Well, not really
What I want is for a way for the country to prosper, but also for the poor not to be left too far behind. Sounds like a contradictory aim, doesn't it? So, what to do? Who's responsible?
It is my opinion that in order for this to work, it needs a partnership between the g'ment and the people. One cannot do it without the other. This is the so called social compact. The citizenry need to understand the reality of a competitive global landscape, and make the necessary adjustments and sacrifices, and the government needs to provide the the guidance and leadership, make the tough decisions and not merely the popular ones.
What part do the populace have to play in this? I once spoke with a Danish citizen with whom I had some business dealings. The topic on to universal health care and the high taxes required to maintain a state of 'welfare' in the country. Anybody who knows Denmark would be coznizant of the high personal income taxes and consumption tax, and he was a high wage earner and would frankly have been better off in a lower taxation country. BUT.....his position was that he felt it was his duty to stay and had no qualms about forking out close on 30% of his annual income so that a inclusive health system, education and unemployment benefits can be sustained. As PM Lee said in today's papers, these are homogenous nations with a strong sense of nationhood, and can perhaps tolerate such a strenuous 'social compact'.
Boy oh boy, was he right! If he were to revisit CS today, he would have seen a bunch of folk just waiting to quit SG over a measly 2% hike in GST. THAT is how much we are willing to tolerate in the name of nation building.
WHO ARE THE REAL POOR?
Well, with the all the huff and puff this morning, you would think that suddenly food had disappeared from the dinner tables and people had been evicted from their houses. The most hilarious is the part where people maintain their right to hobbies whilst paying an extra 2 cents on a dollar for arguably luxury goods (DSLR anybody?) is too much of a stretch. That's the price of progress I guess, we've become a nation of soft, navel-gazing, self-indulgent brats. For those who continue to throw infantile tantrums about their right to maintain an expensive hobby, I don't have a shred of sympathy, and thankfully, neither do the g'ment.
What is it on a practical sense? If your household expenditure is basic, on utilities, food, clothing etc, how much can you get by on monthly? Maybe a thousand dollars? What does the hike translate to? $20 more? OTOH, you decide to by that Canon 30D, suddenly it will cost you $40 more on a single purchase. It is okay to pay Canon in excess of $2000 for a camera you will maybe use twice a week, but $40 to the g'ment to pursue a social policy is too much?
You want to know poor? They are around you. No, not the guy who had to buy a Hyundai rather than a Honda, not the fellow who had to settle for a Tamron lens rather than an original Nikon. For the poor, it really matters that the get the handouts and government aid. If the practitioners of photography have to pay more for their goods to achieve that aim, tough, and I am all for it.
WHOSE MONEY IS IT ANYWAY?
Folk have been talking as it there is a distinction between government money and their own money. Excuse me, government money IS your money, not only because you put it there, but also because it belongs to you, in an indirect way. Not convinced? Ask yourself, if a government goes bankrupt and defaults on loans, who suffers? Have you all already forgotten the Asian Financial Crisis of the late '90s? I can tell you the citizens of Thailand and Indonesia suffered real and significant drop in standards of living. As usual, who suffers greatest? The poor and the middle class, of course, the same middle class who in SG are now clamouring to get the g'ment to spend it all so that the GST can stay flat.
What's the point of all the emotional knee jerk wailing? This is a serious issue which warrants close examination. Am I convinced that this hike the right way? Absolutely not! But not the whole picture has been revealed, and I think PM Lee deserves a fair hearing. Last but not least, I hope that all and sundry here, those in possession of the red passport and co-passengers on this little red dot, understand their roles in making this a society work, even if it comes at a small cost (2%) to themselves.