Leong Sze Hian
According to The Australian, “The stock exchanges of Australia and Singapore are preparing to unveil a historic $14 billion alliance that will accelerate financial links into Asia.”
When the The Online Citizen’s Chief Editor, Andrew Loh, asked me to write something about the implications of the alliance, the first thought that came to my head was since the news report was entirely positive about the proposed merger, I had nothing to write.
But, the mind works in strange ways, sometimes.
You see – just before Andrew’s email, I was “thinking hard” about a friend’s medical issue.
So, allow me to talk about my friend’s “medical encounter of the third kind”, and then I shall talk about its connection to the Singapore Exchange news report – like a mystery novel, you will have to bear with the “medical ghost story” first.
My friend had two growing cysts, and went to a polyclinic for medical treatment.
After spending more than three hours at the polyclinic, the doctor referred her to a Government restructured hospital, whereby the earliest appointment was about two weeks later.
At the Government restructured hospital, she was advised to have the cysts removed, and was given another appointment about a week later.
The cost of the day surgery quoted was $561, under the lowest subsidised rate.
In fact, she had chosen to go to the polyclinic because she was told that only polyclinic referrals are automatically entitled to subsidised medical treatment.
Had she gone to a private clinic, she was advised that she may not be eligible for subsidised medical fees.
At the Government restructured hospital, she was asked why she preferred subsidised treatment, as her medical record showed that a previous unrelated treatment about two years ago was on the non-subsidised option.
It was also explained to her that subsidised patients would be operated by the Medical Officer of the day, and the patient cannot choose her preferred specialist doctor.
My friend explained that she was no longer in full-time employment, and thus was no longer covered by employees’ medical insurance.
She subsequently went to a private hospital, and was operated on, on the spot by a surgeon, in a 15 minute day surgery, costing only $287.
The total costs of the polyclinic consultation ($9.50), Government restructured hospital consultation ($29 after a $57 subsidy) and day surgery, were $600. Since there are no subsidies in private hospitals, it is puzzling why a simple 15 minute cysts removal day surgery at a Government restructured hospital’s subsidised rate is more than double that of a private hospital.
Also the additional time of the polyclinic consultation, referral to the Government restructured hospital and scheduling of the day surgery took longer than at the private hospital, which did everything at one go.
So, what has the issue of rising medical costs that are so-called “subsidised” got to do with the Singapore Exchange merger?
Well, the largest shareholder of Singapore Exchange is SEL Holdings Pte Ltd with 249,991,184 shares or 23.45 per cent, valued at about $2.4 billion.
I understand that SEL Holdings Pte Ltd is ultimately owned by Temasek Holdings.
So, here’s a fictional story:
Singaporeans contribute to CPF – CPF Board buys non-marketable Government bonds at 2.5 and 4 per cent coupon to match the interest paid on the various CPF accounts – maybe some of the funds end up with the Government Investment Corporation (GIC) and Temasek – state funds or assets are transferred to Temasek – huge Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) like the recent Global Logistics Trust gets a lot of Singaporeans to invest $3.9 billion – how much more money will be invested when the subject proposed Singapore and Australian Exchanges deal is placed on the Singapore and Australian bourses?
As practically every private sector, quasi-public sector, public sector, Government-linked company (GLC) become increasing “obsessed” with making “more and more” money – could this be a contributing factor to the strange situation of a subsidised treatment in a public hospital costing more than double that of a private hospital?
And in the wider sense, what does the never ending accumulation of money, and our reserves, mean to ordinary Singaporeans?