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Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

Shifting into reverse gear

In News Reports, Politics, Society on February 28, 2013 at 1:39 am

Open the newspapers today and it’s all about cars. First-timers can’t afford cars, car calculations, car history, exploding car (Ferrari exploded in Teban Gardens)

What’s interesting is that there are ways to drive a car, even a sports car, without owning it. BT reports that leasing is back in vogue and will be even more popular. So instead of putting 50 per cent cash down for a new car in the hope of finally owning it, why not just pay “rent’’ every month and the car returns to the leasing company when the lease is up. A German full-sized sedan costing about $340,000 will require a $170,000 cash down, with monthly instalments of about $3,100 over the newly imposed five-year tenure. But it can be leased for between $5,500 and $7,200 a month over four years, BT helpfully reported. Then the car goes back to the leasing company.

What about leasing a Porsche? You can do that too, provided you put down a cash deposit (at $83,000 for a Porsche Cayenne). You pay about $3,000 a month. After two years, the company will buy the car back from you – at 40 to 50 per cent of market value.
Leasing rates have gone up over the years apparently, so you’d better be getting a move on if you want your butt on the driving seat, although I wonder how many Porsche drivers will admit to having their supercar on a lease…But I guess it’s better than wearing a fake Rolex.

Then over in ST is another story about how an online car rental portal that is just 15 months old is doing big business. It gives the driver access to about 30 car rental companies, so you just click, pay and then drive. The article doesn’t tell you how much it costs to rent a car though, except that the business is about $400 to $500 yearly.

I was tempted at first to view these articles as puff pieces or free ads for the companies but they do serve a function. These stories serve the information needs of the time-deprived reader. They tell about options.

As usual, ST correspondent Chris Tan does a brilliant job of putting out a chart on what the OMV, ARF etc of different makes of cars will be under the new regime. There’s even a bit of interesting history to put things in perspective: Between 1983 and 1990, all cars were subject to a flat 175 per cent ARF, which means a Rolls Royce Phantom would incur ARF of $1.16 million, a BMW 520i would be taxed at $72,000 and a Toyota Camry at $41,000.
Back then, luxury car buyers complained that the tax was unfair to them. Hmmm.
Under the new tiered system, that Phantom would incur ARF of $1million. So luxury car buyers are hit but not as bad as they were in the past.

Chris Tan is complemented online by a commentator who breaks down the numbers even further, a most helpful tool to understand what a car buyer is really paying for. Go look at http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg and get the link.

I was waiting to see another aspect of the car business being reported – the used car market. With new cars shifting into reverse gear, the used car business must be looking forward to accelerating. Time to trade in my car for a used one?

Then I read in today’s Today that they had worries too, particularly on loan curbs imposed by the G. The Singapore Vehicle Traders Association (SVTA) has appealed to the MAS and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), not to apply the new measures “so strictly” to loans for buying used cars.

SVTA President Neo Tiam Ting said: “Used cars are already in the system, there is no need to tighten their supply if one of the reasons for this move is to curb the high COE (Certificate of Entitlement) premiums.”

In any case, just like “cooling measures’’ for property, it seems that aspiring car owners can still exploit some loopholes – like going to unregulated finance or credit companies for a loan. Doubtless, they will be plugged.

More on http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg :
– Dear SAF: Is it more important for soldiers to finish an exercise or to make sure no man gets left behind.
– Unequal coverage of corporate charity in the Chinese and English media
– What the global media think about Singapore’s Budget 2013

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Shift gears = New fears

In Money, News Reports, Politics on February 27, 2013 at 12:19 am

I reckon that the best thing about the debate on the Population White Paper is that most of us will be able to comprehend the Budget 2013 much better than in the past, when we will probably be zooming in to see what’s in it for us.
So many reactions now, so here’s a summary of some new points that have emerged following DPM Tharman’s speech yesterday culled from media reports.

– The construction sector, that really unproductive part of the economy, is going to be hit so hard that it will be a wonder if we can get our infrastructure plans in place. Construction companies which have been going around the quotas by paying a $650 monthly levy for every additional foreign worker will have to pay more, $950 next year and $1,050 in 2015. Now that’s a psychological barrier that’s being breached. Smaller companies are expected to fold or merge.

