When the Singapore Democrats launched our alternative economic programme entitled It’s About You in 2010, we emphasized on the need to build a more egalitarian society.
We proposed a comprehensive plan for Singapore’s economic future because the PAP’s model is piecemeal and myopic, pulling Singapore in the wrong direction with its elitist approach.
Events today are proving us right. Increasing income inequality in many countries, rich and poor, is causing price distortion of goods and services, making it harder and harder for the average person to get ahead in ife.
People all over the world are fed up with the rich getting richer and with less and less acountability for what they do. Bankers have wrecked the global economy with their wanton greed and continue to do so even after the financial crisis in 2008.
Such inequality is also rampant in Singapore. Consider the following:
- Millionaires in Singapore continue to grow at an astounding rate. In 2010, our country registered the greatest proportion of millionaire households in the world.
- And yet the poorest 20 percent of the population saw their incomes stagnate for the past 10 years.
- More and more ordinary Singaporeans struggle for a living as lines for free meals continue to grow. It was reported over the weekend that demand for free-meal schemes grows from the poor, elderly, sick, disabled, unemployed, and single parents.
- The uptake for low-income rental flats is also on the rise, a clear indiccation that more and more Singaporeans are unable to buy their own flats.
- The gini coefficient which measures income inequality is 42.5 (the higher the score the more unequal incomes are). Among 38 advanced economies surveyed, Singapore came out the second highest. The share of income of the richest 10% is 33% compared to 2% for the poorest decile. The inequality is even more skewed than in the US where the people are protesting in huge numbers against the economic injustice.
Such inequality has consequences. As peoples around the world erupt in protest over the economic and social unfairness, inequality has a destabilising effect.
While Singapore outwardly portrays a picture of calm, there are unmistakable indicators that show a segment of Singaporeans who are finding it it difficult to get by, let alone get ahead, in this country. More worryingly, this segment is growing.
The question to ask is how long more can this silence be contained especially in an economic environment that is set to get worse. There comes a time, if the situation worsens, when those at the lower end will not, or cannot, tolerate it any longer.
An egalitarian society is not just a nice sounding term. It is a model that will bring about a more equitable and more just socio-economic system. It is necessary for sustained economic development, development for all the people rather than just the political and financial elite in this country.
Egalitarianism is not just a fanciful idea but an essential model that will help this nation sustain our development for the long term.