Monday, August 25, 2008

Special Interests Strike Again on Baby Benefits!

Ongoing continuation of my thesis on Singapore = Special INterests Groups Are Part Of REsidency…

The Saturday edition of the Straits Times (23 August 2008) carried two more examples of special interests on the better baby benefits proposed during the PM’s National Day Rally Speech.

Political Correspondent Lee Siew Hua’s column mentioned a reader who called her to “argue animatedly that now that the Government wants more children, it should also offer a financial cushion should parents lose their jobs. There’s no longer an iron rice bowl, said this man, who works in sales. He wants a third child, but worries about retrenchment.”

The reader continues, “The Government should go through the Central Provident Fund data to pinpoint the couples who may need help with kids. Give them $20,000 right away instead of baby bonuses and other complicated perks.”

I don’t think I need to point out how preposterous these demands are, and if readers feel I have to, please find a different blog to read. Preferably one that advocates that children should be renamed “Unemployment Insurance”, or a blog that supports the use of children as professional beggars by their parents.

[I realize of course, that Straits Times columnists have the habit of citing isolated egregious examples of obnoxious Singaporeans to bolster their (usually pro-government, or “Singaporeans should wake up their idea!”) arguments. Nonetheless, even if I am disinclined to take the bait, egregious examples of Singaporeans should still be roundly panned.

Digression: To learn how to read newspaper columns more critically, you need to be aware of the tricks they use. Straits Times columnists, to be sure, are rank amateurs at writing.]

Second example of special interest groups – “Backdate bonus perks to January this year”, as written in to the forum page by Mr Daniel Heng and Dr Shannon Heo.

I anticipated a letter like this. After a hue and cry from pregnant mommies, the qualifying date for the baby benefits has been brought forward from January 1 2009 to August 17 2008. Naturally, this has invited envy from mothers who gave birth between August 17 2008 and 1 January 2008. I believe the operative word used by the letter writers was the ever popular (and unimaginative) “unfair”.

One wonders when the start date should be pushed back to in the interests of avoiding being “unfair” to people, who obviously interpret the word to mean “disadvantageous to us”.

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