– The retail and restaurant business people are extremely angry that they have been hit so heavily with higher levies and lowered quotas on foreign workers. Some operations simply cannot be automated, they say, and no matter how much you pay, Singaporeans just won’t do certain jobs. Seems though that there is some kind of workaround: A flexible job scheme that was piloted in the hotel sector to get foreign workers to multi-task will be extended to the whole services sector. So a waiter can double as a dishwasher in this new scheme (hate the word!) that will have its own quotas? Seems we’ll hear more about this later.

– That Wage Credit Scheme in which the G foots 40 per cent of pay rises for those earning less than $4,000 a month might well prove to be a double-edged sword. Bosses may feel compelled to pay people more than they are worth; people would start expecting higher pay even though there is no increase in productivity. And what happens after Year 3, when these credits stop? Can companies afford to foot the wage bill? Would their companies have had enough time to re-structure and raise productivity by then to justify the cost of manpower? The opposition parties, the Singapore Democratic Party and Reform Party, have weighed in too, suggesting a minimum wage law would be a better instrument.

– Some real drama is playing out in car companies. First, they had to deal with last minute orders with people started shopping on Monday night to beat the clock – higher cash payments, ARF etc will kick in. Now, people who had ordered cars are calling to cancel because they don’t know how the new figures will play out. There’s a shift of gear here: the G seems to be moving from curbing car usage to restricting car population. Not fair, the car people say.

– The Workfare Income Supplement to give cash/CPF support to those with low-paying jobs should be extended to part-timers, said an economist. Calculate the income support on a per hour basis, he suggested. This might well bring in more workers into the fold and up the resident workforce numbers.

I’m looking forward to the debate. Stay tuned to this blog and http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg

A ground level look at Budget 2013

In Money, News Reports, Politics on February 26, 2013 at 2:30 am

What’s there not to like about Budget 2013? That depends on what’s your instinctive reaction after hearing/reading DPM Tharman speech yesterday?

Aspiring first-time car owner: “What? Forty per cent cash down for a car? How can? Can those China-made cars please come back? Wait, the COE will be higher than the price of the car..’’

Rich guy: “How dare they tax my second home at the Sail, my third at Sentosa Cove and my fourth in Bukit Timah! Time to buy a building at Iskandar.’’

Befuddled economist/pseudo economist: “The government is paying employers to pay workers who get a pay rise? Why not just implement a minimum wage scheme?’’

Sandwiched class: “Damn! More income support for the lower-income. From MY taxpayer money. Why don’t just cut GST and everyone will be happy since it’s most regressive tax around and G made so much surplus already?’’

Big -flat homeowners: “Again five-roomers and executive flat people lose out. The Government think we all not poor just because we live in bigger places ah? Better downgrade and use the Silver Housing bonus – but I love my big place!’’

About-to-be bankrupted restaurant owner: “I will now close my restaurant. I can’t get foreign workers and the Government not even doing anything about my rent. At least can tahan if rent not so high.’’

Earning below $4,000: “My boss had better give me a pay rise now since the Government is subsiding 40 per cent. Actually it means my pay rise can be higher BY 40 per cent from whatever my boss thought. But I bet the stingy fella will just save the money for himself.’’

Panicked mother: “At least got more kindergartens than just the PAP and NTUC one. MOE also starting its own. I think everybody is going to go to the MOE one. Sure got standard, got subsidy. Better queue now while Ah Boy is six months old.’’

I don’t mean to pour cold water over the Budget which I think is pretty cool. This is a G with ideas taking a big picture look at the present and the future. The budget is characterised as a shifting of gears and I so agree. We’ve been in cruise-control for too long – or running ragged at top gear?

How people react will depend on what bit bit them most. Hard to look at the big picture when you see your new car disappearing into the distance. That promise to fix the transport infrastructure MUST come true! Hard to be happy when you are facing the prospect of closing down your business. I mean, which retailer or restauranteur will say: Actually, this isn’t for me. I should change lines. (And become a cigarette smuggler: sure got demand! Kidding ok…)

I liked that steps are being taken to address income inequality; whether they are bold enough is the question of course. But, at least, something is being done to raise their incomes while at the same time sustaining the smaller enterprises who scream about lack of foreign manpower.

