The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry(MTI), Mrs Ow Foong Pheng, said the recent tightening of labor policies especially targeted at reducing reliance on foreigners has not weakened the Singapore’s economic growth, but rather bolstered it instead:
“If it’s really driven by the policy measures by the labour side, it should hit the domestic sectors more, but on the other hand we actually see positive… So we don’t think it’s actually due to the tightening of labour policies.”
~ Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Permanent Secretary, Mrs Ow Foong Pheng
Many PAP MPs and Ministers have painted a doomsday scenario claiming that a shortage of foreign labour will sacrifice economic growth, and ultimately the standard of living(if any) Singaporeans are enjoying. One fine example is the Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen who said:
“the balance is based on what Singaporeans are willing to support, because if you tighten too much, your jobs are at risk…because you become less competitive in essential services…your quality of life will be affected”.
~Minister Ng Eng Hen [Source]
It is quite a relieve that a top civil servant in the right expertise like Mrs Ow has stepped forward to debunk inaccurate statements built on political agenda. PAP Ministers and MPs today can no longer use the lopsided argument equating the number of foreigners to the amount of economic growth.
Singapore’s GDP forecast for 2012 is 1.5%, and the MTI is attributing the large fall in GDP growth to weakening global demands. The Monetary Authority of Singapore(MAS) has also announced that inflation in Singapore will continue to remain high at 3.5% to 4.5% in the Consumer Price Index(CPI). In the latest CPI report by Sing Stats[Source], the main drivers of inflation are still housing prices and transport costs, which are largely manipulated by government policies. Singapore’s housing resale price index continued to rise 3.9% for the first 9 months of 2012, registering a housing price increase of 8.4% in the CPI, while COE prices break the $90,000 mark with the CPI for transport charting at 7%.
The Minister in-charge of housing, Khaw Boon Wah, has indicated that he finds the prices of today’s housing “very reasonable”, hinting that he will not lower the new BTO prices in the future:
“Of course people would want even cheaper (flats), but looking at it from a situation that we are facing today, I find these figures very reasonable”
~Minister Khaw Boon Wah
For transport, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew’s only solution to ease COE prices is to provide a reliable, cheap and quality public transport system – which is currently far from being reliable, cheap and quality. Overcrowding, frequent breakdowns, high public fare prices and unreliable bus frequencies have plagued Singapore’s public transport network for years and has intensified so in 2012, the year which saw the most number of paralyzing train breakdowns. COE prices will likely remain high as public confidence for the public transport system remains low from the frequent breakdowns. Public transport operators are still netting in tens of millions of profits each year in exchange of the commuters’ comfort. New trains, buses and stations are equipped with lesser seating capacity so there will be more standing space to take in more passengers. Coupled with a target population of 6 million by the Prime Minister[Source], it is unlikely the overcrowding situation could be eased likewise for the COE prices.