Does PR allowed to retain property after giving up status ?

 

   -> Tan Chuan-Jin

I have received a few queries about ex-PRs and the status of their properties owned. Let me amplify this further. I understand now that it is a result of the initial inaccurate CNA report that was taken down. Lina Chiam asked a few follow up questions. It was unrelated to her PQ. I asked her to file a separate PQ but replied to the effect that that there was no reason why PRs who are able to own their private properties should not be able to continue to do so.

I guess if a formal PQ was filed, a fuller answer would be along these lines. But these are formal regulations that are in place and will take effect anyway:

When PRs give up their PR-ship, they are effectively foreigners. Obviously, resale HDB flats owned by former PRs have to be sold and they are not allowed to hold on to that (PRs cannot buy BTO flats, only resale ones). It is not even a choice as HDB will effect this.

Foreigners can buy private properties (private condos) so no reason why PRs cannot hold to these.

These are also very specific guidelines on landed property. The long and short of it is that on giving up PR-ship, the individual, if he has a landed property, has to give up that property. Foreigners cannot own landed property (save Sentosa Cove).

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image from  Fabrications About The PAP

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Constructive Politics – MP Hri Kumar Vs MP Low Thia Khiang

  ->  Hri Kumar

Constructive Politics (2)

I thank everyone for their comments on my speech.

The media did not report that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Low Thia Khiang, had asked me some questions at the end of my speech. For completeness, I set out a rough transcript of that exchange.

Low: I seek clarification from the Member. The Member talked about alternative policies from the Opposition. He does not sound as reasonable as the Prime Minister. The Member is the Chairman of a Government Parliamentary Committee. What alternative policies has he come up with? I noted he has made some criticisms but I have not heard of his alternative policies accompanying his criticism? Madam, I would like to seek clarification from the Member as to whether he thinks US President Obama is a statesman or a politician. Secondly, I would like him to say whether he has defamed by the stroke of what he said here, “Politicians in mature democracy”. And thirdly, does he think that the voters, the citizens in mature democracies are all unable to think independently and to make their own decisions, and are just simply slaves of their politicians.

Nair:  The Prime Minister is a far more polite person than I am. I will try and address all of the learned Member’s points. I am not a member of the Opposition.  I know I am dressed in blue today, but ….  The Member will know if he has read my speeches and has followed my writings, I have dealt with many policies of the Government. I have offered constructive suggestions, not just in MHA but in other Ministries as well. If he wants a list, I will be happy to send him a list tomorrow morning. For example, for the Ministry of National Development, I have suggested raising the income ceiling for Singaporeans to buy HDB flats before the income ceiling was raised. I had gone further to say that all Singaporeans should be entitled to buy HDB flats. And I can go  Ministry by Ministry – Education, Home Affairs and others – where I have made constructive suggestions with details. I think that is the difference between me and him.

Whether President Obama is a statesman or not, I am not getting into that debate. I did not say that all politicians in mature democracies were not statesmen. I said there were few and far between.

And I am not going to discuss individual politicians.

And insofar as electorate in mature democracies are concerned, I have given him the numbers. Your right to vote is the most important sacred right of any citizen but look at the numbers. People are tuning out. Half the population, the voting population are not exercising their right to vote. Why would they not do that? They do not do that because it has become to them a pointless exercise. It does not matter who they vote because they do not expect the outcomes to be any different. If we go down that path and if we come to that situation, it will be a sad sorry day for Singapore.

Low:   On alternative policies — the Member referred to and cited his own suggestions, his comments on policies and how he had made suggestions. I also invite him to check the Hansard, the Workers’ Party MPs have also made a lot of suggestions, some which were taken up. But when we say we are happy to see that the Government has taken up some suggestions, we were told the Workers’ Party is claiming credit. This is the double standards of politics.

Nair:   It can be resolved very easily. All the Workers’ Party needs to do is to produce all their proposals and all their details, and let Singaporeans scrutinise as to whether they have been constructive and whether they have offered serious, realistic proposals.   I have written about this many times and I have spoken about it many times and we are still waiting to hear from them.

Low:  I would like to let the Member know that the Workers’ Party does have a manifesto. It is published on our website. He can go and take a look at our positions on certain key policy issues, and what do we think, and whether indeed some in the manifesto has been taken up by the Government, in terms of policy shifts. I would like to inform him that yes, perhaps we are reviewing our policies, our manifesto, maybe we can come up with something more in the future but let us be patient.