My worry about such handouts have always been whether the enterprising enterprises will find a way to “game’’ the system, not just the Work Credits scheme but also Workfare Income Supplement and Productivity Innovation and Credits scheme. Big money is being paid out, what are the checks and balances and at the end of the day, how do we measure results?

A healthcare begging bowl

In Money, News Reports, Society on February 25, 2013 at 2:02 am

We’re all talking about healthcare these days and whether we can afford to get sick in our silver years. Economists are wondering if the healthcare system should be reformed – why save so much money in Medisave when some of us need it now? Can’t the G share of the bill be higher? And my own favourite question: Has anyone ever been bankrupted by a medical bill?

So I read with interest The Sunday Times story on Medifund, that last safety net in our 3M system. I gather that this is for those who have depleted their Medisave (and those of their immediate family members?) and who didn’t sign up for Medishield. At least, that’s what I think the criteria is since it hasn’t been publicised with the G seeming to prefer a “case-by-case’’ basis.

I have friends who have been helped by Medifund, for which they are grateful to the G. It’s good that people are “grateful’’ but should it be the case that they look to G largesse to foot medical bills. I mean, no one intentionally gets sick. So I read about Health Minister Gan Kim Yong vowing that no one will be denied healthcare because they can’t afford it. He’s said it before, probably more than twice, and so has every Health minister before him. The ST led with this assurance – again, although the news should really be how many people have been helped by Medifund. I can’t help but think that the problem can be fixed at the root, but I will leave that to health economists.

Anyway, Medifund disbursements have increased from$78.7 m in 2011 to $90.8 m last year. Number of applications approved shot up from 480,869 to 518,389. The rise is attributed to greater flexibility to medical social workers to say yes to applications, although I still don’t know what is “flexible’’. As compared to what?

I tempted to say “wah, so generous now…’’ but I won’t. Because the figures are troubling. So many people need help with their medical bills, so much so that there is a “shortfall’’ – Medifund, an endowment fund, paid out more than its income for the first time. There is one more figure which appals me: That 96 per cent of the applications were for out-patient bills. I mean, so many people cannot afford out-patient bills? Something is wrong somewhere no? Especially since an in-patient received $1,295 while an outpatient get $103. So many people cannot pay $100 or so? How come? Is it because the medical problems aren’t covered by Medisave in the first place? Or they really, really are destitute?

I really think we need to look hard at the figures..

Then I read today in ST about medical centres in the Orchard Road belt. It’s an exclusive by ST I believe, so I’ll just sum it up here: Basically, the Raffles Medical Group wants to convert seven podium floors of Thong Sia building into a medical centre and applied to the URA to do so. As usual, there was a bureaucratic gobblededook response: “We evaluated the new proposed use taking into consideration specific site context, the impact of the proposed use on the amenity and surrounding uses, and the local road infrastructure capacity in that area, and decided to turn down the proposal.” In other words, the URA said no.

The ST has an interesting graphic on all the medical centres in the Orchard Road belt. Go buy ST. Did you know Pacific Plaza is converting the top seven floors of its 12-storey building into 22 medical “suites’’? The private medical centres are everywhere in the shopping district. Raffles wants to use Thong Sia to serve the “significant number of patients who live in District 9, 10 and 11’’ and foreign visitors, its spokesman said.

I don’t know why the URA said no. Apparently no parking space and complaints of residents have something to do with it. I don’t want to be envious, but I am. Nor do I want to say that private sector initiative should be stifled given Singapore’s bid to be a medical hub. But this story coming after the Medifund story really makes you think about the healthcare system in Singapore. Can we look after our needy sick in a better way than have them go with a begging bowl to the G?

Popping the Population myths

In Money, News Reports, Politics on February 23, 2013 at 12:34 am

A story in Today caught my eye: It was about reactions to two commentaries on the Population White Paper which appeared on the Institute of Public Policy website over the past fortnight. The pity is that the article didn’t give me enough of what the commentators said, before zooming into the reactions. The article should have been excerpted for wider circulation, especially the one by four economists writing in their personal capacities on the four economic myths in the population debate.

