I refer to the ComCare and Social Support Division, Ministry of Social and Family Development’s reply “Help for those no longer on Hope” (Straits Times Forum, Mar 23) to Dr John Hui Keem Peng’s letter “”Give Hope to needy couples – minus family-size criterion” (Straits Times Forum, Mar 19).
They know then doesn’t mean its right now?
It states that “Couples are aware of the benefits and conditions before they join the programme.
Mentoring is also provided as part of the scheme to guide and support the families.
Couples on the scheme who decide to have a third child can withdraw from it and its benefits. The family can tap other sources of support when they are no longer on Hope.
For example, they can receive pre-school and student care subsidies, as well as other forms of social assistance, depending on their needs. They are also eligible for the Baby Bonus scheme.
We welcome suggestions on ways to further improve the Hope scheme.”
Couples who have a third child will stop getting benefits – this means that they will stop getting $2,500 a year to the mother’s CPF account to pay for their HDB mortgage, until it reaches $50,000.
For low-income families who bought a HDB flat on the assumption that they would get the $50,000 CPF grant to pay for their mortgage, it may be very difficult for them to decide to withdraw from the HOPE scheme.
Also, for those who withdraw from the scheme – do they have to refund the CPF grants given to them plus accrued interest when they sell their HDB flat in the future?
As to “The family can tap other sources of support when they are no longer on Hope. For example, they can receive pre-school and student care subsidies” – I understand that the pre-school and education benefits under HOPE are much more than that under ComCare, even if they qualify as these would be subject to eligibility criteria on a year-to-year basis, unlike HOPE benefits which continue from entry into the scheme.
So, it may not be an easy financial decision to withdraw from the scheme.
How many have withdrawn?
How many HOPE scheme receipients have even withdrawn from the scheme to have a third child?
According to a reply in Parliament on 12 November 2012, “There were 2,674 families on HOPE as of end September 2012. The ethnic breakdown, based on the ethnicity of the mothers, is as follows: 45% were Malay, 33% Chinese, 15% Indian and the rest from other ethnic groups.”
I think the reply does not address some of the questions that people have been asking, such as – why we are discouraging procreation, given our very low procreation rate?
How many Singapore citizen babies have been lost through abortions because of the conditions attached to the scheme?
Why do we continue hurting not just physically, but also emotionally, these HOPE scheme families?
How many families are under the HOPE scheme?
Why do we discriminate against low-income, low-education families?
Why do we give generous tax incentives to the rich to procreate, but penalise the low-income under the HOPE scheme?
If we can spend $8.2 billion in procreation tax benefits in a year, why can’t we spend some money to help low-income families under HOPE to procreate?
“Shouldn’t we complement the scheme instead by putting in place programmes that help them build stronger marriages and become better parents?
If they decide they are unable to raise their children, why not provide them with services to facilitate adoption?
After all, there are many childless couples in the long queue to adopt children.”
Leong Sze Hian
“HOPE scheme is hopeless?“, Mar 21
I refer to John Hui Keem Peng’s (Dr) letter ”Give Hope to needy couples – minus family-size criterion“. (Straits Times Forum, Mar 20).
HOPE – Cannot have more than 2 children?
It states that “I once came across a patient who saw me for complaints arising from complications of an abortion she underwent a week earlier.
During the consultation process, it became clear to me that she was hurting not just physically, but also emotionally.
She told me that this was not her first abortion, but her third.
As she fought back tears, she explained that she “had to” go through with the procedure as she was on the Home Ownership Plus Education (Hope) Scheme.
The scheme provides financial and material benefits to young, low-income families that choose not to have more than two children.
Housing Grants and benefits – Have to return if have more than 2 children?
Once they have more than two children, they are no longer eligible for the benefits.
I am sure my patient is not the only young parent in anguish, and there are probably many others like her.
Reverse procreation policy?
While the Hope scheme was conceived to help lower-income parents cope with the high cost of living, we might have inadvertently lost a number of Singapore citizens through abortions because of the conditions attached to it.
Discrimination against the poor?
Should we discriminate against lower-income couples by penalising them for having more than two children?
Shouldn’t we complement the scheme instead by putting in place programmes that help them build stronger marriages and become better parents?
If they decide they are unable to raise their children, why not provide them with services to facilitate adoption?
After all, there are many childless couples in the long queue to adopt children.
I am sure the scheme was initiated with good intentions. The question we must now ask is: Can we do better?”
HOPE – 9 years ago?
In this connection, I wrote two letter to newspaper forums about nine years ago, which are reproduced below.
