The fact that the ministers in the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) run government get high salaries while there are reports of people living in dumpsters and old people working as cleaners are a common sight in Singapore can certainly be considered proof that there is truth in what the Oxfam index on the tackling of income inequality says in its placing Singapore in the bottom ten positions.
Yet instead of giving due consideration to the results yielded by the Oxfam report, our government has seemingly disregarded it in totality, choosing only to focus on the positive results yielded by the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
It is interesting to note that Oxfam has publicly chided the World Bank by stating:“It is irresponsible for the World Bank to promote the deregulation of labour and the dismantling of the rights that workers have long fought for. The report downplays the severity of inequality and contradicts internationally agreed labour standards.
Just last week, the IMF said “higher minimum wages are needed to counteract extreme inequality”.
In my humble opinion, each of these bodies have separate concerns and that a balance of all of their views is necessary for a country such as Singapore to protect the rights and livelihoods of its citizens while also ensuring that the country continues to attract foreign investment.
The Oxfam report was more focused on the domestic living conditions of citizens while the WEF and World Bank are focused on the international commercial standing of a given country. When viewed in that perspective, does one report have to be right while the other wrong?
Wouldn’t it be more helpful if we saw the value in each finding and seek to take each report on board equally?
Singapore is indeed an attractive place in which to do business. It has relatively low corporate tax and is creditor friendly. From that perspective, it attracts investment and can create opportunities for those in the finance or technological sectors.
On the other hand, it is also imperative to note that this type of growth may not benefit everyone if the playing field is not level and this is where Oxfam is coming from. From this perspective, must one finding be wrong in order for the other to be right?
Inequality does not benefit any society because it will eventually lead to instability. While the Singapore government is more than entitled to be disappointed by how Singapore has fared in Oxfam’s findings, it should not be disappointed by Oxfam. Oxfam is just doing what is within its remit to do. The Singapore government needs to take both praise and criticism with grace and maturity.