Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Thoughts On The National Day Rally Speech 2007

I'll leave the praises to the official mouthpieces. Here are my thoughts on some of the changes announced by the PM, and some things I feel the he should have addressed.

Increasing Cost Of Living

One glaring issue that he did not address was the problem of increased cost of living. I was very surprised that he chose to avoid this topic as it is one of the main reasons why the aging population and the less well off are having problems (so much for million dollar salaries). I believe one often overlooked reason why our cost of living has gone up so much recently is our foreign talent and immigration policy. Like Beijing and many other rapidly growing cities straining under the weight of increased population, the influx of foreigners have a direct impact of on the demand and hence the cost of limited resources. One obvious example is the transportation system. Without land to build wider roads and more flyovers, our roads are struggling to cope with the increasing number of cars, buses and taxis needed to move people around. The effect? Bus fares, taxi charges, train ticket prices, ERP gantry charges all go up, typically to cover the costs of tackling increased demand.

Widening Rich Poor Divide

Although the PM has announced a 4th university to bolster opportunities to climb out of the poverty trap, it is a poor substitute for much needed assistance for the less fortunate/well off. Not everybody is made for academic exellence, and adding more degree holders to the workforce could have the net effect of pulling down salaries for this group of workers.

CPF Changes

Adding an extra 1% will not be enough to tackle the cost of living after retirement. Moreover, the majority of our CPF is locked in our houses and will not earn interest. If you have used your CPF to sevice your housing loan and have subsequently sold the property you will know who has to pay for that CPF interest lost while it was locked in the loan. You. And if you can't afford to pay back the interest lost, the amount is written off so effectively you did not earn ANY interest on your CPF, none.

Retirement Age

Increasing the retirement age is not the magic bullet to tackle an aging population. The people who will probably benefit most from this are mainly company executives, managers, doctors, lawyers, accountants etc. That is, the people who are least likely in need of help during old age. The remaining majority of the aged might likely find themselves working for very little pay doing something they might not be interested in. Life is fast approaching the end and the last thing I want to do is something that I am not interested in.

Compulsory Annuity

I don't like to be forced into buying anything and I am aghast that the PM is forcing Singaporeans to buy a financial product from private businesses. These products are sold by private insurance companies for profit and I don't like being forced to enrich the CEO's and Board of Directors of these companies. Some people might like the idea while others might not. But if you make it compulsory that means the people that don't like the idea don't matter. What happened to education and providing options? If I've made it this far in life I probably deserve the right to choose how I spend my money for my remaining years.

Political and Individual Freedom

We have not progressed much in this area since day one and the PM has continued to not live up to his promises made during his inaugural speech as a PM. Freedom gained from the British and Malaysia have been replaced with subtle oppression in the name of national security and economic progress. A recent example here, and what some observers say about our version of democracy.

All in all, it seems to be business as usual in the City of Possibilities.

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