Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Singapore - Rising Opulence, Rising Poverty....

"This is one of the worst failures of the modern People’s Action Party, despite its ‘democratic socialism’ principles." - Seah Chiang Nee
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"Sorry, Mr. Seah, the PAP has not failed, it is extremely successful. They have successfully abandoned their 'democratic socialism' to create the most intensely competitive capitalistic society on this planet for ordinary citizens. Everyone competes, except the PAP who gets rid of its own competition while subjecting its ordinary citizens to unbridled imported global competition" - Lucky Tan
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During the 2006 General Elections the PAP promised to tackle the widening income gap. Like all PAP promises, it was faithfully kept. They found that the income gap between the PAP leaders and top earners of the private sector had widened and proceeded to close it with one of the largest pay hikes for ministers in history. Once again, the PAP has kept its promise.
When it comes to the income gap, few countries can beat Singapore. The PAP's achievement of a GINI index of 47.2 is higher than China and far exceed other affluent nations in Asia such as Korea(31), Japan(24) and Taiwan(32). How did the PAP achieve such high score for income inequality?
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1. No minimum wages. See there is no maximum wage for our ministers so why should there be a minimum wage for our cleaners and laborers? The PAP has to be fair to everyone.
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2. Imported Labor. The wages of coffee shop helpers have fallen to $600 per month. The reason is simple, there are mainland Chinese willing to work for that wage so why pay Singaporeans more. See the PAP is perpetually worried that if we don't import labor, jobs will go overseas. It is unclear how the jobs of coffeeshop helpers can actually be moved overseas. Businesses say that they are unable to get workers, that is why they want to hire imported labor - I wonder if they have tried paying more to get workers?
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3. Welfare is a dirty word. Over the years, countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan have put in place a social safety net as Singapore cuts subsidies in all areas and raised the cost of transport, utilities, etc sharply. Instead of spending money on the citizens, the PAP has found better ways to spend tax payers' money like investing in trouble banks - losing a few billion here and few billion there. This is the PAP way of serving the people instead of spoiling them by alleviating their burden, they should be motivated to work harder and longer.
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4. Structural Unemployment. The PAP govt has explained that it is due to ageism - employers are prejudice against older workers causing them to be unemployed and forced to take up lower paying jobs. Blame ageism....and not the hundreds of thousands of imported labor that changed the demographics of our workforce. In the past during good times, the labor market will become a bit tighter and employers are more willing to hire older workers, now with the floodgates opened for foreign workers, there is really no need to give a 40 year old a chance. The PAP is so righteous to blame the employers instead of their own policies, we can be sure they are sincere in their efforts to help older workers.
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The success of the PAP govt leaves the other Asian govts in dust. Their singlemindedness in keeping the GDP growing at all cost and determination to strengthen the work ethics of the ordinary citizens have made this govt an extraordinary one. One that can afford to spend billions on regional telcos and trouble banks as the country's poor find it diffiicult to pay for electricity and a large number of the elderly clean the toilets of our marvelous shopping malls to make ends meet.
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The different faces of Singapore
INSIGHT DOWN SOUTH By SEAH CHIANG NEE

Link : http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/4/12/focus/20914452&sec=focus

