Acting Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong was quoted by the Channel NewsAsia as having said that, “while more should be spent to help the needy, the challenge is to maintain a progressive tax system and avoid getting into debt.”
Anyone who has studied the finances in Singapore would be thoroughly confounded by what Lawrence is saying. Based on available figures, there is around S$1 trillion in the Singapore Financial Reserves. What debt is Lawrence talking about? Is he suggesting that if a few million dollars are spent to help the poor that Singapore will go bankrupt because of that?
Of course, this isn’t the first time Lawrence has befuddled Singaporeans with what he had said. In August this year, he had also said that, “Singaporean households are in good financial shape and even those who may have over-stretched themselves are unlikely to default on their loans should interest rates rise.” However, the reality is that, “[Household] debt to GDP (in Singapore) has risen steadily to 75% of GDP currently from 55% in 2010, 45% in 2005 and 38% in 2000.” Also, “household leverage is (also said to be) high relative to other countries in the region, at 75% of GDP.”
Clearly, the Singapore government is in fantastic financial shape, after years of withdrawing from the CPF of Singaporeans for their own investment where the returns are not returned back to the people. On the contrary, it is poor Singaporeans who are in terrible financial shape and are in dire need of financial assistance.
It is thus highly troubling that Lawrence is also the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Board member. For a minister who cannot seem to understand that Singapore has more than enough financial reserves to do that little bit to help the poor, because the poor are the ones who are actually in debt, and not the government, puts question into the credibility of Lawrence to manage the finances of Singapore.
In fact, what government debt is Lawrence talking about when Singapore is one of the top 15 largest foreign reserves in the world and the largest reserves per capita in the world? What debt is Lawrence talking about when the sovereign wealth funds, GIC and Temasek Holdings – which uses our CPF monies for investment – are ranked the 8th and 9th largest funds in the world, respectively? In fact, according to Mr Leong Sze Hian, Singapore has $36 billion in surplus last year and we actually have the 7th largest surplus in the world. What debt is Lawrence trying to will Singaporeans into worrying about?
Not only that, compared to the other high-income countries, the companies in Singapore actually earn the highest profits – the wage share as a proportion of GDP is actually the lowest in Singapore, which means a higher proportion actually goes into profits. But more importantly, because the largest companies in Singapore are actually owned by Temasek Holdings, and thus the government, it is the Singapore government which are earning the high profits!
Yet, while the Singapore government is earning the highest profits among the high-income countries, Singaporeans are the ones made to earn the lowest wages among the high-income countries. Thus Singaporeans also have the lowest purchasing power among the developed countries, and even when compared to the developing countries.
Yet, Singaporeans are made by the government to pay the highest proportion of our wages into CPF (as compared to the rest of the world), while we also receive the lowest returns on our CPF and we thus have one of the smallest retirement funds in the world.
And, because of the PAP government’s rent-seeking behaviour, they have pushed up prices in Singapore to be one of the highest in the world. However, the PAP government continues to now allow housing prices to rise to 1997/98 levels, when the housing bubble had then caused our economy to collapse, knowing fair well that if the housing boom continues unfettered that a similar situation will happen in 2014/15, then why is the PAP not implementing more drastic solutions?
So, Singaporeans are paid the lowest wages among the high-income countries while we are made to deal with one of the highest prices, and because the PAP government spends the lowest on healthcare as compared to the other developed countries, and one of the lowest in the world, Singaporeans actually have to pay the highest out of pocket for healthcare. Indeed, it is known that many poor Singaporeans have thus chosen to fall ill instead of seeing a doctor, and some have resorted to selling their homes so that they would be able to to pay off their hospital bills.
All these, even as Singapore is the richest country in the world, by per capita GDP. Yet, in the richest country in the world, we also see the highest poverty rate among the high-income countries and even among the middle-income countries in East and Southeast Asia. How is this even possible?
In fact, not only that, Singapore now has the 4th largest billionaires per capita in the world, and because of the high poverty rate, it also explains why Singapore has the highest income inequality among the developed countries, and one of the highest in the world.
Yet, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had the decency to say that, “if I can get another 10 billionaires to move to Singapore and set up their base here, my Gini coefficient will get worse but I think Singaporeans will be better off, because they will bring in business, bring in opportunities, open new doors and create new jobs, and I think that is the attitude with which we must approach this problem.”
