Vikram Nair’s response to TOC article
The Online Citizen published an article which I wrote today.
Mr Vikram Nair has responded to the article on his FaceBook Page. His full response is as follows.
1. I refer to the article by Mr Ng Ee-Jay published on The Online Citizen titled “Vikram Nair compares Chen Show Mao’s proposals to a Nigerian scam” dated 2 March 2012.
2. The key thrust of this article is that I considered investing in the elderly, the disabled, the poor and other needy Singaporeans as being akin to a Nigerian scam. The insinuation is that I do not care about these groups is totally false.
3. At the top of the article is a photo of me and attributes to me the following quote: ”Investing in People = Nigerian Scam”. I never said this anywhere in my speech and this attribution is false and misleading.
4. In fact, I opened my speech with the following:-
“Let me start with what I most welcome about this Budget. I think what is truly heart-warming about this Budget is the emphasis on helping the needy and the vulnerable. For many of us who have been helping on the ground, I think we have seen the real issues that the vulnerable groups suffer. The added measures in this Budget will help those groups in a great many ways. I filed more than 10 cuts for the COS which I will go into the details of how these things may work out in different Ministries and I would not repeat that here.”
5. My cuts in the ongoing COS debate deal with the specific issues faced by various groups that I feel may need further protection or assistance, including crime victims, SMEs, the bankrupt, the unemployed, outsourced low wage workers, the elderly, those with disabilities and the social safety net generally. I am raising these issues because I think it is one of the MPs most important duties to speak up for and help the vulnerable groups. The insinuation in the article that I do not care about these groups is therefore without basis.
6. While I did not appreciate the insinuations in Mr Chen’s speech that the government did not care for the vulnerable groups, I was curious about whether or not Mr Chen himself had any concrete ideas on how to help these groups more. Mr Chen said repeatedly, in his usual charismatic style, “Let’s do more”. I was probing to try to understand exactly what was the “more” that he intended to do and how he intended to do it. Anyone can shout “Let’s do more”, but the real issue is what “more” do you want to do and how.
7. I did make a joke about a Nigerian scam, and said:
“The first point he made was about investing in social capital. He was saying that we need to invest in social capital – in the elderly, the disabled and the poor, and I agree. In fact, from what I have seen, that is one of the most fulfilling things that we can do as an MP. We look for the vulnerable groups, we help them out in the meantime and we try and empower them in the long term. But we are not as smart as him because our investments certainly incur costs; they are certainly not self-funding. So what I was really impressed by was when Mr Chen shouted loudly, “let’s do more”, he also said that since these are investments, we do not have to make provisions for them in the Budget, we do not have to raise any revenues at all.
I was astounded by that. I mean, I thought maybe we have to put an outlay first. Maybe even the Nigerian scheme required you to put $10,000 upfront. But Mr Chen‘s scheme does not even require a short-term provision. It is not even a deficit for one year. No, no, no. It will pay for itself because it is an investment. So I would like him to explain how he expects these schemes to pay for themselves because, if they do, I will wholeheartedly support it.”
8. Nowhere did I say the idea of investing in vulnerable groups is like investing in a Nigerian scam. I pointed out that the investment concept Mr Chen proposed did not appear to be properly thought through because he did not explain how it was going to be paid for.
9. I fully support the helping of vulnerable groups. In fact, I specifically said I agreed that we should invest in social capital. And that is what is being done now. But we should be clear as to how we are going to pay for it and not pretend that the money will materialise from nowhere. Indeed, I was hoping Mr Chen would give some concrete suggestions or elaborations in response, but no real answer was given.
10. Indeed, if much more is to be done, (as another Worker’s Party MP suggested, to raise healthcare expenditure from 1.6% to 6% of GDP), then we must be honest with our people – the money has to come from more taxes or deficit spending. First World safety nets come with First World debts, First World taxes and passing the burden of our excesses to future generations.
11. I think all MPs in the house agree with the principle that vulnerable groups should be protected. It is extremely deceptive of TOC to attribute lies to me.