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Budget Debate: PSP’s Hazel Poa, Leong Mun Wai urge Govt to spend more to support Singaporeans when needed

Call for living wage, higher wage component of GDP

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Singapore — Even as the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Non-Constituency Members of Parliament Leong Mun Wai and Hazel Poa voiced their support for SGBudget 2021 on the first two days of the Budget Debate (Feb 24 and 25), both made key policy recommendations.

Ms Poa and Mr Leong have both called for additional support for Singaporeans who may need it, especially at this time.

We think that if there is a need to help Singaporeans to survive and to do better, we should not hesitate to spend more,” said Mr Leong.

Ms Poa made special mention of Singaporean households who may be struggling and asked the Government to give them greater support if necessary.

I believe that the latest $900 million allocated to help Singapore households ride out the COVID-19 crisis is inadequate. With more business closures and unemployment expected to increase after March when many of the support measures start to taper off, more households will likely suffer financial stress. I hope the Government will consider increasing its support for the many who will likely need it.”

Ms Hazel Poa’s recommendations:

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In her speech, Ms Poa asked whether now is the right time to “make our National Reserves part of our national conversation.”

She asked whether President Halimah Yacob was aware of the exact amount of Singapore’s reserves, given that at one point the late President Ong Teng Cheong’s attempt to ascertain the amount was unsuccessful.

Ms Poa said, “Members of Parliament are being asked to vote on a Budget that would require a drawdown on our reserves without knowing its size.  Without knowing our nation’s financial position, it would be difficult to make sound and prudent decisions, and certainly not informed ones.”

Secondly, the PSP NCMP wanted to know how the S$100 billion drawn from the reserves last year had been utilised, as this would allow its effectiveness to be assessed.

“$100 billion is not a small amount.  We ask for a cost-benefit analysis of each scheme put in place.  We recognise that it is not easy coming up with measures within a short timeframe to deal with a pandemic.  So we ask not for a perfect solution, but an honest and transparent assessment and review,” said Ms Poa.

Finally, she said the PSP suggests the Government set a target for the wage component of the GDP so that the fruits of economic development would be enjoyed by Singaporeans.

In 2020, wages comprised 43.6 per cent of the GDP, while the operating surplus of corporates and other organisations made up around 56.2 per cent.

She compared this with Germany, the UK, the US and Switzerland, where the wage component is higher. Singapore should aspire for a higher wage component, she said.

“If we want to ensure that our people enjoy the benefits of this economic growth, we should set an initial target of having the wage component form at least 50% of the GDP.  This should be an important KPI for the government moving forward.

“Only with the focus on an equitable solution to the current crisis will Singapore emerge stronger,” added Ms Poa.

Mr Leong Mun Wai’s recommendations:

Mr Leong also pressed for a living wage for employees. 

“The PSP strongly believe that a Singaporean who has put in a days work should be compensated sufficiently to allow him to live with dignity,” he said.

He also called for levelling “the playing field” for Singaporean talents “in our very own job market.”  

“It puzzles me why the Government has allowed a wage disadvantage against the Singaporeans for the longest time,” he said, even as he acknowledged this is partly because foreigners are not included in the CPF system.

The PSP NCMP, therefore, suggested the imposition of a $1,200 monthly levy on all Employment Pass holders “immediately,” which he said is estimated to generate $2.7 billion a year in revenues.

Furthermore, it would separate foreign talents who are paid more and would be less affected by the levy “from the foreign talents who are simply cheap labour that compete unfairly with Singaporeans and whom our economy has become overly dependent on.”

His third recommendation concerned ensuring that each Singaporeans’ CPF funds would be adequate, through funding MediShield Life and Careshield premiums for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.

/TISG

Read also: Overview: SG Budget 2021’s focus is ‘emerging stronger together’

Overview: SG Budget 2021’s focus is ‘emerging stronger together’

 

  

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