Thursday, August 21, 2008

National Day Rally Speech: Baby Benefits - The Aftermath

As expected, Singapore's special interest groups have chimed in in the last two days on the new baby benefits. Here's an update on my previous post:

  • Eligibility requirements for subsidies for in vitro fertilization have now been revealed. Subsidies will be restricted to women no older than 40, in an effort to ensure reasonable success rates. An accountant interviewed by the Straits Times calls this "unfair". She also deems it inconsistent, as Medisave can be used for in vitro fertilization up to the age of 45, and not just 40. Of course, she says this without a trace of irony, despite the known fact that Medisave is not a government grant or subsidy, but rather a form of forced personal savings. Naturally, the remark that the subsidy is "unfair" needs to be read knowing that this accountant is above the age of 40.
  • A stay-at-home mother has written in to the forum page decrying the emphasis on working mothers, while bemoaning the lack of recognition her ilk receive. She proposes that the tax benefits that stay-at-home mothers do not receive be made available to their husbands instead. Stay-at-home mothers shouldn't be "penalized" for making the decision to prioritize their kids above their careers. Funny, I didn't realize that ineligibility for state-sponsored benefits constituted a form of penalization. I thought that only applied to singles who are barred from purchasing HDB flats, AIDS patients who, for lack of anti-discrimination legislation, risk getting fired when they reveal their HIV status, or gays and lesbians who have discrimination against them enshrined in the country's laws.
  • An in vitro specialist interviewed by the Straits Times states that the in vitro subsidy should be made available for treatments at private fertility clinics instead of just government clinics, reasoning that private clinics have extended hours, and that not all employers would be so understanding as to permit time off for their employees to undergo fertility treatments during office hours. How thoughtful of her. When she was referring to private clinics with extended hours, perhaps she was referring to the one that she runs herself.
  • A reader wrote in to the Straits Times forum page suggesting that firms permit 2-hour long lunch breaks for working parents so that they may eat lunch with their kids. The extended lunch break may be balanced with extended working hours either earlier in the day or later in the evening. Translation: I want to eat lunch with my kids, so give me those 2-hour lunch breaks! My answer: Why don't you broaden your argument and suggest flexi-time arrangements for everyone at work instead, rather than just focus on your own narrow parochial interests, dumbass?
  • Another forum letter asked for benefits to be extended to single parents, which I would normally look favorably on, knowing how short-changed this marginal segment of Singapore society is. Except that the writer of the letter asked specifically that the benefits be restricted to widows and widowers, or in her words, "single parents who are not single parents by choice". Translation of letter: I'm a widow, and I don't want to miss out on those benefits! But knowing that asking for benefits for all single parents, including those irresponsible, sexually precocious single mothers, is political dynamite, I will ask only for those benefits to be limited to widows and widowers. That will increase the chances of me getting the benefits! As for the single mothers out there who are single by choice, to blazes with them!
My hypothesis for special interests in Singapore holds. Now, I can go back to flipping the forum page every morning without reading any of that drivel.

Update 22 August 2008:

It would appear that the baby benefits were originally slated for introduction on 1 January 2009. But with so many pregnant women (who are due before then) up in arms over this decision, the government has relented and allowed the benefits to kick in almost immediately. Chalk one up for special interest groups again. No word on whether these feisty pregnant ladies decided to stand up for their less privileged counterparts such as single mothers.

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