atans1

Tharman joking again? Or trying to BS us?

In Economy on 30/08/2015 at 4:39 am

But before I go to Tharman, let me quote Dr Chee on the problems facing some, many S’poreans (certainly not me)

the 2014 report by Credit Lyonnaise Securities Asia which showed that almost half of households in Singapore live from paycheck to paycheck with little or no savings. This is middle class that we’re talking about. They are just one major bill away from financial ruin. This can come in the form of an accident, health problem, or some other foreseeable catastrophe.

What is less surprising is the report’s finding that the majority of our elderly indicated that they are not saving. How can they when they have hardly anything to live on after they’ve paid up their HDB loan? What’s more, the little that they have is withheld under the Minimum Sum Scheme.

But what’s particularly disturbing is the finding that a high proportion of Singaporeans in their 30s and 40s are also unable to save.

How did all this come about? The cost of living in Singapore, of course, plays a major role. In 2001, we were the 97th most expensive city in the world. In a short span of just over 10 years, we hopped, stepped and jumped to becoming the most expensive city in the world, according to the Economic Intelligence Unit.

Full text of speech at *. I commend it for your reading.

Singapore’s social and economic policies, which work hand-in-hand, are long-term strategies that have been in place long before the 2011 General Election. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam made this point on Friday (Aug 14) in a speech at the SG50 Special Distinguished Lecture, organised by the Economic Society of Singapore.

He spoke of support for the very young, starting with broad-based quality in the public school system in Singapore. When a person enters the workforce, there is Workfare where the Government tops up the wages of low-income workers. In housing, the Government went about it in a “very determined way” to ensure homes remained affordable for low- and middle-income couples, Mr Tharman said.

For seniors, the Central Provident Fund remains a critical pillar of support and the Government has introduced features like the Pioneer Generation Package and the permanent Silver Support Scheme, for the low-income elderly.

“This has been a shift that started a full 10 years ago and step-by-step, we moved up our support by intervening with people who are young, intervening in the working years and increasingly now in the senior years. It’s not just an innovation in the last five years,” Mr Tharman said.

“And I recognise of course, there’s some political cunning, saying this all came about because of GE 2011. I’m sorry it didn’t. The world did not start in 2011. We made very clear our intentions and our motivations in 2007. We made clear it was going to be a multi-year strategy and step-by-step, starting from the kids when they are young, through working life, into the senior years.

“We have been moving towards a more inclusive society step by step and we intend to continue on this journey. Learning from experience, improving where we can. But this is not a result of 2011.”** I also commend you read the rest of CNA article below because it’s a good summary of the PAP’s views on “Life, the Universe and Everything”.

Now you know why I put Dr Chee’s remarks first. How can the recent goodies be part of a 10-yr plan given the dates of the reports quoted by Dr Chee: in or around 2914.

If the PAP administration had been working since 2005 or 2006, why weren’t the results not shown in the data?

Remember Tharman’s previous attempts at telling jokes

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/property-tharman-trying-to-crack-jokes-again/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/tharman-trying-to-tell-jokes-again/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/telling-coc-jokes-ministerial-coc-needed/

Related posts

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/why-tharman-will-be-the-next-pm/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2015/07/24/tharman-also-from-bizarro-spore/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/another-minister-tries-telling-jokes/

But maybe, Tharman the real aristocrat (no not juz s “natural” one: he like VivianB are from ACS), thinks we are daft peasants and workers?

 

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*Full text of Dr Chee Soon Juan’s speech at the SDP’s 35th Anniversary Dinner on 15 August 2015:

Mr Jeffrey George, Chairman, SDP, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

In 1995, during the Ordinary Party Conference at which I was first elected Secretary-General of the SDP, I gave an address about the need to invest our time and effort building up a strong foundation for the party.

I related the fable of the Three Little Pigs and how it was important to erect our house with bricks rather than with sticks and straw. Only with a sound foundation could we build a premier party that we all wanted to see the SDP become.

By foundation, I meant that we had to ground the party on principles – principles that allowed the people the freedom to think and express those thoughts, principles that ensured that we enhanced opportunity for all to succeed, not just the privileged, and principles that grounded us on the idea that power is measured by our ability to care for the weakest among us.

