I refer to the article “PAP leaders: govt is delivering on ge promises” (Straits Times, Jan 19).
It states that “In housing, transport, education and healthcare, the Government had taken the initiative and moved ahead”.
Let’s look at some of the statistics that are related to the election promises and statements.
Public transport fares were increased again in October 2011. (“Formula almost guarantees fare increases“, Jul 29, 2011)
This was the ninth fare increase in the 11 years from 2000 to 2011. As it is arguable whether the 2010 change to distance-fares was actually an increase or decrease, it may actually have been the tenth increase.
If we can decide to spend $1.1 billion on buses to help the transport operators, why can’t we spend a single cent to keep fares from increasing?
Miscellaneous fees in schools have been increased for all students.
Whilst the principle of further differentiating fees by citizenship is a valid one, why is it that when fees are increased – be it for university, healthcare, etc – fees for Singaporeans are also raised?
It appears that the estimated additional revenue from PRs and foreigners may be about 10 times that of the increase in miscellaneous fees for all students.
If that is the case, why not keep the miscellaneous fees for Singaporeans at the current level or, better still, reduce them? (“Why increase fees of local students? “, Jul 25 and “Foreigners’ school fees up, Singaporeans’ too? “, Jul 16)
With 5,500 letters of appeal on HDB in one year in just one GRC, how many letters of appeal were written for all the GRCs and SMCs? – About 99,000? (15 GRCs and 12 SMCs) (“5,500 letters of appeal on HDB in 2012 in 1 GRC?”, Jan 17)
This may indicate that Singaporeans’ housing problems appear to be continuing unabated.
Instead of increasing Medishield deductibles and premiums from 1 March 2013 which affects the lower-income elderly more – if we really want to help, we could spend some money on Medishield.
After all, Medishield does not cost the Government any money, as it is a self- funding scheme paid by policyholders. (“MediShield: Deductibles increased by 5 times historically for elderly?“, Nov 12)
HELPING THE POOR
As to “help for the poor”, according to the CDCs’ annual report for FY2011, the number of applications for financial assistance was 72,700 for the whole year from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012.
Is this an all-time record high?
Giving the statistics for only nine months, may mask the stark reality that 72,700 families applied for social assistance under ComCare schemes in a year.
Missing statistics: Successful applications?
it may be somewhat odd, that the ComCare media release does not say how many of the applications were successful, like in the past.
For example, according to the reported statistics in February 2011, 39,500 or 71 per cent of approved applications for financial assistance under ComCare were successful, up from 42,100, or 67 per cent, in 2009. (“Saddest statistic ever: 200,000 families helped?, Aug 22, 2011)
$4b in 2007 for 5 years?
The GST rate increase from 5 to 7% in 2007 was accompanied by an offset package to help Singaporeans with the increase in GST, and which would cost the government $4 billion over five years. (“GST rate to rise to 7% from July 1“, Channel NewsAsia, Feb 15, 2007)
Now $3.6b for next 5 years?
Now five years later, the Government will be spending much less, at $3.6 billion over the next five years (2012 – 2016) under the new GST Voucher package.
Since the GST Offset Package was to help particularly lower-income families offset the GST increase, and considering that the population has increased and inflation has risen by about 19 per cent since 2007, and huge budget surpluses of about $10.5 billion over the last seven years, why are we spending less now?
More help for lower-income in 2007?
When the GST rate was raised from 5% to 7% in July 2007, a household in the bottom 20% had to pay additional GST of $370 per year, but received an offset package of $910 per year, in addition to permanent benefits of $1,000 per year. (“Budget debate round-up speech“, Mar 2, 2011)
Less help now?
So, let’s see how much less lower-income families will get now.
It’s GST Cash of $250 and GST U-Save Rebate of $260 (1 and 2-room HDB) and no Medisave top-up if there are no family members age 65 and above.
For example, family members age 65 – 74, 75 – 84 and 85 and above (staying in homes with annual value not more than $13,000) wiil get a Medisave top-up of $250, $350 and $450, respectively.
In any case, even if a lower-income family qualifies for a Medisave top-up, it can only be used for medical purposes, and is thus not cash that can effectively offset GST expenditure.
Also, in the past, Medisave top-ups were given to those age 55 and above. So, why is the age now increased to 65 and above?
So, are lower-income families effectively getting much less now under the GST Voucher scheme, compared to the previous GST Offset Package?
GST increase to help the poor?
Since the main reason given for increasing GST was to help the poor, why is it that lower-income families are now apparently getting less under the GST Voucher scheme? (“GST Offset much lower now for lower-income? “, Dec 31)
COST OF LIVING
If we really want to help on “the cost of living”, why do we keep increasing basic goods and services, like property tax for 3-room HDB flats and Service and Conservancy Charges (S & CC), etc? (“HDB rentals up 10%, but property tax up 118%?, Nov 27 and “Each town council different, but raise charges together?“, Oct 3)
The tightened foreign labour policies may not be reflected in the full yearly statistics which still show the rate of increase in the foreign workforce at 7.6 and 5.7 per cent in 2011 and 2010, respectively. (“S Pass increased 12.5% last 6 months“, Oct 1)
More job seekers?
Job seekers dropped from 100,504 to 24,500?
Between January and November 2012, the number of people approaching the CDCs for training and employment assistance was 24,500, a 3 per cent drop compared to the same period in 2011.
The success rates of those being placed into employment has also been higher in 2012. 11,800 were placed into jobs between January and November 2012, compared to 10,100 for the same period in 2011″
However, according to the Department of Statistics’ (DOS) Monthly Digest of Statistics Singapore June 2012, job seekers attended to by the CDCs and e2i, was 99,608 and 100,504, in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and job seekers placed in employment was 17,732 and 14,223, respectively. (“Easier to get jobs?“, Sep 7 and “Latest statistical highlights: Job placement rate drops to 14%, Jul 17)
So, how is it possible that 100,504 job seekers attended to by the CDCs and e2i in 2011, has dropped dramatically to only 24,500 job seekers approaching CDCs in 11 months (excluding e2i?)?
The latest statistics indicate that in the six months from June to November 2012, the number of job seekers attended to was 57,992. Thus, it may appear that the total for the full year of 2012 may end up to be even higher than 2011′s 100,504.
Declining job placement rate?
Similarly, the 11,800 were placed into jobs between January and November 2012, seems to be much lower than the 14,223 placed in employment for the full year of 2011.
Job placement rate improved from 14 to 48%?
If we take the CDCs’ statistics now, the job placement rate (for 11 months) is 48 per cent, but if we take the DOS’s statistics, the placement rate for the 12 months in 2011 was only 14 per cent?
The real median income growth for workers (excluding Employer CPF Contributions) was negative in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 (June) and only 0.5 per cent in 2010. (“2012 real income declined – 2.3%?”, Nov 30), and I estimate that the real basic wage growth in the last 12 years or so (1999 to 2011), was negative for 4 of the 8 occupational categories in Singapore, and only around 0.5 per cent or less per annum for the other 4 categories. (“Workers’ rights: 12 years of near negative wage growth for almost all workers?“, Dec 9)
There may be little justification for much of the above pertaining to price increases, with tax revenues being up for the current year, budget surpluses of about $10.5 billion over the last seven years and an estimated over $800 billion in the reserves.
Leong Sze Hian