Wednesday, July 4, 2012

When More Is Less

It was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who drove the final nail into the coffin of Lim Chong Yah's "shock therapy" proposal - raise the lowest incomes by at least 50% over 3 years, and institute a wage freeze for top income earners for 3 years. After the angry groundswell refused to subside, the National Wages Council relented and accepted the suggestion by National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to recommend a pay hike of $50 to workers earning less than $1,000. Small price to pay for protecting the welfare of the top income earners.

Madam Tan the 66 year old cleaner is not so easily fooled. If she accepts the $50 increase offered by her employer, her rent will go up from $26 to $111, " I'm thankful that the authorities are giving this increase but I'll be $35 worse off ". Thanks, but no thanks, is a familiar refrain when it comes to this government's "financial assistance" schemes.

HDB charges rent of between $90 and $123 for those earning between $801 and $1,500. Those earning below $801 pay only between $26 and $33. A divorcee who has been a cleaner for 10 years, Madam Tan stays alone. Her two children are in their forties and are unable to support her. HDB tried to soften their cruel landlord image by saying her rent will remain the same since her increased household income ($850) will still be below $800. Er, dude, she lives alone.

Zaqy Mohamad, MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, is the oddity who thinks Madam Tan is wrong, maintaining that low-wage workers should accept a wage rise even if it might put them slightly out of pocket. At least fellow MP Lee Bee Wah makes more sense, "I don't think the choice is irrational. For residents earning $800 a month, every cent counts. My family went that stage before." Obviously Zaqy Mohamad had not.

The other idiocy from same MP claims that the way forward for the 69,000 cleaners in Singapore to improve their lot is through skills upgrading. Er, how does one upgrade a cleaning task? Install expensive robotic cleaning devices so Madam Tan can push a button instead of pushing a mop? Enough of the idiotic suggestions, Prof Hui of the Lee Kuan yew School of Public Policy nails it on the head when he surmises: "The cut-off for Workfare is $1,700, it's an implicit recognition that you need a lot more than $800 to survive. We can't talk about increasing productivity for them - we're underpaying them under current conditions." Finally, someone that talks sense. Unfortunately he's also an economist like Lim Chong Yan, and his views will similarly be ignored.


  1. PAP must be history by next GE. It's either them or us

  2. Just look at the lazy way they distribute those angpows or GST vouchers according to HDB flat or household size. Is it overly simplistic merely to base on house type and more importantly, is it equitable ?

    There are so many households living in smaller HDB flats who owned cars but their entitlement is much more than those who live from hand to mouth but happen to live in a slightly bigger flat or household.

    As for Workfare, why are they putting money in the pockets of those where the employers can obviously afford to pay their employees much better, effectively using public taxpayers monies to also subsidise the payroll of profitable companies ?

    Do these represent the only best efforts that our talented PAP Ministers can come up with ? What do you think, Prime Minister ?

  3. These are not talented people but study smart. Unfortunately good grade does not mean they understand complex human emotion and troubles. There is science to this subject. So many of these people cannot solve the problem and just follow lah.

  4. Actually the high costs of living which hit the poor the hardest come mainly from government policies and actions (their hidden charges, surcharges, levies, tearing down old hawker centers to rebuild into expensive eating places, etc). If they really think for the poor, they should re-examine what they have done. But I think they won't.

    Everything will just be more of the same, all those talks from MPs and Ministers are just empty talks!

  5. Excellent! Thks for writing this.

  6. Caricature of a "benevolent" government in a "limping" nation:

    Break the people's leg, offers them crutches. Laud the generosity, downplay the cruelty. Chide the people for having "crutch mentality" when they ask for more help.

  7. Idea: Why not "reduce"/subsidise the cost of living directly (i.e. lower rentals) rather than inflating wages? For this, government will have to *gasp* earn less. Sigh.

    Always feels like money is taken out of the right pocket only to be put back into the left pocket.

  8. There is no free lunch in Singapore. When they pay out cash and give rebates, something bad is sure to follow.

    1. That is sure as hell, the Hard Truth in Singapore.
      By the Government, for the Government of the day!

      Need to ask, the PM and his fellow colleagues, what do they think?

  9. Don't you know, singapore has a nationwide 50% tithing towards the one-god-party. No wonder these mega-charismatic churches find it so easy to prey on daft singaporeans. Except those who didn't have any to tithe to start with, their eyes remain wide open.

    1. The real ponzi scheme is the 2year NS and the annual in camp training they've hoisted over the male population. We are probably the only nation doing this. Instead of spending more time on their careers and their families, young men are wasting 2 years of their lives and annual in camp training. How people can live with this is beyond me. But then we are daft arent we?

  10. KBW: A good foldable bike is hence considered an appropriate equipment for such staff. It offers us maximum operational flexibility in terms of usage and deployment. It enables our staff to get to the field sites directly and individually rather than needing an office van to transport them and their bikes to the various sites. This is a significant factor in raising productivity all round - manpower, time, vehicle."

    $2400 per Brompton bike to raise productivity.
    $800 per Cleaning Worker allegedly with no productivity.

    You are damn right. Give these cleaner workers million dollar robots so they can raise their productivity by pushing a button to earn that damn $50!

    1. Now that the billion dollar Gardens-by-the-Pay is opened, they also must have atas branded bicycle to match the image lah. And we wonder how come pastors must also wear branded Ed Hardy or True religion clothes to maketh the man/woman?

    2. Mr Khaw says the wild boar population needs to be managed. He says Singapore is a city in a garden. He is now into branded foldable bicycles. All these on top of his onerous duties as National Development Minister. Truly a man of many parts, including an $8 dollar heart.

      Mr Khaw, to solve your wild boar problem, relocate them to one of the Domes in the Gardens by the Bay, for a richer flora AND fauna experience, or to Johor Bahru together with the homes for the aged. LOL.

      By the way, I think monkeys are a bigger problem than wild boars, and the prices of your "affordable" HDB flats sucks. And we are not a "city in a garden" but a billion dollar garden in a city.

  11. Tattler, you missed a word, it should be... "HDB = EVIL, cruel landlord".

    Don't make me correct you so often, well, not this month! (:

  12. CNA reported how a rejected MP of Hougang is back to work for NTUC low wage workers. And it concluded

    "The long term plan of the NTUC is to reach out to nearly 1,000 workers by the end of this year and 5,000 workers by 2015 to improve and progressively enhance the wages of low wage workers."

    Isn't there estimated 400,000 low wage workers who makes less than $1000 a month? So what happens to to 395,000 workers ? Let them rot and die on the survival jungle?

  13. HDB should adjust the income ranges for subsidized rents.

    $50 increase for a $1,000 paycheck is no raise at all. Inflation alone is over 5%!

  14. HDB owns your HDB flat.
    We don't own our HDB flats.
    We are just renting our HDB flat from HDB.
    Please READ your HDB "ownership" documents carefully.

    We pay 99 years of rent money upfront to HDB.
    By borrowing money from bank.
    No risk to HDB.

    How much work & time does it cost HDB to update the lessee name (You) in their computers?
    How much money do you pay HDB for all the admin & legal paperwork when you "buy" and "sell" an HDB flat?

    HDB is the landlord.

    So why do you the tenant have to pay for upgrading?
    Why do you have to pay a conservancy?

    If you rent an apartment from a private property owner, the landlord pays for structural repairs and upgrading.
    The landlord pays for the maintenance (like rubbish disposal, swimming pool and etc.)

    Singaporeans have one of the lowest home ownership rates in the world.
    Estimate no more than 10% Singaporeans own their own property (whether freehold or 99 year lease).

    Wake up!