Perspective Unlimited

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fiscal Finagling or Journalistic Bollocking?

Last week, the article Fiscal Finagling supposedly highlighted some "structural weakness" of Singapore's growth and argued that it "augurs ill" for Singapore's long tem prospect. Lucky Tan set me up with a few questions on what myself as a student think about these issues.

Old Wine in Recycled Bottles

First of all, I would like to point out that many of the points raised in the article are not in fact new. In one guise or another, many of these criticisms have been levelled at Singapore for decades. Fifteen years ago, Alwyn Young who is now at LSE, famously made many similar arguments in a respected economic journal (QJE) - how Singapore over-invested to boost growth with little efficiency gains. That then prompted Paul Krugman to liken Singapore to the Soviet Union.

It is a time honoured tradition for academics and journalists alike to criticise Singapore's high rate of savings and investment. When the economy is routinely growing at 7 per cent, what else can you say to generate headlines? More good news is hardly the correct strategy! The important thing for readers is therefore to have a balanced perspective and not get carried away by any arguments.

The starting point for any discussion about growth should be the recognition that there is a lot we do not know. Countries are by definition different (jargon: heterogeneous) and growth theories are an inexact science. History, culture, institutions, geography, natural resources - no two countries are exactly the same in these dimensions - are only some of the determinants that explain the differences in income levels between countries. In many cross-country analyses, Singapore often stands out as a statistical outlier even as researchers fit all kinds of regressions to explain growth.

Global Time Bombs

Turning more specifically to Singapore's fiscal stance, in particular to the question whether our system of old age provision is adequate, it is useful to take a global snapshot. The UK is just waking up to a pension crisis. A combination of ageing, over-optimistic forecasts, and bad fiscal policies mean that many companies are no longer able to pay their retired employees the promised pensions. In Europe, many governments already have public debts more than 100 per cent of GDP and like the UK, have unfunded pension systems with open ended obligations. With ageing population, one just have to wonder who is going to service and repay these debts, let alone meet the future liabilities.

Cross over to fast growing China. Despite the phenomenal growth rates, China is in fact one country that is ageing faster than it is getting rich due to the one child policy. When China shifts, it does so with astronomical numbers - what is going to happen when many hundreds of millions chinese retire in 20 years' time? The biggest time bomb, at least in absolute terms, is the US. Greenspan and Bernanke repeatedly warned of a Social Security crisis that was beginning to unfold as baby boomers retired. US public debt is already US$8 trillion by some estimates not even accounting for social security liabilities. Do Americans feel secure about their social security cheques?

These are not Singapore government propaganda, these are facts. Compared to these global time bombs, our problems if indeed there are, would at best be considered small fart. If Singapore's high savings paradigm points to a "bleak" future as some critics suggest, what would they say about a high consumption, low savings, high-deficit high-debt model? Are these structurally sound as opposed to Singapore's structurally weak development model?

Enough to Retire?

If you ask me, Singapore's fiscal position is in rude health. There is however an important caveat: The fact that the system as a whole saves enough and is on a financially strong footing does not mean every citizen is. If an individual has not saved enough, or has over-withdrawn for property and made losses, or has made bad investment decisions, old age retirement provision can become a big personal problem. Does the CPF ensure that every one can retire with a huge stash of retirement fund? Probably not. Can CPF as a system meet its future obligations? A highly likely yes. There is no contradiction between the two positions.

The author Shawn Crispin however made no distinction between the financial health of the system and the financial health of the individual, and instead rather naively suggested that CPF would face a "fiscal crisis" because of withdrawals for housing and medical needs.

Hidden Taxes or Crouching Subsidies?

Lucky is not the first to claim that CPF returns are too low, it has been discussed extensively. I have even heard of the term "Financial Repression" - to describe how the government forces the citizens to save at absurdly low interest rates, which is yet another hidden tax. To be honest, I have always been rather bemused by this allegation. Here's why.

We get a 'lowly' 2.5 - 4.0 per cent (OA, SA and Medisave) but people forget this is a RISK-FREE rate. Adjusted for zero risk, are the returns still low? Also, CPF contributions are not taxable and this creates a tax shelter which boosts overall returns. As I recall, financial institutions were offering a meagre 1 per cent or even less for fixed deposits over the past few years.

Furthermore, whether interest rate is too high or too low from a personal welfare point of view obviously depends on whether one is a borrower or saver. When I applied for the HDB loan for my flat a couple of years ago, I wanted to liquidate my savings to pay for the flat and borrow as little as possible (for some reason, I am irrationally debt-averse). Short of saying it outright, the HDB counter officer pretty much implied that I was stupid not to want the maximum loan since it was so cheap at 2.6 per cent interest, pegged 0.1 per cent above OA rate. His advice was that even if I had the money, I should take the maximum loan and invest my cash elsewhere.

That was obviously sound advice. My investment has given me, let's just say, significantly higher returns than the 2.6 per cent interest I paid. Which financial institution offers only a 0.1 percentage point spread between saving and borrowing? When we complain that CPF rates are too low, are we forgetting the flip side of the coin - that many of us are in fact borrowers at the early part of our life cycles, in which case low interest rate is a good thing!

But of course, net of housing and other uses, there is still a large balance held in CPF accounts. If one is still not satisfied with the 2.5 per cent for OA, there are always alternative investment available but how many Singaporeans are financially savvy enough to manage the associated risks? Many people who invested and burnt their fingers in fact blamed the government for liberalising CPF for investment purposes. How on earth is it possible for the government to guarantee high returns to citizens without someone having to bear the risks? There is really no free lunch here.

Double-Dealing Accusations?

I am not suggesting that Singapore's saving or fiscal systems are in any way perfect. One can indeed make a honest intellectual case that Singapore's national saving rate is too high, such that any future benefit from today's savings is outweighed by the cost of today's consumption foregone. However, to provide a proper analysis or critique, one has to exercise some intellectual discipline.

To on one hand accuse Singapore of building up too much savings and on the other claim that there is "lingering concerns about the financial health of the CPF" or that it is facing a "fiscal crisis" is a bit like double-dealing, using the ace of spade twice. If it is indeed true that Singapore saves too much nationally relatively to some estimates of its future needs, then there should not be any concerns about the financial health of its key retirement fund.

The author, perhaps rather too conveniently, also made no reference to Singapore's sovereign rating. It would be very odd indeed for the ratings to be AAA if there were any doubts about the government's ability to meet future obligations of its key retirement fund. These are just some thoughts on the article, and I leave you to decide whether there is more fiscal finagling or journalistic bollocking.

