Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook dialogue over the weekend was candid, but if you’d be hard-pressed to find any meaty answers on issues that matter to Singaporeans (other than why he wears pink shirts all the time. Hey that matters, ok!). PM Lee answered some 30 questions during the chat, and through this, we can see how much our dear leader has lost touch with the ground. Here’s 5 that stick out.
(1) Income will Go Up with Higher Educational Qualifications
Dear PM, prices have risen faster than incomes, and this trend looks set to continue. That’s why people are worried. We now get less bang for our buck. Even our graduates and PMEs are finding it more difficult to find jobs which are supposed to fit their level of qualifications, given the influx of cheaper foreign labour and the lack of ample job openings in Singapore for this calibre of people. Now, probably in an attempt to ease this crunch, Singapore’s Education Minister has announced that we don’t need a degree to get ahead in life, but the right skills. That runs pretty contradictory to your statement, and only adds to the confusion as to how Singaporeans can earn a decent living wage in Singapore.
(2) Transport Companies are Not Making Huge Profits
Dear PM, you must be kidding. All the data that’s been made public runs opposite to what you’ve said. SMRT’s profits for FY2014? S$61.9 million. The company has posted net profit margins of nearly 20% as recently as 2010. The problem is while earning such vast profits, transport operators are not doing enough to make its operations more productive. That’s why our transport operators continue to suffer operational losses, and Singaporeans continue to suffer over-crowding and delays.
(3) CPF Meant to Protect us During Retirement
Dear PM, if the CPF scheme can truly protect us when we’re old, why do we have to keep raising the retirement age? From 55, it became 62, then 65 years old. The draw-down age has also been raised to 65 years old, which forces Singaporeans to work until then because not many have enough money above the Minimum Sum amount to withdraw when they hit 55. Also, why does the government allow CPF money to be used for housing purchases, and investments (which contribute to many not being able to meet the Minimum Sum)? Is it really a case of money-hoarding when it comes to the CPF? In 2014, the Minimum Sum was raised to S$155,000, up from S$148,000, supposedly to account for inflation. Well, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for 2013 averaged 2.4 per cent. So why was our MS increased by 4.7%? Also, why was the Medisave Minimum Sum increased by a whopping 7.4%, from $40,500 to $43,500?
(4) Spending on Healthcare Requires Possibly Higher Taxes
Dear PM, does the right balance mean spending close to double on defence? In 2014, healthcare spending was S$7.5billion, while defence spending was S$12 billion. Why is our spending on defence up to 4 times higher than than Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam? Also, land that hospitals provide are priced at Market Pricing. This would make government subsidies market discounts rather than cost subsidies. Since healthcare is a public good, and land is owned by the government, why can’t it be charged at cost to our public healthcare providers? Channel the money the right way and save us our tax dollars.
(5) Singapore will Continue to Accept Talented Immigrants
Dear PM, Singaporeans by and large aren’t xenophobic. Still, they will lash out when they believe they’ve been unfairly treated. The government has spent a small fortune (or many peanuts) giving educational subsidies to foreigners, on the pretext that they will stay and become useful citizens. Yet we’re not given the numbers on how many actually do. All this, at the expense of locals. From the incidents of foreigners leaving for home or other countries with better prospects once their bond ends, or foreigners behaving badly, we’re led to believe that this scheme isn’t working out as, so why channel that money into developing our local talents instead? It’s also a gamble, but at least it’s spent on our countrymen.