Instead of Hot Air We Need to Talk About Where the Money’s Gone

State media lost no time in branding PM Lee’s plans announced at Sunday’s National Day Rally (NDR) as “ambitious”. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they since their whole raison d’etre, apart from making money from Singaporeans through their media monopoly, is to act as LHL’s year round re-election committee, like the Elections Department that he also controls since it is just part of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Personally I would not have used the word “ambitious”. Instead words like “Mickey Mouse”, “stingy” and “would have been ambitious if implemented thirty years ago” spring to mind. Most advanced countries provide free preschool education for at least one or two years before primary school starts. Singapore’s poor preschool record is borne out by the Economist Intelligence Unit which in 2012 placed Singapore in 29th place behind the US which came in at 24th= and Australia at 28th. Greece and Portugal, much poorer countries on paper, scored higher at 27th and 15th while Hong Kong came in at 19th. Not surprisingly the Nordic countries, with their high levels of social welfare, took the top spaces but the UK came in at 4th. Even with increased “subsidies” the cost of preschool is still $370 per month per child on the PM’s own figures. It is difficult to see how families on median incomes can afford preschool education if they have even one child, let alone two or three. And why are we still charging even nominal fees for primary and secondary education? We should have made education free at all levels up to university 30 or 40 years ago. The only reason it has not been, I suspect, is the lingering influence of LKY’s racist eugenic theories and a belief that it is a waste of money educating minorities and the poor.

LHL cited a report by Save the Children which placed Singapore top out of 176 countries as the best place for children to grow up in. Yet the same index says that there were “no records” of malnourished children aged 0 to 59 months or of children aged 5 to 17 engaged in child labour. While there may be no severely malnourished children there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that many children go to school without breakfast or money to buy food. Tommy Koh, Singapore’s former UN envoy and one time friend of my parents, said the figure was as many as one-third but withdrew it. We do not provide school meals to poorer families or child credit as in many of the countries which are rated much lower. The fact that Save The Children is a US charity now suggests that the index is influenced by political bias to some extent as it is hard to see why the US is rated on the same level as China. In any case Singapore is a city without rural poverty which may explain why it also rates so highly on the World Bank Human Capital Index. It would be interesting to see Singapore compared with New York, London, or one of the major European cities.

Moving on to the rest of LHL’s pre-election broadcast, forgive me if I was not gripped by a wild and uncontrollable urge to shake LHL’s hand and call him a hero for promising to make university education more affordable. This still does not cover students’ living expenses. We can undoubtedly afford to abolish higher education fees and should do so for all those who have served NS, which would be a good reason to extend NS to women also. For most subjects the returns from university education substantially exceed the costs. Even if students from better-off families are required to pay part of the fees, we should have a system of student loans which should be extended to cover living costs and should not have to be paid back until one earns more than a certain level.

While I would not disagree that people should not be forced to retire and encouraged to work longer, not all Singaporeans are as fortunate as the PM, his wife and his late father. LKY continued to be paid by the taxpayer until he died, both as an MP and Minister Mentor, even though he was forced into financial hardship after GE2011, when his salary was cut from approximately $5 million p.a. to $1 million. No doubt LHL and his wife will ensure that for decades after 65 they continue to draw huge, and in the case of his wife secret, stipends out of the public purse so as to supplement their meagre earnings from the vast pool of family assets and ensure that they are not forced into penury.

Rather than raising the retirement age the PM should explain why his Government reneged on its promise to let Singaporeans have their CPF at 55 and why it would bankrupt the country to allow them to do so. And while talking glibly about people wanting to work longer, his Government should introduce legislation outlawing discrimination on the basis of age, as he should also outlaw, discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

As for PM Lee’s plans to tackle climate change by spending $100 billion over the next century, that only amounts to $1 billion p.a. or about 0.2% of GDP. Is this in current or constant (adjusted for inflation) dollars? This is a drop in the ocean in comparison with the likely economic costs if half the country or more is under water (maybe an unfortunate analogy). No word about moving to zero net carbon emissions through phasing out petrol cars. Most countries are likely to spend considerably more as a percentage of GDP. Democrats in the US have proposed spending about 3% of GDP p.a. on their “Green New Deal”. A network of reclaimed islands would likely cost many hundreds of billions but Singapore’s real estate is worth far more. Given how far technology is likely to advance over even the next twenty years, LHL’s plans just illustrate how pedestrian his Government’s imagination is.