62 Comments:

  • Bart,

    Can CPF as a system meet its future obligations? A highly likely yes ... Shawn Crispin however made no distinction between the financial health of the system and the financial health of the individual, and instead rather naively suggested that CPF would face a "fiscal crisis" because of withdrawals for housing and medical needs.

    The KTM agrees with your analysis. The CPF problem is not a real problem. It's just a reality of life and changing circumstances.

    Given that people are living longer and retirement is going to last almost as long as their working life, people just have to save half of what they earn in order for numbers to balance.

    CPF money used to buy property is also a form of investment. If they don't want to have to save more than half of what they earn, then they just better be prepared to do one of two things when they retire: (i) keep working; or (ii) be prepared to "consume" their property, i.e. through reverse mortgages.

    Also, CPF can be used to invest in a variety of financial instruments (or even property) so the claims that the CPF rate is artificially low is pretty bogus in my view.

    It's all very logical and the KTM fails to see what the brouhaha is all about. Why do people think that the State should provide for them when they grow old? Do people pay enough taxes to warrant it?

    Even if the State returns all the tax collected from each individual, the KTM doubts it's even going to cover a fraction of what it takes to provide pensions. Where is the money going to come from? Raid the reserves? How sustainable is that?

    Why can't people just wake up their idea, spend less today and make provisions for their own retirement instead of whining away? Why do people think that it's an inalienable right for them to retire in comfort?

    These are some questions that the KTM has been pondering about, but not quite been able to figure out. Perhaps some of your readers might enlighten us?

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 8:37 pm  

  • Bard,

    Thanks for your learned reply. Just wanted to add a few points of my own:

    1. You mention Krugman. His famous article was widely circulated during the Asian crisis. It says our economic miracle is one off-example, one generation going from uneducated to educated, expanding input to the economy etc. Eventually like Japan we were suppose to stagnate. However, our esteem leaders figured out you can keep this boom going by importing people in large numbers to over come limitations due to demographics. No where else except in oil rich nations can we find such a massive influx of foreign labor per capita. Our leaders are so smart they managed to keep our miracle going...and they know they have to keep expanding the population hence the projected 6.5M pple. Krugman did not foresee that.

    2. 7% growth and stagnating median income. I shudder to think what happens to median income when the next major recession comes.

    3. Social Security Crisis in US? I just finished reading the book "Greenspan's Fraud" by Ravi Batra. The first chapther explains how Americans were convinced to pay more for their social security for the baby boomers and the US govy finagling in which Greenspan had a big role resulted in this crisis. The rest of the book explains why the world faces an impending crisis after years of economic boom orchestrated by Greenspan who prescribed easy money solutions for every recession...there will be a payback time...scary stuff. True?

    4. Our govt is smart by the time our own pension time bomb go off - it will be masked by the global one. Our CPF scheme cannot possibly go insolvent because it is merely oblige to return our own money + some interest. You're right many people probably don't have enough to retire, hence, the call by the govt to work until age 70 or 80. I don't mind if I can get MM Lee's job but I'll probably be a cleaner....so sad....there is no "CPF fiscal crisis" but the CPF not being able to meet its intended goals as a "Provident Fund" to see most people through retiring comfortably ....is that not some kind of failure?

    5. You're right the author seems to be saying we save too much and contradicts himself by saying that we spent too much on property to the extent we don't have enough to retire. Our spending on property did cause us to have one of the highest highest debt per household relative to GDP.

    6. If there is one thing I can go back in time to change... I would undo the liberalising of CPF for housing. That would have prevented the asset bubble in the 1990s and we will not face this retirement crisis. Our govt would have been able to go one up on those inferior Western systems. We could have been more perfect ...but we didn't and we are here today talking about working until age 70.

    By Blogger LuckySingaporean, at 8:47 pm  

  • KTM,

    "People living longer.." is a oft repeated mantra by the govt that has become the widely accepted belief that is intended to deflect blame on policy errors. People would not have sufficient to retire even if life expectancy was the same as in the 1980s.

    :::CPF money used to buy property is also a form of investment.:::
    Imagine if CPF money CANNOT be used for property. What would have happened? HDB can only sell property at a lower affordable price and people will have a home and most of their CPF for retirement. Now it is either or.

    ::::CPF can be used to invest in a variety of financial instruments :::
    Agree! It is just that Singaporeans had bad timing. Most can't even beat the CPF interest! Why the CPF was liberalised for investment if you look at the govt earlier thinking was to revv up the fund management industry. However, the fund managers in Singapore were more interested in making fees than return for their holders. Until 2 years ago, they charging fundholders for all sorts fees for advertising of their funds. Also, funds like to launch big time during the heights of bull markets. I'm not saying its all their fault, investors have to share the blame....but the end effect is horrid performance of funds invested from CPF.

    ::::Why can't people just wake up their idea, spend less today and make provisions for their own retirement :::
    This one I have to agree 100%! I was talking to an officer handling 'financial embarassment' statements for govt servants and there is a rising trend of people overspending on credit cards, credit lines etc. Banks are also pushing very hard encouraging people to borrow. What can be done to change behavior? ...You almost can't change the consumer, you have to fight against hollywood, bollywood, and trillions spent on advertising...sure lose. The only thing you can change is the lender i.e. Banks.

    I've written a few letters to the MAS to ask them to strictly enforce the 3 month income credit limits for unsecured loans. It is a loophole they allowed to persist. A borrower can get 3 months from every bank. There are like 10 banks so he can borrow like 30 times his monthiy salary at 'loan shark rates'. A lot of financial pain can be avoided if the MAS strictly enforce those limits but there seems to be inaction ..perhaps such a loophole fix will hurt bank profits?

    ::::Why do people think that it's an inalienable right for them to retire in comfort?:::
    It is not their right but govt have to provide systems within which most people can retire properly. If they (govt) can convince most people to save more and live frugally, that is a workable system. If they can't, it is no use to blame on people's behavior - because at the end of the day, there is still a problem to solve.

    By Blogger LuckySingaporean, at 9:41 pm  

  • Lucky,

    "People living longer.." is a oft repeated mantra by the govt that has become the widely accepted belief that is intended to deflect blame on policy errors.

    Actually the KTM believes that he has seen the stats so it's not just a mantra. It seems that it is true that average life expectancy for Singaporeans has been creeping up gradually since the 70's.

    It is just that Singaporeans had bad timing.

