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Posts Tagged ‘welfare’

Buying votes? Or social justice redistribution?

In Political governance on 02/07/2014 at 4:47 am

A recent announcement reminded me that National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Monday (June 2) warned against turning elections into an auction between political parties promising voters as much “goodies” as they can, with as low taxes as possible*.

PAP not into vote buying: perish the tot, he was saying.

So how come this announcement?

In the first week of July, about 1.6 million Singaporeans will receive letters informing them of their 2014 GST Voucher (GSTV), as well as other Budget 2014 benefits** such as the 2014 GSTV Special Payments, the 5-Year Medisave top-up, as well as the Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said in a press release on Monday (June 30).

Most Singaporeans will automatically receive their GSTV payouts and 5-Year Medisave top-ups, the MOF said. Those who have not signed up for past Government payouts and/or are not CPF members will receive letters informing them of the actions they need to take by Dec 31 to receive their benefits. (CNA)

And this is only the latest in a string of spending our money on ourselves to make life more comfortable:

The Government … (June 5) accepted the MediShield Life Review Committee’s recommendation that it should bear most of the costs of the scheme, details of which were released the same day.

“The Government accepts the committee’s recommendation and will bear most of the cost of bringing in those with pre-existing conditions. In this way, the Government will help all Singaporeans, including those with pre-existing conditions and those who are currently excluded, achieve MediShield Life cover, while ensuring that premiums are kept affordable for policyholders,” the Ministry of Health …

Said Committee chairman Bobby Chin: “We have listened to what Singaporeans valued most in MediShield Life. Our recommendations will provide better protection against large hospital bills for all Singaporeans, for life.”

He added that the committee will finalise its recommendations in a month, with the scheme slated to be implemented by the end of 2015.

The government will commit nearly $4 billion in financial support over five years to the revamped national health insurance scheme that will offer lifelong coverage and better protection.

– The recent Pioneer Generation package.catering to those born in 1949 or earlier, and who became a Citizen before 1987, will cost the Government S$9 billion.The Government will establish an S$8 billion Pioneer Generation Fund to meet the cost of the package over time.

– Then there is an ongoing public tpt revamp which now includes baskers and themed cabins. It started off several yrs ago with a $1.1bn (spread over 5 yrs I think) subsidy for buses, and will result in routes being contracted out to operators.

– Temasek yestewrday pledged an additional endowment of $60 million over the next five years to Temasek Cares, a non-profit philanthropic organisation founded in June 2009 to help needy and disadvantaged Singaporeans.

But let’s be fair, a site that the PAP says is not related to it (Of course, site founder was unemployed, not a very PAP thing) , reposted this from a site that seems pro-PAP (or at least anti-oppo):

On the one hand cry election is coming, that’s pork barrel politics, on the other hand, shouted gahmen not doing enough to help the poor, why 4-roomer get less.

GST Voucher is a redistribution system from the rich, and from foreigners who pay GST, towards the poor and middle income group in Singapore.

Fair point.

What do you think? Vote buying or social justice redistribution at work? Just remember, it’s yr money.

Whatever lah; spending other people’s money can do a lot for a politician. Think Thaksin. He introduced a simple idea to Thai politics that had been ignored by his rivals: find out what people want, and give it to them. Ever since he has been unbeaten at the polls. The national discussion of economic policy, including that led by the current junta, has concentrated on the idea of reducing the cost of household expenditures.

Taz the reality. So much for the theory that there is a need for competing political visions of different kinds that encompass not only what is best for the nation but also the economic and social needs of the population. Juz ask WP. It’s “vision” is “PAP is OK with us as co-driver”. No wonder PAP are annoyed.

When elections become a contest of competing political visions, pigs will fly. Money always talks.

——

*“In all honesty, we must acknowledge most of our people would always want more, but would never want to pay more in taxes, and it’s incumbent upon our part to be honest with our voters, because if every election is a mere auction between political parties to give as much goodies as they can with as little taxes they need to pay, I think democracy of that manner must lead to insolvency and eventually, political cynicism.”