The top 10% of the population are the rich, who live in wealthy districts, while the bottom 20% are the languishers who have difficulty coping with a high cost structured life. The third is the large middle class.
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A SINGAPOREAN couple walked into a Lamborghini showroom and bought two units – his and hers – for US$650,000 (RM2.04mil) each.
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“It’s amazing; young kids coming in and spending S$2mil (RM4.7mil),” the manager told a journalist. “I don’t think they were even 30 years old.”
Last year, 29 of these crème de la crème models were sold countrywide, beating Ferrari (26 cars).
In 2007 a total of 320 luxury cars including Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lotus, Aston Martin and Maserati, were sold to Singapore’s new rich.
As the nouveau riche basks in their newfound glory, more Singaporeans from the poorer quarters are approaching the government for food aid.
A growing number of homeless can be seen sleeping in void decks of buildings and, pressed by high living costs, more elderly citizens are working as toilet cleaners or collecting used cans for recycling.
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Singapore remains largely a middle class society. The high number of shopping plazas attests to it. But the group may be decreasing as a result of globalisation and runaway prices.
The city-state of 4.7 million people has two – perhaps three – faces. On the top 10% are the rich, who live in wealthy districts, own yachts and blow S$10,000 (RM23,209) on a single meal.
At the bottom 20% of the population are the languishers who have difficulties
coping with a high cost structured life in an international city.
The third is the large middle class.
Take the case of Carol John, 27. She doesn’t own a bed, sleeps every night on thin mattresses with her three children. Hers is a one-bedroom flat that reeks of urine smell from the common corridor outside.
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“I can’t save anything, it’s so difficult for me,” John, who is unemployed, told a reporter. She relies on her husband’s S$600 (RM1,392) monthly salary and S$100 (RM232) government handout.
She is luckier than others who are homeless – elderly and even entire families - who sleep at void decks or the beach and bathe at public restrooms.
In perspective, Singapore is the second richest country in Asia next to Japan, with a per capita GDP of US$48,900 (RM154,141).
Homeless cases are few, nowhere comparable in number to Osaka’s army of vagabonds or New York’s ‘bag ladies’.
In fact, nine out of 10 poor people in Singapore have their own home, and usually a phone and a refrigerator.
But in the local context, it is a potential minefield of unrest. The proportion of Singaporeans earning less than S$1,000 (RM2,320) a month rose to 18% last year, from 16% in 2002, according to central bank data.
The bad part is that life is often worse for the unemployed – compared to other countries - because Singapore has no safety net and no rural hinterland to cushion their suffering.
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Unlike in Malaysia or Thailand, a jobless person who cannot cope with the global market has no countryside to retreat to so that he can live off the land.
The problem will get worse. In other words, the rich will get richer and the poor, poorer with the middle class remaining more or less stagnant.
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The state’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, has worsened from 42.5 in 1998 to 47.2 in 2006, which makes it in league with the Philippines (46.1) and Guatemala (48.3), and worse than China (44.7) according to the World Bank.
Other wealthy Asian nations such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan have more European-style Ginis of 24.9, 31.6 and 32.6 respectively.
This is one of the worst failures of the modern People’s Action Party, despite its ‘democratic socialism’ principles.
It was with these that its first generation leaders were able to turn a poor squalid society into a middle class success story.
Economists attribute the major blame to globalisation, which benefits the skilled citizens and the rich but makes it hard for the unskilled, the aged and the sick.
Even the highly educated are not spared.
The use of new instruments like company restructuring, relocation or out-sourcing of workers – unheard of before – is widening the gap and creating more income inequality.
For example, while the proportion of lower income rises, those who earn S$8,000 (RM18,570) or more increased from 4.7% to 6%.
This rising inequality could eventually undermine the bedrock of society - the broad middle class.
Some economists say that the feared erosion of Japan’s middle class, first enunciated by Japanese strategist Kenichi Ohmae, may already be happening here.
His country was emerging into a “M-shape” class distribution, in which a very few middle class people may climb up the ladder into the upper class, while the others gradually sank to the lower classes.
These people suffered a deterioration in living standard, faced the threat of unemployment, or their average salary was dropping, he said.
Gradually, they can only live a way the lower classes live: e.g. take buses instead of driving their own car, cut their budget for meals instead of dining at better restaurants, spend less in consumer goods.
And, Kenichi said, all this might take place while the economy enjoyed remarkable growth and overall wages rose.
However, the wealth increase may concentrate in the pockets of the very few rich people in the society.
The masses cannot benefit from the growth, and their living standard goes into decline.
The Singapore government, which relies on the middle class vote to remain in power, has vowed to make economic gap-levelling its top priority – for survival, even if nothing else.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Democratic Socialism? What a laugh! The moment the crocodile cried its tears, it was abandoned.

But why would you want to take what is essentially a normal distribution, whack it with a blunt hammer to produced flat distribution?

Anonymous said...

The government's statistics looks even worse:

http://www.singstat.gov.sg/pubn/papers/people/op-s14.pdf

40% of Singapore families suffer from an average household income per household member of less than 1000 SGD, while the richest 10% families enjoy 7820 SGD per member per month.