Nair: I would like the Honourable Member to know that there is a difference between a detail and a motherhood statement.”

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More Readings  : Constructive Politics

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Photo: Rough transcript of  MP Bishan Toa Payoh GRC, Mr Hri Kumar's reply to Low Thia Khiang who were trying to weasel out of his party offering no alternative details except to suggest motherhood statement to "do a little better" when it suits them: [The member will know if he had read my speeches and followed my writings, I have dealt with many policies of the government. And I have offered constructive suggestions, not just in MHA but in other ministries as well. For example, for Ministry of National Development, I have suggested raising the income ceiling for Singaporeans to buy HDB flats before the income ceiling was raised. I have gone further to say that all Singaporean should be entitled to buy HDB flats. And I can go down ministry by ministry, there are Education, Home Affairs and others where I had made constructive suggestion with DETAILS. And I think that's the difference between me and him.] May 2014 Debate on President's Address: video: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/specialreports/parliament/videos/singaporeans-still/1125694.html
Photo: #LMAO - (MP Bishan Toa Payoh GRC) Hri Kumar was amused by Mr Low Thia Khiang weaseling out of producing "all their (past) proposals and all their DETAILS, and let Singaporeans scrutinise as to whether they have been constructive and whether they have offered serious, realistic proposals."</p> <p>Hri Kumar's speech: https://www.facebook.com/notes/hri-kumar/constructive-politics/706553552724578</p> <p>The transcript of the exchange between #LTK & Hri Kumar: https://www.facebook.com/notes/hri-kumar/constructive-politics-2/707425745970692</p> <p>People's Action Party Aljunied GRC The Workers' Party

Image source link -> Fabrications About The PAP

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Comments : 

  • the question i would like to ask Mr. Low is: if you believe so strongly in your manifesto, why do you consistently have to tell others to ‘go and read our website’? Should you not be able to stand by your convictions right there and then? Or is it that you can’t even recall your own manifesto; side note: i don’t believe Mr. Low is giving an actual rebuttal Mr. Kumar’s statement. (Mere Cursory analysis of the given 3 pictures.)

 

  • If there is ever a change in COE implementation , it is my credit ! Cause I wrote and complained about it on my Facebook status !

 

  • Does he really expect to win me over to vote for him when he can’t even bloody remember his party’s manifesto? – Why absurd, “Please vote for me, go and read my website for my manifesto.” Because that sounds so assuring and competent

 

  • The joke is LTK suggests that one should read WP’s manifesto and if there are any changes in government policy that is inside the manifesto , then it is WP’s credit !

 

  • Only in Singapore we have voters who actually buy into the “vote for WP to make PAP work harder for you” line. That’s why they don’t expect WP to do anything and WP can sit back and enjoy the $16K monthly allowance.

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What the Govt does with the money that goes into the CPF ? -The Ministry of Finance’ reply

SingaPolitics , Posted on May 31, 2014

The Ministry of Finance responded to queries from The Straits Times on what the Government does with the money that goes into the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and how it determines CPF interest rates, These topics have been hotly debated online following speculation that CPF monies are invested by Temasek Holdings and GIC as well as comparisons between their returns and CPF returns.

Here is MOF’s reply in full.

Q: How are CPF monies invested? What does the Government do with the monies?  

CPF monies are invested by the CPF Board (CPFB) in Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS)[1] that are issued and guaranteed by the Singapore Government. This assures that the CPF Board will be able to pay its members all their monies when due, and the interest that it commits to pay on CPF accounts.

As the Singapore Government is one of the few remaining triple-A credit-rated governments in the world, this is a solid guarantee.

The proceeds from SSGS issuance are invested by the Government via MAS and GIC, just as it invests the proceeds from the market-based Singapore Government Securities (SGS).

No CPF monies go towards Government spending. Government borrowings, whether via SGS or SSGS, cannot be used to fund expenditures. Under the reserves protection framework enacted in 1990 in the Constitution and the Government Securities Act (enacted in 1992), the monies raised from government borrowings cannot be spent.

When government securities are issued, the proceeds are first deposited with MAS as Government deposits. MAS converts these funds into foreign assets through the foreign exchange market.  However, as a major portion of these assets are of a long-term nature, such as those that provide backing for long-term Government liabilities like SSGS, such assets are transferred to GIC to be managed over a long investment horizon.