    Truthfully, the KTM has done quite well in recent years with his CPF investments due to the booming stock markets (>2.5% CPF rate). Of course, given the recent economic boom, any monkey picking stocks could probably have done well too.... but the KTM still believes that individuals should stomach their own risks.

    I've written a few letters to the MAS to ask them to strictly enforce the 3 month income credit limits for unsecured loans.

    Not sure that this is a problem that MAS can solve. While you can ensure that no bank will issue more than 3 months' credit, there are so many banks around and every bank is competing with each other to give easy credit.

    If they can't, it is no use to blame on people's behavior - because at the end of the day, there is still a problem to solve.

    Personally, the KTM thinks he would probably work till he drops. Retire for what? Sounds boring, but I digress. :-)

    Now, if it's clear that people are causing a problem for themselves because they cannot think today --- even though there are many warnings abound, the KTM doesn't see any need to "solve" their problem for them when they grow old. The solution to the problem is these fellas continue to work after retirement loh. That seems straightforward enough to the KTM. :-)

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 6:29 am  

  • Lucky,

    Further to the KTM's earlier (somewhat callous) comment on having people work, the KTM should perhaps clarify his view about us moving forward as a nation.

    The KTM believes that we cannot expect to progress if the State continues to be such a big nanny and needs to protect the people from themselves.

    People better start learning to solve their own problems (or at least problems that they are capable of solving, like this over-spending problem). The world is getting increasingly complex and the tools/instruments at the disposal of the Garmen is getting increasingly blunt and ineffective.

    There will be problems that the Garmen simply CANNOT solve ... at least this is the KTM's thinking. Hehe. Our Garmen of course claims to be omnipotent. You believe them? :-)

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 6:45 am  

  • Lucky, KTM,

    Thanks for your comments. Here are some of further thoughts to the comments:

    (1) Lucky said that he would undo CPF for investment, problems might be solved. I disagree on 2 accounts.

    CPF liberalisation is in general a good thing, to allow citizens more financial control. Sure, liberalisation means some people do what is (ex-post, or in hindsight) stupid things. No one can predict a bubble, you only knows when it burst. If property prices go and people are not given the chance to buy using their 'forced savings', can you imagine the hue and cry it would generate? It will trully be 'Financial Repression' then!

    Second, must analyse economy in a general equilibrium. Property prices is a function of demand and supply, and many other underlying variables in the economy. Liberalisation increases demand sure, but it has also brought in greater supply. Property bubbles form all over the world (UK, US, Australia, China, India), so hard to say it will not occur in Singapore if CPF was not liberalised. Hope you see this.

    (2) There is a piece by a Taiwanese-American economist Hsieh Chang Tai challenging the Young/Krugman thesis on Singapore. This piece was publised in the highly authoritative American Economic Review. It is a seriously good piece, go read on what he said if you are still interested.

    (3) I invested my CPF money, my experience is similar to KTM, much higher returns than 2.5%, but subjected to some ups and downs over the years. Must research, plan and invest for long term, and have the stomach for risks.

    On the whole, I lean towards KTM's view that people should take care of themselves. The state should step in perhaps for the weakest 10-15 per cent. Middle class should help themselves.

    But overall, I am glad to see some consensus that Shawn Crispin's allegations are somewhat contradictory.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 12:26 pm  

  • Bart,

    Another point. Some people would point to the Western countries and say something like, they got what, how come we cannot have?

    The flaw in this argument is that they have failed to notice that in such countries, there's a social compact that the people has made with the State -- and that is, they pay high taxes today to fund welfare, they should therefore enjoy welfare when they retire.

    In Singapore, people pay close to no taxes. If they want retirement benefits, the sums are not going to work out and our children and our children's children will have to pay extra.

    This is not equitable to the KTM, esp. when we also have a shrinking base at the bottom of the population pyramid.

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 2:05 pm  

  • KTM & Bart,

    I never propose to have western style welfare unless people can stomach the high taxes associated with such systems. However, we have this worsening problem of a big income gap meaning we run an economic system in large numbers will need help because they will never save enough for retirement working full time jobs. Western societies do it by taxing the rich(+ even not so rich) heavily which can be seen as a 'bad solution'...what is our solution? You can't say no solution is better than a bad solution. I believe there are many hard tradeoffs that are not made when you have top down decision making in a 'lesser democracy', are we spending too much on defense, is the allocation to R&D spending too high, are we accumulating too much reserves. The interests of the poor can possibly be traded off for something else.

    As for the liberalisation of CPF, remember the biggest developer was HDB 80% the housing was supplied by HDB at that time. The supply wasn't elastic because HDB had to make sure there is enough housing at whatever the 'affordable' price point was. Whether they sold flats at $150K or $300K, they are obliged to keep the supply sufficient. If you monitor HDB prices, the rapid rise correlated with the liberalisation of the CPF. The price rise did not result in a supply expansion but demand rose as more people were worried that flat prices would rise further. The queue in 1995 was 5 years long. If the CPF wasn't liberalised for property, HDB flats would have to be sold at prices that people can pay with disposable cash that they take home.

    I'll look up Hsieh Chang Tai's paper. Lets see who is right at the end of the day.

    The workfare thing is turning into another comcare type situation (only an average $42 was given to each applicant of comcare due to 'safeguards' put in place). The PAP govt insists that workers contribute to CPF to qualify for Workfare.Think about it does it make sense? Is this a safeguard or an some else? I'll discuss this in my blog soon.

    By Blogger LuckySingaporean, at 2:56 pm  

  • Lucky,

    "worsening problem of a big income gap meaning we run an economic system in large numbers will need help because they will never save enough for retirement working full time jobs"

    This statement is incorrect. The income gap and whether people save enough for retirement are two orthogonal problems. If people anyhow spend money, even if there is no income gap also got problem.

    Do you have any intrinsic objections to people working past retirement? The KTM NEVER had any objections and this is not because the Garmen said so. Okay, the KTM must admit however that he might be a biased sample 'cos he personally doesn't quite believe in retiring (no, he's not the MM in disguise either :-P).

    The interests of the poor can possibly be traded off for something else.

    Like Bart mentioned, the State will die die take care of the bottom 10 or 15%. The KTM has visited to homes for persons admitted under the Destitude Persons Act. The facilities were quite good and the homes apparently get about $640+ per resident per month to run the home. The homes actually look pretty nice.

    As for the price of the HDB flat, it actually doesn't really matter. Reason is that when a person is dead, the HDB flat is no good to him. Therefore, if Singaporeans are willing to "consume" their homes through a reverse mortgage, then they can still unlock the value of the their homes. It's a mindset issue.