Business Times, The (Singapore)
March 30, 2004
I REFER to the editorial ‘A growing underclass?’ (BT, March 25).
Must be poor & low-education to be helped?
I agree with the statement in the editorial that the exacting criteria for the Home Ownership Plus Education (HOPE) scheme – aimed at young families at risk of becoming permanently poor – will exclude struggling households not deemed needy enough to qualify for public assistance.
Must be 35 or younger with 2 or less children?
To qualify for the HOPE programme, a mother must be 35 or younger and must not have more than two children. But Singaporeans have been encouraged to have more children for many years – so what happens to those who heeded the calls to procreate and are now not eligible for HOPE?
And what about people who, for reasons such as religious belief, may have more than two children. For example, I understand that Catholics cannot practise birth control or have abortions. Is it fair to discriminate against such people?
Furthermore, what if one has more than two children not because of planning, but due to twins for the second childbirth?
It was reported recently in the media that Singapore’s percentage of single women is very high.
By restricting HOPE to mothers 35 years old and below, are we not making it even harder for single women who are nearing or over 35 to get married?
Procreation & tax benefits discriminate the poor & favour the rich?
Current procreation policies are complex and confusing, with all kinds of penalties for having too many children, at the wrong age, being too over-educated or under educated etc.
It is hard enough to be poor – but to have to be less educated, not too old, and not too productive in procreation in order to qualify for HOPE? Is that fair?
I have known large families with relatively low incomes who live very happy and fulfilling lives, as they are able to manage their expectations and cash flow. For generations, Singaporeans have managed, with the help and close ties of the extended family, to have larger families despite relatively low incomes.
Those who want to have more children are likely to earn less because they have to spend more time with those children, with just one spouse being able to work.
Procreation tax benefits don’t work?
Higher-income earners on the other hand don’t have more children because they value income more than time with children.
Everything is about money in Singapore?
In my opinion, family values and the joy of having children should not be overly tied to money and materialism – and policies like HOPE should be reconsidered to give hope to all economically disadvantaged Singaporeans, regardless of their age, education or how many children they have.
Leong Sze Hian Singapore
I understand that one form of the financial assistance offered is monetary incentives for couples who undergo ligation.
This is contradictory to the national policy to encourage procreation.
Various incentives like the Procreation Tax Rebate encourage families to have more children.
Only rich babies wanted?
Why are the rich being given financial incentives to have more babies, whereas the poor (under the HOPE scheme) are given monetary rewards to have less children? In so doing, are we not procreating a ‘class’ society?
I believe ligation is an irreversible procedure which means that one can never conceive again.
I would like to ask how many people have taken up this ‘ligation’ assistance under the HOPE scheme.
Selling away one’s God-given right to bear offspring?
Perhaps a better way to help those who are now economically disadvan taged, is to foster their understanding of the trade-off between money and women’s God-given right to bear offspring.”
Why is it that we have so many problems and issues, like the HOPE scheme, that continue to plaqued society till today, despite these issues being raised time and again over the years?
I think it may be an affront for a first-world nation to continue to have such “uncivilised” policies!
Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the Department of Statistics’ MONTHLY DIGEST OF STATISTICS SINGAPORE, FEBRUARY 2013.
Social spending decreased?
GOVERNMENT OPERATING EXPENDITURE – Social Development (Education, healthcare, community development, etc) – decreased from $17.7 $17.5 billion, from 2011 to 2012.
GOVERNMENT DEVELOPMENT EXPENDITURE – Social Development – decreased from $3.7 to $3.5 billion, from 2011 to 2012.
Since we seem to keep hearing the rhetoric that more will be done for Singaporeans and social spending, why is it that both Government Operating and Development Expenditures for social spending decreased?
And we have not even adjusted the above figures for inflation last year – which means that we may actually have spent even less!
In this regard, the CONSUMER PRICE INDEX increased from 108.2 to 113.1, from 2011 to 2012.
Gas Tariff grew 14%?
The Price Index of the Gas Tariff grew by 14% from 114.7 to 131.0, from 2011 to 2012.
Electricity Tariff grew 7.5%?
The Price Index of the Electricity Tariff grew by 7.5% from 126.9 to 136.4, from 2011 to 2012.
Govt surplus increase?
GOVERNMENT FINANCE – Surplus – grew from $27 to $36 billion, from 2011 to 2012. Why is it that social spending is down whereas the surplus is up?
Govt debt increase?
GOVERNMENT DEBT grew by about 9% from $354 to $385 billion, from 2011 to 2012.