The Government’s assets are therefore mainly managed by GIC. GIC is a fund manager, not an owner of the assets. It merely receives funds from Government for long-term management, without regard to the sources of Government funds, e.g. SGS, SSGS, government surpluses.

The SSGS proceeds are not passed to Temasek for management. Temasek hence does not manage any CPF monies. (See also FAQ 8 on the Temasek website). Temasek manages its own assets, which have accrued mainly from divestment proceeds from sale of its investments and reinvestments of dividends and other cash distributions it receives from its portfolio companies and other investments. Temasek also has its own borrowings and debt financing sources. The Government’s relationship with Temasek is that of its sole equity shareholder.

The information above elaborates on that provided on the MOF website.

[1] Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS) are non-tradeable Government bonds issued to the CPF Board.

 
Q: How are CPF interest rates determined?

CPF interest rates are pegged to risk-free market instruments of comparable duration, with a current floor of 2.5% for OA and 4% for SMRA.

a. The OA is a liquid account. The monies in the OA can be withdrawn at any time for housing. Many members withdraw substantial amounts from their OA.

b. The SMRA are for longer-term retirement and medical needs. The interest rate on the SMRA aim to be equivalent to what a 30-year SGS would earn, as 30 years is the typical duration for which SMRA monies are held. As 30-year SGS did not exist when the Government made changes to the interest rate structure in 2007, SMRA rates were pegged to the yield of 10-year SGS plus 1%. The 1% spread is in fact higher than what international bond markets have paid on 30 year bonds. The current yield on the 30-year SGS, which is not widely traded, is around 3%.

The OA and SMRA currently earn interest of 2.5% and 4% respectively. However, many members in fact earn higher interest rates on their OA and SMRA accounts, because they benefit from the extra 1% on the first $60,000 of CPF balances. Many earn 3.5% on their OA account. The majority of SMRA balances earn 5%.

The returns that CPF members receive are risk-free, and significantly higher than for equivalent market instruments.

There is no link between CPF interest rates, and the returns earned by GIC, as the CPF monies are invested entirely in risk-free assets.

It is the Government that takes the investment risk in managing SSGS proceeds.

GIC has delivered creditable results on Government assets over the long-term. However over the short-term, returns can fluctuate widely, depending on global market cycles and shocks. This is indeed what happened during the Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath. GIC’s returns over the last 5 years were affected by the sharp market downturns during the crisis, and the lagged recovery in illiquid assets such as real estate and infrastructure (See GIC’s annual report).

Ultimately, the investment returns that the Government expects to make over the long term by taking the risks of long-term investments are not hoarded away in the reserves.

a. 50% of the returns from our reserves flow back to our annual Budget through the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC).

b. The long-term returns therefore help to fund spending which benefit our citizens.

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   Tan Chuan-Jin

Do read my full speech. Link  -> Speech by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Manpower at the Debate on the President’s Address 2014, 29 May 2014, 5:00 PM, Parliament

Long-term preoccupations are many, but two stand out: healthcare and retirement adequacy. Why? Longevity and how we can provide assurance and peace of mind as people live longer.

How? 3 main thrusts:
– Housing to provide roof over head and act as a source to potentially tap on if needed;
– Healthcare via the 3Ms & Medishield Life;
– Retirement adequacy via wages-jobs, intensity of employment (stay in work & work longer if need…) and returns.

Just some quick thoughts on returns:
– Higher returns, higher risks and volatility
– Lower returns come with lower risks and more stability
– CPF monies are bearing virtually zero risks
– CPF monies are safe…have a read:   Link ->  Section III. Is our CPF money safe? Can the Government pay all its debt obligations?

Everyone has gotten their CPF monies, top ups and interests.

But we will enhance housing options, and enhancing CPF Life. Details in next few months. Important accompanying piece to the Pioneer Generation Package.

We are likely to live long. But we will try and make sure we can also live well.

Check out the new layout on the CPF website.

Cedric Foo and Chen Show Mao clash over immigration

Cedric Foo and Chen Show Mao clash over immigration
Member of Parliament for Pioneer SMC Cedric Foo (left) and Workers’ Party MP Chen Show Mao (right). Photo: Channel NewsAsia

Cedric Foo and Chen Show Mao clash over immigration

Published: May 30 2014

SINGAPORE — Immigration proved to be a hot topic in Parliament today (May 30). Member of Parliament for Pioneer SMC, Mr Cedric Foo, quizzed Workers’ Party MP, Mr Chen Show Mao, on his party’s stance on the issue.

