Where’s Our Money Dude?

Every year whether it is the National Day Rally or the PAP Convention, our Dear Leeder dusts down last year’s speech, changes the dates, and gives the same address again and again without any sense of irony.

Since LHL controls the media we have to listen to the usual inanities about how GDP growth is better than expected and how Singapore will stay prosperous in contrast to democracies as long as the people stay united and cohesive (read this as giving PAP 100% of the seats in Parliament). Never mind that our GDP is an artificial construct driven by tax arbitrage and having no connection with the average Singaporean’s living standards.

This year was no exception. Fresh from jetting around the region to the APEC and ASEAN summits in his or his wife’s very own dedicated business jet,  whose financing is as mysterious as the Lee family assets or Ho Ching’s remuneration, Lee Hsien Loong returned to his usual themes.

The  most hackneyed was that as social and infrastructure spending was rising, taxes would have to go up. He says this every year and every year it is equally mystifying as there is no reason for it.  As I have pointed out in frequent blog posts, to say that the Government’s true fiscal position is exceedingly comfortable is the understatement of the century. The 2017 Yearbook of Statistics (see here) gives the General Government cash surplus since 2009 as about $140 billion. The total General Government cash surplus since 2007 is over $220 billion. That is about $100,000 for every adult Singaporean.

But this does not begin to tell the full story. The Yearbook surplus is on a cash basis rather than an accrual basis, which is the basis recommended since 2001 by the IMF’s Government Financial Statistics (GFS) Manual. So it undoubtedly underestimates the total surplus by a substantial amount. Only actual cash paid to the Government, whether in the form of dividends, taxes or capital receipts is included. In particular the figure does not include the surpluses of public corporations such as GIC and Temasek which are not part of the General Government sector.

At the last election I proposed spending $6 billion more per year on social programmes such as an old age pension and child benefit but was met with a chorus from state media of how I would pay for this. In the midst of so much public sector largesse this is a ridiculous question. It is true we have a rule that only current revenues from taxes and fees plus up to 50% of the long term returns of Temasek and GIC can be used to finance both current and capital expenditure but even with this rule (which makes no economic sense) such additional spending would be easily affordable. At present most of the transfers from Temasek and GIC which are supposed to be available to finance expenditure are in fact recycled into long term funds which do not represent current spending at all. I have written on this extensively over the years and you can find some of the links below.

Of course when LHL talks about taxes having to rise he does not mean the top rate of income tax or corporation tax. Nor is he going to take any action to remove the glaring loopholes which favour the wealthy such as the lack of any capital gains tax, tax on dividends, interest or investment income. Like Trump, he wants to ensure that the tax system favours his family interests. I am no socialist and would prefer taxes to be as low as possible but I believe that in the interests of economic efficiency and equity the tax base should be as broad as possible. What LHL is talking about is undoubtedly raising the GST rate, maybe to 10% or higher, even though there is  absolutely no revenue need. GST is a regressive tax and while there may be some economic arguments in its favour it should be offset by transfers to less well-off Singaporeans. This has never happened.

So , before going on about tax increases, LHL should open the books and let us see why they are necessary and if they are, why he cannot reduce the unfairness of our tax system first. The Government should also amend the absurd rule that investment needs to be financed out of current revenue and move towards producing a balance sheet that puts a value on infrastructure and other publicly owned assets like land.

As long as Singaporeans can be bought for a few hundred dollars worth of GST vouchers the likelihood of finding out the true state of the Government’s finances are somewhere between nil and zero.

 

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

* The author blogs at https://kenjeyaretnam.com/.

 

 

 

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24 Responses to “Where’s Our Money Dude?”

  • Applause!:

    Thank you, KJ, for telling the real truth!

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  • pap selected INDIAN president:

    let us tell Singaporeans what is wrong with pap with a story.

    yesterday, we were watching an old locally produced drama on pap tv station channel. the story was good. the cast was mostly stellar with guo liang, zheng ge ping, and such. but we noticed we began to feel frustrated with some scenes. just this unexplainable bad angry feeling.

    after some pow wow about the drama conclusion of which was unanimous, we realized it was because of the bad acting by the lead actress. her bad acting was very subtle. one can overlook it if one is not seriously looking for it. because it is not like she cannot act. but it is just that she is in reality a bad actress trying hard to act well but because the bad is so bad it just oozes out tainting whatever good there is.