Mr Khaw added there is no shortage of money to finance the development of infrastructure – the problem is a lack of sustainable good ideas which will benefit all sectors in a country. He said, as long as projects are bankable, there will be no shortage of funding. However, it is inevitable that governments may need to help finance some projects in order to help the poorer segments of the population.

**The benefits are as follows:

GSTV – CASH AND GSTV – CASH: SENIORS’ BONUS
About 1.3 million Singaporeans will receive the GSTV – Cash on Aug 1. Of this group, about 660,000 Singaporeans aged 55 and above will also receive the GSTV – Cash: Seniors’ Bonus, which will see them receiving double the GSTV – Cash amount in 2014. The GSTV – Cash and GSTV – Cash: Seniors’ Bonus will cost the Government S$505 million, the MOF said.

GSTV – MEDISAVE
About 380,000 Singaporeans aged 65 and above will also receive the GSTV – Medisave top-up on Aug 1, at a cost to the Government of S$115 million.

GSTV – U-SAVE AND GSTV – U-SAVE SPECIAL PAYMENT
The regular GST Voucher – U-Save will be given out quarterly, the MOF said. In addition, a Special Payment will be given out in July 2014 and January 2015. These vouchers will offset utilities directly and cost the Government S$290 million in total. In July, 800,000 households will receive S$90 to S$195 each in rebates, depending on the type of flat they stay in.

ADDITIONAL MEDISAVE TOP-UPS UNDER 5-YEAR MEDISAVE TOP-UP SCHEME
As announced in Budget 2014, Singaporeans born on or before Dec 31, 1959 – in other words, those aged 55 and above in 2014 – and who do not enjoy Pioneer Generation benefits will receive Medisave top-ups of S$100 or S$200 annually over the next five years, the ministry said. About 530,000 Singaporeans will benefit at a cost to the Government of S$100 million. Those who stay in homes of Annual Value above S$13,000 or who own more than one property will receive S$100 a year. “The vast majority – those living in HDB flats who do not own more than one property – will get the higher top-up of S$200 a year,” the MOF announced.

 

 

 

 

 

Another minister tries telling jokes

In Political governance on 31/03/2014 at 4:57 am

Whether a policy will be popular at the ballot box is not a factor that the Government takes into account before implementing it, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said yesterday.

Instead, the Government’s focus has always been about getting policies right, he said, using the recently-announced Pioneer Generation Package as an example.

 The Government would not have fully funded the S$8 billion package from its current account surplus this year if it were “thinking purely in terms of electoral calculations”, said Mr Shanmugam. (Saturday’s Today)
Come on pull the other leg, it’s got bells. So Shan is trying to be Tharman, telling jokes?

Notwithstanding the criticisms in TOC, TRE, and the other usual suspects, there is quiet satisfaction among the oldies (and the children) that I know, that the package while not that generous shows that the govt is willing to listen. And why is the govt listening? There is an election coming in which it wants to obtain more than the 60% of the popular vote. So it does what elected govts do, buy votes. In our case, it’s will our money, not borrowed money as is common in the West. Whatever the method, it’s still vote buying.

My other serious point is that by saying govt “will do what’s right, not what’s popular”, he implies that the unpopular measure is always  the right policy. Come on pull the other leg, it’s got bells. He cannot be serious. The transport policy of Raymond Lim (if commuters want basic comfort, they will have to pay GST),  and the public housing policy of Minister Mah (prices fly in a recession) were unpopular, and wrong. By sacking them (OK not denying they were sacked, and they didn’t get cushy GLC jobs did they?), and reversing their policies, the govt admitted they were wrong.

Minister should stick to his day job of being the pet minister, administering to the concerns of pet owners. And making them happy enough with his performance to vote for the PAP: Most pet owners are “Calm Persistence”: their votes matter. The contradiction that the PAP has to solve if he continues doing the great job that he is doing is that he shows up the performance of Yaacob and Isawran, the ministers responsible for two minority races. Their underwhelming performance surely will alienate those minorities who don’t have pets?

Pope’s approach versus that of PAP

In Political governance on 17/03/2014 at 4:39 am

When I read this recently

In a long interview with a fellow Jesuit, now issued worldwide in book form, Pope Francis tellingly uses the metaphor of his Church as a field hospital.

