In Oxfam's view, Singapore's biggest failing is our tax rates, which are not punitive enough. The top income tax rate is only 22 per cent, the report says.
Yes, the income tax burden on Singaporeans is low. And almost half the population do not pay any income tax. Yet they benefit more than proportionately from the high quality of infrastructure and social support that the state provides.
The Report assumes that high taxation and high public expenditure reflects commitment to combatting inequality. We think it is more important to look at the outcomes achieved, instead. The Report itself recognises this limitation.
90 per cent of Singaporeans own their homes. Even among the poorest 10 per cent of households, 84 per cent own their homes. No other country comes close.
We spend only 4.6 per cent of our GDP on healthcare, Oxfam notes. But look at the outcomes. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks us 2nd in the world for healthcare outcomes and the World Health Organisation ranks our healthcare system 6th. Life expectancy at birth is much longer than Britain or the United States, and infant mortality among the lowest in the world.
In education, our students consistently outperform others in international rankings. In the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), our 15-year-olds rank first for mathematics, science and reading, and our students from the poorest families perform significantly better than their counterparts in OECD countries.
We do not have a minimum wage, but we have income support for low income workers, generous schemes for worker upskilling and a progressive wage model for certain low wage jobs. Both lower income and median households have experienced faster income growth over the last decade than most countries at similar income levels.
That we achieved all of this with lower taxes and lower spending than most countries is to Singapore's credit rather than discredit. We set out to achieve real outcomes for our people - good health, education, jobs and housing -- rather than satisfy a collection of ideologically driven indicators.
MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT