Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More on the Importance of Income Equality....

The govt didn't make any headway on the problem of income inequality. Recently, it tried to advertise its accomplishments by spinning its non-achievements into success. The simple reason why it hasn't succeeded is because it has GDP growth as its top priority and closing the income gap is of secondary importance. But these 2 are sometimes conflicting goals and when there are tradeoffs to be made, the PAP favored growth over equality. The opened the floodgates for cheap foreign labor, lowered the marginal income tax rate for the wealthiest and puts the profitability of the GLCs above the interests of the ordinary citizens.

The following few paras are extracted from "The Case for Income Equality in Singapore"[Link].

Not so according to the Equality Trust, a London-based organisation which promotes the concept of equality. Based on research findings and academic papers, it argues that the detrimental effects of such inequality spills over to other areas and impact on the health and well-being of society in general.

On physical health for example,
… The most consistent interpretation of all the evidence is that the main route hinges on the way inequality makes life more stressful. Chronic stress is known to affect the cardiovascular and immune systems and to lead to more rapid aging. Inequality makes social relations more stressful (see section on Trust and Community Life), by increasing status differences and status competition…

Concurrently, on trust and community life,

“… Inequality divides people by increasing the social distances between us and widening differences in living standards and lifestyles. By increasing residential segregation of rich and poor, it also increases physical distances…”

Interestingly, on the same organisation’s website, Singapore which has a high ranking of income inequality also has the lowest level of trust amongst people (see chart below).

On imprisonment,
‘… we have found strong links between imprisonment and income inequality…’
Again, Singapore has one of the highest per capita imprisonment rate (see chart below)

Crime, stress and distrust in addition to the economic effects. With high income inequality, GDP growth does not benefit a large segment of the population. For the lowest 20-30%, their income has remained stagnant for more than a decade and GDP growth usually results in higher cost of living and falling inflation adjusted wages.
It is no longer enough for the PAP govt to tell us the have progammes in place address this because they told us that 10 years ago....a token sum here and there is not going to solve it as long as the PAP continues to pursue its lopsided policies focussing primarily on GDP growth. The PAP has to break out its ideological thinking that pushing for higher GDP growth will translate to a better quality of life for ordinary Singapore - it is not true and Singaporeans know this. If the PAP govt is not serious about closing the income gap, they will soon discover they have a serious problem at the next general elections.


Anonymous said...

Ministers and top civil servants pay are linked to GDP growth and thus they would want to see that this number goes up.

Anonymous said...


You sure link to GDP? thought it's CEO of top private company? Only variable bonus peg to GDP...

Anonymous said...

I always thought the real issue is increasing the real disposable income of Singaporeans which the Government has failed to do. Maybe I recollected wrongly, but I remembered asking my tuition teacher in 1992 or 93, how much the starting pay of fresh graduate was. Her reply was about $2000+. How much is the starting pay of fresh graduate now? My starting pay back in 2002 was $1800. Increased to $2000 after 3 months probation. I asked some of my younger peers, in the private sectors, most would not break $3000. Therefore, the government has not been able to increase the value of graduates. During JC days, when we learnt economics, the lecturer told us that the amount you paid for university education is the value you have gained if you forsake university education and work outside. Up till this day, I seriously wondered whether if it is true. People are saying how bad the crisis is now, but back in 2001 to 2003, my own personal feeling then, was that it was certainly very grim. All these years, I have never felt that the economy has truly recovered. Making decent living of about $3000 to $4000 a month is quite all right, but seriously, I don't think the future holds any brighter for a graduate. That is for a graduate, then how about the rest of the society?

Anonymous said...

So many foreign rich come here to invest, stay or become citizen. These include even film stars and kongfu actors. Also on the other end the poorer foreigners are also welcome for being cheaper labour. So the Gini index will of course widen further.

But the country will continue to be stable. This is very important and hence even more rich and poor will come.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12.56 pm

Join the elite Admin Service. You will make more than $100K pa before 30.

Or become a PAP MP. Assured of about 200K pa allowance for at least a few years. Why assured? Because PAP don't hold by elections, even if MP die.

Do business and make money. But need both luck and talent.

Inherit big money.

Other than the above, forget about becoming rich or retire rich here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky.

I don't think the PAP will have any problems at the elections.

A friend of mine told me that he would like to vote for the opposition. But the opposition goes for their rallies in flip-flops, don't possess stellar academic results, and they tend to bungle things up.

The PAP also makes mistakes, some of them costly and spectacular. But they go for their election rallies dressed professionally. The average PAP candidate is probably a top student in school, a govt scholar and speaks good English. Speaks good English! You can get away with any mistake however big, as long as you carry yourself professionally.