“The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds,” he says.

“I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”,

I could not help but think of Kee Chui’s (and by extension that of the PAP govt’s) attitude towards helping the needy as related here by Uncle Leong who in the extract also gives a gd response to the PAP’s Hard Truth of not helping whenever possible:

Those who genuinely want to help?

Mr Chan also asked his fellow MPs “not to judge” when stories of any of these families in trouble are highlighted in the media.

“Very often, there are very complicated stories behind each and every case. Very often the social workers and the community have been quietly working behind the scenes helping these families in need without fanfare,” said Mr Chan.

He added, “Those who genuinely want to help…we’ll be most happy to work with them. But for those with other reasons, it’s always difficult.”

However I am rather puzzled as to what he means or is trying to say with this remark. 

An example of a cardboard collector who wasn’t really needy?

The minister brought out the example of a woman who was featured in a news report.

“In 2009, there was a public uproar after a video posted online by news service Agence France Presse featured an elderly woman in Singapore who made a living by scavenging for scrap cardboard and selling it,” Mr Chan said.

It was mentioned that checks by the government officials later revealed that she owned property, had savings and a family who wanted to help her – but she did not want to rely on them.

So when it was said that “she owned property”, does it mean she is staying in her own HDB flat or a private property?

What about the term “had savings”? Is it a few thousand dollars or more than $4,000?

What exactly does “had a family who wanted to help her – but she did not want to rely on them” mean?

From our experience in volunteering to do financial counselling for the last decade or so, we often come across cases whereby if a family member is asked by the authorities about their aged parent working for very low earnings, the answer may be, “We want to help, but my parent does not want our help.”

But think about it. If you were the family member being asked by the authorities why your elderly parent is on the streets picking up cardboard, would you want to give an answer to say that you do not have the means or intention of taking care of your parent?

At the end of the day, the fact is that there are so many elderly Singaporeans eking out a living by earning less than $10 a day collecting scrap cardboard or used drink cans.

To all these needy elderly Singaporeans it may be quite meaningless to hear a reply in Parliament citing one example of a scrap cardboard collector who arguably don’t really need to make “a living by scavenging for scrap cardboard and selling it.”

And Kee Chui is one of the more compassionate PAPpies because of his background: poor boy made gd. What about that sneering ACS boy from a privileged family?

Welfare: Govt still missing the point

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 08/01/2014 at 4:25 am

Two Saturdays ago, I blogged:

After the general election (GE) in May, Malaysia was put on notice by the international rating agencies that it had to get its fiscal discipline right. Prime Minister Najib Razak responded by first cutting fuel subsidies and raising petrol prices by 10 per cent in September.

In his October Budget, Mr Najib abolished sugar subsides and pledged to cut total subsidies by 17 per cent in the financial year. The Budget did not achieve that, so most commentators expect more fuel subsidy cuts possibly in the second half of the year. Mr Najib also promised a 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST) by next April.

Indonesia too has a problem with its fuel subsidy: it’s eating up a growing share of the budget, and meanwhile Thailand has a problem with its rice subsidy for farmers. It’s so bad that there are reports that there are farmers not receiving the subsidy. The govt doesn’t have the money.

S’pore govt doesn’t have this problem: the govt doesn’t do subsidies (except in public housing, healthcare and public tpt*: though even PAP Wormtongues** like that Jason chap cannot explain where the subsidies are in healthcare and public housing: they can only repeat parrot-like the govt’s statements about the subsidies, which is there is a subsidy).

The govt claims a more focused, targeted approach in helping the needy.

But sadly in its targeted, focused approach in helping the needy, it believes in the values of Scrooge as I blogged here. I won’t go into the details on its meanness in helping poorer or older S’poreans ’cause Uncle Leong has repeatedly provided the numbers detailing its Scrooginess. But juz to remind, here is one example: Workfare is gd in principle (better than minimum wage) in my view, but too mean.

And even when it increases welfare spending by a few pennies: Acting Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong has cautioned against getting Singapore into debt, even as the government ramps up social assistance.