Anonymous said...

What we have here is a perfect storm in the making comprising of : the meritocratic system, competition and the free market system.Basically,the meritocratic system empowers the ruling elites( some would even call it idolatry). Competition eliminates and subjugates the weak to its bidding and the free market ensure global domination, greater wealth and power!
These three powerful natural forces are fused together by a bloody legal system with plenty of money as the fuel - what else!

These are powerful combination of forces to channel most of the wealth into the hands of a small minority be it individual or organization.

As long as we subscribe to the above three forces, our problems can or will never go away!

You see, when our most luminous can't see the paradox between wealth and justice in HIMSELF, how do you expect the rests who feed on vomit knows the difference?

But then, I could be wrong..:)

Anonymous said...

I do agree that importing too many workers is not the solution.

However if we do have minimum wage system it will drive up business cost and inflat the general cost of living. We of course will end up having a higher cost of living. Acheiving the balance is not easy. If businesses inflate their prices faster than minimum wages, we would still have a problem of struggling poor.

palmist

Anonymous said...

If your KPI is to (1) increase GDP growth rates and (2)combat inflation and you have absolute power to execute any policy you deem fit ... no brainer what will happen.

Can't blame the scholars rite?

It has happened. What to do?
Whine also useless.
Just make sure our kids become scholars loh.

NoName

Anonymous said...

the key is to limit the number of low skilled workers into singapore. what it means is that business owners will have to pay higher for such workers, and in turn charge higher for their products and services. this would bring the costs of living higher for all, but it also means that the income level of the lowest level is higher too.

so if someone is sincere in helping the poor, they should be willing to bear the higher costs of basic services. and in the end, to be frank, i think it is a better solution for everyone.

Anonymous said...

talking about the perfect storm...all these boasts of east meet west or whatever fusion you wanna call it that supposedly usher us into a new era of again whatever....but both are so ideologically controversial what makes these brilliant political leaders think they can resolve the differences?

so now you have the woman, whilst riding the beast, also bend on bashing the rising beast and verse versa. ..meanwhile, few noticed the quiet little worm or horn has been transformed into this great dragon wow....

good movie man...worth every dollar!..lol

Anonymous said...

The concept of the rich GIVING to help the poor is so hypocritical.

But nevertheless, an illusion that commands an audience.

After all, it serves the image to GIVE but the process of robbery is an impolite suggestive.

Muhamad Nur said...

The PAP's policy regarding foreign labour and growing the GDP is just to entice foreign companies to set up base here. So what these companies get is cheap labour, safe environment & fair judiciary(to protect them actually). This is done at the expense of Singaporeans(especially those at the bottom half) who have to endure stagnant wages(it does not keep up with inflation). What they earn now is actually much less in value than they did 10 years ago. The per capita GDP of Singapore might be the same as USA, Australia and Japan but Singaporeans wages are not even close to the people of these countries.

Anonymous said...

It's probably the only country where the Citizens do not represent the STATE. They are not accountable to the Citizens but to the Party. Look at the recent investments - citizens just have no say and they know they can get away with it. No one can take them to task on what role Temasek or Gic plays in the lives of the people. Who has ever benefitted from their proclaimed high returns?
Imagine what their 'returns' can do if they set up some sort of social saftey net?
Citizens are expendable in this model. Thanks to the 66.6% again !

Anonymous said...

wsith all dew respect to the attornee fine logic hor. what he mean you go law not become rich ah? he not rich ah?

please lah but i like u anyway..hahaaa

Anonymous said...

PAP says low wage labour is needed for the economy. At the same time, PAP collects monthly workers' levies anything from S$150 to S$450 for these workers.

The collection from these foreign worker levies amounting to S$billions annually should be used to pay Singaporean workers whose wages have been suppressed by foreign labour. This is to ensure a minimum standard of living for them even as it ensures that employers do not have to pay Singapore workers much higher than foreign workers.

In other words, the idea of minimum wage can be fine-tuned into a minimum standard of living, whereby the PAP govt has to bear responsibility for the problem instead of just greedily raking in the money from workers' levies.

