Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Getting Worked Up Over Numbers

The headlines trumpeted in bold print that a record $29.9 billion in taxes were collected in Year of Assessment 2009/2010. Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore boasted that this was due to the shorter than expected economic downturn and a surprising buoyant property market (no thanks to Mah Bow Tan's personal mission to edge up property prices). Examining the data in the appendix, it appears IRAS collected 0.2 percent more than the $29.8 billion figure in 2009. And the amount of taxes collected the year before in 2008 was $29.1 billion, a difference of 2.3%, representing a ten-fold increase in FY2008/2009. So why all the excitement about this year's takings?

Corporate tax collection was down by about $1 billion, thanks to a tax rate reduction from 18% to 17%. But individual tax-payers paid "an all-time high" of $6.1 billion in income taxes. Here some tax experts say that the record individual income taxes collected was attributable to the addition of more than 81,000 new individual  taxpayers. So is this the heralded justification for jetting in plane loads of foreigners (including the so-called 1,305,000 "transients")?

Look at the numbers in the IRAS Annual Report 2009/2010 again. Residents paid $5.9 billion of individual income taxes, non-residents paid only $0.09 billion. Does it seem like one group is subsidising the other group in terms of housing, transport, education and other social amenities?

Without elaborating on how the process would work, Goh Chok Tong talked of his grand plan to approach the 500,000 PRs to become Singapore citizens, instead of taking up the suggestion of his Marine Parade resident that Employment Pass holders should take up citizenship. And as if to confirm his absolute disconnect with the ground, Goh is considering "a zero vehicular traffic growth" even as foreign talent Khoo Peng Beng (of Pinnacle@Duxton fame) outlined the horror of squeezing 6.5 million people on 710 sq km. Khoo's own words, "when you invent a design for living, you might also be inventing a series of other problems in life." That sums it up, their grand design, our myriad problems.


  1. I like your blog.

    From this article, although, you have not drawn direct conclusions from fact of "Residents paid $5.9 billion of individual income taxes, non-residents paid only $0.09 billion." It maybe worthwhile to note that residents in our complicated tax terms is defined as a person residing in Singapore for > 183 days. For me, the split of residents/non-residents is not meaningful at all.

    Today, I have to disagree about enforcing EP holders to take up citizenship. This is against us being open to foreign talent. They are the real talent. But I'm sorry for the fact it is really easy for companies to get approved EPs. I had the personal experience of applying and get 100% success rate for 4 EP applications in the last 2 months. No additional questions asked on all occasions. (except the standard questions)

    Keep on writing. Cheers.

  2. Tattler,

    I read your blog regularly and enjoy it immensely. You provide a voice to the thoughts of many and articulate it well. What a pity your posts are tainted with your obvious bigotry towards foreigners, eg. comments like white man speak with forked tongue, the smells of foreigners etc. etc.

    Every country in the world has foreigners. Yes there are probably too many here in Singapore but that's the fault of government not the foreigners. I am a foreigner, working for a foreign company. I pay a very significant amount of tax, live in a private condo and make my contribution to the economy here through the hard work I put in and the money i spend here. I don't take up MRT space, I don't take away HDB housing from anyone and I don't use up the education system here. So give me a break please. We're not all construction workers, prostitutes and domestic helpers. If you're so against foreigners then how would yo feel if we also took out the foreign companies that provide so much employment to locals here ??

    Anyway, that's off my chest, keep up the good work but please spare us the offensive slurs against those who are not born and bred Singaporeans.

  3. @Nick- I don't think Tattler bears any personal grudges against individual foreigners. The core concern of many Singaporeans is with the government's sheer lack of planning- how could they think up of scenarios where the population expanded by 30-40% without a similar increase in the supporting infrastructure?

    That has led to a tremendous increase in the costs borne by all of us living in Singapore. The burden has fallen much more heavily on the lower income section of society (about 30% of Singaporean families), whose real median income has fallen in the last decade.

    Even though you do not live in a HDB flat or commute using the MRT train, your presence and salary has increased the cost of living in Singapore. Since there is no minimum wage scheme or system of social insurance, those who are from the lower income segments of society suffer from a decline in real wages. At the same time, the sheer overcrowding leads to other social costs, such as longer waiting times to obtain medical services.

    The anger of many Singaporeans towards foreigners is a manifestation of their frustration with the PAP government. These negative feelings have been exacerbated by the numerous incidents of arrogant foreigners. While only anecdotal, they have served to colour the imagination of many Singaporeans.

    I can imagine foreigners working in Singapore are fairly irritated at how they are typecast in many Singaporean blogs. This is partly due to a lack of contextual and historical awareness.

    The PAP government has always promised fair economic development ("rising tide lifts all boats", larger economic pie, not reallocating the pie etc). However, the events of the last decade have led to this goal becoming unattainable due to a number of reasons. Individuals and society often seek scapegoats for their personal difficulties, and since there has been a lack of contrition on the government's part, most of the anger of Singaporeans' has been directed at foreigners.

  4. "Today, I have to disagree about enforcing EP holders to take up citizenship. This is against us being open to foreign talent. They are the real talent."

    The word talent has been abused and used too loosely here. It frames the issue as "against talent" which is straw man ploy. Ultimately "talent" or not they should not come at the expense of locals. It is a balancing act but unfortunately the PAP govt has lost that balance.

  5. @Nick, if every foreigner is like you and do not overinflate their self worth, that is to really believe they are "talents", we will not resent them. Most S'poreans will have some kind of ugly encounter with some incouth, rude, pompous, scheming foreigner that we have grown accustomed to taking out our unhappiness on them. Just remember not to aggravate the situation.

  6. I think you Singaporeans are too polite to those who do not deserve any. I will say to Nick and those economic refugees like him "hello and fuck off!"

  7. Why is it that the BN govt in Malaysia has been accused of granting Malaysian ICs freely to so many muslim Indonesians in KL as well as muslim Philipinos in Sabah ?

    Maybe we can ask our PM whether he learned this trick from his Malaysian counterpart, as one of the ways to fix the opposition in his spare time as what he has previously admitted openly ?

  8. To Harminder and the gentleman who commented two posts after...thanks for your intelligent and considered comments; I find myself in general agreement with the views you expressed. To the "person" above who told me to F...off, we can probably do without your type of contribution, it doesn't add any value to anything on what is a great blogsite. As for the economic refugee comment, you need to grow up a bit. I've worked in many different countries as a result of being posted by my company. I work for a company from MY OWN country and am paid by MY OWN COUNTRYMEN so please spare us all your drivel. You are clearly an intellectual refugee.

  9. A majority of foreigners, including expats come here on cushy jobs at MNCs. Through their network, they get cushy jobs for their spouses.

    Another huge question is should we allow expats here for jobs that Singaporeans can actually perform? I have seen too many expats here that are actually rather poor in their written English and if not for the expat community, they wouldn't be able to earn a decent living here.

    Jobs in Singapore should go to Singaporeans first. Only when proven that a Singaporean isn't capable can the job be accorded to an expat.

    Without the huge influx of foreign workers we wouldn't need to fork out $60 billion to upgrade our MRT. This is another huge cost to Singapore.

    The PAP government has an agenda that is different from its people. This is the crux of the matter.

    The inlfux of FTs is not something done overnight. It is a calculated event by the PAP and has gone on for many years. It must be surmised that they are on course to reach their goals.

    Singaporeans must decide if they want to have the same goals as the PAP. Use your vote wisely.