By foundation, I also meant taking the time and having the discipline to put up considered policy papers by conducting research and consulting the people.

In the years that ensued, I was repeatedly criticised – even by those in opposition circles – for being out of touch with the masses and being too academic in my approach. My critics also argued that Singaporeans were interested only in bread-and-butter issues; democracy and political freedom were Western concepts unsuited to the Asian mind.

I never bought the propaganda because unless someone can show me that Singaporeans are somehow different from the rest of the human race or possessed DNA that made us inherently desirous of being constantly told what to do, I cannot but conclude that these views are propagated by the powerful few who want to keep the status quo.

Rising prices, stagnant wages

I have maintained that without our political rights, we cannot protect our economic interests and well-being. Recent trends have proven me correct.

Take, for example, the 2014 report by Credit Lyonnaise Securities Asia which showed that almost half of households in Singapore live from paycheck to paycheck with little or no savings. This is middle class that we’re talking about. They are just one major bill away from financial ruin. This can come in the form of an accident, health problem, or some other foreseeable catastrophe.

What is less surprising is the report’s finding that the majority of our elderly indicated that they are not saving. How can they when they have hardly anything to live on after they’ve paid up their HDB loan? What’s more, the little that they have is withheld under the Minimum Sum Scheme.

But what’s particularly disturbing is the finding that a high proportion of Singaporeans in their 30s and 40s are also unable to save.

How did all this come about? The cost of living in Singapore, of course, plays a major role. In 2001, we were the 97th most expensive city in the world. In a short span of just over 10 years, we hopped, stepped and jumped to becoming the most expensive city in the world, according to the Economic Intelligence Unit.

This is not just happenstance. It came about through deliberate planning by the PAP. For instance, the Government rewrote the Banking Act and Immigration policy to court High Net-Worth Individuals to Singapore. As a result, we have the highest proportion of millionaires and billionaires in the world. The massive inflow of foreign capital places enormous upward pressure on prices in the country.

At the same time, we imported en masse cheap foreign labour to do the lower-skilled jobs. This puts downward pressure on wages of the locals. It also has the unintended effect of lowering labour productivity levels. The government has often repeated that wages cannot outstrip productivity. The result is that real wages continue to languish.

This double whammy of rising costs and stagnating wages is what is making lives financially so tough for Singaporeans.

And what about our youth? The future looks anything but hopeful. They now have to compete with foreign students – who are getting generous financial assistance from the state – for places in our universities. And when they graduate, they have a tough time finding jobs. If they do end up with a job, many are underemployed engaging in low-paying or low-skilled positions.

And with the high HDB prices, housing has become largely unaffordable for young couples.

All this means that for our younger generation, opportunity is diminishing while stress and anxiety are increasing.

This has caused many Singaporeans to leave the country. Unfortunately, they are ones whose talent and skills we need most. Lee Kuan Yew, himself, admitted that this development is a serious problem.

So what does the Government do? Instead of examining its policies that gave rise to these problems in the first place, it opens up our immigration doors to let foreigners in by the millions ostensibly to augment innovation and job creation.

But the more people we let in, the greater the competition for opportunity, the more stressful life in Singapore becomes, the more Singaporeans choose to leave and on goes the downward spiral.

The situation has deteriorated to the point that the PAP acknowledges the problem. Both Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Long have said that without foreigners, we cannot attract investments and create jobs.

Unchecked power

How did we come to such a tragic state? After more that 50 years of uninterrupted PAP rule, we cannot produce a citizenry, or at least retain one, which can keep our country going without having to rely on foreigners?

But even as the SDP saw the situation deteriorate, our hands were tied. There was little we could do because our rulers decreed that the media had to be controlled, political parties could operate only under the most restrictive of conditions, and fundamental freedoms were tightly proscribed.

As a consequence, the ruling party’s power was unchecked. The result is a slew of problems, of which I have just mentioned a few, that our society has to grapple with.

Authoritarian control has another effect that is less obvious, perhaps, but no less damaging to our nation. It has to do with our effort to build a knowledge-based society. The fact that we are so reliant on foreigners and foreign corporations to drive our economy is more than a subtle hint that we’ve not been very successful in this endeavour. This is because a political system which demands conformity does not, and cannot, admit of knowledge creation.