    "The workfare thing is turning into another comcare type situation (only an average $42 was given to each applicant of comcare due to 'safeguards' put in place). The PAP govt insists that workers contribute to CPF to qualify for Workfare.Think about it does it make sense?"

    Yeah, the KTM has similar concerns about making people contribute Medisave for the Workfare. Also, there is indeed a question of whether we are spending enough on Workfare.

    If the KTM got his figures right, we're spending $400 million on Workfare. The recent increase in Civil Service salaries (not even counting the Ministers) is $200 million. If the KTM had a say about how to spend the money, the KTM would have somewhat different priorities.

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 4:43 pm  

  • KTM,

    This statement is incorrect. The income gap and whether people save enough for retirement are two orthogonal problems. If people anyhow spend money, even if there is no income gap also got problem.

    Sorry you missed my point. You're saying people over spend so there is a retirement problem. If these people exist - "good luck to them" - I'm not talking about these pple. I'm saying we created an economy with a huge gap where people through no fault of their own won't have enough for retirement. Income gap is related to retirement because the income of the bottom 20-30% is decline and has decline below what it takes to live in Singapore. They don't even have enough to live how to save for retirement?!

    Do you have any intrinsic objections to people working past retirement? The KTM NEVER had any objections

    If a person does so voluntarily - doesn't matter. I have a problem if the person is being forced by economic circumstance like debts to work beyond retirement - its a problem. If you read my blog on workfare, they revealed that many (who qualify for workfare) are accumulating medical debts, rental arrears and oweing Singapore Power.

    Like Bart mentioned, the State will die die take care of the bottom 10 or 15%
    Don't worry the PAP will not let you starve to death - they will give those on PA 2 meals a day. What I'm talking about is how much 'care'. For you example of destitute, I went to visit some rental flats for the aged and I'm horrified. A Catholic friend told me a few weeks back the found that an old man had died reaching out for a bell (a bell is installed incase of emergency some guard will come), when they found him his hands was stretch out reaching for the bell. If your philosophy is like the PAP to give out "minimal" care don't let the poor hold us back then it is different from mine. I don't believe in treating the old and those on PA so parsimoniously is even humane. We should do a better job taking care of these people because that is why "we come so far together" for....I believe there is room to do better without compromising our fiscal prudence.

    if Singaporeans are willing to "consume" their homes through a reverse mortgage, then they can still unlock the value of the their homes.

    Reverse mortgage came up as an solution for the earlier problem high property prices. I would say the better to get right the first round than such fixes. Reverse mortgage guarantees you leave nothing and comes at a cost which becomes the profit of the insurance company. You can also unlock your property value by selling then using the proceeds of course you can outlive those proceeds. It will work for those with sufficient residual value in their property. Many household that make like $1500 can only afford to rent will not have such a property to mortgage. Like you said the govt "die die" must take care of them until they die.,..PAP's own Lily Neo said they need a minimum of $400 and they only give out $290. People can live on 2 meals or 3 meals or 1 meal....on 2 meals you might slowly waste away.,,the PAP don't want to undermine your work ethics even if you're 80. Come on, we are a 1st world nation, we should treat our poor and old with 1st world care.

    Yes, the PAP 'die die' must care...and they do enough not to accused of any human rights and being less than humane. I'm saying we should give more effort to trade off harder the other unnecessary/excess expeditures.

    If the KTM got his figures right, we're spending $400 million on Workfare

    The PAP govt said it will SET ASIDE $400M. It doesn't mean it will be given out. Just like Comcare when the headline number was announced, the actual given out was just a fraction. What ever it is, you total up everything as a fraction the budget pie it is less than one-sixth of other govt.

    By Blogger LuckySingaporean, at 6:39 pm  

  • Lucky,

    "I'm saying we created an economy with a huge gap where people through no fault of their own won't have enough for retirement. Income gap is related to retirement because the income of the bottom 20-30% is decline"

    You are probably giving the PAP too much credit to say that the present situation was created. There's a name for this trend where the rich grows richer and the poor grows poorer and the gap increasing. It's called globalisation and it's happening EVERYWHERE.

    "(income) has decline below what it takes to live in Singapore. They don't even have enough to live how to save for retirement?!"

    If you are saying that costs are rising at a rate where some are squeezed and cannot cope, then the KTM does not disagree with you. Agree that the Government could have done more to contain costs and to suppress prices of HDB flats.

    But seriously, it's not something that can easily be done. Only way is to nationalize and subsidize, both of which the Government is reluctant because of "free market" principles(?). Anyhow, we have what we have and the question is how to move forward from here.

    Fundamentally, the KTM has no objections to having people who cannot save money for retirement 'cos they earn less than $1,500 work to upkeep themselves after retirement. The KTM doesn't see why anyone should have an inalienable right to having a good time after retirement.

    Actually, the hope here is that these people will have kids who can and will support them. Your point about mounting debts, medical or otherwise, is noteworthy, but again the KTM believes that if people are "poor enough", the Government will write off.

    What constitutes "poor enough" is debatable and if your contention is that the line is too high, the KTM does not have access to the data to agree or disagree with you.

    "I believe there is room to do better without compromising our fiscal prudence"

    Perhaps you can tell us what you think needs to be done (other than raising PA to $400). The KTM is all ears.

    As it turns out, the KTM has contacts in a VWO that serves elderly residents on PA. These folks do get a lot of freebies and free healthcare, so money is not a real problem (but if you ask them, they will definitely say they need more). As you mentioned ('old man reaching for bell'), it's stuff like attention, friends and things to do to keep active.

    "Come on, we are a 1st world nation, we should treat our poor and old with 1st world care".

    Which first world nation are you referring to? :-) You may wish to note that there are about 3 million homeless people on the streets of America, and almost without fail, someone will freeze to death on the streets every winter.

    "I'm saying we should give more effort to trade off harder the other unnecessary/excess expeditures".

    The KTM will not disagree with you here, but he'd like to point out that the PAP way of throwing more money at the problem probably isn't the right solution. Suppose you have the money, you got any ideas on how to use that money "effectively"?

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 7:39 pm  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger LuckySingaporean, at 12:45 am  

  • KTM,I'm glad we are beginning to converge on some areas. I understand you clearly on your questions on how much is enough and what more needs to be done. I'll address some of them here together with a few points in you raised.
    You are probably giving the PAP too much credit to say that the present situation was created

    You are giving the PAP too little credit!! No other govt has embraced globalisation as enthusiastically as the PAP. Outside of a handful of middleeast oil rich state, we imported the most people per capita onto this little island that anywhere else in the world depressing the wages of lower income families. Even if this is a world wide phenom we have big up a world class problem of one the biggest income gap in the developed world.

