Lee Kuan Yew is quoted less often since he ceased to be Singapore’s Minister Mentor after the parliamentary elections in May last year when the opposition won six seats for the first time. But he can still speak and write with such authority. I read his letter on ministers’ salaries which appeared in Today newspaper. Those who claim Singapore ministers are overpaid – Lee Kuan Yew’s son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be paid S$2.2 million ($1.7 million) a year and new ministers S$1.1 million after pay cuts – may not agree with the former Minister Mentor. But Lee Kuan is certainly right when he says:Continue Reading
A UK government minister’s son is a quantum physicist based in Singapore.
Dr Hugo Cable is the son of UK Business Secretary Vince Cable.
The Guardian today reports scientists at some of Britain’s universities are planning to move to better funded research positions abroad because of the government’s proposed spending cuts.
Dr Cable is a research fellow at the Centre for Quantum Technologies. It’s an autonomous institution funded by the Singapore National Research Foundation and the Ministry of Education and hosted by the National University of Singapore.
Vince Cable, 65, a former chief economist of the oil company Shell, spoke about his son working in Singapore in a recent speech. Speaking about the proposed spending reviews, he said:
Working couples in Singapore, you have been warned.
The median income of households with two working members is likely to increase a little less in the next 10 years than it did in the past decade, based on what the minister said.
The government wants individual median income to go up from S$2,400 now to S$3,100 in 2010, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.
That's less than a one-third increase — and less than the growth in the median household income in the last decade.
Median household income from work rose by a third from S$3,638 in 2000 to S$4,850 in 2009, according to Key Household Income Trends 2009, a paper issued by the Singapore Department of Statistics. Based on that report, I made this chart to write about the growing gap between average income and median income in Singapore.
Foreign workers not only helped the Singapore economy to grow but also helped raise the median income of Singaporeans, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in his Budget speech yesterday.
That contradicts a Wall Street Journal report last month, which I quoted in an earlier post.
The minister and the Journal both agree the foreign workers helped the economy to grow.
But their presence was a damper on productivity and blue-collar wages, according to the Journal.
Foreign workers — over a million strong — make up about a third of the Singapore workforce.
The median monthly income of people working full-time rose 0.5% from 2,590 Singapore dollars in June 2008 to 2,600 Singapore dollars in June 2009, after soaring 11% in 2008 and 7.7% in 2007, the Ministry of Manpower reported on November 30, 2009.
But many Singaporeans are unhappy about the influx of foreign workers.
The minister said there was a need to "moderate the growth of the foreign workforce", using a "price mechanism", like for any other product in the market.
Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in his Budget speech yesterday that Singapore's "large" estimated basic deficit of 8.5 billion Singapore dollars (about $6 billion) for financial year 2009 amounted to 3.3 per cent of the gross domestic product.
The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation's paper losses on the Swiss bank, UBS, could amount to more than that.
The Straits Times reported earlier this month that, converting notes into UBS shares, GIC could lose 7.85 billion Swiss francs (about 10.26 billion Singapore dollars).
That would amount to 3.9 per cent of the GDP.
Singapore's 2009 GDP was about 257.64 billion Singapore dollars at current market prices, according to the 2009 Singapore Economic Survey by the Ministry of Transport and Industry.(See chart.)
The finance minister said:
Because our economy contracted by less than
expected last year, our budget position has also turned out better than
projected. The basic deficit (Operating Revenues minus Expenditures for
FY2009) is now estimated at 8.5 billion Singapore dollars compared to the 14.9 billion
Singapore dollars that was expected.
Singapore Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam acknowledges Singapore has an unemployment problem. That is why Singapore doesn't want to raise income taxes — "certainly not corporate income taxes" — because "our key objective should be to see private investment grow, as the basis for long-term growth", he tells the International Monetary Fund's Finance and Development magazine.
He emerges as the odd man out among the Asians interviewed in one respect. He says growth will continue to depend on exports, which is true for Singapore, while others see the need to transform their economies. They are Ajith Cabraal, governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka; Shuli Hu, a leading Chinese journalist; Yung Chul Park from Seoul National University; and Raghuram Rajan, professor of finance at the University of Chicago and economic adviser to the Prime Minister of India. Read the interview here.
We hear so much about the American newspaper industry's woes that this may come as a surprise. Not every American newspaper is bleeding red ink, only those facing competition, says the New York Review of Books.
So the US newspaper industry is not all that different from that in Singapore, where it is thriving, except for one thing. As Singapore's Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew said:
"Unlike some foreign newspapers, the media here in Singapore has not gone for aggressive journalism; they have not gone for aggressive campaigning. They have taken the position that they will investigate thoroughly before they publish."
Speaking at the Singapore Press Club, he said: "As long as the mainstream media reflects the reality on the ground more accurately than any other sources, you ought to be able to retain a sizeable segment of your population."
I believe the word he was looking for was "audience".
Semantics aside, his statement begs the question, is it quality or monopoly that has kept the Singapore newspapers so profitable?
Singapore Press Holdings, which reported a net profit of 127 million Singapore dollars ($89.3 million) in the third quarter ended on May 31, either wholly or partly owns all the major local newspapers.
Singapore aims to keep its unemployment rate below 5.2 percent this year, Xinhua reported yesterday. That means the unemployment rate could more than double this year.
Singapore's overall unemployment rate averaged 2.3 percent in 2008, up from 2.1 percent in 2007.
Singapore experienced 5.2 percent unemployment in March 2003 when it rose to that level from 4.2 percent in December 2002, according to another Xinhua report in 2003.
Australia is currently experiencing 5.2 percent unemployment, a four-year high, according to a Reuters report published by the Straits Times.
Singapore Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday the unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2009 is likely to be higher than for the fourth quarter of 2008 and detailed statistics will be released shortly. He said his ministry is seeing more retrenchment notices being issued.
But jobs are still available in several sectors, he added.
Not enough job ads to fill a newspaper pullout
However, job ads are reaching vanishing point in Singapore’s leading newspaper.
The Straits Times no longer publishes a regular separate pullout advertising jobs. Recruit, the job ads section, was tacked on to the Classified pullout on Saturday for a simple reason – the job ads did not fill enough pages to be run as a separate pullout. And even the few pages that were there included display ads for job training and not just job openings. The jobs available seemed to be mostly for technicians and retail workers. There were few openings for professionals.
What’s more, he will be acting Prime Minister when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is visiting other countries or away from office.
Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng will remain Deputy Prime Minister – a post he has held since September 2005 – but Teo will be acting Prime Minister.
Deputy Prime Minister Jayakumar, 69, will step aside to become Senior Minister. He will be appointed Senior Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and will continue as Coordinating Minister for National Security.
The Prime Minister’s office announced this today — 13 months after terrorist Mas Selamat escaped from prison on February 27, 2008. He is still missing. The Home Ministry is responsible for internal security.
Teo, 54, is younger than Prime Minister Lee, 57. Teo, Singapore's former naval chief was elected to parliament in a by-election in
December 1992 and appointed as a minister in January 1996 he has served in various ministries
including Finance, Communications and Defence. Wong was elected to parliament in 1984 and served as Minister for Community Development before becoming Home Minister in 1994.
“Singapore PM gets his first younger deputy,” says Reuters. It adds:
Lim Hwee Hua, 50, will become Singapore’s first woman cabinet minister. The junior minister for finance and transport will be appointed Minister in the Prime Minister's Office as well as Second Minister for Finance and Transport.
Gan Kim Yong will be appointed Minister for Manpower. He is currently the acting Minister.