Tharman with Tommy Koh; IPS

Speaking at a public forum organised by government institution Institute of Public Policies yesterday (Oct 25), Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam openly lied that Singapore has a lower GINI coefficients than Nordic countries:

“Singapore does not have an unusually high level of inequality, adding that several countries, including European and Nordic states, have a higher rate of inequality by the Gini coefficient, before taxes and transfers. The Gini coefficient measures income inequality from zero to one, with zero being most equal.”

A fact check with the OECD statistics however revealed that Singapore’s GINI coefficients of 0.458, is nearly two times higher that of Iceland, Norway and Denmark at 0.25.

Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a former economist, then continued to lie about the state of poverty and income inequality in Singapore saying that the low income earners in Singaporeans are well-paid as compared to other countries:

“Median wages and the income of those in the bottom 20 per cent of society have been moving up, unlike in many other societies, Singapore has done relatively well by that measure so far.”

This is however fake news by the millionaire Minister on a S$1.1 million-a-year paycheck. Low income earners, usually elderly Singaporeans, take home as little as S$800 a month with no Minimum Wage protection and little employment rights. Australia has a AU$19 (S$19) minimum wage, while Japan’s Minimum Wage is set at 848Y/hour (S$10.42/hour). The poor state of low income earners have been reflected in a recent international report by Oxfam, which placed the Singapore government in a bottom scrapping 149th out of 157 countries for reducing inequality.

DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam also cherry-picked statistics, saying that the income of cleaners had increased from S$900 to more than S$1,200 in five years:

“The salaries of cleaners, which has risen from more than S$900 to more than S$1,200 in five years, an increase that is quite significant.”

However, the minister left out the fact that the S$900 salaries of cleaners were stagnated for the 13 years between 1999 to 2012.

The millionaire minister then tried to defend the worsening state of income inequality in Singapore, saying that those with good family backgrounds do well because of “nature of Meritocracy”:

“It’s in the nature of a meritocracy, it’s in the nature of succeeding in mobility that it gets more difficult over time. Because those who succeed try to help their children, and those who haven’t succeeded find that the odds increase against them doing well in life.”