Monday, 1 July 2013

The $3000 Question and the Million-Dollar Ministers’ Answer

If you want to question whether the $3000 median pay for Singaporean workers is high or low, we should also ask the same question to the ministers: Are you worth a million dollars in salary?

Han Fook Kwang tried to use other mouths to explain the situation and gave the answer: we have to compare with others, the Southeast Asians and even the Europeans. Do Singaporeans workers deserve their wages?

Then, by this definition, it provides us a foundation to compare our ministers’ pay with our Asian neighbours, European and American politicians.   It will be interesting to find out the gap ratios between $3000 Singaporean workers and million-dollar ministers as compared to workers and ministers in other countries.   I don’t have the answer.  Perhaps, ST with her rich resources and correspondents over the world can do a better comparison and provides her readers a balanced report.

We should also ask the ministers why our wages are so high and our productivity and creativity are so low.  If the workers are overpaid, then how about the minsters, are they also overpaid?  How come we end up with high pay high cost and yet problems not solved.  

There is a Chinese saying: money talk is emotional. (将钱伤感情). We talk about the $3000 for average Singapore workers and million-dollar for ministers. It hurts all of us as money is always not enough. However, when you have a million you will have more resources and leverages to deal with you daily life.

Just to give you three million-answers and examples to do a comparison:

1. Loan rules aimed at those who over-stretch to invest.

If you have a million you will not have problem with the Total Debt Servicing Ratio.  The banks will be more than happy to approve your loan application. If not, you are belonged to the ‘over-stretch’ category.  You should not invest and instead you should stay put with one house or one apartment.

With $3000 salary, it is better you stay at HDB flat even that you may not have enough cash left over. For example, a 30-year loan with 3.5% interest (the government thinks the current low interest will not hold) and the flat $400,000, you will need a monthly instalment of $1,796. (=pmt(0.035/12,360,400000)

In this case, the million-dollar minister may be right. Don’t anyhow invest, watch your cash and take note of the interest rate.  Your financial planner can give your this answer but he costs less than a million.  

2. MOH to explore ways of keeping healthcare affordable

[The Ministry of Health (MOH) will explore enhancing risk pooling to make the national health insurance scheme, MediShield, more comprehensive. As participants at an Our Singapore Conversation session yesterday called for more flexibility in the use of Medisave to help reduce their out-of-pocket expenses, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that one way to manage the cash component is by enhancing insurance. He also reassured participants that the Government will increase its share of healthcare spending to ensure healthcare costs remain affordable.]

The above is reported in Today. Out-of-pocket expenses are the cash portion that a patient needs to pay. However, with adjustment and a comprehensive Medisheild, your premium will also increase.

Affordable medical care is a big issue to many families. For an unlucky family, can a $3000 wage meet the high medical expenses for major illness?

Affordable or not affordable – it is a simple question but in the past 20, 30 years, the PAP is not able to solve it.

3. More to benefit from legal aid services

The report said: Another 300,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents will potentially benefit from amendments to the Legal Aid and Advice Act, which take effect today. It also stressed that ‘To be eligible, applicants must pass both a means test and a merits test.’

With $3000 monthly wage you will fail the means test.    

Interestingly, with an increasing GDP per capita in Singapore, why are there more needs in legal aid services?  The answer is high Gini coefficient and wider rich-poor gap. So, is $3000 a fair representative?

Not sure whether merits test is suitable for people who are over-stretch in property investment and over-burden by medical costs or not.  Since $3000 fails the means test, in general, it should also fail the merits test.  Perhaps, you need a MP’s letter to give you the merit.  

From property, medical care to legal advice, have the three examples given some justifications to the $3000 question?  This is a very difficult question even the million-dollar ministers cannot give a proper and affordable answer.

Do we deserve $3000? Can the Prime Minister give a fair and straight answer? 

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