For a couple of years now, I’ve been increasingly annoyed by the poor use of taxpayer dollars by the Singapore government for frivolous or impractical things, while cost of living continues to shoot up and everyone is unhappier than ever with the state of things.
Today I read a news story which really took the (50th birthday) cake.
According to this article in Today:
With ideas from the public pouring in on ways to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Republic’s independence, it was announced yesterday that all Singaporean babies born next year, including those born overseas, will receive a gift pack from the Government that could consist of practical and commemorative items.
The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD), which will fund the Jubilee Baby Gift, is calling for suggestions on the items to be included in the gift pack. It has ruled out giving cash handouts, as parents of newborns already receive monetary incentives under the existing Marriage and Parenthood Package.
There could be about five to 10 items and the idea is to make the gift pack “a meaningful, significant (and) tangible keepsake with heritage value”, the NPTD said. Among the gift ideas thrown up at a focus group discussion yesterday were a chain with a key, baby shoes and bibs, while Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu suggested a sarong with a national flag motif, which she felt is practical — parents can use it to carry their child or during breastfeeding — and signifies a parental bond.
Already, Singaporeans are making all sorts of snide comments online and some wonder why only babies born next year will get a handout, whatever happened to babies born before that.. and so on.
My take: this gift pack WILL be discarded by many parents shortly after it is dished out, and nobody considers the millions of dollars required for production, storage and distribution of these “disposables”. Babies grow up fast, those cute little Singapore-design booties won’t last very long, and they grow mouldy in our humid cupboards over time.
Why not come up with something more permanent, yet low-cost, like a commemorative edition of the kid’s Birth Certificate? It’s not going to cost much that way, and is more meaningful to everyone who has it for their rest of their lives.
To all the civil servants who come up with such initiatives, I would like to ask you if you have ever thought of the ways you are using our tax dollars that don’t make the country a better place. Why not use the money to further subsidize maternity ward fees, pre-natal/post-natal classes, improve health services and so many other things that could help parents rather than some cute accessories.
For goodness’ sake, we don’t even have enough hospital beds in this country!
Do something worthwhile today, help to send in your suggestions which make sense and don’t waste everyone’s hard-earned tax dollars. I already did so with my suggestion below, because I want to put my tax dollars where my mouth is, and hopefully someone listens.
And here are my other pet peeves with the poor use of public money (someone please, convince me they have been worth the expenditure)
1. How much has been wasted on the
useless ineffective Baby Bonus scheme to date? Millions? Billions?
(Update: There are parents asking me why do I think it’s a waste of money. The purpose of BB was to raise the low SG fertility rate – where it has failed utterly – and it is now repositioned as helping existing parents manage costs. Despite high hopes from the Govt, BB has never been an incentive to have kids in itself. Yet it continues to burn through tax money and people have no idea how much. In 2008, it was $230 MILLION, imagine the cumulative sum over the past decade. Read my old post for my views on it, there are deeper societal and mindset problems that need to be dealt with to effectively reverse the aging society crisis and you can’t throw big money at the fertility rate anymore. I’ll change “useless” to “ineffective” though.)
2. How much is spent on National Day Parades each year, and how many weekends are taken away from youth and NSmen who don’t exactly have a say in how they want to celebrate our national anniversaries? I’m not saying to do away with NDP (imagine the howls from the masses), but we could spend less on fancy theatrics and more on meaningful activities. Keep the fireworks, cut down on trying to outdo the previous year’s entertainment segments. I loved NDP parades as a kid, today my family doesn’t even bother to switch on the TV.
3. How much was spent cleaning up the chaotic mess of the Marina Coastal Expressway opening from poor road planning? And has the Govt ever considered the real financial cost to everyone who got stuck in the first few days’ of traffic jams?
4. Why does the Govt keep pouring money into buying more public buses that clog up the congested roads even more when they need to fix the train system first? Don’t even get me started on why we are using tax dollars to buy buses for so-called privatized transport companies.
5. How much was spent setting up the Do Not Call registry only for it to be crippled right before launch by pandering to the worries of big companies?
The bottomline: We don’t need cute 50th anniversary baby booties. We need to use our tax dollars to improve people’s lives.
Update 3 Apr: I’ve gotten some good feedback from some readers on why they don’t see Baby Bonus as a waste of money. I’ve given my views in the comments section below.
What’s more disturbing is to read some Facebook comments on how some people don’t seem to care how their tax dollars are being used, or are aware of how it is earned in the first place. Eg. “Isn’t a handout better than none?” Yes, but what is the context of the handout and is it really solving long-term problems or just a short-term goodie?
For many Singaporeans, they don’t pay much personal income tax, but everyone is being taxed in many other areas of consumption – eg. GST, vehicles, housing taxes, vice taxes etc. Todayonline has an excellent resource (i hope the link still works) on Budget 2014 and how the govt. earns and spends your money in broad strokes. Note that you won’t see minute breakdowns of where NDP or Baby Bonus is in this infographic.
You may think that you are not paying much taxes upfront, but think again on how your lifestyle choices lead to how much tax you pay otherwise. Then you need to ask yourself, given how much money you contribute to the nation with every meal, every shopping purchase or trip under the ERP, how would you like that money to be spent for the betterment of society?
What are your wishes for the country to spend our money in more accountable ways? Comments section is below, but please use your real names or I won’t approve the posts. Tired of Internet trolls myself, just like the Government, fancy that.