Singapore “Swiss” Standard of Living


While the report has some compelling arguments for the 6.9m population figure projected, we all know it is based mainly on economic considerations. Had we focused on things like building a cohesive nation with a strong national identity, the outcome would likely be very different.

I feel the time has come for us to find a better balance between economic growth and social cohesion and yes there will have to be tradeoffs of economic growth but I would rather trade some of these for a cohesive, united nation where people feel taken care of at home and are confident of their future. I am not saying we go for low or no growth. Instead I am willing to adjust my growth expectations for a more comfortable life for all Singaporeans. I am confident we will still be able to pursue respectable economic growth when companies and Singaporeans are faced with a situation of tightened labour availability by focusing on improving ourselves through productivity and higher value capabilities. Finland and other small nations have done, we can do it too. 

Our past decade of rapid population growth has already created too many problems which need to be solved first before we take the next step. I call on the government to take a breather for five years, solve all the problems created by the past policies of rapid economic and population growth. We can safely say that we have failed to achieve the goal set by the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, of a Swiss standard of living for most Singaporeans, except for the higher income Singaporeans including foreigners who just recently decided to make Singapore their home. So I call for a breather in this quest of growing the population and focus on improving the lives of Singaporeans and achieve that promised Swiss Standard of living for most Singaporeans first before we plan our next growth trajectory.

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Inderjit Singh and his Political Dilemma!

A 'hero' in the making is Inderjit Singh..with his fiery passionate speech on the White Paper and also ticked Goh Chok Tong (GCT) on his failed PM-ship to suggest to bring S'pore to the Swiss Standard of living...What has become of S'pore NOW !! It is elitist PAP living!!!

I was in parliament that day to witness his 'heroic' speech. But then the outcome was such a disappointment. Apart from all that...he also has an axe to grind with the govt to withhold more foreigner workers in our country. It is going to affect his own business (owning maybe a couple of SME business).

Hence he questioned Gerald Giam (GG) on WP's stand of near zero foreigner workers but to look inwards for S'poreans...failing which to make the shortfall, only foreigners will be admitted..A good proposition by WP's GG.

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Singapore “Swiss” Standard of Living

For all our so called attainment of ‘perfection’, it’s all perception … there’s still people out on the streets. Yes this is Singapore, our ‘fine’ global city. Never ever take things for granted, as there’s always someone out there who is less fortunate

Homeless old man makes this corner of a HDB void deck his ‘home’ 

More Photos http://s2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/vnc2005/Swiss_Standard_of_Living/

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UBS: Singapore has Russian standard of living

Though, we do not have economic indicators for Switzerland in 1984, we have the figures in 2009 and it appears that Singapore is heading towards a Russian standard of living, rather than Switzerland’s. Let us compare the indices for each category:

Singapore Moscow Zurich
Wage Level 31.3 30.9 119.8
Domestic Purchasing Power 39.9 49.4 106.9
Amount of hours of work required to buy an iPod Nano 27.5 36.0 9.0
Price of Services 72.5 65.0 110.9

As the above figures have shown, the Singapore worker has more in common with the Russian worker than a Swiss worker. Like the Russian worker, the Singapore worker has low wages and domestic purchasing power which is aggravated by the relatively high cost of living in their respective countries.

In fact, the Russian worker has a higher domestic purchasing power than the Singaporean worker though his wage is slightly lower. And don’t forget Russia is a vast country. If one cannot survive in Moscow, they can move to the countryside where cost of living is lower. There is nowhere for Singaporeans to move to.

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The return of poverty……..

For a short period in the late 80s and early 90s, the HDB was able to stop building rental flats because the demand was too low as even the lower paid workers’ real wages for those holding full time jobs was sufficient to own a flat and raise a family. 2 decades later, after so much expansion in our GDP, we find the demand for rental flats growing again. Poverty is back and rising – Singaporeworkers today are not less skilled than they were in the 1990s, they work longer hours than ever before and have to compete harder than they ever did with the foreign influx. Yet what they got out of their working cheaper, better and faster is rising poverty.

I don’t know if you caught this interview of Goh Chok Tong by a reporter during the GE2011 campaign. Goh Chok Tong was asked about the Swiss sstandard of living he set off to achieve as PM. He said people who accused him of failing to achieve the target of Swiss standard of living didn’t know what they were talking about - his goal was forSingapore’s per capita GDP to  reach the targeted Swiss GDP of 1984 in 1999 (adjusted for inflation). This goal was actually achieved in 1994 ahead of schedule when Singapore’s per capita GDP reached US$20.4K  roughly the same as Swiss GDP in 1984 adjusted for inflation to 1994 US dollars.

