Friday, 28 December 2012

Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review

Families better off despite rise in prices, says report
Income snapshot shows wages rose and income gap narrowed last year
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 27 Dec 2012

FAMILIES in Singapore were better off last year despite the rise in inflation, according to official figures.

Even the lower-income enjoyed greater spending power as wages rose amid a tight labour market.

At the same time, the income gap narrowed, due to government transfers to the needy and taxes on higher-income earners.

This income snapshot is part of a review of the nation's health, education, manpower, housing and other policy areas in the past two years.

Released yesterday, the Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review (SPOR) painted a generally positive picture of the desired outcomes it evaluated. One outcome is that income is growing and social security is strengthening.

After taking inflation into account, the real median monthly income per household member rose from $1,799 in 2010 to $1,848 last year. This means half of them earned more than $1,848. These sums are in 2009 dollars.

Earlier government figures, however, showed that the median monthly income per household member was $1,994 last year because inflation had not been taken into account.

This means real income rose by 2.7 per cent, as was reported earlier this year. The rise is seen in both middle- and lower-income households.

The real monthly income per household member at the 20th percentile - marking the bottom fifth - grew by 2.8 per cent a year from 2006 to last year.

Two factors pushed household incomes up, said the report.
One is individual wages have risen. The other is there are more working people per household.

Analysts like Barclays economist Joey Chew attributed the income rise to a labour market hungry for workers, forcing employers to pay more to entice them.

This demand, in turn, is attracting more people to enter the workforce, she added.

On income inequality, an issue that has caused unhappiness in some quarters, the Gini coefficient showed little change last year. It was 0.473 compared to 0.472 in 2010.

This measure of income inequality ranges from 0 to 1: the higher it is, the more unequal.

But when government transfers and taxes were factored in, the Gini coefficient dropped to 0.452 last year, from 0.455 in 2010.

Singapore Management University assistant law professor Eugene Tan said the "rather celebratory" report could have made more explicit comparisons with the 2010 report. "It could also look closer at the not-so-good outcomes, so that it doesn't come across as a feel-good report."

The report also sketched how Singapore fared in other areas.

Economic growth is subdued but foreign direct investment is growing. Singaporeans are becoming more educated and living longer and healthier lives. More are enjoying sports and the arts. But as public transport journeys rise, putting a strain on infrastructure, customer satisfaction has fallen.

The full report is on the Finance Ministry's website, www.mof.gov.sg



S'pore's economic fundamentals remain strong with near full employment: MOF
Channel NewsAsia, 26 Dec 2012

Singapore's economic growth slowed significantly this year, as subdued external demand affected most sectors of the economy.

However, findings from the Ministry of Finance's second issue of the Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review (SPOR) showed that Singapore's economic fundamentals remain strong, as the labour market is near full employment and job creation remains healthy.

Singapore continues to attract investments due to its stable business environment, a highly educated and skilled workforce, and good connections to the region and the world.

The Singapore economy is expected to grow by about 1.5 per cent this year, while global economic growth is expected to remain sluggish in the near term, as governments and households in developed economies continue to rein in spending.

Consumer price inflation remained elevated this year, driven by higher car prices and imputed rental costs on owner-occupied homes.

Published once every two years, SPOR provides a perspective on how the public sector and Singapore have fared in six broad range of areas of national interest including growing incomes and fostering strong families and a cohesive society.

The review said immediate challenges remain but are being addressed. These include relieving pressure in public housing and transport infrastructure.

The report also pointed out that Singapore's fertility rate had declined steeply over the past decade. The rate currently stands at 1.2, well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

The government notes that despite strenuous efforts to encourage family formation, the trend of marrying later and having fewer children is unlikely to reverse soon.

With immigration, Singapore's population continues to expand, although more slowly now with the tightening of the immigration framework since 2009.

Turning to the public sector, the report notes that the public image of the civil service had been dented recently by some high profile cases of corruption, even though public sector cases formed only a small part of corruption-related cases brought before the courts.

Six out of 135 offenders charged in court in 2011 were public sector employees.

It said the government's swift and resolute response to these incidents demonstrates its resolve to uphold the highest standards of integrity in the public sector.

Public policy will also have to take into account a greater diversity of needs and interests as society evolves.

