Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /homepages/15/d480484399/htdocs/wordpress2019/sgwatch/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 293

The New Poor

Being part of the “new poor” (fresh graduate mah), I found the following read interesting. My only pickings about it, is the generous use of ‘PAP’ in the article. Regardless of whether PAP takes up almost all the seats, the PAP is not our government. Really, PAP is part of the government, but the government is not PAP.

In the current economic restructing and downturn, a tier of “new poor” has emerged. Housing mortgages and, health costs are just some of the problems. This article sets out the arguments.

Monday, 11 February 2002

by James Gomez (Hammer)

THEY are the New Poor – urban, made up of the unskilled, a sizeable middle-class, fresh graduates and the consumption oriented. Collectively, they live and work with no guarantee of life-long employment but are responsible for multiple long-term financial obligations (“forced”or otherwise) in an environment that provides no short-term unemployment benefits.

Singapore Dream in Smoke

IN Singapore, the new knowledge-based economy means that many of our unskilled and semi-skilled workers, especially those in their forties who still have families to support are becoming “redundant” unless they retrain, upgrade their skills and use information technology. The sad aspect is that the PAP government does not understand that even if they provide subsidized training programs, the people still need hard cash to stay alive. Many in this category have long mortgages (up to 30 years) for public housing and with upgrading, have additional long-term payment expenses. Additionally, depending on income levels, some take hire purchase loans for home appliances, TV, radio, computers and furniture. Many need health and life insurance policies to supplement health care costs. Their children’s education is another important financial consideration. The needs of the elderly, if they have not provided for their retirement, also fall on the children – these forty-somethings. Legislation ensures that this becomes a legal obligation, added on to their other outstanding financial commitments.

The “middle-class” which at times was portrayed as the “new rich” is finding that a number of essentials like health care, housing and education are becoming expensive and are cutting into their lifestyle choices.

Having a maid to look after the children and their elderly parents is more costly. In some cases, it’s more cost-effective for one of the spouses, usually the wife, to stay home. Suddenly, overseas travel, country club memberships, private properties, liquid cash for investment and stocks are out of reach. A maximum seven-year lease on a car is another burden for those who choose to own one. Even the desire for overseas and further education has become a liability for many. Parents and individuals have to take personal and study loans to realize this wish.

Once the boon of the middle-class, the policies of the PAP are increasingly narrowing their lifestyles choices or leaving them in debt.

For the younger workers or fresh graduates, the recession not withstanding, jobs are harder to come by. They have to settle for less pay and work longer hours. But they have immediate needs – at least a two-year package for handphones. Then there are the other expenses. Dining out, acquiring fashion labels, going on holidays, owning a palmtop, buying CDs, books and magazines are just some of the expense items. Credit is not an option. After all if they chalk up large bills on their cards that they cannot pay, they are eventually made bankrupts. Even tertiary students explore credit for overseas travel way before they join the work force. But there is no guarantee that tertiary education locally or abroad translates immediately into a job. Many graduates spend months, sometimes over a year, looking for a full-time job. Others work temporarily in between – if they can find something. Relief teaching and tuition is a last resort.

And then there are those who pursue their material wants although they cannot really afford them. They get into heavy financial obligations and have problems managing them. For instance, unnecessary and expensive housing renovation that has little value in the high turn over resale HDB property market. Or getting into uninformed business ventures in a saturated government-dominated private sector that do not result in successful profit making or taking large and unsecured speculative risks in the financial markets that can leave one in a state of abrupt monetary scarcity.

The Worst is Yet to Come

THE financial commitment elicited by the new economy is not matched by a guarantee of life-long employment and financial security.

For those who are employed, their personal savings may not be large enough to cushion the unexpected long-term unemployment prospects. The only option for them is to find stopgap measures of work, such as being a security guard, cleaner or taxi driver, that will take them away from their traditional area of skills and training to a saturated unskilled employment market where there is competition with school leavers, retirees and foreign workers.

