The Oxfam debate continues, now with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat chiming in that the Oxfam index on commitment to reduce inequality which ranked Singapore as among the worst 10 countries in the efforts against poverty was based on a ‘completely wrong analysis’.
Speaking to reporters while at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meeting in Bali last week, Mr Heng echoed what Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee said when the report was first publishesd, specifically that the analysis is erroneously focused on input rather than outcome.
Oxfam attributed Singapore’s poor ranking due to the country’s harmful tax practices which it says has created a haven for tax evaders. The report also said that the absence of a universal minimum wage and Singapore’s relatively low level of public social spending on education and healthcare also fail to bridge the gap between the rich and poor.
Refuting that, Minister Desmond Lee released a statement saying that the report should instead focus on what Singapore has achieved. He noted that although almost half of the population doesn’t pay taxes, everyone on the island benefits from high quality social support and infrastructure provided by the government.
Mr Heng said, “what really matters to our people is the outcome, the health outcome, the educational outcome and those are fairly objective measures. So it is important for us to focus on outcome and not get misled by input measure.”
In contrast to Oxfam’s report, the World Bank recently released its Human Capital Index which placed Singapore right on top. The World Bank index defines human capital as the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives.
Addressing the contradiction between the two reports, Mr Heng said that World Bank President Jim Yong Kim also agreed that focus should be on outcomes and not input.
Mr Heng added, “for many developing countries... since resources are limited, it is very important that we can achieve good outcomes with the required inputs, and not to wrongly measure inputs and then treat it as outcome”, adding that it is a “completely wrong analysis”.