Hands off my suitcase full of goodies

Budget 2013 observations

Here are a few thoughts on Budget 2013: The most eye-catching policy to come out of this Budget is the Wage Credit Scheme, under which the government will co-fund 40 per cent of wage increases for Singaporean workers earning up to a gross monthly wage of S$4,000. This is a further departure from the government’s previous insistence that wage increases must follow productivity improvement. Now, despite a reported productivity drop of 2.6% in 2012, it is pushing ahead for firms to pay their local workers better. This shows a gradual recognition (or resignation, depending on how you look at it)…

Still chewing over the population debate

Still chewing over the population debate

I’m guessing Grace Fu hasn’t read the Institute of Policy Studies’ commentary  by the four economists from the Economic Society of Singapore, despite the Today paper finally giving it coverage two weeks after it was first published on 8 February and widely shared on social media. One of the writers, Donald Low of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, had earlier condemned the Population White Paper for its lack of scholarship rigour, adding that, if it were a term paper, he would have absolutely no qualms failing it. Or perhaps the civil servants under Ms Fu are unwilling…

Population White Paper is unpopular and unsustainable

Population White Paper is unpopular and unsustainable

I have yet to read an online commentary that is receptive to the Population White Paper. Most don’t even get past the dreadful 6.9 million figure. While the government tries to convince us of this need for further population explosion and explain how this can be managed with an expanded rail network, new housing estates and more green spaces, nobody is listening because we lapse into an uncontrollable fit when any mention of an increase is brought up. Our leaders may regard the negativity as irrational and what they are proposing as inconvenient but unavoidable, but we should ask if…

Fair and equitable

What makes a fair wage?

As they say, a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. But what exactly constitute a fair wage? At the most fundamental level, a fair wage is one that, in exchange for, a worker willingly provides a service to an employer, and that the employer willingly compensates the worker for this service it is receiving. It is simple demand and supply coming together in the labour market where neither party is coerced into entering such a contract of service. In the financial markets, we call this price discovery. In a closed labour market, wages should adjust to reflect the…

"How do I account for all these?"

Muddy Waters vs Olam + Temasek: An issue that warrants a look

As a writer, I relish the many ways I can pun the headline when commenting on an issue such as this. As a Singaporean, I’m not sure this is the time to get all nationalistic about it. Here’s a summary if you haven’t been following the saga. It started on November 19 when California-based research firm Muddy Waters and its owner Carson Block raised serious questions at a London investment conference about the accounting practices of Singapore-listed commodities trader Olam. Likening it to Enron, Muddy Waters accuses Olam of accounting gaffes and running a high risk of failure, and is adamant that…

"An email from Void Decker!"

It’s not slower growth, stupid!

Dear Vivi, Long time no hear! Having fun immersing yourself in your current job as Environment and Water Resources Minister? I was so happy to see you in the news yesterday. It’s always good as a politician to keep your profile up despite your literally shitty portfolio. Remember, visibility is key! For bloggers, it’s easy because they can just write some silly things to make fun of the government. Politicians, on the other hand, are supposed to be wise. I’m glad you have used the old trick of looking clever by repeating the party mantra when you actually have nothing of value…

"But the gap is only this wide"

Renewed call for wage shock therapy

It looks like Lim Chong Yah is not one to back down easily. Given his prominent status as founding chairman of NWC, architect of the previous wage shock therapy, and the first and only Emeritus Professor of both NUS and NTU, can the government continue to ignore him? When Prof Lim first called for a repeat of wage shock therapy in April this year, both PM Lee Hsien Loong and NTUC Secretary-General Lim Swee Say publicly dismissed the proposal in the space of two weeks. There was no effort at all to engage him, to hear out his views in…

Keeping up to date on voiddecker.com

Have you been reading this, Minister Tan?

The Singapore government has long taken pride in being firm to stick to what it thinks is right, rather than what’s in favour. Having to admit openly to heeding public opinion makers and the general populace is a hard pill to swallow, especially when the stance it once championed is proven wrong. So when there are calls for policy changes, be it from experts, think tanks, opposition parties or ordinary Singaporeans, the government’s instinctive reaction is to dismiss the calls. Ministers and PAP MPs will caution us with doomsday scenarios. Right on cue, the local press will publish reports quoting…

Found in our government cabinet

Dialogue or broken record session?

To all of you who worry about overpopulation and diminishing quality of life as a result of it, rest assured that your concern is very much well founded and the problem is only going to get worse. To know why, look no further that who is in charge of population policies in our government: DPM Teo Chee ‘What do you think?’ Hean, Minister of Thought Process Delegation. In a town hall session on population challenges held last week, DPM Teo enlightened us with an opening speech that was revealing in its own way, for it confirmed our doubt that he…

The abominable face of our future population (click to see full size)

Beware the ageing population false dilemma

I have briefly touched on this topic in a previous post, but there is a need to dwell further because it’s worrying how this discussion is shaping toward the direction the government wants it. We know the problem: birth rates are low and our population is ageing. As baby boomers move into retirement, our elderly support ratio (number of residents aged 20-64 years per elderly resident) will fall, putting a heavy strain on the social support network as the tax base decreases. The answer, however, is not a straight choice between increasing birth rates and importing foreign workers to make…

Lack of rugrats - a crying shame

Declining birth rate is a concern or is that a myth itself?

There appears to be a consensus in Singapore that a persistently low birth rate is nothing short of calamitous, because in years to come there won’t be enough working people to support the elderly. Society and the economy will suffer as the support system crumbles. But is the scenario really as bad as it sounds? Will Singapore really “fold up” if the birth rate continues to stay low without a massive infusion of immigrants? I draw your attention to the paper Ageing populations and hidden unemployment [published 2003, updated 2010] by the UK charity and think tank Population Matters that seeks to…