Anyone who has been to and lived in Switzerland for a while will not hesitate to tell you that the quality of life in Singapore is no where near the Swiss standard of living in 1984. Using GDP as a yard stick misses too many things – GDP doesn’t say how hard a person have to work to earn his income, it doesn’t say if he has access to good health care, public transport and housing,etc. But the most important thing is per capita GDP does not say anything about how wealth is distributed. It could well be that the privileged few are enjoying Donald Trump’s opulent lifestyle while many others are struggling as if they are living in a developing country.

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Tan Cheng Bock. Tan Jee Say. Tan Kin Lian. Am I talking about the 2011 presidential election here?

No, but rather I feel these are men who have joined a long list of people - including the likes of Hazel Poa and Benjamin Pwee – to turn their backs against the PAP. This is even though their backgrounds may strongly suggest that they have a strong inclination to support the PAP.

These are people who have succeeded within the PAP system of old. Growing up in families who are so typical of the middle-class, they have gone on to excel and become very close to the top. Instead of supporting the PAP who has helped them to excel, it is interesting to see why these people have turned their back against the PAP to compete.

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Poverty pervasive in Singapore

In case anyone thinks that the video of an elderly couple that we posted yesterday is one of those rare incidents that even the best of systems cannot prevent, we present another video that was recorded at the same time the elderly couple was making their arduous journey home.

In the short span of about half-an-hour and in the immediate vicinity were several instances of poor people collecting cardboard and rummaging through dumpsters. How many more are suffering such circumstances?

It is important that Singaporeans realise the extent of the problem of poverty and income inequality in our country.

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The Staggering Gap between Singapore's Rich and Poor 

Yet the body of research and evidence demonstrating the correlation between social ills and income inequality is growing. Epidemiologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, criminologists and economists are testifying in increasing numbers to the association between inequality and problems such as disease, crime, suicides, depression and violence. While the causative effects of inequality are debatable, there is little dispute that rising inequality is a reliable sign of declining social capital in a country.

Are we, as Singaporeans, just going to sit around and do nothing while our society slowly disintegrates? Are we just going to run mindlessly on our hamster wheels meaninglessly chasing material wealth and status symbols while our souls rot into nothingness?

The staggering gap between the rich and the poor portends serious problems on the horizon. And if we don't start doing something about it today, the consequences will be deep and devastating.

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Singapore’s Poor Feel the Squeeze 

Singaporean Ramzi Mohamed is tired of sleeping in the living room of the two-bedroom apartment he shares with his mother and older brother.

His problem is that housing prices in the city-state are up almost 70 percent since 2006 while the 29-year-old gym administrator’s monthly salary of 1,200 Singapore dollars ($940) hasn’t budged in five years.

“When I was 20, I thought I’d have my own place by 30,” Ramzi said. “Now that I’m almost 30, I wonder if that will ever happen.”

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Shocking Statistics About the Poor in Singapore
Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing gave figures to show that incomes at the bottom continue to rise but said the Government will do more to help low-income Singaporeans.
He was responding to Nominated MP Tan Su Shan's question on social mobility.
The real median gross monthly income for employed residents increased 1.3 per cent a year from 2002 to 2012, after rising 2.7 per cent a year from 1996 to 2002, Mr Chan said
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It's No Fun Being Poor But Is It Fun To Be The HIghest Paid Politician?

In his recent interview with Fareed Zakaria [Link], PM Lee Hsien Loong said, "If you're poor in Singapore, it's no fun, but I think you're less badly off than in any other country in the world, including in the US". Honestly, are the poor in Singapore less badly off than the poor in any other country in the world, including in the US?

Poor as in no money; no job; no home; no health; no minimum wage; no respect; no integrity?
I think it applies to all regardless which country one belongs to.

Or it could be poor as in no democracy; no freedom? Or heavens forbid, poor as in a reduction in salary for PAP ministers? Crying shame, the poor sacrifices that rich ministers have to make!

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There is no poverty (line) in Singapore 

Lee Hsien Loong: “We have helped those who needed help…no one will be left behind.”

Lee Kuan Yew: “You go down New York, Broadway. You will see the beggars, people of the streets…Where are the beggars in Singapore? Show me.”

Singapore has no beggers because they will be picked up by the police before long. We have no poverty, because Singapore has no official poverty line. This is the same as saying that Singapore’s TV license fee is “one of the lowest” in the world, without revealing the fact that many countries do not charge for TV license fees at all. Technically it remains correct that Singapore has one of the lowest license fees since there aren’t many countries out there that charge for it anyway.

