The Economy Is Paying the Price for the Government’s Failure To Provide Enough Stimulus

In a few hours my old Cambridge colleague, the Finance Minister and Postponed Yet Again Seat Warmer PM-In-Waiting Heng Swee Keat, will be presenting Budget 2021. State media have been busy as usual doing their job of hoodwinking gullible Singaporeans and spreading fake news and disinformation. They have been trumpeting the Government’s supposed fiscal largess in generously dipping into the reserves to finance spending to shore up the economy and support hard-pressed Singaporeans. The figure most often bandied about is that the Government has allocated $100 billion to support the economy during Covid, or over 20% of GDP.

For instance, the State Times writes on 15 February:

Last year, the Government set aside a war chest of almost $100 billion – or nearly 20 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) – to cope with the pandemic, with most of the funds used to support businesses and help workers keep their jobs.

However as I wrote in Heng Swee Keat Must Issue a Correction Notice Under POFMA to MP Ms Tin Pei Ling the real support provided to the economy is nothing like that number. This is what I said:

I am curious as to where this figure of $100 billion, or $93 billion, comes from. A comparison of the total expenditure for 2020 including special transfers but excluding transfers to endowments and trust funds (which are not current spending) versus the same figure for 2019 shows that the increase was only some $65 billion. Also the Special Transfers figure in the Unity Budget of $34 billion presumably includes the extra $13 billion which you are allocating to the Contingencies Fund, since you have not provided an updated Analysis of Revenue and Expenditure in your Fortitude Budget Statement.

If one subtracts the $13 billion allocated from past reserves to the Contingencies Fund (which may never be spent) from the total for Special Transfers (excluding Top-Ups to Endowments and Trust Funds) then total spending is only some $52 billion more than last year.

Another way of measuring the Government’s support is to look at the projected budget deficit in the Fortitude Budget Statement of $74.3 billion and subtract both the Top-Ups to Endowments and Trust Funds of 17.3 billion and the allocation of $13 billion to the Contingencies Fund. This gives a figure of $44 billion. You have already allocated $20 billion to the Jobs Support Scheme to help fund up to 75% of the wages of Singapore citizens and PRs. However given that probably more than half of the economy should be classified as being in the public sector and that a large proportion of the Jobs Support Scheme will go to Government-linked companies (GLCs) we should probably deduct half of the $20 billion as just a transfer payment from central Government to other entities in the public sector. We should also deduct $1.9 billion provided from past reserves under the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme and the Enterprise Financing Scheme shown in the Solidarity Budget since the Government is acting as a guarantor only. The final cost will depend on the loss that is left after the banks have exhausted the recovery process. The current cost of these guarantees is zero and they do not constitute actual spending.

Unfortunately your Government’s guiding principle of obfuscation and hiding the true surplus from the people means that I am forced to make assumptions. As a minimum you should publish the General Government surplus, which should include all entities in the public sector including GLCs and take account of changes in the value of all assets including land as well as the true figure for the reserves. Thus I have no idea of how much the real deficit is and am forced to guess.

A major problem is that the Government includes allocations out of the reserves (which in breach of the Constitution clearly do not appear in the Statement of Assets and Liabilities presented to Parliament with the Budget every year and which for all the useful information it provides might as well be a sheet of Lee Hsien Loong’s or Heng Swee Keat’s used toilet paper) in actual spending, regardless of whether the monies are spent or whether they are instead allocated to endowments and trust funds or placed in the Contingencies Fund.

If we estimate, based on the reasoning above, that actual additional spending (after netting off transfers to Government-owned and -linked companies through the Jobs Support Scheme) is around $35 billion then that is only about 7.4% of GDP. Even if we assume generously that actual spending was $44 billion then that is still less than 10% of GDP or less than half what the Government wants you to think it is spending.

By contrast the total amount of stimulus provided in the US has been about 18% of GDP, including the last stimulus bill of $900 billion passed before Trump left office. One of the new President’s first acts will be to pass a new stimulus package of roughly $1.9 trillion, or just less than 10% of GDP which will take total spending to over 20% of GDP. Other developed countries appear to have spent similar amounts as a proportion of GDP, though in many cases it is not clear what the amount of additional spending has been as opposed to monetary support through the central bank or loan programmes. In the case of the latter, only the actual loan losses should be classified as spending.

