19 Dec 2006

Qu'ils mangent de la brioche

From CNN. However this is nothing new nor unique to Singapore.
Singapore flames 'uncaring elite'
POSTED: 0551 GMT (1351 HKT), December 19, 2006
SINGAPORE (Reuters) -- When Wee Shu Min, the teenage daughter of a Singapore member of parliament stumbled across the blog of a Singaporean who wrote that he was worried about losing his job, she thought she'd give him a piece of her mind.

She called him "one of many wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches in our country" on her own blog and signed off with "please, get out of my elite uncaring face".

Wee was flamed by hundreds of fellow bloggers, but when her father Wee Siew Kim -- an MP in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's constituency -- told a Singapore newspaper that "her basic point is reasonable", the row moved well beyond the blogosphere.

The episode highlighted a deep rift in Singapore society and was an embarrassment for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and prime minister Lee, who has made the reduction of the income gap one of the priorities of his new government.

"Coming from an MP in the prime minister's constituency, these comments really were political dynamite," political commentator Seah Chiang Nee told Reuters.

"If the political arrogance and elitism get any worse, the PAP will lose more electoral ground," he added.

Singapore is Asia's second-richest country after Japan with a gross domestic product per capita of about $27,000, ranking between EU member Italy and Spain. But in terms of income disparity, Singapore is in altogether different company.

Singapore's Gini index -- which measures inequality of income distribution among households -- of 42.5 puts it between Burundi and Kenya, the UN Human Development Report 2006 shows.

"Yes, the Gini coefficient is very high. Through housing, health care and education, we have tried to narrow the income gap, but not through wages," National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan told Reuters in an interview last month.

Welfare as a dirty word
Singapore pays no employment benefits, no pensions and has no legal minimum wage, but education is cheap and excellent, health care is subsidized and the government gives subsidies to first-time buyers of government-built flats.

Last month, Singapore's first parliament session since the May 6 poll was dominated by the inequality theme.

PM Lee ruled out the introduction of old-age pensions, a minimum wage or European-style welfare.

"We have treated welfare as a dirty word. The opposition, I think the Workers' Party, has called for a 'permanent unconditional needs-based welfare system'. I think that is an even dirtier five words," he said in a speech on November 13.

But he acknowledged that since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the income gap had widened, and said that his government plans to "tilt the balance in favor of the lower-income groups".

While Lee's ruling PAP is in no danger of losing its stranglehold on parliament -- where it has 82 out of 84 elected seats -- the growing income disparity has hurt its credibility.

In the May 6 poll, the Workers' Party scored its best result in years, with chairwoman Sylvia Lim winning 44 percent of the votes in a multi-seat ward. Lee lost 34 percent in his ward to a group of unknown candidates in their early thirties.

"They (the PAP) are concerned about the fallout if they don't do anything about the income gap," Lim, who entered parliament as a non-voting MP under a best-loser provision, told Reuters.

In parliament, Lee said he plans to improve healthcare and boost housing subsidies for low-income families. He added that he wants more "workfare" schemes, under which the state tops up low-income workers' pay.

On May 1 -- five days before the election -- the government paid out S$150 million to about 330,000 low-income workers, and Lee promised a similar package for next year. Details would be released in the 2007 budget on February 15.

Marie Antoinettes
Critics say that much of the outrage about the teenage blogger's comments is due to a perception that Singapore is ruled by a privileged elite that's out of touch with the people.

The road to a top job in the Singapore government or civil service leads through elite junior colleges and prestigious government scholarships for university studies abroad.

While access to these schools and scholarships is open to all and based on academic grades, critics say the children of the elite are well represented. Wee Shu Min attends a top school, Raffles Junior College, as did her father, an MP and a top executive at state-owned arms maker ST Engineering.

In a report about "elite envy", the Straits Times daily quoted official data showing that in the last five years, one in three students on government scholarships came from families with incomes of more than $6,500 a month, while such families make up just 13 percent of all Singapore households.

