~by: Leong Sze Hian~

Consistent rhetoric vs outcomes

Like in school, we always say we will do better, but at the end of the day, we have to look at the report card.

The almost consistent rhetoric in past Budgets, has been along the lines of – we have these problems – these are our solutions – this is what we aim to achieve. Well, let's look at some of the outcomes.

Productivity growth?

“We will focus on productivity growth because it will raise real wages” – productivity grew by only 1% last year

Wage growth?

“We will grow real wages” – last year, the real median income of Singaporeans in full-time employment excluding the employers' CPF contributions, declined by – 0.7%.

For the last decade, the real median income grew by just 1.1% per annum

At the 20th percentile, it grew by only 0.2% per annum In the past, I understand that when foreign worker levies were raised, some employers reduced the wage for lower-income jobs. For example, the 25th percentile gross wage of waiters decreased from $930 to $819, from 2009 to 2010, according to the Job vacancies 2009 and 2010 reports, and has now further declined to only $800, according to the 2011 report.  And we have not even factored in inflation for the last three years!

Reduce foreign workers?

“We will reduce the inflow of foreign workers … increase foreign worker levies … raise the eligibility criteria for employment pass holders” – Local employment grew by 36,600 in 2011, against foreign employment growing by 84,800.

In fact, local employment growth declined by 35 per cent, from 56,200 in 2010. And of these, how many “locals” were Singaporeans.

In contrast, foreign employment growth increased by 42 per cent, from 59,700 in 2010

Promote more training?

“We will give more funding and help for training as better skilled and trained workers will get better wages” – Training participation fell in 2011 ……. 27% of residents aged 15 to 64 in the labour force participated in job-related structured training during the 12-month period ending June 2011.  This was down from 29% a year ago ….. fall over the year in average (mean) training duration from 17 to 16 days per trainee ….. average training days per trainee declined from 4.9 to 4.3 training days per adult

Help the disabled?

“We will help the disabled”. – If the Government can provide funding of $1.1 billion for a Bus Services Enhancement Fund, to provide funding for 550 buses to help the transport operators, why isn't a single cent being spent to give concessionary public transport fares for the disabled?

It is good to help the disabled get employed by giving incentives to employers, but can't we help to make it more affordable for them to travel to and from work in the first place?

More hospital beds?

“We will expand public hospital capacity” – According to the Department of Statistics’ Yearbook of Statistics 2010, the number of hospital beds in Singapore, has hardly changed – from 11,742 to 11,663, from 1999 to 2009.

The number of hospitals only increased by one, from 28 to 29.

During the same 10-year period, the population grew from 3.96 to 4.99 million.

In this connection, according to the article “Shortage of hospital beds, so some ops delayed” (Straits Times, Feb 17), “Changi General Hospital (CGH), for instance, has had to postpone some of its scheduled surgical operations at the end of last month and early this month as all its beds were taken.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) is once again putting patients in beds in corridors, where they usually spend a night before moving to a ward.

On Feb 2, half the inpatients at its emergency department had to wait more than six hours to get a bed. On three other days that week, half had to wait more than four hours, according to figures released by the Ministry of Health (MOH)”

Perhaps this is a case of too late too little.

Health-care spending increase?

“Health-care expenditure will double from $4 billion to $8 billion a year for the next five years” – Since the revised Budget Surplus of $2.3 billion is 0.7% of GDP, does it mean that the current $4 billion spending on healthcare is only about 1.2% of GDP and the increased $8 billion is only about 2.4% of GDP?  Does this put Singapore's public healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP as one of the lowest in the world?


Need to cut  rhetoric, and do something, anything, if the government wants to regain some credibility.

Part 1 HERE.


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