Real Average Earnings grew minus 2.3%?
The AVERAGE MONTHLY NOMINAL EARNINGS PER EMPLOYEE grew by 2.3% from $4,334 in 2011 to $4,433 in 2012.
After adjusting for inflation which I understand was 4.6% in 2012, the real growth was minus 2.3%.
Does this mean that the real growth for AVERAGE MONTHLY NOMINAL EARNINGS was even worse than the minus 2% for the real median wage growth last year? (“Yet another year of negative real wage increase?“, Jan 31)
Singaporeans dropped from 86.1 to 61.8%?
The proportion of Singaporeans in the total population declined from 86.1% (1990) to 74.1 (2000) and 61.8% (2012).
Non-Residents grew from 10.2 to 28.1%?
In contrast, the proportion of Non-Residents grew from 10.2% (1990) to 18.7 (2000) and 28.1% (2012).
PRs grew from 3.7 to 10.0%?
Permanent Residents (PRs) grew from 3.7% (1990) to 7.1 (2000) and 10.0% (2012).
Singaporeans’ growth rate 0.9%?
In Average Annual Growth terms, Singaporeans grew by just 1.7, 1.3 and 0.9% in 1990, 2000 and 2012.
Non-Residents growth rate 7.2%
In contrast, Non-Residents grew by 9.0, 9.3 and 7.2%, respectively.
Permanent Residents (PRs) grew by 2.3, 9.9 and 0.2%, respectively.
Non-Singaporeans grew from 13.9 to 38.2%?
Total population grew from 3.05 to 5.31 million?
Singapore’s total population grew from 3.05 million (1990) to 4.03 (2000) and 5.31 million (2012).
Job placement rate just over 10%?
The ratio of Job Seekers Placed in Employment to Job Seekers Attended To was 14, 18 and 12%, for 2011, 2012 and December 2012, respectively.
Productivity continues to decline?
Labour Productivity was 1.3 in 2011, – 2.6 in 2012, and – 2.2, – 1.6, – 3.8 and – 2.5 for 2012Q1 to Q4, respectively.
Unit Business Cost increase?
Unit Business Cost Index of Manufacturing continues to increase from 105.8 in 2011 to 110.1 in 2012, and 113.7 in 2012Q4.
Unit Labour Cost increase?
Unit Labour Cost Index of Overall Economy continues to increase from 114.6 in 2011 to 119.3 in 2012, and 129.9 in 2012Q4.
Govt rates & fees increase?
Government Rates & Fees continues to increase from 103.3 in 2011 to 123.8 in 2012, and 129.1 in 2012Q4.
Business Expectations down?
General Business Expectations is low at – 10, – 11, – 11, – 10, for 2011Q3, Q4, 2012Q3 and Q4, respectively.
New Orders Received down?
New Orders Received was negative, at – 20 and – 9, for 2012Q3 and Q4, respectively.
Cessation of companies increase?
CESSATION OF COMPANIES increased from 15,134 in 2010 to 19,007 in 2011.
CPF Due to Members increase?
Total Amount of CPF Due to Members grew from $208 to $233 billion, from 2011 to January 2013.
CPF Withdrawn to Contributed ratio 45%?
The ratio of CPF Amount Withdrawn to Amount Contributed was about 45% in 2012. Does this mean that for every dollar of contributions, only about 45 cents is being withdrawn now? At this rate, CPF may continue to be a good source of low-interest funding for the Government.
Singaporeans have low spending power?
Private Consumption Expenditure continues to be low, at about 35% for 2011 and 2012.
In contrast, I understand that Hong Kong’s is about 60%.
Pawn Shop Loans increased 45%?
Amount of Pawn Shop Loans increased by 45% from $4.9 to $7.1 billion, from 2011 to 2012.
Looking at the above statistics, to what extent has the rapid growth in foreigners contributed to low productivity, negative real wage growth and low job seekers’ placement rate, etc, in recent years?
Leong Sze Hian
Transitioning.org is organising a seminar event on 23 Mar (Sat) from 2pm to 5pm at the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) seminar room, focusing on the 6.9 million Population White Paper and other matters that affect Singaporeans.
The address is 6 Eu Tong Sen Street #04-88 The Central Clarke Quay S(059817).
(Clarke Quay MRT station).
Other issues that will be highlighted include:
There will also be a Q & A session at the end of the speeches.
The confirmed speakers include:
We are still trying to confirm two more speakers.
As it’s a free first-come-first-served seating, we hope that our readers will sign up as soon as possible by emailing email@example.com giving your name and contact number.