Mr Chen had just spoken about investing in elderly Singaporeans, when Mr Foo fired the first salvo. Their exchange is reproduced below.

Mr Cedric Foo: “He speaks about ageing issues and ageing society and I want to thank him for supporting the effort to engage Singaporeans in a dialogue to see how we may address this. But really, underpinning the ageing population, is the need to bring in immigrants, and I would like to seek his view to see if he thinks it’s necessary for Singapore’s long-term future to bring in immigrants.”

Mr Chen Show Mao: “I believe our focus should be on the growing of a resident workforce. That includes the elderly workers whom we can help to participate more in our economy. When targets we set for the growth in our resident working population are not met, when targets we set are not met, then I think at that time, foreign workers may be — the number of foreign workers may be increased, so that we are on a path to growth as we have planned. The Workers’ Party position on this is clear, and that is we will focus on the growth of the resident workforce and when that falls short, the population of foreign workers in Singapore may be increased.”

Mr Cedric Foo: “Madam Speaker, thank you, the honourable member for his reply, but I was really asking about immigrant inflow into Singapore. Do we reverse the pyramid that has now been inverting? Because by 2030 as this House has heard, there will be 900,000 Singaporeans above the age of 65 and because families are getting smaller, we do need immigrants. And I’d like Mr Chen’s comments on whether he welcomes immigrants and whether he would rally the support of Singaporeans to bring about these immigrants, so that they are on our side; they help us compete, they help us stabilise the society.”

Mr Chen Show Mao: “I have worked abroad for many years in my life and I thank foreigners, foreign governments, foreign friends for the opportunities that I was given, to work in the country. Of course, we have, of course I have — we have nothing against immigrants coming to Singapore, but we’re talking about an orderly growth within limits that hopefully, we would have debated and agreed on, and that is not inconsistent with what I have said, what we have said on immigration on foreign workers in Singapore. And I would like to ask Mr Foo if that is what he had in mind in asking the question.”

Mr Cedric Foo: “We have debated this issue of ageing population robustly. The Government has put up a plan under Deputy Prime Minister Teo. I’ve been trying to explain also to my residents why we have to do this.

On the economic front, if we allow the society to age, our tax base will narrow and there is no guarantee that high tax payers, talented people will remain in Singapore. We hope they do and we will work hard that they will do, but there is no guarantee of that. On the security front, our battalions will have to be smaller. On the political front, people will vote for ageing issues. I mean, the old in our society when they start to outnumber the young, would ask for even more than healthcare.

Where does this leave future Singaporeans? We discussed constructive politics, how members of different parties should come together and enlighten the population, the populace, the voters about the trade-offs, but so far we have not heard the Workers’ Party hand-in-hand if they believe in this policy to reach out to the people to support immigration and listening to Mr Chen, I’m still not very clear whether the party and himself supports bringing in immigration.

And you cannot do this overnight, because you need time for them to assimilate. You cannot wait until the labour participation fails and decide to bring in a deluge of immigrants to flood the population. We need to do this gradually, to plan ahead. We need to do it in a consistent assimilable way. Thank you.”

 

At this point, Workers’ Party Chief Low Thia Khiang stood up to clarify his party’s position on the issue.

Mr Low Thia Khiang: “On the issue of immigration, I thought we stated clearly and many a time, I believe the party’s MPs have repeated the position of The Workers Party. The Workers’ Party is not an anti-immigration party. I make it clear here. We’re not anti-immigration.

We welcome immigration which can contribute to the well-being of Singapore and to the economy of Singapore. We welcome foreign talent. Talent, real talent, not immigrants who are taking away the job of Singaporeans or taking away opportunities that Singaporeans could have been given, or be better served, having. So let’s make it clear here, we are not anti-immigration. What we’re saying is we have got to have quality immigrants.

Secondly, we have to make the Singaporean core strong. I think it is simple, too simplified, to assume that when the immigrants come to Singapore, they will integrate with Singapore and Singaporeans and be part of Singapore. I think it’s not that simple.

I think in the Population White Paper — we’ve debated a lot on this — we have set out The Workers’ Party position clearly. I hope members go and read the White Paper, it’s published on the website, so you understand our position. We are not running away from the position.”

