By Philip Ang
A year ago, Prof Lim Chong Yah caused the PAP government to sit up and take notice of slave wages in Singapore. His suggestion was to narrow the income gap – freeze wage increase for those earning above $15,000 for 3 years with the simultaneous increase for wages below $1,500. PAP ministers and MPs rejected the idea off hand and as usual painted doomsday scenarios. (prof-lim-chong-yah-repeats-
“Very risky”, sounded an alarmed union chief Lim Swee Say whose glaring incompetence has caused much unnecessary suffering. Mr Lim insists that productivity must match the 50 per cent increase in wages in 3 years. (link)
Truth be told, productivity has not even increased 50 per cent during the whole of last decade. The four quarters of 2012 and 2 quarters of 2013 were all negative. (link)
Prof Lim’s “shock therapy”, with support from well respected Tommy Koh and others, did shock the PAP into finally acknowledging that it was way behind the curve. Though it was not publicly admitted, actions were at least taken i.e. “NTUC Fairprice non-executive staff to get up to 15.8 per cent wage increment and adjustment”, (link)
While the NTUC could feel generous enough to distribute an additional $10,000,000 to boost wages and throw in a special bonus, our town councils will soon be squeezing more from residents with another increase in service and conservancy (S&C) fees.
That town council cleaners wages are beginning to see some daylight is generally welcome news. But the PAP government should not politicise this issue in order to show its sudden concern for low wage workers. It is the government’s role to see to it that ALL slave wages below our cost of living be consigned to history. The PAP is again moving in the wrong direction and has not been listening.
Dr Teo Ho Pin, coordinating chairman for PAP town councils, has also confirmed that HDB residents will have to foot the increase in conservancy workers’ salaries “at some point in time”. (link) From experience, this means anytime soon. When it comes to giving, the PAP has a perfect record of making citizens pay.
This is similar to the recent review of our public transport fare where the PAP government again painted a ‘compassionate’ image in the local press with headlines screaming “Up to 1 million commuters to benefit if..”, “Public transport fare review committee wants more concessions for commuters”, “Public transport operations asked to share gains from hikes with needy”, etc.
So who will be footing the bill? Certainly not the PAP government.
What other increases are there?
There is also the increase in Medishield coverage where EVERY member has been made to increase their contributions. Fact – between 2006 and 2010, “Medishield collected an average of $131,000,000 more in premiums each year than it paid out in claims”. (link).
The ERP system is even worse. When charges are lowered by 50 cents at certain gantries, others will increase by $2. Even if the amount of increase and decrease are similar, you can bet your last dollar the net fees collected will be positively very higher. The government’s main concern seems to be to squeeze as much money from its citizens and nothing else.
More and more sinking funds?
Back to the issue of town council. It was reported 5 years ago that the total sinking fund of PAP 14 town councils was already $2,000,000,000. This amount keeps going up and the reason repeatedly offered by the PAP is that costs have risen. So there is really no reason for and S & C increase.
Fact – if the real reason is rising costs, the amount in town council sinking fund would not have increased to such an insane level. No one objects to saving money for a maintenance rainy day but surely the sky should not be the limit when affordability has become an issue. Why create a problem with S & C fee increase and then return some of the money in the form of rebates?
The reason why S&C charges will be increased is because the PAP intends to lock up even more money in the sinking fund. It is identical to GIC and Temasek Holdings where CPF funds have been locked up perpetually and members are paid a pittance in returns.
The PAP is not interested to provide any relief even for ordinary public housing resident. Dr Teo Ho Pin emphasized that “residents benefit from economies of scale” from PAP town councils because of its “joint-tendering system”. Why are S & C charges lower in opposition wards without economies of scale? Is this the truth or is it a blatant lie?
The issue of low wages was created by the PAP treating Singaporeans as mere workers of the party machinery. The PAP is making a huge mistake of squeezing our fellow low wage Singaporeans while giving themselves a blank cheque. It’s trying hard to resolve a self-created problem except its in the wrong way.
Increasing the salary of town council cleaners by 20 per cent is a step in the right direction without productivity increasing by a corresponding amount. But to make heartlanders pay for the level of service means there had been no service in the first place. Hopefully this is not true.
At least the NTUC did not make consumers pay (or did it somehow without us knowing?) for the one-off wage increase of its staff.
In conclusion, our good life has always been paid for dearly by us and, unless the PAP can prove otherwise, its contributions have been insignificant.