Which leads me back to the point that I made at the beginning of my address, it is the same point that I have been making for the last 20 years: Without political freedom, that is, freedom of speech, assembly and association, we cannot regenerate our economy.

What’s the solution?

The question is not whether the present system will continue to serve Singapore well because clearly it can’t. Even PAP stalwarts like George Yeo have openly called for its reform.

Rather, the question must be how are we going to go about making the necessary changes. There are several areas that we must deal with if we are going to get out of the rut in which we currently find ourselves. But I will confine my answer to the one that is most obvious and immediate: elect SDP candidates into office in the coming elections.

I will point out two incontrovertible facts to underscore why it is crucial to have the SDP in the next Parliament. The first is that we are the only party that has consistently iterated that our political rights and our economic progress are two sides of the same coin, they are inextricably bound. Without advancement in our political rights, problems regarding our economic and social well-being cannot be addressed.

Second, we are also the only party to have drawn up a bold new vision for this nation and crafted alternative policies to take the country closer to that vision. There is nothing worse than asking voters to vote for change when they don’t know what that change is or might look like. We have articulated for society a future that can be better and more secure than the one we have presently. We are advocating a system where the people have the means and the responsibility to shape their own future.

In other words, we want to give voters a reason to vote for the SDP, not just against the PAP.

We want to build a system where debate, reasoned argument, and free choice is highly valued; thick on logic and persuasion, thin on rhetoric and coercion. We want the government to listen – really listen – and be responsive to the wishes and needs of the people. This can only happen with a competent, constructive and compassionate opposition in Parliament – an opposition like the SDP.

SDP’s values

But while it is important to ensure that our future is one predicated on prosperity, we don’t want to advocate ideas that focus exclusively on material wealth – not if it means having to lose our soul and the very essence of being human. And being human is to care for our fellow human beings, to show compassion to those less fortunate than us.

When did we become so callous to suffering? When did we become numb to the fact that our elderly have to clear our tables and wash our toilets or collect cardboard just to live out their remaining years on this earth? I don’t believe that we are such a nasty people. I believe that we have been led astray. We have become so indifferent to the plight of the weak and the powerless because we’ve been told for decades that no one owes us a living, that it’s every man for himself.

We must find our way back, we must find our soul again because a people without a soul is a people who will not find life, life in its most profound sense.

We must impart wisdom that invites an individual to enter the door of his conscience – the conscience that speaks loudly and clearly of our values – that people come before profits, rights before riches and wisdom before wealth.

This is who we are, this is what we stand for and it is what we must strive to uphold. These values keep us united as Singapore Democrats, it is what is going to help us succeed as a party and, most importantly, it is what is going to bring this Republic of Singapore a better future.

It has taken us time to get to where we are today but it has been necessary. We have toiled hard, tilled the soil, planted the seed and with the sweat of our brow and the tears of our spirit, painstakingly cultivated the tree of democratic progress. May it bear fruit this election.

Thank you.

**Rest of CNA report:

He added that what is unique about Singapore is that there is “broad-based upliftment”, with jobs, rising incomes and homes for every Singaporean.

“Without social strategies, without strategies that made it possible for people to develop their potential, through education, without the housing policies that gave everyone a sense of ownership, provided a sense of equity in our society, it would have been impossible for our economy to have succeeded,” said Mr Tharman.

POLICIES HAVE TRANSFORMED OVER THE YEARS

He noted that Singapore’s policies have shifted over the years. The first three decades were focused on the basics – economic survival, job creation, and providing education and housing. And the poor received few subsidies, he said.

“It worked because our economic strategies worked. Jobs were created, incomes did rise and homes went up in value steadily and the economy improved. Social well-being went up without the whole array of social policies, by just focusing on the fundamentals,” Mr Tharman said.

Social policy came to the fore in the 1990s. The Government rolled out policies such as the Edusave scheme for young Singaporeans and Medifund for those who could not afford hospital bills. They also introduced housing grants for the resale market to help more Singaporeans own homes.