He said state spending has to be kept sustainable to avoid passing the burden to future generations.http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-must-be-careful/889756.html

And despite their S$ 2.5bn++ annual contribution, manual FT workers don’t get help, when they should.

M’sia, Indonesia and Thailand have got their finances messed up because of the use of subsidies but they understand one thing: that spending on welfare is an investment in human resources. What they got wrong is welfare by way of subsidies.

Our govt has got the right idea on subsidies: they are often wasteful, always juz grow and grow, and, often, the people who don’t need them benefit the most, example middle class people  and the wealthy benefit the most from any fuel subsidy, not the poor.

But it hasn’t got it: that spending on welfare can be an investment in people. This is something that developed countries, our Asean neighbours, China, India understand. But our govt doesn’t seem not to understand: it’s a Hard Truth thatwelfare spending is a waste of resources. The money could be given to Temasek and GIC to punt the markets is another Hard truth.

If the PAP wants to reconnect with the 40% of voters who voted against the PAP in the last GE, and please its base (including the 35% that “Die, die must vote PAP” , it should rethink its Hard Truth that welfare spending is consumption, not investment. However anti-PAP paper activists should be glad that the govt is unlikely to change its thinking.

As ex-scholar Donald Low put it: “What all this points to is that we really need a more robust welfare system that gives Singaporeans much greater assurance of income when they are unemployed, old or sick. The low fertility rate and the desire of even well-to-do Singaporeans to retire somewhere else are signs that the state needs to craft a new social contract with Singaporeans, that it needs to develop more mechanisms to pool risks and give Singaporeans security.

The argument that we cannot afford all these because the population is ageing is mostly a bogeyman. It is partly because we don’t have a proper welfare system that the population is ageing as rapidly as it is. This has also been the experience in much of East Asia – where the relative absence of social security led to falling fertility rates and eventually, rapid ageing.”

But anti-govt activists should be worried that he is Associate Dean (Executive Education and Research) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Maybe, juz maybe, there’ll be changes in the mentality of the PAP.

—-

*Even the S$1.1bn spent on tpt is spare change as it’s spread out over five yrs, I think.

**Wormtongue is a minor character in The Lord of the Rings: his name describes his character.

PM shld remember he isn’t mrbrown

In Political governance, Public Administration on 02/12/2013 at 4:55 am

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.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/11/government-guaranteed-basic-income)

– 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’.”

Great retorts to Kee Chui’s rubbish

In Political governance, Public Administration on 25/10/2013 at 4:37 am

Singapore is not considering having an official poverty line, as it would not fully reflect the severity and complexity of issues faced by the poor, and may also lead to those above the line missing out on assistance.

CHAN CHUN SING*: “If we use a single poverty line to assess the family, we also risk a ‘cliff effect’, where those below the poverty line receive all forms of assistance, while other genuinely needy citizens outside the poverty line are excluded.”

- Straits Times. 23 Oct 2013. (Via TOC Facebook)

P Ravi (the P stands for Philemon, not “Politican” as Yaacob of once in 50-yrs flood fame seemed to think) wrote on Facebook:

With various subsidies in healthcare, housing, pre-school education, etc already being tagged to means-testing, the cliff-effect already exists. Through my volunteer work with low-income families and individuals I know for a fact that some decline pay increases because if their salary increase, they will not be eligible for KIFAS (Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme). Some others do not take up jobs which will pay them a bit more than they currently earn, because then they will not be eligible for rental houses (some of these may be better off in rental houses then buying their own flats). Anyway, the ‘cliff effect’ has not historically stopped the Government from not providing assistance. For example, middle income families were recently provided assistance to purchase HDB flats. As I see it, the excuse of the ‘cliff effect’ is just an excuse to avoid properly acknowledging the state of poverty in Singapore. Without appropriately acknowledging poverty in Singapore, it will be very difficult to address it adequately.

And the following from the retired chief economist of GIC would have been another great retort except that it was written a few days earlier in resonse to SunT’s leading article with a headline screaming that for the first time assurance to the poor rose above $100mn in the last FY, a 45% increase

Can’t believe we are so proud that for the first time assurance to the poor rose above $100mn in the last FY.

