Labour churning has economic and social costs

Most Singaporeans will not have much idea of the economics of the foreign worker recruiting system, since our daily lives are far removed from this issue. What I can’t figure out is whether civil servants at the Ministry of Manpower know much about it. If they don’t, the question would be: But isn’t it part of your job to know? If they do, then: How have you managed to ignore the injustices, and social and economic consequences of such a dysfunctional system for so long?

This post will attempt to explain the typical path taken by male migrant workers to a job in Singapore, with a focus on money flows and consequential effects. It’s a summary of what I have learnt over the past few months talking to migrant workers and civil society experts on the matter. You will probably find it disturbing to see how loaded the dice is against the poor.

That said, it’s no use wishing the world to be some kind of Utopia. However, that doesn’t mean we should not bother and do nothing; we can put in place regulatory mechanisms that limit and mitigate the exploitation. As far as I can see, however, we’ve ignored the problem, allowing abuses to multiply. And then there are the social and economic consequences that impact all of us and our country. It is thus far from being an isolated issue.

* * * * *

Money flow

Almost all migrant workers report that they’ve had to pay money upfront to recruiters in their home countries to get a job in Singapore. Those coming from India, China and Bangladesh generally pay between S$3,000 and S$8,000. To raise this kind of money, they either have to sell their cows and pigs, or, not uncommonly, the entire farm.

If they have nothing to sell, they borrow from loan sharks, who of course take note where their families live. If a worker falls behind on his repayments, the family is harassed. I’ve even heard of one case where goons hired by a loan shark seized the worker’s daughter and sold her into a trade.

Against that payment, the worker is assured that he will be able to earn $1,000 to $2,500 a month while in Singapore, and that there would be “no problem” staying and working for at least two or three years. The worker calculates thus:

24 months  x $1,000  = S$24,000 at a minimum

I should be able to pay off the loan and make a tidy income to support my family, the worker tells himself. And so the cows are sold. Or the farm.

Where does that money go? Follow the red line.

As you can see from the diagram above, the recruiter in India, China or Bangladesh passes some of that money to his counterpart in Singapore — the labour agent. In turn the labour agent,  competing for business with other agents, offers a cut to employers in return for taking workers via his network. Thus the proceeds of the sale of the cows or farm, or borrowings from the loan shark filter down to the employer. This is actually illegal under Section 15 of the Employment Agencies Act, which says:

15.—(1)   No licensee or employment agency personnel shall give or offer to give (whether directly or indirectly) to an employer or prospective employer, any sum or other benefit —

(a) as consideration or as inducement for employing a person as the employee of the employer or prospective employer;
(b) as consideration or as inducement for continuing to employ a person as the employee of the employer or prospective employer; or
(c) as a financial guarantee related, whether directly or indirectly, to the employment of a person as the employee of the employer or prospective employer.

(2)   Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.

But we almost never hear of prosecutions.

As the diagram shows, the money that originated from the worker himself is ultimately used to fund his own salary and the government levy, at least for the first one or two months. In effect then, the employer gets free labour for a little while. Meanwhile, the recruiter and labour agent are laughing all the way to the bank.

* * * * *

Greed

What happens after the first few months? If the employer isn’t making enough money, he won’t have the cash to pay the levies and salaries in full. Knowing that he’ll be prosecuted for not paying the levies, he stops paying the salaries instead. Yet, as far as the government is concerned, all is well — the levies are paid on time.

But how long can the situation continue?  Before long, the temptation in the employer’s mind to send the worker back and replace him with a new hire becomes irresistible. A new hire is free labour for another one or two months as the cycle starts again. Labour agents also encourage employers to keep the churn rate high; it’s the only way they can make money.