    The KTM doesn't see why anyone should have an inalienable right to having a good time after retirement.
    My belief is that a system that has people working full time jobs and cannot retire at retirement age through no fault of their own is not a good system. It is unacceptable and inhumane. Is this a first world system? there are about 3 million homeless people on the streets of America
    I stayed in the US for about 2 years and I know what you're saying. Many of the homeless have other problems like drugs, drinking and mental problems - self inflicted? But it is alot better in say Sweden, Norway, Finland, Australia, etc. We chose to control drugs very strictly - I support the govt effort in this area because I've seen the devastation near where I lived in the US.

    Perhaps you can tell us what you think needs to be done (other than raising PA to $400). The KTM is all ears
    The first problem is identification of these people. This problem has to be solved first. A number of volunteers found there are many in financial distress and that is just a tip of the iceberg. .link Second is identify the needs. 2 meals vs 3 meals a day? Many are elastic like dental care, if you can't afford do without it? What happen if they need emergency...I was surprised why they collect $65 first at A&E right upfront ..I don't know what happens if the person is too poor to pay...the poor does not know too and probably try to cope when they should be seeking help. Basic utilities when the govt dispense aid unsystematically like vouchers which is not given to all who need it. Can a low income rate be set for the poor so they don't accumulate debts? ...You actually want them to owe the govt first than have it written off? Is this the actions of a good govt?...etc etc.

    to point out that the PAP way of throwing more money at the problem probably isn't the right solution

    Hey I agree with you throwing money is not a right solution. We are not talking about throwing money at poor people here we are not even close!! Where the govt has thrown money it is at themselves, at defense, to Thailand, to Shenzhen.

    Is free preventive medicine for the poor+elderly throwing money? This is yet one thing the govt refuses to implement. Like Minister Lim's famous parliament speech on breast screening, the govt wants to pass as much responsibility to its citizens ....and those who can't afford to take responsibility onto themselves boomerang back as bigger problems when they get stage 3 breast cancer. Is this smart?

    By Blogger LuckySingaporean, at 1:01 am  

  • I must admit that having read your article, I found it difficult to reconcile the exact point you are making about Shawn Crispin and other analysts' point about the strength or weakness of Singapore growth model. The only thing I get is that you seemed determined to debunk these comments for the sake of it without actually understanding what these guys were saying.

    Just specifically from what you have presented in your article, which may not be a complete representation of your entire view, I am getting the impression that you are looking at Singapore's economic prospect from a "bean counting" perspective as oppose to, for want of a phrase, economic perspective.

    By economic perspective, I mean, looking at how money is being used, which regardless of countries, for the benefit of the people of the country.

    Basically speaking, what Shawn's and other analyst point is that Singapore and, by and large, many Asia countries, but most specifically, Singapore, tends not to use monetary policy to protect the with of the individual but the state.

    In Singapore, much of the economic growth is largely driven by, to put it simply, throwing money to achieve growth. For instance, using CPF to fund housing by suppressing returns to the individual. I know you went into great length explaining the interest rate but you seemed to have been somewhat, let's say, economical with the truth about the modus operandi of CPF. But I'll explain later.

    Coming back to monetary policy. As an economist, or a would be one, you should know that money per se has no value. Money is a means of exchange. Government can print money to fund economy; print too much you cause inflation. If money is to remain constant, the value of money must reflect the value of things in an economy. So if economy grows, money supplies become tight, interest rates goes up to reflect the value of money. So in Singapore case, why is this not happening?

    Well simply put, the Singapore dollar is fixed by the government to the value of other currency, in particular to currency of goods that are traded in SIngapore. In fact all goods in Singapore are denominated in other currencies not Singapore dollars. However, Singapore dollars are given to Singaporean to exchange internally.

    The question then is how does the government make Singapore worth something in other currencies, well it does this by using the savings from Singaporeans from CPF and budget surpluses, to promise to give buy other currencies at a given exchange rate (set by MAS). Why do foreigners want Singapore dollar when rates are fix (thus not determined by market rate)?

    Well, that is because the Singapore government then use the "Singapore reserved" to buy assets abroad or keeps it in another "bank" to earn interest rates in that currency that in case someone wants to exchange for. Of course, in real-life the mechanism is a tad more complicated by hopefully, in a snapshot ths simple example will explain the process.

    The saving in CPF and surpluses in taxation is often used in other ways to "fund" growth in the economy. In particular, it is used for instance to give rebate to foreign companies to relocate in Singapore, or to build infrastructure, such as Biopolis, provide low rents to biotech companies in Singapore to come over.

    You might say, what is wrong with this approach to get the Economy to grow and to defend the value of Singapore dollars?

    Nothing wrong, except that the question is whether this is sustainable in the long run?

    To achieve that kind of growth, it must therefore, draw from the Singapore tax payer based. Thus, as Shawn and other commetators points out, it has to deprive its own citizens of its fruits of labour to support others. For example, when the government of Singapore takes money and invest in other countries, say the USA, it is in effect giving money to Amercans to fund their livestyle. So you say but this make our country "finacially" healthy right?

    True, if the Americans don't default on their payment. In which case, they don't pay there is nothing we can do. Overnight, our "reserve" can disappear.

    The other problem in the Singapore context is that if too much money is drawn from the indiviual, CPF plus tax plus other hidden costs (paying to GLC monopolies' profit), can sap the individual of entrepraunership. For example, if you compare Singapore to Nordic countries, we are poor when in comes to generating new industries and companies (especially SME).

    So coming back the CPF thing. The author is right to say that the interest rates offered by CPF may not be as low. He compared it to normal, say current account. But what the author does not say is that CPF is not like a normal bank account. For example, here in the UK, banks interest rates goes up and down. And most important of all, you can withdraw you money anytime. With CPF, the government is not obliged to pay you the money. The minimum sum is an example. Who knows in time to come, the government might even withhold you money completely. It is this point that makes CPF for all intent and purpose an income tax. In any case you cannot opt out of it.

    Another point, which the author claim is that CPF is financially healthy. He/she may be right but he/she may be looking at headline figures rather than how CPF is actually funded to pay its fund holders. Since the accounts of the CPF is highly mirky, I suppose it is anybody's guess as to the true state of CPF.

