In A Heartwarming Story Amid Covid-19 Low Income Singaporeans Donate Billions of $ To Allow an Elderly Woman To Pursue Her Social Media Hobby
Yesterday Temasek announced that its philanthropic arm, Temasek Foundation, would be providing “300,000 meals to around 2,750 people in need who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.” Their statement said:
“Standing in solidarity with Singaporeans, Temasek Foundation and its partners seek to support affected families with timely food security and relief”
Mighty big of Temasek considering it is a state-owned company and those funds belong to Singaporeans anyway. Singaporeans might well ask whether the entire remuneration of the PM’s wife, Ho Ching, might be better spent providing help to needy families during this period. $780,000 might seem generous but it is likely less than 1% of her total annual compensation and an infinitesimal fraction of what she has been paid since she was promoted to CEO. After all her job description at Temasek seems to consist mainly of surfing the internet, posting on Facebook up to 10 or 20 times an hour and lashing out at her husband’s critics. In case this proves too onerous she gets frequent breaks to accompany her husband by private jet on state jollies, oops visits and to attend state dinners.
In fact Ho Ching’s employment at Temasek seems to be a gigantic charitable donation by SIngaporeans to her and her husband, since at every election the former sanction Lee Hsien Loong to continue keeping them in the dark about his wife’s total remuneration as well as the extent of his family’s assets and whether these conflict in any way with his position as head of the Government and chairman of GIC.
The same state media article also mentioned that Temasek is providing meals to some of the students at four special education schools and quoted the chairman of the Schools Support Group as saying that some of the students go to school without having had a meal. I am sure that this happens to a significant proportion of students in Singapore, not just at special needs schools and before the economic crisis caused by Covid. It is unlikely much has changed since a few decades back when my dad said that a shockingly high proportion of students, maybe a third, were being sent to school without breakfast or insufficient money to buy food. My parents’ old friend, Tommy Koh, said the same thing recently but quickly realised where his bread was buttered and retracted his comment.
During the Covid pandemic a large number of Singaporeans who were already living precariously and dependent on gig economy jobs are now without income and dependent on private charities, faux charity handouts like Temasek’s and having to appeal to Comcare for assistance. I am surprised because I thought that they would be eligible for the Self Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) which provides $1,000 a month for nine months. Instead they have to rely on discretionary and temporary payments from. But even if they could access SIRS this still is much lower than other countries like the UK where self-employed persons can get paid up to $4500 (£2500) a month or 80% of their average income.
The Government claims that it is spending over $60 billion from the reserves on support measures but we need an independent body like the Office for Budget Responsibility in the UK or the Congressional Budget Office in the US to provide objective assessments of the real level of Government spending. I have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that much claimed Government spending, including most of the Net Investment Returns Contribution, is fake and just a transfer from one silo to another. Much of the $60 billion will go from the Government to state-owned companies in the Temasek stable and Changi Airport Group so effectively a transfer from one pocket to another.
Singaporeans suffer from cognitive dissonance, seemingly unable to comprehend that Temasek’s and GIC’s assets (indeed all Singapore’s reserves) belong to them. Instead they applaud the PM and his wife for noblesse oblige, as though Singapore was a Middle Eastern monarchy or the Czarist or Chinese Empire and the money was coming from the Lee family’s personal patrimony. Lee Hsien Loong and his ministers do their best to foster that impression with the pretence that Temasek and GIC are private companies and therefore not accountable to Parliament. No doubt Singaporeans will demonstrate their gratitude for PM Lee’s generosity and return the PAP to Parliament with an enhanced majority in the rapidly approaching elections! Ho Ching can continue to be charitably supported by Singaporeans in her Facebook hobby for many more years or at least till she decides to ascend the Dragon Throne.