I searched Google for an explanation of "chasing your tail". The explanation from Cambridge dictionaries say "to be busy doing a lot of things but achieving very little".
Something flashed at the top of the page. It is an advertisement from the Ministry of Health. It said, "Have you confirmed your household information?".
How coincidental. This is a really good illustration of "chasing your tail".
The government wanted to enhance the benefit of Medishield Life. But it requires a higher premium to be paid. But they wanted to "calibrate" the subsidy according to several factors, including average household income and type of housing. It is the latter two categories that is a good example of "chasing your tail".
It takes a lot of work and trouble to find out about household income per member. Getting a person's income is already troublesome, as some people do not pay income tax. Getting the household income is more challenging.
It is also difficult to identify the type of housing occupied by each person. You require each person to give his or her residential address and to link to them to the household. Some people living in the same address are tenants or servants and do not belong to the household.
The government has to take the trouble to ask everybody to declare which people belong to their household. Besides creating a lot of work and problem for the civil servants, it also gives a lot of trouble for the public to make this declaration.
What is the purpose of this humongous exercise? So that the government can calibrate the subsidy and reduce it to people whom they deem to justify a lower level of subsidy?
Are we talking of a lot of money? No! The amount of subsidy is just a hundred or two per person. Even if this is given to all citizens, regardless of income level or type of housing, the total amount of subsidy is still quite modest. It can easily be recovered by increasing the income tax rate by a negligible percentage.
This is not the end of the story. The members of the household change their income each year, and the composition of the household also change each year. So, the data that is collected so painfully and expensively is good only for a one time purpose and cannot be re-used in a future year. How wasteful!