Thursday, April 5, 2007

Show Me The Money

Its been announced, the newspapers have been spinning it for days. Hue and cry from the great unwash, but everyone knows the likelihood of our displeasure causing a “rethink”- zilch. Ministers and some 230 Administrative Officers are raising their own salaries, some a whopping 80%, and nothing short of our sun going nova is going to stop them from getting what they think they are worth, nosiree.

You can guess which side of the fence I'm pounding standing. Yes, I've read all the reasons - competing with the private sector, paying top dollar or they will leave yadayada. Does it make sense? Yup. Would I give them a raise?...

If I were a shareholder of a for-profit corporation, my decision on whether to reward management will depend on what I’ve gotten in return for my investment, my ROI - dividends, bonus shares etc. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

So now these Ministers and their 230 or so officers are asking for demanding announcing a raise. So how do I, as a tax-paying citizen, evaluate this request decree? How is my life (the ROI on my taxes) so far under these peanut-deficient men?

Top on the list, Jobs. They may say it’s the economy that’s most important. But what’s the point of having a roaring economy if you don’t have a job, or your job doesn't pay you enough? I support a government who can best look after my needs. Selfish you say. But the one that can satisfy the needs of the most gets to run the country. If I am the minority who doesn't benefit from existing policies, the government of my choice doesn't get elected. If the policies make more and more people less better off so much so that they become the majority, the government gets booted out. Isn’t that how it’s suppose to work? So jobs… I have a job, but I'm reaching a point in my career where my position is constantly under pressure from cheaper foreign imports. If I get laid off in the next few years, I'm done for. I'd probably have to switch industry, which means I'd have to start from scratch. That's 10+ years of career planning and hard work down the toilet. I'm not the only one facing this problem. Most of my friends are in the same boat. It is real and pretty widespread and is the result of various policies implemented by the current government.

Next, Housing. I was initially pretty satisfied with my housing situation. Although the value of my flat has fallen, I had no intention of moving so it was a paper loss. That was until my area was selected for en block redevelopment and I will be forced to realise the loss. Even after taking into account any compensation offered to cushion affected residents, this unplanned move is going to cost me around $100,000 – loss on current flat, built-in furniture, fixtures, floor tiling, kitchen etc. will have to be written off and new ones bought for the new flat. I've yet to work out if I would have to top up my bank loan... My MP? He says it can't be helped and I was unlucky to have bought my flat at the wrong time. I wonder if he knows what it feels like to be kicked out of your own home and moved around like a refugee.

Healthcare. I don’t know when it began. But recently I’ve begun to feel the sting of medical bills. I guess when I was younger, I just don’t see the doctor enough to feel the pain. But now, I’ve had consultations, x-rays, scans, checks, tests, scopes, a day surgery, medication etc. I’ve spent close to a month’s take home on medical. What’s it going to be like when I am 50? 60? As the healthcare system is currently still being revamped, I’ll reserve my judgment until it’s done. As of now, it is still bearable but will definitely get worse if nothing is done to tackle costs.

Living Costs. Up, up, up. Someone once said fed up. What else is there to say? Blaming it on globalization doesn’t make it less of a problem to me. I’ve heard you talk about cutting business costs year after year, when are you going to get some of those 230 AOs to work on cutting MY costs?

Quality of life. This is a biggie and a bit of a mix here. Law and order, cleanliness and infrastructure, I’ll sing the praises. But you know, there’s just this nagging feeling that something is missing from my life. People use to say Singapore is like her hospitals, it’s clean, it’s efficient, it has all the facilities, the shops, the food etc. Maybe that’s the problem, living in a hospital. You have around you everything that’s designed to keep you physically alive, but you just feel miserable. You just want to go home, where you are free to do whatever you want, eat whatever you want, sleep wherever and whenever you want, read and watch whatever you want… say whatever you want…

…what’s that? I have to pay you more or else you’ll go work somewhere else?


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