    AND this is exactly the problem with pap under pap clown. pap under clown has all the semblance of a working government which it should be since clown papa schemed its creation, with creases ironed out by wooden. BUT because clown is basically NO GOOD, although try as he might if he indeed tried, we just bang balls and blood boil every time we see clown feigning fake smile or crying crocodile tears. until yesterday, we did not know why we were so upset with pap although 70% sheep had said their piece. NOW we know. 70% sheep could not distinguish the truly bad in clown and the fake good in clown. 70% sheep has been conned.

    what is the harm? as we all know, a bad leader attracts even worse followers. just like that old locally produced drama on pap tv station channel, the good performance of guo liang, zheng ge ping, and such, were spoiled by that inherently bad in the lead actress.

    Singapore is today ruined by the inherently bad leadership of pap clown.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    top crooked bottom cannot straight. top when caught, abused parleement to do detergent cleaning, coming out squeaky clean after parleement session.

    bottom all useless. because of pap S$m all no backbone. when top said inside is not within 200m all of bottom agreed. when top said INDIAN is malay all of bottom agreed. not one from bottom asked how come husband chairman gic wife ceo temasick with ownself check ownself audit system is permitted in a truly democratic rule based society.

    NOT one in pap today is honest. NOT one. all are lairs and all have lied.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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  • N.Jungne:

    CNA news – Sinkapoo econonomy has turn for the better, civil serpents can expect a better Year End Bonus. What has happened?

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  • Khawk Boon 1:

    Mr KJ

    Look at China. Over a hundred billion Chinese have been proven to accept one party state and abstaining from politics. Yes, many hundreds of billions of Chinese both the dead and those existing now over the last 100 years have proven what I say.

    Singapore is mainly Chinese.
    Same dna.
    Authority Fearing.
    It’s in their blood.
    Absolute Authoritarianism.

    Trump phenomenon has entrenched their thinking that 1-party rule is the way to go.
    Jack Ma recently also explicitly announced that China 1-party rule is the right model for China PROPSERITY.

    So, piped piper will bring all the mice into the sea.

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  • Harder Truths:

    I agree with you Kenneth – IF taxes need to be raised they need to be fair to all. Especially the majority of citizens who are really living in fear of their jobs and their future in old age.

    In my view no one seems to be asking the real question – why is government spending so high? 120% of GDP going up to 150% of GDP is a economic collapse waiting to happen.

    Until that is known there is no point talking about how future taxes are used. it will be found that the current system is good enough when government spending is reigned in and GST, COE etc. plus the luxurious life of the politicians are abolished.

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  • MarBowling:

    Don’t think the 69.9% bother or care to answer or reply to this question “where is our country’s money?

    To them, they are more concerned about their OWN money at hand(under the bed, piggy bank), in their banks, in their investment on share and stocks, in property investment. They are NOT interested in OUR COUNTRY’s MONEY! Period! It’s not their business to KNOW.

    Some money may have landed in some FAMILEE deep pocket and most maybe kept in banks in Switzerland. As said, most of the 69.9% couldn’t be bothered even when all our country money besides being siphoned off, finally sunk in the deep blue sea! Why worry or concern when at the present moment, they have a house(HDB flat, EC, condo or private property)to come home for 3 meals, have a car(some Joker have 2)a maid, travel overseas for holidays, dine in posh restaurant, rub shoulders with filthy rich at golf course, etc. To them, without Lee Kayu(and Mai Hum)and the PAPigs, there will be NO SINGAPORE! What can the Opposition do for us? What do you think?

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  • PapSecrets.gov.com:

    When our dear late ex president Mr OTC asked to view the books , he was given the ‘run around’ and till he left office, he never did.
    Would they so willingly expose their accounting to layman’s scrutiny?
    Our only reaction to this behaviour is “What the hell are they hiding “.
    Answer = alot!

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  • Boh Kia See:

    Yes, if there is going to be a tax increase, it would be through increase in GST. This will not affect the highly paid Ministers. The PAP is also known to look after themselves first.

