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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs      January 2011

Singapore's income gap a worry

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Challenges of dealing with a widening income gap in Singapore are here to stay, say political watchers and economic analysts, while MPs say the key to narrowing the gap is upgrading low-wage workers.

They were responding to the Prime Minister's New Year's message which highlighted the issue.

Singapore experienced strong growth in 2010, and economists say one group likely to benefit is the high income earners.

CIMB regional economist Song Seng Wun said: "As a result of the very strong growth, what you normally find is that the top 20 percent of income earners will generally ride on the growth and benefit from it far more than the lower 20 percent.

"Benefiting them are things like wealth from appreciating assets such as properties, whereas in the lower income group, you do not have that kind of appreciation of asset.

"If you're... in the bottom 20 percent (group), your salary is relatively stable (but) you're only getting that much, whether (the) economy is growing 15 percent or four to six percent.

"(But) if you're (in) the top 20 (percent group), you'll likely ride (on) the growth and the kind of opportunity that presents much more than a bottom 20.

"... As a result after an exceptional year, you do find that income gap will widen very significantly. Perhaps with a return to normalcy, we will see a little bit of return in the gap itself".

Some of the issues which Singaporeans are always concerned about include inflation and the cost of living.

These can be a perennial concern for the lower income group.

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