by Brad Bowyer
So, first impressions on the budget… Does little to nothing but reveals much.
Let’s start with workfare “benefiting” 440,000. Really?
What this shows is the government allows employers to pay workers below the cost of living and is then stepping in with public funds to cover the difference for a massive 20% of the workforce so who is “benefitting”?
This is corporate welfare under another name… why not have a minimum wage and make companies more competitive by not charging them ridiculous rents or applying numerous other fees and levies on them?
Then there would be no need for public funds to prop up that part of the economy, people would have more disposable income (which would be spent in the economy bosting it and not horded doing nothing like the “rich” bosses do), and they could save more adequately for retirement.
They did mention a range of other budget measures for companies to “help” them be competitive, but most were extensions to existing policies so not exactly radical and how effective are they anyway?
Because Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat did say we have over 200,000 business entities but every time he said how many companies had been “helped” to date by any one scheme the numbers he gave were 200 or so companies here, 200 or so there. If my maths is correct that’s 0.001% of companies who were actually helped by one of the many schemes, no wonder they are so ineffective with so few “helped”.
We need policies that go broader and deeper and with much less complexity or strings attached.
And then there was the “Merdeka” (i.e lets try and repeat the pioneer effect) package and all the other give aways.
Apart from the repackaging they were little different from before and when you look in to the details the largest components of all of them were CPF top ups or insurance co-payments so who gets the “cash”? Its moving funds from one bucket to another and pretending to be generous.
But what we did find out was that 300,000 plus Singaporeans have less than $60k in their CPF!
That’s a massive percentage that will end up with retirement inadequacy and having no choice but to work till they die or have other assistance later in life so the “benefits” quoted are a drop in the ocean with the underlying causes not addressed.
Although not directly in the Speech I also saw several PAP sources online mentioning adjustments to HDB grants which I assume will be covered in more detail later in the week during the relevant Ministers speech and debates.
Are they grants? Or are they developer’s discounts by another name that you become liable for?
Like I have mentioned before an HDB costs the same to build everywhere on the island but is “sold” to you far above that cost which varies, a typical 4 room flat ranging from $250,000 to $450,000 when new and HDB chooses that price.
So they choose to price it in the severely unaffordable range and give you a “grant” and let you use your CPF to enable you to “buy” it and get locked in to that HDB debt while more of your CPF is pushed in to a depreciating “asset”
Clearly the combination of overpriced HDBs, low wages and a broken CPF system that pays little returns is failing on a massive scale but nothing of that was addressed in the budget and more sleight of hand and pretence at doing something while doing nothing was on display.
It is clear the only way we can get meaningful change and actually redress all the government created financial problems we are facing is to replace the incumbents with a team that has a focus on serving and enriching all the people and not serving and enriching itself and the few.
This budget was a sham. I will look more closely at the “details” as we see them in the week ahead but don’t expect to see much at all, at least not for you and me.