News Link -> Cedric Foo and Chen Show Mao clash over immigration

More reading -> Chen’s remarks on elderly reignite debate on immigration

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Comments from the net :

  • As an international lawyer who apparently managed mega merger and acquisition deals, the way CSM fumbled in Parliament, sounded incoherent, and had to be rescued by his party Sec Gen, was very intriguing.But it was very telling – he could only read from prepared scripts, not unlike Aunty Lina,Also, the fact that he needed the Sec-Gen to reiterate the party’s policy on immigration, whereby he was tripping all over himself in trying to answer to Cedric, showed that he was not keeping himself up to date with his party’s position.That is failure of due diligence.

 

  • That’s how LKY summed him up anyway. He makes good speeches from prepared text but in the questioning, he’s all over the place. “It just doesn’t gel for him.”

 

  • Just saw Chen Show Mao on 9.30 News being ‘engaged’ by Cedric Foo on immigration in Parly. I’ve could not imagine that a lawyer can be so ineloquent and incoherent. He had to be ‘rescued’ by his party Sec-Gen.
    Jialat.

 

  • During GE 2011, WP played to the gallery to ride on and stir the wave of anti foreigner sentiment.In 2012, when MOM wanted to further tighten the FW quota, Low Thia Khiang is quick to object that it was tightened too quickly. He wanted it to be tightened slowly and not in one go.Then in 2013 Population White Paper, LTK demanded 0% growth in FW. Plus he and SL asserted that if one is not born and bred Singaporean, one is diluting the Singaporean core.Now, today, he claimed WP is not anti-immigrant. But he only welcome Real Foreign Talent who will not take away Singaporeans Job.

    What sort of bull crap is that? The more qualified the FT is the more competition it is to Singaporeans for the same Job. Unless Real Foreign Talent, Doing Jobs Singaporeans don’t want. He meant he wants more FW! flop back to his 2012 stance again.

    Mr Low runs a renovation and Signage company. How many “REAL FOREIGN TALENT” did he employ?
    Mr Low, how many more Real Foreign Talent Your company and TC going to employ?

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Share from the net :

Here is the video whereby Cedric Foo questioned Chen Show Mao, about immigration, and the latter confusingly (or confusedly) talked about foreign workers and uttered other incoherent motherhood statements about meeting “paths to growth”.

The big-time international lawyer eventually had to be rescued by his party Sec-Gen, who then tried to clarify WP policy stand on immigration, which CSM apparently was either ignorant of, or was too inarticulate to articulate.

To the youths : Blogger Roy Ngerng is NOT your hero

 

Share from the net 

To the youths whom I have taught you in your school: 

Blogger Roy Ngerng who now faces a law suit from the Prime Minister is NOT your hero. I have prepared a few pointers for you to ponder on.

1) Respect your government officials. They were legally voted into office and have the right to be in office. They deserve some respect.

2) If a person is unhappy with the PM or with any govt policy, there are proper and legal ways of doing things. You have many channels including having opposition members of parliament to fight your case.

3) By blogging unsubstantiated accusations repeatedly (300-400 blog post on CPF and other issues) tantamount to cyber bullying. In this case, he picked on the wrong guy to bully.

4) The PM, in my opinion is already very patient considering that this is not a one off blog post, but a repeated provocation like poking a stick at a hornet’s nest.

5) Freedom of speech does not mean irresponsible speech. If anyone can say anything he pleases, lies will be propagated and this will hurt the country’s image and hurt investors confidence. A good lesson is what is happening to Thailand right now as we speak. Freedom of expression, protest on the streets, immobilized business and transportation. This led to martial law, civil unrest, fall in tourism and loss of investors’ confidence in Thailand.

We scarified a lot for peace. Let’s not squander it.

There are proper channels to air your views. Roy Ngerng is not your hero, don’t follow his example.

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Comments from the net :

  • I would say discipline is absolutely necessary and that PM made the right move. In fact, he should do all he can to make this a strong statement that we should stop irresponsible speech. Leaders need to have the courage to make such unpopular decisions to get their points across, at the expense of their so called “image“. I just hope that people stop directing and influencing our politicians to run for popularity contests. People do not quite realise that only a small group of people are actually fit to lead and if we allow everyone to speak irresponsibly and affect national decisions, this would be indeed frightening.