Do you even think that it is sensible of our nation’s highest “authority” to claim that the unfettered importation of billionaires is wise even as Singapore has the highest poverty rate and income inequality among the developed countries, and when Singaporeans are paid the lowest wages among the developed countries?
Even Hong Kong can no longer answer to its conscience and has decided to implement minimum wage in 2011 – to join the 90% of the countries in the world to do so – and has also defined the poverty rate in September this year. The guilt-stricken Hong Kong has finally saw it within their conscience to start protecting its people, whilst its economic twin, Singapore, continues to barge ahead for an elite group of people, while leaving the rest of its people behind. This, my friends, is our once-sunny island Singapore. It’s no wonder that our smiles have faded away.
Finally, Lawrence was quoted to have said that, “the principle of the wealthier paying more taxes should stand to maintain fairness“. But do you know that the rich in Singapore actually pays one of the lowest taxes in the world, and compared to the other developed countries, Singapore’s tax system is actually one of the least progressive? So, what is Lawrence talking about when he said that, “We are looking at how we can have a more progressive system in order to preserve and uphold this sense of a fair and just society”? What “progressive”? What “fair and just”? Clearly, Singapore’s tax system is one of the most unfair systems among the developed countries and is thoroughly shameful for a country which happens to be the richest country in the world and with one of the largest reserves and surpluses in the world. For a country this rich, the PAP government does not have the decency and humanity to treat its people with the basic respect and dignity that it can afford to do for its people?
So, all this time, the PAP government refuses to implement minimum wage. It refuses to define a poverty line. And the PAP government refuses to reduce income inequality.
And so, the PAP government spends the lowest government spending, as compared to the other developed countries. The PAP government simply refuses to help the poor.
All this time, the PAP government refuses to increase wages. They refuse to increase the government’s expenditure on health. And it refuses to increase its public spending on the poor.
Yet, the PAP government can see it fit to pay themselves the highest salaries in the world. How the PAP government can lead itself to believe that by already spending the lowest public spending among the developed countries that the country can actually fall into debt is beyond any logical comprehension. If Singapore will fall into debt, it would be because we are paying too much to sustain the livelihoods of the PAP politicians. By some estimates, Singapore is paying $40 million to sustain the salaries of the PAP politicians every year. Will this money be spent more wisely helping the poor? I think it’s an indefinite yes.
Plainly put, the poor in Singapore are not poor not because they are not willing to do better. The poor are poor because the PAP government makes them poor. It is the PAP government that pays them low wages, that makes them pay the largest proportion of their wages into CPF – larger than the higher-income earners – and it is the PAP government that gives them low returns into their CPF. Yet, it is the PAP government that increases prices so that Singaporeans have to pay higher and higher prices out-of-pocket. If Singaporeans are poor, it is because the PAP makes us poor.
Yet, the PAP won’t do what is right.
Last time, if you don’t vote for the PAP, people are afraid that things might go wrong. Now, if you continue to vote for the PAP, things will only go even more wrong. It is safe to say that you can vote for any party now and things simply cannot get any worse. In fact, things are so bad now that you can only vote for another party (or parties) to set things right.
Lee Hsien Loong had said that there are no “dead poor” in Singapore. What is a “dead poor”?? Does that mean that in Singapore, people have to die before the PAP government will consider them as “poor”? This is the “compassionate” government that we had voted for. How compassionate that they would rather us die than even help us.
If the PAP won’t help us, then it’s time Singaporeans help ourselves and vote for what’s right for our lives. If the PAP won’t help us, then it’s time we help ourselves.
You might want to vote for what is “safe” and you might want to still vote for the PAP at the next general election. And so, you’ve done that for the past 3 elections. Has anything changed? If things would have changed, we wouldn’t have to wait for 15 years now and still have to wait for the next election for anything to happen. If the PAP has any conscience, it would have implemented minimum wage, defined a poverty line and reduce income inequality, as the people have begged them to. But they have done nothing of that.
If you still trust that the PAP can suddenly have an epiphany at the next election, go ahead and vote for them. You can bet your life and our children’s lives on a party that now has a 15-year track record of refusing to help the people – that’s already 30% of the PAP’s time in power.
Or we can save our country now and put it back on the right track. It is in your hands now. Whether our country can make or break, it will depend on whether we can turn things around and save our country. The PAP changed its heart 15 years ago when it stopped caring about the people. When will you realise that?