From the worker’s perspective, however, it’s a disaster. He needs to work a continuous period of two or three years at a minimum to earn back his investment and put a little extra money aside for his family. Worse, some of them will have discovered by this point that the $1,000 to $2,000 per month earnings they had been led to expect were empty promises. Most construction workers are paid $18 -$22 a day. Over 30 days (yup, no break) they earn about $600, with a bit of overtime, perhaps $800. But accommodation costs are deducted, and then they’re set back to $600 a month (Chinese workers earn a bit more).

If the employer has not yet cooked up an excuse to send the worker back at the completion of the first year of work, the renewal of the Work Permit presents another opportunity to take a pound of flesh. I understand that the ministry charges an administrative fee of $60 to renew the Permit, but I’ve personally heard several reports that some employers demand $1,500 or $2,000 from the worker to process it. Why this amount? This the amount of new money that a new worker would have brought with him to the employer. The greedy employer wants to be compensated for this loss when retaining an existing worker. That there are many reports from workers of such demands for $1,500 to $2,000 for renewal of Work Permits confirms to us that the initial hiring was accompanied by financial inducement from labour agent to employer — which is an offence, but never investigated or prosecuted.

It should be no surprise that under threat of job termination, existing workers tolerate the deduction and not make a complaint to the authorities, so long as some salary keeps flowing in. This threat is wielded to silence workers on many other issues like delayed salaries, poor accommodation and excessive working hours. Because the ministry allows the employer full discretion when to terminate a Work Permit holder, the employer holds a veto over his life.

* * * * *

Economic and social costs to Singapore

At this point, I need to stress that most employers of foreign labour act honourably. For example, in my short experience, I haven’t seen many complaints from workers from the shipyards and the municipal sanitation companies, which is probably because these employers have steady income streams and can afford to pay their workers and fulfill their side of the contract. Construction and small manufacturing are the industries that generate a disproportionate number of cases, probably because they are small companies with uncertain cash flow.

In fact, these small companies try to avoid having migrant workers on their payroll altogether. The workers remain employees of “construction companies” that are shell companies with no construction work. The workers are seconded on a day-by-day or week-by-week basis, to contractors who have projects.

Here is where the economic and social costs appear:

With respect to economic costs, when workers are shifted from site to site, reporting to different supervisors, they are unfamiliar with the work flow or the layout of the work site. They don’t know their co-workers and cannot read their supervisor’s style and intentions since they’ve not worked under him before. Particularly dangerous is the fact that they are unfamiliar with the machinery or the safety requirements at that site. The result is low productivity and a higher risk of conflict and accidents.

Because of low productivity, Singapore finds itself having to import more workers than we might need. Low productivity also means that employers find themselves unable to afford higher wages or better accommodation, which then creates workplace unhappiness. More workplace unhappiness means more cases swamping the Ministry of Manpower’s limited resources. As the public housing building program is revved up over the next few years, expect a deluge of workers and problems.

I am convinced that things would be much better if we had less churn and created a policy that rewarded holding on to workers for longer and that penalised employers for sending workers back after less than, say, four years. When employers realise that they have no choice but to rely on an existing set of workers for a longer period, they will value their employees more and treat them better. They may also feel it worthwhile to invest in training, thus improving productivity. But if due to unforeseen circumstances, an employer cannot afford to keep a worker, there should be an easy way to transfer him to another employer (without compelling the worker to fly home and wait for a new Work Permit as is currently the case) so that Singapore as a whole benefits from accumulated skills, including social skills.

As for social costs, there’s a world of difference, in my experience, between workers who have been here five years or more and new hires. Those who have stayed a longer time speak more English (actually Singlish), they are more aware of and sensitive to local culture, and generally fit in better. The social friction is less. For example, we are often irked by Indian workers playing music loudly from their speakerphones in buses and trains. These tend to be the new ones who don’t realise that what is normal in India is unacceptable in Singapore. When workers have been here a longer time, and if they are better paid (thus able to afford earphones), this social faux-pas will disappear.

Coupled with higher productivity and slightly fewer numbers of them, isn’t this — less social friction —  a desirable state of affairs? Why isn’t any effort made to go in that direction?

