Some societies are starting to think about implementing a basic income. A basic income is a form of unconditional welfare that gives everyone a basic salary to live regardless of whether he has a job or not.
This idea is attractive to both sides of the political spectrum. The left obviously want some more ways to narrow the rich-poor gap. The political right thinks that it is a form of welfare which does not require a lot of social workers so it keeps the government lean and mean - everyone gets a small wage so long as he is alive and kicking.
Singaporeans are probably not at the stage to consider a full basic income because it would rob Singaporeans of the will to go out and do some solid work for the country. But done at a very small scale, a fixed amount of funds going into every citizen's spending account every month may possibly incentivise someone to take bigger entrepreneurial risks. It also provides home-makers a small allowance. It would certainly benefit the folks in my age bracket who is facing structural unemployment.
Suppose we start at a very reasonable $100 a week or $400 a month for all citizens. There are 3.27M Singapore citizens here, so the price tag will be $15.7B a year. To put a perspective on how much that is, the value is twice that of the Pioneer Generation Package. For the entire FY2014, personal taxes collected is equal to only $8.9b with GST collections being about $10.2b ( From here ). As part of this mental exercise, everyone must be willing to double their income taxes and GST to put $400 into every citizen's pocket every month. Of course, in this exercise I did not cover changes to corporate taxes because the whole point is to get Singaporeans to become more entrepreneurial.
This arithmetic exercise can result in different conclusions. Some readers will interpret this as the Singapore government being able to afford a $400 basic income - just increase personal, GST and corporate taxes. Others will argue that it's not worth levying so much taxes on the middle class so that everyone can get a pittance every month, it is more effective to use the money to improve the transport or education system which has a better impact on citizens.
Of course, you can roll your own basic income. To generate $4,800 of income a year, you would just need $60,000 invested at 8% yields or $70,000 at slightly less than 7%.
But perhaps subtle change will allow all Singaporeans to attain this without levying a cost on tax-payers.
There is still no such thing as a SG-REIT ETF. It's such a simple idea that I'm sure some folks have thought about doing this.
If SGX can approve a simple product which is a fund consisting of equal-weighted REITs listed in the Singapore stock exchange, everyone will have access to a highly diversified real-estate portfolio which currently yields 7.3%. Singaporeans don't have to be very sophisticated to get their basic income of $400, they just need to accumulate $70,000 and have an account with a local broker.
But I can imagine why this would be a nightmare scenario for professional fund managers.