By Richard Woo
From reading the article “Don’t take good govt for granted” – Forum, ST 17 Jun – by Eugene Tan, one could easily conclude that “Eugene” is a person who thinks highly of our govt. For clarification, this article was not written by Eugene K.H. Tan (Nominated Member of Parliament). Mr K.H.Tan was apparently prompted to respond to the letter via the ST Forum. (see link)
I can be counted as someone among the 40% who did not vote for the ruling party and my opinion of the ruling party has not changed, not a bit; and I can be safely wagered to vote against the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the next General Election in 2016.
Let’s be more specific; the PAP has been running the govt since 1959; hence the right question to ask is: Can the PAP be considered a trustworthy party? The fact that its vote count has declined significantly in the past 20 years, from over 75% at one time to a low of around 60% in 2011 is a huge indication that the trust has declined. Needless to say, only through a by-election or general election, can one be sure whether public confidence in the govt has declined further since GE 2011.
Notwithstanding the good that can be attributed to have emanated from it, the PAP govt can be accused of being one of the greatest culprits, if not the greatest culprit, for fuelling inflation in Singapore by contributing immensely to the rising costs of living for Singaporeans. Maybe, “Eugene” was not even born or was only a toddler when a person, with a salary of around $200 per month in the 1950s or 1960s, was far superior financially, in terms of purchasing power, compared with anyone today earning $2,000 per month. Look at the hefty increases in costs in several areas: housing, medical, car-ownership and, to a lesser extent, in foodstuff.
A major lung operation about 20 -25 years ago would cost no more than a few hundred dollars; but today a similar operation can easily set a person back by ten thousand dollars or more.
The cost of medical treatment at the emergency clinic at either Singapore General Hospital or Tan Tock Seng Hospital would normally cost a patient something like $30, prevalent for some years. At the time when Mr Richard Hu was Singapore’s Health Minister, this figure was jacked up to $80, because Mr Hu had presumably been told that some people were abusing the emergency facilities at these hospitals by visiting the emergency clinics when their health conditions were supposedly not severe enough to warrant emergency treatment or be considered as emergency cases.
Imposing a sweeping broad-brush, by simply jacking up the consultation-cum-medicine cost to $80, seemed so typical of PAP fashion. What about people with genuine emergency health issues? Well, that’s their problem, not the government’s. Henceforth a visit to the emergency clinic at either hospital would cost them $80 instead of $30. And not being satisfied with charging $80, the government then raised it to $95; about a year ago it was still $95; I cannot say whether the treatment cost has been amended further since just about a month ago, my visit to the emergency clinic at Tan Tock Seng Hospital cost me $117 (after so-called subsidy). However, I stayed there for over 3 hr and was given an intravenous drip, to stabilize fluid loss from diarrhea and vomiting.
When Mr Richard Hu was the Finance Minister, the government allegedly discovered that some local employers were paying generously into a “gratuity” fund in their books for release, eventually, to their staff or officials, or certain people of certain rank only, as gratuity payment on retirement from service. Gratuity payment, as opposed to salary or bonus, was then not subject to income tax.
Following the discovery mentioned above, the law was changed, and any gratuity accruing from the year 1993 was subject to income tax. My employer, a foreign institution, was a generous employer for having, inter alia, a generous gratuity/pension scheme for certain members of its staff, despite the ongoing contribution they were making to employees’ CPF accounts. As a result of the amendment in the law, I lost over $30,000 of my gratuity income to income tax.
And not only me, of course, all my colleagues who were in a similar position were also short-changed by the govt’s broad brush; and other innocent people whose employers were generous enough in having genuine gratuity/pension schemes for their employees were presumably affected similarly.
Why should the government under PAP care whether their reckless, greedy policies have an adverse impact on innocent people? Well, that’s PAP for you.
Other bull-dozing ways of the PAP govt:[a] Implementation of so-called White Paper [b] GST (and why should medical bills not be exempted from GST? People incur medical bills for health reasons) [c] Doubling of rental rates of post boxes at Post Offices (weeks after the govt announced a reduction in maid levy; a case of recovering from group X what has been given out to group Y?) [d] Gerrymandering (can any rational politician tell me whether there was a rational rationale for making Serangoon Garden Estate (SGE) part of Marine Parade constituency? This was of course before SGE came under Aljunied.