So, at the end of the day, the PAP will be forgiven, while the opposition, who speaks Singlish and appears less impressive, can go to hell.

Anonymous said...

First if you vote for the opposition, don't take it that you are supporting the opposition per se but helping yourself.

If you care for presentation, then you have fallen into a trap. Why can't PAP guys dress well when they are schooled properly by PAP in how to comport themselves in dressing and in answering questions, in how to evade difficult questions, how to even face the mike towards them the panelists rather than audience during public talks ... the list of "professional" tricks goes on.

Remember you vote for your own power when you go for the opposition. You are trying to create more balance to politics in Singapore. Don't be a fool.

Anonymous said...

Of course lah GDP grow then Government can asked for pay raise mah, you lesser mortal die is your dai ji.

Anonymous said...

Two things the opposition needs to do:

:: Get together and forget all the petty squabbles - unless they want to end up in the dustbin of history. Life is short, do it now!

And don't come back with a PAP-wannabe challenge : Why don't you be the opposition instead of just talking.

Opposition, you got to be different and more open than PAP if you wanna beat PAP.

:: Get a good marketing company called "political consultancy" in the US to help out.

See the opposition still can't get their trick right. They are still trying to compete with PAP based on PAP set critieria: academic/professional qualifications for instance.

PAP has scholars with straight As, individuals of high positions in the corporate world (though many are from GLCs actually).

You see, when you try to compete with PAP on its own terms, you will never beat them because PAP has the top ones so to speak.

You have U-degrees, PAP have presidential scholars. You have managers, PAP has CEOs of large corporations.

You don't fight PAP on the same terms. One opposition party tried 2 medical doctors and 1 CEO a few GE back for an GRC. Their vote dropped some 11% from the previous elections.

What does that show? People don't really care for professional qualifications perhaps.

What do they care? Well that's where an experienced political consultancy comes in to do survey and to come up with an approach that appeals - perhaps even one that is counter to PAP's criteria.

Opposition, opposition drop your petty differences, you can't cooperate how can voters start to believe in you.

Perhaps what people want to see first is your ability to organize and unite.

Probably that's why the Chinese-educated opposition in the 60's were such a powerful force to reckon with and LKY actually had to ride on that force to attain power.

To this day LKY admired that one thing about them : their great ability to organise and very fast at that and to stand united. Take note.

Anonymous said...

to them, the erosion of trust and the increase in crime as a consequence of income inequality is a lesser evil to the collapse of an entire social political system - i think the only way you are going to close the gap is to change the social political langscape.

that, they won't do. they prefer to mitigate the ravishes of inequity from the wealth they had acquired than to alter the social contract with the people.

looks like they want to learn the hard way.

Anonymous said...

"to them, the erosion of trust and the increase in crime as a consequence of income inequality is a lesser evil to the collapse of an entire social political system ... "

But, but dear sir, there are many people, paradoxically even critics of PAP, saying that after all is said Singapore is such a peaceful and well-ordered society.

And income inequality? Well the guy in the street does not seem to be bothered about such ... not until their pockets are empty.

But then when that happens PAP will tweak a bit here and there to ensure that life is still livable enough to prevent people running riot in the streets. Just enough to survive, as subjects of the Lee Empire - like subjects of the British Empire - but never be comfortable enough to think about freedom, equality, people' power and all that kind of crap according to the purely materialist worldview of PAP.

Ghost said...

To Anon 12:57pm;
Many rich foreigners may have come here to invest, buy a house and get PR, but stay? That's a different question. We have seen a few foreign PR soccer players who have went back to their homeland once their playing career are over. Some foreigners come here, get the PR but spent more time outside Singapore than in Singapore (see film stars and kongfu actors). As for the poorer foreigners, the only way they will get PR is if they marry a Singaporean.
In the past few years, we have seen GDP growth but it has not tickled down to normal Singaporeans and it is not going to. The tickled down policy only work if there is 'real growth' in an economy; money coming in from outside the economy may add on the numbers but it is not growth.
For example, if you plant a flower and it bloom, and grow another flower; that's growth. But if you plant a flower, then plant another flower beside it; there's more flowers now but it's not growth. That's what happening in Singapore for the past few years

Anonymous said...

I wish I could feel confident about Lucky's prediction that PAP must worry about election outcomes.

Regrettably, PAP has already prevent that possibility by buying Electronic Voting Machines from India.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:12 pm

The problem is that not everybody can join the elite Admin Service. :)

When you are 16 or 17, you play too much to really force yourself to study to earn all kinds of scholarships and furthermore, become presidents of prestigious clubs and societies.

