“If the government will not give us what is ours, we will have to take it ourselves. We will take back our money,” said Tan Jee Say, Secretary-General of SingFirst in a video posted on his YouTube channel.
Mr Tan, an Oxford-trained economy and a former civil servant, posted a video online titled “The Long Table” in which he talked about his concerns over the inequality in Singapore and proposed measures to address this particular issue. The video was released in conjunction with an economic plan for Singapore which Mr Tan wrote titled, “Take Back our Money, Be True First World“.
The veteran economist who contested in the Presidential Election 2011, started off by saying that Singapore is “not a true first world country”, noting that other first world countries have things that Singapore does not such as more equality, better social services, and governments that “give back what they take”.
He said, “We have come far. It is true. But we are told our home is fair, that it is prosperous for all of us no matter what our social status. It is an illusion.”
Explaining that Singapore is an “unequal society”, Mr Tan mentioned the often-talked about S$1,300 monthly income that an elderly person would need to “barely” get by in the country. He noted, “They are the most vulnerable people in our society, yet many must survive on less than S$800 to pay the expenses of one of the most expensive cities in the world.”
The video then listed out the expenses that a person living in Singapore would have to pay for from GST to education, healthcare, utilities, food, and transport.
Mr Tan, who stood for Presidential Election in 2011 and stood as a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate in the 2011 general election, bluntly said, ”The truth is this, our government overtaxes us and underspends in services for us in return.”
“That is why Singapore is unequal. It is why our families shrink year to year, why the cost of living is so unbearably high, why we are so helpless to tax rises like the GST,” he added.
“We are told better things are too costly, that taxes must rise further for these vital services, but that’s not true. There is no need to raise taxes. All the money we need is already here. “
Mr Tan explained that only 2 percent of the S$1 trillion in the country’s reserves can be spent on the people despite a rate of investment return of 5 to 6 percent each year in the past five years. He points out that even if that 2 percent is raised to 4 percent, the long term expected rate of return on investments would provide the nation with S$42 billion, which can be spent on the needs of ordinary Singaporeans.
This, he said, is what Norway does with its sovereign wealth fund, giving the full return to the national budget every year.
“That’s enough money to abolish the GST, increase subsidies for healthcare, education, allowances for children and the elderly, and help small businesses; all without touching our principal, our savings for the future,” said Mr Tan.
He went on to slam the government for staying at 2% spending of the reserve when there are people in Singapore who are in need.
He asserted, “If the government will not give us what is ours, we will have to take it ourselves. We will take back our money.”
Anticipating that some might wonder if the money in question actually belongs to the government, Mr Tan clarified that the money belongs to Singaporeans as it was paid for by the people in the form of “endless taxes that they [the government] refuse to invest in us, their own people”.
Mr Tan served as the principal private secretary to former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong from 1985 to 1990.
“They think they can buy our votes with what is rightfully ours. They think they can fool us, giving us just a chicken leg while taking the whole chicken,” said Mr Tan of the government.
“But Singapore is a democracy and it is our responsibility to hold our leaders accountable. To let them know enough is enough,” he warned.
“All over the first world, people are building walls, walls to keep people out, to keep wealth in, to turn away from the world. Just like our government builds a wall around wealth that is not theirs to keep,” described Mr Tan.
“We are not them,” he declared, adding that he hopes Singaporeans “still have a heart” and still dream of a better nation for all.
Mr Tan concluded, “I want to take back our money, to take back what is ours and build a long table. A table for all Singaporeans to enjoy our prosperity as a family. A table to lead the first world and show them what a society should be.”
He implored for Singaporeans to join him, saying “But I can’t do it alone.”
Mr Tan Jee Say’s Economic Report
In a summary of his economic plan on his website posted last Friday (14 February), Mr Tan explained that the country can and must sustain “first world welfare” into the future by safeguarding and building up long term stakes in the country.
This, he added, can be done via several measures including continuing with the new SERS to counter declining value of Housing Development Board (HDB) flats, making HDB flats truly affordable for by not charging the cost of land, building more schools and hospitals and doubling the personnel in those areas, funding career change for those facing disruptions, inspiring the young to create technology giants and support and fund initiatives to tackle climate change.
Mr Tan noted that this would cost the government about S$10 billion, adding that it can and should be funded using revenues from land lease sales which actually has been bringing in about S$16 billion a year for the past 10 years. That’s more than what’s required to fund these initiatives, Mr Tan pointed out.
He also proposed no new tax or tax increase to provide for these first world programmes. In fact, he also proposed the removal of taxes like the GST and fees and charges for education and healthcare.
Mr Tan expounded on the website, “Moreover, we will only be spending the investment returns on our reserves without touching the principal sum. Our country will not go bankrupt but will continue to have more than the principal sum of our reserves intact that will continue to generate returns to sustain our welfare spending.”
Finally, Mr Tan wrote, “We must now abandon the lopsided growth ideology of the PAP and fire the engine of the economy on both fronts at the same time, achieving economic growth and people’s welfare together like a true First World society. We deserve it and can achieve it.”