Skip to content

Lawrence Wong, Stop the Fake Camaraderie and Humility: You Are Not My Brother

It has always been a favourite PAP tactic to show fake concern for the plight of Singaporeans and claim a false solidarity while doing their level best to undermine them and provide advantages to their competitors. This year’s May Day Speech by Lawrence Wong, eager Seatwarmer-in-Waiting to PM Lee, was no exception.

Enough already with this fake solidarity with the workers.. Start with the hypocrisy of PAP leaders and Ministers earning $2-3 million a year while addressing ordinary workers as Brother. Everything about them is elitist and out of touch with the concerns of the average Singaporean yet they have the audacity to pretend that they stand with you and have your interests at heart. Ask Lawrence Wong and LHL how often they travel by public transport. Do they have to live in public housing where the sizes of flats have got smaller decade by decade since the 1990s? Does LHL still make use of the Temasek corporate jet as I caught him doing here (since then there’s been a news blackout)? Many Singaporean families cannot afford a holiday. Do some of the Ministers pay non-market rents for colonial era mansions on public land ?(perhaps that qualifies as living in public housing?). It would be bad enough if this helping yourself to money out of the public purse was confined to Ministers but it is only the tip of the iceberg. Frequently it extends to securing unnecessarily and obscenely well paid jobs for their spouses and relatives. Since at least 2015 I have called on the PM to reveal what he pays his wife. Even if he protests that her remuneration was approved by a corporate board it does not alter the fact that he appoints the board and no doubt has a say in their remuneration and other job offers. LHL declines to tell us how his son got his job at Google and why he was appointed head of the Technology Agency. Despite the lack of information and utter lack of transparency Singaporeans can be certain of one thing at least. LHL and his wife are billionaires, not due to any brilliant innovation they developed, but solely due to their years of supposed public service and from what they inherited from his parents. So are some of his Ministers probably

Then there is Wong’s repetition of the usual PAP lies about the partnership between NTUC and PAP being all about protecting the interests of Singaporean workers and raising their incomes. NTUC (or Never Trust a Union Chief as it should more appropriately be known) was set up specifically in the 1960s by LKY to replace and suppress the independent trade unions that had emerged under the British colonial administration. NTUC’s objective was not to raise wages and living standards but rather to keep workers under the thumbs of the PAP and businesses allied to them. Strikes were banned and many of the independent trade union leaders were detained, some for a decade or more.

Singaporeans should not be fooled. NTUC has never pushed for a minimum wage or for protections on working hours or the substitution of Singaporeans by lower paid foreign workers without reservist commitments. It has not even attempted to stop or moderate the Government’s liberal policy on employment of foreign labour. Wong contrasts Singapore’s labour peace where strikes are banned and strikers jailed with French workers protesting the raising of the pension age. Yet the question Singaporean workers should ask themselves is whether keeping quiet and accepting every demand of the PAP and its trade union arm NTUC has served their economic interests well. Wong boasts without foundation that Singaporeans are better off than workers in other countries but as usual with the PAP fails to provide any facts. What we do know is that minimum wages of $17 per hour in the UK or $20 per hour in New York contrast unfavourably with the fact that many lower paid Singaporeans earn $7 per hour or less even under the PAP’s fake Progressive Wage Model. On top of that many essential goods and foodstuffs are much more expensive here. When Goh Chok Tong said that Singaporeans would soon enjoy a Swiss standard of living what he really meant was that Singaporeans would pay Swiss prices but earn a Malaysian salary!

Wong claims that the PAP looks after lower income Singaporeans. It is true that the Government provides a meagre Wage Credit and Senior Employment Credit which it then counts as a subsidy or transfer. It adds up these fake subsidies, like the ones to enable you to buy an overpriced HDB flat, and proudly proclaims that Singapore provides more “subsidies” to the poor than other countries. But this is the usual PAP mendacity. Wage subsidies do not really benefit low wage workers but employers who are thus able to get labour cheaper than they would otherwise be able to. They are paid for by the taxpayer which includes average Singaporeans out of taxes like GST. Since the Government is one of the biggest employers it recoups most of the cost of the wage subsidy in being able to pay Singaporeans less. It would be far better to have a minimum wage which would be paid directly by employers. A minimum wage would also discourage the substitution of foreign workers for Singaporeans since there would be no or little cost advantage. Having wages subsidies and allowing the import of cheap labour without a minimum wage has had a damaging effect on our productivity growth since low wages disincentivize the adoption of labour saving equipment. The PAP keep quiet about their poor productivity record but it has not improved since they devoted a whole Budget (2010) to fixing the problem. We still badly lag behind the productivity of the US and many European countries even though we are just a city and comparisons should be made with New York, Paris or Tokyo.

I have pointed out that the labour force participation rate for Singapore citizens appears to be much lower than that in other developed countries including the US. This is because wages for many jobs have fallen below a living wage. Wong says that the Government will be upgrading its SkillsFuture programme to provide more assistance to Singaporeans to retrain and “upskill”. While I fully support providing help for workers who have lost their jobs to retrain, much of this is an excuse from the PAP for not only their failure to protect Singaporean workers but to actively foster an economy in which their hopes of earning a living wage are undercut by desperate foreign workers from other countries prepared to put up with much lower living standards. It has always been a standard PAP tactic to keep Singaporean workers on the defensive and impose on them this fake “credentialism” by which they are made to think that they need to constantly acquire new and often worthless qualifications. Rather than anecdotal evidence Wong should produce evidence that these courses are worth it in terms of salary gains after the courses’ allegedly subsidised costs but that is something the PAP never do.

Wong goes on to dissimulate further. He claims that HDB is still affordable by comparing the cost of a four room HDB in 1980 divided by median household income then with its cost now similarly divided by median income now. He says the ratio is about the same. But this is highly disingenuous. The household in 1980 would have had more dependents than a household now which would probably consist of at least three working adults rather than two then. So the only reason HDB is affordable is because there are more working adults to service the mortgage. HDB sizes have fallen meaning that Singaporeans are considerably worse off in terms of living space than they were then, particularly adults. Responsibility for the high level of prices rests solely with the Government, since as I have clearly shown pushing up land prices enables Lawrence Wong and his master LHL to siphon off more money from the Budget in fake subsidies to channel it into the reserves (see here and here)

Singaporeans need to stop being taken in by this fake camaraderie and pretence that PAP millionaires and billionaires are all in the same boat with you. This Labour Day, you need to be conscious of the fact that the PAP are not your friends and looking after your welfare. They want to give you as little as they need to to induce you to vote for them and keep them in power so that they can continue milking the system that they have set up. Lawrence Wong and his master, LHL, are taking you for a ride. Rather than being fooled by these fraudulent calls for unity designed to divert you from where the money’s going, you need to start asking where are the $3 trillion in reserves and who is benefitting from their (mis)management.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: