The predominant middle class faces erosion as cheaper-paid foreign graduates flock into Singapore’s job market.
Singapore’s P-Met (pronounced Pee-met), a flourishing group of people, is under stress.
It’s the acronym for Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians, who make up 51 percent of the work-force.
Most are, of course, university graduates or diploma holders, whose numbers and role in society had steadily increased because of strong growth and people’s determination to get higher education.
In turn, it helped to shape Singapore into what it is – a rich, middle-class society.
The first blow was struck by the demise of the industrial era here as well as the emergence of competitive giants like China and India that pushed down wages everywhere.
Factories were closed or moved overseas and mass retrenchments followed, including executives and managers.
A series of downturns and recessions added to the toll. In 2008, for example, 43.3% of retrenched Singaporeans were from this group.
A new shadow now looms. This is the arrival of a small army of hungrier foreign P-METs who are always ready to accept lower wages.
Tan Jee Say: PAP has become incompetent
I was a guest speaker at the dinner of Rotary Club Jurong Town on 24 April 2012. I shared with Club members what I thought should be the focus of Singapore politics going forward.
The pre-occupation of opposition parties thus far has been on providing checks and balances to the ruling party. The fundamental assumption is that we have a good and competent government that is prepared to listen to and act on feedback. The last few years including post-GE 2011, have shown how wrong this assumption has been. I told the dinner guests that the days of merely providing checks and balances are over as the government is not prepared to change but is determined to stick to its old ways whilst giving false and misleading impressions that it is amenable to change.
I gave 4 reasons why it is necessary and urgent to have a change of government:
- PAP has become incompetent and is seriously lacking in accountability for major and repeated lapses in the provision and administration of essential public services;
- Government policies are divisive as they seriously widen the income gap between the rich and poor; allowing the 2 casinos against strong objections from large sections of the population, divide the people further;
- PAP ministers are self-centred and are more interested in paying themselves high salaries than in raising the wages of lowly paid Singaporeans; and
- Recent events have raised questions about standards of behaviour of public officials.
GE2011 – one year on
Monday, 7 May 2012, marks the first anniversary of the general election in 2011 when an opposition party won a group representation constituency for the first time.
In the process, two People’s Action Party (PAP) cabinet ministers were booted out.
In the aftermath, former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong finally left the cabinet, though whether they went willingly still remains unknown.
Has the electoral setback for the PAP changed its governing style? Has the rhetoric about greater engagement translated to policy changes? Winning back voters?
I usually don’t like addressing such questions. They smack of short-termist, polls-driven politics which I am ambivalent about. Twelve months is really a very short time-frame to assess such change, if any. However, there are some thoughts I have today that, while they do not answer any of the above questions, have no better opportunity for me to voice them than now.
How much more road must be swept before salaries are raised?
"The government is saying productivity must rise before salary is raised. Have our cleaners been sweeping less of the road since 2000? If not, why has their median salary dropped from $1277 in the year 2000 to $960 in 2010? Do they now have to sweep more road before their salary is raised?"
My Wife's Life as a Cleaner
On the debate over blue-collar workers' wages
There have been many discussions about increasing the wages of blue-collar workers.
Allow me to put in my penny's worth.
After 33 years as a production worker, my wife was retrenched in early 1999 due to adverse business conditions.
A few months later, she found a job as a cleaner. She took on the job with gusto.
She stayed with the same job and employer until she resigned in 2008 due to ill health.
She was 57 years old when she resigned.
Her starting salary was $700 a month gross. Her last pay was $750 gross.
That works out to about a $5.55 increment per year or 0.8 per cent a year.
During that nine years that she was with the company, she was assigned to many sites including the National University of Singapore and Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and condominiums like Leedon Towers.
Engagement - the new game in town
“They have to communicate in a different medium and convey nuance, intentions and explanations in a more personal way by engaging people. But it is not just the ministers doing this, the government as a whole has to be more active and adept in engaging Singaporeans online.” – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, National Day Rally speech 2011.
One year after the momentous events of 7 May 2011, the talk of the town is engagement, and how the government has fared in this so far. There is no question that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has done more in this aspect, especially in using social media platforms.
As far as the online scene is concerned, it is now more diverse, with more voices of the establishment and pro-establishment ones coming online to provide a balance to the anti-establishment voices. It is a welcome diversity. The online space should not belong to or be dominated by any one voice.
There have been quite a bit of hand-wringing by those who find the extreme online views worrying.
One of the (many) criticisms directed at the government was that it was elitist and that it did not consult or engage citizens enough. It was thus seen as being removed from the realities on the ground, that it has lost touch with the common man and woman.
PAP in the Bathtub
According to Lui Tuck Yew, our public transport systems are failing because we are at the tail end of the “bathtub effect“. But does he see that PAP is also in the same bathtub?
The bathtub effect refers to a phenomenon where there are high no of problems at the start of a system’s life cycle, virtually no problems during the middle years, and a sudden spike in the number of problems when a system is at the end of its useful life.
The problems in the early years are teething issues that, once overcome, lead to a plateau of smooth performance. Everything is broken in and run in, all systems are in their best shape, everything is within tolerance.
The problems in the twilight years happen because things wear out, technology becomes obsolete, repairs cost too much and support for older technology isn’t always as great as for new systems.
While the bathtub analogy applies to systems, I think PAP is also now living through its own bathtub effect.
Did He Pay With His Heart?
Was his heart hijacked in the $8 Surgery?
I understand that a CABG (coronary artery bypass graft) is a procedure where a blood vessel is taken from the chest, leg or arm and used to bypass a narrowed or blocked coronary artery to increase the blood flow to a person's heart muscle. Hence, preventing a heart attack.
Remember the ex-Health Minister who is the current Minister of National Development of Singapore who made famous his claim of only paying $8 for for his CABG surgery and first class hospital stay? Did the surgical team do more than a CABG? Could they have added a heart transplant as well? Could they have taken away his caring compassionate heart and replaced it with something heartless? A mechanical pump?
Based on his performance after the CABG surgery, I feel something a amiss. He now "Kong Wei Bo Liong Sim" = "Speaks without heart, without conscience, without compassion"