I’ll try to sum up the myths here and my apologies to the four authors if I didn’t capture everything or over-simplified stuff.

Myth #1: If we don’t have sufficiently large injections of foreign labour, business costs will rise, some businesses will shut down or move out of Singapore, and Singaporean workers will be laid off.

The economists say that this is akin to protectionism and subsidising inefficient companies which should really shut down so that more resources can be freed for higher value-added work. Direct help to those who are laid off with one-off transfers, unemployment protection and get them to re-train. Why protect the companies which rely on cheap labour to stay afloat?

Myth #2: Economic growth is a zero-sum game

The economists say that it is not necessarily true that Singapore must maintain a certain growth rate or will stagnate and become irrelevant if other countries sped up. More likely, other countries’ growth will spur our own. And if foreign investments won’t come to Singapore, it might not be a bad thing if they are investments we wouldn’t want anyway – like those which require plentiful cheap (foreign) labour.

Myth #3: Denser, larger populations create significant economic benefits for cities

The economists say there is some truth in this, but it really depends on the type of population. If more brains are clustered together, then innovation is spurred. But what is being advocated is the inflow of foreigners to fill lower end jobs. How is this good?

Myth #4: Spending on healthcare and social services are costs which have to be financed by higher taxes, and are therefore a drain on the economy

The economists say that healthcare and social services shouldn’t be viewed as costs. Someone’s costs is someone else’s income. Why isn’t spending on MRT lines and public housing viewed as costs then? They are viewed as productive investments although they are likewise financed by taxpayers. We can afford higher healthcare costs since we have large surpluses and if incomes and productivity increase. But the real issue is who should pay for rising healthcare costs? If the G “knee-jerks’’ and shifts most of the costs to consumers, then sure it would be a problem. The economists didn’t quite say it, but they seem to be calling for a review of the current healthcare financing scheme to make sure out-of-payments won’t kill the patients.

Here’s what the four said in their conclusion: “These myths exist because they seem to be intuitively correct. They appeal to our everyday experiences, and are consistent with popular accounts of the economy. These popular accounts include the idea that cities or countries are locked in economic competition with one another, or that jobs must be protected in order for workers to be protected. Our experience with health and social care as costs we try to avoid also explains our intuition that at the national level, this must also apply. But these stories, although consistent and coherent to us, are neither correct nor valid. As cognitive psychologists have found, people tend to rely on explanations that are consistent with their own experiences or with conventional wisdom, rather than on careful deliberation and reasoned analysis.

“Economics is not, and should not be, the only lens through which we examine, analyse and debate our country’s population policies. But when we do apply economics analysis, we should try to get it right.’’

Ouch!

But what an interesting paper! Here’s the link http://www.ipscommons.sg/index.php/categories/featured/118-economics-myths-in-the-great-population-debate It was published on Feb 8, just a day before the Parliamentary debate on the Population White Paper ended. I wish it was out sooner so that MPs can mull over it and raise questions beyond: Why 6.9million? Today captured some reactions to the paper. Generally other economists agreed with its contents and “proposed revisiting fundamentals needed for future economic growth and greater focus on building local talent’’. Hmm. Now what?

In any case, thank you Donald Low, Yeoh Lam Keong, Tan Kim Song and Manu Bhaskaran. Now why don’t you do us all a favour and take a look at the Department of Statistics latest Household Income report released earlier this well and tell us what the hell is happening.

See http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg for a Chef’s Special on City Harvest Church versus Commissioner of Charities.

Better in jail than dead or Better dead than in jail?

In News Reports, Politics, Society on February 23, 2013 at 12:26 am

An interesting discussion has been taking place in the Voices pages of Today. It concerns the de-criminalisation of, not the infamous Section 377A, but Section 309 of the Penal Code. This punishes those who attempt suicide with a year’s jail or a fine.

There is something similar between the two sections. They are rarely enforced. The reason for not throwing an already suicidal person in jail is so as to not aggravate the person’s emotional state. I suppose you can’t tell what such a disturbed person might resort to if imprisoned.

