What I learnt from the GST hike ...
This is not good at all. Our ruling elites do not believe in humour. In fact, some months ago, our PM had advised that we should all maintain an optimum level of unhappiness within us. He did not dictate what constitutes the optimum level (we are a very free and democractic society, remember?), but most ventured that the level would be one at which you are not too happy with life that stops you from working 24/7 and not so unhappy that you vote for the opposition. It is a delicate balance indeed. However, PAP, with their 40 years of governance in the tiny island, is very experienced to deal with such difficulties. The trick is to provide some form of 'package'; be it progress package, offset package or santa claus package. It always works and its efficacy is so entrenched that the ruling elites seldom think out of a box, er package that is, anymore.
After Miss Wee's blunder, one would have thought Singaporeans' optimal level of unhappiness has gone up. But, it was apparently not good enough by our government's world class standards. Luckily for all Singaporeans, our PM is our saviour again!
He (but who else?!) has single-handedly pushed our unhappiness index to the limit with his 2% GST hike in 2007. It was so effective even aunties around me were visibly upset over it. Fortunately, their AQ (Ah Q spirit) triumphed over their EQ and IQ. They reasoned that after paying for the hike, they would be qualified poor. It can't be bad if you are getting it back, right?
Now that we have reached that wonderful optimum level of unhappiness, some MPs are telling us to exercise restraint over our feelings. "Do not get into overdrive" mode except when you work.
We must accept the news, treat it like another of Newton's laws and pretend nothing impactful has happened.
Again, Aunty does better. I start dreaming of what kind of goodies I ought to be getting from this coming April's Budget. Let's call it April Fools' offset package. Surely, it must be worth a few hundred dollars? Will a hardship package be worth less than a vote-buying package? If we KPKB, will we get more?
On the personal level, I have gathered some learning points from this hike. I would like to share them.
1 The Oracle is failing ...
In the past, when MM Lee shared his visions of good years ahead, Singaporeans would be somewhat comforted and renewed with confidence for the future. Nevermind where he got those romantic notions but they did materialise, didn't they?! Lately, MM's words are only good for laughs. Most of my friends hardly felt the optimism of a better few years ahead. We even joked that perhaps we must put on a white shirt first. Frankly, I don't give a damn about MM's visions anymore. The soccer team may need the ra-ra prep talk more.
2 The country is struggling ...
I was one of the many goondos who bragged to others about living in a world-class super wealthy developed country. It was indeed sobering to realise Singapore is only living from hand-to-mouth. It hasn't the spare cash to help its poor at all!!! Worse, I did not know there were so many Mr Tans amongst us that we need a whopping 2% of our domestic consumption to prevent them from dying at the MRT tracks. Thank goodness this hard fact was revealed sooner lest I, too, become an "elite uncaring face".
3 PAP is not a political party, it's a choir!
Notice how every member in its ranks (all 82 of them) sings the same tune and reaches the high notes in such harmonious perfection and timing???? Unlike those decadent western democracies where their MPs quarrel and fight, ours is a world apart from them. In fact, ours resembles the Vienna Boys' Choir except for a few flower vases amongst them. I must say the PAP choir sings more beautifully than the boys from Vienna except that those little boys probably scored higher in musical talents and cute looks.
4 An acute shortage of real economists in Singapore ...
In some decadent western democracies, an issue like a GST hike would generate many discussions from the academia, particularly the economists. In Singapore, there seemed to be a dire shortage of such talents. We have mostly unhappy bloggers giving their 2-cents worth of the new directive. No wonder our PM is sending his son to MIT to read economics. In a few years, we would finally have one authoritative economist to lead us all. We will have Singaporenomics; our own version of an open economy that does not depend on others for survival. We only need PAP's magic hat of tricks.
5 PAP's magic hat of tricks ...
After ruling the tiny dot for 40 years, PAP has indeed perfected some tricks. That's why MM does not believe in learning points, like those needed from the shin corp deal. Tricks are much more efficient and less accountable. I used to sneer at Greenspan's magic hat of tricks of rate hikes and rate cuts to solve the woes of the world's greatest deficit economy. How un-creative!
It is right that PM should be paid more handsomely than Bush. PM has more tricks besides the 'fixing and buying' strategy : wage cuts, CPF cuts, fare hikes, GST hikes
These alone, PM is worth twice over Bush. And I'm sure he would have more tricks in it if not for the shrinking magic hat. By the way, he also has one fail-proof trick that Bush lacks, the PACKAGE!
6 Welfare is a dirty word ...
PM said so. He meant every word of it, I'm very sure. That is why the ruling elites had never took the WELFARE OF SINGAPOREANS at heart. Well, he told you so. Singaporeans are hard-core romantics that must learn the BRUTAL TRUTH. You want welfare, pay for it yourself. The message was very clear in the GST hike announcement. To the elites, you are the poor, remember?!
7 Things that come in a 'Package' are not "handouts".....
The first time I received a Package from the government, I was a little stirred and a whole lot shaken. I felt I was receiving a handout for having done nothing!!! This guilt of developing a clutch mentality lived with me all these years, especially when I received $600 dollars in the bank but I was not required to vote at the elections. Money for nothing!? A handout. Luckily, the recent spate of events had enlightened me. It was never a handout lah. It was a short term deposit that the government had put in your bank to be withdrawn later at full principal plus interest.
8 Hikes never STOP AT TWO ...
Keep dreaming but it will never stop at just two rounds, that is. I think this is the double-digit growth that we have been dreaming about for years. It's up, up and away. Ok, I must qualify that this is purely speculative and I'm not willing to offer constructive solutions until the peanuts and white blouse are in the package on the way to me.
9 GST hike is also helping the poor in neighbouring countries ...
I hope our neighbours will finally appreciate PM's kind gesture to help them. Imagine the number of Singapore shoppers that will throng their supermarkets and provision stores to stock up on rice and cooking oil. In fact, it makes more sense to have your wedding package in JB, keep your children in their childcare centres and keep your old folks in their homes. All you need is a one-room flat in Singapore to sleep at night, after 12-16 hours of work at the office. JB can become our satellite town and enjoy the spill-over growth in this way. Never say we never help, boleh?
10 GST hike will help our local retail industry to upgrade...
Contrary to what SCCI claimed, GST hike will not affect our local retail industry. It will only affect the local retailers as more will pack up their bags. Hey, we need more world-class products to entice the rich folks visiting our IRs. Notice how local retailers (or mum and pop shops) tend to sell unglamourous low-end stuff from China? With their exit from the industry, we could free valuable retail space to bring in the really fun and sleazy - like nude dancers, pimp services (sorry, match making services industry) and more interactive risk- management centres (casinos are a bad name).
There is nothing much we could do. It is very much like the Shin Corp deal and many others before it. In fact, many conspired that Shin Corp is the cause of it! Utter nonsense, Mdm Ho had a string of corporate successes and is the only rare talent born outside of the Lee Family. (Shin Corp is only a paper loss, as yet. Hee hee, wait till the write-offs for Optus and Shin corp are due. Then, you'll know what is a double whammy ...)
So for now, you either start spending like there's no tomorrow and end up being the poor to reclaim your 2% or stop spending and die of starvation in a bug-infested flat. Either way, you are going there ... Of course, the government is betting on many of us dangling at the midway of these 2 ends.
I sincerely request that economist wannabes refrain from expounding your theories here. If you are all for the hike, there is nothing you can't tell me that the Straits Times wouldn't during the runup to the Budget Speech. If you are against it, well, my heart knows why too.