Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hard truths you won’t read about elsewhere, Part III

Policy-making in Singapore is indifferent to its ill-effects on large swathes of the population., much less to individuals. The term “Singaporeans” is an abstraction used to justify policy-making. In reality, individuals do not figure in the calculus at all.

Do Singapore’s policies sometimes go against the interests of individual Singaporeans? Do they occasionally curtail Singaporeans’ civil rights and privileges? Do policies sometimes require sacrifices from Singaporeans now and again for a greater good?

Of course they do. And sometimes for good reason. Some policies such as National Service exist for a reason, even if the implementation is unprofessional and the personal cost large. 

But does this standard apply to all of the PAP’s policies? And do some policies result in such harm to individuals that they should not have been countenanced at all?

I can think of several off the top of my head.

As furrybrowndog has highlighted in his excellent post, CPF returns are dismal. And this policy, designed to serve retirement needs, is in fact failing on a grand scale. Instead, CPF Life is being introduced and is being made mandatory, along with the retirement age being raised. Realistically speaking, retirement is receding into the horizon for many Singaporeans. Yet while Rome burns, the PAP has over the years preferred to “invest” excess reserves.

Really, folks, while CPF monies are not directly linked to GIC and Temasek investments, that is just a verbal sleight of hand. The CPF fund holds Singapore government bonds, which means that Singaporeans are general creditors of the Singapore government. The proceeds of bond issuance to the CPF commingle with the working capital on the Singapore government balance sheet. Some of that money on the balance sheet inevitably ends up funding investments. It’s time to call the CPF what it really is, a cheap source of long term financing for the PAP government.

If you’re a low wage worker, think of how the relaxed immigration policy, GST hikes, and strenuous protestations by the PAP against a minimum wage policy, were all meant to boost economic growth, “help” the lower income groups, and increase national competitiveness.

Economic growth has indeed increased over the years, except of course, we all know that economic growth in the last several years has disproportionately benefited the higher income groups, putting paid to the idea that broad benefits accrue to “Singaporeans”. More like the top 20% of Singaporeans, per the Pareto distribution.

If you’re in the market for a house because, say, you’re a newly wed, you’re out of luck. Just like if you have ever been inconvenienced by a completed but unopened MRT station. Well, the just-in-time policy I described in Singapore, Inc. works just fine, according to the government. Too bad for you, the individual who has to delay marriage or deal with the inconvenience of public transportation.

If you’re single, “lagi worse” as we would say in the army. Regarding property, you can fuhgedditboutit. Private property is currently in the stratosphere, you won’t be eligible for HDB housing until 35, and even then, it’s going to be a pricey resale flat. Family-friendly values never sounded like a dirty word until you wanted your own place, even just a tiny little tenement, but were single and hence ineligible.

And if you’re one of those suckered into a “growth” industry that the Singapore wants to nurture, I hope your career had a roaring start. That is, if you even got a job in the industry. Attracting investment into the chosen industry was ever the apple of the PAP’s eye, never the individual, so take that lesson and learn something from it. [Take note, prospective Yale-NUS liberal arts students. You are lab rats, even if you don't know it.]

Finally, the death penalty could conceivably deter serious crimes, but if you are the one on death row, you as an individual certainly never figured in the policy-making process. Neither did any of us, as I recall. The death penalty in Singapore simply was.


Policy-making in Singapore is indifferent to its ill-effects on large swathes of the population, much less to individuals. The term “Singaporeans” is an abstraction used to justify policy-making. In reality, individuals do not figure in the calculus at all.

The next time the PAP claims a policy is necessary for the continued well-being of the nation/“Singaporeans”/economy/the Merlion...

Take a deep breath, and batten down the hatches.

Hard truth #4 in the next post.

1 comment:

Ee Chuan said...

Sharp and insightful. Powerful commentary on the sad state of affairs that is Singapore Inc under the men(and token women)-in-white.

Majullah Singapura.