For many past the working age, current savings in the Central Provident Funds, if they have not been used up for public housing, are not sufficient to pay for post-retirement expenses. The government’s advice is to sell their homes, move to special retirement flats and provide for themselves with the difference. It does not matter if this is not applicable to all or that they have to liquidate their homes to compensate for the inadequacy of their Central Provident Funds. Even the legislation on children to provide for their elderly parents cannot work if the children cannot afford it. Thus, although there are some who work to keep fit, it’s not unusual to see needy elderly people well into retirement age working behind the counter at McDonalds, collecting discarded cardboard boxes and minding the doorways to public toilets.

Part of the problem lies in the PAP government’s policies, which seek profit in what essentially are welfare provision sectors and essential services. The policy of allowing cheap foreign labour has also displaced unskilled Singaporeans. For instance, some may look towards working as a security guard or officer when they lose their jobs as an interim stop gap measure. But increasingly they find themselves competing with many foreign workers as well in these industries. Thus, when the economy is bad and jobs are scarce, even a security guard job option is made more competitive with foreign worker involvement. And for those who insist that foreign talent is good, we need to add a rejoinder to question why Singaporeans are losing their jobs when the foreigners come.

Wealth redistributions are cast aside in favour of forcing high growth to mediate poverty levels. This is an ineffective solution. A scrutiny of the rich to find ways to accommodate the poor is prematurely discharged as the “politics of envy”. As the economy matures and the PAP practices a fiscal policy to attract the Multi-National Corporations, continues the foreign talent policy, but asks the citizens to bear more hardship without making structural adjustments for their welfare – a new poverty emerges.

From New Rich to New Poor

ORIDNARY people find it harder each day to manage basic expenses. Others who seem, in material terms well-off, are challenged in terms of their financial obligations, ability to manage them adequately and capacity to cope with the accompanying social fallout. Once touted as the New Rich, they are now the New Poor. Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen and needless to say, some of the fast rising salaries are for the Ministers. It has created a condition where there is poverty amidst affluence.

One way to avoid being the New Poor is to leave the country, live or work overseas to enjoy a different lifestyle. However, this is not a solution for a country with a young history trying to build a nationhood. Besides for many of us, this is our home. In any case, only those from certain categories can afford to leave the country and avoid being the New Poor in Singapore. Many won’t even qualify to gain entry into another country. This is the class that the PAP ignores because they neither have the means or the capacity to migrate, and at the same time, they are the ones that the PAP can chide at will. These are the people that the PAP scares into voting for them. The scare tactic is that there would be no material guarantees without the PAP. Material punitive measures would also be taken against them, for example, denying them upgrading for their flats if they vote for anybody else.

Health care, housing, utilities are all essentials. As such, long-term mortgages for public housing, loans for further education (locally) or even health care that place heavy financial burdens on people are major concerns. Cars, overseas education and travel maybe not for some. However, given the PAP policies of encouraging materialism, loans for overseas education and the seven-year lease on car also figure importantly in the financial plans of those who want them. And because the needs and wants are all linked to a generation of PAP policies, we have all become and can be classified as “poor” in certain ways.

Now that the recession has set in, what has been a trend for many years now is increasingly kicking in – the cost of living has risen and continues to rise. Health care, housing, utilities, education and the purchase of consumer goods are expensive and are eating into one’s income – that is if you have one. Therefore, essentials such as housing, education, health should be made affordable and no one must be deprived of this, even if they are unemployed and has no financial ability to pay. With more unemployment expected over the next few months, this is a concern. Long-term structural solutions have to be found to address the issues affecting the New Poor.

Monday, February 11, 2002

(link via Omeka Na Huria)

One Response to “The New Poor”

  1. ted Says:

    Your criticism have to take into account that the article is written and published in an opposition party’s newsletter.

    And that PAP forms the government, of the executive and dominates the legislative arms AND appoints the judiciary arm of the government speaks volumnes of the commanding heights PAP have on the social-political-economical landscape of Lala land.

Leave a Reply