Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The State of Things

So what my colleague, YPW has been telling me is true...

A few weeks back, we have read an article from TODAY newspaper about companies not investing in the training of elderly workers. This was the finding of a relevant government agency's survey. Meritocracy has always been trumpeted as the cornerstone of the country's success. In other words, you will earn more if you work hard and upgrade, regardless of your background. And the government has always encouraged continuous training as the way up the social ladder. But seriously, what chance for upgrade do the already poorly educated, elderly workers have? That was about the same time the GST hire was announced, which was to help the lower income earners. So what do all these point to?

According to a Newsweek article, "over the past three years, Singapore's economy has averaged 7.6 percent growth", yet "new statistics reveal that middle-class households have tasted none of Singapore's spectacular growth..." In fact, "the island's poorest 30 percent are worse off than they were five years ago..." To compete in the global arena, the government has to lower business cost, which comes obviously in the form of labour. Moreover, we have opened our door wide to foreign investors and MNCs. Needless to say, the hardest hit are the lowly skilled workers, those guys at the bottom of the pile, struggling for the slimmest slide of pie. Next, throw in the foreign workers from Indonesia and Bangladesh, the result: "the poorest 10 percent have suffered a staggering 4.3 percent drop in their salaries each year."

And this article in year 2000 has thrown some light on how the government has been redistributing the wealth, or rather how it "always wants high rates of growth to reduce poverty levels..." To help the poor, it has "nine community development councils, which are jointly funded and operated by local officials and charities", where "every dollar donated to the councils is matched three-to-one by the government" Basically, LKY has never believed in a cradle-to-grave welfare state like the United Kingdom for Singapore or a free lunch. But, at what price: The formation of an underclass (or has it already existed, which explains the poor performance of the ruling party in the last election?), the fall of the men in white at the next election? I can see both happening if public sentiment is not appeased or no concrete solutions are presented for the budget announcement next month.

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