Archive for the ‘DPM Tharman says’ Category

WP criticised for changing stance on foreign worker

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Thursday took aim at the Workers’ Party (WP) for shifting its position on foreign workers in Singapore.

He pointed to speeches made by WP MPs Low Thia Khiang and Chen Show Mao over the past two days of debate in Parliament.

Both Aljunied GRC MPs had raised concerns that the Government’s tightening of the inflow of foreign workers will have adverse consequences on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and lead to inflation for services like public health care.

They had also criticised its twin levers controlling the numbers – the dependency ratio ceilings (DRCs) and levies – as being ‘too blunt’, and asked for more calibration based on the needs of each sector.

In his speech summing up the debate, Mr Tharman accused the WP of taking a different tack from its earlier position, as stated in its manifesto for last May’s general election and in speeches by its MPs in previous years. Then, it had criticised the Government for allowing in too many foreign workers, he said.

‘I think your position now accords with ours and recognises that this is a very careful balance,’ he said, referring to the trade-off between curbing foreign worker numbers and economic growth as well as the concerns of SMEs.

This was swiftly countered by WP chief Mr Low, who rose at the end of Mr Tharman’s speech to deny any shift.

‘Nowhere, inside or outside of this House, have we said that Singapore does not need foreign workers,’ he said.

The WP’s main complaint has been that foreign workers are taking away Singaporeans’ jobs and depressing their wages, he said. Its GE manifesto had stated that foreign worker inflow must be fine-tuned to the specific industry, he added.

Mr Tharman replied that there is a difference between the WP’s earlier view that there had been too many foreign workers let in for low-end sectors, and its current expression of concern at how fast quotas are being tightened in these same areas.

‘Your recent comments… did recognise that even at the lower end, this has to be a very careful balance and that, I think, shares our perspective.’

He added: ‘I hope this sting that you’ve taken out of your earlier criticism is not just a political strategy because you know that there’s sensitivity on the ground among SMEs (about the curbs).

‘(I hope it) also recognises the more basic reality, which is that the growth of foreign workers in Singapore has not only benefited SMEs but it has also benefited Singaporeans’ incomes.’

Regarding foreigners taking jobs from locals, the minister said ‘there will always be competition in individual jobs’, but overall, the strategy of letting in foreign workers has raised Singaporeans’ real incomes over the last decade.

‘So it has been a successful strategy,’ he said. ‘You were wrong in criticising the Government for a strategy of allowing companies to stay competitive and grow using foreign workers.’

Mr Tharman also delved into why the Government will not differentiate DRCs by sector, as suggested by the WP MPs.

He said that being liberal with some sectors would hobble the goal of boosting productivity. It is precisely in those industries crying out for more foreign workers where productivity improvements are most desperately needed, he added.

Quotas by sector would also give certain firms unfair advantages over others on the ground, he noted, and cause smaller firms to lose out to bigger ones that can ‘classify’ themselves favourably to get more foreign workers.

Mr Low said he was not convinced, saying: ‘We need micro-management and not just macro-management. Each industry has its own features, its own difficulties. Foreign workers are a lifeline to (some of) them, at least for now.’

Mr Tharman replied, saying that such an approach will lead to ‘faster foreign worker growth, lower productivity growth and, thirdly, some unfairness between firms – which I’m sure you didn’t intend’.

 

 

Link :   http://www.straitstimes.com/Parliament/Story/STIStory_772823.html


Catch up, Tharman tells Gerald Giam

 

1) DEPUTY Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday hit back at Workers’ Party member Gerald Giam’s comments about Singaporeans being unable to afford a flat, telling him to ‘catch up’ with policies already introduced.2) The Government gives an Additional Housing Grant (AHG) of up to $40,000 to allow low-income Singapore families to buy Housing Board (HDB) flats. It introduced a further Special Housing Grant (SHG) last year of up to $20,000.

3) Mr Tharman also said yesterday that two recently announced schemes to help the elderly unlock the value in their flats could be tweaked.

4) The Silver Housing Bonus gives owners $20,000 to downgrade to a smaller unit, while those on the Enhanced Lease Buyback Scheme sell the tail end of their lease to the HDB in return for $15,000 upfront and monthly payments for life. But MPs including Dr Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) have called for less money to be locked up in this savings account to help the elderly take advantage of the schemes.

5) Mr Tharman said: ‘That’s a valid point because for those who are, let’s say, in their mid-70s, if they want to take advantage of our scheme, it may not make sense for them to top up all the way to the prevailing minimum sum for the purpose of CPF Life.

6) ‘So it’s something which we are studying and we will complete our review on this within a couple of months.’

