Singapore — MPs have to do their homework, too, to speak in Parliament.
Progress Singapore Party’s Non-Constituency MP Hazel Poa recalled how she read up others’ speeches before she spoke.
She wasn’t alone. Ms Poa and four other MPs shared their first experience of the Budget debate in Parliament in February this year and the Committee of Supply (COS) debate in March.
The four others were:
- Ms Carrie Tan (PAP, Nee Soon GRC)
- Mr Louis Chua (Workers’ Party, Sengkang GRC),
- Nominated MP Raj Joshua Thomas,
- Mr Wan Rizal (PAP, Jalan Besar GRC)
All of them agree the debates matter to you, too.
They were interviewed for the video series #HowToParliament initiated by the Parliament of Singapore. The first video of the series was published on social media — uploaded on both Facebook and Instagram — on Wednesday (Apr 28).
Join me and 4 other MPs as we speak about our first Budget and COS Debate experience, and how we prepared for it. I also…
The five MPs spoke about how they prepared for the debates.
Ms Poa said: “I have actually seen a Budget debate before, so that wasn’t a problem, but I’ve never seen a COS debate.”
So, she read up Hansard excerpts of what happens in an actual COS debate to prepare herself. Hansards are official records of debates in Parliament.
Ms Carrie Tan was briefed by her colleagues in Parliament. “I found out that we have 20 minutes for the Budget speech, and a total of only 18 minutes for the various cuts for COS.” With such short time frames, it was hard to choose topics, but she eventually settled on caregiving, mental health, and bridging inequality.
Mr Raj Thomas’s Budget speech was his maiden speech and he wanted to talk about issues important to him. He chose low-wage workers and access to justice for people with lesser means. He put thought and research into his points, wanting to make sure these had not already been addressed by the Government.
Mr Louis Chua said, “It was certainly a very refreshing experience. I think the most important thing of all is to do your homework.”
Mr Wan Rizal cited the need to understand the issues they wanted to address. “Prior to the Budget and COS, I actually had to prepare a list of Parliamentary Questions where I want to obtain data from the ministries so I can make a strong case when it comes to the Budget and COS itself,” he said.
The MPs also shared why the Budget and COS debates matter to citizens.
NMP Raj Thomas said: “It explains and goes quite a bit into detail as to how the Government is going to be spending public monies.”
Ms Poa said, “If you are looking to get married and are concerned about your BTO application, or want to pay your hospital bills through Medisave but are unsure about the withdrawal limits, this is a good chance to learn more about the Government’s plans for the year.”
The Budget would share the number of BTO flats being built and also whether Medisave withdrawal limits would be revised.
Ms Poa said the Budget session is when the Government shares its plans for not just the coming year but also longer-term plans for public scrutiny. This is the time for citizens to find out about the various policies and plans in store.
“We need to know where does this money go to, how does it affect us, and how it can help us and other Singaporeans,” concluded MP Rizal.
Denise Teh is an intern at The Independent SG. /TISG