For years and years, we have been told that Singapore’s reserves are only meant to be used for a rainy day.
But now that we are in a storm and the reserves have been unlocked, there is an endless stream of reminders about how fortunate we are to have a government that is able to tap on reserves. Is it a concerted effort to make Singaporeans feel beholden to the government?
We have been getting reminder after reminder from Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat about Singaporeans benefiting from the government’s prudence, planning and good governance. Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah has also reminded that government help is possible because of “prudent management of public finances and the strength of our reserves.”
As if all that is not enough, we have had several PAP MPs taking turns to make the same point, including Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC), Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) and Tin Pei Ling (Mapherson).
Tin Pei Ling takes the cake for the eye-popping claim that Singapore is among the world’s most generous countries in terms of relief given at $23,225 per capita.
To top it off, the cash handouts to Singaporeans are seemingly timed to coincide with a general election that’s just around the corner, for obvious reasons.
It makes us recall MP Lee Bee Wah’s labelling of Singaporeans as ‘si kui kia’ (ingrates) for being ungrateful to Ah Gong (government) who scrimps and saves for the benefit of the people.
Is this what it all boils down to? Are Singaporeans ingrates who have to reminded again and again that it is our duty and responsibility to show gratitude to the government?
Perhaps the citizens should give a reminder of what former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said:
Let us never forget this fundamental truth: the State has no source of money other than money which people earn themselves. If the State wishes to spend more it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more . . . There is no such thing as public money; there is only taxpayers’ money.
In truth, the State has no money other than taxpayers’ money; if the State wants to spend more, it has to borrow the people’s savings or tax more.
The government has already told Singaporeans that taxes, including the GST, have to be raised to fund healthcare and infrastructure spending. And now that some of the reserves have been dipped into, all the more reason for the government to find ways and means to claw back money.
Never forget that Singaporeans have been told often enough that nobody owes us a living. And there’s definitely no such thing as a free lunch!