On 29 Feb, the Straits Times Forum page published a letter from MP for Holland Bukit-Timah GRC, Christopher de Souza. In his letter, the MP had disagreed with Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)’s Prof Paul Tambyah and said that SDP’s proposal for “40 per cent reduction is at total odds with the capricious regional environment Singapore finds itself in today.”
Prof Paul responded to Mr de Souza and wrote to the newspaper. ST however refused to publish the opposition party member’s reply.
We publish here the reply ST refused.
We thank Mr Christopher de Souza for his letter (“Strong defence budget key to S’pore’s survival”; Feb 29). However, we would like to clarify some issues that he raised.
First, the Singapore Democratic Party has never questioned the call for an appropriate strong defence posture. Neither have we ever called for a “40 per cent cut in defence spending”.
Page 66 of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) healthcare plan states: “We propose progressively reducing defence spending to about 2 per cent of gross domestic product, or about 13 per cent of total Budget spending, within three to five years.”
This was one of a number of sources of revenue that the SDP proposed for increased government health expenditure (the others included a luxury tax and a tax on foreign home buyers).
Our aim is to bring government expenditure on healthcare to $10.5 billion a year to fund a comprehensive national health insurance plan.
The Government has already increased its health expenditure to $7.3 billion in financial year (FY) 2014 (compared with $4.9 billion in FY2012), and reduced defence expenditure as a share of total government expenditure from 26 per cent of total government expenditure in 2009 to 19 per cent of total government expenditure in the 2015 Budget.
Indeed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife and Temasek Holdings chief Ho Ching has pointed out that the Government has already reduced its defence expenditure by half as a proportion of gross domestic product.
The SDP welcomes this progressive reallocation of funds despite the geopolitical challenges around us, as it shows some recognition of the social needs of Singaporeans.
Second, the SDP has never suggested any cuts in the Home Team budget in any of our policy proposals.
Indeed, in a posting on our website following the Commission of Inquiry on the Little India riot, we called for strengthening the Home Team after the commission highlighted shortfalls in equipment and manpower.
Total defence involves more than just the uniformed services – it also involves the well-being of Singaporeans, which is an integral part of psychological defence.
We are pleased with the way the Government has been redirecting funding from defence to social spending over the last few years.
We hope that the upcoming Budget continues to reflect the importance of strengthening the social support system for all Singaporeans while preserving a strong holistic defence position – military, civil and social.
Paul Tambyah (Dr)
Central Executive Committee
Singapore Democratic Party
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