Singapore — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ms Ho Ching, has expressed what appears to be concern over Workers’ Party MP-elect Jamus Lim’s position on a minimum wage.

Professor Lim, an economist, shot to fame when he took part in a televised pre-election debate on July 1 with the People’s Action Party’s Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Singapore Democratic Party’s Dr Chee Soon Juan and the Progress Singapore Party’s Mr Francis Yuen.

Those who saw the debate felt that Prof Lim was able to hold his own against Dr Balakrishnan and came off as eloquent and level-headed.

During the debate, they had clashed over who will bear the fiscal burden of the policies featured in the WP’s manifesto and Prof Lim had asserted that the WP’s manifesto promises are “budget-neutral”.

Days later, on July 10, Prof Lim was elected to Parliament when the WP won Sengkang GRC.

On Tuesday afternoon (July 14), Prof Lim addressed concerns about the WP’s minimum wage proposal and indicated that the fiscal burden of minimum wage would be borne mostly by consumers who buy products or services with higher prices and, in part, by firms. He wrote:

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“Who pays for the minimum wage? Some people think this would cost the government. Actually, most min wage models have no fiscal impact, and the burden is borne mostly by higher prices consumers pay (3/4), and in part by firms (1/4).

“I see this as a feature, not a bug. The point is to redistribute some bargaining power from capital to labour, and I think we can afford to chip in a little to take care of the least well-off in society. With many more buyers than min wage workers, the price effect will be small.”

He added that the Government’s Progressive Wage Model (PWM) is not equivalent to a minimum wage model and that it does not work for the 100,000 workers the WP estimates earn below the minimum wage.

In the hours after Prof Lim’s clarification was published, a Facebook post began circulating suggesting that his latest statement is at odds with his statement in the debate that WP’s manifesto is budget-neutral.

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The page that made the post, Singapore Matters, wrote:

“Minimum wage is not manna from heaven. Someone’s got to pay for it. The burden is on businesses and YOU. You will pay for it through higher prices. And this means a higher cost of living.

“When prices go up, it is the low wage workers who will be more hurt. It surely does not warm the cockles of your heart to learn that you bear 3/4 of the burden of a minimum wage.”

Ms Ho was one of the first few people to agree with the Singapore Matters post. Ms Ho, who also serves as CEO of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, shared the post about 15 minutes after it was published with the caption: “Sigh….”

Her post sharing the Singapore Matters picture is trending on social media. More than  300 people reacted to her post, which has accumulated over 200 comments and nearly 100 shares:

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