Thursday, September 2, 2010

Some thoughts on the National Day Rally Speech

I didn't watch the National Day Rally speech on TV. Well, actually, I don't watch local TV, period. Local TV infuriates me, especially when it's a local politician talking-head.

But I skimmed through the details in the paper the next day. Mostly to find out what the "giveaways" were. I put giveaways in quotes as they're not freebies, not really.

As an NSman, I'm eligible for the $9000 CPF credit. Well, not exactly, I'm eligible for only a fraction of it actually. Figures. It's not what I've done for you yesterday that matters; it's what I can do for you today or tomorrow that matters. Very investment banking-like, it's yet another characteristic of the PAP government that hews close to the mentality of bankers. The irony, of course, is that the PAP government never fails to remind us of what it has done for us in the past, and that Singaporeans should be grateful. Well, I think I'll take a leaf from the PAP politician's book from here on. In fact, I've subscribed to that school of thought for quite some time now.

What can you do for me TODAY, PAP, that should make me want to put you back in office? Platitudes can be dispensed with. Show me the money. Otherwise, if I can't get an equitable slice of the pie, I would much rather the whole pie fly out the window. Or end up creaming your face. Think Ultimatum Game.

It's hardly a secret that elections are coming. The whole targeted NS credit is just another election sweetener - targeting the most disenchanted and reactionary segment of the population (the male youth) that has the least to lose and has the shallowest roots (no HDB loan, no career as yet, and no desire to settle down, especially in Singapore, in the near term). The NS credit is even clever in a way, with tiered rewards corresponding to how settled in and unlikely to rock the boat a citizen is.

What's interesting to think about, of course, is what's going to happen AFTER the upcoming elections. The PAP government giveth with one hand, but it has always taketh with another hand also. Long has the PAP government counted on Singaporeans having a memory a little shorter than an election cycle. 

Let's have a thought experiment. A prediction game if you will. What do I think the PAP will "take away" after it has been returned to power?

1. GST. The GST offsets from the latest hike have just expired in 2010. That means that GST is fair game again for a hike. Perhaps not too likely, given the hue and cry the last time, but hey, when has unpopularity ever been a reason to stop the government from doing something it badly wants to do? YOG is the most recent example of that.

2. Hospital charges. The last big hike was perhaps in 2008. With the opening of the new Khoo Teck Puat hospital, the government can (honestly!) claim that they've been DOING SOMETHING. That sounds like a fine justification for an increase in charges, innit?

3. Local transportation. Not public transport; the distance-based thingy was a pet project that had only just been recently completed. Nope. If local transportation's going to get more expensive, it's going to be for drivers. No wait, it's not going to be more expensive, at least for [insert arbitrary figure greater than 50% here] of drivers. That's why it's full steam ahead for satellite-based ERP.

4. Ministerial salary increases. Hey, with the economy steaming ahead at double digit percentages, never mind the transient nature of globally-coordinated fiscal stimuli carried out through MORE sovereign debt and money-printing quantitative easing,  there's no better time to pay our ministers even more, especially since they may need to take a pay cut later on when the sugar high of fiscal stimulus inevitably wears off. Kind of like retailers marking up merchandise and then discounting it again.

5. The press has gone to town with those wretched students who bilk their parents out of their CPF money for tertiary education. You know it's serious when they devote an editorial in the Straits Times to it. And the government has never liked it when there's even a remote risk of people not being able to afford their own retirement. Expect curbs in the future on usage of CPF money for tertiary education.

I might add to this list in the future. And I will certainly reproduce this list from time to time if and when any of the predictions materialize.

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