We only have about sixty seats available and in the past, such seats are snapped up quite quickly. So, do email me fast to avoid disappointment.
See you soon, Singapore.
Event organiser – ‘Say NO to 6.9 million population’
I refer to the article “Most of Singapore population info available in public domain: DPM Teo” (Channel NewsAsia, Mar 8).
Please breakdown population data?
It states that “MP for Aljunied GRC Sylvia Lim has asked if Singapore’s population data could be made public.
Most data already in public domain?
In reply, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said most of the information is already available in the public domain.
Not in our interests to disclose?
Mr Teo said: “In some cases, we provide aggregated information or data instead of a more detailed breakdown because it may not be in our interests to do so.”
We need transparency?
I find it somewhat incredulous that the subject reply in Parliament seems to have evaded the crux of the issue on the transparency of the population statistics.
Breakdown into Singaporeans and PRs?
For example, what is the breakdown for employment growth every year for locals into Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs)?
If we can breakdown the unemployment statistics into Singaporeans and PRs, why can’t we do the same for everything else, like employment growth?
Sometimes, we get the median and 20th percentile wage data for residents, and rarely for Singaporeans. So, why can’t we be consistent and breakdown these statistics into Singaporeans, PRs and locals?
The same issue above may apply to the household data as well – income, citizen, PR and foreigner households, etc.
Regular consistency in statistics?
Also, why can’t we have regular annual breakdown of the population statistics into how many new citizens, PRs, LTVPs, employment passes, S-passes, work permits, etc, were granted?
How many gave up their citizenships, PRs, employment passes, etc, instead of inconsistent release of the absolute change in the various categories in a year.
To illustrate this issue, if the number of say PRs increased in a year by 30,000, but in fact 40,000 new PRs were granted, and 10,000 have left Singapore either temporarily or permanently – just telling us that the nunber of PRs increased by 30,000 is insufficient.
Not counted in foreign worker quota?
We should also be given the statistics on those who are not counted in the foreign worker quota, like foreign university interns and foreign spouses on LTVP-Plus.
Without this data, how do we know how many of the local jobs created went to Singaporeans?
What about foreign workers on short term projects of less than a year, which may not show up in the annual increase statistics?
In whose interests not to disclose?
I think most Singaporeans may be more interested or concerned about some of the above statistics, instead of the countries where foreigners are from, which was the reason cited for not giving more detailed population statistics because these are sensitive information which may not be in our interests to disclose.
Leong Sze Hian
Since Cardius talked about public transport, let me add to it.
I read in the news yesterday, the fare review committee has been asked to delay their report until May.
So that they can think more about helping the disabled, the lower income and the polytechnic students?
Almost year after year, the disabled has been asking for concession fare. If you can decide to spend S$1.1 billion to help the two transport operators and now they say its more than S$1.1 billion.
Why can’t you spend a single cent over the years to help the disabled?
Find me another country in the world that increased transport fares nine times in the last twelve years, nine years out of twelve years.
If you want to count the change to distance fare as an increase or decrease which is arguable then that is ten times not nine times.
Singapore is in a state of denial, Singapore is in the state of denial.
Because we ignore the stark reality of the statistic. We ignore how bad things are. We keep talking as if everything is fine, everything is rosy. What has not work in the past is not somehow by magic work in the future.
Let me give you some examples.
In the population white paper, in the debate it was said something along the line that we don’t grow GDP, the lowest 20th percentile of workers by income will suffer the negative real wage increase. They went on to show you figures to show you that the lowest 20th percent actually had real wage increase.
Listen to this. In the last ten years. 20th percentile’s wages real increase of 0.1% per annum. After ten years, 1% increase. Imagine you earn one thousand dollars ten years ago, you are low income worker, every year got one dollar real income increase, after ten years you have ten dollars. And we can talk and debate the population white paper and say it is statistic to show you that even the lower income had an increase in real income.
We are in denial!
Last year, your median gross wage real increase was minus negative. The previous year 2011 it was negative. 2010, increased a miserable 0.5%. 2009, minus, 2008, minus. Five years, median real income growth, for five years, four years negative and we keep talking about the population white paper as if all these pro-growth, all these open door labour policies will continue to give the stark statistics that I described to you for Singaporeans, will your life get better like this?
Many of you might not realize, that last year or the last five years of the four years. The real wage income was negative. Because when you read the headlines, when you see the narrative in the labour reports, they all say you have real income growth because why? Because in the past, they only show you the wage data excluding employer CPF contribution. In recent years, now they have two sets of numbers. Now they have a number, “including CPF contribution”. So you don’t know is because of this new definition.
