I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for an article on this blog and have been asked to pay him S$180,000.
Thank you everyone for your support and contributing to the funds for the defamation suit. I am very thankful and grateful for your support. It would have been difficult to do this alone.
Thank you for reading the blog as well. I have written more than 600 articles since 2012, in the hope to shed light on the socio-economic situation in Singapore and I am glad that we have been able to raise a level of awareness on the issues.
Last night, I received another S$145. A couple gave my dad S$45 for the fund raising yesterday. One woman gave S$50 and an Indian man gave S$50 as well. Thank you to you.
My dad sells carrot cake at Block 107 in Ang Mo Kio. Some people have visited my dad’s stall to pass him some contributions.
Some people have also said that they would like to visit my dad’s stall to eat the carrot cake. Just to let you know, he is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from about 4pm to about 11pm/midnight.
There were no new funds in the POSB bank account (130-23068-7 Ngerng Yi Ling) and PayPal (email@example.com).
As of 12pm today, S$27,390.06 has been raised.
The funds coming in have slowed down. But as long as when there are funds coming in, I will update them on the blog.
Singapore Currently Has Enough Surplus to Provide Free Healthcare and Education for Singaporeans
On Thursday, the government announced Budget 2016.
What stood out for me was that GIC and Temasek Holdings will be contributing S$14.7 billion to the budget, via the Net Investment Returns (NIR).
Note that as GIC primarily uses Singaporeans’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) pension funds and part of the CPF is transferred to Temasek Holdings, this means that the NIR would also indirectly come from Singaporeans’ CPF.
The CPF can be used for not only retirement but healthcare and education.
As I have calculated, Singaporeans spend S$1.7 billion on university fees and S$11 billion on healthcare, from our own pockets. In total, we have to pay S$12.7 billion by ourselves for healthcare and education.
The NIR of S$14.7 billion (some of which is our CPF) is already more than that. And as I also mentioned, from 2005 to 2012, Singapore has a surplus of between S$18 billion to S$32 billion, which can also more than cover for all of Singaporeans’ expenditure on healthcare and education.
As I also explained, Singaporeans contributed S$32 billion into CPF last year. This can also more than cover for all of Singaporeans’ expenditure on healthcare and education.
Importantly, Singaporeans have paid S$77 billion into Medisave but in 2014, we were only able to withdraw S$852 million for direct medical expenses. This means that we were only able to use 1.1% of what we have paid in total. Even if Medisave is used to fully cover for all private healthcare expenditure, it would only take up 15%.
Which means there is a lot of money left.
Moreover, as I calculated, “the existing surplus/contributions that Singapore has in one year can provide free education, healthcare and retirement for another 4 to 8 years, or more, at the current spending”.
Anyway, I am sounding like a broken record. I have said this many times on the blog.
I am reiterating the above points to highlight that there is enough money to provide free healthcare and education for all people living on this island, including adequate pension for elderly residents in Singapore.
It is up to Singaporeans to have a conversation on this.
The Government Should Provide Unemployment Benefits in View of More Job Layoffs
Important to note – last year, Singapore saw the highest number of workers lose their jobs since 2009. At the same time, Singapore saw the least jobs created since 2003. And of the jobs created, only 0.3% went to Singaporeans or permanent residents.
As such, I would think that the most urgent thing that the government should do is to provide unemployment benefits for Singaporeans. As it is, Singapore is one of very few countries in the world still without unemployment benefits.
And this is worrying because not only is Singapore the most expensive city in the world for three years running, Singaporeans also pay one of the most expensive university fees and healthcare in the world, MediShield Life premiums for example still have to be paid even as one is unemployed.And MediShield Life premiums can go up to more than S$1,200 a year, which can be harrowing for a person without income to pay.
As such, I would think it is urgent to provide unemployment benefits for Singaporeans.
You see, where the Singapore government spends the least on healthcare and education among the developed countries, as a percentage of GDP, this means that Singaporeans who are working already face a huge burden, noting that Singaporeans already have the lowest purchasing power among the developed countries.
Thus for Singaporeans who are unemployed, this burden would be insurmountable, indefinitely.
So, the choice is for the government to either increase healthcare and education expenditure on its side, or to provide unemployment benefits so that unemployed Singaporeans would still have financial aid to afford these essentials. But even with healthcare and education expenditure increased, some form of unemployment benefits would still need to be provided to help the individual get by while looking for a job – people who have become unemployed at some point will understand this.
But the government is doing neither of both.
There is a Way to Implement Minimum Wage in Singapore – Remove Foreign Worker Levies
In addition, Singapore currently does not have minimum wage – one of the very few countries in the world still without one. There is a de facto minimum wage of S$1,000 for cleaners but even so, there are nearly 10% of Singaporeans who still earn less than S$1,000.
Now, employers who hire foreign workers for low-income jobs are required to pay foreign worker levies to the government.
The median wage for a construction worker is S$1,000. The employer would have to pay an up to another S$900 in foreign worker levy to hire a foreign worker.
In total, the employer would be paying S$1,900 to hire the construction worker, if based on the median wage. In total, the government collected S$2.5 billion in revenue via foreign worker levies in 2011. At the rate of growth, the government would have collected S$3 or S$4 billion last year which would have been able to provide free education for Singaporeans for more than 2 years.
If the employer does not need to pay the foreign worker levy to the government, the levy could be diverted to pay the worker which could possibly mean that a construction worker could potentially earn as high as S$1,900.
