Labour Chief and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say has clarified a Channel News Asia report, which quoted him on June 22, 2014, as saying:
"The best way for Singaporeans to prepare for retirement is to use less of their Central Provident Fund (CPF) money when they are young. Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say said this will ensure the current level of CPF payout can be maintained over time, and not be eroded by inflation."
This article drew brickbats from the online crowd who interpreted it as a minister who is out of touch.
Lim then issued a clarification to reiterate what he meant:
So, these are the three basic points: firstly, the CPF is your money, no one can take away from you. Secondly, your money is 100% safe. Thirdly, the less you make use of your money when you are young, the more money you will have for retirement."
It is clear in this context that 'young' refers to those who are aged 55 and "less use" of the CPF money refers to the CPF cash withdrawal for purposes other than housing, healthcare and education for the children.
And CNA promptly altered the headline of the original article from "Use less CPF money to prepare for retirement" to "Defer CPF cash withdrawals to prepare for retirement".
When it is quite clear that it was not clear that young refers to those aged 55.
So the question is: Why paraphrase Lim Swee Say when he is the gold standard in media soundbites?
Here are 6 quotable quotes by Lim Swee Say and what they really mean:
1) Better, ‘Betterer’ and ‘Betterest’
“If you’re the best today, strive to be better. If you’re better today, strive to be ‘betterer’ and if you’re ‘betterer’ today, strive to be ‘betterest’ so that over time, Singapore’s service standards can just keep getting better, ‘betterer’ and ‘betterest’.” ("Strive to be better than best: Lim Swee Say", XINMSN News, 2010)
Moral of story: Lim urged Singapore's service sector to strive to be better than the best.
He spoke at a sharing session of the results of the Customer-Centric Initiative and said that this mindset will propel the service standards here to greater heights.
2) Cheaper, Better, Faster
Moral of the story:
In 2007, Lim coined the phrase to exhort Singaporean companies to increase their competitiveness.
Companies have to be cheaper and better than their competitors internationally, because those who used to be cheap (China) are now getting better, and those that used to be good (United States) are now getting cheaper as well. Hence, Singaporean companies have to be cheaper and better than them, and yet turnaround faster.
3) Never resist a Din Tai Fung toothpick
Moral of the story: Success never happens by chance.
The success of Chinese restaurant Din Tai Fung applies to the little details, even in terms of toothpick design. Lim said that the Din Tai Fung toothpicks are so good, he "can never resist" and always takes half a box of them during each visit ("Which eatery has the best toothpicks? Din Tai Fung, says labour chief Lim Swee Say", The Straits Times, July 2013).
4) We never give up. We are like the little frog. We are deaf to all these criticisms
"The story goes that in a kingdom of frogs, the tallest tower in the world is built for an annual competition.
And when the event is held, many aim to become the champion by making it to the top, but fail as they are discouraged by the audience, who warn that the climb is too dangerous.
All except one frog who did reach the top. And when asked afterwards why he ignored the crowd, the frog said: 'I'm deaf. I can't hear them [...]
[I]t is not easy to crack these problems faced by our low-wage workers. But as a labour movement and as tripartite partners, we never give up. We are like the little frog, we are deaf to all these criticisms." - Lim in parliament (Parliament Hansard, Feb 2012)
Moral of the story: The Labour movement does not give up on the low-wage workers.
Lim used this tale to respond to Worker's Party chief Low Thia Khiang, who criticised that low- wage workers continue to languish, and that the labour movement ought to do better and work harder.
5) Be a "nation of bottleneck breakers"
In 2010, Lim has laid down a new challenge for the labour movement: Be a 'nation of bottleneck breakers'.
He gave some examples of how bottlenecks - factors or stages in the work processes that impede or limit the productivity of workers and companies - can be identified and broken by workers and employers alike by working together.
To boost a production worker's performance, factories could spot and break bottlenecks in areas such as the quality and packaging of raw materials, and the layout and design of production flow, or quality management, said Lim.
Moral of the story: Identifying and breaking bottlenecks will be key in Singapore's drive to achieve 2 to 3 per cent productivity growths yearly.
6)"Upturn the Downturn"
In 2009, Lim and the Labour Movement has issued a rallying call to Singaporeans to work together to overcome the economic downturn.
Moral of the story: Lim wanted to encourage workers to be more upbeat during the recession and stay positive as the government and Labour Movement will work hard to steer Singapore out of it.