21 April 2014

Silly Jubilee Baby Gift Idea

The National Population and Talent Division in the Prime Minister's Office is leading an initiative to put together a "small yet meaningful" gift supposedly from all Singaporeans for Singaporean babies born next year.

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore's independence.

If each gift costs $100, the total cost will be approximately $3 million. This money is better spent on other more worthwhile causes. But, then again, our Government seems to be quite generous when it comes to spending on headline grabbing events e.g., the inaugural Youth Olympics.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu hopes that the Jubilee gift will increase Singapore's total fertility rate ("TFR"), though she doesn't think that it will be drastically higher. This will not happen because the existing monetary incentives for couples to have babies already exceed tens of thousands of dollars per baby, so what is another $100 or so.

What the Jubilee gift may do is prompt some covetous parents to bring forward having their babies from 2016 to 2015. Unfortunately, this will distort birth patterns and cause over-crowding problems as these 2015 babies grow up.

It will then seem as if Ms Fu, and maybe even the Government, has succeeded in raising 2015's TFR above its long-term trend when in fact part of the increase will have been cannibalised from 2016's TFR. They will pat her, and themselves, on the back, for about a year, until 2016's TFR is finalised. Then they will explain how cannibalisation has affected 2016's TFR, but they will keep the accolades for artificially raising the TFR temporarily (in 2015).

Thankfully, the idea of a Jubilee gift for the 2015 babies came late enough this year that not too many parents who covet the Jubilee gift for their babies could postpone having their babies from this year to the next.

In any case, what will the 2015 babies do or have done to deserve the Jubilee gift, more than babies born before or after they?

All citizens who have made Singapore what it is today and what it will be in 2015 should be the real beneficiaries of any Jubilee gift.

For example, when the organisation I was working in celebrated a significant anniversary milestone, it gave every staff member a specially minted commemorative solid gold medallion. Everyone received one regardless of seniority or job description, not just a sub-set of the staff.

The Jubilee Baby gift is nothing but a silly idea, hatched by people who should be spending their time and our money to genuinely reverse and raise our dismal TFR.

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