“But it is only in the last 10 years, starting from around 2006, 2007, that we made more decisive shifts, a more decisive rebalancing in order to ensure we remain an inclusive society. We needed to mitigate inequality. We had seen in a decade earlier in the mid-1990s when inequality had risen, similar to the trend in most advanced countries. We needed to do more to mitigate inequality,” he said.

SINGAPORE’S LEVEL OF INEQUALITY NOT HIGH BY INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

But Mr Tharman noted that Singapore’s level of inequality, before taxes and Government transfers, is not particularly high by international standards.

He said: “The question then is, what happens after taxes and transfers? Because all governments do want to mitigate inequality, have some redistribution, in order to reduce them. And we do too. There are some countries that in fact achieve a very large reduction in their Gini coefficient, which is about distribution through taxes and transfers.

“The classic cases in Scandinavian economies and to some extent in the United Kingdom and other European economies – those have seen a significant reduction. But the first point we must recognise is that the reduction in inequality that they have seen, the reduction in their Gini coefficient goes hand-in-hand with a very heavy burden of taxation on their population. It is not just about taxing the rich – it is the middle, the broad middle class in the society that pays a very high tax rate. Consumption tax and income tax.”

A MORE INNOVATIVE SOCIETY

Mr Tharman also spoke of the need for a more innovative society, for every company and person to “unleash their innovative spirit” to move from adding value, to creating value through research and development and new products.

That is how Singapore will survive, said the Deputy Prime Minister. He said the country is already beginning to see some results. For example, there are aggressive schemes to support start-ups and help small and medium-sized enterprises upgrade and internationalise.

He said the Government will also take the lead to invest in all Singaporeans – throughout their life.

He noted: “This is why SkillsFuture is a major investment to our future. A major social and economic investment in our future. We are not anywhere near maximising our potential. In fact, no country is anywhere near maximising their potential and we intend to be in the lead by continuously investing in every Singaporean.

“Not many of us, let’s invest in every Singaporean. So we keep improving through life, keep learning something about ourselves, we did not know about. A strength, ability, an interest. And we are going to provide the resources, the facility all around the island to make this possible.”

ON FOREIGN WORKERS AND RESKILLING SINGAPORE WORKERS

Following his speech at the Economic Society of Singapore, Mr Tharman fielded several questions from the audience, including one on foreign workers in Singapore. He said they play an important role in keeping Singapore globally competitive.

Said Mr Tharman: “There are many jobs where you just won’t be able to find enough Singaporeans to do it. And second, because there are many foreign employees who come with expertise and long track records in particular fields that really add to the global teams in Singapore being competitive globally.

“So that is the real strategy,” he said. “In Singaporeans’ own interest, you must have globally competitive teams in Singapore. But if it’s all foreigners, you do not have Singaporeans in the team. Then that is not a sensible economic strategy. So our strategy is to have a balance. Make sure Singaporeans are at the core system – core not just in a regular jobs, core not just in back-end office work, but core in innovative teams and in order for them to be in globally competitive teams.”

Mr Tharman also explained why it is important to reskill Singapore workers. “It is a good thing that we are able to add labour-saving technologies in a labour-short economy,” he said. “We are a labour-short economy so we need every form of labour-saving technology. And the right solution is to make sure that anyone whose job becomes redundant because technology takes over is reskilled, and is able to have another good job.

“And we tend to be as active, as energetic as we can in this through SkillsFuture and through our subsidies as well to help people tide over and learn a new skill.”

He said the society has to help everyone keep up with the pace of change. “Make sure they are not treated as an unemployed statistic becoming an employed statistic, but they are citizens who must feel that they are all part of the team, and if you lose your job, we take care of you and ensure you can be part of another team. That culture of respect for blue collar workers is really something we need to develop.”

– CNA/ms

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  1. It is all BS – that’s not me saying, that’s the 2014 Household Survey. In 2004, the Market Gini (i.e. before tax and social transfer) was at 0.46, Net Income Gini (i.e. after tax and social transfer) was 0.419. The same numbers for 2014 was 0.464 and 0.412. Notice that the difference between the two Ginis had barely widen. It means despite the rhetoric falls short of reality. It also mean any increase in social expenditures merely kept pace with the overall growth in GDP and increases in inflation.

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