    I guess the best analogy is that picture paint by a corporate balance sheet and its cash flow. A stirring balance sheet may not mean much if the cash flow was not healthy.

    Tan Ah Kow

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:53 pm  

  • Lucky,

    I'm glad we are beginning to converge on some areas.

    Hmmm... perhaps not. We're probably just beginning to understand each other better. What is true however is that we're both trying to do good in our own ways which is why we seem to be able to get along despite our significant differences in outlook. :-P

    The KTM must admit that you're significantly more thoughtful than what's apparent from reading your blog. :-) Do consider posting for suggestions for improvements instead of simply whacking Government policy. Just a thought. Dun have to take the KTM too seriously.

    we imported the most people per capita onto this little island that anywhere else in the world depressing the wages of lower income families

    Perhaps you are right in saying that the Government accelerated the process. However, the KTM's view is that it's going to hit earlier or later, so early isn't exactly a problem. Also, the KTM doesn't think that the income gap is a problem.

    People should be allowed to grow rich if they have the means and/or ability, as long as they do it legally. :-) If the poor are poor, then that's life loh and they should learn to live within their means. Some effort should just be put into ensuring that costs do not rise too quickly and drown them.

    The KTM doesn't believe that the State should provide guarantees of a good life. All it has to do (in the KTM's view) is to provide equal access to opportunties to get at that good life. Undoubtedly some will fail, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the system is thereby broken.

    Clarification here: the KTM believes that it's not the State's responsibility is not to try to equal the odds between the rich and the poor either. The rich will always be better off and the State is not in a position to equal things out by a long shot. Question is: suppose one is born poor, does the person have a decent chance of making good?

    So back to globalization and income gap, the KTM isn't too excited. Gotta deal then deal loh. Unavoidable eventuality.

    My belief is that a system that has people working full time jobs and cannot retire at retirement age through no fault of their own is not a good system. It is unacceptable and inhumane. Is this a first world system?

    This is where your belief diverges from that of the KTM. The KTM doesn't find it unacceptable. Why should the State guarantee that people can retire to begin with? It was not directly a responsibility of the Government in the past (gotta factor out the Government as an employer for the Civil Service). Why should it be today?

    The KTM hopes that you can accept this as a personal belief. At the heart of this belief is the belief that it is not financially viable without huge taxes. The KTM also believes in the principle of individual responsibility (vs nanny state).

    "I was surprised why they collect $65 first at A&E right upfront"

    The KTM believes that this statement is untrue (or at least not everywhere). The KTM's dad suay suay ended up in A&E a couple of weeks ago and they treated first and only asked for money after treatment.

    You actually want them to owe the govt first than have it written off? Is this the actions of a good govt?.

    As the KTM once highlighted, there are many ways to dispense subdisies. So your suggestion is that we should just write off instead of billing and then having it written off? Essentially, that's the question of whether it's a privilege (or show of grace by Government, or a right).

    First, you must talk to some medical social workers to understand how chow kuan some Singaporeans can be with respect to paying up their medical bills. That also answers you question about why the hospitals farm out the debt collection to debt collection agencies.

    Second, problem is really one of limited funds ans HUGE needs. The KTM agrees with means testing BTW -- which in economic terms is like price discrimination... but really no choice and the KTM will explain why.

    It may sound morbid but please be assured that the KTM is not trying to curse you.... hehe.

    Just imagine dying in modern Singapore. How are you going to die? Most probably you will be suffering from chronic serious disease like cancer. Towards the end, you will end up in hospital and for the last few days, you will be in ICU.

    Why is the KTM asking this question? Because he wants to estimate how much it costs to die. And what you realise is that given the way things are, it would not be a stretch to imagine that each Singapore, on average, will incur at least $100K in healthcare bills just dying.

    Sometimes the KTM thinks to himself: forget about dying with dignity lah. Probably cheaper and more painless to get run over by a truck. :-)

    Our reserves are estimated to be worth US$27,000 (or roughly SS43K) per capita. What does this mean? Even if we manage to liquidate all the reserves to pay for it, we're still be short of $57K per head.

    Given that 70% of the population doesn't pay taxes, where is the money going to come from? Maybe we can cut some defence spending, but it's not hard to see that the problem is EXTREMELY large.

    Third, there are A LOT of these Singaporeans spending an extra $30K or $40K buying the bigger car. Actually the KTM fails to understand why some people are even buying cars to begin with. And the truth is -- these fellas would rather buy their cars than to pay for healthcare. Should we indulge them? :-)

    Is free preventive medicine for the poor+elderly throwing money?

    The KTM agrees with you that the Government should consider giving out free preventive medicine. No disagreements here. :-)

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 1:42 pm  

  • How did some comments on Crispin's article become a full blown debate about boundary and responsibility of the state? Might not even be possible to treat all these issues properly in a thesis, let alone blog comments.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 1:50 pm  

  • Bart,

    Yes, indeed we have digressed. My apologies.

    Lucky,

    You wanna pick another place where we can continue our discussion without annoying Bart? The KTM's KT stall is broken. Maybe we can discuss over at your blog. You provide a link can? :-)

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 2:11 pm  

  • No no, not annoying at all. Just to point out it is possible for reasonable people to disagree on where the boundary of the state should be. I think it is not possible to come to an 'ideological' agreement over the blog.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 2:17 pm  

  • Just found this on the internet . . . .

    " ASIA PROGRAM CONSULTANT
    Shawn W. Crispin

    Shawn W. Crispin was bureau chief for the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review in Bangkok from 1999 to 2004, where he wrote on a wide range of political, business, and social issues. From 2001, Shawn also served as bureau chief for the Review's sister publication, The Asian Wall Street Journal. His coverage of Asia's AIDS epidemic was part of a package recognized in 2004 for the "Excellence in Magazines" award of the Society of Publishers in Asia. In 2005, Shawn served as an investigative consultant with Human Rights Watch (Asia), where he researched and wrote a full-length report on press freedom issues in Thailand. His journalism has also appeared in the International Herald Tribune and Institutional Investor magazine. Shawn received a master's degree in Southeast Asian Studies and International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC in 1999. He speaks fluent Thai."


    So Shawn Crispin FEER journalist?

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 2:32 pm  

  • KTM,

    I think we have digress too far from the original post on economics.

    Also we are entering the age old debate of conservatism vs liberalism....where does govt responsibility end and individual responsibility begin. There is no right or wrong ...the debate has gone on and on in America for decades. The difference is they constantly switch from the conservative republicans to liberal democrats as the need arises. We are sort of stuck with the ultra-conservatism of the PAP. Both of us may never agree until the day we die on this. So lets just and leave it open.

