Inderjit “Maverick” Singh: Government Leaders Lack Political Acumen

Businessman and former PAP MP, Inderjit Singh, has criticised government leaders for lacking acumen, citing the implementation of CareShield Life and parking fees for teachers as examples.

Speaking to the press during a CareShield Life debate, he said:

“Bottomline is leaders should exercise greater political judgement in policy-making. The civil servants have presented to the political leaders a logical scheme based on what a market driven approach would look like. But the government is not a company and we cannot apply what may seem logical in a market driven system to policies affecting the lives of citizens the government was elected to serve. Our leaders need to be able to take what the civil servants present to them and fine tune whatever policy or scheme they want to implement to improve the lives of the majority of Singaporeans.”

On the issue of charging teachers up to S$110 a month for parking, Mr Singh said that market rates shouldn’t apply as school premises are not public carparks.

“The idea is logical, to have a clean wage system and the charges teachers have to pay are close to the market rates. But in reality, schools are not public car parks, so market rates should not apply. So, we either charge teacher a token amount only or just don’t charge them. This requires political judgement. I guess this government works on pragmatism more than politics but sometimes when it is the time to convince the public to buy-into a national scheme or idea, some political acumen never hurts.”

Mr Singh said CareShield Life has run into problems despite being “acturially fair” because the government appears to be profiting from the scheme:

“People see the government as a service provider to serve all Singaporeans equally. Also, they do not think that the government should be making a profit from any schemes that they provide to Singaporeans. So, they are not happy if they think that this is being run as a 100% market driven thing. In any case, the government has the capacity to do this, without it being market driven, and still not come out negative because the past scheme showed that the government collected $3b and paid out only a negligible amount in claims.”

Women must pay 23 percent more in premiums than men for the compulsory disability insurance scheme, and Mr Singh said this shouldn’t be the case.

“I feel the government should make this scheme gender neutral for two reasons. First government is not a private sector company and government should provide some of these services to the public at concessions. The government source of revenue for Careshield and CPF Life and other such schemes is not just through the collection of premiums but also through the taxes Singaporeans pay and also from the returns of our sovereign wealth fund – these are all the peoples’ resources.

So as a government, some services should be provided at a subsidy because citizens are already contributing to government revenues in many other ways. There must be something called citizens’ privilege and having a gender neutral Careshield and equal CPF Life pay out may be the right thing for the government to do. Furthermore, based on past records, the government is net positive and not negative in the past.”

While urging the government to average the cost of premiums for both genders and charge them an equal rate, Mr Singh also called for more transparency regarding pricing of the scheme.

“Show Singaporeans what the actual cost of coverage is and then decide to have a permanent citizens subsidy to be below the actual cost with women getting a higher subsidy.”

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