 

  • My Take On The PM vs Roy Ngerng Case.Roy has written about 400 articles criticising the government and its policies. The PM did not sue him .Obviously the PM does not have time to talk to every person in the country who criticizes him.

    When he defames the PM, the PM has two choices; sue or don’t sue him.If he does not sue, he admits he is corrupted. So, he has to ask Roy to apologise, remove the relevant content, and pay for damages.

    Roy deliberately aggravated the situation. The PM has to press charges. Roy is raising money from the public to fund the legal suit. Many people must realise that they are not donating to support a political or a good cause. It’s for allegation that he defames the PM, the elected leader of the country.

    In a way, it’s like supporting somebody for doing something potentially wrong.

    If we are not careful, the people who support the PM will also do the same thing against people who are against him and his party. That’s how many democracies have tore fabric of society apart. That’s how law and order can break down.

    I feel sad for Roy and have tried to advice him on his fb. I also feel sad that the PM has no choice but to sue Roy otherwise we will lose respect for him and the leadership of this country.

    In many western countries, politicians have become a joke. Government is a waste of time. Is that what we want in Singapore?

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 We don’t get it — Why do others have to pay for the crime he committed?

 Money goes CPF — CANNOT!

Money goes to him — CAN!

share from ->  Fabrications Led by Opposition Parties (FLOP)

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Singapore’s Economic Miracle with Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam

CREDIT SUISSE GROUP  -> Singapore’s Economic Miracle

Daniel Ammann, Journalist, Bulletin

Simon Brunner, Journalist, Bulletin

20.03.2014

Fifty years ago Singapore was just a commercial port in the middle of malaria-infested swampland. Today its per capita income exceeds that of Switzerland, making it the model of success for Asia. Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam shares his thoughts on work, foreigners and low taxes. 

 

Daniel Ammann, Simon Brunner: Minister Tharman, how has Singapore achieved its incredible economic miracle?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam: I would say Singapore’s story can be explained by three factors: culture, particularly the work ethic of the Singaporeans, our response to adverse external conditions and our government, especially policies in education and housing. The government is activist, not hands-off. But our whole approach is to enable people, and support a culture of aspiration, work and personal responsibility, rather than have government taking over responsibility. That’s how we enable as many people as possible to both contribute and share in our country’s prosperity. That’s the best way to create an inclusive society.

Let’s start with culture: Does such a young country have a culture of its own?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam: Singapore is an accident of history, unlike most nations formed by the will of their people to come together. It was a multicultural and multireligious society that unexpectedly, in 1965, became an independent country. We were united not by a common language, as nation-states often are, but by the search to make the most of what we started with. What emerged was a social culture based on work. We told ourselves: we want a better life: Singaporeans are always making an effort and looking for new opportunities. This is in our DNA – not a biological DNA but a “social” DNA, mind you, that can vanish as quickly as it has appeared. It is something that requires constant effort to recreate and preserve.

 

The second factor you mentioned is “adverse conditions” – which seems counterintuitive.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam: We are a small country completely lacking in natural resources, with little of a domestic market to speak of, and surrounded by much larger neighbors. Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are very near, with China, India, Japan and South Korea not much further away. The list of our disadvantages is a long one…

 

…How can that be beneficial?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam: It’s better not to have too many choices in life. From the very beginning, we have had to consider how we might be relevant to the world. We knew that we could only succeed through enormous effort. That brought our people together. And to escape the poverty and unemployment we started with, we had to be attractive to the world – to business, and also to enterprising people from all over the world.

 

Your government has put in place activist policies aimed at promoting business, which is not the usual approach in Western countries.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam: Our economic goal, first and foremost, is to create good jobs for our people by enabling business to take advantage of opportunities around the world. We are constantly asking ourselves what the markets need, and how we can develop the capabilities to meet them. We want local as well as international companies to find it worthwhile to establish a presence and invest in Singapore.

 

What are the main factors that make a country “relevant,” as you put it?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam: I always point first to the skills and expertise of the country’s people – their ability to do excellent work, whichever the job. To remain competitive we must be constantly upgrading those skills. The second priority must be security, the rule of law and stability. This means political stability, but also predictability. Investors need certainty; they need to know what to expect ten and twenty years from now. As a result of the financial crisis, some countries saw a decline in predictability. We must keep predictability intact.

