In an eleven-minute speech during his final Budget debate on Wednesday, February 28, Low Thia Khiang, the head of the Workers’ Party, said he deemed the announcement of the rise in Goods and Services Taxes (GST) to be both premature and an “unnecessary distraction.”
Increases on GST was part of the Budget Roll-out on February 19 but will not be implemented until 2021 to 2025.
The Budget is otherwise aimed in the direction of moving the country towards capitalizing on economic opportunities, especially concerning China. Mr. Low criticized the government for searching for additional sources of revenue this early, instead of generating interest in these economic opportunities, as it has had to concentrate on expounding on the GST increase, which has caught the attention of many.
Instead, Mr. Low believes that Singaporeans must take advantage of growth in Asia, especially with China’s rise as a global power, as well as focus on technological innovations, as these two factors will greatly affect future generations. Since Singapore has developed a reputation for decades for pinpointing coming trends ahead of everyone else, it has contributed much to capitalism worldwide, as it did in identifying China as a rising global force, being the first among other nations to impart economic lessons to China.
However, with China becoming established as a superpower, Singapore needs to make adjustments in its economic, cultural, and other aspects in its relationship with China. The so-called “kinship advantage” that used to be enjoyed between China and the Chinese in Singapore is no longer what it used to be. Singaporean nationals who went to school in China do not feel inferior anymore, but look forward to China enjoying its new prominence.
Mr. Low himself obtained his education in China, and is a graduate of what was once Nanyang University, and he forewarned that China’s rise comes with the risk that it would exercise imperialist policies, especially with smaller countries in Asia, just like Japan did in the last century.
Mr. Low also emphasized that China’s actions will have a significant impact on Singapore and other countries. Therefore, as Singapore concentrates on economic possibilities arising from China’s ascendance, Singapore must also remember the political implication of imperialist expansion as well.
He said, ”If we are not careful, and if we fail in our economic strategy to become a global Asia node, we will become the pawn on the chessboard of great power games in South East Asia.”
Mr. Low has two pieces of advice in order to understand and take advantage of economic possibilities with regards to China’s position. First, Singaporeans should learn Mandarin and second, learn other Chinese dialects as well, to strengthen even informal connections with the Chinese. Mr Low made this point even while he reiterated Singapores multi-ethnic and multilingual nature, and that at heart, Singapore is a South East Asian country. Mr. Low says he believes that the ASEAN community will become more cohesive and self-protective, as the region’s conflicts and ethic politics find resolution in the near future.