial landscape. They can pioneer in retraining workers for retooled and automated futures – like how Japanese firms reluctant to retrench workers instead design new jobs for them integrated with automation. It is possible – but there needs to be the political will to do it (reward people based on these metrics, rather than short-term profits).

      • Han

        I’m not sure what your definition of “growth” and “forever” is (I certainly do not think growth can extend beyond the universe’ heat death), but I certainly believe that humanity’s destiny is amongst the stars, and not down here fighting over patches of Earth. I find that arguments over capitalism or what other isms are myopic and lack vision as to where humanity can be.

        You mention peak oil but I don’t consider that an issue. Oil is but one form of energy and energy is abundant throughout the universe. The question is how do we obtain it, and the answer to such a question depends on humanity’s understanding of how the universe works. As a case in point, no one could have foreseen that something that had been as useless as sand can now become the primary driver of our technological progress.

        And that is what my main focus is: technological progress. It is this drive that pushes humanity forwards into the stars, and the system that best enables us to achieve this is the system that will win.

      • eremarf

        Re: “You mention peak oil but I don’t consider that an issue.”

        >> I certainly hope you’re right! But I’m not very optimistic. I admit ignorance and agnosticism about how close we are to feasible energy substitutes for oil (at today’s or future consumption levels). I do know that we’ve had very little success over the decades at forging international consensus over so many things, e.g. climate change, peace, social justice, etc. I doubt we can achieve very much without fixing these problems (even if we find alternative energy).

        Re: “I certainly believe that humanity’s destiny is amongst the stars, and not down here fighting over patches of Earth.”

        >> I’m an Arthur C Clarke fan – read many of his short stories. In one, the earth is a polluted wreck inhospitable to all life, in another it becomes ancient ruins populated by decadent Eloi-like people, on yet another it becomes a backwater pristine nature preserve more or less forgotten as humanity pushes through space. I’m a sci-fi romantic, and I loved sci-fi for making us speculate about the futures we could have. And sci-fi is replete with stories of failure a la Hari Selden’s psychohistory stuff.

        Re: “And that is what my main focus is: technological progress.”

        >> Golden ages (of technology) have been followed by declines. Technological progress isn’t guaranteed. Check that Archdruid Report link on the Shape of Time again (or “progress” as civic religion). I’m not writing off technological progress – but I sometimes wonder what if we’re all wrong, and humanity is headed for a global dark age (a la the sci-fi guys).

        Re: “system that best enables us to achieve this is the system that will win.”

        >> But who are we competing with? Ourselves? Against our own destruction? Are we all humans in this together? Or do you mean some subset of humans, e.g. uh, Singaporeans? We don’t seem to be able to get our act together though (whether locally or globally)! Humans don’t seem to function well in big concentrations (well we underwent lots of selection as small hunter-gatherer groups).

        At this point – I would be glad if Singaporeans just felt enough of a common identity to secure our own futures. Yes – it’s a constructed identity – but virtually all the people that matter to me are Singaporeans – both rich and poor (my social circles cut across social classes). I hope rich and poor Singaporeans succeed together – it’s not a “win” for me if rich Singaporeans become global winners while poor Singaporeans join the ranks of the global exploited.

  37. Han

    eremarf:

    “Or do businesses have to first make investments in capital, before they use their increased earnings to pay labour higher wages?”

    This statement is incorrect. When technology replaces humans, those jobs are gone forever. There won’t be any “labour” to speak of to pay higher wages to, at least not the workers who have been displaced.

    As a case in point, driverless vehicles are on the horizon, and unless you tell me somehow taxi uncles and bus drivers can somehow automagically be retrained as software engineers, these people will be out of work permanently.

    Think of historical leaps in technology, what happens to the candle makers, the horse carriage drivers, the weavers, all permanently displaced by new technology.

    As our economy restructures there will be a bloodbath and many people will lose their livelihoods permanently as employers shift towards automation. I think many people are naive to think that restructuring will benefit low skilled and unskilled workers at all.

    • eremarf

      Yes human nature and history has been ugly. Agricultural workers resisted the Green Revolution. Ned Ludd and his Luddites trashed weaving machines. I’m sure there must have been peaceful transitions of technology somewhere – but I don’t have ready examples on hand.

      Will there be a bloodbath? It really depends on how society manages the transition? Communism, workers’ revolts were more or less a reaction to the (ethical) problems of the Industrial Revolution – but I’m sure not all countries industrialized while brutalizing their workers that badly, and caused such violent reactions? (Not sure – lacking evidence here!)

      IMHO the problem is putting the economy at the centre of things – if we put people at the centre of things, I think we can avoid these problems.

