Dr Ho Ting Fei wrote a letter to ST Forum which was published today asking how can anyone survive on less that $1,300 in today’s Singapore (‘Forum: How can anyone survive on less than $1,300?‘, 21 Oct).
With regard to the current debate between PAP and WP MPs on setting a minimum wage in Singapore, Dr Ho said, “The priority should not be to defend the statistics and policies on why there should not be a minimum wage level.”
“Instead, one should first consider how any one individual or family can survive on less than $1,300 a month when the cost of living in Singapore is notoriously high,” she added.
She shared that there are currently 32,000 or so full-time workers who urgently need help. They should not be tossed around as statistics whenever the topic of minimum wage is raised, she opined.
“$1,300 a month would not solve all their daily needs but it is a good start to give them some hope,” she said.
“If we do not lift these 32,000 workers out of the pit of low wages, it is futile to talk about upgrading their skills. If we cannot help them put food on the dinner table or provide for their basic needs, it is futile to talk about increasing productivity.”
She asked the government to be “practical and realistic”.
“These are our fellow Singaporeans who are poor and desperate. These are people we should not ignore regardless of the number,” she added. “The question is whether we give them the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Dr Ho was previously an associate professor who taught at NUS for 30 years (1979 to 2009). She currently has her own medical practice.
Grace Fu: If pay is cut further, will make it harder for people to consider political office
While Dr Ho and members of WP are worried about the ability of the lower income Singaporeans to survive in Singapore on less than $1,300, PAP ministers are worried that people may not consider political office if the pay of ministers is cut further.
After PAP scored the lowest percentage votes of 60.1% in the history of Singapore during 2011 GE, the PAP government decided to cut ministers’ pay in early 2012 so as to appease the electorate.
And after the ministerial salaries review committee announced its recommendations in Jan 2012, two hours later, then Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Grace Fu posted her views on Facebook in response to the recommendations.
She said, “When I made the decision to join politics in 2006, pay was not a key factor. Loss of privacy, public scrutiny on myself and my family and loss of personal time were.”
“The disruption to my career was also an important consideration. I had some ground to believe that my family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though I experienced a drop in my income. So it is with this recent pay cut,” she added.
“If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering political office.”
The government eventually adopted the new ministerial pay recommendations by the committee. According to information from Public Service Division website, a junior minister would start at the lower end with an annual salary of $935,000 including bonuses.