Singapore – Candidates from four political parties contesting for the most seats in the General Elections faced off in a debate on Wednesday (July 1) and tackled issues such as rising unemployment, job creation, and social mobility. Meanwhile, members of the public wondered why the opposition parties had only a minute and a half to give their responses while the incumbent party representative had four and a half minutes.
The political debate, moderated by CNA‘s Digital Chief Editor Jaime Ho, consisted of Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Dr Chee Soon Juan, the Workers’ Party’s (WP) Jamus Lim, Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Francis Yuen and the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
The first segment of the debate covered each party’s stance on rising unemployment, job creation and ultimately the improvement of living conditions in Singapore despite the bleak economic outlook locally and internationally.
Mr Yuen was the first to respond, noting the big number of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), around 400,000, while another 100,000 local PMETs are unemployed. “We believe that we need foreign PMETs to complement but we do believe that there is an opportunity for us to slow it down,” he said.
WP’s Dr Lim focused on the creation of “good jobs” which would enable workers to work with dignity, in accordance with a number of party proposals on the improvement of job quality.
SDP’s Dr Chee continued on the issue of foreign PMETs, saying, “We’ve got to stop this foolishness of continuing to bring in foreign workers, especially PMETs when we have more than 100,000 unemployed people in Singapore.” He also mentioned SDP’s proposal on retrenchment benefits which is a key aspect of their 4Y1N campaign. “You are going to encourage an entrepreneurial class and get Singapore to be a truly innovative society,” Dr Chee added.
Dr Balakrishnan, during his portion to respond, noted that the Covid-19 pandemic brought about the “greatest crisis of our lifetime.” He described it to be a deeper depression than that in the 1930s and is more than just a global health pandemic. In relation to the support measures enacted by the Government to provide relief for Singaporeans and save jobs, he noted “it would have been far worse if we didn’t have these emergency measures in place.” Beyond the economic stimuli and relief packages, Dr Balakrishnan reiterated the need to increase productivity, improve skills and create more job opportunities.
Members from the online community wondered why the time allotted for the parties to provide their answers weren’t equally distributed. Some called it “unfair” to give so much air time to the PAP and fragmented slots to the opposition. Facebook user Henry Goh called the political debate “a joke” given the circumstances. “Furthermore, alternative parties speak first and the PAP gets to go after. In any debate, the last speaker has the best position,” added the netizen.
Regarding the time allotment, Facebook user Meghan Low supposed the PAP was given more time to respond to the oppositions’ statements, making it a sort of three-versus-one scenario.
Still, praise went around for the job well done portrayed by the opposition for voicing out the issues and their respective proposals and solutions. Dr Chee was called “incredible” for pointing out valid criticisms against the Government while many were impressed with Dr Lim’s responses.