PM’s recent attempt to crack jokes about those who use the internet and the govt’s policy on welfare did not go down well with the audience. They also showed thinking unbecoming a Cambridge double first. PM should focus on reminding S’poreans that they can sell that 4-room HDB flat and buy that house in Iskandar or condo in KL.Taz the success of the PAP way of doing things: not mind control or welfare.
Remember, PM joked:
– Online views are not representative of the majority. True but then neither are the pro govt or PAP views expressed in the constructive, nation-building media, or the answers given to surveys carried out by organisations linked to the gocvt or the PAP. representative of the majority. Yet the govt and the media place a lot more emphasis on these views or surveys. If the net were pro govt, he’d change his tune.
– “Satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there.”. Trying to tell us he unhappy? How else him to explain that he can find time to post the tale of owl in Istana? Seriously, there are some people who like me go on the Internet ’cause we got leisure time and we don’t like travelling, golfing or some other leisure pursuit. And we grumble about the govt because while he are too cowardly or lazy to do something physical about it, we have social consciences that still work, and are trying to assuage said consciences even if such grumbles work against our economic interests.
– Next, the comment on “no dead poor” here in S’pore completely misses the point, juz like little Ms Kate Spade Tin did when she said “let the poor remain poor”**. Morally and more to the point, economically, it’s all about the relativity inequalities in a society, not the absolute levels
In a recent posting on an Economist blog: the indignity of the wealth gap. T.M. Scanlon, a Harvard philosopher, catalogues several reasons inequality is objectionable. The stigmatisation of the lower orders would remain a problem in highly inegalitarian societies like America:
One consequence of extreme inequality in income and wealth can be that it forces the poor to live in a way that is reasonably seen as humiliating. As Adam Smith observed, there is a serious objection to a society in which some people are so much poorer than others that then have to live and dress in such a way that they cannot go out in public without shame. Here again, the evil is comparative—it is not merely an objection to having ragged clothes, or poor housing, but of having to live and to present oneself in a way that is so far below the standard generally accepted in the society that it marks one as inferior, and as someone that others would not want to associate with. This provides a reason not only to improve the lot of the poor, but also, even if their lot is, in absolute terms, not so bad, to object to the creation of a much higher standard of living for others. This may not, in some cases be a sufficient reason to deny others these benefits, but it is a recognizable cost that these benefits bring, and one that cannot be put down to irrational envy.
– Then there is the reasoning that there is no need for a “fixed” poverty line because there are all kinds of targeted schemes. In the same economist post, there is a point about the inefficiencies of various schemes both for the recipients and the state:“A single father with two jobs and two children would no longer have to worry about the hassle of visiting a bunch of offices to receive benefits,” Ms Lowrey writes. “And giving him a single lump sum might help him use his federal dollars better. Housing vouchers have to be spent on housing, food stamps on food. Those dollars would be more valuable—both to the recipient and the economy at large—if they were fungible.” The economic benefits are that the state (and tax payers) benefits as less bureaucracy is needed to administer a fungible welfare scheme, and resources are better allocated by the spending of beneficiaries.
Contrast this to PM’s,“Some are broken family problems. Some are problems of children not managing in school and therefore have difficulty. Some are low-income, they don’t have the skills, we need to raise their skills and jobs and pay. Focusing on all these things is productive, then you know what you want to solve, and deal with it.”
The govt should think about the benefits of productivity in designing a welfare system.
So PM, pls stop telling jokes. Leave to Tharman, who 7% of the population are rooting to be the next PM. Actually to be fair, it’s more than 7% of the population: throw in the liberal Chinese and Malay voters.
*The context of his comment:“To have a definition of poverty that encompasses all different kinds of problems and to say, this is the poverty number in Singapore, that is the scale, and it’s a very big number and we are very alarmed, because we have been ignoring this problem and now let’s focus and solve the problem and put the resources in. I don’t think that is the situation and that is the good approach.
Mr Lee said: “Some are broken family problems. Some are problems of children not managing in school and therefore have difficulty. Some are low-income, they don’t have the skills, we need to raise their skills and jobs and pay. Focusing on all these things is productive, then you know what you want to solve, and deal with it.”
The government has said that its approach is to have multiple lines of assistance, and help schemes are also flexible enough to ensure that those who miss the criteria are also helped.
Mr Lee said: “We cannot avoid a social judgment of which needs the society considers meritorious, which needs we consider urgent, which needs we consider well, it’s a problem, but we can leave them to sort out.
“Or it’s a problem but it’s really something that somebody has caused to happen because of his own doing and he has to sort it out. Otherwise, there’s no end to him coming to me to say ‘I’ve got myself into trouble, please bail me out’.”
**OK, OK, I exaggerate. She was only repeating parrot-like the Hard Truth that only absolute (i.e.minimal) help was necessary: don’t fill their bellies lest they be lazy. To quote PM, “Or it’s a problem but it’s really something that somebody has caused to happen because of his own doing and he has to sort it out. Otherwise, there’s no end to him coming to me to say ‘I’ve got myself into trouble, please bail me out’.”