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A Case of the Tail Wagging the Dog or How the RP Has Already Changed Government Policy


Recently on Talking Point*  I mentioned SM Goh’s comments on 22nd February in Marine Parade and how government policy had apparently been changed to reflect what the Reform Party had been saying since 2009. SM Goh talked about the need to rely on raising Singaporeans’ productivity and incomes rather than the import of cheap foreign labour. He said that companies that could not cope with the higher cost of labour by learning to use it more productively would have to close shop and set up in countries where labour was cheaper.

Now, in a speech** yesterday, Senior Minister Goh has been repeating what he said on the 22nd. To quote,

“Singapore has to make changes to the way it grows its economy as the model of relying on cheap and plentiful foreign workers to boost output is not sustainable,

and then later in the same speech:

“I would like to reiterate here that the government is determined to reduce the dependency on foreign labour and raise the productivity and incomes of Singaporeans”.

The troubling thing is that the government has shamelessly claimed the credit for this U-turn in policy rather than recognizing the Reform Party’s role in drawing attention to failed policies and pushing for change. It seems that a whole decade of policy mistakes (of growing GDP by boosting inputs of cheap foreign labour rather than by learning to use our own workforce more productively) can be wiped out in an instant as though it never happened. In the interval of course our population has grown by over 25% with effects that are obvious to everyone (crowded public transport, an HDB housing price bubble, stagnant real incomes, etc.).

In my response to the President’s Address as long ago as May 2009, I said that,

“…despite Singapore’s high growth rates between 2003 and 2007 this boom largely passed ordinary Singaporeans by. Instead it was evidenced by the growing numbers of foreign workers (which put pressure on the incomes of lower-skilled Singaporeans and led to falling productivity)…”

However this is not the first time that I have drawn attention to how SM Goh and the government have quietly adopted what the RP have been advocating. On the 25th January 2010, in our press release entitled, “Work Smarter, Not Harder” ***, I said that:

The Reform Party refers to the ST report dated 25th January 2010, “Work smarter, harder to sustain growth: SM” as well as the ST Online report of the same date, “Focus on productivity: PM”. We are delighted that the government has adopted one of the core messages of the Reform Party: that boosting economic growth artificially through a massive influx of foreign workers has done very little to improve the welfare of ordinary Singaporeans.

I went on to say that:

The Reform Party hails SM Goh’s statement.  It marks a watershed in Singapore whereby the public can see an opposition party highlighting problems, scrutinizing issues and putting forward policies that are then adopted by the government. This shows how credible the Reform Party is that our message is taken up by the government and repeated almost word for word.

And then in our response to the Economic Strategies Committee report dated 2nd February 2010****, I said that:

“…we were delighted that one of our core messages had been taken up by the Government.  This was that economic growth had to be driven by productivity growth and not as has happened over the last ten years largely through expansion of the foreign labour force and that we had to improve our dismal productivity record, We have been saying for over a year that the Government’s target should be focusing on raising the majority of Singaporeans’ living standards rather than just maximizing economic growth.”

I finished by saying that:

“It is also good that the government and the ESC have come round to the Reform Party’s view that their primary goal is to raise the living standards of Singaporeans. However there must be serious doubts about the government’s ability to deliver given that the track record in this regard of the last ten years has been so poor and whether anything more than lip service is being paid to weaning the economy off its dependence on cheap foreign labour.”

SM Goh’s recent speech and the Finance Minister’s statement in Budget 2011 that his goal was to raise productivity and the median incomes of Singaporeans by 30% over the next ten years have done nothing to reduce these doubts.

However what it does illustrate is the fact that, far from the Reform Party talking nonsense, as has been suggested by the government in the past about the Opposition in general, we are actually at the forefront of pointing out mistakes with current policies and driving changes in those policies to the benefit of Singaporeans. While we may still be far away after this election from our ultimate goal of forming the government, the electorate can see how much effect we are having already. This can only increase once we are in Parliament.

If it were ever possible to justify multi-million dollar salaries for our ministers, it becomes much harder when this government appears to be taking its policy cues from the Reform Party in so many areas.

Another example is Ms. Indranee Rajah’s call in Parliament on 2nd March 2011***** for “‘a more targeted and focused strategy’ to help working, low-income families who typically live in rental flats and have two or more children.” Strangely this seems to mimic the Reform Party’s election pledge to provide child benefit or income support for low-income or working families with children****** and follows my statement on the same Talking Point show* that the Reform Party would introduce an income support scheme and help with child care for this group.

The message is clear- Vote Reform in the coming election if you want to see government policies that focus on improving the incomes and welfare of Singaporeans!