    If the higher income tax bracket is to increase it will affect the Ministers and many of the PAP hanger-ons. That is why there is no Estate duty, or inheritance tax and gold trading is also not taxed.

    With GST, it has this benefit of giving vouchers away to get that feel good factor. There is no statistic as to how may actually use those vouchers–but the PAP knows. Nothing escapes them.

    There is no way the PAP will open the books to show citizens the state of the country’s budget and assets. That is not in the blood of the PAP. Even when they bankrupt opposition leaders and take their cash–there is no way of knowing where they put it despite stating that they will give it to charity. With large amounts of judgement debts awarded to them and if it was all going to charity one should see the amount spiking the accounts of selected charities. So far, no indication that that is the case.

    So what is happening to Oxley saga? Keep quiet and slowly and stealthily do as they have always wanted to do.

    There are a lot of unanswered questions that will never be answered so long as the PAP occupies Istana.

    Opposition parties should continue to campaign between elections and not just at election time.

    It is about saving Singapore from the spectre of the PAP.

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  • "Clear the (PAP) swamp":

    KJ is absolutely right. PAP is also “hiding” reserves in self-funding stat boards (not included in Budget) like SLA, CAAS, JTC, URA, LTA, MAS. These hold (actually hide) TENS OF BILLIONS which are not returned to MOF because the Budget is already in surplus. Each of them makes around a billion each year.

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  • Blur sotong we are:

    Creative accounting revolves around some people’s values system.

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  • Amos exposed PAP hypocrisy:

    LHL is basically incompetent. That is why Singaporeans are worse off since he became PM – stagnant wages with high prices, low productivity growth, depleted CPF accounts, over-priced HDB flats, frequent breakdown of public transport (MRT), more and more Singaporean PMETs driving taxis, etc.

    LHL’s strategy to stay for PAP in power is simple. Accumulate as much money as possible (raise water charges, raise electricity rates, raise parking charges, raise GST, introduce a carbon tax, continue raising the price of new HDB flats, etc.) so PAP can “buy votes” every 5 years.

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  • Bapak:

    Theory of in and out – must be in someone’s pockets.

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  • Let's do together!:

    What happen to the Indian president of ‘let’s do good, do together’?, huh?

    Tancho has rejoined the pappies…….Need to pay arrears membership? Suddenly he can talk when no more president?

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  • Tremendous:

    I tell you this. We have no idea how many dull citizens there are in our midst. The last time gst was raised by two percent, businesses were quick to raise their goods and services by more than 5 percent, sometimes 10 percent. Why ? The reason was very simple. If you go for a bowl of noodles at $4 in a hawker centre, raising the cost by two percent means they have to charge you $4.08. Why don’t you check out how many hawkers still use 5 cents, much less 1 cent ? Even banks impose charges for coins and MAS mulls over coin replacements. Then they said they provided you with vouchers to offset gst increase. How to offset ? This is only a maths problem to freak members of a certain party. Of course this time round, it will be different. In those days, there was not much publicity that our investment arms have incurred huge losses. Today this party members said we need gst increase when social spending per year is at most in the high millions. Even HSK has the cheek to declare this in a recent forum, without mentioning that we lost investments in the range of mid billions. If you ask for money with a high millions argument and keep quiet on a mid billions loss, you have to go. NOW!

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  • nathan:

    When these hypocrites run out of excuses for their excessive and wasteful spending they will mouth their favorite line it would be irresponsible to leave a debt-ridden Singapore to future leaders.

    Always the same old lines. The future government must not pay the costs of the present government and so they are doing what they are doing sucking money from the people at the first sign of the beginning of any headwinds hitting the economy of their own making.

    At the rate, this present PAP government is spending for their own political longevity and on economic adventures, leaving a debt-ridden country for the next generation leaders to run cannot be anything but a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    And don’t try to blame the people for your peanut social spending. You take back 101 percent more than whatever you spend on the people.

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  • PAP Thieves:

    Kleptocracy at play.

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  • The Rot Start From The Top:

    An honest government, with high integrity, will always made themselves transparent in every aspects and with clear accountability. A government that is without transparency is dishonest and untrustworthy, often is a corruptive regime.