Students from households on incomes of less than $2,000 made up only 7 per cent of scholarship winners, the paper added.

Colin Goh, founder of satirical Web site TalkingCock.com, said that while the first generation of post-independence PAP leaders was seen as close to the people, this is no longer the case.

"The source for much invective in the Wee Shu Min case is that there is a real sense the PAP is composed of people in ivory towers; that they are a bunch of Marie Antoinettes," he said.

Copyright 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

And where does this income inequality begin...

1. Singapore Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year
Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to SGD1,458,040) a year

2. United States of America President: US$200,000 Vice President: US$181,400
Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000

3. United Kingdom Prime Minister: US$170,556 Ministers: US$146,299 Senior Civil
Servants: US$262,438

4. Australia Prime Minister: US$137,060 Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439
Treasurer: US$102,682

5. Hong Kong Chief Executive : US$416,615 Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
Financial Sec: US$315,077

Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000


Anonymous said...

That's a brillant article.

But your income inequality source is hopelessly outdated.. The US president's salary is USD400,000 per year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_the_United_States#Salary

Capt_Canuck said...

I do agree, brilliant article. I do find it really interesting how a country of 4,480,000 people in a 699 km² area pays their leader more than a country that is 300,460,597 people strong and 9,631,420 km² area. Figure if you made it equal, to break the salaries down to size, then either if we did it Singapore style then Singapore PM gets paid $0.25/person (Salary divided by population) , so that means that the President of the USA should get US$73,773,807.30 per year. Or if you go by USA standards the president makes US$0.0013/head, so that would put Singapore PM at US$5,964.17 per year. Hmmm, good thing that country leaders are not paid by the population huh?

Guess that is what happens when you have a free country as opposed to a dominated country. But, then again, you pay for quality huh? USA is a mess of crime, drugs and prostitution, whereas Singapore is a crime free, drug free Utopia to live in.

Anonymous said...

is Singapore really crime free, drug free and without prostitution? Certainly the 146th will make it seem like utopia.

Anonymous said...

now u all know why Uncle Bush came to sg...

he wanted to ask xiao lee how to earn more money...

Anonymous said...

so that nasty little virginal cow Wee Shu Min is getting a spot of publicity once again. She belives she is a singapore elite, such an animal does not exist. Firstly the obnoxious girl is chinesed, from the west's point of view chinese are a working class society, they have made money, but that does not class them in an elite bracket. So little cow get back to your rootes, and the next time a white european speaks to you, bow your head and apoloigise.

Matilah_Singapura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matilah_Singapura said...

I agree. She is an obnoxious person, and reflects perfectly the bad upbringing of her parents.

Shame, shame, shame. A Pox on both your houses, Ms Wee.

To capt canuck: S'poreans don't "pay" their oppressors, oops, I mean leaders. The government pays itself from the money (aka PRIVATE PROPERTY) forcibly extracted from the citizen. That it the nature of The State: it has a MONOPOLY on taxation in a given territory. Get rid of the state, and you get rid of the MONOPOLY of taxation.

"Welfare" is not a dirty word. State funded social welfare is DANGEROUS to the FREEDOM of the people, because to fund social welfare, The State uses its absolute monopolistic powers to take and re-distribute PRIVATE PROPERTY — by force. State welfare INCREASES the power of The State. When State power increases, individual FREEDOM decreases.

Any attack on PRIVATE PROPERTY is bad, and the people who suffer most are the poor — because they are the people most vulnerable to the incursions of The State. Politicians can "woo" them as a group — promising "goodies". However the "goodies" come at a bigger cost — you get nepotism as the "mates" of the politicians get govt funds to supply "goodies" to the "needy"

Take the case of HDB and the way that it is umbilically tied to the ballot. With the exception of a the "rebel" wards, evberyone else is given the "either-or": "Vote for PAP and get the goodies"

Anyone who believes the welfare state hasn't arrived in S'pore is kidding themselves. Wake up — see how the govt controls 80+% of the people.

