Nearly seventy five percent of Singaporeans approve of the government’s most recent budget. While this might not seem like a big deal, for Singapore’s ruling Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) this is welcome news. The PAP has been facing steadily declining support in spite of strong economic growth, low unemployment, and sound national finances.
Singapore’s PAP reacting to criticism
While the PAP has done an astounding job of managing the national economy, many Singaporeans have felt that the government has not done enough to ensure the prosperity of the people themselves. Rising living and transportation costs, stagnant wages for some workers, and a continued influx of foreign workers are just some of the items at the top of the complaint list.
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The most recent budget, however, has met with high approval ratings as the government has begun to shift spending towards social welfare and addressing the concerns of its citizens. Compared to most countries, Singapore enjoys relatively thin social safety nets. Instead of welfare handouts, the government has relied primarily on keeping unemployment low and the economy booming.
By and large this has worked as most Singaporeans have been able to obtain quality employment and afford to support themselves. Some people, however, fall through the cracks for various reasons, and rising living costs are putting a squeeze on working and lower middle class Singaporeans.
Previously, the government adopted a “tough love” approach to social spending, keeping the purse strings drawn tight. While the government still has no plans to build anything closely resembling a welfare state, the government is loosening up its purse strings and is making its intent to help struggling citizens clear.
Social spending on the rise
Among other things, the government will assist the elderly with health care expenses. While Singapore has one of the world’s lowest cost and most efficient health care systems, some elderly individuals have still been struggling to pay their bills. Fact is, as people age they require more health care assistance. The government’s most recent budget includes wide ranging support for the elderly, especially in regards to health care.
The government will also help people with disabilities. Disabled people have always been among the government’s top priorities in regards to social spending. In short, the government looks to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves. Previously, however, some of thought that the government’s support was simply too meager. Now, the government is looking to expand support for disabled individuals
The government is also looking to increase its support for working class families in general. With living and transportation costs rising rapidly in the city-state, many working class families are struggling to make ends meet even if they are physically fit and working long hours. This is perhaps the most important change in the government’s policies, as in the past the PAP has been hesitant to offer such economic support.
Government looking to build equitable society
Singapore has become one of the world’s most astounding economic success stories. Having risen from a backwater port only 40 years ago to one of the world’s wealthiest cities today, Singapore is in an envious position. This economic growth, however, has come at a cost.
Singapore is also one of the world’s most unequal societies. The rich have gotten fantastically rich, with approximately 15 percent of Singapore’s citizens being millionaires, one of the highest per capita rates in the world. The country’s GINI score also comes in at 47.8. Compare that to Canada’s GINI of 32 and the United Kingdom’s GINI of 46.
Many would argue that Singapore’s laissez faire approach to the economy and minimal social spending has been the key driving factor of Singapore’s success, even if it does come with high inequality. Regardless, Singapore is a democracy and its people want the government to work more towards building a more equitable society. If not, the PAP could soon find itself on the outside looking in.