You know we are in denial. We ignore all the bare statistics, we only focus on the ones that look good.
We used to talk about the median income of all workers. All workers means full time and part time. Now you see the narratives, the headlines. They always talk about the wages of full time workers only. Let me explain to you, how by magic you can make everybody earn more money.
You want to learn?
<crowd replied yes>
A few years ago, they changed the definition of a part time worker in Singapore. It used to be you work 30 hours or less, you are part time. Then they changed it. You work 35 hours or less, you are part time. So overnight by the stroke of pen, everybody earn more money.
You know why?
All the part timers, all out of the sudden have all these people from earning over 30 to 35 hours become part time, so all these part time earn more money right? Then the full timers all those who worked from 35 hours to 31 become part timers. So the remaining full timers also earned more money.
We are in the state of denial! We have to look at the real statistics.
The latest labour vanacy report says, there are 56.400 jobs that nobody wants.
Year after year, Singaporeans are so fussy, you got so many jobs, nobody wants. Let’s examine the statistics more closely. Which category of workers have the largest number of vacancies.
<Someone in crowd shouts toliet cleaner>
Toliet cleaner, ah no lar. It is service and sales workers. More than ten thousands vacancies service and sales workers. Are these jobs that Singaporeans don’t want?
<Crowd replies “No”>
It is very strange because you look at the unemployment rate figures, which category of jobs have the highest unemployment rate? The same category, service and sales workers. How can the highest unemployment rate also have the most jobs that nobody wants?
I tell you why, why i think it is like this. The reason why you have this strange phenomena. It is because the Singaporeans who used to work as service and sales workers when they lose their jobs. They cannot find a similar job that will pay them enough for the same number of hours to enable them to make ends meet. And that is why they are unable to find a job when they lose their job.
In this category, we have waiters at the 25th percentile gross wage, the waiters’ gross wage at the 25th percentile is only 900 over dollars. You are Singaporeans, how to survive on 900 over dollars a month? This is gross wage, haven’t deduct your employee CPF contribution of 20%.
So far, I talked about wages. Ya, some people have wage increase because they working longer hours. Which workers work the longest hours in the world?
<Crowd shouts “Singapore!”>
3 out of 10 older workers work more than 48 hours a week. You know you look at the lower income jobs, you look at the statistics you know. It pains my heart, you know why?
They get a bit more money, why? Because their typical work day is 12 hours a day for 6 days a week, everyday, every week for the rest of their life. And how much they get for working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week? Just over a thousand dollars. You know an eminent economist, i don’t need to mention his name, everybody knows who is he. The eminent economist said, “We need wage shock therapy, we should give an immediate increase of 50 dollars to those Singaporeans who are earning less than one thousand dollars.
What was the response? Everybody the government, the unions, the employers all said, “No no no no”. You cannot increase this miserable 50 dollar, only productivity go up then we can increase the wages. What rubbish is this? I said earlier that we ignore the stark reality, we assume that oh, what have not worked in the past will work. Productivity, all the enhancement schemes, all the money, the scheme never work. Because productivity is not going up. So if you have to wait productivity to go up to get a wage increase for low income, so you die lar.
In the debate of the population white paper. It was said that the paper it actually proposes to slow down the intake of new citizens and foreign workers. Let’s look at the real statistics.
The last reply in parliament, intake of new citizens in 2011, 15,777 new citizens. 15,777. What does the population white paper tells you. Projected, target, best case scenario, worst case scenario, whatever you want to call it lar. Project as many as 25,000 new citizens a year going forward. 15 thousand plus to 25 thousand, is this a slow down in intake ah?
In 2011, the intake of PRs was 27,500. In the population white paper, it says it will take in as many as 30,000 PRs going forward. 27,500 increased to 30,000 every year going forward. Is also a slow down in the intake ah?
Last year, growth in foreign employment 70,000. White paper, from now to 2020, project foreign workers increase from 1.49 million to as much as 1.9 million. You add all these together new citizens, new PRs, new workers, slow down in the intake?
We are in denial!
My time is up, so i have to end.
I tell you that the very basis of the white paper is wrong. Because it says the population is aging, people are not producing babies that is why we need immigration. You know what’s the problem? In the development countries they have this problem, why? They have pensions, cost government money. Do you have pensions?
<Crowd shouts “No!”>
Is your CPF your own money?
