Thursday, 26 February 2015

Darwinism over Robin Hood, Jubilee Budget fails to change PAP’s perception

To change is to change twice. The PAP is very smart in making the first change - innovation, productivity, organisations etc. This is why Budget 2015 is rated AAA by S&P. It endorses Darwinism over Robin Hood as DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam objects that the PAP government is taking a Robin Hood strategy.

It means it only makes one change technically.  It only changes the reality, the quantity (up tax rate and CPF saving rate; more money for Changi Airport, research fund, and infrastructure; introduction of SkillsFuture, Workfare, etc.). Physically, Singaporeans see them, see the change in figure, in reality. But you don’t feel it as the headline of Yahoo Singapore pointed out: Not many Singaporeans looked it up.

However, it is not enough. The Jubilee Budget, like SG50, fails in the second change - perception, creativity, new box. The PAP chooses to remain in the old box. It is not creative enough to move into the new box, either it is intentionally refusing change or lack of creative talent.

Is SkillsFuture a new box? Is Silver Support Scheme a new box? Is Workfare a new box? Is free examination fee a new box?

SkillsFuture is just an extension of lifelong learning. Promotion of training and learning can trace back to 1980s when we engaged in productivity movement. Skill Development Fund, Edusave account, subsidies to workforce development, etc were introduced one after another. And Silver Support Scheme is just an enlargement of the welfare assistance programmes. Workfare and other productivity improvement programmes have in fact entered into a negative return dilemma.  

All the above are existing models. The PAP is a smart learner and implementer of models, especially, best practices from the western developed nations. From economic planning, legal system, financial system, medical system, to the information and smart nation planning, the PAP has cleverly (and selectively) adopted or modified the western models with great? success but also potential problems (e.g creativity).  Anyway, these are old boxes.

Because the PAP only concentrates on the improvement of old models, it is unable to change its perception.  The mainstream media tries to highlight the generous ‘handouts’ in Budget 2015 as a Robin Hood policy. However, DPM Tharman does not agree with this perception. The PAP refuses to be a Robin Hood. It still wants to believe in Darwinism that the fittest survives.Those unfit persons will have to depend on family support first.

Hence, there are no new ideas in Budget 2015. It does not want to project a perception change, just like the celebration of SG50.  We look back in history and remember the old PAP and how good they were. It is a strategy of keeping the old box and promoting old ideas, old models as a long-term sustainability.  It just changes contents in the old boxes or enlarging old boxes, like the introduction of SkillsFuture, Workfare or Silver Support Scheme.  When the opposition calls for free education, better medical coverage, the PAP can only offer free examination fee, medical assistance to pioneer generation.   

In fact, we see a lot of problems coming from the old models, e.g. domestic productivity is going down , local PMETs are facing job difficulties, SMEs continue to face shortage of labour, etc. As for rich-poor gap, the best the PAP can do is to marginally increase the tax rate of top 5%. Budget 2015 just does a model improvement or adjustment, not a new box solution.

After copying, modifying and adjusting the best practices from advanced countries, Singapore is now in par with them in income but not in income distribution, especially comparing to Western European countries.  To go beyond and move forward, Singapore will need to be a producer of models not the user of old models like the past 50 years.

However, to be a creator of models, Singaporeans will need to have a free mind so that we can think out of the old boxes, old models. We will have to face more challenges and make illogical or wrong assumptions. But the problem is with the PAP. It refuses a change of perception on itself and on Singaporeans. It denies Singaporeans free thinking and free expression with a extremely low free press ranking. Furthermore, the PAP also refuses transparency and openness.

Jubilee budget fails to provide such a perception change, be it freedom or transparency.

What can Singaporeans do when we face an anti-perception change PAP government? We can either force it to change or denying them the mandate to govern. This is the option for the coming general election. We can make the change.   

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