Singapore — In a video series by The Straits Times posted on Tuesday (July 7), questions were posed to leaders from four political parties on topics such as how they would address key issues and why voters should support them.
In the five Question series, political parties, People’s Action Party (PAP), Workers’ Party (WP), Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) were given a set of five questions to answer, and they had up to three minutes to answer each question.
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Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong said that even though Singapore is in a stable position, the Covid-19 pandemic issue will continue. Similarly, jobs are also PAP’s priority but “the worst is yet to come” and that even though unemployment has been kept “quite low” and businesses have “some losses but not so bad”, the priority remains to “protect their jobs” so that the economy can recover.
WP’s Pritam Singh also mentioned that jobs are very important but the question also arises as to whether the skills from these jobs will “be transferable.” He also talks about caring for the elderly, as written in the WP manifesto, where they suggested having Medisave usage that is more flexible. The question of how strong a mandate the government needs was also brought up. He suggested that what citizens need is to have a strong check in the government while allowing the government to function but also letting the voices of the people be heard.
PSP’s Tan Cheng Bock placed emphasis on the Covid-19 pandemic as a priority and how the government can manage the crisis. Even though jobs are important, he noted that he is not sure “if jobs jobs jobs are enough.” He maintains that livelihoods are also an important aspect of managing lives.
SDP Chee Soon Juan stressed on retrenchment and called for the introduction of a retrenchment benefits scheme. He also noted how the influx of foreign workers suppresses locals’ wages and that this needs to be addressed.
How will your party secure jobs and livelihoods for Singaporeans amid the Covid-19 crisis?
PM Lee talks about three aspects of securing jobs: to preserve existing jobs, jobs of people who are affected, and to create new jobs. He also mentioned that the key is to have new investments to create new jobs and that there needs to be confidence in Singapore and its politics, ministers and workforce.
Mr Pritam mentioned helping SMEs with rents and to incentivise businesses to hire Singaporeans with tax relief and tax rebates. He also suggested tightening the employment pass criteria so Singaporeans can take on more jobs.
Dr Tan, on the other hand, said that investing is more a top-down approach, but he would like a more “ground approach.” He would like to relook some of the rules and regulations and figure out if what is being done is useful for people currently.
Dr Chee continues to call for a retrenchment plan to encourage entrepreneurship.
What do you see as the main political and social changes arising from the crisis, and how will your party address them?
PM Lee said that PAP has given attention to more vulnerable groups through care and support packages for households and have tried to enforce equal opportunities such as affordable housing. In order to pay for these, the “GST has to go up in some term.” But he gave his assurance that the low and middle income will be looked after.
Mr Pritam pointed out that there are blind spots in the government and that in a “new brand of politics,” information is key. He also noted how PAP can still form the government, but more opposition will allow the conversation to be “framed” with “people at the centre of the agenda”.
Dr Tan noted that Singaporeans are “awakening now” to think about issues. He said that “at the end of the day, I think of the people first.”
Mr Chee said that the government “must not put itself before the people” and stated that “the PAP always sees itself above the law and above the people.” He also noted on addressing social issues such as having many millionaires and billionaires but yet still having elderly people working for wages that are of “poverty level”.
Singapore is a small, open, multiracial nation. How can it best secure its place in the world amid the changes taking place around us?
PM Lee notes that Singapore strives to be “friends to everyone” but also feels that with the US-China trade war, Singapore has to “stand firm” even if it causes impact with some countries.
Mr Pritam talked about having to “strengthen safety nets for people who fall between the cracks” in Singapore and to be friendly to open trade.
Dr Tan warned that even though Singapore should be kept open, the government also has to be careful to “think of Singaporeans first”. However, he still welcomes foreigners to impart expertise to locals to create a “better understanding of each other.”
Dr Chee noted that the economy should be driven by SMEs and that Singapore should become a “more caring country”.
Why should voters give your party their vote?
PM Lee said that Singaporeans can trust the PAP, which has “never let you down” and will offer Singaporeans security for the future. “In the last term, you gave us a strong mandate. And we delivered on that,” he said. He added that the economic downturn will not diminish soon. “And unless we have good leadership from the PAP, I think we will be in a much weaker position.”
Mr Pritam said the WP represents a constructive opposition in parliament. “We don’t see the PAP as the enemy,” he said, adding that the WP wants a Singapore with good outcomes for the country and for Singaporeans.
Dr Tan said that PSP will stand strongly by the fundamental principles of accountability, transparency, and ensuring the independence of appointments of leaders of the country, especially in the civil service. “Those people who come even to join me, they are very, very determined now to see that… the process of government must be correct.”
Dr Chee reiterated SDP’s Four Yes, One No campaign slogan and that the PAP should not “capitalise and manipulate the system in their interest”. -/TISG