But first, we have to see them as humans, not commodities — humans who can adapt, skill-up, and become a temporary Singaporean. Who deserve better treatment by employers and who ought to be better rewarded for the dirty and dangerous work they do. (And let’s not forget that slowly pushing up average wage levels for the less-skilled benefits Singaporeans too.)

* * * * *

Remedies

In summary, I think policies should be refined with the aim of

(a) putting in incentives to upskill;

(b) reducing churn and retaining experienced workers in Singapore;

(c) reducing employer-employee conflict at source (rather than deal with them after they have arisen as seems to be the case at present);

(d) regulating the “cut” taken by the labour agent, to reduce workers’ indebtedness and subsequent vulnerability.

For (a) and (b) we should consider Work Permits for a minimum four-year duration with penalties on employers who terminate early. We should make worker transfer easier in order to retain their experience for Singapore’s benefit. There should be schemes to promote training and automation.

For (c), given that salary non-payment is such a major source of conflict, I had previously proposed (see Neither law nor morality at Manpower Ministry) that employers with a history of conflict be blacklisted from getting new Work Permits, and a central salary payment system be set up. Either (i) all Work Permit employers have to pay through the centralised system, or (ii) selected industry sectors that have a history of problems or (iii) selected employers with a history of salary conflicts. We should also require all employers of Work Permit holders to lodge a copy of signed employment contracts (in both English and native languages)  with the Manpower Ministry prior to the workers’ arrival in Singapore and make it an offence for the native language version to differ from the English version in any substantial way. Salary should be monthly-rated, not daily rated, to close the loophole by which employers refuse to pay a salary to the worker by simply not deploying him to any worksite.

For (d), we may need refinements to and better enforcement of the Employment Agencies Act. Section 14, for example, says:

14. —(1) It shall be lawful for a licensee to charge and receive such fees as may be prescribed from time to time.

(2) No licensee shall charge or receive any form of fees, remuneration, profit or compensation otherwise than as provided in this Act.

The details are provided within the subsidiary legislation Employment Agencies Rules 2011, whose Section 12 (1)(a) limits the fee payable by a foreign worker to a local employment agency to one-month’s salary for each year of the duration of the employment contract or Work Permit, whichever is shorter. We will probably need to reduce it to one month’s salary flat regardless of duration. And of course the law needs to be enforced — once again, the current reality is that we next to never hear of prosecutions even though the law is frequently flouted.

(Oddly enough, the Manpower Ministry’s EA Licence Conditions for Comprehensive Licence — which is an information sheet to employment agencies — makes no mention about fee limits.)

Payments received by the local labour agent from the recruiter in India, China or Bangladesh should also be taken into consideration for prosecution purposes.

These are just simple changes that go to improving the situation, not just for workers, but for Singapore as a whole. Unfortunately, I don’t see any desire by civil servants to rethink the regulatory framework  — is it because they never want to admit that the present system is dysfunctional? — nor any political will by ministers either.

34 Responses to “Labour churning has economic and social costs”


  1. 1 cynic 25 September 2011 at 15:34

    This is human trafficking, exactly what the CIA report said several years ago.

  2. 2 famie 25 September 2011 at 16:41

    Having the experience of being involved in a service company that employs many Bangladeshi and PRC workers, contrary to popular belief that agents are engaged in recruitment of these workers, they are directly employed by the company. The law does’nt require them to engage an agent. Recruitment is done through the company’s labournet.The bulk of the upfront fees (about S$10,000.00)are, therefore pocketed by the respective employers. The foreign agent, in particular those in Bangladesh, only gets about S$500.00/worker recruited.

  3. 3 Anonymous 25 September 2011 at 16:55

    The reason for maintaining the status quo is simple. The MPs and ministers are probably shareholders or board members of developers and construction firms. Any change from status quo will mean that these companies will stand to earn less profits or incur more cost. As it affect them negatively, they will be resistant to change.