Since Singapore is much more dependent on external demand than the US and most developed countries (in 2020 it ran a current account surplus of $82 billion or 17% of GDP),  and trade and tourism have been hit hardest during the pandemic, the Government should have provided greater stimulus not less.

The lack of support shows in the fact that GDP in 2020 dropped by 5.4% whereas in the US GDP dropped by only 3.5%.  US GDP is expected to recover all its losses by the middle of next year whereas last week PM Lee said only that he expected the bulk of the economy to recover by the end of 2020.  Growth is forecast in the 4 to 6% range which would still mean that by the end of 2020 GDP would be slightly below what it was in 2019 if the economy grew at the mid-point of the estimate.

Rather than rein in its support, as the State Times says the Government is planning to do, we need to continue to spend at the same level or higher in 2021. I have highlighted before the low level of support which went to households compared to the amounts pumped into the Jobs Support Scheme, a substantial proportion of which is a transfer from one pocket of Government to another.

This is what I said in my earlier article:

According to your figures total direct support for Singaporeans from your Government amounted to a derisory $2 billion up to the Resilience Budget and is probably no more than $2.5 billion now. If that is divided among 4 million Singaporeans residents (citizens and PRs) that is about $620.

Contrast this with the US$3,200 or roughly $4250 in stimulus checks that will have been mailed to most adult Americans in 2020 and 2021 and US$500 per child under 16 (including the latest proposed payment of $1400). In addition Americans have received expanded unemployment benefits which have also kicked in in other developed countries (what are known as “automatic stabilizers”). By comparison, what the PAP touts as support for Singaporeans is merely the norm in safety nets and welfare payments in other countries.

The PAP Government need to stop treating the reserves as their own personal treasure that must be hoarded and not spent. As I have said before, they are not operating a mama shop with a profit and loss ledger, however much Lee Hsien Loong and his wife have awarded themselves the positions of towkays who control the country’s wealth. Unless Budget 2021 continues the previous level of support and provides much more generous assistance to Singaporean households it will be a failure. We will all pay for it in terms of lower growth and higher unemployment than there needs to be. Unfortunately the lessons of Keynes and Modern Monetary Theory, though becoming mainstream in the US, have not been learnt by Heng Swee Keat and Lee Hsien Loong. Heng should return to his alma mater, Cambridge, for a refresher course.



Kenneth Jeyaretnam


About the author: I’m a Singaporean economist who became an opposition activist. I blog to provide an alternative to the porkies that the Pinkies tell. It just so happens that my alternative is the truth. That’s why I’ve never been sued in any civil or criminal court no matter how hard hitting my criticism. I’m quoted and interviewed and asked to speak across the world but largely censored in Singapore in an effort to silence my political opinions. The left hate me because they think I split their vote and because I eschew their outmoded economic models. Models that don’t work. The Right and the Conservatives hate me because I’m a liberal. I’m not sure what the middle think of me. I don’t think there are more than a handful of people in the middle, here in Singapore. I’m a Singaporean born and bred, dual heritage, my parents Singaporean established here before the State of Singapore was created. I’m not Eurasian. I read economics at Cambridge and could be broadly described as from the Keynesian school but I believe in interventions. I was formerly a successful hedge fund manager. After economics and politics my greatest interests are history, film and Makan. I run but I run so I can eat like a Singaporean.





24 Responses to “The Economy Is Paying the Price for the Government’s Failure To Provide Enough Stimulus”

  • $100 billion and $2 voucher:

    KJ is very good at showing that the numbers don’t add up.

    For the ordinary men and women, we just need to remember two numbers.

    1. PAP MP Tin PL said that every citizen and PR get $23,000 each.
    Ask yourself, did you and your family get that amount per person?

    2. PAP mayors made a big show of distributing $2 vouchers.
    Just think. If every household is getting $23,000 per member, will there be a need for $2 vouchers?

    We have reached the same conclusion as KJ. The numbers don’t add up.

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  • Harder Truths:


    The economy is in deep sh*t because the regime for the past forty years focused on its own agenda to increase GDP using debt and cheap foreign labour and not by production or quality of life.

