Where’s the beef, Lee Hsien Loong?
I tuned in to the PM’s National Day Rally speech hoping to hear something of significance, like more help for hard pressed Singaporeans trying to make ends meet and provide for their children. True to form, LHL said nothing that was of any help and instead talked about his grandiose plans to transform Singapore some twenty or thirty years into the future.
He waxed eloquent about Tuas Port, Terminal 5 and Paya Lebar New Town. Forgive me if I fail to get excited but instead of projects that will only be completed in the 2030s and 2040s and that seem designed to for foreign consumption and to impress sycophantic and naïve Western politicians and media, Singaporeans needed to be hearing about what support the Government would be providing now.
As per usual PM Lee glibly trotted out from nowhere fake or highly misleading figures about the amount of financial support the Government was giving to households this year. He claimed that this year alone a middle-income family with 2 young children in a 4 room HDB could expect an additional $2,200 in support while a lower income family in a 3 room flat would get $3,700. He cited “cash payouts, U-Save rebates, S&CC rebates, CDC vouchers, and MediSave top-ups and more”
LHL failed to give a breakdown of his alleged support. But his figures are highly disingenuous if not deliberate falsehoods. He of course omitted to mention that his Government has increased GST from 7 to 9% adding 2% to household budget costs by 2024. U-Save rebates give back maybe 10% of the increase in utility costs due to skyrocketing energy prices while SingPower is on track to make record profits as is Singapore Petroleum. CDC vouchers are worth much less than face value because they can only be spent at certain shops including PAP-controlled NTUC Fairprice. S&CC rebates are a tiny fraction of the increase in value of the land on which HDB estates sit and which will revert to the Government when the lease runs out or can be acquired through SERS at much less than its real value. What good are Medisave top-ups when the Government prevents you from using your Medisave for routine medical expenses and as a result Medisave balances have reached over $100 billion and are still growing rapidly year after year? The money in your Medisave is tied up and lent to GIC and indirectly to Temasek while you receive about 3% less than inflation. Inflation has plumped up corporate profitability and as the biggest business owner the PAP Government is the major beneficiary.
The total amount the Government has set aside to help Singaporean households this year is only about $1.5 billion. This is a rounding error of less than 0.1% of any reasonable estimate of what the reserves should be ($2-3 trillion) if they’ve been competently invested over the last 50 years, even if we don’t include, as we should, the value of the 90% of Singapore’s land that the Government owns. It claims the Net Investment Returns Contribution ($22 billion in 2022) is tangible evidence of the benefit that the reserves provide to Singaporeans but as I have frequently pointed out most of this has frequently disappeared into trusts and endowments, the accounts of most of which are not available to the public and whose expenditures are not overseen by Parliament. Many years ago I highlighted the fact that billions of dollars were allocated to the Productivity Fund and that a few years later this had mysteriously been spent without seeming to have any effect on productivity. Parliament and the public were not told how the money had been spent but it was directly under the control of the PM.
After I called out the fake NIRCs that were disappearing into trusts and endowments LW started reducing the amounts allocated to long term funds but at the same time he rapidly increased health, defence and education expenditures. Health expenditures have risen to the point where the Government appears to be spending as much per capita on Singaporeans’ health as the National Health Service in the UK where all treatment is free from cradle to grave. Much of the billions allocated to health is handed out to the corporatised health entities, SingHealth and National Healthcare, whose accounts are hidden behind a paywall and not overseen by Parliament. A substantial proportion of this money may be routed back to Temasek and GIC, resulting in a circular money flow in which no money never leaves the reserves. The fact that LW refuses to deny this is very worrying.
Reform Party previously proposed that Singaporeans should receive a $300 per month per child credit and a $500 seniors pension. This would cost only about $6 billion, so under a third of the Net Investment Returns Contribution. However this is too timid and does not go far enough to help Singaporeans. We now propose that the NIRC be paid directly to Singaporeans as a form of basic income. In the case of those below 18 the money would go to their mothers. If we were to divide $22 billion among 3.5 million citizens that would be a payment of approximately $6300 per citizen. A family of 4 would have a basic income of $25,000, over 10 times as much as LHL’s dubious claims of support of $2200. At a stroke we could abolish poverty in Singapore and give a big boost to domestic consumption. If this is impossible, because the reserves are illiquid or the PAP Gov has lost them through bad investments, then it needs to be held accountable.
There is an important lesson for Singaporeans. In democracies most of the news media are full of gripes from citizens about exorbitant utility bills, skyrocketing food prices and incomes failing to keep pace with inflation. That’s what democracy is about-ensuring your elected representatives come up with solutions to your everyday problems. Instead you’ve allowed LHL and the PAP Gov to feel no pressure at all to help you out. When LHL talks about how great it is that Singaporeans are united and trust their leaders what he really means is that you acquiesce in his autocratic rule and are taken in by an Opposition that fails to do its job in holding the Government to account. You give him an easy ride so he thinks he can relax and talk grandiosely of huge projects that won’t be completed in many of your lifetimes instead of coming up with practical ways to help you and raise your living standards. In his talk of Terminal 5, Tuas Port and Paya Lebar New Town he resembles no one more than Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia, who similarly unconstrained by domestic opposition, recently proposed a thousand foot high city built as a continuous wall through the desert.
Conspicuously absent from his speech was any mention of climate change and policies to adapt to it despite this being one of the most pressing challenges facing our country. The subtext behind LHL’s mega projects and huge new towns is that he is preparing to boost the population of Singapore to what has always been the PAP’s stealth target of 10 million or more. He cares more about foreigners and attracting so called foreign talent (most of them with inferior qualifications to you) than he does about looking after your welfare. He needs a continual influx of new citizens from poorer countries to keep him and his family in power forever.
So when LHL starts talking big about his vision for Singapore in 50 or a 100 years, don’t be taken in. Ask him and his MPs why more can’t be done to help you and your families now and what’s happened to the reserves. If he can’t or won’t provide satisfactory answers you need to vote him and his party out. We at the Reform Party will never stop striving to hold the Government accountable and to find out where your money has gone. Take back your country from this bunch of self-serving hypocrites and liars who take advantage of your misplaced trust to pay themselves and their relatives hundreds of millions of dollars out of state funds year after year while cynically using claims of a Singapore spirit to justify their continued absolute rule.