During the National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined plans on education, retirement age and climate change concerns at the National Day Rally. The Singapore Democratic Party’s chairman Dr Paul Tambyah delivered his response to the speech shortly after, late last night.
Prime Minister Lee announced that Singapore’s annual spending on early childhood education will more than double over the next few years. He said that the government will raise the income ceiling of households eligible for pre-school subsidies to S$12,000 per month, up from the current S$7,500.
There are also plans to increase the percentage of government-supported pre-schools from 50 per cent to 80 per cent eventually.
To this, the SDP said, “These seem to recall the Singaporean saying, when the government gives you a chicken wing, they want to take away the whole chicken”.
They added that while enhanced subsidies are good, they become less meaningful when the price of educational materials, school bus fares, school supplies and even kindergarten and childcare fees keep going up as well. They explained that the government needs to take a more holistic view of the entire education ecosystem.
Dr Tambyah said, “Personally, I am very happy that the PM mentioned increased bursaries for university and polytechnic students. This will hopefully reduce the need for these students to work outside class to support themselves through the poly or university. However, again, the key underlying issues are not dealt with – primarily inequality”.
Retirement age to increase
“The third main prong of the PM’s speech was the proposition that Singaporeans should be encouraged to work until we die”, Dr Tambyah said.
He added that PM Lee did not provide any evidence that Singaporeans want to enjoy their retirement years.
“Some time ago, I asked the then manpower minister whether he would be comfortable being operated on by a 70-year-old brain surgeon or sit on a bus driven by a 70-year-old. He argued that these individuals could be retrained”.
PM Lee said that it would cost low-lying Singapore about S$100 billion or more to protect itself from rising sea levels. A plan for a second pump house on the opposite end of Marina Barrage is in the works, while a small polder is being built at Pulau Tekong.
Calling it “a perplexing segment”, Dr Tambyah said PM Lee highlighted parts of Singapore that would be underwater because of rising sea levels.
“Unfortunately, he then went on to show how those many of those areas would become part of the new great real estate development which appears to be a rival to Sentosa cove”, Dr Tambyah said.
Dr Tambyah concluded his speech saying, “It is not clear that the PAP has the ability to come up with practical solutions to the challenges we will face in the future”. -/TISG