    Take losing PAP candidate Ong Ye Kung for example, his wife is the executive director of Sim Lian Group. As assistant secretary general of NTUC, he made a speech talking about Singapore going to face a labour crunch implying that we need more workers. So, it is clear that policies are made for their own interest and not for Singaporeans’ interest or anyone else.

  4. 5 SG! 25 September 2011 at 19:12

    Might I add that cheap or free labour only encourages employers to use labour-intensive methods of production, and discourages investment in more productive methods.

  5. 6 yuen 25 September 2011 at 19:48

    >isn’t it part of your job to know?

    the simple answer is no; civil servants, company employees, even some higher persons, operate according to a set of rules they are currently given; trying to understand the what and why behind the rules is academically good, but operationally unwise

    I can quote a few high level examples: during the election Mah Bow Tan says “HDB flats are still quite affordable”, Raymond Lim says “our public transport is quite good” etc, and cited figures justifying their statements – according to their current rulebook, things were fine

    it is this mentality that led to the great escape of Mas Selamat – the security risks at the detention centre were glaring, but no one noticed; it was not part of their rulebook to notice

    • 7 Poker Player 26 September 2011 at 15:01

      Ridiculous comment. What you say is valid only if civil servants only implement policies. They are also supposed to help formulate them.

      • 8 yuen 26 September 2011 at 19:46

        excellent comment; indeed they are “supposed’ to do so; please quote some examples to illustrate that they actually do

      • 9 Poker Player 27 September 2011 at 10:16

        It’s right in front of your nose. Who do you think writes and maintains what you call the “current rulebook”?

      • 10 Poker Player 27 September 2011 at 10:21

        “please quote some examples to illustrate that they actually do”

        Huh? The claim is “supposed to” but you require evidence for “actually do”? What on earth are you talking about?

  6. 11 Rajiv Chaudhry 25 September 2011 at 21:05

    The difficulty obviously, is with (d). Human nature being what it is, even if one succeeds in regulating/curbing it in Singapore, it will be next to impossible to do so in the home country. Domestic maids also suffer from the same problem.

    The other issue I’ve noticed with foreign workers, especially in Little India coffee shops and food outlets is Dickensian working hours. A worker I know in a coffee shop I visit regularly works 15 to 16 hours a day, 365 days a year. He is on an ‘S’ pass. On paper, his salary meets the minimum requirement for eligibility but in practice he gets about $800 in hand. How his employer gets away with it is a complete mystery to me but obviously, its a well honed system.

  7. 12 No perfect system 25 September 2011 at 23:10

    “At this point, I need to stress that most employers of foreign labour act honourably.” – Yawning bread

    That’s the point. And the keywords are “most employers”.

    Just like most voters voted for PAP.

    You can’t or may not have a perfect system but as long as most of the things or people are OK, then it is OK.

    • 13 yawningbread 25 September 2011 at 23:48

      You are confusing two different scenarios. In (A), people choose among different choices, all of which are legitimate. In (B), people behave in different ways, some of which are illegitimate because they are unjust or other reasons, creating victims. Just because the majority is recognised as a decider in (A) does not make it right to say, let’s ignore the minority in scenario (B).

      In case you find it hard to understand, consider this: most drivers drive with reasonable care, within speed limits, stopping at traffic lights, giving way at zebra crossings, etc. A minority do not. By your logic, since the majority behave well, so the traffic police should not bother to apprehend the minority who drive recklessly.

    • 14 Are You An Economic Anaimal? 26 September 2011 at 08:52

      Hey “No Perfect System”.

      If you know 2 persons out of 10 are being exploited, would you said, OK THE MAJORITY IS HAPPY. WE CAN LET 2 DIE”.

      Or would you treat the 2 as fellow human beings and do something, say something or initiate something to help them because you have a conscience.

