Breaking news: Yet another national conversation (the 6th one) – Just look at some of the numbers lah, as to what are the previous 5’s outcomes?

“Forward Singapore: Fairness and inclusion vital to the national conversation” (ST, Jun 29)
“It’s time for another national conversation.
Launched by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (June 28), Forward Singapore will inevitably be compared with its predecessors: The Next Lap in 1991, Singapore 21 in 1999, Remaking Singapore in 2003, Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) in 2012 and, most recently, the Singapore Together movement.
What’s the same, and what’s different about this one?
The current exercise is organised along six pillars that span the economy and jobs, education, health and social support, housing, the environment and fiscal sustainability, and national identity.”
Let’s try to look at some of the statistics, relating to the 6 pillars:
1) Economy and jobs:
The economic recovery (post-Covid) may be challenging – dismal economic growth in 2019 (before Covid) of 0.7% – GDP decreased by 5.4% in 2020 and increased by 7.2% in 2021 – does it mean that the GDP growth in the last 2 years was only about 1.4%, or just about 0.7% per year?
… Does 13% of citizen workers “not born in S’pore” in the total workforce (Parliamentary debate, Jul 2021), mean that “not born in S’pore” does not include “born in S’pore as foreigners who subsequently became citizens”?
… an estimated 50.8% of the workforce may be non-true-blue-S’poreans (including new citizens) (100% – 43.4% (foreign + PRs Mar 2022 estimate) x 13% = 7.4% + 43.4% = 50.8%)
… 380,000 local PMEs jobs growth = 380,000 foreign PMEs converted to new PRs, & counted as local PMEs jobs growth 2005 to 2020?
380,000 Local PMEs jobs growth 2005 – 20
635,533 new PRs granted 2005 – 20
If 60% of new PRs are PMEs = 380,000 foreign PMEs converted to PR PMEs & counted as local PMEs jobs growth
So, how many of the 380,000 local PMEs jobs growth went to S’poreans?
Do these statistics indicate possibly, discrimination against S’porean PMEs?
2) Education:
Is there something very wrong, with our education system?
Just look at the outcomes:
Under-employment (such as increasing number of gig workers),
unemployment, many lower-income workers (748,800 full-time workers with take-home pay below $2,400 or unemployed (Jun 2021),
Decrease in real incomes – real Income grew 0.4% last 20 years?
The median gross monthly income of employed residents (total: full-time & part-time) was $3,573 in 2020
It was $2,234 in 2000
This works out to an increase of about 2.4% p.a., from 2000 to 2020
Since inflation was 2.0% (lowest 20% household income group – food, housing & utilities, healthcare), 1.7% (lowest 20% household income group) & 1.5% (all households), during this 20-year period – does it mean that the real increase was about 0.4% p.a., for lower-income households’ essential goods & services?
So, for example, a worker who earned $1,000 in 2000, is estimated to have had a real increase in income of only about $4 p.a. in the 20 years, from 2000 to 2020 etc
3) Health and social support:
Increasing calls for more help for lower-income S’poreans – some recent statistics (April 2022) – 10 per cent of households cannot pay their water bills (media reports), 10 per cent of households don’t have enough money to eat nutritionally (2019 pre-Covid-19, SMU-Lien Foundation Hunger Report 2019), etc.
Increasing calls for Covid Vaccinated Differentiated Measures to be removed like what about 70 countries have already done.
Otherwise, our attractiveness to foreign tourists, businesses, workers, etc, may be affected (only about 40% of the world population are fully vaccinated), in the light of the current Covid-19 statistics – 96% of eligible population fully vaccinated/78% of total population boosted
4) Housing:
Older HDB flats (more than 40 years) decreasing in price, due to 99-year lease 0 value issue – all the CPF & cash utilised for the flat will be gone at the end of the lease
5) Environment and fiscal sustainability:
0 debt, $1.96t Reserves: Increase GST?
Every once in a while, we get a clue as to how much is our Reserves – Here’s the latest one?
I refer to the article “Singapore’s gross national debt is 6th highest in the world but no one is batting an eyelid” (May 17)
It states that “As a percentage of GDP, Singapore’s gross national debt-to-GDP ratio is 131.19%. It is the 6th highest in the world (as of 2020) (source: IMF).
However, no one is batting an eyelid or losing sleep over it. This is because Singapore actually owes nothing at all. The country does not borrow to spend. It borrows to invest.
The Singapore Government has a strong balance sheet, with assets well in excess of its liabilities. The country has a net debt-to-GDP ratio of 0%. (i.e. no net debt). Singapore is, in fact, a net creditor country.
How do we know Singapore’s net debt is zero?
This can be seen from the net investment returns contribution (NIRC) that is made available for spending on the Government Budget.
Under the NIR framework, up to 50% of the long-term expected returns earned on the net assets (i.e. assets net of liabilities) are available for spending.
The NIRC of about S$19.6 billion taken into the Government’s budget for spending in Fiscal year 2021 means that even after deducting all the Government’s liabilities (including CPF monies), the remaining net assets are sizeable, and they are expected to generate significant investment returns.
If the Government’s assets had not been adequate to meet its liabilities, there would be no NIRC to fund the Government Budget.
Types of borrowing by the Singapore Government
The Singapore Government issues securities and saving bonds. Under the Government Securities Act, the borrowing proceeds from the issuance of these securities cannot be spent and are invested.
(1) Singapore Government Securities (SGS) are issued to develop the domestic debt market. They include Treasury Bills. They are marketable and are issued to foster the growth of an active secondary market. This enables Singapore to develop as an international finance hub and enhances our attraction to international banks.
(2) Special Singapore Government Securities are non-tradable bonds issued primarily to meet the investment needs of the Central Provident Fund (CPF).
Under the arrangements between the Singapore Government and the CPF Board, surplus CPF funds are invested in Special Singapore Government Securities. This relieves the CPF Board from taking on the investment risk of a fund manager to concentrate on its primary role as a national social security institution.
(3) Singapore Saving Bonds are introduced to provide individual investors with a long term saving option that offers safe returns.”
Since “The NIRC of about S$19.6 billion taken into the Government’s budget for spending in Fiscal year 2021” – does it mean that the Reserves are about $1.96 trillion (assumptions: 4% nominal returns – 2% inflation divided by 2 = 1% – $19.6b divided by 1% = $1.96 trillion?
So, since we have 0 debt and such huge Reserves – why is there a need to raise GST during the pandemic?
6) National identity:
Birth rate at a near all-time low – TFR 1.12
How many PMETs are non-S’poreans (57% estimate)? – The 22% foreign PMETs (Employment & S-Passes) may not take into account PMETs who may be
… PRs
… Unemployed S’poreans (since the statistics cited were for employed residents)
… Other Work Passes (Letter of Consent (LOC), pre-approved LOC, Training Work Permit (TWP) and Training Employment Pass (TEP))
… Work permit holders
… New citizens

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.