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Ex-GIC chief economist calls Govt’s basic income policy “pathetic”; says increasing funding to help the poor will not require tax hike

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Ex-GIC chief economist, Lam Keong Yeoh, has said that policymakers should focus on improving the Government’s “pathetic” basic income policy and reform social policy, if they are serious about how the people should give back to the underprivileged and be less conscious of our social standing.

Last week, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that a minimum wage model would not work so well here and that the Government’s Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) is as good or even better than a basic income policy.

Later, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing urged the elite in society to help the less fortunate.

Sharing a TISG article on Chan’s speech on Facebook today, Lam asked: “If our top leadership are really so keen for elites to help the underprivileged in society and create more equality of opportunity why is it our basic income policy support for the absolute poor is still so pathetic?

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“We can well afford to raise the Workfare Income Supplement and Silver Support Scheme by $600 a month to meet most of the basic needs of the bulk of those that do not earn enough to do so yet policy makers stubbornly refuse to adequately fund these two schemes that between them automatically reach most of these working and elderly absolute poor.”

Adding that raising funding for these schemes will not require a tax hike, Lam noted that the absolute poor in Singapore were pushed to their position due to misguided policy in the past:

“Again this will cost us less than 1% of GDP and require no rise in taxes. Most studies show extending these schemes will not reduce work effort or motivation and would greatly increase the ability of the poor to help themselves.

“And it was our misguided policy of excessive immigration over the 1990s and between 2000-2010 that depressed wages and created a huge class of working poor who form the bulk of our 300-400,000 absolute poor in Singapore.”

Lam further called on the authorities to work at eradicating absolute poverty in Singapore and for the authorities “put their money where their mouth is,” if they are serious about helping the less fortunate: “Rather than all this sophisticated talk on how elites should give back to the less privileged or be less conscious of socio economic status how about some concrete policy action to put our money where our mouth is and largely eradicate absolute poverty in Singapore?”

Noting that it might be difficult for policymakers to provide sufficient aid to the poor without deep mindest change, since a politician as influential as Chan Chun Sing has yet to achieve this, Lam asserted that ” true intelligent charity and compassion should begin with a deep policy mindset change and social policy reform at home” for the Government:

“Minister Chan who is a smart, personable and generally well meaning leader was in charge of the relevant Ministry – MSF and MCCY for over 3 years and was also Secretary General of NTUC for nearly 3 years. With all due respect, If he didn’t or couldn’t do anything substantial enough to sufficiently help the poorest of the poor in all those years of relevant high office that had the most responsibility and say in such matters which of our elite policy makers can or will ?

“For our governing elites, true intelligent charity and compassion should should begin with a deep policy mindset change and social policy reform at home. Otherwise, all this kind of talk is just sophistry.”

Read Lam’s full post here:

https://www.facebook.com/lamkeong.yeoh/posts/2280161265392261

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