Last week, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing saw it fit to speak up against Goldman Sachs for “being inclusive, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation“.
It was reported by MyPaper that “Goldman Sachs has made a specific recruitment call to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.” MyPaper also quoted Linda Teo, country manager of Manpower Staffing Services (Singapore), who had said that, “Such a move would also send a strong signal to the rest of the LGBT community that it is an organisation that does not discriminate against any type of talent.”
However, Chan Chun Sing had came out to say the following:
SG is a largely conservative society. While different groups may express their different points of view, everyone should respect the sensitivities of others and not create division.
Singapore and Singaporeans will decide on the norms for our society. Foreign companies here should respect local culture and context. They are entitled to decide and articulate their human resource policies, but they should not venture into public advocacy for causes that sow discord amongst Singaporeans.
Employment in SG is based on one’s merit and ability. Discrimination – be it positive or negative – whether based on race, language, religion, or sexual orientation is not aligned with our social ethos, and has no place in our society.
It is perhaps highly hypocritical that Chan Chun Sing would deem it fit to criticise Goldman Sachs for being an “inclusive (company), regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation”. MyPaper had reported that Goldman Sachs also has other “employee networks” for its other employees such as The Disability Interest Forum and The Goldman Sachs Women’s Network.
First, it is highly hypocritical for Chan Chun Sing to speak up against a clearly inclusive company but when faced with a clearly discriminatory company, Chan Chun Sing does not even bother to speak up. When the Singapore Planned Parenthood Association (SPPA) had organised a symposium and invited a speaker, Melvin Wong, who had said that, “whole world needs American values”, where was Chan Chun Sing? Did he bother to tell the SPPA that only “Singapore and Singaporeans will decide on the norms for our society.”
When Wong said that “husbands must love wives though not easy with ‘women these days’, did Chan Chun Sing come out and tell the SPPA that, “Discrimination … has no place in our society”?
And when gay people were being derided at the symposium, did Chan Chun Sing come out and say that, “everyone should respect the sensitivities of others and not create division” and “sow discord amongst Singaporeans”?
When you look at the two – an inclusive company adopting non-discriminatory hiring practices and an association which organised an event to propagate clearly discriminatory and derogatory remarks to Singaporeans, which is worse?
Why did Chan Chun Sing choose to come out and speak up against an open and inclusive company but kept all silent when real discrimination was being heaped on Singaporeans? Where was Chan Chun Sing when Singaporean women were called “not easy … these days”? Where was Chan Chun Sing when Singaporeans were told we “need American values”? Why did Chan Chun Sing keep quiet when open discrimination occurred but would speak up against something so much more inclusive?
That Chan Chun Sing had the cheek to say that, “Discrimination – be it positive or negative – whether based on race, language, religion, or sexual orientation is not aligned with our social ethos, and has no place in our society,” this couldn’t be even more hypocritical.
Yet, for a company which is clearly non-discriminatory in its practice and inclusive, why would Chan Chun Sing claim that companies such as Goldman Sachs was trying to “create division” and “sow discord”?
It couldn’t be more hypocritical for Chan Chun Sing to say this. Why would Chan Chun Sing want to discredit a company as “creating divisions” and “sowing discord” when this company was clearly being “inclusive”? Instead of discrediting an inclusive company, perhaps Chan Chun Sing would like to look at his own government, when his Prime Minister had chastised Singaporeans as being a “disgrace to Singapore” and at the same time claiming that Singapore “belongs to all of us“, including “new arrivals, people who are on permanent residence here, people who are on employment pass here”. Of course, Singaporeans are a welcoming people but when our livelihoods are being threatened by the very government which is supposed to protect us, is it right for the government to call Singaporeans as being “disgraceful” and to turn Singapore into a porous society where its citizens are no longer valued?
Why did Chan Chun Sing see it fit as the Minister for Social and Family Development to critique a company for wanting to be inclusive to its employees? Isn’t the Minister for Social and Family Development’s aim to create a “caring society“?
But has Chan Chun Sing and his government been “caring”?
Chan Chun Sing has the gusto to speak up against companies who want to be inclusive and “caring” but has his government been “caring”? When asked if the government could define a poverty line “to identify at-risk households … in helping them leave the poverty cycle”, Chan Chun Sing had claimed that defining a poverty line is not favourable as it would create a “cliff effect“. However, Singapore’s poverty line, by some estimates is as high as 26%.
In fact, Singapore’s poverty rate is the highest among the developed countries and even higher than many developing Asian countries – we have a poverty rate as high as a Third World country!
Chart: Singapore has the highest poverty rate (Income Distribution and Poverty: Poverty rate (50% median income), percentage, What Do National Poverty Lines Tell Us About Global Poverty?, Poverty line set for HK)
Yet, his government – and then Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong – had the audacity to make the claim that income inequality is stabilising when Singapore has the highest income inequality among the developed countries and one of the highest in the world.
Chart: Singapore has the highest income inequality among the developed countries (An Overview of Growing Income Inequalities in OECD Countries: Main Findings, Key Household Income Trends, 2013)
Chan Chun Sing would also claim that, “Our help schemes typically cover the bottom 20th percentile of households, with the flexibility to go beyond if the family’s circumstances merit consideration. This approach allows us to provide more targeted and customised forms of assistance with real outcomes for families and individuals.”