Excerpt From:
Catch up, Tharman tells Gerald Giam
Published on Mar 2, 2012 The Straits Times, By Daryl Chin
Ref: http://www.straitstimes.com/Singapore/Story/STIStory_772715.html
______________________________________________

Link: Table from HDB
http://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10321p.nsf/w/BuyingNewFlatSHG?OpenDocument

The Minister for National Development announced details of the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) on 3 March 2011. The SHG will given to first-timer families earning up to $2,250 a month to buy a smaller flat from HDB that is within their means.
The new SHG is over and above the regular housing subsidies and the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG). Together with the other housing subsidies, it will enable more low-income families to own their first flats which they can sustain over the long-term.

Use of Grant

The SHG can only be used as capital payment towards the purchase of the new flat or to reduce the mortgage loan. You can use the grant to make the initial payment towards the purchase. The balance, if any, must be used to reduce the mortgage loan before a housing loan from HDB is granted.

Example: How SHG can help you to buy your first flat from HDB
Mr A, aged 34, has been working continuously for the past one year. His wife is not working. The family is currently living in a rental flat from HDB.
•Average monthly household income:$1,000
•Savings in CPF Ordinary Account:$5,000*
•Monthly contribution to CPF Ordinary Account:$ 217
•Amount of AHG eligible for:$40,000
•Amount of SHG eligible for:$20,000
•Buying a standard 2-room flat from HDB:$100,000


* the chart is taken from    Fabrications About The PAP    :

Singapore Budget 2012 – $1.1 Billion on Bus Service Enhancement Fund

This post is taken from :

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1186296/1/.html

SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that any profit made from the $1.1 billion package for public transport operators (PTO) to grow their bus fleet will go back to the government.

Mr Tharman said $280 million is budgeted for the purchase of 550 buses over the next five years, while the remaining $820 million is to cover the net operating costs of the buses for 10 years.

He said the 550 additional buses is projected to be a loss-making operation, and so the $1.1 billion package is expected to cover the losses.

Mr Tharman said the government will scrutinise operators’ accounts. And should operators ever turn a profit or make lower losses, the government funding will be reduced correspondingly.

A review will also be conducted in five years to check parameters of the agreement.

Mr Tharman said: “The $1.1 billion package is expected to cover the losses of the 550 buses, in other words, the additional costs, net of revenue of the $1.1 billion package. $280 million is budgeted for the purchase of the 550 buses over the next five years and $820 to cover the net operating costs for 10 years.

“This is based on the best estimates currently. However, we will be monitoring and scrutinising the PTOs’ actual costs, for both the purchase and the running of the buses. Should their losses turn out to be lower than expected, the government funding will be reduced correspondingly. So one way or another, there are no profits to be made from the 550 buses.”

“We expect them to make losses based on their all existing parameters. If we are lucky and somehow the system is re-engineered, so that the losses are less than expected, or most unlikely if they turn a profit, that will not come from the government, the $1.1 billion will be reduced, as their losses are reduced, and if they make a profit, it all comes back to us.

“So none of the $1.1 billion will go towards profits of the public transport operators. It will be ring-fenced, their accounts will be scrutinised, we will be paying according to what the costs actually are. There is a review in five years to check the parameters of the agreement.”

Mr Tharman said the package is a subsidy for commuters and not a subsidy for operators.

He said without the government stepping in to help boost bus capacity, the significant service levels improvements would only be achievable if fares are raised sharply.

He added that if operators had to do it on their own, their fare revenues would have had to go up, by about 12 to 13 percent. And this translates into an increase in passenger fares, of about 15 cents per journey.

Mr Tharman said: “How much is 12-13 percent? In the last five years, since 2006, fares went by 0.3 percent, so 12-13 percent is quite a significant leap compared to what we have seen in the last five years. That would have been the only way for us to achieve the service levels improvements if the government has not stepped in.

He said the $1.1 billion government package, or $110 million each year, is to step up bus service levels well beyond the current service levels required of the operators.

He said it will increase bus capacity on existing heavily-utilised routes, making them less crowded and giving commuters more pleasant journey.

The number of new bus services will be added to improve connectivity.

He said the PTOs will have to improve service levels as a condition for the government’s investment.

Mr Tharman said: “We cannot simply mandate the PTOs to add the 550 buses. First, because it goes significantly beyond the current service levels of the current regulatory framework. Second, the PTOs bus operations are already running operating losses and the additional 550 buses in particular are projected to be a loss-making operation.

He said despite the government package, and independent of the government package, regular and incremental fare increases will continue to be necessary as wages and operating costs rise.

He said this is so that bus industry can stay financially viable.

Mr Tharman said the government will also continue to make sure that needy commuters get adequate assistance for their transport expenses.

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