      HOWEVER, IF YOU HAVE NO CONSCIENCE, FORGET WHAT I HAVE JUST WRITTEN. I HAVE JUST TALKED TO AN ECONOMIC-ANIMAL.

  8. 15 Questions n observations 26 September 2011 at 01:46

    i would like to ask the following: are there any civil servants in Min of Manpower who have worked in the construction industry or labour recruitment agencies or related companies? If there aren’t then how would the civil servants be able to set policies that suit the industries? Furthermore, how would they know the tricks that the recruiters and the labour agents play on these transient workers?
    Lack of industry experience is what plagues a large part of civil service, not just MoM. Perhaps it is the comfort of resting on laurels?

  9. 16 Saycheese 26 September 2011 at 02:15

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that that the governing elites are exploiters of lesser mortals, foreign and local born? So long as they are profiting from their control of Singapore and the majority allows them, status quo remains. Sinkies work their arse out only to retire with their cpf withheld for “investment” by our swfs. They profit from human trafficking, hence the denial that it occurs here. If there is any social problem, you die your business – to them everything is going well here except for the problem created by the bloggers and other cowboy websites. That is why the ISA is here to stay and the MOM will deny that what Alex Au’s is correct. Vive la Singapour!

  10. 17 grey hippo 26 September 2011 at 08:11

    As recent as the early 1990s, PAP was still trying to restrict FW foreign workers as it was aware of the longer-term socio-economic costs. Emphasis was on productivity and reducing reliance on FWs.

    After the 1997 financial crisis, the PAP became more short-sighted and wanted to generate GDP recovery quickly through cheap labour.

    As a result, FW permits were liberalized. Productivity was tossed aside. The PAP became deluded in thinking since these FWs were on term permits, their numbers could be reduced later.

    However, the situation became exactly what the earlier PAP had predicted. The liberalization resulted in overreliance, depressed wages and lowered productivity. FW numbers increased at an increasing rate.

    The current PAP has no idea how to reduce the FW numbers.

  11. 18 gear_sg@yahoo.com 26 September 2011 at 09:45

    @No Perfect System

    1)Donot have a perfect system isn’t a good reason for the authority ignored the improvement needed.

    2)Majority agreeable doesn’t mean is “Right”. It is a Mistaken / Misuse of “Majority Right” abused on Minority group .

  12. 19 Chanel 26 September 2011 at 10:38

    First World country, but Third World workers’ protection.

  13. 20 Kelvin Tan 26 September 2011 at 12:07

    Most of our leaders are SAF trained, and SAF is most well known for using “conscripted labor”, resulting in very unproductive, labor intensive method of producing defence.

    Our policy of using cheap foreign workers probably comes from the same mentality. To change one, you need to change the other first.

  14. 21 Alan Wong 26 September 2011 at 13:05

    Conspiracy theory :

    Certain big-time contractors guarantee a quota of work permits (WP) to their preferred sub-con in return for some trade discount to be used to bid for projects, never mind the subsequent approved WP holders need not necessary work in that particular winning bid project that they are supposed to work in. They can always made do with creative cross subcontracts.

    The subcons in turn sell the WPs or any excess of it to labour hiring agents who do not have the necessary quota to provide the required WP to entice the innocent FW.

    Along the way, everyone in the whole system including the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will benefit except probably the poor FW will have to enslave themselves for a no. of years.

    So why would MOM bother if they are happen to be one of the beneficiaries of the whole abused WP system ?

  15. 22 Sprechen Sie Singlisch? 26 September 2011 at 13:06

    ” had previously proposed (see Neither law nor morality at Manpower Ministry) that employers with a history of conflict be blacklisted from getting new Work Permits, and a central salary payment system be set up.”

    Instead of a government blacklist, would an NGO list useful too? That seems more realizable.