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  • justtryingtobefair:

    Good questions and a clear call for more transparency. Please disseminate your writings on more media, preferably MSM.

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  • ads:

    always say surplus .. but never show P/L . .

    say trust trust trust . . while paying getting m$ .. .

    can’t even eat at hawker center without body guard . .

    is sinkie land that not safe ?

    afraid of [email protected] or afraid of sinkieporean ?

    why hide ?

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  • oxygen:

    @ Khawk Boon 1,

    JACK MA IS ALSO GOOD AT FARTING GAS – how come he is in the leading edge of innovation if he wants to keep the status quo? Might as well go back to Chinese feudal history and install another POO YI.

    He also told a live audience in Beijing University that peasants must “love” their Government because they tax you differentially but NEVER MARRY THEM (because they are your endless sleepless nightmare, presumably).

    In the end, Jack Ma, like all Chinese wealthiest apex, is all about money. If not, why hasn’t him volunteer of philantrophy like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg going to donate 99% of their accumulated earnings?

    Khawk Boon 1: Jack Ma recently also explicitly announced that China 1-party rule is the right model for China PROPSERITY.

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  • LIONS:

    where have all our money gone
    long time ago.
    where have all our money gone
    gone to WASTEFUL SQUANDERING.
    WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN,WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN????

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  • where money f poor to come frm:

    Kenneth Jeyaretnam: At the last election I proposed spending $6 billion more per year on social programmes such as an old age pension and child benefit but was met with a chorus from state media of how I would pay for this. In the midst of so much public sector largesse this is a ridiculous question. It is true we have a rule that only current revenues from taxes and fees plus up to 50% of the long term returns of Temasek and GIC can be used to finance both current and capital expenditure but even with this rule (which makes no economic sense) such additional spending would be easily affordable.

    Tax collection is to be shared equally by all, whether you are a multi-millionaire top public servant or a pauper.

    The multi-millionaire decision makers enjoy a steep discount on their top-end income tax rates, and also on the otherwise would-be far higher Estate duties on their multimillion dollar Estates (now abolished to their benefit.

    Which means, to make up on those foregone revenues now uncollected on the high-end Estate duties, they will now have to be shouldered by the rest of the population in higher general taxes).

    The paupers generally pay equal rates as the multi-millionaire Civil Servant policy makers such as GST, water tax, power, public healthcare, education, public transport, etc.

    However, when it comes to spending the tax dollars, priorities are given to those projects that benefit the privileged more, relative to the rest of the population; or the pet projects of the PAP (both of which always include the wealthy policy decision makers themselves).

    And of course, an extremely generous budget allocated to spending on their multimillion dollar salaries and multimillion dollar 19-month or 36-month bonuses and their $50K cooking holidays.

    Not forgetting other perks such a succulent contracts (sometimes for sex for Civil Servants spending them),$5000 Brompton’s bicycles, $2000 Herman Miller chairs for Civil Servant bumps, etc.

    Plus multi-billion dollar chips for them to gamble (and lose) on the International bourses. Or to throw away, such as the $500m to buy the vain honor of being the first country to host the now forgotten by everybody all over the world, YOG. Etc. etc. etc. wastes and extravagancies.

    Now, when it comes to spending on the poor, they always ask, where is the money to spend on the poor going to come from?

    They have already been spent on the rich (on themselves).

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  • where money f poor to come frm:

    where money f poor to come frm:

    Now, when it comes to spending on the poor, they always ask, where is the money to spend on the poor going to come from?

    And the Shit Times would publish such one-sided arguments for the gullible Sinkies raised under a rote-learning PAP education that does not equip their minds to question or to think independently (that includes CI too) to demonize the oppositions for seeking a fairer and more just and civilized society.

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  • Wearerich:

    Re instate the estate duty will be enough to cover whatever we need for next 100 years.
    We have tone of millionaires here to help us and at least more than 50% from our voted pap families and i am sure they will like to give back to the supporters that make them so rich as today with swiss standard of living in singapore and we the lower level citizens are helping to pay them with swiss standard of cost of living on us such a long time. I am those kind heart will help so we can vote for them again in next ge. Yes pap you can!

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