Sunday, May 6, 2012

Singaporean Dr Tommy Koh Thinks and speaks ...

PAP should listen to Dr Tommy Koh as he has no political agenda

Dr Tommy Koh
“I think the state should intervene and require all insurance companies to insure people with prior medical conditions. There should be no one in Singapore who is not insured against a potential catastrophic disease,” he added, noting that, currently, insurance companies will not cover applicants who have pre-existing medical conditions.” – Tommy Koh [Link]
Singapore has 830,000 uninsured residents (2006 figures likely more if you take the latest figure):
“Mr Speaker, Sir, about 830,000 Singaporean residents – citizens as well as permanent residents – do not enjoy the insurance coverage of MediShield or its enhancement products. They make up 24% of the resident population. My Ministry will continue to encourage them to come on board, as otherwise they may be financially vulnerable should a major illness strike.” - Minister Khaw, 14 Nov 2006
Shortly after Obama took office, he set out to fix the healthcare system because there was a crisis. The main reason for the crisis is 16.7% of Americans are uninsured and Obama wanted to reform healthcare so that everyone in US has health insurance.
Singapore has 24% of its population uninsured and many who have not upgraded from Basic Medishield are under-insured and are financially vulnerable should they get sick. Due to Singapore’s aspiration to be a medical hub for the rich and the large foreign influx, our limited medical resources have come stretched and healthcare cost has been rising sharply for the past few years [Rising cost blamed for fee increases at public hospitals]. The lack of insurance coverage and high cost of medical care resulted in Singaporeans owing $40M last year to public hospitals [S'poreans owe public hospitals $40m in unpaid bills]. Many sell their homes [Girl, 12, dies after battling cancer for 6 years] or have to borrow from the bank to pay their medical bills. One of the key advantages of living in a developed country is being freed from worries about healthcare costs as medical care is provided to everyone through a universal healthcare system. Unfortunately this is no so in Singapore and the USA. The current 3M (Medisave, Medishield, Medifund0 comes with many cracks leaving many Singaporeans financially vulnerable when they are sick and places too high a burden on the sick and their families.
“Koh also opposed the view of economist Shandre Thangavelu, who was also at Thursday’s roundtable, that the income gap is “part of globalisation and technological change. The ambassador contended that Singapore’s practice of importing large numbers of cheap and unskilled labour depresses wages in its service and non-tradable sectors..” – Yahoo News [Link].
Lets get this very clear. Low wage workers are lowly paid not because of globalisation or technology. Our low wage workers are the lowest paid in the developed world as a result of the massive foreign influx in the last 10 years. Yet on Labour Day, the PAP message to workers is they have to get their productivity up first before wages rise. Our workers have been underpaid for the current productivity level due to PAP policies. When the income gap, structural unemployment and low wage problems showed up a decade ago, the PAP insisted that skills upgrading and retraining was the solution to these problems – under these programs low wage workers were retrained to do one low wage job after another. After one decade of applying the wrong remedy for a decade, they now claim that increasing productivity is the key. However, we know this is not true. In the US where productivity has been increasing there was no corresponding increase in wages due to the wage-productivity gap. The increased productivity simply went to raising profit margins and CEO salaries. Singapore workers have far less power than Americans to bargain for better wages when productivity goes up because of the foreign influx. Also, as long as companies have access to cheap foreign labour, there is little incentive to improve productivity. I’m certain, based on the current set of policies, we are going to waste another decade and hundreds of thousands of low wage workers will continue to struggle in the coming years.
I truly appreciate more people from the establishment especially those previously closely associated with the PAP speaking up on these issues and urging the govt to make serious changes to their policies. These people cannot be accused of doing so because they are out to oppose the govt or other political reasons. The PAP should seriously listen. What Tommy Koh is saying is no different from what I’ve been saying and similar to what Chee Soon Juan and what an increasing number of Singaporeans think should be done. The rising social and political discontent will reach dangerous levels in we stay on our current path. Ultimately, what Singaporeans want is have these serious problems more effectively addressed and many remain hopeful the PAP can get it done. However, there will be a point when time runs out and most Singaporeans conclude that the PAP has other interests that stand in the way of making life better for Singaporeans.
Lucky Tan
* Lucky Tan is an avid online blogger since 2005. He likes to study the thoughts of Singapore leaders and the laws of Singapore. He blogs at

Professor Koh effectively exposed the PAP’s weaknesses

The points raised by Prof Tommy Koh in his presentation clearly expose the fact that the PAP and its Political LEEdership is totally bankrupt of any ideas in resolving this issue – since these were identified as early as the beginning of the 1980s, before LeeKuanYew handed over the PM seat to GohChokTong.
Twenty odd years have passed, and Singapore continue to be bogged by these problems that LeeKuanYew saw but ran out of time to fix it, and GohChokTong could not do get it resolve during his two term as PM that lasted about 10 years, and LeeHsienLoong is not into his second 5-year term being bogged down with the problems – despite being involved with the problems as DeputyPrimeMinister for ten years before taking over the PM position.
The truth to all the problems that bedevil Singapore has been identified by Tommy Koh, who has articulated the issues very clearly and forcefully – which the PAP Political LEEdership will find it hard to ignore.
It is time for the PAP and the Political LEEdership to abandon its bankrupt position of achieving a HIGH GDP goal for Singapore, when the only beneficiary is the Political LEEdership that gets paid wage increments and bonus tied to the GDP numbers.

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