Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has praised veteran opposition leader, Workers’ Party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang’s speech on Budget 2018 in Parliament this week as one that was “was cogent and balanced, firmly based on Singapore’s interests and perspectives”.
The head of government’s remarks, published in his Facebook page, come after a week of intense debate on the Budget between prominent members of the WP and high-profile ministers from the ruling party.
The Budget was eventually passed with all members of parliament in the chamber voting yes, with the exception of 8 members. All the 8 members who voted no are from the WP. WP chief Low was absent during the time of the vote. The WP later said that the impending GST hike is the “sole reason” why it voted no.
While the PM took issue with Low’s remarks on the timing of the GST hike announcement, he complimented the rest of Low’s speech as one which “could have been delivered by a PAP MP.” Sharing a video of Low’s speech, the PM said:
“During the #SGBudget2018 debate, Mr Low Thia Khiang spoke on how Singapore must respond as China grows in prosperity and influence. He pointed out that Singapore, a small multi-racial country in Southeast Asia, must be alive to the opportunities and challenges – not just the economic implications, but the political economic ones too.
“Mr Low’s speech was cogent and balanced, firmly based on Singapore’s interests and perspectives. It was a dispassionate assessment, by a Chinese-educated Singaporean, of the rise of China. It illustrates how domestic politics must stop at our shores, and we must all take a unified national position dealing with the external world.
“However, Mr Low ended his speech on a partisan note. He called the GST announcement an unnecessary distraction. PAP Ministers and MPs have engaged Mr Low and the Workers’ Party on that point. But I am sharing Mr Low’s speech to highlight and commend the rest of it, which could have been delivered by a PAP MP.”
This is not the first time PM Lee has praised one of Low’s parliamentary speeches. Low’s speech on Singapore’s foreign policy during Budget 2017 drew praise from the PM and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, as well:
Lee Hsien Loong: “Some opposition MPs made good speeches too. Mr Low Thia Kiang set out succinctly how the strategic landscape is changing, and how this challenges our foreign policy. He asked: how can we protect and advance the national interest of our multi-racial country?”
Vivian Balakrishnan: “Sharing Mr Low Thia Khiang’s thoughtful question, which reflects the level of bipartisan support for our foreign policy efforts in this period of global uncertainty.”