 

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph3IUpA9EAA

**http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1116624/1/.html

 

*** http://www.thereformparty.net/en/our-platform/our-views/63-work-smarter-not-harder

 

****http://www.thereformparty.net/en/our-platform/our-views/66-the-reform-party-responds-to-the-economic-strategies-committee-report

 

***** http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_640602.html

 

****** http://votingrp.wordpress.com/about/

 

9 Comments »

  1. It is apparent that PAP has been “stealing” ideas from the Reform Party. However, if we look at it in a positive angle, it may be good that PAP implement our ideas; we should press on to introduce more solutions to the ailing society in Singapore; if the PAP adopts RP’s ideas, then we have at least contributed something even before being elected into Parliament. PAP may claim that the ideas have originated from them; but RP should rejoice that PAP agrees that the ideas are feasible. The Electorate are not totally blind; especially, that The Electorate is increasingly educated with each elections. So, Kenneth, just carry on the good work of disseminating your ideas.

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  2. If I read the March Time article where it says SG plans to grow its population by 20% from 5 to 6m in the next decades which totally contradicts the slowdown of FT import, I don’t believe a word of GCT. “Strategic article” like this don’t just appeared on TIME for no purpose. They have announced it to the whole world, except Singaporeans.

    Tell me again, how do they intend to increase the population, while decreasing FT?
    So if they’re not importing “cheap” ones, does that mean they will now start importing the “expensive” ones? God knows, the next in line for the unemployed are the middle-income PMET like me who cannot out-compete my fella foreign colleague (who’s highly paid on expat terms with his family). This after 18yrs in corporate world. Now in my 40s, I have to start over. PMET like us have become vocal and middle class, and now PAP wants to degrade/squeeze us out by saying Singaporeans are getting too expensive?!! They’re just targeting a different income band that’s all! How is it that’s ok for PAP leaders to make obscene monies with no level playing field for competition, but is not ok for me to be an expensive talent subjected to open market competition with the world talents? What’s the matter with these people.

    So please Kenneth, ask my MPs what exactly do they have under their sleeves?
    I want to see quota and a hire-Singaporean-first policy.

    http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2026474_2026675,00.html

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  3. KJ, it does much more for you and your team if you can engage a consultancy on PR, Image, and Communications, if you have not already done so. Reason being, your arguments are great, in fact come across better than the PAPies, and it costs nothing vs millions asked for by PAPies. The only shortcoming I can identify between your team and a seat in parliament, is public perception, which can only improve if you receive the appropriate advice from the experts in Marketing Comms!

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  4. Well it’s like RP has been saying this or the past 2-3 years, no action was taken by the people action party’s government, now they use that raise productivity & income point & shamelessly claim credit for it as if it were their idea.

    Why is it RP is able to suggest it in 2009 while the PAP only catches this point now? This means our multi-million dollar cabinet is slow on the uptake or they only bother now because elections are coming?

    Vote for RP to have better, faster & cheaper government

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  5. Kenneth, we have heard you loud and clear. We rally strongly behind you because you have that spark to think out of the box, offer practical cues to the ills that are besetting us, and raise red flags on problem areas as mentioned in your blog. One senses that the government of the day is degenerating, almost inept in finding workable solutions to our basic problems such as low birth-rate, low marriages, and low productivity. These were problems that were harped upon countless years ago from the then SM Lee to the then PM Goh to the now PM Lee – still no tangible solutions in sight despite having PhDs in their political ranks. This speaks volumes about how the ruling political party had all along been too over-reliant on the genius and wits of one single economic luminary – Dr Goh Keng Swee. With his exit from politics, the ruling party is suddenly handicapped, suddenly bereft of workable ideas. Alas, they failed to understudy him.
    Another striking social ill that the government has shown no solution over the very many years that this problem has plagued us is the problem of “internal terrorism”, that is the terror, fear, vandalism, harm and harrasment (both emotional & physical) wrought by the internal terrorists – the ubiquitous loan-sharks. The government has no answer on how they are going to reign in & curb such “terrorists”. To many Singaporeans these “internal terrorists” are more dangerous, more destructive than the cross-border terrorists. These loan sharks are getting bolder, and smarter even with the recent punitive legislation against them. Perhaps, Kenneth, you can share with us how you think this scourge can be stamped out, and I am sure the ruling political party will shamelessly take leaves from your book. Maybe, it is suggested that the government need to flex their muscles, just like what was done to wipe out the gangsters many decades ago. Well, we will wait to see what more excuses the government will pull over our eyes.

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