But representatives of two groups, Aware and Silver Ribbon, have written to talk about a woman who was jailed after repeated suicide attempts. They did not elaborate on the case. They released some figures: From 2010 to 2011, the suicide mortality rate doubled among those aged 65 to 74 and those aged 85 and above. From 2008 to 2009, suicide among those aged 10 to 29 rose by 40 per cent, increasing from 64 to 91 deaths.

For every suicide death, there are seven suicide attempts. Arrests for attempted suicide have increased, from 706 in 2007 to 986 last year. Gosh! Now these figures I didn’t know. I believe Singapore’s suicide numbers are like one a day. So times seven…

They acknowledged that most arrests do not lead to charges, but argued that the arrest and investigation processes are traumatic enough for the individual and the family. Also, this sword hanging over their heads might actually deter the suicidal from seeking treatment or they would make sure they do the deed, hmm, properly. It’s a public health problem, not a criminal case, they argue.

The “relative infrequency of charges’’ reflects the “tacit understanding’’ that criminal law is the wrong tool for this problem, they said. As for the discretion given to police and magistrates to lay charges, the process iis “neither transparent nor reassuring’’ to those in distress.

You know what all this is leading up to: The section should be repealed.

Another letter-writer counter-argued, citing British law lord Patrick Devlin, He propounded that the legal enforcement of morality is necessary for the survival of society, which is constituted of ideas about how its members should behave. So if citizens are free to end their lives, society’s moral structure may crumble. Suicide then becomes not only an offence against an individual, but one against society.

“While there may be cogent reasons for decriminalising it, we should not view Section 309 of the Penal Code as nothing more than a law that penalises a person. Otherwise, we risk oversimplifying why criminal law is justified in our society.’’

He was joined by another letter-writer, who referred to what jurist A L P Hart said: That although people should be free to do as they please if they do not harm others, it is justifiable to criminalise certain acts to prevent people from making choices without adequate reflection or appreciation of the harm they may do to themselves. Examples of these laws include the mandatory use of motorcycle helmets or even the laws against drug abuse.

The letter-writer said that most cases of attempted suicides are referred to institutions for medical treatment, which makes it clear that the focus is on the medical, not the criminal aspects of the person’s failed attempt.

“Even so, the legislation itself meaningfully reflects our morality and how our society values life. Most of us do not attempt suicide, not because of the law but because we want to live. For a small segment of the population, the law deters and, in extreme cases, punishes. In this sense, it has instrumental value.’’
What are we to make of this discussion?

I dug up the case of the woman who was jailed. She is an 18 year old who received an eight-week jail sentence in November last year. She had tried to kill herself 13 times. The news report said that her family called the police after attempt No. 10 because they believed it was the only way to keep her safe.

She then spent 31/2 months remanded in custody before a judge placed her on a year’s probation, on condition that she sought treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Apparently, she wasn’t found suitable for a mandatory treatment order (reason not stated) but the judge was convinced she needed medical help.

Three days after she was released from remand, she tried to kill herself again, before going on to make two more attempts.) That’s how she got jail-time, for breaching probation and Section 309, among other things.

The young woman didn’t exactly serve the eight-week jail time, as her sentence was backdated. She went home after the judge admonished her to “get treatment’’. As far as the family was concerned, they wanted her to live, even if it meant calling the police on her.

If this was the case cited in the letter calling for Section 309 repeal…well, I think the circumstances are rather more complex than what the letter writers let on.

Notwithstanding the case, I suppose one issue is: why is it even in the books, if it’s not enforced, just like the other infamous section which I will not name. As for the argument that it’s in the books as a marker of society’s values, that has a familiar ring to it too.

Actually all I want to know is: How many individuals have been charged for attempting suicide over the years? How does the police decide whether to arrest someone, or let him/her go (a lot of people are probably let off given the high attempted suicide numbers). What is the investigation process that follows arrest like? How many are referred for medical treatment?

Some transparency would be good.

A big breakfast

In News Reports on February 22, 2013 at 2:42 am

I have been asked about the difference between Bertha Harian and the Breakfast Network. For starters, there’s more in BN. Ignore Bread and Butter if you’ve already read it on my blog, but go look at the other menu offerings. Got plenty of new stuff. Every day.

