On Labour Day…

PM Lee held his annual May Day Rally. Like some of the countries in the world, May Day, aka Labour Day, is a designated public holiday set aside to celebrate “the economic and social achievements of workers[1]

You can listen to his speech on YouTube here. Transcript available here.

Outlining the problems of cost of living, low wage workers, foreign workers and an aging population, PM Lee highlighted similar problems faced by countries such as those in Southern Europe and reminded that “…we should see our progress and problems in perspective.”

In Singapore, PM Lee shared that our problem is that we have created “…opportunities, more than we have bodies to fill…” The people are already working overtime and yet consistently, almost every sector has a shortage of manpower. As a result, it is important that we need foreigner workers. But just how many do we need depends on the economic situation.

PM Lee also outlined how European countries were struggling due to welfarism and state paid pensions that are bankrupting the governments. He quoted Italy as an example. What the Italian government spend on pensions in 1 year is almost (in terms of percentage GDP) what the Singapore government spends on the budget every year for everything. Everything includes healthcare, defense, education, housing… just to name a few.

PM Lee also explained the problem with youth unemployment from another perspective. In Spain, at least 24% of the population is not working, of which about 52% are youths. The implications are youths who do not know what it means to be in a job or learning the necessary job skills. That’s like a generation of youths having a late head start in life and possibly lower economic power when they are older.

Disagreeing with Professor Lim Chong Yah’s proposed shock therapy of increasing low wage workers’ wages by 50% in 3 years, PM Lee while appreciating Professor Lim’s good intentions, shared that the only realistic way of increase is to do it “step by step, with wages and productivity going up in tandem together as fast as we can but as fast as is possible.”

PM Lee also emphasized, “Let me be quite clear, Singaporeans will always be our priority. This is the focus of all our policies.”

Hear hear!

“Look into the future, not back to the past
Commanding a premium, not offering a discount
The first choice for investments and talent
Not a place which is bypass and neglected
Where things get done cheaper better and faster” – PM LEE

No fixed time within which by-election must be called: PM Lee

Naturally the papers were thrown wide open this morning on News regarding the by-election.

PM Lee’s answer naturally gave me a little dilemma: Nation or Town?

Electorate size
Nation: about 2.27 million +/- (source: Elections Department)
Town: about 24555 +/- (source: Wikipedia)

24555/ 2270000 = ~0.0108% (nearest 4 figures..)

It is true that there are many urgent issues on the national agenda.
View of Singapore’s economic growth remains cautious at 1-3%. Press release from MTI here.
I must say I’m glad we still have projected growth otherwise.. some of us might be out of job.

Others such as immigration concerns, housing concerns, social concerns, security concerns – just many concerns. Oh and aging population concerns since we might not want eldercare beneath our void decks

Now I have hunger concerns. Time for lunch.

SPP Drama Continues

When SPP unveiled their candidates for the General Elections 2011, I thought their selection clearly suggested the start of the renewal process for the party. Which is well fine and good.

Until the public came to know of the resignation of their potential young leaders from their Central Executive Council (CEC). It seems to have brought their renewal process to an abrupt halt. The SPP’s credibility as a political party is also on a downward slide as their ex-CEC members continue to speak out against them. Even the recently held election of the CEC has been controversial.

Firstly, it seems that certain members did not wish to be part of the CEC, did not turn up and yet *was* elected into the CEC! Read more here!

Secondly, Mr Benjamin Pwee, part of those who recently resigned has claimed that the election was not valid. Read more from this Straits Times link.

Mr Chiam has refuted these claims. Read here.

IMHO, let’s just say.. the damage has been done. A party that cannot stick together and one that cannot control its internal party politics is not ready to be a representative for Singaporeans. This is the sad state of one of the “credible opposition” parties.

Unemployment in Europe & Singapore

Got a job?

According to news reports such as this, Singapore’s unemployment rate is at its lowest in 14 years! In contrast, Europe’s jobless record is at its peak. Chances are if you’re in Singapore, it is highly likely you are a job holder. But if you are in Europe, times are tough now.

“The jobless rate in the 17-country euro zone hit 10.4 per cent in December, the European Union’s statistical agency, Eurostat, said Tuesday. That’s the highest level since 1998, just before the launch of the common currency. About 16.5 million people are out of work in the euro zone, up more than 750,000 over one year.” (Reguly, 2012) Online article available here

The youths, the country’s future have been forced to become migrants, in search of a job. David Charter’s article in The Times on 28 Jan 2012 titled “Jobless record shows European dream has forsaken the young” highlights that 5.6m of Europe’s under 25s are on the move for work because there was no work to be found back home. The same tune of unemployed youths was highlighted in Reguly’s article. 

It is important to appreciate the low unemployment rate in Singapore, particularly in the midst of global economic slowdown. Singapore’s economy remains vulnerable. What is happening in Europe could easily happen in Singapore. As PM Lee shared in his Chinese New Year message, “…The Year of the Dragon is likely to see more uncertainty in the global economy. Fortunately, Asia is still prospering, but Singapore is already feeling the slowdown in the West. This is one of the reasons we project 1-3% growth this year. It will be prudent for us to be psychologically prepared.” (Complete message available here)

The Singapore Government has already started strengthening social safety nets to look after those who need assistance. For those who can work, learn, adapt and start to work. Work while there are jobs in the market and remember there are others who are in more challenging circumstances than us.

For my European readers, remember, tough times don’t last but tough people do!