Most of us are quite ordinary and we listen to our parents of working hard and trying to do well in our studies. At the end of the day, you are not that bad to enter the local universities. However, once you come out to the society and work, you find that you have to slog and plan painstakingly just to make sure you have everything is in place.

It is so hard to argue. I can see some of the problems my generation is facing. However, the government can only come up with 'solutions' that include Parents Maintenance Act, increasing benefits for more babies, more foreign talents, using $$$ (engage foreign ang mohs) to design and build plants, old folks' home in JB, using SDU to get more singles to get married, all types of propaganda for married life, asking people to bite the bullet and stay employed, throwing all kinds of incentives to make 'better' teachers, to be creative and exam-smart at the same time, telling people that they have unique talents when they say if GCT was to remain in the pte sector, he would have been very successful. that's why he must be paid a CEO's pay etc......

Can't they see that they are only getting rid of the oil above the toxic waters......

Sometimes, all it takes a little 'heartware' in all the approaches.....

Anonymous said...

Income inequality is here to stay. It is not just the fault of the PAP, but also the fault of the locals.

The govt laments that locals are unwilling to accept low pay for jobs that require long hours and shift work (like SBS bus driver). But if you were a towkay in SBS, or a bus company, would you be willing to pay a bus driver $3000 a month, when you can get away with paying $1800 to a Malaysian?

I always thought that income equality goes hand-in-hand with strong labour laws that protect the workers. As long as there are no labour laws to enforce a minimum wage, bosses would be more than willing to depress wages as low as possible in order to maximise their own profits and salaries.

If my own performance bonus as a manager depends on cutting costs in my company, do you think I will hesitate to slash other people's salaries if I have the power to do so?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:11 pm

Actually, I am quite bothered by the usage of 'opposition' parties.

To me, 'opposition' is quite a negative word. It seems to suggest that there is a certain biasness or to oppose, also suggests that to creat trouble for the sake of it.

I think to have two dominant parties is a good way to check on each other. Looking at the United States and UK, there are also two main political parties. That way, naturally, you have people checking on you all the time.

Why is it that all other parties are opposition and PAP is a political party? I thought in the strict and democratic sense, PAP is just a political party who has just won the elections to be the government. Another political party may win the election and become the government just as well.

I think something is seriously wrong when people in the streets associate Singapore with PAP. I remembered last year during national day, my mother remarked that the number of households displaying flags for national day seemed to have decreased probably because of the bad economy (not happy with government). However, my father pointed out that this is a wrong thinking. A country is a country. We are the citizens of the country and should not be disrespectful or feel ashamed of our country just because of the government.

However, mindsets are often deeply ingrained in us and probably will not change any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Dear 5:10 PM

You're right to say that opposition sounds negative but why have the other democracies not chosen to go for another name ... like "proposition" as one local opposition guy once suggested?

Or even to buy the PAP's line that "opposition should not oppose for the sake of opposing".

And oh dear, WP LTK fell into that when he mentioned that he was not there to check the PAP but to fine-tune its policies ... only to have a PAP man told him off that fine-tuning PAP's policies was not his job but that of the bureaucrats. Haha.

So you see, if the opposition starts thinking no longer as opposition, then they might as well resigned from their parties and try to wriggle their way into PAP but ah there is a long queue ahead man.

So you see it is not the job of the opposition to be otherwise. Opposition need not be violent, vicious or vulgar. They just need to challenge PAP's views. That's political opposition in the right sense, on the intellectual level and that's what they are for. I see nothing wrong with that.

But if some opposition think they are the proposition then when PAP says why don't they offer their alternatives for Singapore, they come up and say "Hey pay us half of a PAP's minister's salary and we will offer our solutions." This really happened years back.

Like that, how to be proposition even. Why worry about offering your views especially all will be on record so that if PAP uses them, ah people will know.

May be the opposition have little to offer in the first place hence the excuse.

Anyway, you mention 2 major parties. Look, in M'sia Anwar got around and persuaded the disparate major parties to come together in a alliance and then they did a severe damage to the ruling party.

The truth is that PAS is as far apart from that "rocket party" DAP as East is from West.

But what do voters care? They just see one big alliance and go for it. Just like shoppers flock to big supermart never mind its management is squabbling all the time. Image! Presentation only mah.

So the opposition parties keep complaining people are not supporting them. They have not done their homework on how opposition alliances work in other countries. If they don't understand at least they must be willing to ask and learn. Otherwise stop wasting time trying to win seats and complaining that people do not support them.

