Monday 5 May 2008

Free money no enough

Like most Singaporeans, I can't resist free stuff. But unlike most Singaporeans, I don't believe in queuing for free stuff.

Because queuing takes time and time is money. So, if I have to spend my hard-earned time in a long queue to get the free stuff, how free is it?

Which is partly why I gave Free Cone Day a miss last week.

For the shameful few of you who don't keep abreast of dairy-related news, Free Cone Day is a 30-year-old annual publicity stunt where Ben & Jerry's gives free scoops of ice cream to those queuing for it.

To put it in ungrammatical economic terms, 'there ain't no such thing as a free lunch'.

But is there? A day after Free Cone Day, without having to do anything, I received $200 in my bank account.

According to a letter from the CPF Board, I will be credited another $200 in Growth Dividends on 1 Oct, plus another $200 on 1 Jul as part of the GST Offset Package.

So I'm getting $600 in all this year.

Well, happy birthday and early merry Christmas to me! And I guess to all Singaporeans. Free money beats free ice cream any time. And no queuing!

But wait, what was that earlier quote again - with the double negative about free meals?

Is the money really free? I know I was given an additional $100 because I was a national serviceman.

That's two and a half years of my youth right there. Not to mention the countless days in reservist training. This includes rehearsing for and marching in the 2001 National Day Parade while trying and eventually failing to keep my regular job.

So that $100 isn't exactly free. The Government taketh away, the Government giveth back.

And $200 is supposed to help me cope with the 2 per cent GST increase in July last year. Now, a mere 10 months later, we seem to need more than a GST Offset Package.

We need an Over-US$100-A-Barrel-Of-Oil Offset Package.

We need a Rice Price Rise Offset Package.

We need a Hawker Charging Me 50 Cents More For Food Offset Package.

We need a Not Sure Got Recession Or Not Offset Package.

We need a Great Singapore Sale Coming Soon Offset Package.

And just like that, my $400 Growth Dividends has become my Insane Inflation Offset Package.

It's enough to make a man regret not queuing for free ice cream.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 May 2008