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Is it just "no fun" being poor in Singapore? 

In an interview in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the annual World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that "If you're poor in Singapore, it's no fun but I think you're less badly off if you're poor in Singapore than in nearly anywhere else in the world including the United States."

Is that what he really thinks, that it is just "no fun" to be poor in Singapore? One can say that it is no fun visiting the dentist or getting caught in the rain without an umbrella. But no fun being poor?

The statement shows a complete lack of comprehension of, or worse disregard for, the pain and hardship that those stricken by poverty have to endure on a daily basis.

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Letter from a Grassroots Leader to PM 

I am one of your grassroots leader.  I’ve voluntereed and served in one of your constituency for the last 20 years.  I’ve had these thoughts percolating in my mind for many months.  With what I observed in the last 2 weeks, starting with the Punggol BE then the White Paper, I decided to take the risk and go ahead and send this letter to you.  I hope you do not take any of these the wrong way. 

After the GE2011 elections, the PAP was dealt a big blow with the unprecedented loss of a GRC.  You did a post-mortem with us, and with your MPs.  One of the message we tried to send you then was : You (meaning the PAP leadership) just didn’t listen to us.  We told you there were many problems on the ground, you did not listen.  After the GE, you said PAP will change. 

The next challenge came in Hougang BE.  You picked a great PAP candidate and for a while, we thought he could pull off a win.  But against the advice of the candidate and the PAP grassroots, you deployed your big guns (KBW, TCH etc) and hijacked the message on the ground.  You did not listen.

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PM Lee : Being poor in Singapore is better than being poor elsewhere! 

"If you're poor in Singapore, it's no fun, but I think you're less badly off than in any other country in the world, including in the US," - PM Lee in Davos....[Link]

It is an understatement to say he stretched the truth a little. He is not even in the same page ....perhaps not even in the same planet when it comes to what Singaporeans feel on the ground. He actually said that Singapore is the best place to be in if you're poor. If PM Lee believes what he said, he is also saying we are already there when it comes to helping the poor, no need to do much more for the poor in Singapore.

Find me another developed nation, where the poor receives less help from the govt, where public housing for the poor is more expensive, basic utilities like water and elecity cost more relative to wages of the bottom 20%, where there is no minimum wages, where healthcare is less accessible than in Singapore and income gap is bigger than Singapore. Strangely, he said "...including the US" as if the US is the prime example of a country that takes care of the poor - so what are the Occupy Wall Street people protesting?

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The PAP dominated Singapore Parliament passed the amended Parliamentary Motion on the Population White Paper on 8th Feb 2013 after a week of debate. The ornamental exercise with the whip in force appears more of a white wash than a real debate on the critical issue of what the future population of Singapore should be. The anguish of a prominent PAP MP and Assistant Whip was so great that it caused him to vote with his feet on the final day of the debate when the division was called.

The central theme of the White Paper, published on 29th January 2013, was the projection that the population of Singapore would steadily increase from the current 5.3m to 6.9 million by 2030. As expected the White Paper stirred the hornet’s nest of the already pent-up emotions of Singaporeans from all walks of life over the impoverishment of their lives in recent years owing to the massive intake of foreigners doubling the population in 30 years.

Citizens and netizens alike rose to condemn the White Paper as a callous attempt to ride rough-shod over the sentiments and welfare of native Singaporeans. One netizen in TR Emeritus even called it a “toilet paper” and “suicide paper”. In a more measured tone, Donald Low Senior Fellow of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy described the White Paper as lacking in scholarship and academic rigour, bereft of proper references and rigorous theoretical grounding.

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Aung San Suu Kyi: Singapore seems to be a "Workforce Oriented". What is the purpose of work?

Singapore: Best Place to Live and Work
Plight Of The Tissue Peddlers
Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?
Singapore’s Story: What comes next
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore Good Old Times
The Poor & Homeless in Singapore
Support for the Needy and Elderly
The Singapore Story
Other Side of The Singapore Story

ChasingThe Singapore Dream
To Be Or Not To Be Singaporeans
Longing for the good old days
Singapore: A Sampan or a Cruise ship?
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore is ‘World’s Costliest City To Live In’
Coping with Inflation & Cost Of Living
COL goes Up, Up, Up!
Singapore “Swiss” Standard of Living
Tackling poverty the 'kuih lapis' way
Callings for a Poverty Line
Setting a poverty line may not be helpful
A minimum wage for Singapore?

No homeless,destitute starving people in S'pore:Poverty has been eradicated
Growing Up With Less