For example, take Bites – we look at other MSM offerings that you might have missed because you don’t subscribe or you don’t have time to read. Dim Sum is our short-cut way of giving you quotable quotes that will link you back to the source. As for Coffeeshop Talk, that’s our way of commenting on something that’s gone viral online.

This morning, for example, we took a Bite at the Jackpot Aunty, the one who got $416,000 from Marina Bay Sands, reported in TNP. Read http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg for the story and also for what you should know about the fire alarm system in MRT stations. It’s alarming…

Our Chef’s Special is a longer piece, which we are trying to refresh every other day or so. Some have asked that we put up a Facebook Page. That’s something we might do later. We’ve got too much on our hands…like having to earn a living.

A letter of complaint

In Money, News Reports, Society on February 22, 2013 at 1:38 am

So the old standby/enduring Singapore icon, the Merlion, is now stamped onto the face of a $1 coin, as part of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Third series of coins. I actually find the third series quite beautiful looking, but I suppose like any legal tender, we have to touch the coins, feel it, you know, to feel comfortable with it.
Anyway, I thought I’ll have some fun today with this piece of news. So enjoy this letter of complaint.

Dear Mr Mas Mint,

RE: Use of my image on the $1 coin.

I refer to yesterday’s announcement by your esteemed organisation, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, on the issue of the Third Series of Singapore coins. While I am pleased to be acknowledged as a Singapore icon (which I always have been incidentally), I am writing in to complain that my permission was not sought.

Please note that I impose a fee for the use of any image, whether my front or side profile or a bit of my mane. My fee is $1 per coin.
Please apply to me directly at Fullerton with the exact number of $1 coins that you intend to use me for. I believe there would be hundreds of thousands of the coins issued. But my bookie tells me that you would have no problem minting some more to meet my charges. I also levy a late penalty charge of 10 per cent for every day that my permission is not sought.
You are, therefore, late.

I am resorting to this letter of complaint, which I will cc to the Prime Minister, because I am frustrated at recent and not-so-recent instances of people and organisations riding on my name and fame. I have been stamped on plastic bags, adorned key rings and stuck on refrigerators. I have been turned into chocolates and eaten. I have been borrowed as a logo for the Singapore Tourism Board and made a mascot for the Youth Olympics. In 2008, I was even turned into a dress for Ms Singapore/Universe, not that I mind enveloping the female form. Please do not get me started on that travesty of my image on Sentosa.

Now, I am about to be crushed in people’s smelly wallets and purses, man-handled by fishmongers and stallholders who don’t wear gloves and swallowed by vending machines. It’s enough to make me puke.

I serve notice that I have consulted a lawyer, a Senior Counsel no less, on how I should go about protecting my intellectual property rights. He is advising me to take the matter to court, failing which I should engage a debt collector to splash graffiti on the front door of your building. If I succeed in the pursuit of my cause/case, please note that you will have to foot my legal fees. I hope your mint has spare capacity and is not suffering undue strain like our transport infrastructure.

On a more personal note, may I enquire why that pansy, Vanda Ms Joaquim, was stamped within my spitting distance? I am not xenophobic I assure you, but I do not like other species invading my space. I am now making enquires on the use of Hong Lim Park to launch a protest rally.

Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely,
Mr Merlion
Born-and-bred Singaporean

PS. My lawyer has reminded me that my visage is also imprinted on the smaller coins. To demonstrate my good faith, I have decided to waive my charges for your use on them. Such small change after all.

An inefficient look at the Gini coefficient

In Money, News Reports, Society on February 21, 2013 at 1:11 am

I’ve never really liked reading “breaking’’ news online because they seldom give you the full picture. So it was with yesterday’s “breaking’’ news on household incomes and income inequality. On http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg, I took a bite at both ST and Today online versions which zeroed straight on the rise in median household incomes, which is pretty good news.

But dig deeper and the picture is not so pretty. I’m glad that both newspapers gave more insights today, although I found the statistics pretty hard-going despite the use of charts. This is because some numbers are given in nominal terms, some after factoring in inflation. Yet others go by average income per household and then gets subdivided into per person. Sigh. BT, ST and Today all used so many different figures that it’s hard to piece things together.