Just like in business, you don't complain that people do not buy your goods, you only need to understand what people wants and then your goods will start selling. This what every major business is trying to attain - understand the consumer, simple as that. A whole school of thought called marketing has sprung out of this simple logic, which had escaped business management for many decades. Why can't our local opposition learn from this?

Anonymous said...

Ideally, there should not be any oppositions or propositons in the strict democratic sense. What I feel is that by stating the rest as opposition parties, that means PAP will always remain the main political party and their views will always be 'more' correct ones.

What I do understand is political idealogy drives the way how government works. Like the republicans and democrats in the US or labour or liberal or social democrats in the UK. I am not a political scientist. We all know that there are many different school of thoughts on issues and problems and they approach these issues and problems differently.

In Singapore, to be truly democractic, we should have political parties with different idealogies (Mainly the liberals and conservatives). Just like what lucky said, PAP seems to believe GDP growth at all costs (maybe can classify as a type of political party) Then maybe there is another political party that believes in another approach in running the country.

What I am trying to say that just a simple 'opposition' seems to imply that PAP will forever be the more 'correct' people when deciding on issues and problems. However in reality, it is far from the truth. It is precisely that we allow such things to continue, people will continue to have the perception that PAP will always be the ruling party.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:24 PM

I really have a problem trying to make out what you are trying to say. But let me try.

You talk about ideologies of different political parties, how other political parties should be perceived in those terms rather than simply "opposition".

Well actually the local political parties do define their principal ideologies. Workers' Party is pro-worker having its roots in the labour movement, SDP is more for democratic processes.

But in reality such labels are just for show and in course of their existence, do we see how their ideologies really play out clearly as such? Even if they want to, it might be impractical at times as it focuses too much on a certain group of people e.g. workers.

Well PAP stand for People Action Party but does anyone now seriously believe what it says?

I don't think defining opposition parties in such ideological terms will help to raise their status.

I seriously doubt terms like liberalism, conservatism will mean anything to the man in the street, the average voter.

In fact I read that a survey of Americans on what they made up of Republicans and Democrats had drawn out a mass of conflicting opinions.

So in the end it is how persuasively an opposition party address issues A to Z, how they broadcast their presence, how they work with other parties to tackle PAP, things like that.

Anonymous said...

"Ideally, there should not be any oppositions or propositons in the strict democratic sense. What I feel is that by stating the rest as opposition parties, that means PAP will always remain the main political party and their views will always be 'more' correct ones."

that's thinking out of the box.

it's like...a group represents the dominant white. another group represents black who opposes the group in white. other color groups join in for a piece of action. everyone has a go at the white group.

but who is to say in the ensuing battle between these groups, the people will always come out the winner?

what is evident, however, is that the white people always comes up top.

Anonymous said...

Things in Singapore are never going to change when you, the common Singaporean, doesn't have the will or courage to stand up for the issues that are dearest to your heart. Surely when you broke the shackles of the colonial rule of my very own nation (I am a Brit with a daughter who is Singaporean, but serious illness has prevented myself to migrate there), you did so to to prevent the very situations that your nation find yourselves in now. Maybe the writing was already on the wall many years ago about the state of political system there but unfortunately, there seems to be a case of 'Yes Sir, No Sir,Three bags full Sir' where you just put up and shut up and you just let it happen because you are just about getting enough to just about get by.

But why can you not have more than that? The people of Iran have shown the will and determination to stand up to Ahmedinejad whether or not it changes anything and they have it just as bad or very possibly even worse. If vote rigging was to happen, what kind of a stand are you going to take to erode these values that the PAP are inflicting on the ordinary Singaporean? Can YOU stand up and use your voice?

Recently here, we have had a big scandal relating to MP expenses being misused as is from taxpayers money. We have seen many MP's resign their position through the power of voice...these MP's essentially work for us and when they fail us its bye bye. But to have not just two, but three main political parties (Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats) ensures healthy competition and change to truly happen. Right now here the government is controlled by Labour but come the next General Election the Conservatives should easily be back in charge after a thirteen year absence.

I think for me, when I see the Union Flag, it is symbolic of being able to speak and make choices because essentially its up to me to decide and that is a kind of freedom I have respect for (despite big taxes!!) and am proud to have.

When you see the Singaporean flag, how does it make you feel? If you are feeling empty, isn't it time to make a stand for your country give the flag the status it deserves?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:58 PM

It is more or less the same everywhere lah. The present British also got dragged into the Iraq war by Blair in spite of themselves. How come their democracy could avert such a colossal mistake/deception by Blair?

So did the Americans, supposedly the self-proclaimed champion of democracy, got fooled by Bush into the same war not to mention 911 was clearly an inside job. Where was the third pillar of the mass media that they boasted about checking dictatorship?