    These policies are sefl defeating – they create nothing of real value for the locals Locals have become debt slaves. There is no end in sight because an indebted system requires more and more debt to function. This is where we were when the CoVID hit.

    You can always tell who is swimming naked when the tide goes out. And $G was caught high and dry. Big deal we do not have CoVID. The economy we had could never survive a debt collapse and that is what happened. Nothing $G has is for us to be self-sufficent. $G is so dependent on foreigners for EVERYTHING, once they dry up nothing works anymore.

    In short, we have a communist system run by former rich kids, an economy run by foreigners, the regime now able to track us anywhere we go, control what we say and do, and lately use us as Guinea Pigs for testing vaccines.

    Whether the stimulus is coming or not is irrelevant. The problems we have cannot be solved by non-existent Reserves. Fundamentally there is nothing left to save.

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  • SEP.:

    Two is enough.slogon so true.

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  • Mee siam mai hum......:

    Is that some porkie dream from a pinkie brain? Like your blood sweat tears CPF is capital funds for their majesty’s investment fun? Some secret recipe for sinful self-indulgences…..

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    When Opposition Parties request for $300-$500 sustenance in support for PGs and their past contribution in Nation Building the Pieces of Shits from PM spiralling down the SHIT WALL of shame claims “where is the money coming from”???…Thanks, Ken now we KNOW!!!…and the money NEVER came

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  • oxygen:

    KJ’s WRITING ILLUMINATES too much HOLLOW LOG ACCOUNTING in PAPpypolitic’s PAPpynomics.

    How to trust their accounting when the public declarations of accounting DOES NOT ADD UP? Good examples are HDB’s “subsidy” of public housing supposedly operating at massive losses BUT IN ACTUALITY MASSIVE PROFITS have been already transfer of revenue from land sales to Singapore Land Authority prior.

    Another is the so-called Pioneer Generation Package where no money is received in the hands of MG/PG but merely money for decades allegedly earmarked in provision. WHAT WAS THEN SPENT each year is not disclosed in national BUDGET STATEMENT in February.

    And then one MP nebulously claimed each adult peasant “receives” over $23,000 in pandemic relief assistance but their banking account reveals receipt of mere $600 each or thereabout.

    The financial accounting and the POLITICAL mouth’s maths simply DON’T ADD UP.

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  • oxygen:

    I BELIEVE there is a calendar TYPO error in this statement of KJ.

    KJ:PM Lee said only that he expected the bulk of the economy to recover by the end of 2020.

    It should perhaps be more accurately stated as

    KJ:PM Lee said only that he expected the bulk of the economy to recover by the end of 2021.

    Present Tense was reported to have said this.

    Present Tense:the bulk of the country’s economy is expected to bounce back this 2021, although some sectors such as transport, tourism and aviation may take longer to do so…..I am not sure that even if we bounce back, we will be able to get back beyond where we were in 2019, before Covid-19 hit

    In actuality of reality, the expected recovery is stock market’s delusion of reflation trade. The economy tanked badly in 2020 but with fiscal stimulus, some lost grounds have been clawed back.

    Any recovery climb from this point needs MORE FISCAL STIMULUS and dreams of containment of the virus pandemic in 2021 – the former is necessity and the latter is DIVINE WILL because the vaccine to-date DO NOT SUPPLY the silver bullet.

    HARD TIMES ARE STARING AT US of an economy that thrives mainly on financial services (labor intensive services) and real estate ( no real value added services). We have no high-value added export-oriented sector.

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  • oxygen:

    MAS HAVE ALREADY FOREWARNED THIS – the pandemic deeply scarred between 10% to 20% of our economic base.

    Singapore economy faces ‘deep scarring’ from coronavirus: MAS chief Ravi Menon

    So it is no surprise that Present Tense warned

    “I am not sure that even if we bounce back, we will be able to get back beyond where we were in 2019, before Covid-19 hit.”

    IS THIS THE BEST IS OVER FOR LEE-jiapore? A lot of pain of difficult restructuring ahead which SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE MORE THAN A DECADE AGO as warned by the Economic Strategies Committee report in 2011

    and also

    PAST TENSE warned in 2010, that our economy grew the last 5 years solely by importing cheaper foreign labor.