Of far more importance to Singaporeans than some nebulous plan for the next hundred years written by his highly paid foreign PR consultants is for LHL to come clean about the reserves. As I have been saying for ten years now, we need to know the value of the reserves that the Government has accumulated through fifty years of austerity, owning 80% of the land, forcing Singaporeans to save too much and to use those savings to lease overpriced and substandard housing from them. Surpluses over the last 20 years are at least $500 billion. The Statement of Assets and Liabilities as at 31 March 2018 shows net assets of over $500 billion but I believe that is a serious underestimate. It certainly does not include Temasek’s and probably not MAS. Rather than bamboozling Singaporeans into paying for things twice or three times over and calling it a subsidy for which they need to be grateful, LHL needs to explain why after so many years we cannot afford basics like universal health care, an old age pension and child credit. These should cost substantially less than the interest on the reserves. If he has trouble explaining where the money has gone despite a First Class Cambridge degree in Maths, then he can always call on his wife to help with the technical stuff.

 

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

* The author blogs at https://kenjeyaretnam.com/.

 

 

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18 Responses to “Instead of Hot Air We Need to Talk About Where the Money’s Gone”

  • Robin:

    Excellent Kenneth. Always something to learn from you.

    If you read the late dictator’s biography you’ll understand why he was always obsessed with money and his stinginess.

    Absolute power has led to all sorts of abuses and repression.

    Unless stupid Singaporeans wake up and kick out familee, they’ll continue to be bullied and abused and be familee ATM for perpetuity.

    TOP in Science and Maths but can’t think.

    Thanks Kenneth for speaking up in your usual incisive and hard hitting manner.

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  • Sinking or Rising:

    Sea water level rises or Singapore Reclaim portion is sinking, please make it very clear. PAPi English, must be careful with half-truths.

    It has been known for long long time ago that the reclaim portion is sinking. Singapore is on rock solid ground.

    Win they take, failed we pay? I don’t even want to pay a dollar not to say $1B per year

    Pre-election speeches like giving out money, making NUS cheaper…. any opposition can say the same pitch lah… These kinds of silly things won’t be rated as good governance, won’t you agree. Incidentally anyone say abolish GST will win my vote.

    The question is where the $100B comes from….. my god GST sure 15% coming and more will be out of jobs.

    A neighbor say now many Poly and Malays working, as gojek delivery… he is fXXXX angry , whining and whining on the phone…. over and over again… He said even the last resort work available for him is heavily competed by PRs…$90 a day running for 10 hours without CPF… how can the government do that!…. he said he needs to feed his family…. his whole family will vote against MIWs… SAD. [but 2 votes only lah... his son too young to vote...] [He ask me to tell this to Lim Tean].

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    Ken…why do the Indonesians spell Lee as Lie???

    When the Liar said that Indonesia had Gold & Diamonds…Really???

    When he Character ASSINATE Habibie…saying Indonesia should do well to make garments than modern Tech like planes

    When he criticises Indonesia for CORRUPTION and praise Suharto as a Great Leader accommodating Suharto’s Children’s ill-gotten Gains to be Parked LEEgally in Singapore Banks…

    Now you KNOW…Lies-Lies and MORE Lies!!!… it is in the BLOOD

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  • Left to australia:

    many Singaporeans dont understand how Singapore work..they have no knowledge of how money is being spent .. as there is no freedom of information act in Singapore. The whole economy is waiting for input.. what if the input never comes.. Thats the problem there.

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  • Must read lah:

    People, please, must read this, especially the reserve amount.

    The guy who proposes a $1,000 monthly pension also wants to fund the pension with a 5% pension tax on salary. This guy please read this.
    The $1,000 pension can be easily funded from reserve earnings. No need for 5% pension tax.

    Only one thing to remember: the government is super-rich, obscenely rich, horribly rich. Any reason to raise tax is just bullshit.

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  • TruBlu:

    yea,WHERE HAVE ALL THE MONEY GONE…’LOONG’ TIME PA$$ING???

    lets all giv e DR TAN CHENG BOCK AND THE OTHERS A CHANCE TO GARNER AT LEAST 35-40 PCT OF ALL SEATS AND WE CAN KNOW ‘WHERE ALL THE MONEY GONE TO’.

    come on SGS,we can do better than live like ‘ants’?

    busy and yet aimless???

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  • Harder Truths:

    $G will be under water in less than 50 years at current global warming estimates. Exactly which part of f*cked does the local population not understand?

    Unless the daft citizens believe that somehow we can live underwater or travel to work from the third floor in MRTC sampans.

    Who is going to care about $G? Not the locals and certainly not the FT.
    People will move and that will be the end of it.

    The only consolation is the old man and his friends will be left in a watery grave.

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  • USA copy SG policy - Be Proud:

    Dear Kenneth,
    You are talking about yourselves ? Let me help you rephrase.

    Instead of Hot Air We Need to Talk About When You Kenneth or RP member will win a seat? Hahahahahahaha…

    Opposition are make up of lazy and unmotivated losers all hiding behind monikers inciting and instigating others to do their bidding.

    Readers please do not be make use of by Opposition party/supporters.

