Opinion

3 Things You’ll Probably Hear at the National Day Speech (and Why I’d Suck as a Politician)

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Ryan Ong

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They say good leaders over-communicate. They draw your attention to good things, so you don’t have time to dwell on the bad. Which explains why I never made it past the Scouts’ bottom ranks. Apparently, when teaching 13 year olds about snakes, motivational speeches should not end with “And then the pain makes you claw your eyeballs out.” That’s why good leaders like ours prefer to focus on the positives, during the National Day speech:

 

1. Housing Will Be Affordable for the Next Generation

There’s been a lot of debate about whether HDB flats should be assets or homes.

And by “debate”, I mean one massive crowd yelling “Homes!”, and a handful of property investors making high pitched whining sounds. Affordable housing was a main concern during the national conversation, and we’re expecting clarification (or reinforcement) of HDB’s stand in January.

A quick recap:

In January this year, Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced that HDB would de-link BTO flat prices from the private market. This will ensure flats stay affordable, especially to first time home buyers.

In more precise terms, the goal is to knock BTO flat prices down to four times the annual household median income. As one example, that would mean a target price of around $200,000 for a four-room BTO flat, instead of the current norm of around $300,000.

Let’s see if the goal is still as ambitious.

We may also hear news of further subsidies for low income groups. As an extreme, we may hear about a longer minimum occupancy period (MOP) before the flat can be sold. Both are unlikely, however, since the resale market is already cooling, and BTO flat prices are under control.

We’ll probably hear that, HDB has about 110,000 new flats, to be released over three years. This will prevent Singaporeans from having to compete for resale flats.

 

What I Would Stupidly Add if I Were a Politician:

…and to show how this affects some property investors (in the resale market), I have prepared a diagram:

 

Walnut and nutcracker
Hint: The only reason those are walnuts is because I can’t show genitalia.

 

Previously, new HDB flats steadily got pricier, because they were linked to rising resale flat prices. But the reason those resale flat prices climbed was partly because, well…new HDB flats were getting pricier. Both sides drove each other upward, which is why the resale price index looked like this.

Now, I’m not too sorry that gravy train got derailed. It was wreaking macroeconomic havoc. I just hope you weren’t banking on your flat as your sole investment.

Now, about those 110,000 flats over three years. That should probably help with  the intended 20,000 to 25,000 new immigrants per year.  It will also…stop grabbing the Mic! I’m try to do some damn leadering here!

 

2. Tweaks to the Healthcare System

 

Pills and needle
Our pharmacists have shaved 50% off the cost. It’s amazing what you can find on E-Bay.

 

The main changes we expect to hear about are:

  • Broader list of subsidised drugs
  • More subsidies for older Singaporeans (who have less in the way of CPF, Medisave, etc.)
  • Increased transparency in costs, for private healthcare
  • Broader use of Medisave (for health screening, therapy, etc.)

The main issue to note is front-loading. Government policies might shift to make you pay higher premiums while younger, and then lighten as you get older.

The other concern is using your Medisave for your parents. There may be a crackdown on this practice, which has been quite liberally used for some time. The reason would be prevent you depleting your own Medisave too much.

 

What I Would Stupidly Add if I Were a Politician:

Overall, you’re on solid ground. Unless, of course, any of you have children born with serious medical conditions. Those children may not qualify for Medifund, and I’m pretty sure your Medisave will be quickly tapped out trying to care for them.

Yes, there have been repeated calls to provide more help to this segment of people. It’s not a wide segment, so it wouldn’t cause a financial disaster to extend bigger subsidies to them. But this is, one second…*checks crumpled note* a serious matter, in need of deliberation.

In other words, hang on some more. Something may change at some point.

Also, if you stopped paying for Medisave at any point, I hope you’re in shape. Because there’s no guarantee you can get back in it again; it depends on your current state of health. If your body’s deteriorated at all, I wish you good luck when feeding the sharks talking to various insurance salesmen.

 

3. Job Security and the Foreign Influx

 

HDB flat painters
Well we’re getting rid of them, so you better hope Law graduates had this as a module.

 

There has already been tightening on the foreign workers policy, and we’re pretty sure it will be mentioned again.

Foreign worker levies will be up in July 2014, and again in July 2015.

The foreign worker quota has also been dropped from 45% to 40% in the service sector, and will be dropped from 5% to 4.5% in the Marine sector (come 2016). It’s called the quality growth programme, and you may hear about tweaks to it in the coming speech.

As to closing the income divide, they may mention that the National Wage Council proposed hikes for low income workers. Companies were urged to give at least $60 wage increases to workers earning $1,000 or less per month.

Oh you think that’s too piddly?

Business owners reacted like we asked them to sacrifice their firstborn. Only three in 10 firms (non-unionised) gave the recommended wage increase. Four of them gave nothing at all. (The Straits Times, N-Day Rally: Let’s Talk, August 17th, 2013)

Seriously people…60 bucks. If we can’t even manage that, it explains why we have an income gap you can canoe across. Expect some cajoling in this area, but we don’t think the government will push those wage hikes as a policy (That would come uncomfortably close to minimum wage policies).

 

Moon photography
We can now see the moon clearly. For a bigger challenge, I suggest the distance in Singapore’s income divide.

 

You can also expect the speech to highlight:

  • Lifelong learning and skills upgrading initiatives
  • The re-employment issue
  • Wage Credit Scheme (the government has co-funded 40% of wage increases for Singaporean employees; and will continue to do so over three years)
  • Why we need foreign talent, they don’t take the jobs we want, etc. etc. We hear this every year.

 

What I Would Stupidly Add if I Were a Politician:

You know that thing about re-employing older workers?

Yeah, it’s a great thing! Even if it often comes with pay reductions (resulting in cuts of of up to 20% or more for some older workers), can remove eligibility for bonuses (ever lost a five month bonus?), and doesn’t change the workload.

That’s right: Same amount of work, less pay. Follow us on Facebook if you want to know more about that (and how to overcome it).

And of course, we have to be careful when depriving businesses. That’s what being a meritocracy means: If you can’t innovate and adapt to your situation, we should all bend over backwards and change government policies to help.

Oh wait…that’s only the version that applies to companies.

 

What do you think of the National Day speech? Comment and let us know!

Image Credits:
tallkev, mueritz, Wolfman-K, kodomut, NASA Goddad Photo and Video

 

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.