The current Our Singapore Conversation is an effort to involve many Singaporeans in gathering aspirations and hopes for Singapore's future, and ideas on how we can achieve them together.

The report added that improving service delivery and strengthening public engagement are key priorities for the public sector. The volume of public feedback received by the government has also grown significantly over the years.

Feedback unit REACH has seen a three-fold increase in the feedback it has received over the past five years. In the first 11 months of this year, this figure has already reached 64,000.

The report said this reflected the public's desire for greater engagement with government on matters of public policy.

In fact, in survey conducted last year by the former Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, 75 per cent of respondents felt that the government should always consult the public and consider their views when crafting policies.



Fall in public transport satisfaction among concerns in review
By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia, 26 Dec 2012

The Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review (SPOR) 2012 released on Wednesday gave an update on progress across the "whole-of-government" approach in recent years.

Published once every two years, SPOR provides a perspective on how Singapore and its public sector have fared in a broad range of areas of national interest.

Political watchers Channel NewsAsia spoke to say engaging Singaporeans in service delivery and policy formulation remains a key challenge.

SPOR covers six themes -- among them is providing a world class infrastructure and strengthening social security.

While Singapore has done well in areas like improving healthcare and broadening educational pathways, there are still challenges and concerns facing Singaporeans.

One is the fall in public transport satisfaction over the last two years.

"People expect these services to be more thoughtful and to have a shorter turnaround time and be more responsive," said Liang Eng Hwa, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Finance and Trade & Industry and MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

"Take for example (the) MRT; we have been building kilometres of MRT lines. That is good, but people expect to have a better last mile service. For example… connectivity within the station and linkages (which allow) residents (to) more conveniently access the station," he added.

SPOR also touched on the issue of fostering stronger families.

The review said Singapore's fertility rate has declined steeply in the past decade. According to the review Singapore's fertility rate is currently at 1.2, which is far below the replacement rate of 2.1.

These and many other issues will be addressed in the White Paper on Population next month.

"The White Paper also needs to address the average Singaporean's concern as to whether immigration will actually undermine the ethos of Singapore society," said Assistant Professor Eugene Tan of Singapore Management University, who is also a nominated MP.

"Ultimately it is trying to get a consensus from Singaporeans as well as people living in Singapore about how we are going to deal with an issue which certainly generates a lot of angst," he added.

The review said improving service delivery and strengthening public engagement are key priorities for the public sector.

Public feedback has grown significantly over the years, reflecting Singaporeans' desire for greater engagement with the government on matters of public policy.



HDB quality not compromised despite increase in supply
by Woo Sian Boon, TODAY, 27 Dec 2012

The quality of HDB flats being built has not been compromised despite the ramping up of supply, according to the public sector outcomes review which was released yesterday.

First issued in 2010, the review - which was coordinated by the Ministry of Finance with inputs from all Ministries - is slated to be published once every two years.

In the latest review, the building quality score for HDB flats - using the Construction Quality Assessment System - improved from 79.9 in 2007 to 86.1 last year, out of a maximum score of 100. The assessment, conducted by the Building and Construction Authority, measures the quality of constructed works against workmanship standards and specification.

For example, tiles are checked for its finishing, alignment and evenness, signs of damages, hollowness or delamination and the joints. The tiles should also have a consistent colour tone and no stain marks. In bathrooms and toilets, water ponding test is also carried out over a minimum period of 24 hours to see if there are any signs of leakage.

This year, the HDB has launched 27,000 Build-to-Order (BTO) flats - a record in terms of public housing supply. The HDB launched 25,000 BTO flats last year, and plans to offer at least 20,000 units next year.

The review noted that public housing remains affordable for Singaporeans. The Debt Servicing Ratio for first-timers buying new flats in non-mature estates inched up to 24 per cent last year, from 22 per cent in 2010, but it is "well within the international benchmark of 30 per cent to 35 per cent for affordable expenditure on housing".

The ratio measures the proportion of the monthly household income set aside for housing instalments and is calculated based on a 30-year HDB concessionary loan, factoring in the various grants.

The figure is lower for smaller flat types, with 2-room and 3-room new flats at a ratio of 17 per cent and 23 per cent respectively as lower-income buyers receive more grants. These include the Special CPF Housing Grant and Additional CPF Housing Grant, which can help to offset up to S$60,000 for a low-income household.

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