Reading this article last week really got me thinking on the current state of wage and wealth distribution in Singapore.
Throughout the article, the author uses data and charts to show that Singapore is one of the most unequal and stingy countries in the world (right after Hong Kong in most cases).
In terms of measures of wealth distribution (average national salary, purchasing power, private expenditure on healthcare, retirement savings, and elderly incomes), we always come close to last, whereas in terms of overall economic performance (cash surplus as a proportion of GDP, total reserves minus gold as a percentage of GDP, international reserves, etc.) we outdo virtually all comparable global economies!
I’m not naïve. I understand how the world works: I know we don’t live in a perfect world, I know the economic system we live in has made things complicated, I know many people out there would rather die than to have to share some of what they have with others, and I also know that ideals only take you so far in life.
But I truly believe that behind the hardships, the struggles, and the bleakness depicted in these charts lies a core of good-hearted individuals who really want what’s best for the people of Singapore.
I refuse to believe that the hard truths listed throughout the article are representative of who we are as a nation!
Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily disputing the numbers, the analysis, or the conclusions reached by the author. I’m merely saying that such harsh realities – if indeed founded – get me so outraged that I feel the need to look for a silver lining. No matter how small.
One such silver lining may be the fact that the government has begun to notice that rampant inequalities are a vicious by-product of rapid globalisation that can have far-reaching and profound social repercussions if left unaddressed.
Unfortunately, it is also a deep-rooted issue, not easily or instantly solved by policy changes. Positive steps can, however, be taken to mitigate the issue.
A panel was formed by NUS earlier in the year to discuss this matter, and a recurring consensus seems to suggest the necessary strengthening of our domestic economy to reduce dependency on foreign investments and workers. This calls to the fore qualities like local business entrepreneurship, innovation, and efficiency.
As it is, Budget 2013 has already taken positive measures to increase real wage in the face of perpetually rising inflation, to assist especially the low wage workers. It also attempts to incite SME and start-up growth with productivity and innovation incentives and tax rebates.
These encouraging initiatives will certainly help to level the playing field and boost local businesses up the value chain.
All in all, among the difficulties and the struggles are numerous positive and motivating projects being created right as I write.