On Wed (4 Mar), MP Inderjit Singh made a plea for the government to introduce a nation wide minimum wage scheme for Singapore.

At the moment, the government is only willing to prescribe minimum wage for 2 industries: the cleaning and security industry.

The minimum wage for the cleaning industry is set at $1,000 currently while the scheme will be implemented for the security industry next year.

Instead of calling it a minimum wage scheme, the government is calling it a “progressive wage model” (PWM).

As far back as 2 years ago, Mr Singh had already asked the government to consider making a five-year transition to a minimum wage of $1,500 monthly.

But at the time, labour chief Lim Swee Say had rejected the idea, saying that Singapore’s combination of wage subsidies and skills training for low-income earners was more effective to raise incomes at the low end.

Still, the government went ahead with the minimum wage scheme with the cleaning industry.

In Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Singh argued that a minimum wage across the board was still necessary so that those with the lowest salaries will not need to rely on continual state aid.

“A Singaporean earning very low wages – who has a family to support – cannot cope with unrealistically low salaries,” he said.

“We should formalise a national minimum wage so that Singaporeans are more self-sufficient and don’t have to rely on regular government interventions to help them cope.”

With regard to PWM, he feels that the scheme “does not provide the comprehensive longer-term solution that is needed”.”Some companies have gotten around the PWM by reclassifying jobs in the two sectors affected by it, while employers in sectors not covered by the progressive wage model have little incentive to redesign their jobs,” he said.

MP Inderjit Singh’s famous Facebook post criticising the government
Last May, Mr Singh wrote a lengthy Facebook post criticising the performance of the government in the past three years [Link].

He wrote about the disconnect between Singapore’s wealth and citizens’ well-being, the importing of talent, the complacency and elitism in the top ranks of civil servants, and the national identity for Singapore’s young people.

In fact, he also spoke out against the 6.9 million Population White Paper in 2013. During the voting time in Parliament, he excused himself from the chamber and was not part of the 77 PAP MPs who voted to endorse the white paper. The endorsement triggered the first sizable public protest in Hong Lim Park on 16 Feb 2013, since the independence of Singapore.

On his Facebook post, he wrote that the problems in Singapore were “created as a result of a decade long series of policy misjudgment linked to its ‘growth at all cost’ economic strategy”.

He also disagreed with the government’s approach of linking asset appreciation to homes. He cautioned against “overly emphasizing the role of the home in providing for retirement adequacy” as this asset appreciation would instead create stress on the younger generation who would have to deal with rising house prices.

With regard to the influx of FTs, he believed that FTs has “destabilized” Singapore and has “reversed our gains on building a national identity”. He admitted that “the government made a mistake of bringing in too many foreigners [too] fast”, as he had indicated in his speech on the White Paper in 2013.

He asked the government not to “bend backwards” to give privileges to those FTs who see Singapore as a stepping stone.

He also spoke out against the complacency and elitism he “detected” in the top ranks of civil servants. He said, “today’s policy makers live in a different society from the average Singaporean”.

He urged the government to consider reorganizing the policy making process, to “reverse it to make it more bottom-up and driven by the man in the street” instead of the top-down approach of policies crafted by those seated in “an ideal clean and sterile policy lab or an ivory tower”.

Singh had observed that the civil service’s top ranks are populated by scholars chosen for their academic achievements. He expressed concern that these scholars, who are “parachuted” to high positions at a young age, may not have the experience or understanding to craft policies for the rest of the population.

Many netizens have applauded him for his Facebook post, thanking him for speaking out for Singaporeans.

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