    In blunt terms – WE RUN A STUPID ECONOMIC MODEL which is knowingly unsustainable.

    PAPpypolitics/PAPpynopmics fails us and the majority of DUMBFARKED ELECTORATE complicit in this stupidity of complacency of POLITICS of hegemony and political longevity preservation RULES ECONOMICS INSTEAD OF ECONOMICS RULES POLITIC in adaptation to turbulent external changes.

    3G failed and 4G achieves nothing in the last 10 years at least IMHO.

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  • xoxo:

    $100 Billion is surely no peanuts?
    But $600 per adult sg especially the deserving nation-builders who lost their jobs and livelihoods as a consequence of rather daft govt FT POLICY implementations.

    MANY NON-SG FTs receive GRANTS FROM OUR $100 billion sgs’ RESERVES looted that are many times more than the SPITEFUL $600 !

    IF $1K SALARY IS ENOUGH FOR SGS,WHY GRANT FYRLOUGH$ SO GENEROI$lee to non-citizens who have big savings gained from HIGH-PAYING JOB$ ROBBED FROM GOOD sgs ?



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  • POFMA Oxygen:

    Actually, the MP took $93 billion divided by about 4 million citizen, giving about $23,000 for every citizen, not just adults.

    Details are available in link provided in KJ post, about Heng and POFMA.

    If you have a big household of 10 members, you should be getting $230,000. Yes, two hundred and thirty thousand dollars.

    Bloody sweet dream. Don’t know the money actually go to.

    oxygen: And then one MP nebulously claimed each adult peasant “receives” over $23,000 in pandemic relief assistance but their banking account reveals receipt of mere $600 each or thereabout.

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  • xoxo:

    Another lanchiao budget.

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  • PAP insults Singaporeans AGAIN:

    Straits Times: Budget 2021: S’pore households to get $900m support package, including $100 CDC vouchers

    As usual, the Budget is full of one-off, “loose change” measures. Many Singaporeans who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic cannot live on the “loose change” included in Budget 2021.

    If the government is serious about helping unemployed (and underemployed) Singaporeans it should have cancelled the work visa of foreigners in Singapore. Foreigners working in Singapore should be forced to leave the country so Singaporeans can take over their job. The good thing about this is that does NOT involve the Budget and/or the spending of reserves.

    Sadly, PAP continues to be the “Pro-Alien Party”. That is why many Singaporeans are in shit.

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  • Petrol Price Increase Today:

    The PAP govt has increase the price of petrol by 10 cents effective from today. Prices of everything will also go up automatically.

    Eg The van that fetches food to the hawkers and restaurants will increase their prices to the hawkers becos they have to pay more for petrol. The hawkers in turn will increase the prices of their cooked food. End up everybody will have to pay more for the food. Bus fares will go up. The cost of living will automatically go up. Thanks you PAP .

    Now there are many people who are unemployed. The PAP is talking about spending millions of dollars to GREEN Singapore. These PAP Ministers are being paid in millions of dollars. They do not feel the pains of the common people.

    What the Fark. Its time we vote the PAP Out in the next election.

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  • More Budget bullshit:

    Straits Times: Budget 2021: Expected deficit of $11b in 2021 with continued efforts to tide Singapore over Covid-19 crisis

    This is BULLSHIT. The Budget does NOT include self-funding government agencies, i.e., stat boards like SLA, JTC, LTS, URA, CAAS, etc. Why? Being self-funding these stat board do not need money from the Budget to fund their operations. Moreover, public sector accounting is based on a cash (instead of accrual) basis. Only when stat boards returns cash to MOF does it show up in the Budget. But this happens rarely because most of the time the Budget is already in surplus so MOF does not need the money. Actually, the self-funding stat boards makes BILLIONS each year AND are holding BILLIONS more (“hidden reserves”).

    Singapore ACTUAL reserves (which the government does not disclose) are over a TRILLION $ with perennial Budget surpluses over the last 5+ decades. This accelerated when LHL became PM and allowed HDB prices to MORE THAN DOUBLED. It “drained” the CPF saving of Singaporeans and gave a massive windfall for the government via SLA. Singaporeans got an over-valued, poor quality, depreciating (to ZERO because of the 99-year lease) HDB flat while the government got “non-depreciating” cash upfront.