 

How?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam:  We cannot retroactively change laws or rules. And we must try to anticipate changes in the international environment and move early. Governments shouldn’t wait until they are forced, kicking and shoving, to take action to meet international norms. Instead, they should evolve, make changes when times are good, with the self-confidence that comes from having a long-term strategy.

 

How important have low taxes been for your success?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam:  Let me first highlight a central fact. We are able to keep our taxes at a relatively low level only because we keep government spending relatively low as well. We put great importance on this discipline. In particular, we avoid untargeted subsidies, by focusing on helping those most in need. We want to make sure that lower-income people have access to quality education, housing and healthcare. A particularly important factor is that we have no unfunded or unsecured commitments; everything is financed within our current budget or backed by our assets.

 

No national debt?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam: No borrowing in the conventional sense, because Government is not allowed to borrow for purpose of spending. According to our constitution, the government is not allowed to run deficits in any single legislative period. The Government borrows only to create a healthy bond market, and the monies raised are invested abroad by our sovereign wealth fund.

 

Coming back to your low tax burden: Low taxes attract companies and investors from all over the world to Singapore.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam :  Different countries have different levels of taxation, that’s one strength of the international system. After all, countries are in competition with one another in many regards – skills and capabilities, costs, taxes, fiscal strategies, and the whole environment for businesses. Competition is at the heart of a healthy global economy, and countries do well by finding strengths that they can sustain. All of us – the government, companies, people – have to work together to maintain a nation’s competitive strengths.

 

Singapore’s economic success is attracting job seekers from all over the world. The foreign population has doubled over the past 30 years. How are you handling the pressures that come with an increase in immigration?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam :  We have to stay open, but not blindly so. We are not like just any global city. Just look around: we are an island, a small nation consisting of a single city. Foreigners make up well over 40 percent of the workforce of Manhattan or London, but those cities can deal with higher levels of immigration because they are part of larger countries. We don’t have the countryside to move to if the city becomes too crowded, or if the price of housing goes up beyond what people can afford. That’s why we have conscious immigration strategies: to ensure not only that we stay competitive, but that Singaporeans still feel at home, that we have a sense that this is our country, with our social customs and values at its core.

 

It’s striking how often you mention policymakers’ social responsibilities.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam : When people look at Singapore from the outside, it is often thought of as an economic success story. But at its core, our success is based on social policies and principles. To put it in a nutshell: Our education system and our public housing program are the foundations on which our nation is built.

The most successful countries have recognized the crucial role of education.

Education is a force for transformation, but putting it to work in a way that individuals and society truly benefit is not easy. It’s not simply about producing as many people with academic skills as possible.

 

How would you describe the structure of the Singapore model?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam :  We have a public education system, with meritocratic selection into secondary schools and tertiary institutions. But it is also a system with diverse courses of study, and in particular a strong emphasis on technical and application-oriented courses of study at the tertiary level. We want to offer everyone a chance to discover what they are good at, and learn skills that are worth something in the job market.

 

Your public housing program is reminiscent of socialist experiments.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam : That’s true, but in our own, unique way. Our housing policies are perhaps our most intrusive social intervention. To understand this, you need to be familiar with our history. It was important to create a sense of unity among people of different races and cultures. We could not leave social cohesion in a multicultural society to be decided by the market, or the natural workings of society. It needed conscious government strategy. Housing provided the opportunity, especially because housing conditions soon after Singapore became independent were poor. The government decided to provide everyone with access to good living conditions, but to require at the same time that people of different races and cultures live together in the same neighborhoods. It helped create a common identity, and a common pride in having a home.

 

Has Switzerland been a role model for Singapore?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam :  In many ways yes, and it still is. I admire many things in its education system, with its strong emphasis on applied learning. Switzerland’s apprenticeship system, combining work and practical training, is a useful model to learn from. In addition, the Swiss people show great respect for regular, blue-collar workers and tradespeople, and they are properly compensated. It appears that work is important to the Swiss as a source of identity and a sense of contribution, just as it is to the Singaporeans.

 

Singapore and Switzerland are also rivals, particularly in the area of private banking.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam :  We still lag far behind, since the largest pool of wealth is still in the West. But you’re right, we’re catching up. Our growth rates are high, because growth in both wealth and investments is stronger in Asia than anywhere else in the world. As a result, demand for financial intermediaries to handle the full range of financial services is growing. We’re ready to meet that demand.