For example, the salary from the employer can be say stay at S$600 for a cleaner but the govt would have to add another say $300 to be taken from the pool of workers' levies paid to the govt.

Anonymous said...

you don't need experts good at churning out figures/reports but bad at interpretation to tell you what's obvious to all that we need to spend less, save more and work longer to ensure survivability in this country

what it means is that the quality and standard of living will drop for most and the rise in crime and families squabbling over money will also rise.

still, it is a price worth paying to keep all our number one businesses chugging along.

apparently, i do not see any solutions - not at all - and the pap is still the best at the game!

Anonymous said...

vote for pap!hahaha

Anonymous said...

The influx of foreign workers in essence only benefitted employers by helping them to save cost and hence more profit for them. Ordinary Singaporeans on the other hand will find their jobs either given to these foreign workers if they are not prepared to accept lower wages, or shunned by employers altogether. Yes, the final outcome is the rich gets richer and inflate the GDP figures, but at the bottom, it is getting worse. Overall the picture looks very rosy, but is it?

Anonymous said...

We won't die lah..not the near future at least....but just got no soul..no conscience and cowards thats all lah.( but they say not cowards they say is clever chickens lol) but who cares lah seriously right?. not this country lah because we all follow the leaders mah. you want soul you want conscience? migrate lah maybe got chance got soul lah. here, know your priooreeties!!priooreeties!! understnad?

you no understand prriiooooreeties izzit?

go check the prisons lah!!lol

Anonymous said...

yeah, won't die. just sow the seeds of destruction across borders..:)

Anonymous said...

chatted with an Indian national on the Internet just now...he was just offered SGD$5.5K per month in an IT job...and he's single

me a singaporean but my pay is only SGD$2K..

Anonymous said...

truly truly, the singapore government has to be developing our own singaporean's skillsets instead of always looking for easy solutions from foreign nationals. those are not solutions to our problems. our problems now lies on our shoulders.

and of course the question arises on why did we have to always depend on government? well its because the broken link is the government now, sad to say...sigh...

yet we have to always believe in truth, integrity, and compassion.

Onlooker said...

In view of the ForLend Talent Coming from Of all Place China and India,One must also note the increase in their participation of Vice Trades Like Chicken(prostitution oops male also $50 guy news few year back) and Various Vice(Illegal Gambling Den(poker,dice,toothpick,etc)) are being used to finance their real purpose here.Surviving on $600 jobs by these workers?
Most of them have side jobs that's why you see some of them after coffee shop work go into a massage parlor and give Special treatment for male customer only.
The coffeshop job is just to secure a work permit for them to stay.
That's Why a Lot of Study Mum came And this issue has been address by talk show too.
Similarly Why implement a longevity scheme?
Beside being a scam,There are evidence that are not release that a lot of older Local Man were trick into marriage with the ...
You know And old ladies were scammed using the apple trick(for some descendent safety) Both achieve the purpose of getting their retirement money.
Basically, There exist a subset that employ predatory methods on the locals.
Besides that They were also given the impression that they will not be convicted if they commit a crime like say "The Soup Spoon incident"The local guy was murdered in cold calculated blood and see the resultant bochapness(aka complaceny that lead to mas selamat) from our leaders:) And a whole lot of dismembered Body case then Mostly involving them too.And not to forget the Maid Killing the Female boss and daughter and spared the son case.
Closing :- I fully welcome people like Bill Gate and other rich guy George Soros to stay in Singapore but really Trashy programmers who gave us shitty codes and Workers who take low paying job to hide their high payoff jobs.
Not to mention the societal problems like theft and Vice.
We must congratulate Our Leader on such a fine jobs.
Good Luck election 2011 :) Even the children of millionaires dad are staying away from here. They are too good to lead us.
Getting More Vice RElated PR too.joy

Anonymous said...

Seems that a lot of Singaporeans are unhappy about the various situations and can only express that through blogs. Why are Singaporeans afraid to speak their minds openly? If they're afraid to speak their minds openly, how then will the government know what they think? And therefore improve the present situation?

Anonymous said...

