Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hang On To Your Day Job

Responding to a question about what Singapore could do to narrow its income gap, Lee Kuan said in October 2009, "'Never mind your Gini coefficient. If you don't have a job you get zero against those with jobs." The 4th year social sciences and business student from the Singapore Management University had asked him what Singapore could do to help its bottom 20 per cent.

True to his plans, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) data released yesterday showed that while middle incomes rose more than 10 percent over the past decade, the bottom feeders at the 20 percentile stagnated. Even the statisticians had to admit the Gini coefficient was "high", comparable to Hong Kong, New York and Los Angeles, cities which attract movie stars and other high flyers. But don't blame Gong Li or Jet Li (no relation) for picking up a red passport, focus instead on the multi-farious government promises that were supposed to help the poor. As in the President's pledge to "seek high quality, inclusive growth that benefits all citizens, not just the lucky few". Lee didn't even bother to attend the opening of parliament to hear that line, he's off on another high flying junket to receive some legacy award. Lucky him. Doubtless, Abe Lincoln must be rolling in his grave.

On the jobs front, although unemployment rate was at 3.1 percent, jobless Singaporeans aged 50 and above stayed unemployed for longer periods - 12 weeks, compared to the average 8 weeks for all citizens. The MOM report said they were too discouraged to pound the pavement on another futile job search.

Ex-minister George Yeo, 57, unemployed since May 2011, should be delirious and jumping up and down like Tom Cruise did on Oprah's sofa. He just beat the odds and landed a Senior Advisor appointment with Malaysian conglomerate Kuok Brothers. Strange enough, he's not popping the champagne bottle yet, but played it down as "an informal arrangement." As in guanxi, the Chinese euphemism for quid pro quo. He said, "I'll join private sector next year. Not decided yet what or where." Which is curious, considering that the Kuok Group, run by "sugar king" Robert Kuok, dealing in chemical, scrap steel and fertilisers, is as private sector as they come. Unless they have plans for government projects, and Yeo is fearful of compromising his Official Secrets Act obligations. The guy was minister for information and the arts, health, trade and industry, and foreign affairs - surely he must be good for something. Unless it was pure wayang all along.


  1. They should include the 80th percentile group in the table to show the true picture of progress. The disparity calls for "Occupy Shenton Way"!

  2. Does Georgie Boy need any employment?

    Pension for life leh. This applies to his other former cabinet member too.

    What about his other works?

    Who knows how much he is paid
    just to be consulted, seek for
    help and just talk?

    All the ex- cabinet members
    are well connected with the
    ruling elites and the business
    fraternity. This puts them in
    wonderful position as
    consultants and facilitators.

  3. Crony Capitalism. Hehe

  4. So George & MdmLim both landed as 'senior advisors'. You mean not some kind of heavy weight role that carries top & bottom line real responsibility and results? As one KKR press release say - is liaison works to manage relationships for/with clients. Sounds like a high class GROs to me, won't you say? So the higher you go the longer it takes to find a new role..3-6mths is normal. Imagine other ordinary folks who do not have the connection and they have been retrenched by cheaper expats or foreigners that your Govt brings in by truckload....where do you think these senior people land? 12 weeks unemployment is BS!! If they keep smoking what they smoke and the press keep printing what they print unquestioningly, they can "S'rean First, not S'reans only". Then voters will tell them "Good Governance First, Not PAP Governance Only".

  5. Is the the same Kuok Group which Sim Lian Group came from??? Did the appointment came from Diana Kuok's husband who ran the failed election alongside George Yeo at Aljunied?


  7. Truly outrageous that 99% of the cookies are consumed by 1% of the monsters. What does that smell like? Income equality! #occupysesamestreet

  8. I find the statistics weird and hard to interpret. My source is from

    There are two concepts that I find have been used interchangeably. 1) Median Income 2) Median Change in Income.

    If we use the first concept to analyse the data, then we are saying that the person who's on the 20th percentile mark (in terms of income) has real income growth of 0.3% over the past 10 years. But this data does not tell anything meaningful about the change in income of the person next to him. It could be that the 19th percentile person has a real income growth of 2%, or maybe 0.1%. We do not know anything meaningful about the "change in real income" from arranging people according to their income levels. In practice, that means that we do not know how has income changed for the low-income group, as well as the high income group.

    If we use the second concept, then the report was meant to say that "if we arrange people according to their change in income, with the one with most change at 100th percentile and the one with the least change at 0th percentile, the person on the 20th percentile mark has a real income growth of 0.3%." But this interpretation is as confusing. It is entirely possible that high-income earners experience the least growth (like 0.1%) and low-income earners experience the most growth (20% perhaps?). I am not saying that this is the actual case. But the way that they present the data tell us nothing meaningful. I still do not know if how has income changed for the low-income group.

    The only possible way to grasp a better picture of income change and income level is to plot a graph of "% change in income" and "income level". Otherwise, we will all be just blinded by the bits and pieces of random statistics.

    After all, statistics are best used for lying.

  9. The best way to interpret Sin Statistics is to look at how many are defaulting in payments for essentials such as housing loan, utility bill, medical bill and not seeing doctors when sick.

    Then look at the increasing numbers of elderly people eking out a living just to keep themselves alive.

    Many are seeking helps from charities because elsewhere the red tape makes living even more troublesome and difficult.

    The above are becoming more common and therefore those glorious statistics mean only one thing and that is the rich are become richer. BUT, the majority are getting poorer and weaker.


  10. My apology!

    'the rich are become richer
    should read 'the rich are
    becoming richer'.


  11. James Shamsuddin10/13/2011 1:01 AM

    George Yeo is now a bona fide lobbyist? How much will he be paid?

  12. Does the income include CPF contributions? If so, the situation is far worse as Singaporeans are among the least prepared for retirement financially.


    By his own admission, TCJ said so himself, the real income int he bottom 20% is flat after accounting inflation. Is only helped by workfare schemes and govt transfers. I suspect data is actually negative and worse than it's projected. Remember, workfare schemes are only tempoarary.