    2. Pro democracy rioters block/harass tourists from leaving the airport
    https://www.hk01.com/%E7%A4%BE%E6%9C%83%E6%96%B0%E8%81%9E/363192/%E6%A9%9F%E5%A0%B4%E9%9B%86%E6%9C%83-%E7%9B%B4%E6%92%AD-%E7%A4%BA%E5%A8%81%E8%80%85%E9%98%BB%E9%81%8A%E5%AE%A2%E7%99%BB%E6%A9%9F-%E6%A9%9F%E7%AE%A1%E5%B1%80%E6%9A%AB%E5%81%9C%E8%88%AA%E7%8F%AD%E7%99%BB%E8%A8%98#media_id=3154466

    1. Pro democracy rioters bully the weak but fear the aggressive) http://news.tvb.com/local/5d4805a9e6038361613c4480/%E8%8D%83%E7%81%A3%E6%9C%89%E7%A4%BA%E5%A8%81%E8%80%85%E5%8C%85%E5%9C%8D%E5%8F%8A%E7%A0%B4%E5%A3%9E%E8%AD%A6%E8%BB%8A-%E6%B2%99%E7%94%B0%E6%9C%89%E5%8F%97%E9%98%BB%E5%8F%B8%E6%A9%9F%E6%8C%81%E6%96%A7%E9%A0%AD%E6%8C%87%E5%9A%87

    Come, come, come. All the Ang Mo Tua Kee yellow banana come.
    Let me open your eyes to world politics.

    Hong Kong students had been made use of by Western power agent.
    Hong Kong is now in chaos. If you vote opposition into power, Singapore will also be in chaos..
    Do you want Singapore to be like that ? Democracy = Freedom without responsibility..

    PAP.GUARANTEE.WIN.GE2019/20

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  • USA copy SG policy - Be Proud:

    continue ….

    Be proud of our million dollars salaried PAP policy.
    For 50 years, PAP has been telling citizens to be self reliance, self sufficiency and take personal responsibility for our lives.

    Our self reliance, self sufficiency and personal responsibility policy is now copy by US President Donald Trump.

    Watch the video :
    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trumps-green-card-crackdown_n_5d518e70e4b00bbbc9dcbae9

    This is what was said in the video:
    Through the Public Charge Rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of SELF-SUFFICIENCY and PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves, and become successful here in America.

    FT in SG are much better quality than local because FT are self reliance, self sufficiency after they finished their PAP sponsored undergraduate education here.

    PAP.GUARANTEE.WIN.GE2019/20

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  • He’s a Clown:

    When people meet in coffee shops or in fast food outlets is climate change chiefly on their minds?

    Clown just trying to distract people.

    People talk about the rising cost of living, FTs, unemployment, coming recession etc. not climate change.

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  • Sporeans Cheated For Long Time:

    Its good for LHL to reduce cost of education especially a Doctor course at S$5,000/- per year now for low income family compared with S$35.000 per year at NTU. Well Done.

    But the big question why charge so high for a long time and NUS, NTU and all the universities have billions of dollars in reserve ? Isn’t this cheating the public for such as long time and now that the GE is approaching suddenly become kind hearted and considerate ? Is time to vote PAP OUT.

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  • Boh Kia See:

    The PAP is nothing but a bunch of clowns with their hands on the levers of power. they use it to pay themselves embarrassingly large amounts of cash. The highest paid politicians in the whole world controlling a country no bigger than some of the farms in Australia.

    If they can earn as much in private then let them go. There is no need to “attract” any of them to be politicians. Personally, I can’t see anyone of them will earn as much in the private sector. As for the Clown, it would be a miracle if he can find a job in the private sector at all. Just take a look at George Yeo. His employment came about through his friends–not head hunted by big company.

    We need to know about our reserves and the investments that Tumasick has and the returns on that. If both entities are doing well, you can bet they will be shouting about it from HDB roof tops and repeated ad nauseum in the MSM. So the silence is deafening.

    The only way we can get that kind of information is for the PAP to leave office and hopefully, given a clean electorial counting process, they should be voted out.

    Majulah Singapura

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  • Bobo:

    Dr Tan asked people to send him to parliament to ask for all the facts and datas. Each and everyone of the qualified voters should cross on the box of PSP (Progress Singapore Party) should you have the chance. Lawyer Mr Lim Tean wants to debate with Ah Heng in parliament. Please also send him there. Dr CSJ wants to ask PM where is our money. So please vote him in. Hougang WP supporters, we solute to you and thank you.

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  • just vote for change:

    just vote these liars & betrayer out once and for all.
    300+mil$ annually spent on foreign students , but sg parents are selling their homes to finance their childrens’ higher education.
    of cours spending that mil$ on foreign students , they expect something in return…everything these days is politics & $$$.

