Singapore — The Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) new Youth Wing hosted its first Chill With PSP webinar on Aug 9, addressing issues of concern to the youths of the country.
Hosted by Khush Chopra, the webinar featured PSP candidates in the recent General Election. They were Mr Taufik Supan (who was in the team that contested in Nee Soon GRC), Ms Wendy Low and Mr Terrence Soon (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Mr Choo Shaun Ming (Chua Chu Kang GRC).
Freedom of expression and Pofma
The webinar began with a discussion on freedom of expression and how Singaporeans are afraid of expressing their political views online. Mr Chopra noted in his opening remarks that freedom of expression is another “ideal” wanted by all Singaporeans.
A question was posed to Mr Choo about how Pofma affected young citizens and whether it had any negative impacts on young Singapore voters. Mr Choo citing the example of Hwa Chong Institution telling its students not to post any political views online and how the students, fearing punitive sanctions, would be restricted and censored in that way.
Mr Chopra cited Secretary-General Dr Tan Cheng Bock as mentioning a “climate of fear” at the inauguration of the party. On whether this “climate of fear” would have any negative consequences, Mr Taufik said that there were two sides of this fear.
One side are those who fear that the benefits given to them by the Government will be removed if they were to say anything bad about the ruling party, and another side is some youths who feel the need to “retaliate” the more they are controlled.
“I don’t support riots… what I’m trying to stress is the freedom of speech,” he said. He felt that Pofma should be done away with because there were other means. “If you say something wrong. You spread fake news. It’s fake news. Let the court handle it.”
Mr Choo, in response to the question, said Pofma had entered the national conversation and that youths faced this “nervousness” of being “Pofma-ed”.
Ms Low added that there needed to be freedom of opinion to express alternative views in order to innovate among the growing sectors such as IT, science and the arts sectors. “It will not help us economically,” she stated. “That direct impact will affect the young.”
In discussing job security, Mr Chopra asked what could be done with the worsening job situation. Mr Soon, referring to the traineeships offered by the Government, said that more needed to be done as traineeships usually ended in about a year. Mr Choo said Singapore needed to take care of local businesses citing that, in April 2020, there were 8,600 business entities that had closed down.
In answering if there were any aggravating factors, Mr Choo mentioned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which were struggling to stay afloat throughout Covid-19 but also because of structural issues that had been pertinent even before the Covid-19 outbreak.
Mr Soon mentioned how the Covid-19 situation had “shone a very bright light in all the dark spots that the Government is not really talking about over the past decades… But now everybody can see it with their own eyes”.
In addressing productivity, Mr Taufik said manual labour was not productive and that the winners now were those who could offer innovation.
Escalating housing costs and retirement adequacy
Mr Chopra stated that the high cost of HDB flats was one of the reasons why people did not have money for retirement.
Mr Taufik said that the first thought that came to young people who wanted to start a family was the cost of housing. Mr Choo pointed out that applications for BTO flats, which could take up to 3-4 years, made family planning very difficult.
Climate change and environmental protection
Mr Soon, who is part of the new PSP’s Youth Wing, said it would be addressing these issues in detail in due course.
Cost of living
In addressing a question on how to reduce the cost of living in Singapore, Ms Low said a lot of the cost is built-in because of high rental … and, because the land cost is built into the HDB, that is why the cost of the BTO is escalating over the years. She said the related question was whether the salaries given to individuals were sufficient to match the increasing cost of housing.
In addressing the increasing GST, Mr Soon mentioned that it was a “regressive tax” and that the poor would also have to pay it. He felt that the Government had to exempt basic essential items from GST.
As for whether the Government is able to ensure the provision of all public services such as healthcare and car parking fees, Mr Soon said that the “free market economy must thrive”. “The issue here is that the Government controls too much of the economy,” he said.
Mr Chopra asked if the Government was setting the prices too high, while Mr Choo stated that “public goods and services such as transportation should be run on a cost-recovery basis”.
Quality of life
On how to improve the quality of life in Singapore, Mr Taufik asked how one should measure success. “Personally I think that there must be a balance,” he said.
Mr Choo added that the way to change perspectives on a personal level is through the Government. “The Government needs to set the tone when it comes to prioritising the right values to consider what is a good quality of life in Singapore.”
Mr Soon suggested looking deep and hard into what was causing the stress that youths feel and to address these factors that affect the psyche of youths. “It is not only a corporate push but also a government level policy push as well,” he stated.
In answering a questioned posted on Facebook on the education system and innovative thinking, Ms Low felt that the education system was on a “narrow path” as success was measured based on grades since primary school. She mentioned how, from an innovation perspective, this resulted in an economy that was “fearful of failure”.
At the end of the webinar, Mr Soon said the PSP Youth Wing was always looking for talent and extended an invitation to youths to “join us”.
The webinar is one of the many initiatives that the Youth Wing is planning in the coming months. /TISG