That’s like 0.03 of a percent of GDP- a paltry amount in view of the fact that around 10 to 12% of households ( some 350 to 400,000 people) are way below the income per capita criterion of $550 per month and WIS payouts are way too stingy!

Even if you take just the unemployed and aged poor (excluding working poor) of around 140 000 people) that’s barely $60 a month each!

And yet MP Seah Kian Peng, chairman of the GPC for Social and Family Development can claim that those who fall between the cracks ” should be rare exceptions and, when they come to our notice we will certainly and very quickly act on them.”

Let’s please just come out of policy denial , treble workfare and at least double the amount we are spending on welfare before we make claims that we are dealing adequately with the poverty problem in Singapore!

It’s a real shame that a country with our level of prosperity and fiscal resources still faces chronic poverty of the kind outlined in Radha Basus article in ST today (p 13 and 13) …

Comcare fund is only largely directed at some 45 to 50, 000 families facing temporary problems like illness and retrenchment or the elderly poor; it largely does not include the working poor of 60 to 80, 000 households who are meant to be covered by an inadequate WIS..

Finally, I’m shocked to find out that The Government’s national database for the social services sector, or Social Service Net (SSNet), will be ready by mid-2015. Tot we had one: shows the priority that such a database had under previous ministers (like that rich kid from ACS). (http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/national-database-for/858204.html)

One wonders how Kee Chui got the data to make such the sweeping statement quoted above if there is no national database?

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*To be fair to Kee Chui, social workers are happier with his attitude and actions than with those of VivianB and the other welfare ministers. Sad that Halimah is not part of the team as she is believed to be, like Kee chui interested, in welfare reform, and in helping the poor.

Minister, you thinking of yr govt?

In India, Political governance on 16/07/2013 at 5:13 am

I laughed when I read the following:

Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said one of the biggest risks for Singapore is a populist government that spends increasing amounts of money to succeed.

Already, he noted, there are other challenges facing the nation, such as an ageing population, a shrinking workforce and rising healthcare costs.

Mr Shanmugam said: “There’s always something else on which money can be spent. But every time the government agrees and puts down a programme, you must remember it’s hard-coded, very difficult to take it back.

“Whenever we put down a programme today to spend money, I think the biggest risk for Singapore is a populist government that decides that the way to succeed is to spend more and more money. Every programme that you put down money (for), today, would just mushroom in 10, 15 years.

“So the impact will not be seen in the next five years. Next 10 years will be okay, but after that, how are we going to afford it? How sustainable is it going to be?”

Mr Shanmugam was speaking at the National University of Singapore U@live forum on [12th June 2013]. (CNA)

Recently,

– the govt has junior civil servants more money (Singapore’s 80,000 civil servants will get a mid-year Annual Variable Component of 0.4-month. In addition, Division IV officers will receive a wage increase of $70 per month and Division III officers a pay rise of $40 per month.)

– NTUC is pushing for cleaning companies to give each of their workers $60 a month more.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the government has taken steps to help low-income tenants of rental flats who see their pay rises eaten up by a rental increase.

Two million adult Singaporeans received letters from the government in the first week of July, informing them of the benefits they and their households will receive as part of Budget 2013.

And what about these?

– In 2011 or 2012, the govt funded a rise in the salaries of doctors, and I think, other health professions in public service. There were assurances that the fees we pay to use SingHealth services would not be raised.

– CPF interest rates are maintained despite the yields on 10-yr govt bonds collapsing.

– The injection of $1.1bn into the public transport system, a system which the former transport minister tot was perfect. Remember, he threatened a GST increase because he said commuters were asking for too much comfort.

– The accelerated HDB building programme despite constant govt grumbles that it loses money. A previous HDB minister even implied that by building more HDB flats, S’pore was raiding its reserves. Yes, yes he actually didn’t say this but I didn’t say he said this. I’m putting a reasonable spin on what he said.