    Singaporeans should note that ALL land sold by SLA on a 99-year lease is actually still “freehold” for the government because it gets the land back (after 99 years) and can sell it with a new 99-year lease.
    Note that when LKY said the value of HDB flat will “never go down” he was referring from the point of view of the government, NOT the “sucker” who “bought” (actually “rented” and paid for the entire “rent” upfront) the HDB flat.

    Singapore is the only place where the bulk of retirement savings of citizens are put in a basically DEPRECIATING (instead of appreciating) asset.

    HDB’s Lease Buyback Scheme proves beyond doubt that HDB flats are depreciating assets. Singaporeans have been screwed for the last 5 decades by HDB. Former MND Minister Lawrence Wong rightly said that HDB flats will depreciate to ZERO for the “owner” (long-term renter).
    the HDB CEO added that resale flat buyers should consider the remaining lease when buying HDB flats in the resale market. Sadly, they do not “walk their talk”. HDB continues to accept valuation reports on resale flats that do not reflect the age of the flat. It continues this practice to provide employment to “useful idiots” called valuers. HDB does not want to burst the “property bubble” on HDB flats because it wants to continue to raise the price of new HDB flats and make more money for the government.

    BTW, the people in charge who screwed Singaporeans big-time on HDB flats having been paying themselves millions each year and are living in freehold landed property. What a (sick) joke!. Uniquely Stupid Singapore!

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  • Papeconomics pooh pooh:

    “The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelope our future. Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

    - John Maynard Keynes

    The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty.

    What social justice for sheeples when the ruling party are dead set elitist crony-capitalists? What individual liberty when their private state-controlled savings are not transparently managed and retirement after 60 is a pipe dream for many labourers?

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  • More insulting budget bullshit:

    Another propaganda against the poor.

    Look, look, we give you 100 here and 100 there. The whole year add up to a huge $500. Ok? We take good care of you. Phui.

    Openly, they “cheat” our CPF investment returns.
    Instead of the usual 7 to 8% investment returns for huge funds, this gov gives you back only 2.5%. They take away the rest, amounting to $20 BILLIONS every year.

    Whatever budget deficit that they claim ($17 billions?) is totally covered from the “cheated” CPF returns.

    More Budget bullshit: Straits Times: Budget 2021: Expected deficit of $11b in 2021 with continued efforts to tide Singapore over Covid-19 crisis

    This is BULLSHIT.

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  • To KJ:

    Regardless what opinion you shared, majority singaporeans
    who are the pap voters would support the govt policies and announcements or decisions .
    Many just trust and believe.

    So, got to accept that.

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  • Soccerbetting2:

    Reported on TOC :Quote -”Indian university caught selling 36,000 fake degrees has graduates working in Singapore
    by Correspondent 16/02/2021….

    Indian university caught selling 36,000 fake degrees has graduates working in Singapore
    Times of India reported earlier this month that during a routine investigation of a fake degree case, the Indian police had uncovered a much bigger case of an Indian university selling tens of thousands of fake degrees to multitude of people (‘Manav Bharti University of Himachal Pradesh sold 36000 fake‘, 1 Feb).

    It was reported that Manav Bharti University in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh had sold 36,000 fake degrees across 17 states in over 11 years. In fact, of the total 41,000 degrees issued by the university, only 5,000 have been found to be genuine so far. The university is run by the Manav Bharti Charitable Trust,

    Police have now initiated the process to extradite trust chairman Raj Kumar Rana, his wife Ashoni Kanwar and daughter Aina Rana — both trustees — and son from Australia. The trust operates private universities in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. It also led to questions if the other universities run by Manav Bharti Charitable Trust are also involved in selling fake degrees….

    The Indian authorities estimated that Rana and his family had amassed property worth Rs387 crore (S$70 million) from the proceeds of the racket.

    The 36,000 fake degrees issued by Manav Bharti University was said to be only the tip of an iceberg, as the number of fake degrees issued is known to be many more. The scam is likely to run into crores of rupees, said the investigation team.

