Speaking at an international conference on inequality at the National University of Singapore (NUS) yesterday (May 26), Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shamugaratnam marketed Singapore like a snake oil claiming that the poor and middle class here are better off than those in France, US and Denmark.
Minister Tharman claimed that according to his statistics, 14% of those born in the bottom income quintile made it to the top quintile by their late 20s, and that this figure is double that of the United States and higher than Denmark’s 12%.
He then mocked France’s “belief in equality”, criticizing France that one out of five left school with no qualifications and that one-third of their 15 years olds have repeated at least a year in school.
Minister Tharman then started praising his government’s housing policies and claimed that there is no “single disadvantaged neighbourhood”:
“What we get for free is social equity in the economic sense because as a result of integrated neighbourhoods, everyone enjoys the same grade of home price appreciation and equity accumulation. The result of all this is that, while we have disadvantaged families and individuals in Singapore, we do not have a single disadvantaged neighbourhood.”
The Minister avoided the topic on income inequality in Singapore. Singapore has a GINI coefficient of 0.464 in 2014, the highest among all developed countries, and even higher than US’s 0.40. Unlike France, US and Denmark, there is no social welfare and Minimum Wage in Singapore. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore’s cost of living ranks 1st in the world in 2016.
Also contradictory to Minister Tharman’s claims, rental flats are formed in clusters and places like Circuit Road and Redhill Close with higher concentration of low-income dwellers and renters being well-known “disadvantaged” neighbourhoods.