Monday, February 18, 2008

Middle Class Woes

The 2008 Singapore Budget has acknowledged the importance of the middleclass..
Singapore's TodayOnline on 2008 Budget Speech

Mentioned 16 times, the middle class Singaporeans, which form the bulk of the working population. Looking at a bell curve, the 2 extremes which are the extreme wealthy and the extremely poor, should have no worries. Afterall, the rich have excess abundance of wealth for grand homes and able to pay their taxes , the poor are subsidised to the extent that they pay almost lesser than 100 dollars for monthly rented housing.

The bulk of the population falls under the category of Middle Class. Politically speaking, the Florida state of USA 2000 elections, which means it is the tipping point for elections. Win the tipping point and win the elections.

For Singapore, the tipping point would be the bulk, which is the middle class population.

As Singapore holds no natural resources, its humble beginnings relied heavily on the local workforce. Being strategically located, its port has been one of the major revenue and besides depending on techology, ports are operated mainly by a huge workforce. From there, sprouted its oil and gas refining beginnings as the ports made easy access from Asia to the world and vice versa.

In a way, it was good vision that made Singapore the famous port it is now and we should not forget that human resources are also a major factor in making Singapore so successful today.

With skilled labour and strategic location, there were still several needs to be addressed. Needs to ensure a productive workforce. Then in the early years of country development, housing issues were addressed by the Housing Development Board, HDB, to provide affordable housing for the workforce. Stability of the economy to ensure that the workforce need not worry about losing their jobs, Government initiated pension schemes [Central Provident Fund,CPF ] to assure the workforce that their retirement fund is covered and that will also assist in paying for their affordable housings.

I quote the following from Dennis Kucinich's rally for US presidential election site about his take on the middle class which I see happening in Singapore today.

Extract from above site subtitled : Survival of the Middle Class

It is a shocking - and dangerous - trend in the USA over the past 3 decades: the plummeting rewards and respect for hard work.

As a result, the middle class who has produced this magnificent American engine of economic growth is under intense pressure from the governing elites - of both parties. Risk envelopes the life of the average American employee while the casino capitalists at the top prosper. Global elites scour the globe in search of slave labor while some of them earn 36,000 times the wage of the average American worker and 580,000 times the average Chinese worker. The middle class has watched as their jobs are being exported, health care costs are soaring, wages are being depressed, tuition costs are rising and retirement savings and pensions are disappearing. All while wars damage their family's economic health and security are being waged in their name.

Perhaps not all that are mentioned above are applicable to Singapore's middle classes today but its easy to spot the similarities between the two nations.

Little subsidies are given to slow down the rising cost of living.
Much of it goes to investments elsewhere which is not in the country which the middle class contribute to.
Housing are no longer affordable and retirement funds which was extracted from the working employee is being governed as if it didn't belonged to them anymore.
Rising healthcare costs ensures that more money from the CPF is being funneled out and back into the state.
Education costs are higher than what it was and it seems to on the rising trend with yearly revisions up Northwards.

We are in no war but defense budgets skyrocket and take a significance portion of the annual budget.

Stability is rocking with the incumbent government is opening its doors and attracting foreign talents to work in Singapore. Perhaps in hope to fill the overpriced housing which the locals can no longer afford. Basic HDB houses actually costs 10 times more than what it was 20 years ago. I believe the middle class income for the same job did not match such inflation.

Taxes rise upon Electoral wins as opposed to other countries which promise tax cuts which their political parties win.

Usage of the infrastructure for commuting between home and workplace is getting more expensive as more road tolls are implemented for roads and highways, which were built more than 10 years ago. All in the name of preventing congestion. Funny how it works when a commuter pays a toll and still get stuck in a jam. Roads are built for a reason and it seems it is discouraged for commuters to use these roads or highways by implementing a toll. I'm sure the revenue from these toll collection will go into technology to create even more ways to collect toll charges.

Today, the nation is facing a shortage of babies. I'm sure there's a reason or combinations of reasons why this is happening....

Just choose a reason listed above..

The Middle Class, I believe, were not merely acknowledged for their existence but the Middle Class, are FEARED, for the majority of the population that they are and their ability and capacity as a Citizen to exercise their vote-casting rights.

I end this post on my blog with a quote from V for Vendatta [ A TV series that was made into a movie recently ]

The People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their People.

Today is 18 Feb 2008
Time is 1725 hrs

I am having financial difficulties paying for my house, my kid and my car.

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