    On the matter of whether a system in which people cannot retire comfortably working full time jobs is acceptable or unacceptable? I say lets as a society aim for better instead of status quo. Why accept the status quo, why not improve the system.

    On income gap. ultimately the end effects will manifest itselfYour contention is it is happening everywhere but like I said Singapore's problem is more acute and has become even worst the the 'dog-eat-dog' Hong Kong.
    Because it is happening everywhere doesn't mean our govt is blameless or people will accept and I think Newsweek or Time has a feature that the problem threaten to overthrow govts in many places.

    If I'm wrong about the A&E then I withdraw what I said, my experience is at KK Hospital & Changhi where they collected money first. I thought it is common practice throughout all govt hospitals......

    I like your pragmatic computation of that $100K bill for medical care vs our reserves. I never advocated free medical care...just that cracks such as for congenital infants, poor, and uninsured be addressed. Also, I tired of hearing that medical care is "affordable". Many people were stunned by their medical bills which I'm trying to collect. The govt should tell people to prepare for high bills get more insurance if they cam afford and address the cracks. When I stayed in the US, one of the 1st thing I was told is hospitalisation can bankrupt me if I don't buy adequate insurance. I'm not saying their system is better but people have all the info and are more prepared, the old + poor are identified and are treated. I paid close to $4K per year in insurance when I was there and saw the doctors only 3 times for minor ailments.

    Eventually we will know what "means testing means" and that BIG debate will come....SOON!

    We cannot conclude even in 100 exchanges.

    I suggest we wrap up with your next comment, you have the last say. I've said everything I want to say.

    See you somewhere else in the blogsphere......

    By Blogger LuckySingaporean, at 6:42 pm  

  • Lucky,

    Absolutely right. For some, the state is already too nanny and too meddlesome. For others, the state doesn't do enough. The boundary of the state - where it ends and where individual responsibility begins, is always open to debate like you pointed out.

    But nice exchange, and gentlemanly disengagement.

    Yes, the means testing thing is probably the next big topic.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 7:05 pm  

  • Lucky,

    "We are sort of stuck with the ultra-conservatism of the PAP".

    Fair enough. :-P Turns out the KTM is probably more of a conservative than a liberal so it probably bothers him less than you. :-)

    "Both of us may never agree until the day we die on this. So lets just and leave it open".

    As the KTM had mentioned earlier, it was quite clear that we have quite different perspectives and it's not likely that we can agree on many things. That however does not mean that we shouldn't try to understand and respect each others perspectives on various issues. :-)

    "I say lets as a society aim for better instead of status quo. Why accept the status quo, why not improve the system".

    It turns out that we agree on this. :-) As you say, there is always room for improvment. If the KTM believes that there is none, he probably wouldn't be bothered to write. :-P

    "Because it is happening everywhere doesn't mean our govt is blameless or people will accept and I think Newsweek or Time has a feature that the problem threaten to overthrow govts in many places".

    Oh yes, that I am aware. Even in the US, it's a political hot potato. :-) The KTM's point is that he doesn't think that overthrowing the PAP would solve the problem.

    Do people even understand the extent of the problem? Do people even know what the problem is about? Unfortunately, few do and most people are focussed only on their own plights -- but it's understandable. It's a dog-eat-dog world what.

    The thing that causes the KTM a great deal of unease is that he believes we can "conquer" globalization as a nation only if we are united in our understanding of what it is and what it means. Calls for sacrifice from all. That sacrifice is however not forthcoming from some quarters, and so it's gonna be a rough ride. :-(

    "I never advocated free medical care...just that cracks such as for congenital infants, poor, and uninsured be addressed".

    Oh yes, the KTM is aware that you're not advocating free medical care. The KTM actually finds your views very balanced. The KTM is merely illustrating the SIZE of the problem.

    I paid close to $4K per year in insurance when I was there and saw the doctors only 3 times for minor ailments.

    There is an explanation for this.

    When we talk about insurance, we need to understand one important fact and that is: insurance doesn't make anything cheaper. When something bad is really nasty but relatively uncommon, we can spread out the risks with insurance so that everyone pays a bit.

    If you buy the KTM's argument that it's going to cost $100K per head FOR EVERYONE, then in the long term, insurance isn't the panacea. In fact, insurance will likely introduce some additional transactional costs.

    The only long term solution is for everyone to somehow pay his own share of $100K and have the rich pay for some poor folks (income redistribution through taxes) -- but there's seriously a limit as to how much you can squeeze the rich lah, so means testing is necessary to keep the system from collapsing.

    Another issue with insurance is that it may actually cause healthcare costs to increase. Personal anecdote: Mrs KTM was hospitalized about two years ago and the first thing the hospital asked was "do you have medical insurance?"

    As it turns out, the answer was yes and in fact, a quite comprehensive one some more. The nurse then offered her either Class A and B1, as well as said all sorts of nasty things about B2 and C wards to discourage her from choosing those wards.

    Perhaps the KTM isn't complaining about healthcare costs because Mrs KTM has healthcare insurance.... but you know what, the KTM just went to calculate the total sum of Mrs KTM's health insurance premiums up till age 80. Wanna make a guess how much? $100K. :-)

    As the Chinese say, goat hair grows on the body of the goat.

    I suggest we wrap up with your next comment, you have the last say .... See you somewhere else in the blogsphere......

    The KTM doesn't need to have the last word lah. We're just chatting what. :-P Anyhow, it's been a pleasure exchanging views with you. Look forward to meeting you again online somewhere. :-)

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 7:49 pm  

  • wow.... 2 birds singing the same song in tandem here... what a view... wonder how long were they trained by their masters .. cough*pap*cough...

    good birdies....
    nice birdies....
    Pollys wanna NKF peanuts???
    coo coo...

    BIRDBRAINS!!!!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:44 am  

  • KTM
    Lucky

    The only thing I will add to this is that the medical care/education resources should be poured out to the young and the those at risk who are young.Agree with Lucky in there because they do not have a choice/chance. Frankly, although I would personally give to the elderly and do volunteer. I disagree that the state should provide other than basic needs ie food/shelter/clothing to the old.Although one option should be the state to give food vouchers instead.

    By Anonymous wang, at 5:36 am  

  • WANG,

    Agree with your comments. With regards to your point about food vouchers, it's not a bad idea, but perhaps the KTM can share with you what he has seen on the ground.

