TL;DR – Not cool Lim Tean, not cool.
So, the Minister of Education has invoked the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POFMA) against People’s Voice Party (PVP) leader Lim Tean for his Facebook posts dated 12 December 2019.
In both his Facebook posts, Lim had accused the Government, or more specifically, the ruling party People’s Action Party (PAP), of spending $167 million on grants & bursaries for Singaporean students and $238 million on foreign students, implying that the Ministry of Education (MOE) spends less on Singaporean students than on foreign students.
If you can recall, Lim had also alleged MOE of recruiting only students from India through scholarships earlier this month, which turned out to be untrue.
Lim’s posts contain false and misleading statements
In response to Lim’s allegations, MOE has come forward to clarify that his posts contain false and misleading statements.
MOE explained that almost all of $13 billion of its annual budget is spent on Singaporean students to provide subsidised education for all Singaporean students at all levels.
The $167 million cited by Lim refers only to bursaries for Singaporean tertiary students, which grossly understates MOE’s total spending on Singaporean citizens for education.
And therefore, the figures of $167 million and $238 million are not comparable.
The $238 million attributed to foreign students, which Lim had cited, is less than 2% of the total education budget.
The ministry also explained that much of MOE’s budget goes towards costs such as infrastructure, facilities, laboratories, faculty and teaching force. These include fixed and non-variable costs to provide education for Singaporean students.
MOE added that a large part of the $238 million attributed to spending on foreign students includes these fixed and non-variable costs that the ministry would have to incur anyway – regardless of whether a small proportion of foreign students (currently 5%) are being admitted in the system.
You can also refer to MOE’s Facebook post on the matter here,
Correction Direction issued by the POFMA Office
MOE has since instructed the POFMA Office to issue a Correction Direction to Lim on the false statements made in his Facebook posts.
The Correction Direction requires Lim to carry, in full, the correction notice at the top of his Facebook posts.
This is the fourth time correction directions have been issued since POFMA came into force in October.
Previously, three directions were issued to Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Brad Bowyer and the States Times Review.