 

What role remains for Switzerland?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam : Switzerland has fundamental competitive advantages such as economic and social stability, a culture of reliability and a high level of technical skills. Swiss banks also have a strong reputation going back for a long time, well into the 18th century. It is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, even with modified banking secrecy rules.

 

Singapore’s gross domestic product, much like Switzerland’s, is generated largely by the financial sector. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam :  A properly regulated financial system benefits the overall economy and helps to create jobs. It is also a source of business growth in its own right. Finance provides good jobs and careers for Singaporeans.

 

What are the core values on which the Singapore model is based?

Tharman Shanmugaratnam :  At its core are two things: personal responsibility for helping oneself, and the collective willingness to help those with less. These two values may appear different from each other, but it is when they come together that we get a society that is both vibrant and fair. It may seem a paradox, but the paradox of active government support for self-reliance is at the core of our approach. It reflects our values. If you work, we’ll reward you with more. If you want to study hard or pick up a new skill, we’ll support you. If you want to buy a home and save to pay down the loan, we will give you a grant to reduce the costs. You get something more from the government when you take personal responsibility. This is our way of preventing the erosion of the work ethic and responsibility that we have seen in many affluent societies.

 

Why do you think this is happening?

Politicians promised their people social benefits that were simply unsustainable. With each electoral campaign they added new promises, leaving the bill for subsequent generations. It has unfortunately had not just financial consequences, which are now obvious, but has also changed social values and norms. The culture of entitlement is now widespread, and will take time to reverse. It’s tragic, particularly for the next generation.  That’s why Europe is in search of new social models. There’s no avoiding that.

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Singapore

Smaller than the Canton of Jura, Singapore is a Southeast Asian city-state on a small island, densely populated with 5.4 million people. Its citizens are very diverse: 0.5 million are permanent residents, and 1.6 million are foreigners without a permanent dwelling. 76 percent of Singaporeans have a Chinese background, 15 percent are from Malaysia, more than 7 percent from India and the rest from other parts of the world. The island was a British colony between 1867 and 1962 (with some interruptions). Present-day Singapore gained its independence on August 9, 1965.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam

Singapore’s 57-year-old finance minister is one of the leading economic policymakers in Asia as well as deputy prime minister and chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. In addition, Shanmugaratnam is the first Asian to head the International Monetary Fund’s policy steering committee, known as the International Monetary and Financial Committee. A Singaporean with Tamil roots, he was educated at the Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore, the London School of Economics, Cambridge and Harvard. He is married to a Chinese-Japanese attorney, with whom he has three sons and a daughter. As he revealed to Bulletin, Shanmugaratnam’s aspirations revolved solely around sports when he was young. He was active in field hockey, football, track and field, and cricket.

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MOM ‘do not track’ PR’s complete withdrawals of their CPF, there must be more that MOM do not know about our CPF ? Not true la ..

 

    Tan Chuan-Jin

Was away at a meeting and came back to feedback about why we don’t track withdrawal for PR monies from CPF.

Strange that CNA and Today omitted the first part of my response. It is a completely wrong report. It stated that CPF withdrawals by PRs were not tracked. Gave the impression we had no idea about the withdrawals. Worrying if we don’t and I’d be mighty upset too!  This was my full response.

“The average amount withdrawn per year by CPF members leaving Singapore from 2003 to 2013 was $426m, or about 0.3% of average total members’ balances. This includes the amounts withdrawn by former Singapore Citizens, former Permanent Residents and foreigners who contributed to the CPF before 2003.

 CPF Board does not track the amount separately for PRs who have given up their residency.”

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Comments :

‘CPF Board does not track the amount separately for PRs who have given up their residency.’ Sir, why not?

Tan Chuan-Jin  :    We track all the withdrawals. So if we wanted to break it down we can. But we don’t eyeball it as a specific line item because our main concern should be withdrawals and its impact if any. Which in present circumstances, there are no particular concerns.

Number of PRs who have left have been raised as a PQ before in Parliament.

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  • Good that you clarify it soon. Else become another issue. But alas, the headline grabbing news has been circulated. How many would read the correction (if any) is questionable. And unforturnately, most will remember the negative headlines. The media need to improve their standards!

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 Channel NewsAsia Singapore

News Link ->  CPF members leaving Singapore withdrew more than $400m each year from 2003 to 2013.

Editor’s Note: This article corrects an earlier version which wrongly stated that the government does not track CPF withdrawals by Permanent Residents who leave Singapore.

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