I have no control over the title tt TRE Editor chose for this comment below. It was something that I wrote some years back and then updated in response to an article in TRE.
My point is not so much as to say what I understand but more to suggest a major contributing cause to our low TFR and how any incentive to alleviate, if not turn around, the low TFR has to parallel the time period it costs to raise a child. And the most obvious one is the 20-25 years against the 25-30 year housing mortgage that we are all straddled with.
Nope, I didn’t write it so that I can benefit if there is such a change in HDB housinsg price policy. My children are already 19 – 23. And the reason why I never took a bite of the HDB cherry to enjoy capital appreciation is that I always think that I have been more than blessed and someone else needs that bite more than I do.
Obviously, there are not many out there like my wife and I who consciously chose to have more than 2 children. We were young – and reckless, maybe. There was never a question of doing our sums – then. But now, with the benefit of experience, observation and insight, I can understand why we’ve the worst ‘baby problem’ worldwide. It’s no surprise since we’ve to be Uno Numero in all that we (are socially-engineered, governed to) achieve.
A common observation is that in one’s greatest success lies one’s biggest failure. For us S’poreans and the PAP Govt – our (their) raison d’etre is our GDP figures. Lee Kuan Yew said so just as much, tying the population, immigrant issues neatly with our dismal newborn and potential GDP figures. GDP-wise, we succeed; TFR-wise, we fail – most miserably. Ironic? Why?
I daresay ALL the current incentives give only temporary relief at mostly the early stages of a newborn life. But raising a child is at a 2-decade long or more commitment. After the initial, temporary govt incentives, then what? – especially when kids grow to ask for more than watching TV or jogging.
Such incentives help, yes, but it may also help to make skeptics of our next generation who observe how their parents have been ‘hoodwinked’ (temporarily-incentivized) into giving birth to them only to perpetually struggle to ‘get a good job’ to pay the mortgage, raise the kids.
I submit that THE relevant & true monetary ‘incentive’ that tracks the 2-decade-or-so child-rearing cost lies in a couple’s housing mortgage of 2.5-3 decades. Make that affordable to allow for more financial leeway in favour of raising kids.
Are policy-makers honest and courageous enough to admit that the single biggest mismanaged economic factor that has brought us our dismal population figures today are sky-high home prices that impact on EVERY other cost? Including the child-rearing job of 20 or more years.
Will our leaders take another look at the ‘blind side’ of their asset-enhancement policy of the last 20 years? Asset enhancement, by the way, at the ground level, just means higher mortgage for me but bigger GDP-linked bonuses for ministers & civil servants. To my mind, taken to its logical progression end it is no more than a pyramid scheme in the final analysis in SGP’s context. But who amongst the current leaders give a shit since, by the time that comes to pass, they’d all be long gone – is that what hard-nosed, long-term planning amounts to?
If GDP growth makes for great living, I ask again, is it not ironic – nay, damning – on the PAP that we’re not reproducing to let for our very own to enjoy such great living? ‘Oh, but it’s a worldwide trend!’ cried LKY. Lame excuse. If you don’t want to admit yr failure, then get the heck out of the way and let others tackle what is THE existential issue for SGP.
Change we must!
* Comment appeared in: Lesson from Singapore on supporting families