ST today mentioned about China women working as Beer ladies, while Singapore women has to hold 2 jobs. All so that the employers and coffee shop owners can survive. I am saddened that Foreign talent of this nature is supported by the Singapore Government, and again shows how out of touch our Singapore leaders are. I believe it is time for selective implementation of minimum wage scheme for the sake of our Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

When bad things happen I wonder how many Singaporeans will really 'stand up for Singapore' knowing that this country treats it citizens no better than foreigners.

I think there is a gradual perceptive mind change in less well-of Singaporeans about patriotism. It has been eroded slowly with the emphasis on monetary rewards. For those elites and rich who have much to loose, they can shout and rally Singaporeans to be patriotic, meaning all Singaporeans should 'stand up for Singapore'. But for whose benefit?For ordinary poor Singaporeans, what the heck, there is nothing worth standing up for and why am I fighting for those who reap all the rewards. This country only look after the rich and talented, so go to hell with patriotism. They can ask the foreign legions to fight for them.

Anonymous said...

That is why as a young parent who has 3 sons, to give the govt 2 years of their lives to NS pains me, plus many more years of reservist. And this will be followed with Uni studies where foreigners comes in on free Govt scholarships..... And we get ministers basically saying to the poor - we can't help you with a minimum wage scheme - we need to protect the coffee shop owners, and collect foreign workers' levy, which you dumb lowly educated singapore women can't provide me, and hey - you chase away young male customers from the coffee shops....jeeze - from our ministers...

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:14,

You are right, we must not be afraid to speak up openly.

For instance one can feedback directly to the govt. But for that one must be prepared for some things based on my personal experience.

First your workable ideas will be used by the PAP govt without giving you ANY credit. PAP will at first reply to your feedbacks, keep them for a few years and then implement them as PAP's own briliant ideas. Well if you are prepared for this, go ahead. I personally was/am not against this because my proposals were for the good of the country.

Second, you should as far as possible only say good things about the govt. You can criticise of course when you write directly to PAP govt but the moment you become highly critical like saying the whole system is sick and has to be revamped, the correspondence ends there, never mind you have been giving them your best ideas. This again is not a problem for me but I don't know about you.

Third, if you write through the press forums, and your letters are very incisive and well-written, and therefore often put the govt on the spot, then the following would happen.

The editors who were so welcoming of your letters would be removed silently - largely unbeknownst to the public. They would either be placed in an inactive position or even lose their jobs. I know of a handful of editors that had suffered this fate. Do you know about such things?

Once the daring editors have been removed, the papers will only be publishing 2nd-rated ones that are not so offensive to the PAP. This is happening right now.

In all what you got here is a govt that is extremely wimpy and thin-skinned. It cannot take strong criticism despite being a large institution.

Either that or PAP cannot make real fundamental change anymore because its policies are tightly bound up with the governmental structure.

Think about the many GLCs that have become part and parcel of PAP and why they are NOT subject to public scrutiny in their performance and business practices despite losing $billions in a matter of months and you can understand why PAP is trapped in its own creaky system.

To end, there is nothing stopping the PAP govt from reading from blogs. So why say that Singaporeans are not speaking up openly.

As for the use of Anonymous for posting I happen to think it is good because users won't be focused on the person but rather on the message. It also prevents mischief by PAP moles or others to impersonate others. In the end, it is the message that matters more.

Anonymous said...

The government blame it on ageism practice by the private sector but they don't blame themselves for doing it.

Maybe I was wrong, recently, I noticed that MOH have been creating lot of low level jobs like health care attendants so that those in the 40 and above may have a job.

Anonymous said...

Eunice olson was good in Rouge tonite. She had the guts to talk about the plight of foreign workers who had to sleep along the street of little india, with cockroaches running all around. I salute her and One for doing that bit for the poor in Singapore and how MOM gave them the run around following the no-wrong-door policy. Great work to Eunice, Vernetta and her organisation. That is truly a refreshing piece of tv journalism! I am IMPRESSED. .
On another note, Sunday times talked about China workers working one month with 2 days off, and a salary of $1000 per month. Even if our govt do not embrace min wage scheme, our govt should step in to ensure our migrants are not treated as virtual slaves and offer some protection regarding such exploitations by errant employers. if there are too many disgruntled foreign workers, the social impact will be felt and it may be too too late.