    It turns out that Singapore has these low-income areas (because they build all the one- and two-room flats in certain areas). In these places (at least the ones that the KTM visited), there are VWOs that cater to these folks who are on PA. They serve free food to the poor, elderly residents. Also, if there are elderly who are immobile, they also do home deliveries. Finally, they also do these house visits periodically where they will send canned food and biscuits, etc.

    Of course, it is likely that there will be some folks who are left out, so like Lucky suggests, perhaps more efforts can be spent identifying the people who need help so that no one is left out instead of simply coughing up more money. To some extent, the KTM thinks that these efforts to provide and deliver free food is actually better than just your food vouchers already. You provide vouchers, they must still cook themselves.

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 2:58 pm  

  • KTM

    Do not disagree.
    The main reason I would state food vouchers or other basic iten vouchers is that Govt as a bulk buyer can result in negotiating more food per dollar spent eg PA from say NTUC or any major supermarket chains or services/consumable provider.
    Further,people do require the "illusion of choice".

    By Anonymous WANG, at 9:56 am  

  • about global time bombs

    I am not sure if the point of the article is to compare whose bomb is bigger. UK and US's bomb might be bigger but it does mean we do not have a bomb at hand. I am also sure we are not about to wait till we 'wake up to the crisis' before we find a solution for it.

    "If Singapore's high savings paradigm points to a "bleak" future as some critics suggest, what would they say about a high consumption, low savings, high-deficit high-debt model? Are these structurally sound as opposed to Singapore's structurally weak development model?"

    Again the use of comparison limits choices. Can we not think of some other ways to solve the problem. Is adpoting high consumption, lowsavings, high-deficit, high debt model the only alternative?


    About Enough to retire

    Now the question is not about saving enough. Some people don't have enough to save what do they do? If they are retrenched and cannot find a job how do they save. People who spend their life working in an industry that becomes obsolete overnight. What can they do? I don't think they have money to go for an Anthony Robbin
    's upper to put them back on track.

    If you put all singaporeans on a bell curve you would probably find those who have lower abilities to survive. Are we trying to put darwinism in practice here? The bad genes will weed themselves off?

    "and instead rather naively suggested that CPF would face a "fiscal crisis" because of withdrawals for housing and medical needs."

    I think he mentioned some economist suggested that might be the case but it may not be. Anyway they seemed to be locking up more money in the CPF placing additional bolts on the people's 'saving'. On the surface it would look like protection for the citizens but it could also be a calculated move to make sure no one withdraw all the money or the heavily invested CPF might just fold(my assumption cos I don't know how the CPF is invested/used)


    The whole thing about the low interest for CPF is a transpanrency issue. Imagine if the CPF has a return of 20% what happened to the rest of the money? We are all clueless.

    By Blogger palmist, at 5:58 pm  

  • Hi Palmist

    A mention of the fiscal positions in other countries is really to set the debate in perspective. Crispin suggested a "fiscal crisis" was facing us, I simply couldn't agree.

    Savings in CPF is not exactly bolted away - it can be invested by the individual.

    Though I agree with you the poor or the long-term unemployed might not have the means to prepare for retirement, but that was not the point of the post at all since Crispin made no mention of these issues.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 9:10 pm  

  • This is what Shawn said:

    More worrying, perhaps, are the lingering concerns about the financial health of the Central Provident Fund, Singapore's national pension plan. CPF beneficiaries receive a low, state-determined interest rate on their required contributions, allowing the PAP-led government to collect yet another hidden tax on the actual investment yields earned on the CPF's undisclosed investments. Some financial analysts believe the pension plan could eventually face a fiscal crisis, partly because the government allows the CPF's already heavily taxed contributors to tap the fund early for expenditures such as home purchases and medical expenses.

    Question: Where is CPF getting money to fund all these activities and at the same time paying interest?

    One thing is known for sure, a source of money is coming from workers. But as CPF contribution from employer is reduced, this could impact the fund. Also, quite a number of foreigners are exampted from contributing and, in some cases, CPF have to return all to returning workers. With a shrinking local (singaporean and PR) workforce, this source of income for CPF could be impacted.

    So apart from these, where is CPF getting additional income?

    As Shawn indicated, CPF is being used for home purchases (i.e. what happens if borrowers are unable to payback) and medical expenses (i.e. not an investment, so no return not just to individual but CPF).

    All of these, as Shawn noted, COULD form a crisis, at least, accounting problem, a cashflow problem.

    This problem are exactly the same in UK and US. So CPF is not immue to the problem of the other countries.

    Don't be fooled by the kind of headline figures put out by PAP that everything is hunky dorie.

    Tan Ah Kow

    Tan Ah Kow

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:31 am  

  • "Where is CPF getting money to fund all these activities and at the same time paying interest?"

    But the journalist is also claiming that the CPF acts as an additional tax because the Govt derives greater returns on the CPF funds than it pays out in interests??

    See his "allowing the PAP-led government to collect yet another hidden tax on the actual investment yields earned on the CPF's undisclosed investments"

    Ah Kow, are you barking up the wrong tree?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:48 am  

  • Sorry I do not have time to write a full reply but here are some answers to your question on

    Which financial institution offers only a 0.1 percentage point spread between saving and borrowing?

    Anyone who has a housing loan with Citibank has a free current account which pays interest at the same rate tracking your home loan rate, on balances up to the sum of your outstanding home loan. I am sure Citibank is not the only bank with such a scheme, as I did not do my home loan shopping extensively.

    Also, as at last month, I am pretty sure the walk-in FD rate at Maybank was hovering between 2.8% to 3.1% for the 12 month FDs.

    By Anonymous doodbug, at 7:40 am  

  • I saw a full reply here...

    http://pinkyandbrain.wordpress.com/

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:09 pm  

  • Doodbug,

    I have known for some time that Maybank offers quite good rates for FD, but like you said, you need to lock in for a certain period. What happens if you withdraw your FD matures?

    Furthermore, the point with CPF OA is that the money is not exactly tied up. You can withdraw OA anytime for housing or other investment.

    I also know of the Citibank deal but again, it is completely different. You actually have to mortgage your property to them, isn't it? So, is it fair to say they are genuinely offering the same interest rate for savers and lenders?

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 1:20 am  

  • The Pinkyandbrain article is an interesting read, purely on the basis of entertainment.

    I think it grossly misrepresents my post, and has some really misleading analysis. I will not reply to that post and get stuck into a debate of what I did and did not say. I also think it is difficult to really debate with identities unknown.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 1:28 am  

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