Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (Heng) may have denounced Oxfam’s findings that Singapore fares dismally in its measures to combat income inequality, he was light in detail as to why Oxfam’s report was inaccurate. While Heng may have clocked his disappointment at Oxfam’s report, what is the basis of his disappointment? That it reflects badly on the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) led government or that it is actually wrong?
Heng states that “outcomes matter”, not just measures of input. In other words, Singapore has produced excellent results regardless of the lack of measures mentioned by the Oxfam report. At this juncture, I would like to point out that the so called results Heng alludes to are a product of the past. In our present climate, there is increasing inequality and increased calls for more to be done to help the less fortunate among us. The Oxfam report is dealing precisely with the present efforts put in by governments to deal with inequality. Singapore’s past performance is therefore not the remit of the Oxfam Report. Heng has therefore confused the difference between past economic prosperity and current efforts to reduce income divides.
Heng also criticised the Oxfam Reports for “focusing erroneously on input rather than outcome”. This begs the question – how can there be good outcomes if there are no inputs?” Any system needs refinement, updating and review – it cannot and must not remain static. While Heng is disappointed with Oxfam’s findings, I am disappointed with his response to Oxfam’s pointers. Instead of taking constructive criticism on board, he has chosen to dig in his heels, refusing to consider that Oxfam may have a point. As said above and which I will repeat again – past results are not an indicator of future outcomes. If they don’t take urgent measures to reduce income inequality, they may end up falling short at the next World Bank Index. What then? Reject World Bank too?
Further, Minister for Social and Family Development, Desmond Lee has released a statement saying that the Oxfam report should have focused on what Singapore has achieved. This to me is a very weak defense of the status quo. Is he saying that just because Singapore has achieved certain things that it is then above criticism however constructive? Does this mean that just because I score 280 in my PLSE means that I should be admitted to Raffles Junior College even if I do badly in my O levels?
He further states that everyone on the island benefits from high quality social support and infrastructure provided by the government. Really? This seems contrary to reports of elderly people committing suicide purportedly due to high medical costs or retirees having to work as cleaners because they are unable to survive? I can go on but for brevity I will stop. I believe the reader gets my drift.
I have concerns with the fourth generation leadership of the PAP. Not just because they appear to have a lack of new ideas but also because they display the misguided arrogance that is built not on their own efforts but on the efforts of those that have come before.