~ By Bertha Henson ~

There are two stories worth reading and thinking about today and they are not about the PM (the newspapers are still paralysed by him…) nor City Harvest. It has to do with poor people and money. Both are in The New Paper. Go buy.

The first is about a cleaner who said no to a pay rise. That’s because that much lauded $50 raise advocated by the National Wages Council would put her in a higher-tier bracket for a HDB rental home. That new bracket starts at $801 a month.

It was an insightful piece highlighting how one policy change can all be for nothing if other policies do not change as well. So you get $50 more, and you lose more because you are suddenly “richer”.

I use the term richer deliberately. Getting $800 a month does not definitely make you rich.

In fact TNP quoted an economics professor pointing out that Workfare Income Supplement cut-off is $1,700 a month, an implicit acknowledgement that anything less is hard to live on.

The HDB’s response was to talk about flexibility and looking at things case-by-case. Not good enough methinks. Better, as the economist suggested, to base rent as a proportion of income.

I wonder what other rules, guidelines and policies affect the poor in such a way as to render such slight pay raises useless. What about guidelines on receiving aid? Or health subsidies? Is everything aligned to the new wage normal?

The other story is about nursing home raising fees. But this story should be read together with an ST story today on health subsidies being raised for, among other things, care in nursing homes. It makes one wonder. So nursing homes are raising their fees because those in their care can afford to pay more?

TNP focuses on the hard luck cases of people who find it tough to afford new fees; ST goes on the rah-rah line that more money will be doled out. It’s like two different worlds we’re living in…

There’s a third story that is worth commenting on. In ST, there’s a story on how URA’s numbers don’t give the full picture on the state of industrial property.

It has an intriguing intro: Investors flowing into Singapore’s once unglamorous industrial property sector face some gaps in the data – at least for now. I would have thought the story would be: For at least the past two years, investors hoping for a piece of Singapore’s industrial property haven’t been getting the full picture.

The ST story goes on to give details on why the URA couldn’t give full information. But so what? What did those investors lose by referring only to URA data when they bought up property in the past? How did the lack of data affect them? Maybe it didn’t?

Anyway, the URA didn’t give a time-frame on when those gaps are going to be plugged. But you know what? I have less sympathy for the investors – they are rich enough and educated enough to do their own checks.

Rather more difficult for those who live in rental flats and can’t afford nursing homes to do the same.

This article first appeared on Bertha Henson's blog. Bertha Henson is a former Associate Editor of The Straits Times.


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