Instead of the government wanting to collect revenue from foreign worker levies, it would be more beneficial to the worker for the government to implement an industry-level minimum wage to level-up and increase wages for the different low-income occupations. (The levies are industry-based now anyway.) For example, if the lowest paid construction worker earns S$800 now and the employer has to pay a levy of S$900, this would add up to S$1,700. If so, the government can implement a minimum wage of S$1,700 for construction workers to allow the workers to earn more. (More information would be needed to calculate the exact minimum wage.)
Where government spending is the lowest among the developed world, the government collecting more revenue is honestly meaningless when the money does not go back to the people.
Moreover, is the foreign worker levy a tax on businesses, or is it really a tax on the worker, in lost wages?
The foreign worker levy is effectively a de facto 53% tax (S$900 out of S$1,700). For construction workers who lose the potential to earn higher wages because of this, it is an implicit tax of as high as 53% that they are paying. This is on top of the 37% CPF contribution rate that they currently have to pay.
Therefore, instead of the government taking away workers’ wages in the form of foreign worker levies, I would think that a more enlightened government would return the levies to the workers and implement a minimum wage, which would have the same effect of encouraging businesses to enhance productivity but at the same time, increase wages for the workers – since businesses are already paying these manpower costs right now, but instead of paying to workers which they should rightfully do, they are made to pay the government instead.
Look at it another way, if the foreign worker levies are returned to the workers, all workers would have higher wages. Even after the worker pays personal income tax, he/she is still going to have a higher disposable income than now with the government taking the foreign worker levy wholesale and leaving the worker with much less – as much as half, which is the less desirable situation right now.
It is just a question of whether the government is one which is more profit/revenue-driven or if it is one which is more citizen-centric.
So, here are the statistics and some background information. It is up to you to have some discussion among yourselves.
There is Room to Increase Spending for Childcare and Old-Age Pension
Another comment is that the government is giving a grant of up to S$6,000 for the first and second child, for children born on or after 24 March 2016, which can be used for healthcare and childcare. Where average childcare fees are about S$1,000 and with the numerous hospitalisation bills in the earlier years of a child, the grant will not last a year, or even half a year.
This goes back to my previous point on how providing free healthcare and education, or at least much higher spending by the government on these is therefore necessary. Such current grants or the lack of unemployment benefits are insufficient to protect Singaporeans today.
Another comment is that the government will be giving the bottom 20% to 30% of elderly Singaporeans an additional pension payout of S$300 to S$750 every quarter. This amounts to only S$100 to S$250 every quarter.
Some thoughts – as it is, we still do not know what is the median CPF payout that elderly Singaporeans are able to get. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman said in 2011 that the median CPF Life payout is only S$260.
If so, even in the best case scenario, S$260 and an additional S$250 is only S$510. This is just enough for food, and maybe transport. But it will not be enough for anything else.
As such, the additional pension payout should be increased, and be given on a monthly basis. As I had explained, if each elderly Singaporean were to get S$500 every month (which would only be a total of S$760), this would amount to only a total of S$2.6 billion every month, which the surplus outlined above is more than adequate to pay for.
Also, even if the payout is given to only the bottom 30% as the government prefers, it would only add up to S$0.78 billion. Noting that there is a projected S$3.45 billion surplus this year – unused money, this would be enough to fund all elderly Singaporeans S$660 every month (which would total S$910) or to give the bottom 30% of elderly Singaporeans S$2,200 every month.
As the Centre for American Progress also writes, “Money targeted toward the long-term unemployed helped not only those individual families hardest hit by the Great Recession but also kept dollars flowing into their local communities and helped unemployed workers access health care, undoubtedly mitigating the well-documented negative health effects of unemployment.
“Clearly, there is solid evidence that government spending can create jobs in a recession as deep and protracted as the Great Recession. In fact, given current conditions, investments in infrastructure, education, and other areas are critical to job creation and boosting the U.S. economy. This is something that economic forecasters from across the political spectrum agree on: The need now is to boost demand, not cut spending,” it added.
As such, it is only prudent that the government increases its spending and investment in healthcare and education, and for the unemployed, so as to boost economic growth in the long term by generating domestic demand.
This is simply about economic sense. And the social benefits are immense.
Thank You for Your Support for the Fund Raising
As of this morning, a total of $S27,390.06 has been raised. I still have to pay another S$150,000 to the prime minister.
If you would also like to help to defray the costs and damages, you can also fund raise to the bank account at POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling) or PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
The funds coming in have slowed down. But for transparency, I will continue to update on the funds raised and used, on this blog.
Meanwhile, I have also attached my LinkedIn profile here, if it might be of interest.
Background: In 2014, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for defamation. The judge ruled in a summary judgment that I have defamed him. I have apologised to the prime minister. I was ordered to pay damages of S$150,000 to him. In a settlement reached with the help of my lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, I am to pay an additional S$30,000 in costs. In total, including the previous payment that I have made to the costs of the summary judgment (S$29,000) and application for the Queen’s Counsel (S$6,000), I would have paid/will pay S$215,000.
Last Wednesday, I have paid the first tranche of S$30,000 (of the S$180,000) to the prime minister. From April 1, 2016, for the next 5 years, I have to pay $100 every month. Thereafter, from 2021, I have to pay $1,000 every month until I finish paying.
You can also read the previous update on the funds raised in 2014 and its usage. I would like to thank The Straits Times for reporting about it. There were also inaccurate online reports that the funds were used to pay overseas trips. This is untrue. You can read more about these in the update here.