But when you look at how much the Singapore government is willing to provide for low-income families in Singapore, the Singapore government actually gives the least – at US$1.79 everyday, this is lower than all the other developed countries. Countries with a similar GDP per capita would give significantly higher assistance than Singapore would – Australia gives US$8.02, France gives US$7.68, Germany gives US$6.61, Hong Kong gives US$5.79 and Japan gives US$4.84.
Chart: The Singapore government gives the lowest social assistance among the developed countries (The Poverty Line)
In fact, when compared to the other Asian countries, the Singapore government gives the least to social protection.
Chart: The Singapore government spends the least on social protection (Manulife Asset Management Asset rich, income poor? Key components of retirement income security for aging Asia)
So much so that it has been shown that 30% of Singaporean households have to spend 105% to 151% of their incomes.
So, it might seem that Chan Chun Sing has a lot of time to speak up against companies which actually want to be open and inclusive and he would rather speak up against these worker-friendly companies but would not chastise associations like the SPPA which are openly discriminatory.
Yet Chan Chun Sing and his government would claim that, Discrimination … has no place in our society” and that we should not “create division” and “sow discord amongst Singaporeans” when his government is the one who is precisely discriminating against Singaporeans by paying us the lowest wages among the high-income countries and yet refusing to define a poverty line to protect Singaporeans and whitewash the fact by claiming that income inequality is stabilising.
Chart: Singaporeans earn the lowest wages among the high-income countries (International Labour Organisation Data collection on wages and income)
Yet his government is the one who is creating divisions by then paying high-income earners in Singapore the highest salaries among the developed countries and one of the highest in the world.
Chart: The richest in Singapore earn the highest salaries among the developed countries and one of the highest in the world (ECA Global Perspectives National Salary Comparison 2012)
And by allowing them to pay the lowest tax and CPF among the developed countries and one of the lowest in the world.
Chart: The richest in Singapore pay the lowest tax and CPF among the developed countries and one of the lowest in the world (KPMG’s Individual Income Tax and Social Security Rate Survey 2012)
But making the large proportion of poorer and middle-income Singaporeans pay even higher tax and CPF than the high-income earners, so much so that the disparity in Singapore has widened so badly.
Meanwhile, the share of income going to the richest in Singapore has grown tremendously but for the rest of us Singaporeans, we are left behind.
Chart: The richest in Singapore saw incomes grew but the poor remained stagnant (Singapore Perspectives 2014 Differences)
So, what “division” and “discord” does Chan Chun Sing means that Singaporeans should not create when his government is the greatest perpetrator of the division and discord in Singapore?
What will his government do when Singapore is ranked 5th on the crony capitalism index, which makes Singapore the 5th easiest place in the world where you can get rich if you are politically connected to the PAP?
Chart: Singapore is the 5th easiest place for the rich to get rich if they are politically-connectec (The Economist Our crony-capitalism index Planet Plutocrat)
What will his government do when by paying themselves the highest salaries in the world, it has been shown that, “they have set themselves in competition with the billionaires whose wealth, accelerating beyond the economy, is always going to be out of reach” and has thus “create(d) a permanent game of catch-up, whose victims are the “losers”, that is to say ordinary people who do not aspire to such status or riches but must be despised nonetheless by” them. What is he going to do now that this “high executive pay has contributed to the widening gap between the very rich and everyone else“?
Perhaps if Chan Chun Sing spend more time actually solving the problems that Singaporeans and the poor face and actually look into how to increase our wages and livelihoods, rather than spend his time chastising companies which try to be as inclusive as they can, his time would actually be better spent making Singapore a more equal and fairer society. Perhaps if Chan Chun Singapore and his government would actually spend their time actually reducing the divide instead of chastising others for creating the “divides” and “discord” that they themselves are perpetuating, something would actually get done in Singapore instead for him to simply “talk” about it.
For talk is cheap and Singaporeans have enough of the PAP’s inaction and have grown weary and tired of the PAP’s plans to cut down on Singaporeans since 1984.
Chart: The PAP has been cutting down on Singaporeans for 30 years (The Heart Truths Revealed: How The Pap Uses The Wage-CPF/HDB-Debt Cycle To Stab Singaporeans In The Back)
Chan Chun Sing is slated to be a potential prime minister candidate and at the rate things are going, it’s quite unlikely that Singaporeans would support a prime minister whose inaction has become characteristic of his government’s unwilling to protect Singaporeans and the divide, discord and discrimination that they have sowed among Singaporeans has become even more more critical than the claims they heap on others that such a case of the pot calling the kettle black will no longer gel with the reality that Singaporeans are able to recognise.
Such discrimination and hypocrisy has no place in the Singaporean society and if the government continues on its sure path of “creating divide” and “sowing discord”, perhaps it is time that Singaporeans unite around our common cause of the freedoms and equality of all Singaporeans and protect ourselves from the scourge that has plagued our nation.
This year, Pink Dot is expected to be held on 28 June 2014. Last year, 21,000 Singaporeans attended Pink Dot as a show of support for our freedoms and equality. Perhaps this year, to send a strong message that Singaporeans no longer stand the inequality that is dividing Singapore across all segments of society, Singaporeans should show up in full force to show the government that enough is enough – the divisions and discord in Singapore can no longer be tolerated and it is time to protect all Singaporeans, our wages and our livelihoods.