    At present the “name and shame” factor would be of little use in the Singaporean context considering the apathy of Singaporeans to foreign workers. On the other hand, they may have an effect in the originating countries especially if the information gets into the hands of appropriate NGOs working there which can spread the word to the target audience.

    The down side would be defamation liabilities of the Singaporean NGOs.

  16. 23 Anonymous 27 September 2011 at 01:09

    i hope i am not going too off topic by commenting on the expectations some people have that civil servants should come up with new and better policies rather than just support the status quo.

    civil servants are just as human as you are. they are not some paragons of virtue. they do the work they are paid to do and try their best to make sure their position is secure. i.e. their job remains.

    so first of you can forget any civil servant changing the system so much that their job becomes redundant. why would any sane person do that? even if it was of tremendous benefit to singaporeans. everyone in singapore is better off but you personally are much worse off. what’s in it for you? would you sacrifice your job just so that some non-citizen (not all, just some unlucky ones) got a better deal in life?

    secondly the way to hold on to your job and get promoted is by pleasing your boss or a bigger boss. again, which employer from the most admired to the least does not practice this? now remember the civil service has no bottom line and there is no objective measure of success so success is defined in the terms the boss decides. now which boss likes being told that the way he has been operating all these years is fundamentally flawed? so who do you think is going to get the promotion? the one who questions the entire system? or the one who embraces the current thinking but squeezes out efficiencies? Look boss we can save three steps in this procedure and serve the public better! But the policy remains enshrined.

    the other thing to appreciate is that these sorts of problems are complex and messy to say the least and often well-meaning policies have unintended consequences that come back and bite you. so there is a risk that things once changed will go wrong. in fact they are almost guaranteed to go wrong. i mean all these policies were written by well-meaning people in the first place. they were not formulated right from the start to be exploitative. it’s just that in the real world things don’t always go to plan. and people who are trying to cheat the system out of necessity or greed can get very creative. so while alex’s proposal looks good on paper now. things might look a little different in two or ten years time after people have once again figured out how to game the system. or they might blow up in your face immediately. once that happens people will be looking for someone to blame. yup you included. you will never say “well done civil service for trying something new that might have improved the situation, too bad it didn’t.” you will only focus on the failure and say “you stupid civil servant, why didn’t you think this through properly? You should be sacked or demoted.” No one has ever been sacked or demoted in the civil service for doing exactly as the boss wanted. No one. Have you ever written in to a government ministry to defend a daring civil servant who tried something but failed? So if there is no or little guarantee of success who is going to try? Where is the reward in it?

    i actually believe that complaining, which is what singaporean do best, actually does get things done. but once again the civil service is such that being SEEN to be DOING SOMETHING is all that matters. actually solving the problem is less important, especially if the problem is solved in an invisible way where no one is able to take the credit. And again the doing something is always in the context of the current policies and thinking. So if you are going to complain be very clear what you are complaining about.

    • 24 yawningbread 27 September 2011 at 09:45

      There’s great validity in what you’ve said, and that is why so many problems in Singapore come back to the question of political will. There is no political will to change anything substantial, because a party that has been too long in power is too invested in protecting its ego and defending its track record. Short of that, new ministers appointed to a portfolio can also make sweeping changes without defending what has been done before, but for many reasons (groupthink? mutual back-scratching? mutual face-saving?) we don’t see this very much in Singapore.

      But this does not mean we should despair and give up. By speaking up loudly, citizens can make it extremely costly to ministers to continue defending the status quo.

      • 25 Poker Player 27 September 2011 at 10:25

        “civil servants are just as human as you are.”

        Yes. But YB is an amateur. They are professional superscale MOM officers paid superscale salaries. And it’s their day job.

      • 26 Anonymous 28 September 2011 at 09:55

        Hi Alex,

        Fully agree with you. Singaporeans need to be more vocal and demanding. Kick the butts of these so called “professional” civil servants and make them work for their superscale salaries. In China, the Chinese diners get prompt service by shouting at the waiters and waitresses. A Singaporean raising his hand to get the attention of these service providers will be largely ignored. We need to learn from these Chinese and get things done our way.

