This blog was started in 2005 to explain and highlight the key problems in our society. After 7 years, this blog is still up and I'm still writing...you know why? The same problems that I wrote about 7 years ago did not disappear and actually got bigger as time passes. I wrote about the problems with public transport 7 years ago and the problems persisted until the trans broke down late last year. I wrote about the negative impact of the high cost of housing 7 years ago and property prices have more than doubled since. I wrote about the inadequacy of CPF for retirement, the rising inequality, the falling worker productivity, rising medical costs and the impact of the huge foreign influx years ago.....you know what?.After looking at the 2012 Budget and the PAP approach to solving these problems, I think I will still be writing about how things are getting worse in 2020.
Despite all this talk about building a "fair and inclusive" society, what the PAP govt is trying to do is obvious - they are preserving as much of the current system as possible and fixing the most obvious severe symptoms and hope that Singaporeans will accept the system. When they talk about a "fair and inclusive" society, they are not talking about changing the 3rd world wage structure, we have today but offering selective assistance to the lowest wage earnings. Its about tackling the symptoms not fixing the root of the problem. Recent statistics show that wage growth for the top 20% income bracket has again risen much faster than the bottom 20% in 2011..and the trend of rising income gap continues.
The mainstream media cheered the move by PAP govt to increase CPF contribution of older workers and their employers as a major step to "flatten the wage scales and improve the employment of older workers"[Link]. If you read the reports, you get the impression that this is a bold new move by the govt to improve the employment situation for older workers. Tharman warns that the govt "cannot make this major move in one step". So we all get this impression that the govt is doing something brave and new.......
So older workers are big winners? Really?
Actually the PAP govt lowered the CPF contribution rate in 2003 arguing that:
Older workers are at greater risk of losing their jobs. One reason for this is that our seniority-based wage structure results in older workers being paid more than younger workers. The wage differential is sometimes larger than the productivity differential, leading to companies retrenching older workers first when their business comes under pressure." - CPF Board FAQ [Link]
So the major move in a budget that sets out to build a an inclusive society and a stronger Singapore is one that merely restores what was already there in 2003. You call this progress? As for the other little tweaks in the budgets, they only look good only through the colored lens of the mainstream media. Medishield premiums have been increase to pass more financial burden of higher medical cost to all of us. Curbs on foreign workers like higher levies to tighten the inflows are a mere patch on a problem that has already grown so large I'm not sure were can even solve it given the economy is now so dependent and addicted to the foreign inflow.
The steps taken are not even going to make a slight dent on big problems our society faces. 7 years from now I will still be writing about how the problems have worsened .....along the way, more people are going to give up on the PAP if they have not already done so.