      Lots of other thinkers have been talking about the end of work (e.g. Keynes – Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, among many others), or the end of (economic) growth (e.g. peak oil). These paradigms aren’t even entertained very much in the discussion on Singapore.

      Capitalism is but one way to organize society – it has a relatively short history in terms of settled human presence on earth – 300 years or so out of 12,000, if not more. Why assume that capitalism is the only way to do things, organize resources, etc? Why assume growth is forever? Allow me to recommend the Archdruid Report – I think he is very eloquent on this.

      http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.sg/2013/05/the-shape-of-time.html

  38. Han

    eremarf:

    I posted another comment but because it contains a few links so it is held in moderation. I shall split it up here.

    Not even white collar workers will be spared the coming bloodbath. CRM software and business analytical are but the first step in removing whole layers of admin staff that simply push paper around. Now we even have software that can write articles and provide medical diagnoses more accurate than humans.

    http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/04/can-an-algorithm-write-a-better-news-story-than-a-human-reporter/

    • eremarf

      Han, I think we both generally agree on how technology will shape the world in the near future. I also have a post held back for moderation – I think you will find the links there interesting.

      I’m much more concerned about how we respond to it. I mean – this isn’t new – people from as long ago as Keynes and Marx have more or less made semi-correct predictions, that we would produce a surplus, and either not know what to do with it (Keynes) or use it to create paradise on earth (Marx – we know how that went…).

      So – let’s assume that technology will make more workers redundant, and will further concentrate bargaining power (among those who have the most capital, to secure all the cornucopia robots, and among those who have the technical skills, to be needed by those who own cornucopia robots).

      Given such an assumption – what are the trajectories societies will take? My link to the interfluidity article (the generalized resource curse – please Google if you need to read it right now) precisely speculates about this.

      IMHO, the real problem at hand is a political and ethical/philosophical one – how ought society (you can think either local, or even global if you’re not a cynic) organize its resources in a world of surplus production? (Assuming a non-peak energy scenario.)

      And hardly anybody on these comments has tried to tackled the issue of philosophy or ethics. Most make economic arguments about efficiency. We’re “making invisible” a crucial component of this big debate. Maybe we feel powerless and at the mercy of the world, that the world at large dictates the “rules of engagement” and we should just maximize our gains by those rules – but look at the Nordic states – I think they’re an example of how you can run your own ethical/philosophical systems and still stay in the game (besides – I believe they’re not headed for collapse like the highly unequal societies – or at least much more resilient i.e. they’ll probably have a smaller bloodbath if we come down to global bloodbaths like you think). (BTW I do disapprove of bloodbaths, in case you haven’t realized… I think we should do as much as possible to prevent it or reduce its scale.)

      • My Right to Love

        Dear both – Han and eremarf,

        I would like to thank the both of you for commenting on this article – throughout the night!! I was asleep when you were debating.

        There are many good points in your debate and I will need to take some time to read through them again and digest them.

        I have also learnt a lot from them. I don’t think I have anything further to add, as your discussion is very enriching already, so please allow me to digest the information first!

        Roy

  39. My Right to Love

    Dear readers,

    First, I would like to apologise – I might have been slightly aggressive in my replies to some comments, and I apologise for my enthusiasm in my responses.

    I don’t think that my attitude bodes well for the discussion here as an over-protective attitude towards my viewpoints will only result in others being similarly over-protective and instead of hearing out each other’s views, we would only block out one another and the discussion would not be able to advance towards a more enriching conclusion.

    Thus I apologise if my tone might have been less favourable than it should have.

    In some subsequent comments, I have commented in less emotive ways. I hope that you would find it helpful.

    In other areas, I have also acknowledged if there were any inadequacies in the analysis or use of the statistics. Thank you for enlightening me with your feedback and allowing me to gain a deeper understanding.

    Please continue with this debate and discussion. A more active civil society and engaged Singaporean population will only bode well for Singapore’s future and the growth of more diverse and representative solutions.

    Thank you.

    Roy

  40. Crious U

    1. I think some have supplied reasons for our stand against your statistics, would you agree to some of the arguments?

    2. Would you be willing put the contrasting statistics beside your own, taking note that while yours are still accurate, some would paint a different picture and make your article less bias-ed? ie statistics from world bank, foreign government agencies etc.

    You have noted that “I agree that the rankings should be used carefully and I will be more careful in my use of the rankings in future.”

    Thank you and I hope that through your blog the truth can be shown, fairly. I think what a lot of us want is unbiasedness and I hope that some of us have shown you that your usage of statistics have been bias. Either due to lack of information or lack of understanding as to how the statistics were measured and how the studies were carried out.

    Hope to see your next article.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Crious U,

      I stand by the statistics and analysis that I have written in this article. They form a broad and coherent argument as to the situation in Singapore.