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  • Tuition for moral conscience?:

    It’s a hijacked Republic with a desecrated democracy. With them high-caste aristocrats there are no qualms demanding cosmic remunerations in their global crony-capitalist bastion.

    Gross income inequality, lowest fertility among developed nations, rising suicidal mentalities… frankly appalling.

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  • Rabble-rouser:

    Climate change & rise in sea levels isn’t the major critical issue here. The cost of Food is!

    It is food production that is in the first line of problems arising from Climate Change. Food prices are rising very fast. I’ve noticed that the S’pore news media is particularly very slow in picking up this increasingly important global trend!

    Price of meat has risen exceptionally fast in 2018/19 due to global events – Pigs (African Swine Flu); Beef cattle & sheep (Droughts, water shortages); increasing cost of feed (hay, animal feed derived from corn, soy, etc). Already, there is talk about replacing “real meat” with laboratory cultivated proteins.

    Price of Dairy products are also on the rise again. And world wide harvest of produce & grains are on the downtrend due to extreme global temperatures shifts. A lot of US farms deeply affected by the ongoing US/China trade wars – many US farmers gone bankrupt!

    Bear in mind that S’pore can’t feed itself! And the PAP is aiming for 10 million population! And the 2019 URA Masterplan indicates as much! CBD redevelopment to increase amount of highly expensive residential housing.

    And S’poreans chasing after their elusive wealth dreams booking multiple condos in recent new launches in an Euphoric spurt for July 2019!
    https://www.edgeprop.sg/property-news/sales-private-new-homes-435-m-o-m-1178-units-july

    In light of the recent HK political crisis, the relaunched Braddell View (HUDC) EnBloc has gather much momentum in the S’pore Media circles!
    https://www.edgeprop.sg/property-news/braddell-view-estate-collective-sale-again-208-bil
    https://www.scmp.com/business/article/3023659/sellers-singapores-largest-residential-site-above-lush-park-are-wooing

    Kenneth Jeyaretnam: As for PM Lee’s plans to tackle climate change by spending $100 billion over the next century, that only amounts to $1 billion p.a. or about 0.2% of GDP. Is this in current or constant (adjusted for inflation) dollars? This is a drop in the ocean in comparison with the likely economic costs if half the country or more is under water

    Sinking or Rising: Sea water level rises or Singapore Reclaim portion is sinking

    TruBlu: $G will be under water in less than 50 years at current global warming estimates.

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  • A Broken System:

    Just more of the same.
    None of these is addressed.

    Skyrocketing cost of living.
    Return my CPF. HDB asset stolen.
    Why HoJ pay is secret?
    High pay for greed and doing evil.
    Healthcare only for those who can pay.
    Work till death without health and social care.
    Failed mass transportation.
    Create one showcase, hookwink the masses.

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  • Haigen-Diaz:

    Our inflation is driven primarily by rises in national costs rather than worldwide variables, leading in Singapore becoming one of the world’s most expensive city to reside.

    Singapore’s long-term inflation rate was typically smaller than our trading partners median growth level. But the total unemployment level in Singapore rose significantly in the era 2007–2013, finishing at 6.51% in 2008 and 5.25% in 2011. The volatility of the CPI increased significantly from 0.0114 in 1990–2000 to 0.0208 in 2001–2014, surpassing the equally weighted median of trading partners
    over the era of 0.0095. Higher inflation was recorded in the Housing and Utilities, Transport, Education and Food sub-indices showing CAGR development at 4.44%, 3.30%, 3.29% and 2.90% respectively in 2006–2015 relative to CPI development at 2.79%.

    This corroborates the argument that a big proportion of inflation was produced by domestic goods and services as compared to foreign inflation — and thus mirrored domestic supply-demand imbalances rather than worldwide powers beyond Singapore’s influence.

    We see how the majority of business components costs have escalated. This led in greater unit expenses compared to the rivals of Singapore. Unlike in other nations where currency depreciation compensate comparatively greater inflation in order to preserve competitiveness, the appreciating currency of Singapore compounded the competitiveness effect.

    Some food staples have also dramatically risen. Overall, according to information from the Singapore Department of Statistics, meal prices have risen about 7 percent quicker than inflation over the previous 10 years. Essentials like fruits and vegetables, for instance, have become at least 60% more costly since 2007, opposed to 37% for the overall meat cost chart. In addition, food prices, including restaurants, fast food, hawker food and caterers, have risen about 6% faster than core inflation in the last 10 years, making dining out more expensive for Singaporeans (Cooking at home is healthier and value for money as suggested by Rabble-rouser).

    This is a wide metric and is not designed to explain how inflation and other financial variables are handled by personal households. But I think it provides the viewer a wide feeling of Singapore’s affordability patterns.

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