So what is the news that people really want to read? I’ll give it a go…but don’t trust me, read the reports yourself okay? My apologies to all economists and statisticians for dumbing stuff down.

Q: How much did median monthly household income (the mid-point in a range) go up from 2011 to last year?
A: From $7,040 a month to $7,570 a month – a 7.5 per cent jump. Hooray!

Q: But that’s just nominal terms, what happens after taking into account inflation?
A: Oh. Then the jump is smaller. Only 2.7 per cent. We did better in 2011, it’s a 5.6 per cent jump from 2010.

Q: Okay, so how did our top 10 per cent of earners fare?
A: Very well! The average monthly income of the top 10 of households is $30,379 last year, compared to $27,867 in 2011 (from BT). You want per household member? Then last year’s figure is $11,552. It’s a 5.6 per cent jump in real terms (from ST).

Q: So much ah…Then the bottom 10 per cent?
A: Not good. Their median pay package actually shrank to $440 per household member; it dipped by 1.2 per cent. MINUS sign! But if you took into account inflation which will minus out the “rent’’ part of the computation, it goes up slightly to 0.8 per cent. Plus sign.

(Don’t understand this rent thing? I think it’s like this: people own their homes, so a “rent’’ is like a proxy. But most people don’t pay “real’’ rent, so if you take this out, numbers look better. Still, some of the lower income do pay real rent, so inflation does hurt them. I welcome a better account from anyone out there….in layman language please)

Q: So bad ah? You mean the top 10 earn so much more than the bottom 10?
A: You know the Gini-coefficient which measures income inequality? It’s gone up from 0.473 to 0.478 over the two years. But if you take into account G help in terms of Workfare etc to boost their income, then the numbers are smaller, from 0448 to 0.459. Even so, the gap is actually wider.

Q: How come wider?
A: Today reported that UOB senior economist Alvin Liew said it could be due to less transfers last year, compared to 2011. On average, resident households (including unemployed ones) received S$1,340 per member through various Government schemes last year, down from S$1,660 in 2011. Households without working persons living in one- to two-room HDB flats received the most – over S$8,000 in Government transfers last year. Bigger households always receive the least.
So if you compare the gap between top 10 per cent and bottom 10 per cent, it comes down from the richest earning 9.14 times more than the poorest to 7.87 times. Actually, ST has MPs saying that the poorest actually get more that is not taken into account, like free medical services and food rations.

Q: You think the bottom 10 per cent will get more help this year?
BT reported that experts had put the fiscal surplus at $4billion to $5billion, much more than the official projection of $1.27billion. With this kind of savings, the G can be expected to give more out to the bottom group in the coming Budget. I mean, makes sense right?

Q: What about the people in the middle?
A: Go read yourself lah. I got a headache liao. Go buy ST.

Sickening news

In News Reports on February 20, 2013 at 12:51 am

TB sounds like such an old, old disease don’t you think? But we now have six people down with a drug-resistant tuberculosis, where treatment has just 30 per cent of success. The six are being treated, said ST, but they seem to have passed it on to another 16 people with a “latent’’ form of the infection, which means for some, it can go full-blown later.
Now the interesting thing is this: authorities have traced the source to three cyber cafes in Selegie Mall. You get infected if you are close to someone with TB who’s coughing and sneezing away in your vicinity. When you are in a cyber café, I guess you sit for hours at a time…and if your neighbour is hacking away and happens to have TB…

Thing is, should we avoid those three cyber-cafes in Parklane now? No amount of disinfecting of premises would do the trick right? So it’s about WHO goes there and whether the operating staff are in good health? I guess the only way is to make sure you move away from a sneeze or cougher or demand that they use a mask.

As if TB news is not enough, dengue news is mixed. It’s come down but another two clusters have been found at Bukit Batok St 52 and the area around Tai Hwan Heights, said ST. The more worrying news is about the death of a sixth person from a Sars-like virus, this time in Britain. World Health Organisation reported 12 cases, and the bug seemed to have emanated from the Middle East and Pakistan. Far away, but given how open Singapore is…worrying.

Go to http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg for Sarcasm on the stand. (Sorry lah. But need you to go see the site as well. I know take long time to load. Be patient ok)