    Manav Bharti University graduates found working in Singapore

    A cursory check on LinkedIn, a popular social media site for working professionals, revealed that there are already a number of graduates from Manav Bharti University working in Singapore:

    It’s not known how they have obtained their degrees from Manav Bharti University.

    It’s also not known if Minister Josephine Teo’s Manpower Ministry (MOM) has checked if the degrees of Manav Bharti University submitted by those work pass applicants are genuine or not.

    It would certainly be good if Ms Teo could clarify the matter in Parliament so that local companies who have employed these Manav Bharti University graduates would have a peace of mind, knowing that the quality of their hires is not in dispute….”Unquote .

    Response : Singapore better check all those Indian beasts that are working in Singapore especially the government sector,woman Indian judges,Indian lawyer,Indian public prosecutor,Indian teachers,Indian bankers,… see whether any of these Indian b**$* are having fake degree or not ? If got fake degree,take back their PR and sent them back to India .Don’t forget to stationed Josephine Teo LM in India to check their fake degree !

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  • xoxo:

    What i am quoting below is not just about Christian Teaching but can be viewed philosophically as well.

    St Paul said: …

    We are all parts of the Mystical Body of Christ and if any part suffers,the rest suffer too…

    If our ear gets an infection,we may experience nausea,cold sweat ,dizziness and even vomiting AND not just pain in the ear?

    If we have great wealth and refuse to SHARE with the poor and MORE NEEDY among us,the world may not enjoy sustainable global economic growths in the longer run?
    Is not this not the case in recent years of so-called *GLOBA-LIE-$ation*?


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  • Python 5:


    they should convert to satellite ERP effective immediately.
    $1 for 1km.
    or $61 per day. since 61% voted for PAP.

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  • Taleban:

    Still waiting for the balance of S$23000.00

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    Sounds familiar?

    Yes, everybody must pay GST.
    Nobody is left out.

    DIASABIITY ASSISTANCE SCHEME (DAS), after so many years, still remains a meagre $100 PER MONTH.
    What a BUDGEJOKE! YEAR IN YEAR OUT no increment.

    The Poor, The Sick, The Disabled are easily bullied?

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  • oxygen:

    SINCE THESE WARNINGS in TRE, it is interesting

    oxygen:Any recovery climb from this point needs MORE FISCAL STIMULUS and dreams of containment of the virus pandemic in 2021 – the former is necessity and the latter is DIVINE WILL because the vaccine to-date DO NOT SUPPLY the silver bullet….. HARD TIMES ARE STARING AT US of an economy that thrives mainly on financial services (labor intensive services) and real estate ( no real value added services). We have no high-value added export-oriented sector

    that Heng boy subsequently warned in his Budget statement to Parly this flickering red light

    HSK :There’s still a cone of uncertainty: It depends on whether the vaccination goes as planned,… Singapore is prepared for the risks of further virus mutations and a slower pace of vaccination globally…If the pandemic is more prolonged or the recovery is weaker than we had hoped, then of course the global situation will be different……And Singapore is very dependent on the global economy.”

    Singapore Minister warns full pandemic brunt not yet felt

    Our domestic economy is too narrowly focused on massive construction (property bubble/infrastructural white elephants) and financial services and lop-sided of unbalanced reliance on cheap foreign population influx.

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  • pap cpf scheme:

    we have never voted pap, never will.

    pap says 9% GST, and true to form, it shall be 9% GST.

    Singapore sheep forgets high cost of living in small island is all due to the pap they voted into power.

    1, pap prices public land for government housing using private sector formula. in the end who suffers? sheep children. a S$30k 5 room HDB now costs S$500k and with a far smaller livable area.

    2, pap adds 2.9m aliens to the 3.0m local born, crowding out everything and causing everything to be artificially expensive. most of the 2.9m aliens don’t spend S$ in Singapore. they spend the S$ in Msia, across the causeway. it is a lose-lose for sheep and sheep children.

    3, pap says governing is very hard and so pays each other S$m pa. JUST imagine. a small island of 3.0m local born citizens need so many expensively paid pap folks? pap says it needs a PM, dy PM, ministers, SMOS, MOS, and a host of pap time expired generals to run a small island of 3.0m local born. and that is beside the 5 mayors. SO ffffing inefficient.

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