Singapore — The opposition Workers’ Party supports the recently-announced Resilience and Solidarity Budgets, which are aimed at providing assistance to companies, workers and families.
WP Secretary-General Pritam Singh, speaking in Parliament on Monday (April 6), commended the Government for its response to the crisis and thanked workers in different sectors who have tirelessly fought to keep infection rates down and care for those who are ill.
Mr Singh said the budgets are anything but supplementary, calling them “a comprehensive response that will save businesses and jobs and help lower and middle-income households tide over the difficult short-term effects of the global economic shutdown”.
But because the economic effects of Covid-19 are very likely to be long-lasting, Mr Singh asked questions about the Government’s plans beyond it.
He said: “I believe that this mighty storm that we are experiencing is not just something we need to keep safe from by staying at home. This storm shakes up the very structure of our open economy and threatens its foundation, especially our hub status. Looking ahead, it could derail and damage our aspiration to be a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise.”
The WP leader then cited a commentary from National University of Singapore Business School Professor Lawrence Loh, who had written that the Resilience Budget is similar to the New Deal in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s, a comparison he called “thought-provoking”.
He pointed out the similarities between them, including unemployment insurance, income support for lower-income families, food vouchers for the poor, as well as protection for the self-employed.
Mr Singh asked if the new budgetary schemes are the “new normal”, lasting for several years to aid Singaporeans in coping with economic hardship. Would the Government continue to support Singaporeans beyond 9 months of assistance?
He also asked for a “thorough review” of the living wage in Singapore “for Singaporeans who man our critical infrastructure and keep the country’s heart beating”. Mr Singh mentioned the invaluable work of the country’s cleaners, and, on a bigger scale, he asked that after the crisis that attention be brought back to “the Singaporean worker and their families, the reality of inequality and job competition”, specifically in terms of improving their quality of life.
Referring to news concerning the living conditions of foreign workers, he asked for this to be addressed as well.
Mr Singh asked that, instead of focussing on the timing of the General Election, perhaps the public debate should centre around “whether the Resilience and Solidarity budgets are the shape of a New Deal for Singapore; a new social compact for Singaporeans; and how we are going to renew, rebuild and reinvigorate our economy and society after the storm has passed and the dust settles”.
He called for the long-term needs of Singaporeans to be addressed “in a sustainable and equitable manner” and promised that the WP would continue to play its role in these debates.
WP Chairman Sylvia Lim, who also spoke in Parliament on Monday, pointed out that cost-cutting initiatives had been implemented by some employers even before the supplementary budgets were announced. She cited the example of the no-pay leave scheme of Singapore Airlines and asked if employers are now obligated to review these schemes in the light of additional job support from the Government.
Other WP MPs who spoke in Parliament were Mr Faisal Manap and Mr Png Eng Huat. Mr Faisal brought up the question of additional ComCare assistance for larger households with more than one breadwinner and Mr Png said that money from the country’s reserves should go towards saving jobs rather than helping corporate executives, especially in the aviation industry. /TISG