      There might be a need for additional information and statistics but this does not take away from the clear circumstance that Singapore is in – a chronic state of wage depression, factored in with high prices which have led to a an environment that has resulted in people who feel squeezed in terms of their physical living space and their ability to finance their living, which have thus resulted in a state of unhappiness.

      This cannot be denied and this is the truth that is facing Singapore.

      The purpose of this article is to highlight that and to advocate for the need for balance and adjustments, in accordance to the people’s rights and livelihood.

      I do not see any other article on Singapore which provides as comprehensive, holistic and broad a perspective as this article has sought to do so. And if you have, please point them out to me and the readers here and we can discern for ourselves the state of Singapore’s predicament.

      I will seek to further outline with clarity, purpose and an expansiveness in the articles I write but perspectives, as much as they are grounded in evidence, information and facts, are interpreted subjectively according to the subjective experiences of the readers, their own beliefs, their perceived alignment to the article and several other factors.

      I am not in a position to manage my readers’ perception, attitudes and beliefs. What I can do is put up the information I deem representative. And I urge all readers, whether they agree or disagree, to seek out their own information and to make up their own minds, and consequently, propose their own solutions to the government.

      This is what I can say.

      Thank you.

      Roy

  41. Passingby

    Based just on the first few lines of your article, I can tell you were super emotionally charged when you wrote this article.

      • kenny

        Point being its biased and short-sighted.
        One of the reasons for reduced productivity by the measure used BLS , is that Singapore like south korea is that we have high employment rate.
        You clearly are picking out the statistic just to defame PAP.

      • kenny

        And low public expenditure on health.
        Do u want a 50% income tax?
        Clearly this all u want:
        pay no tax, and enjoy more benefits
        please find a country that does this

      • My Right to Love

        Hi kenny,

        Let me do a comparison between our taxes and the other measures and then we will discuss.

        Does paying low taxes mean that the people should have comparatively much lower measures? That’s distortion and manipulation.

        So what if we have low taxes and terribly low pensions?
        https://thehearttruths.com/2013/05/18/singaporeans-the-truth-about-our-healthcare-financing-retirement-funds-and-money-all-revealed-part-2/

        Low taxes are not a reason to deny the people their rights. And if you give people enough information about our their rights are being denied, I believe, and this is what other mini-politics have shown, that people would be willing to pay higher taxes, even slightly, to obtain the benefits that they should.

        It’s erroneous to ask people if they would want to pay high taxes without doing calculations as to the benefits, and in turn, what moderation and balance we should seek

        Roy

  42. Pingback: Singaporeans, The Truth About Our Healthcare Financing, Retirement Funds and Money All Revealed! (Part 2) | The Heart Truths
  43. kenny

    This is so skewed.
    u compare singapore wages against the wages of other countries’ capital city.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi kenny,

      Please read the other comments.

      Even as a city, Singapore’s GDP per capita is comparable to New York and Paris. Yet, our wages are around half of that of Paris and only one-third that of New York.

      I think that answers your question pretty well

      Roy

      • f99f99@yahoo.com

        Hi,

        I read your article and also posting by other bloggers. It’s not very convincing as you all sound like anti PAP bloggers and go all out to attack the current government (I’m pretty sure you all will do the same when the next government doesn’t do as you wish). While I agree we need to do more for lower tier people, please don’t forget there are many well successful Singaporeans. Your article makes it sound like all Singaporeans are in deep trouble, which makes the article biased. And don’t forget market forces. I don’t see cities with minimum wages are better off than Singapore. And what’s your suggestion to improve the situation? It’s easy to just talk. End of the day money needs to come from somewhere. Are you willing to pay higher tax now and pay higher salary to your workers (if you have a company) from today? Ask your fellow bloggers now, start paying more for their workers or services, if they own company or hire domestic helpers or a bowl of noodles. Don’t complain whenever hawker food raise $0.50. The hawkers need increments every year too.

  44. Pingback: PM Lee and Lim Swee Say: Revealing the Truth With Real Statistics | Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeons in Singapore
  45. f99f99@yahoo.com

    Hi,

    Although I disagree with your points but I applaud your courage. You mentioned you’re still young so there are still years ahead for you to change the system. I suggest you either work in the Union or get to know more workers. Many Singaporeans are complaining because they want more, not because they are paid less. How many times we heard Singaporeans make lots of money when they sell their flats and turn back to complain why resale flats so expensive? My points is, substantiate your statistics with real experience. Statistics can be presented in different angles. You just compiled different statistics to fix your view points and omitting other counter statistics. Be a people blogger and not anti government blogger. We lack of that in Singapore!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s