The situation was so serious as to move the whole world into Armageddon what with the Bush's arbitary polarisation of nations pro and anti the US.

Now if a Blair or a Bush had been ruling Singapore and all were British or American citizens, he could do the same as LKY or even worse.

It is such a small place easy to catch anyone; this is also why Singapore is also known to be one of the least crime-ridden nation. Criminals have nowhere to hide. Similarly PAP find it easy to arrest and detain strong opponents by the scores in the 60's with the strong support of the British.

That ended true democracy in Singapore. That's fairly recent history only 50 years back if you do not know.

So, don't think the British has no hand in all this. They are the ones who put LKY in power; LKY is but their chosen proxy and I think to a certain extent even so until now. LKY continues to be staunchly pro Anglo-American.

Please read beyond local politics. It is also a part of the global chessboard played by the superpowers of which the Anglo-American force is still dominant.

Apparently from all evidences LKY also made a pact with them, primarily the US govt to serve the latter political interest come what may.

This is why he threw countless $billions into failing American banks, not so much as investment but to help the US.

This is why he feels free to dictate over us, and the Western press now even has to pay heavy penalties to him for defamation without so much as going through a court case while previously 15 years and more ago they were quite liberal in attacking him without any harm.

The Western powers are behind him for their own national interests; otherwise local oppposition party would have received support from the Anglo-American axis as part of their foreign policy - as previously done such as Francis Seow admitted 20 years back. Not anymore.

Anonymous said...

this country people have been too indoctrinated to know what is good for them.

similar to arguing with religious people. their minds are set. they have given their allegiance to the best theological thinker.

oppose or not, with the best leading, we get about the same thing..a colonial mentality.

Anonymous said...

See, that's the all talk attitude which will keep the Singaporean citizens shackled for another fifty years and more.

Instead of looking at the past events that evidently screamed for change, would it not be better to be proactive on changing the future for the ordinary Singaporean citizens? You can not change the past but you can shape the future!

as far as the British hand in things, my being British and proud should not be in anyway linked with this. That is a completely different matter altogether. The point I am trying to make that if you care about your nation and are proud of the flag, then surely you will endeavour to do what ever you can to fight for your right. My daughter is going to spend her life in Singapore as a citizen and I would be ever so proud of her to recognize that fact as, for the majority of Singaporeans I know, you are wonderful people who do actually care for one another. But, I want her to be more than somebody who is talk and no action, someone who can truly speak up for her fellow citizens, not just complain all the time when things are not going there way. That is a losing mentality and I for one do not want that for my daughter, she should have the same tenacity and fight that is helping her father in the fight against terminal brain cancer.

It is obvious from the majority of comments on this blogspot that I have seen that such a fight does potentially exist but how much further are you willing to go to do the things you truly desire from YOUR great nation?

Anonymous said...

"It is obvious from the majority of comments on this blogspot that I have seen that such a fight does potentially exist but how much further are you willing to go to do the things you truly desire from YOUR great nation?"

you see..the thing about truth is, you need to respect it, love it and desire to seek it.

not the other way round.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 12:06 AM

I wish you well regarding your terminal disease. It's great of you at such a time to still think of Singaporeans.

But dear anon you made a number of assumptions. First is that it is all complaining on this blog. In fact if you care to read properly there are many a insight written by the few who understand for those who do not yet know what is going on.

People must first know what is going on before they realise the predicament they are in. This is the first step to any change.

Next you assume that everyone here is just whining away and is doing nothing for change. How do you know that?

You have no idea actually but you have made that assumption.

Furthermore by making changes to the system I wonder what are you thinking. Protest in the streets, join the opposition and stand as a candidate, help out witht he opposition work, write the papers & government even the PMO.

How my friend do you know that no one is doing this? You assume.

But lets hear from you, how change to the system can be made on the practical level. Tell us what your daughter's plans are?

As regards to the ties between the Anglo-American powers and PAP, this is not a past issue. This is an ongoing one. It is the reason despite dictatorship here, the West for all its claim to democracy and human rights are supporting this regime.

Anonymous said...

Unless a natural disaster strikes, there will not be a change in the political landscape in Singapore.

No Singaporean can be expected to effect any change, at least not in the foreseeable future.

The only hope now lies with nature.


Anonymous said...

better still, watch and let it rot. lol

that's what the majority are doing anyway.

Anonymous said...

if we can 'import' some ministers, they will think they are in heaven, getting loads of money, so easy to manage Singaporean, so little opposition, no protest, with some even no need to face election....

They will think our ministers are such 'whiners', can't event handle such 'peanut' matter.....