Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) falls on February 10. Yet the Baby ang pows are distributed one month ahead. A sharp reporter queried Teo Chee Hean about the timing effect for Punggol East voters. You bet the Pinocchio nose extended by at least another inch when he replied that the by-election was "not a factor in consideration".
Pork barrel politics aside, there is this question about the extra $400 million spending for pro-family measures, a jump from $1.6 billion to $2 billion. The number presumably is derived from several components:
Housing Priority - no real cash, just a change in the queue position;
Medical Costs - subsidies for fertility treatment upped from 50 to 75 percent, capped at $6,300. It's no big deal if the subsidies are defined per the NKF model;
Baby Bonus - real cash incentive, upped $2,000 for first ($6,000) and second child ($8,000). The $3,000 for each newborn is locked up in Medisave;
Work-life Balance - child-care leave, adoption leave, maternity leave pay-in-lieu are benefits not clearly monetized, the cash equivalents are hard to pin down;
Paternity Leave - ditto, this item is almost impossible to assign a dollar value to, especially when the Gini coefficient has edged higher to 0.473.
At the end of the day, no one knows if the $400 million will be fully dispensed. Even if it is, the sum pales in comparison with the $1.1 billion gifted to a private bus company. Don't look now, but the air force is eying the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which costs as much as US$160 million a plane.
Teo said, "It's not really the amount of money that's important but the kind of signals we're sending." We read the signals alright, like when the Budget presentation is scheduled on 25 February, after the by-election is over. Only then will we know the bill for the goodies.
When an obviously pregnant Australian tourist was spotted queuing up at one of our food courts, we had to pop her the question. Yes, she said, all deliveries at public hospitals in her country are free of charge, you only pay if you opt for private. ST Writer Aaron Low ("Cash is no magic bullet") went further and asked, "Why not just make child care free?". Per capita GDP of Australia is US$40,800. Per capita GDP of Singapore is US$60,500. What kind of signals did they say they are sending?