So one could reasonably argue that this govt is doing the very thing it decries. It spends increasing amounts of money to succeed or to make sure it’s share of the popular vote doesn’t fall further in the next GE. A few years ago, when LKY was still in the cabinet, and believed to have a veto over cabinet decisions, I had lunch with some economists. One of them wondered if LKY would die if the govt spends one more cent of our money to make life a bit more comfortable for S’poreans. Wonder how LKY feels about all the above spending? Would he think it is “populism” at work?

The continuing good news for “P” (for “political”) netizens, and the opposition is that so long as VivianB is in the cabinet, the PAP will have very serious problems being perceived as a populist, compassionate party, no matter how much of our money the govt throws at us. It also undercuts the gd work that Kee Chui is doing. When social welfare workers praise him, he must be doing something gd. Or at least “populist’.

Where S’pore is not first world: not reported in MSM

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 10/07/2013 at 5:18 am

S’pore is richer (per capita) than Japan. Yet as this chart from the Economist shows, its welfare spending is below that of Japan, and is clustered with Thailand and China, with only Indonesia worse-off. Korea is slightly better than S’pore but the president there has promised massive welfare spending. S’pore has not made such a promise.

We should be aiming to be clustered withJapan. And as Temasek’s recent results help show, we got the money. Prosperous Japan is the only country that protects its people both well and widely, according to the index. In Singapore, now richer than Japan, social protection is spread broadly but thinly, the index shows.

For the geeks:The Asian Development Bank’s newly published social-protection index shows both the breadth of coverage (the percentage of potential beneficiaries actually covered) and the depth (the amount of spending per beneficiary, expressed as a percentage of the country’s GDP per person).

Welfare: Jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today

In Economy on 09/12/2010 at 5:20 am

When read I this “prudence and discipline” article last Friday* reporting a speech on S’por’e welfare system (past, present and future) by the PM, I was reminded of the conversation between Alice and the White Queen in Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There”.

In the book the White Queen offers Alice “jam every other day” to work for her: “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today … It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.

“[J]am to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today” has since then become an expression for a never-fulfilled promise, which is what many think the promise to help the poor has become.

What annoyed me was that the PM  doesn’t understand the issue: saying we couldn’t afford European style welfarism. Trouble is no-one sensible is asking for this, certainly not the opposition parties or the do-gooders.

The ex-head of the civil service and now chairman of the Public Service Commission showed he “got it” when he said at a recent speech in the US to S’pore  scholars: “More and more citizens, especially younger Singaporeans, agonize over the fact that there are still poor people in wealthy Singapore.”

The issue is the smallish amount of welfare payments relative to the Budget. Take Workfare the govmin’s flagship programme. It  has the right idea but is too ungenerous.

The PM in November said abt Workfare: “[A] total of $1.65 billion in the last five years, or $400 million a year, to help 400,000 low-income workers”. The Finance Minister said in February this year that the enhanced Workfare scheme will cost the government S$100 million annually. So the spending on Workfare is now S$500m or 1.5% of the operating expenses in the latest Budget. Still peanuts. And yes I know that 1.65bn divided by 5, doesn’t equal 400m. Taz why I quoted the exact words.

And if the govmin is concerned that increased annual payments to the poor will lead to moral degeneration and the destruction of its “Work will make you free” philosophy (seriously though, there is the very human issue of rising expectations and politicians pandering to the voters), why not try Kaushik Basu’s solution? The Cornell University professor, and chief economic adviser to India’s finance ministry, says it is not enough that the income of the bottom 20% rise at the same percentage rate as the average. Instead, they should get an equal absolute share of the income the economy.

This would mean only a one-off transfer of S$3.1 billion to the poorest 20% of S’poreans. Less than Temasek’s realised loss on Merrill Lynch. Temasek could have lost as much as US$4.6bn (in 2009 March this would have been S$7bn) on Merrill Lynch. (BTW, March 2009 was not gd for Temasek. The much smaller loss on Barclays (800m sterling?, was then worth abt S$ 1.7bn ).

(http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/minimum-wages-missing-the-point/ for more on these)

We got the money for more “jam today”.  We don’t need to borrow to fund enhanced Workfare. Read the rest of this entry »

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