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IN-DEPTH: WP tackles cost of living, jobs and government accountability in GE2020 manifesto

Among the key policies that the WP is suggesting is a minimum wage of at least S$1,300 for full-time work and abolishing the retirement age

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Singapore — The Workers’ Party (WP) released its manifesto on Sunday (June 28) with the campaign slogan of “Make Your Vote Count” for the upcoming 2020 General Elections. The 39-page manifesto names key proposals tackling inequality, supporting the local workforce and cost of living in Singapore.

Here is the list the key policies that the WP is proposing:

Implementing a National minimum wage 

The party proposes that all working Singaporeans should receive a minimum take-home wage of at least S$1,300 for full-time work or pro-rated for part-time work.

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This is to help the more than 100,000 Singaporean full-time workers earning a take-home pay of less than S$1,300 per month, which WP stated is below the wage of S$1,300 per month that an average four-person household in Singapore would need to spend monthly on basic necessities.

Abolishment of retirement age

This is to allow Singaporeans to work for as long as they are able and willing to. Similarly, the party also wants to legislate anti-discrimination measures to prevent unfair dismissal of employees due to age-discrimination.

“This change would enable employers to assess employees based on their abilities and contributions, and ensure that they adopt non-discriminatory employment practices,” WP wrote.

Lowering the Cost of Living: Scrapping the GST Hike 

The WP opposes the Government’s plan to increase the GST from the current seven per cent to nine per cent by 2025.

WP states that the tax hike will be “yet another burden on hardworking families who are already struggling with the high cost of living in Singapore”.

The WP says that there are alternative sources of revenue that need to be more thoroughly considered before increasing the GST and calls on the Government to release its revenue and expenditure projections for the rest of the decade so that the public can make a more informed decision on raising GST.

Lower CPF Payout age to 60 and introduce a Special Dividend from GIC Investments 

The WP says that the CPF payout eligibility age and CPF Life eligibility age, which is currently 65, should be lowered to 60. This is so that the seniors will have adequate funds for retirement.

As Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC invests CPF funds, it should also notify CPF members of the 10-year moving average difference between the GIC’s investment returns and the net interest payable on CPF member balances.

Where positive, a third of this difference should be returned as a special dividend and paid into CPF members’ Special Accounts to boost their retirement savings, the WP says.

Widen the use of Medisave for those over 60 

The WP proposes to allow patients who are older than 60 to use their Medisave for all medical expenses not already covered by Medishelf Life, Medifund or other assistance schemes.

This will apply only at government polyclinics, public specialist outpatient clinics and CHAS clinics.

Introduce a Redundancy Insurance Scheme 

The WP proposes a redundancy insurance scheme for workers, under which they will pay S$4 a month, matched by employers, into an Employment Security Fund. Retrenched workers will then receive a payout equivalent to 40 per cent of their last drawn salary for up to six months.

The payout will be capped at S$1,200 a month, with a minimum payout of S$500 a month for low-wage workers. The second and any subsequent payouts will be conditional on the worker actively seeking a new job or undergoing retraining.

This is, as they mentioned, due to technological disruption and global events that will lead to higher rates of workers becoming redundant, heightening insecurity.

Lower the cost of intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) 

Patients with a monthly household per capita income of below S$3,200 should receive subsidies of 65 to 80 per cent for approved ILTC services such as community hospitals, nursing homes, daycare services and home-based care.

It adds that staying in a nursing home, for example, can cost between S$2,000 and S$3,600 a month. Households with a monthly income of S$800 and below can get an 80 per cent subsidy, but those with a monthly income above S$3,300 would receive no subsidies.

WP also states that further subsidising ILTC care will help relieve the out-of-pocket financial burden of social care for many families.

Education Reform: Increase university admissions and reduce class sizes 

WP calls for universities to implement more targeted programmes and mentorships to widen access for students from all backgrounds, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds and students with no family history of attending university.

These programmes will begin in secondary school and include financial support to ensure that participants are not only admitted to universities but stay and complete their degrees.

It also adds that the government should increase the number of slots for university admissions and aim for at least 50 per cent of each cohort to obtain a degree. The target has already risen from 27 per cent in 2012 to 40 per cent this year.

Similarly, WP also suggests that class sizes should be reduced to an average of 20. Currently, the average class size in primary and secondary schools is 29 and 34 respectively. Under this scheme, WP suggested that academically weaker students will be the first to benefit.

Making public transport free for seniors and people with disabilities 

WP calls for all trains and bus fares to be waived for Singaporeans over 65 and those with disabilities.

This should be funded from the Budget and all available monies from the Public Transport Fund. Seniors and people with disabilities already enjoy concessionary fares, but making public transport free for them would further lower the financial burden on these groups, especially with a rising number of seniors in Singapore.

The WP mentions that seniors considering applying for casual or part-time work may not do so because of the cost of public transport. Removing this barrier would encourage more seniors to work.

Universal HDB lease buy-back and to lower the minimum age for singles to get BTO flats 

A universal buy-back scheme should be offered to all Housing Board flat lessees. The manifesto states that the HDB resale market has been affected by concerns over lease decay in the past few years. WP reasons that if HDB resale prices fall, the retirement adequacy of many Singaporeans may be affected if they are relying on selling their flats to release funds for retirement.

Recognising the need for orderly urban renewal, the Government should also consider raising SERS rates and providing a SERS scheme which uses instead BTO and balance flats for relocation instead of a nearby proxy site.

Some flats could also be rented out to Singaporeans at rates that are between commercial and HDB public assistance rental rates. The WP also suggests that singles should be able to apply for a BTO flat at the age of 28 instead of 35 as young single Singaporeans should not be denied an opportunity to own a home.

Safeguarding the independence of national institutions and abolish GRCs 

Close relatives and current or former party colleagues of political office-holders should not be appointed to key positions in national institutions such as organs of state, national media companies and sovereign wealth funds. The WP says national institutions should not only be independent but they must also be seen to be independent.

It says that the Attorney-General’s Chambers should be separated into two organisations: a prosecution service independent of the Government, and a government legal counsel.

The Elections Department and the Electoral Boundary Review Commission should also be made fully independent and removed from the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office, and the term of each Parliament should be fixed instead of being determined at the Prime Minister’s discretion.

They also propose that the GRC system be abolished and all constituencies should be SMCs. Reasoning that there is no longer any evidence that Singaporeans vote solely along racial lines and continuing with the GRC system may be taken as a signal that ethnic minority candidates are unelectable on their own.

Abolishing GRCs would also mean the Non-Constituency MP scheme will be unnecessary and can be discontinued. The party also calls for the People’s Association, which has a policy of appointing PAP branch chairs in each division as grassroots advisers, to be de-politicised.

Similarly, other issues include lowering the voting age to 18 from 21. -/TISG

 

 

 

 

 

 

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