  17. 27 Levy 29 September 2011 at 22:12

    The Levies pay to the government seem to be the biggest cut of all. In the Construction industry the levy is $380 per month or $4,560 per year on a ongoing basis. Certain industries can be as high as $450 per month.

  18. 28 oute 1 October 2011 at 11:50

    Why dont you write to the Mom with this piece of aritcle, also to The Straits Times, Member of Parliament and see who response to your article.

    By writing to them, we are slowly awakening their consicoous, if they still have any left.

  19. 31 Alvin Tan 1 October 2011 at 21:28

    Actually, if you know the chinese well. It’s all about relationships… I think this is something, most of us Singaporeans disagree with. Singaporeans who subscribe to this belief are in Grassroots and playing golf with the high-level peeps. Whereas those who can’t afford to, are left by the side awaiting for the tide to bring us out to sea.

  20. 32 DetachedObserver 7 October 2011 at 14:27

    The problem is a natural one of information asymmetry and a lack of bargaining power of unskilled labour.

    Ironically, give it a decade. As China and India become more prosperous and factories move from there to places like Vietnam and Bangladesh, our sources of cheap foreign labour will disappear sooner or later coupled with our increasingly bad reputation as a cheap labour exploiter.

    Our local businesses [the reason why our competitiveness ranking is so high is due to our government] will be revealed as having no swimming trunks when the tide finally goes out.

    At the end of the day, I will be chortling away when the government realize that Ong Teng Cheong was right – we should have never coddled employers and their management in the first place, especially the local ones.

  21. 33 Jonno 21 October 2011 at 13:52

    This labour exploitation or ‘Labour churning’ as it is call here has a number of implications:-
    1. Collusion – The beneficiaries are the Government (workers’ levies + misc. fees); Agents; Employers (or Labour subcontractors) & Recruiters. The LOSER here is the foreign worker, conned out of money to get to Singapore to work + literally working for free before being deported back to his homeland. The Government holds the key to reforming this immoral practice of indenture labour but one feels that monetary benefits outweight the humanity and moral issues!
    2. Depressed Wages – Using foreign labour depressed wage levels for all sectors of the economy except for top management. It’s a depressing situation for Singaporeans to find themselves unable to find a job that pays a reasonable rate to survive. Singaporean can exercise their rights to make this known to the Government via voting but as the last GEC shows – the majority of Singaporeans are losers – willing to bitch but fearful to agitate major political changes. Loooo….sers!
    3. Social fragmentation – Us & them; society tends to close ranks when they feel threaten. The influx of outsiders increases resentment, fear and discrimination. It is a potential powder keg that will blow up in the future.
    4. Falling behind – Once upon a not-so-distant time, Singapore was considered one of the 4 Asian tigers – along with South Korea, Taiwan & HK. They were highly developed Asian economies – and models for emerging economies to follow. S.Korea & Taiwan have since developed impressive manufacturing economies specializing in high-end electronics, motor vehicles – cars and scooters & LCDs technologies. HK has developed into a financial powerhouse with investments in property, ports, utilities and telecommuncations. Singapore? Overseas investments via sovereign fund are a hit-&-miss affair (more misses than hits); Manufacturing? long departed to PRC & even home-grown Creative Technology is forgotten in the electronic world. Casinos? even HK avoided that route preferring to let Macau do it. GNP/GDP/Per Capita statistics cloud the fact that S’pore is highly polarized in terms of income – much of the wealth accrue to the Government (including GICs/Stat Boards) and Ministers. Looks good to foreign investors but in reality, it is a hollow economy dependent to ever increasing foreign investments to grow.

  22. 34 Vince 16 March 2014 at 17:56

    The 4 million dollars paycheck should have already awaken some of you but not all of us.


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