Sunday 26 August 2012

Professor Lim Chong Yah praises steps to tackle wage gap in NWC Guidelines 2012/2013

By Aaron Low, The Straits Times, 25 Aug 2012

THE academic who caused a stir when he suggested the wages of low income earners should be drastically bumped up said the country is taking the right steps to address the income gap.

Professor Lim Chong Yah, who was appointed Emeritus Professor at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) yesterday, said he is pleased his wage "shock therapy" sparked much debate on the issue, making Singaporeans more aware of pay differentials.

In April, Prof Lim, 80, called for a new economic restructuring to reduce the income gap and raise productivity, similar to the high-wage policy started in 1979.

It would have given those earning less than $1,500 a 50 per cent or more wage rise spread out over three years. Those on $15,000 or more would have their wages frozen during the same period.

The Government rejected his proposal, arguing that the better approach was to raise wages by lifting productivity.

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, Prof Lim said he has no regrets about raising the idea: "Would I make the same speech? I would. The only thing maybe I would change is to say cap the wages of those earning $50,000 a month, instead of $15,000 to make the proposal less shocking."

Prof Lim added that he was pleased the National Wages Council, on its own, implemented a wage hike for low wage workers.

The NWC said in May that those earning a basic monthly salary of up to $1,000 should get a built-in rise of at least $50, which works out to be an increase of at least 5 per cent.

"Basically, the NWC moved in the same direction as I was hoping for it to move," he said. "I think the country is moving very well in that direction, and we are not ignoring disturbing income inequality." He added that the Government was doing a "marvellous" job of helping the low income but added that his proposal could be a supplement to the aid.

It is this passion for Singapore and its economic welfare that has decorated Prof Lim's distinguished 54-year career as a leading economist. He was conferred the Emeritus Professor title by NTU last night, in a dinner attended by the biggest names in academia and government, including Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

This makes him the only local academic to hold two Emeritus Professor titles; he was given the first Emeritus Professor title by the National University of Singapore when he left NUS in 1992.

NTU president Bertil Andersson praised Prof Lim for his immense contributions to local academia as well as to economic policy, noting that he had chaired the NWC for 29 years and steered Singapore through the 1970 restructuring period.

Professor Andersson said: "The (Emeritus Professorship) honour is most deserving, as I note, with deep appreciation, his invaluable and multi-faceted contributions to scholarship, education, society and international cooperation as an educator, economist, author, researcher, consultant and philanthropist."

Economic Restructuring Round 2: Professor Lim Chong Yah's wage shock therapy
NWC Guidelines 2012/2013: Give built-in pay rises, low-wage workers to get higher increase
Lim Chong Yah: Renewed call for 'shock therapy' to raise wages

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