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.