Welfare is a fantastic idea, because there will be always people who cannot help themselves. Hence the importance of PRIVATE DIRECT CHARITY.

The idea of state welfare makes a mockery of the word "charity", and perhaps of the word "welfare" itself. When it is done privately, by voluntary self-directed choice and effort, you can be certain it comes from the HEART, not from the cold, souless, bloodless, cruel, uncompassionate STATE.

Anonymous said...

Why obnoxious person? You consider people who speak truth obnoxious meh? Delusion better for you is it right? Good that she say it loud and clear, no more little dressings by older people anymore.

Matilah_Singapura said...

You obviously have been brought up extremely badly yourself. I however, don't care — it's your life and you are welcome to the consequences of your choices.

Whats-her-elite-face, is an extremely obnoxious person, and thankfully in Asian society this reflects on her parents/guardians — whoever brought her up.

One would expect a certain level of decorum and social grace, even as a communicator she fails quite badly — In MY opnion.

And what she write on the net is HER OPINION, it is not necessarily the OBJECTIVE "truth". The girl has defiitely got "conditioned triggers" about the WELFARE of others,and tends to believe in her opinion as "truth" — without giving the other sides of the issue some *careful* thought. Hence my point: bad communicator, and probably some self-esttem issues too.

One thing I do notice about "elites" (so-called) is that many of them have a constant need to VALIDATE THEMSELVES, and when taken to the point of obsession, that they simply won;t listen to what ever else someone else has to say.

Can't say I really blame the kid, actually. She was educated in a state school which uses a state-constructed method, is administered by state-employees, and is funded by the state through involuntary taxation of the citizens.

...and to boot, her dad works for the state.

Poor kid. Still obnoxious, but still worthy of a modicum of pity.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Addendum: Last bit should read "Still and obnoxious little shit,"

Anonymous said...

come on lah, what 'objective' truth? I tell you something of course it can be both my opinion and also the truth as well right? why must be objective to be truthful? I am seven and a half, do you need to know the number of days to the half to be objective? Funny reasoning you know.

oh, I was not brought up as well as the little girl. But if she can say that, then you must be quite stupid to believe that she is the only person in these schools and these parents to hold the opinion right? so it is likely that this is more or less the 'truth', and less her own opinion of how people think lah.

haahahah, nothing to do with state lah. you are always making connections with the state. Heh, chicken or egg first? state or people first? still got state meh? People fly around now in many states leh. So which state at fault? Hahaha, loop hole in your reasoning leh.

of course when you say things it is your own opinion what, no need to stress that again and again. Be brave and say it. That is why I like the little girl, no need to apologize one. Just do it. If world dont like it, then too bad. If I were her, I defend myself not go to my lao bei.

aiya, people dont like to hear truths one. very difficult to tell the truth.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Oh my my, anonymous - got your knickers in a twist, did we? There, there... it's ok, just suck your thumb for awhile...

I never said she ought to apologise. All I said is that she's an obnoxious little shit :-)

Anonymous said...

I never said you said she ought to apologise what. Why so sensitive?

At least she has no hypocrisy right or not? Right in your face styo man.

fredrik said...

how about me dressing a bomb in disguise as an easter egg and then giving it to you on easter day itself.dont understand what i'm saying? nevermind let me explain in simple context

so if the elites shoot us, then we cannot say anything right? cause they are correct,they are not hyprocrites by stating the opposite eh? So we must not state on the disequality with the oppression, we must sit and say "orh" right?

but then why, the governments states new rules that we are to obey, we cannot be hyprocrites too right? so we must shoot back, no no wait, whats with the condeming of humour that disallows our speech, we're forced to be hyprocrites ourselves?

Matilah_Singapura said...

"shoot back at the government"...??

Man, that just brings tears to my eyes. :)

Anonymous said...

4 years or so of debates...all forgotton when we stand infront of the ballot box..pathetic.