Archive for the 'economy and finance' Category

Population White Paper should be about children, not about GDP


All projections into the future depend on assumptions. The same is true of the Population White Paper just released. It is one that has provoked a huge outcry with its estimate that Singapore will have as many as 6.9 million on this island by 2030, just 17 years away.

However, among the many assumptions used, one stood out to my eyes.  It is there in the executive summary, speaking of getting “3% to 5% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth on average” between now and 2020, and 2% to 3% thereafter. Strictly speaking, these were not assumptions. They were arbitrarily laid down targets, but once laid down, they effectively determined the result — which is that population has to rise to as many as 6.9 million. Continue reading ‘Population White Paper should be about children, not about GDP’

Consider capital gains tax

Throughout this year’s US presidential election campaign, the question of Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns haunted him. He steadfastly refused to release his tax returns for twelve previous years unlike other presidential nominees in the past. There was always the sense that he had something to hide. He did eventually release his 2010 and 2011 tax returns, but the figures hardly helped his case.

Although the top rate of federal income tax in the United States is 35 percent, Romney only paid 13.9 percent in 2010 and 14.1 percent in 2011. His income was certainly large enough to be attracting the top rate. In 2010, Romney and wife declared income of US$21.7 million, well within the income bracket of “US$373,651 and above” that attracts the top rate.  In 2011, the couple declared income of US$13.7 million, again within the income bracket of “US$379,151 and above” that attracts the top rate.

Continue reading ‘Consider capital gains tax’

On foreign labour and the income gap: Acting in moderation or muddling through?

In a blogpost on 30 September, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-jin laid out some numbers to show that the growth in the foreign workforce is moderating. At the same time, he discussed the difficult balance that has to be struck between business anxieties about labour shortage and popular frustration over too many foreigners in Singapore.

Popular frustration takes three forms: (a) job competition, (b) crowding and infrastructure overload, and (c) cultural destabilisation. Different people would give a different weightage to these concerns. For this discussion however, I am going to focus on job competition alone. Continue reading ‘On foreign labour and the income gap: Acting in moderation or muddling through?’

In the national conversation, some kinds of talk don’t come cheap

There are three huge hurdles to making anything worthwhile out of the national conversation that the government has launched.

The first is the attitude the government brings to it. Early indications are not encouraging; there is reason to suspect that they dearly want the outcome to more or less confirm what they want to hear, but there is possibly a second motive which I will write about soon. Consequently, the process is being tightly managed. A related issue is the lack of open data and access to information. How can the public meaningfully participate if the government insists on releasing only such information that suits its agenda? Continue reading ‘In the national conversation, some kinds of talk don’t come cheap’

The future according to sushi

Sakae Sushi’s $3,000 cleaner-and-dishwasher job has many of the characteristics of poor human resources design so prevalent in Singapore. Even if they manage to fill the ten positions that the company has, I suspect it is not a sustainable solution. Employees will not stay long or will call in sick with little notice, causing disruption to operations. Singapore bosses often pin blame on employees’ poor work attitude but few bosses interrogate their own attitudes towards their staff and their own limitations when it comes to designing jobs. Continue reading ‘The future according to sushi’

Heng Swee Kiat committee – behind closed doors and closed minds?

Another one? Education minister Heng Swee Keat will lead yet another committee that “should review what needs to change and where we should act more boldly”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day message.

“We will engage Singaporeans in this review, and build a broad consensus on the way forward.”

Rachel Chang of the Straits Times spoke to academics, political observers and ordinary Singaporeans, and reported in her blogpost that there were two main reactions:

First: “Another committee?”

Second: “Will they really do anything radical?”

People remember various other committees in the past that had grand-sounding names but produced forgettable reports. Continue reading ‘Heng Swee Kiat committee – behind closed doors and closed minds?’

Why people didn’t care to be the richest country in the world

It must have annoyed a lot of people to see on the front page of the Straits Times, Wednesday 15 August 2012, the boast that Singapore was the ‘richest country in the world’, validated by another hitherto unheard-of ranking study.

There might have been a time when people here would have taken pride in such an accolade. What better proof that all the sacrifices made in the decades post-independence had paid off, and that our city-state had arrived? But several people I spoke too pointed out that not only do we know it isn’t easy to be the richest country in the world, we look around us and we can clearly see so much that is wrong. “Richest country in the world” can’t possibly mean what it means in plain language.

It can only mean another empty boast. Continue reading ‘Why people didn’t care to be the richest country in the world’

Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 3

In this third segment of the video forum, the ten guest discussants voice their thoughts. Their names are shown in the still picture after the break.

Links to the earlier parts are: Part 1 and Part 2

Continue reading ‘Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 3’

Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 2

Although it’s a longish segment, the discussion here largely centres around one theme: the trade-off between economic growth and population stability. All panelists agree that any discussion about population policy must involve the question of the economic model, though also that it’s not a simple trade-off. Naturally, each one has a different take on the question. Continue reading ‘Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 2’

Top 20% pay 84% of taxes

According to Minister Shanmugam the top 20% income earners, companies, and non-Singaporeans pay 84% of the total taxes in Singapore to finance our $52 billion government budget expenditure. The rest pay only 16% of the total taxes.

— Gintai blog, 16 June 2012, My meeting with Minister K Shanmugam Sc, Link.

I think when Shanmugam flung those numbers out like so many rose petals at a wedding, he was expecting people to appreciate how the government cares for the “common man”. Perhaps the numbers might blunt some of the criticism that there is not enough redistribution? Continue reading ‘Top 20% pay 84% of taxes’