INT.OFFICE - MEETING ROOM INTEGRITY - MORNING
Mr Teo walked into the room where Ah Tan, Ah Lim and Ali were already seated at the table. Sternly, he gave out stapled sheets of papers to the men. While Mr Teo made himself comfortable at the chairman seat, the three men quickly flipped through and attempted to speed read. However it appeared to be difficult as there were six sheets in each stapled set, printed on both sides.
MR TEO: Gentlemen, what you're holding now are the 180 questions that were submitted for Big Boss's ministerial forum at the university. The forum has been scheduled to be two weeks later and these questions were pre-submitted by the students. The purpose of this meeting is for you to assist me in filtering these questions.
AH TAN: Sir, let me split the work. Lim, why don't you take pages one and two, Ali, you take care of three and four, and I'll finish up five and six.
Ah Lim and Ali nodded and proceeded to read through the questions. Mr Teo stood up and walked towards the whiteboard. He began to write down a list of pointers as he spoke.
MR TEO: Okay gentlemen, as usual, these are the things to take note of. Most importantly, no political questions. Take out all questions that refer to or even remotely implying the opposition parties.
AH LIM: Sir, I've got one here that asked "Is the formation of GRCs really effective in managing the estates, or is it just a critical strategy to ensure the result of election? Will there be any regrouping of the GRCs again before the next election then?".
MR TEO (berated): That is audacious! How can a mere university student ask such question? Take it out immediately! How we group the GRCs is none of these students' or any citizens' business! It is a political strategy that they will never understand!
Ah Lim nodded and struck off the question with his pen. Ah Tan and Ali flipped through the papers and struck off some questions as well.
MR TEO: Take out those questions that present doubts on our policies. For example, all those questions on whether the Job Credits scheme really works? Take those out.
AH TAN: Sir, this one is kind of tricky. "The income gap in Singapore appears to be widening. Is the government going to do anything about narrowing it?"
Mr Teo rubbed his chin and looked up to the ceiling. A few seconds later, he walked back to the table.
MR TEO: Tan, do a research on the income gap of other developed countries. Countries like Japan, US, etc. If you can't find any other country with a income gap widening problem, take this question off. If you can, jot down the numbers for Big Boss.
AH TAN (taking down notes on the paper): Okay, will do.
MR TEO: Hmm... write this down as well. That if we set a minimum wage for the market, jobs will be cut. Employers who are forced to deal with higher staff costs would simply find ways to hire less people. This is one argument that Big Boss can use. In fact, we should even consider lowering the wages of those low income workers so that we can have a cheaper, better, faster workforce!
Ah Tan tried to scribble as fast as possible while Mr Teo continued.
MR TEO: Oh yes! And make sure you strike off all questions about Temasek's investments.
All three men hastily flipped through and struck off some questions. Mr Teo walked back to the white board to continue writing.
MR TEO: Take out those questions about why are we letting so many new immigrants into the country and why are we giving out PRs freely, blah blah blah. Boss has already told them that we'll scale down the number of new immigrants coming in, so I don't think Big Boss has to entertain any more of such questions.
ALI: Sir, I've got this question here. "With the influx of new immigrants, how does HDB plan to ensure the availability and affordability of HDB flats to Singaporeans?".
Mr Teo made a deep sigh at the question and shook his head.
MR TEO: I thought we have been through these trivial HDB issues already? I thought Mah has already chided these people not to be ridiculous about not able to get a new flat? I heard that he has even magically made it possible for HDB to suddenly release more than 7,000 flats on sale as soon as the next three months!
AH TAN: But Sir, I did an analysis on this public housing problem awhile back, and this is what I found. A new four-room flat in 2000 cost about $150,000. Today, a new four-roomer averages $265,000, based on HDB figures. The price increase is roughly 77 per cent. In comparison, the Department of Statistics put the median income for a resident household at $3,640 in 2000. Last year, this was $4,950, roughly a 36 per cent increase. So perhaps our flats are indeed getting less affordable for the people?
MR TEO: Well, that's true... but don't forget that these people are also receiving housing grants and other subsidies! Anyway, why should these students be even asking about HDB flats? It's not like they're planning to get married in the near future! Strike off those HDB questions!
The three men flipped through their papers and struck off some more questions.
MR TEO: So how many questions are we left with now?
AH TAN: I've got eight.
AH LIM: Twelve on my side.
ALI: I've ten questions here.
MR TEO: Great! Tan, compile these questions into a single sheet and hand it to me later!
Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum,Income gap,HDB Affordability