<Crowd shouts “No!”, with some stopping to think what they just shouted>
In the developed countries, they have universal healthcare. Do you have universal healthcare?
<Crowd shouts “No!”>
The development counties have welfare, do you have welfare?
<Crowd shouts “No!”>
So what is the problem with the population aging when the government is not spending any money on the aging population?
I refer to the article “Population projected at 6.9 million by 2030 with strong Singaporean core” (Channel NewsAsia, Jan 29).
6.9m by 2030
It states that “Singapore’s population could hit 6.9 million by 2030 – up from the current 5.3 million.”
Up to 6m by 2020?
According to the Population White Paper, “Singapore’s total population of residents and non- residents in 2020 is projected to be between 5.8 and 6 million, depending on our fertility trends, life expectancy, as well as our social and economic needs.
The resident population (comprising citizens and PRs) is projected to be 4 to 4.1 million, of which citizens alone will make up 3.5 to 3.6 million.”
Foreigners grow to 1.9m?
This means that the current 1.49 million foreigners is projected to grow up to 1.9 million in just seven years ‘ time.
So, what happened to the consistent rhetoric in recent years that the huge influx of foreigners will be curtailed?
More new citizens, new PRs continue to grow at same pace?
As to “The proposal is to take in 30,000 new permanent residents (PR) every year which will keep the PR population stable at about half a million. Then, from this pool, take in 15,000 to 25,000 new citizens each year, to stop the citizen population from shrinking”, what this means is that instead of curtailing the influx of new citizens, we are increasing it from the current 20,000 new citizens to as much as 25,000 a year.
Also, with regard to keeping new PRs “to about 30,000 each year currently. We plan to maintain the current pace”, means that we will not be curtailing the influx of PRs as well.
Do we need to keep growing?
The fundamental question that we may have to ask ourselves, may be why we need to keep growing the population?
The notion that we need more young people to support an aging population may not hold water, because Singapore unlike most developed countries spends very little on supporting the elderly, as we do not have pensions, universal healthcare or welfare for the elderly.
Even if we accept the argument that we need to grow the population in order to keep it from shrinking in the far distant future, shouldn’t we be focusing on the resident population, rather than the overall population to include foreigners? Why do we need to continue to increase the foreign population by so much?
Implications for Singaporeans?
The more important questions, arguably, may be what are the implications and outcomes for Singaporeans in terms of competition for jobs, depression of wages, rise in the cost of living, housing, healthcare, transport, etc?
Are we doing enough?
In this respect, for example, the white paper continues to make assumptions that productivity growth will be better, when clearly all the productivity enhancement schemes, funding, etc, have not worked. – “Up to 2020, if we can achieve 2% to 3% productivity growth per year (which is an ambitious stretch target)”
Another example is “We are upgrading the signalling systems of the North-South and East-West Lines to increase capacity on these lines by up to 20% during the peak period. When completed in stages from 2016, there will be 6 instead of 5 trains running every 10 minutes during peak periods, reducing the passenger load and shortening waiting times”.
So, starting from 2016 when the improvements will start to be completed in stages, how much less crowded is it going to get with one more train every 10 minutes during peak hours, with the population growing from 5.3 million now to six million in 2020?
Yet another example, may be to increase the number of acute hospital beds by 2,200 or 30 per cent. Considering that the increase in the total number of hospital beds over the last decade or so was zero, how can 2,200 more beds by 2020 be enough to cater for the 700,000 increase in the population?
No new initiatives?
There seems to be no new substantive initiatives to address Singaporeans’ most pressing problems like negative real median wage increase over the last five years or so, and the relentless rise in the cost of living, particularly for basic goods and services.
There appears to be much of the same old stuff, like life-long upgrading, Workfare, job-matching and placement programmes, etc.
No projection of future revenues?
What is perhaps sorely lacking is that there is no projection of any increase in government revenues or budget surpluses, and how some of these may be channeled towards mitigating the adverse impact of our continuing “pro-foreigner” growth policies, particularly for lower-income Singaporeans?
The least that we can try to do, may be to review policies such as the removal of the 30 per cent water conversation tax, decoupling the principle of increasing property taxes with increasing rents for owner-occupied homes, freezing transport fares as long as operators continue to make hefty profits, maintaining Service and Conservancy Charges (S & CC) for town councils that have operating or accumulated surpluses, capping the maximum healthcare fees payable when one undergoes treatment in subsidised wards, etc.
I wonder what the outcome of the Punggol-East by-election may have been like, if the release of population white paper had not been delayed.
Leong Sze Hian