Photo of elderly sleeping in back alley of kopitiam by TodayOnline Wong Pei Ting

Without giving a detailed breakdown, the Department of Statistics claimed that the poor living in 1-room and 2-room apartments received an average of S$10,245 per person from the government in 2017.

The magical “government transfers”, according to the department, includes Workfare Income Supplement, GST vouchers, rebates on utilities, service and conservancy charges, Pioneer Generation Package and Silver Support. However, it was not mentioned that the social spending schemes above are also funded by the poor when they pay GST taxes, utility tariffs and other indirect taxes like COE and transport-related taxes.

The government also claimed that the average Singaporean received S$4,433 person in “government transfers”.

Graphic from Department of Statistics

Fake GINI coefficient

The GINI coefficient, a measurement of income inequality, was also said to have been reduced 20% from 0.459 to 0.401 due to “government transfers”. No other country includes “government transfers” in their statistics, as this would corrupt the actual state of income inequality.

Moreover the GINI coefficient used by the Singapore government excludes non-work income like shares dividends and capital growth – where most rich received a bulk of their income from. The department used “employed household income” instead of  just “household income”, and did not highlight the subtle difference in definition that would not have been picked up by an untrained eye.

Graphics of GINI coefficients from Singstats

To worsen the inaccuracy of income inequality, the calculation of “employed household income” includes CPF payment. For low income earners between the 1st and 50th percentile, most are employees who take home 37% lesser salaries after accounting for CPF deductions. Whereas for the richer 50th to 99th percentile, most whom are self-employed or business owners, they pay only a maximum of only 22% income tax. For the rich who don’t work, they pay no taxes on capital growth or dividends – essentially taking home 100% of their income. A high income employee also stop paying CPF deductions after his first S$4,000 part of his base salaries. Take-home salaries of the rich is in percentage values at a minimum 80% of their earned income, compared to only 63% of the earned income for the poor and middle class earning below S$4,000 a month.

Household income per member

Singapore is the only country that publishes “household income” and not use the standard purchasing power and income based off an individual. This created an inflated figure for income and masked the fact that there are more low income-paying jobs compared to high-paying jobs, especially for a country with high inequality. Anecdotally, Singapore has only a percentage of super scale grade high paying jobs drawing more than S$25,000 a month while the remaining 85% are flooded with income below S$2,000 a month.

The Department of Statistics has in essence published a fake statistics with the intent to mislead on the actual state of wealth, or poverty, in Singapore. The emphasis on “government transfers” is a mere political act that is acceptable of a supposedly independent government statutory board. Fake official statistics pose a greater danger to society when compared to misleading articles published by unverified websites, and yet there is no action taken because the fake figures work swing in the government’s favour. Amid recent news of contempt of court and defamatory allegations made by some members of the public, the government impugns it’s own integrity more effectively with inaccurate publications. I always find it puzzling when the government said they are losing public trust because of the internet, because it is fake statistics from the government that made the public lose trust in them instead.

States Time Review Editor
Alex Tan